Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Madhu calls on, Maman fetches up

Madhu calls on
This afternoon, before my usual routine of lunch and snooze during the break in the afternoon, Captain VK Madhusoodanan, the Commanding Officer-designate of the soon to be commissioned INS Deepak, called on me. There are two aspects about the youngster that I must put in and they are, he was impressed by my style of working at the C-LABS(Centre for Leadership and Behavioural Studies) in my heydays and secondly, he’s related to me through Lekha. He, therefore, endeavours to keep in touch with me and seeks advice from me on issues that worry him.
I must admit to having a soft corner for him, his wife, Rekha and their two children, Megha and Rahul. They’ve been part of the extended family from the time that we were at Kochi between 1997 and 2000. Anyways, it was great seeing him and I gave him some tips, to keep up his sleeve, as he went about preparing his ship for commissioning. I hope he finds them worthwhile and sincerely wish that he comes out with flying colours in all his endeavours!
Maman fetches up
My maman fetched up this evening and he will be here for the next few days, till Saturday. Both of us were scheduled to meet the Rashtrapati on 29 Apr to invite her for inaugurating the conclusion of the yearlong ‘PN Panicker centenary celebrations’ scheduled on 19 Jun and MPs, PJ Kurien and Shashi Tharoor are supposed to be accompanying us. But as it turns out, I shall be at home with my parents on that particular day, as I’m off to Kochi on work tomorrow morning and shall return only on 02 May.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Varkala Radhakrishnan - an obit

Sprightly even to his last days, eighty four year old Mr. Radhakrishnan, who hailed from the sleepy hamlet of Varkala, about fifty kms north of Thiruvananthapuram, breathed his last this morning, around 1000h. Last Thursday, while on his morning walk, he was hit by a milk lorry that was backing off and he’d not heard the noise of the approaching vehicle as he was hard of hearing. In the process, two of his ribs were broken and there were other minor injuries and he was hospitalized at the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram for treatment and medical management. Unfortunately, infection had set in and that hastened his end.
Varkala Radhakrishnan was a true communist who lived by the maxim of ‘high thinking and simple living’. A good orator, who stood by his principles and the value system that he was brought up with, here was a true leader loved by his people. Amongst his friends and well wishers, he was ‘annan’ or a dear elder brother and he never let them down.
I must confess that my personal interaction with him has been very few and far between, but I have been fortunate to hear quite a few anecdotes from him regarding his interactions with my muthachan, whom he adored and respected. They indeed don’t make them like him anymore.
Varkala Radhakrishnan sir, I offer my humble tribute to you and here’s a promise that your memory shall always be cherished and your principled life shall ever remain inspirational. RIP.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Out of sync with Gen Zee?

As I sit late into the night to write my thoughts for the day, I go through the day’s events and find that I’m totally blank about what I should dwell upon. In the background, I can hear old melodies wafting through the radio and am temporarily transported in time to those halcyon days as a child with my favourite elders around me, who while doing their work was also nurturing my growth and overall development. Why did I have to grow up and why did I have to lose my loved ones who really mattered to me? The essence of life, as I painfully understand, as I too hurtle towards the ultimate truth – death!

I’m brought back to the present by loud laughter from Lekha who is watching a comedy based programme on television. Incidentally, while watching the evening edition of the news, I realized that today’s emphasis is on the IPL cricket all right but sadly on the game being played outside the stadium between the BCCI and Lalit Modi and not the actual final!!

My niece, Ammu, has finished the last of her entrance examinations that she’s attempting viz the AIEEE and it's the start of her real break after months of toil and studies. She seems to be happy that it’s all over and is already looking forward to being in Kerala, with her grandparents, by this weekend and for an extensive travel programme trying to meet as many people as possible. Here’s wishing them a well deserved break – my sister, Minni, was also under pressure, studying literally alongwith her daughter, being a teacher, herself! But what Ammu, perhaps, has not realized is that an important chapter of her life has come to an end!


Tailpiece.

This evening, my niece had passed on a riddle to me. Mama, ‘what’s the opposite of IIT?’ I was totally flummoxed, gave up without much ado, and confessed that I was lost after attempting a feeble 'TII' and she'd gleefully ticked a wrong against my answer. ‘The answer is, YOU YOU COFFEE!’ I suddenly realized that I do not understand my niece and her generation!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A 'vintage' day!

Today was a nice restful day that had a dash of vintage all through. Usually, on Saturday mornings, Lekha and I watch a half hour musical programme on the Asianet Malayalam channel called ‘Paattupetti’. The presenter covers the making of the song and a brief overview of the playback singer before playing the track, based on a theme which is unique every week. Today’s theme was about those lady artistes who’d made a mark on their debut, but for some reasons, did not stay long in the circuit and most of them lead an uneventful but normal life even today. It should be understood that they’d stiff competition from S Janaki(the Malayali ‘Lata Mangeshkar’ and mind you, she’s an Andhraite), P Suseela, P Leela, Madhuri and Vani Jayaram. The songs were mellifluous, lyrically beautiful, emotionally tugging and soul stirring with the accompanying scores being a judicious mix of percussion, wind and string instruments! And mind you, in those days, lyrics were first written and then music was made, which I reckon, is more difficult in the business of music making than the other way round when music is first made and lyrics written to it, which is the general trend that is followed these days.
The afternoon, at lunch, saw us having a surprise guest in Lekha’s uncle, Maj(Retd) Gopinath who’s been here at NOIDA to attend a friend’s son’s wedding since Thursday. It was nice to hear him speak of his experiences and he had found this break to get away from all the rich food and partying to spend some time with us. A wonderful gesture on his part!
In the evening, after the customary walks as part of our health trip, we called on our neighbours, to meet the Colonel’s parents who’re on a short visit. It was a wonderful meeting with the elderly people who were only too eager to take care of us in their own cute ways. I’ve always felt, ever since my days at the Academy, that the people who hail from the foothills of the Himalayas(pahaadis, as they’re fondly called) have a disarming simplicity about their personality and it was felt yet again after our interaction with Jitindra’s parents. Perhaps, it is the ruggedness of the terrain that they are subjected to and familiar with, that makes them so simple and endearing. May God give them many more years of a healthy life, full of happiness!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nostalgia revisited

This morning I’d a surprise visitor at my office, amidst a flurry of activity. Commodore Palaniappan Jayapal, who currently looks after the Embarkation Headquarters, Madras and is a course mate, dropped in to meet me, albeit for a short period. Actually, Balbir had earlier called up to ask as to whether he could get somebody over as the guy was insistent about meeting me, over a cup of tea. Refusing to divulge as to who he was, he let out a clue that he was a combination of Jaya Bhaduri and Paul Newman and pronto, there was instant recognition. We were meeting after a gap of about nine years.
Jayapal had joined me on board INS Delhi during spring ‘77 as a cadet, after passing out from the Naval Academy and he was one of the three surveyors of our batch. His English was accented with a tinge of Tamil and he used to pronounce his name as ‘Jayapaul’, prompting me to come up with the cheeky remark that he was a Jaya Bhaduri – Paul Newman combo! This became an instant hit and Jayapal continues to be known more popularly amongst us course mates as a Bhaduri – Newman combine and being the good sport that he is, doesn’t mind it a wee bit. A thorough gentleman, he cannot even hurt a fly and continues to be his simple self.
Life had been unkind to him in between, when his son had to be pulled out of college where he was doing his engineering, due to a misdemeanour and Jayapal and his wife went through trying times. One could only provide moral support to the family during those days. However, the boy has since regained his composure, branched out and joined the deck side of the merchant marine and is currently doing his course for being cleared as ‘Master’. And his daughter is a software engineer in WIPRO at Bangalore.
As he was taking leave of me, he did something very embarrassing – I always hide my emotions, however overwhelming they are, when in uniform – he hugged me. Did I see a hint of a tear in his eyes or was it all my imagination? I shall never know! Anyways, we’ve promised to be in touch with each other more regularly, from now on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How corrupt is India?

As one surfs the news channels, it is pure muck that’s being thrown up every day and corruption seems to have seeped into every aspect of life in this country. The IPL controversy seems to be snowballing into a major embarrassment for any self respecting Indian – people who’re held in high esteem and regarded as icons by the masses are turning out to be the villains of the piece!
Is this another expression of life in the ‘kalyug’? Sadly, many of the players in this sordid saga, have got away with murder earlier too. Why don’t we punish these guys once for all? One feels sad that, as a professional, one has to salute these hoodlums, tricksters and frauds just because they have been saddled as our leaders thanks to India being a democratic country.
And we aspire to be a superpower!! I hang my head in shame for the simple fact that I too have been reduced to a helpless spectator, whereas my country expects me to do something as a responsible citizen!!!
Words fail me but I need to find my answers from within and I know that I will.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An evening to remember!

This morning, as I was saying my usual prayers, my cell continuously rang for quite a while and I must confess that I was rather irritated but all the same, answered it and it was a pleasant surprise that it was from Anil(my classmate from school and a course mate from the Academy) and Radha, inviting us for their daughter, Ashima’s engagement ceremony this evening, at the Taurus Officers’ Institute. She’s getting married to Arjun who is working in the merchant marine and his father is a Major General in the Army Medical Corps. The marriage is scheduled for Feb ’11.
It was another hectic day, as it has been since last Friday, with back to back meetings on various contentious issues. I was not even sure as to whether I’d make it on time but thankfully, everything worked out well and we were the last to arrive at the function, providing us unwanted limelight and prominence, with Anil announcing that I was his favourite classmate!
Ashima has just finished a two year course on airline ticketing and hospitality in London and returned, to finally announce her seriousness about her relationship with Arjun and like good parents, Anil and Radha simply and wholeheartedly, supported her decision. The evening was full of north Indian ceremonies and to my mind, the centre of attraction was the sprightly old ‘dadi’ of Arjun. People were friendly and it definitely, was a wonderful evening. And as we were leaving, Anil and Radha have extracted a promise from us that we’d visit them at Thailand, this July.
Tailpiece.
Anil’s elder daughter, Athira, her husband, Dinesh and their little princess, Dia were also there and li’l Dia was my girlfriend for the evening but I must admit that it took quite sometime and my wits, to woo the young lady. She is all of three years old and a stunner and will keep the boys of her neighbourhood around her, on their toes, in the times to come! Anil and Radha, may your charming family have all that you wish for in the coming years!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another collage of thoughts!

(a) Hello again after 19 years!
On my evening walk today, I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled to be greeted by Colonel Ashok and Pradnya Amre. They were with us at the Staff College in Wellington, Ooty and our immediate neighbours at Gorkha Hill, where we were during 1991-‘92. When Lekha had taken ill and had to return home, it was people like them who’d taken me under their wings and looked after me during my long session of living by myself. They were quite thrilled that I remembered their names and have promised to meet up with us over the coming weekend! They’ve two children – their daughter is doing the third year degree course and the son is in class IX – unfortunately, I don’t remember their names and I did not want to disappoint them with this aspect of my ignorance. But while meeting them today, I could feel time melting away and reiterate the strength of our friendship that has indeed withstood the test of time!

(b) A piece of good news
Lt Cdr Sooraj and Capt Aradhana are a young couple that we had befriended a couple of years back, while he was doing his post graduation in Naval Architecture at the IIT out here. Actually, they are related to us through my sister Rema’s husband, Padmakumar. The young lady had a problem on her spine for which she’d undergone a surgery and had recuperated only to be told that she had an added problem of ‘hypothyroidism’ and was on medication ever since. Well, they’ve been able to put their difficult days behind them and have been blessed with a baby girl, through Caesarian section – they’ve already decided on the little one’s name, Ananya and had asked us for our endorsement. Both Lekha and I felt nice about the whole affair and to us, the name sounded really nice and we said as much. The mother and child are progressing well at Asvini, as the parents are posted at Bombay. Should look them up when I visit Bombay, next time on temporary duty.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Delhi, scorching ahead!

It was just three months back when one was snuggling within one’s warm clothing as the wintry cold was biting, if not making one scurrying into the nearest comforts of a room warmer. One moved around with layers of protective clothing which was cumbersome and irritating to a point. And now, there are still many more days of April to pass, but each passing day gets hotter, making one want to be in the lightest of clothing and find ways and means to fight the heat. What makes one shudder is that the extremely hot days of the May- Jun months are yet to arrive!
Every hovering cloud is welcome, the unaesthetic cries of the peacock, that herald the arrival of short thundershowers, are music to one’s ears but it’s like a wait that has no end! Work goes on as usual and many a time one goes on foot to the nearby South Block to attend meetings that have been scheduled after ascertaining the suitability of time of everyone concerned and hence, cannot be missed. The transit is tortuous but once when one is in the comfortable environs of the air conditioned interior, everything is forgotten and once the deliberations are over, one’s again ready to forge ahead.
But what about the thousands of people who cannot afford the luxuries of a roof and shelter from the scorching heat? Thinking about them and their wretched plight, one worries less about one’s own discomfort and is ready to take on yet another scorching day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Greed - the human failing!

As the media is over the top, covering the sleaze of the IPL saga and the sorry drama being played out by the concerned few(personally, feel sad about Tharoor as I’d begun to like him, thanks to a few interactions over a period of time and found him to be very approachable, with his head firmly on his shoulders despite his closeness to the people that matter). It’s the same old story all over again and one begins to wonder as to whether there’s anything in this country that’s left untainted!
Greed begets greed, period! To borrow a statement made by the media, ‘IPL is a circus where a few people are playing with others’ money and ploughing the profits into a few others’ pockets at a price’ – it definitely, is a win-win situation to all concerned but in this ‘bad’ game, at the ultimate level there were going to be some winners and yes, quite a few losers and the fight between them had to erupt some time or the other, bringing out the details of how a gentlemanly game has been reduced to a game of the fraudsters and the tricksters – in the never ending need of making money and still more money!! Why are these people doing this, fully aware of the fact, that it’s not the done thing? A case of ‘akrasia’, perhaps?
To say that money is not required in the pursuit of one’s happiness in living one’s life, is being naïve. But how much wealth is adequate enough, is, what many of us fail to ascertain throughout life, till death sorts out the dichotomy once for all. I don’t want to sound like a ‘holier-than-thou’ sort of a guy, but what baffles me is that quite a few of my contemporaries are always figuring out as to how more wealth can be generated and in the process, forget to live their today!
I don’t aspire to have a fat bank balance to spend holidays at exquisite places all over the world nor do I hanker to dine in five star environment and also, do I find the need to rub shoulders with the rich and the famous (I must admit, that it’s not that they’re desperately seeking my company, but then!). By not being concerned about such issues, am I being a fool? Is their anything wrong with me for wanting to be just what I am and for being contended with what I have, which is too less in the conventional sense?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An unusual story of life

Sunita Chopra, is a 42 year old widow who lost her husband over a year back. She has two children, a daughter who’s doing her second year Honours in Commerce and a son, who’s going to class VIII. For some reason, the children blame the mother for their father’s death and have made life miserable for her – they do not go regularly to their college/school, find fault in the food that she prepares, do not take medicines when they're ill and it’s almost like a mutinous situation at her home. Consequently, Sunita is in a shambles and is quietly losing her confidence and even, the will to live. Her husband’s extended family stay not too far away, but are not very close with the family and hence, help from them is not forthcoming. She’s scared to take help from her mother or other siblings, as the children abhor them and taunt her that she’s only interested in enjoying life with her folks, when she spends time with them.

The open hostility of the children against their mother has a backdrop. The family was staying at Paschim Vihar in Delhi, close to Mr. Chopra’s siblings and relatives. About four years back, on Sunita’s insistence, they shifted lock, stock and barrel to a flat of their own in Rani Bagh. Mr. Chopra, however, was not very happy with the new surroundings and used to broach the topic often when they'd their quarrels. Soon, as if on cue, he started having his medical problems and protracted illness eventually cost him his job. It was this run up that unfortunately ended up in his untimely demise.

The hapless lady had come for counseling and one did not have a clue as to how one could proceed in providing her help. Groping in the dark, she was asked to go on a short break, alongwith her children, to her cousin’s place in Nasik. On return, she is to take up a flat on rent, back in Paschim Vihar, while giving her present dwelling place on rent. Paradoxical though, she agrees that this is workable and hence the green signal! The arrangement could be for a period of two years, over which it’s fondly hoped that the children would come to terms with reality and understand their mother better and allow her to live in peace!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pune, my city of joy

I have an affinity for certain cities of our country and if I were to be woken up at the middle of the night and asked to choose three of my favourite cities, it would be Pune, Mysore and Bangalore, strictly in that order, with Pune winning hands down over the others, as the one closest to my heart! I’ve always felt that feeling of elation as I enter the city limits and can identify every prominent feature of the place.
My first view of the city was on 13 Jan 1973, when I’d arrived at the Poona(it used to be called so, then) railway station, by the Dadar Express, as a rookie to join the first term at the NDA. I fell in love with the city at first sight and that affair continued during my cadet’s days- for three years on the trot and an additional six months, on my return, to do a second sixth term on being grounded in the Air Force- followed, sadly, by a short stint of one year, as a Divisional Officer at the NDA Wing at Ghorpuri. The experiences, while being there in my different capacities, are rich with a whole lot of wonderful memories that remain etched in my memory so vividly, even to this date and I’ve also had the privilege of securing friendships from those days, that have withstood the test of time.
Though today’s Pune has grown with the times, extending itself in all directions, there are certain places that have retained their old world charm and one gets this impression that time has stood still, since my days of old, when one were to visit those places even today. The Monjini’s Cake shop on the Main street which was a favourite haunt, followed by the fledgling ‘Pune Coffee House’(now, a huge monolith though!) vigorously marketed amongst the cadets by an exuberant Flt Lt Suresh Kalmadi, the exclusivity of the luscious ‘Bund Garden’, the numerous cinemas(Rahul and Natraj, if I remember correctly, to name just a couple) at vantage points and the bustling ‘Deccan Gymkhana’ are places that immediately come to mind, in an instant recall. The RSI Institute and the AFMC became regular haunts later, during my days in the staff of the Academy, for obvious reasons! How unashamedly sentimental can one get? The whiff of Pune’s air livens me up, always!!
And thanks to the presence of my friends like the Banerjees, the Joshis, the Burbys and now, the Venugopals, a visit to Pune is like homecoming when batteries are charged and morale is boosted. And when I take leave, it’s always with a promise to return at the next available opportunity, in the not too distant future!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A foray into the world of glamour

This evening was a special evening for both, Lekha and me. Sonia, daughter of Tommy( I was his Prefect and House Captain in school, years back) and Pinky who were our neighbours in Tarangini Apartments, Kochi, had come down to spend the evening with us. She’s a costume designer in Bollywood and has done movies like ‘Chak de India’, ‘Rab de bana di jodi’, etc and is currently involved in the movie, ‘Break ke baad’, starring Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone and Sharmila Tagore with a host of other actors. She’d specifically come to select the costumes for Sharmila Tagore and from what one could understand, these actors can give them a really tiring time with their tantrums and can be extremely difficult at times, to these silent workers behind the camera!
We’d seen this talented young girl who was full of energy and extremely good at whatever she picked up, in her younger days. After her schooling, though she’d given the medical entrance examinations, she eventually joined the National Institute of Fashion Design, Bangalore which was where her heart was and passed out as the best student in her course. Work was not difficult to come by, for her and she soon found herself working for the designers called ‘Munch’. And then by the sheer quality of her work, ‘Chak de India’ happened and there was no looking back and today, she keeps incredibly crazy hours at work, honing her skills and striving to do her best in everything she attempts.
Costume designing for a movie involves being aware of the script thoroughly, so that every frame is visualized and worked out to such perfection, that the personal effects of each and everyone within a frame is correctly conceptualized and executed. Well, truly an amazing utilization of talent and as I understand, it’s definitely not a field for lesser mortals lacking in imagination.
Sonia, good luck to you in all your endeavours and here’s us wishing that you win an Oscar for your efforts, just like Bhanu Athaiya did years back for her efforts in the Richard Attenborough film ‘Gandhi’, in the not too distant future!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A whisker away from disaster and preparation of the 'vishukkani'

After our usual morning chores, Lekha and I set off to my sister’s place for a pre-vishu lunch. Enroute, I’d to fill fuel in my vehicle and was headed to the petrol pump that we regularly visit for the purpose. From the main road, I’d to turn left to get into the bunk and with the indicators on, no sooner had I started negotiating the maneuver when a speeding Honda city just swooshed past our left, swerving violently in the process and did not bother to stop, knowing fully well that he was in the wrong. An unpleasant situation was definitely avoided.
Lunch at my sister’s place was, as usual, sumptuous with a wide variety of dishes and I ended up eating silly, which was a foregone conclusion what with the lip smacking delicacies in abundance! The ‘kaineetam’(gifting of a token sum of money on the occasion of Vishu) was distributed by us to Minni and Ammu and we rushed back to Arjan Vihar as there was a conglomeration of the Sai Baba devotees in the evening, at Dwarka and a serpentine queue of vehicles had already started making their way in, as we were moving out.
Late in the evening, it was time for us to set up the ‘vishukkani’ in front of the deities and keep everything ready for viewing, first thing in the morning, on getting up from sleep. I’ve always enjoyed doing this since my childhood, when the entire household painstakingly went through the minutest detail, to ensure setting up of a smart arrangement, before going to bed. On the day of ‘Vishu’, after lighting the traditional lamps, the elders after having seen the ‘kani’ themselves, used to wake us, children, up and cupping their palms over our eyes take us to the puja room to view the splendour of the arrangement, denoting the start of yet another new year. Later, after bath, change and puja, the patriarch used to distribute the ‘kaineetam’. Tomorrow, it will be my turn to do that for Lekha as I’d been doing in the last ten years that we’ve been at Delhi.
Tailpiece.
When I was a kid, I used to invariably open my eyes earlier than usual and see a pair of slippers or something as silly as that, before shutting my eyes tight yet again and awaiting my turn to be taken in front of the ‘vishukkani’. And I used to hide this fact from my cousins as it was too embarrassing!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The stunning news reports of the day

While browsing through the newspapers this morning, I was saddened by two reports in particular. The first was about a girl, who was repeatedly forced into sex by her father and had sired a child out of this incestuous relationship. The child, in turn, was forced to be abandoned by the perpetrator of the crime! I remember my Ammachi telling me, a long time ago, and I quote, “this is ‘kalyug’ and during this period all things unimaginable can be expected to happen as human beings would have degenerated to sinking depths of depravity. And this would signal the time for God to once again come in a new ‘avatar’ or incarnation on this earth, to teach man as to what is right and what is wrong in the way he has been leading his life”. Unquote. I can imagine the tremendous psychological strain that the poor girl would have undergone over the ghastly experience and one thing is sure, it's that she’d have lost faith in relationships as a whole.

The second was about a brother officer, quite junior to me in age and service, who has been literally caught with his pants down. I shall not sit in judgment over his actions because neither has anyone given me the mandate to do so nor do I’ve the right to do that and it would be very easy for me to sit on a high moral ground and mouth platitudes to impress the others.

Sukhjinder must be suffering silently and I suppose, he’ll have to go through this dark phase that he has brought upon himself. But what saddens me is the tremendous strain that Mrs. Sukhjinder and their two children( a daughter, who I’m told is in her teens and a son) have to undergo, for no fault of their’s. Here’s wishing that God gives them the strength to tide over this nightmare and come out totally unscathed from the sorry episode!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Singh is king!

This afternoon I’d the privilege of catching up with a dear old friend of mine from the Academy, Surinder Singh Bal. He continues to be naïve, laughs so easily and his zest for life is as infectious as ever, as it had been since I met him first in Jan ’73, as a first termer. Extremely good at outdoors, especially horse riding, he, however found academics to be his waterloo. And the sardar just couldn’t tell a lie because his face was so very transparent with emotions, that, one could spot it the moment it came out, which gave him and his course mates, tumultuous times because we’d to take collective responsibility for a course mate’s peccadilloes!
He’d joined the Army but decided to hang his uniform last year in pursuit of his heart’s calling. His latest quip is that the women’s reservation bill is going to plummet his fortunes further, as he is a minority in his family consisting of his wife, Happy and two lovely daughters!
His escapades at the Academy are legendary and I shall just cite two of them to underscore his personality. The first incident was at the glider drome during equestrian classes, sometime during our first term. His horse was the grumpy ‘Shehanai’ who just wouldn’t let any guy ride him smoothly and he used to grin whenever he put his rider into discomfort. Now, on this particular morning wonder why Shehanai was not at all inclined to go with Bal’s ‘cootchicooing’ and no sooner was he astride on him, he darted off like a bolt of lightning towards the stables, throwing off his rider enroute. Much later, as the class was winding to a close did we see Bal walking the horse towards us, the rein in one hand and a clutch of green grass in the other. Such was his indomitable spirit! And within a couple of outings, Shehanai and he were the best of pals.
The second incident was while we were on a night march during ‘Camp Greenhorn’ in our second term. I was the guide for my squadron guys who were in single line formation and he followed me quite closely, in the literal sense – he was very protective and rather fond of me. It was pitched dark and we were passing through a terrain of short grass and shrubs and before we realized as to what was happening, I fell into a deep ditch. I could hear a very concerned Bal shouting out, ‘hey chhotu, where are you’ and followed me into the very same ditch, landing plump on a woeful me – that was one time I’d hated his company, albeit for a fraction of a second!! All’s well that ends well and we were retrieved by the team and got to be first in the event, eventually.
There are many more stories of Bal and we’d a blast, reliving some of those incidents. We’ve promised ourselves to keep in touch with each other regularly, from now on. Thanks, Bal for making my day and may life continue to give you whatever you wish for!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do mothers bring up their children differently?

I’ve always asked this question and tried to find the psychological reason as to why mothers do this, because it’s a phenomenon that’s very much in existence, as gleaned from the experiences of some of my close friends and relatives. Looking back into my own life, my parents never showed any difference in their approach towards either me or my two sisters and in fact, they imbibed in me that it was up to me to take care of my sisters’ well being, even if it were to be at the cost of my own discomfort. And I never grudged that as I thought it was my natural responsibility for having been born earlier than them.
Years later, when I used to return from school or the Academy on holidays, it was my sisters who would insist upon my mother to have my favourite dishes prepared for me during the period and thereby, get me preferential treatment. And even to this day, despite the fact that we’ve our own families and lead our own lives, we open up to each other for guidance, support or opinions and even agree to disagree on things and value them for their worth.
Meena, our maid, has four children – the eldest being a son, followed by three daughters – ranging from seven to fourteen years. What amazes me is that she outrightly and brazenly shows her preferences – she’s fond of the third child for reasons best known to her – and at times, puts one child against the other with disastrous consequences! And the resultant behaviour is that whenever they’re left to themselves, the three of them gang up up to give the mother’s favourite a rather horrid time!!
Does the mother who exhibits this sort of behaviour believe in the ‘divide and rule’ policy but what do they aim to achieve in the end, is a question that will continue to haunt me till I find a plausible answer!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A small mishap and enlightenment!

On Friday evening, Lekha had returned from her customary walk and while sitting on a low stool to remove her shoes, fell off from it and took the impact of the fall on her right arm. The maid gave her a light massage in the area with a pain removing gel. Though the night was painful for her, Saturday morning saw her doing her daily chores and other jobs of the house without much difficulty, but by afternoon the pain had gained momentum and she was in extreme difficulty to move the arm, even slightly. As is usual, the service hospitals get totally shut down, in a sense, for outpatients and in her case, for the nature of her injury, an exploratory x-ray was a must for medical management.
Meanwhile, I’d got in touch with my friend and family doctor, Ramachandran and briefed him about the situation and based on his instructions, had an x-ray taken in a laboratory close to his clinic and armed with it, reached his clinic. It was confirmed beyond doubt that there was no fracture but, that, it was a ligament tear that was causing her all the misery. Medicines were prescribed and we were out of the clinic by 2030h and got into one of the worst traffic snarls that I’d gotten into, for a while in Delhi.
Dr. Ramachandran’s clinic is in sector 4 of the colony, Dwarka and by a nasty coincidence, Sai Baba was having his conglomeration in the nearby sector 10 and the increased volume of traffic was conveying a whole lot of his devotees to and from the venue. As I waited for the traffic to move on, my thoughts went back to an earlier topic of mine viz. ‘do we really require an usher to attain our God?’ Or is it that these people consider, being in the bandwagon of a godman’s following, as a status symbol? The answer to the first query is a definite ‘no’ and the answer to the second, if in the affirmative, then my sympathies are with them!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Three cheers to a rare consensus!

Last evening, it was a delightful sight to watch the news channels and to be witness to a rare phenomenon on the Indian political firmament. Political parties across the spectrum, coming out to condemn the ‘Dantewada massacre’ of the CRPF jawans, by the Maoists and rallying around the theme that the extremist group needs to be taken head on and brought to book without any delay.
Earlier, PC Chidambaram while accepting responsibility for the tragedy, had reportedly offered his resignation to the Prime Minister and his party leader and expectedly, they refused to accept it and pressed for his continuation. I would like to believe that all these actions were spontaneous and not a pantomime to score political points!
It’s my personal opinion that this Home Minister has been proactive, has been businesslike in the running of his ministry and has taken many balanced decisions towards enhancement of security preparedness. One also admits that though much has been done, much more needs to be done. He’s media savvy and has articulated his thought process well to the people and perhaps, it’s this general acceptance of his capability amongst people at large, that has made the BJP to come out and say that his resignation at this juncture would be like handing over the game, set and match to the Maoists!!
Let our political leaders show maturity and the grace to wholeheartedly endorse the good policies without worrying about who or which party is the initiator and only, such a consensus would help the country in its progress towards prosperity, overcoming all dangers. So, I’d like to say three cheers to our political leaders at this rare show of bonhomie and understanding!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Do I give that deadly feeling?

I’ve a youngster Narender in my directorate who’d joined us almost a year back, completely disgusted with everything about the service. Prior to his arrival, he’d undergone an aborted court martial and was placed on the ‘service no longer required’ list. He’d almost resigned to the fact that he’d have to leave the service rather unceremoniously and consequently, he was angry with the system, spewing venom at anyone and everyone whom he did not consider ‘right’ as per his perception and the two main targets of his ire were, CGS Khan and Kashmir Singh with whom he’d direct confrontation, while working with them.
It did not take time for us to realize that the youngster was a victim of his own hot headedness, though in a well meaninged way, and was very badly handled by his superiors all through his service life. We, in the directorate, took him under our wings and decided to help him out of his discomfort. The fact that the then COP was Matlub Aslam Khan’s coursemate and his good friend, made matters easy and Narender was cleared off his past stigma and promoted to his present rank. He has changed considerably, in that, he’s now willing to listen to the others’ point of view and has picked up the habit of laughing at his own self!
I’m fond of the youngster and I can unhesitatingly say that the feelings are mutual. But today, he tells me in one unguarded moment, that though he wants to frequent my place, he has refrained from doing so because he’s scared of me, as he feels that I’ve not let him come close enough to me. He also did say that I can never make friends with anyone!
I strongly believe that relationships are for keeps. And therefore,I do take my own time to make friends with people and do assign levels of closeness with the others based on their temperament, qualities and above all, my very own personal experiences with them. I must admit that I might have set seemingly high standards of behaviour but rest assured, I work consciously to attain them and from my viewpoint it’s not that difficult at all. I sincerely hope that I don’t put off people by that aura of ‘deadliness’!!
Tailpiece.
I have just now finished a long conversation with my Amma and it's satisfying to note that they've had a good pilgrimage.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Achan and Amma on pilgrimage

Tomorrow, my parents will go on a pilgrimage to ‘Mannarassala’ temple in the Alappuzha district of Kerala, roughly about 100 kms from my home. They have my maasi, Indirakutty as company and are also taking our farmhand, Georgekutty to help my achan in his movements. They’d be attending a PN Panicker family ceremony, wherein a snake’s statuette in gold, will be offered to the temple after a special puja to the deity is performed and the ceremony will cover the entire forenoon. My parents should be back home before sunset and I consider that as a good break for them from the monotonous life that they’re leading.
Backdrop.
I shall narrate the story told to me by my maternal grandmother, Mrs. PN Panicker during my childhood which has a direct bearing on the ceremony of tomorrow. At her ancestral house in Kainakiri of Alappuzha district there used to be a huge, big banyan tree under whose thicket the snake god was worshipped regularly over many years. She was the elder of the two daughters- their only children- who used to be very regular in the connected activities. After both of them had got married and on the death of their father, the ancestral property had to be disposed off and in the bargain, the daily puja and other connected activities of the snake god came to an abrupt end. The new owners, who were Christians, cleared the thicket and the dense undergrowth, killing a few snakes in the bargain, which was to have a direct impact on my grandmother’s family.
It is to clear this ‘historical family error’ that tomorrow’s ceremony is being held. Here’s wishing them well in all their endeavours and hoping that the trip rejuvenates my Achan and Amma.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Maoists' shenanigans

Consider the following scenario:-
(a) The new Army chief has just taken over and in his first official press interaction,
he makes a statement that the army will not be deployed to tackle internal mischief
makers – subtly implying that the government must use the police and paramilitary
forces to quell such rebellions.
(b) The Home minister visits Lalgarh, in West Bengal, that had witnessed Maoist
violence, for the first time. He has shown that he means business ever since he has
taken over the job and makes a statement that ‘the buck stops at the Chief Minister’s
table’, implying that the state governments must take stern measures, which will then be ably assisted by the union government, in providing additional resources like troops, arms and ammunition.
(c) The ULFA terror group’s top leaders are under detention and are under duress to
get into dialogue with the union government.
(d) The duplicity of the Kashmir Hurriyat groups’ attitude towards the olive branch
offered by the union government, to come to the negotiating table, has been exposed
by the media by bringing out the secret parleys between them and the Chinese, in a
third country.
(e) Pakistan is going through the danger of disintegration by the very same forces that
she’d nurtured to cause discomfort to India.
China and Pakistan are unhappy that India still continues to move forward on all fronts
and making enviable progress, economically. They desperately want to bleed us and there
fore, have encouraged the Maoists to get active with the sole aim of forcing the union government
to deploy the armed forces to tackle the menace and thereby, achieving their objective of
wearing the army thin, over a wide area.
It’s my fervent hope that our political leaders do not bite the bullet and the military leaders should be firm in their resolve of keeping out of the mess, but provide adequate training and resources to the police and paramilitary forces and make them a cohesive battle capable force. And then the Maoists should be taken on without any compunction.
Only then will the souls of those seventy six unfortunate CRPF men, who lost their lives in today’s carnage in Dantewada, of Chattisgarh will rest in peace. My humble
prayer for each one of them and may God give the strength to their families to bear the
searing pain.

Monday, April 5, 2010

General VK Singh, the new Army chief

There’s much expectancy in the air with the new Army chief firmly on the saddle, corruption and malpractices would be put down very severely and that he would save his service from the morass of its disintegrating value system. It is fairly common knowledge that he was instrumental in bringing the ‘Sukhna land scam’ accused to book, during his previous tenure as Eastern Army Commander. The initial press profiling of the General, highlights the fact that he’s a teetotaler, absolutely clean in his financial dealings, a soldier’s General and has emphasized the fact that his thrust would be on honour and accountability within the Army.

Over the years, being an ex-NDA and a navy man, I’ve observed the army guys- nay, the pongoes- very objectively and have come to the startling conclusion that they were generally simpler in outlook towards life, compared to us. I’d attribute this fundamental difference in attitude mainly due to their extremely difficult assignments like the Siachen or on the LOC with our hostile neighbours or on internal security duties against terror. Compared to them, our commands and bases are generally in cosmopolitan cities and probably because of us being indate with the latest happenings and trends, make us snootier than our counterparts in the other two services. Anyways, because of the reasons cited above, one tended to overlook the idiosyncrasies of the pongoes. But the armed forces have a rich tradition of selfless work, a high sense of honour and a gentlemanly halo in everything they did and this ethos cannot be either diluted or wished away, however trying the times could be. And hence, I for one, would be a curious onlooker of the new chief’s policies and their implementation.

However, the skeptic that I am, I’ve two misgivings, which are:-
(a) In the services, one lived by the dictum of ‘work hard and play hard’. Towards
this end, one lets one’s hair down in the evenings in the mess nursing a drink or two
and the unwritten law is that anyone who doesn’t drink cannot be believed in toto.
(b) In this world of ours, merit does not get rewarded always and ascending the steep
ladder towards the higher ranks, needs qualities much beyond merit and hard work –
and to quote an earlier General, one must ‘bootlick one’s seniors, cut the throats of one’s peers and boot the juniors’.

I would like to believe that General VK Singh is an exception and has come up truly on merit and that his life will be emulated by the succeeding generations with pride!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Young Govind, my latest friend!

Lekha’s nephew, Govind, over the last week that he has been with us, has got closer to me and I think, he’s shown an increasing tendency to spend more time with me. He’s studying in the third standard and his being promoted to class IV is a foregone conclusion. On their first evening out here, while I was sitting to blog, he came and sat beside me, after taking permission, as it was a trifle late in the evening. To send him to bed, without much ado, I’d then asked him to massage my head while I was working on my thoughts. I was under the impression that he’d get bored and go off to bed without any delay, but what he did eventually, surprised me. Not only did he do the work diligently but also showed an inclination to sit with me till I finished and I’d to literally tuck him into bed, sometime in between, so that it did not get too late for him.
I’ve lost count of the many questions that he has already asked me and as I anticipate, he’s still left with many more to ask of me before he boards his flight in the afternoon, tomorrow. I really like my interactions with him because it keeps me alert to the fact that I’ve to set an example in every manner as is expected of me. He, I presume, has already labeled me as a joker as he keeps egging me to come out with my PJs and laughs his gut out, which I must admit, gives a tremendous boost to my ego and sets my adrenaline rising. And this evening, he tells me that ‘he’d miss me as he likes me a lot’.
I would like to believe that he finds in me some qualities that he’d like to emulate. But the truth is that I’m gonna miss him like ever before!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Sania Mirza drama

The tennis star seems to have her cup of woes full. It’s all too familiar a story –success comes fairly early in one’s life and as one basks in its light, controversies start dogging the individual and soon one finds that the very same masses who put them on that pedestal want to bring them down.
My personal opinion is that she should have continued to focus on her tennis and let her game do the talking and answer her critics, who surprisingly are increasing by the day. She and her folks must analyse and initiate measures that would be beneficial to her, in the long run.
But what amazed, yet saddened me were the shots being beamed across the world, by almost all the TV channels, of what was happening at her house, between her and Shoaib Malik and one of the channels went one crazier step ahead to analyse as to what was happening out there by reading their body language. Now, that’s the limit! For God’s sake, no one can take undue freedom to intrude into anyone’s privacy. And whether she marries the Pakistani cricketer, who’s married more than once over or whether she should play for India after marriage are her personal decisions and no one has the right to meddle with her beliefs and wishes or the way she wants to shape her life!
Just leave her alone, please!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Of glitches, discomfort and a monumental gaffe!

Lekha’s younger sister, Preetha, her two little children – Govind and Sanath and her mother-in-law(she’s 71 yaers old who’s sprightly and agile) are our guests this week. Today was our trip to Agra, for seeing the Taj Mahal and we set off by seven in the morning. The heat was all pervading but the air conditioned atmosphere in the car took the brunt of the heat away. Within the first one hour of travel, Govind was down and he was better only after vomiting out what was disagreeable within his system. After a sumptuous breakfast at a roadside eatery, it was Lekha’s turn to get queasy and she too was better off after retching out the unwanted. Little Sanath is terror unlimited and the cramped confines of the car did nothing to dampen either his energy or his enthusiasm, keeping each one of us, including the hired chauffeur – Dharmesh couldn’t keep himself away from the all pervading boisterous ruckus – extremely busy over the proceedings!

The traffic was bad, soon after we left the Delhi border and at one time, there were serious doubts as to whether we’d get out of the traffic snarl at all, within a decent time. After an uneventful journey thereafter, we reached Agra and the Taj Mahal, only to be told that the monument was closed for visitors on Fridays – a sad blow, as the elderly lady was paying her visit for the first time and I did kick my shins, a number of times, for not checking out on this detail – a gaffe, that I shall never acquit myself of. And their schedule has been so packed that a second visit is not possible. The error was circumvented, in a miniscule manner, by driving around and having a glimpse of the Taj from various angles – some consolation this!

The visit to the ‘Sreekrishna Janmabhoomi’ was extensive, the four layered security cordon notwithstanding and we began our return journey around a quarter to seven. Two hours into this trip, it was the old lady’s turn to get queasy and she did get better after bringing out the upsetting stuff but what really endeared her to me was her continuing pleasantness and enthusiasm of narrating a steady stream of anecdotes to us, during the entire journey. And she was a patient and eager listener to my PJs.

We were back by 10 without further disaster. After a late night dinner and conversation what brought a lump in my throat was when the old lady- her name is Padmavathy Amma- held my arm to thank me for the wonderful day that she had with us. Was it her way of pardoning me for my gaffe, I wonder but I must confess that I enjoy every moment of mine with her and as I’d said earlier, I shall never be able to forgive myself for the fiasco, ever!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Samba spy case

Today, I happened to read the inside story of the ‘Samba spy case’ from one of the magazines. The case had hit the headlines in 1979, when it was alleged that a group of armymen had spied for Pakistan and passed on valuable information concerning the country’s national security to them. New revelations point out that the entire story was cooked up by a small group within the service –why they did it and what was the guiding force behind them will be known completely, when the case comes up before the Armed Forces Tribunal for a verdict on 31 May ’10. To my mind, it seems to have been the result of a turf war between the Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau but what is heart rending is that the scandal destroyed the lives of so many well meaning and honourable men. I personally salute each one of them, who still have the indomitable spirit of never say die and are awaiting the vindication of their lost honour!

Truth will always win, but at what price? All of these unfortunate gentlemen, who’ve been accused of complicity, had their dreams shattered and went through untold suffering – both mental and physical – over years of incarceration.

How can human beings be so ruthless, so harsh, so petty and so unmindful of others’ pain, discomfort or ignominy? Don’t they get to hear their inner calling, don’t they listen to their conscience when they’re all alone? I mean, how can they be so brutal when they also have been brought up by their families made up of honourable people? Or is it that personal ambitions override limits of propriety and decency expected of each, to go by ‘the ends justify the means’ philosophy?

If that be so, I’d like to believe that each and everyone who were part of the hoax, has lived and will always live a tormented life – which is the cosmic truth!!