Saturday, July 31, 2010

Haven't we lost our soul?

We, Indians, seem to have lost our soul. To highlight this, I’m just drawing attention to three news items that I’ve come across in the recent past.

The atrocious first.
All fruits and vegetables that are available in the open market today have a high level of toxic material in them which can lead to slow poisoning by consumption, over a period of time, resulting in permanent handicap or even death. The toxins, incidentally, find their way into the eatables because they’ve been injected by unscrupulous vendors to enhance the ‘looks’ for brisk sale! As businessmen, one is permitted to make reasonable profits but it’s definitely not justified when lives are at stake for the sake of making gains. How can one ever think of building on one’s assets at the cost of others’ lives? How can one ever knowingly poison one’s own countryman’s food?

The disgusting second.
The authorities of the Bethany High School of Bangalore have passed a circular, warning the affluent parents of their students against the reservation of 10% of seats, consequent to the implementation of the ‘Right to Education’ legislation by the central government. The emphasis is that they need to be weary of the ‘poor’ children who’d be a bad influence to their children’s growth in that they’re the perpetrators of all sorts of bad behavior like smoking, drinking and use of drugs. Can people, especially those who run educational institutions, be so blatantly ignorant and lacking in sensitivity? Isn’t it a way of punishing another unfortunate individual for the sheer accident of his/her birth?

The shameful third.
Till yesterday, I had a soft corner for Suresh Kalmadi because of my interaction with him at the NDA, in 1973, when he was a service officer himself. The way he used to solicit our indulgence, as cadets during our outings on liberty, to use the then fledgling ‘Poona Coffee House’ had a personal if not disarming touch! I and many of my fellow mates have contributed to its growth, albeit in a small way. And I also understand that he has adequate wealth thanks to his wife’s inheritance from her ancestry. If so, why this sorry spectacle of channeling funds from the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee to a ‘fly-by-night operator,’ working from a garage, towards purchase of important equipment and allied services for the baton ceremony at London a few months back, breaking all laws of tendering and contracts? Suresh Kalmadi and your ilk, how much money do you require in this life of yours to make you self sufficient? You’ve really let me down but above all, let down the country.

Aren’t these three sad examples enough to show that we, Indians, have lost our soul? And we’ve the gumption to call Pakistan a failed state!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

O, us mallus!

'Mallu' is not only an acronym for all the Malhotras of the world but it is also a euphemism for all thoroughbred 'malayalees' like me. As everyone is aware, there's no place on this earth that does not have a mallu. Mallus have this peculiar quality in that they're the best workers - and in any profession, mind you - outside the state of Kerala. But within the state, they seem to get demonised and overcome with extreme negativity that it's too hot to handle them! No wonder then that someone has rightfully summarised the situation as, 'God's own country with devil's own people'.

The mallus must be lauded for their lasting contributions to the society and mankind, in particular - in the form of the 'lungi' and the 'nightie'. In fact, they can easily be converted into a form of national attire! The height at which a lungi is hitched up or 'half masted as per popular perception' is directly proportional to the belligerance or the militancy of the wearer! And the wearing of the nightie by our womenfolk defies time and etiquette - comfort and practicality seem to be the guiding factors for its extensive use!!

But whatever said and done, a mallu who has accepted you as his leader can be yours for life and his work will, invariably, be of an exceptionally top order.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are we ready for the Commonwealth Games?

As the media focuses on deadlines being missed by the Organising Committee in getting the venues ready against established milestones, towards the run up to the games, as an Indian I’ve begun to worry. I only hope that our legendary ability to notch up the unbelievable towards the final stretch will come to the fore this time too! As a contrast, the news of London having got ready for the next Olympics accentuates our inefficiencies, shoddy planning and the lack of nationalism.
How else does one justify a guy like Mani Shankar Iyer exclaiming that he’d feel damn sad if the games went off without any hitch? He’s being churlish and petty, simply because he was sacked as the minister of sports in the central government and replaced by MS Gill, a couple of years ago when his ego hassles with Suresh Kalmadi just did not let any meaningful movement forward towards getting ready for the games – he, therefore, is equally responsible for the current mess and deserves to be flogged publicly. One always supported a national cause – in this case, the conduct of the CWG showcases India’s ability to organize such events to the world in general, being the ultimate aim – however much difference of opinion one has as to whether we needed to take on this jamboree against the backdrop of our current economic state. Come on, Mani Shankar Iyer, you’re supposed to be educated and hail from a good background, but you give me the impression of being an absolute illiterate without even an iota of decency! And Suresh Kalmadi, despite gross overspending, it’s sad to see the mess created by you and your team. And it further saddens me when I'd seen you as a young, vibrant and positive young Flight Lieutenant of the IAF at the National Defence Academy.
For our country's sake, let's get all hands on deck to pull together and make the CWG a grand success!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Seeing Randeep off

Randeep has been my immediate boss, in the organisation, for the past ten months and is due to retire by the end of this month. It has been great working with him and our relationship -if one could term it so - started from my days as a cadet at the NDA.
He was a fifth term 'Sergeant' of the neighbouring Golf Squadron while I was a rookie first termer in the Hunter Squadron and compared to the 'mean visage' expected to be sported by all the 'sarges' - they were the eternal vigilantes of the Academy's discipline, you see - he was easygoing and a thorough gentleman and wielded tremendous respect in his squadron, because he did not get after the cadets unnecessarily.
So to me, when he took over his present job, it was like my Academy days coming back in full circle and our bonding was instantaneous.
He's going through the familiar round of farewells before he hangs his uniform and eventhough he tells me that he really can't pinpoint on any predominant feeling, I get this impression that he's a bit dazed by the furious pace of events leading to his retirement.
All in all a great guy and here's wishing that he continues to maintain his active lifestyle with a liberal dosage of health, wealth and happiness. Incidentally, he has become a grandfather just a fortnight ago and the resultant excitement is very much in evidence in his personality.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back to familiar surroundings!

It was a hectic weekend. Firstly, both my journeys up and down were comfortable and incident free. The lecture and interaction went off like clockwork and I really enjoyed that marathon session of over two hours - literally, came back rejuvenated. I've got a feedback this morning from the organisers that the participants have endorsed that my lecture be retained for the next year - which is a very comforting thought.
In the aftermath, did a lot of travel to meet many of my friends whom I had not met for a long time and ofcourse, a few others whom I like being with every now and then, as and when an opportunity arises. I've found such interactions to be insightful and invigorating.
And on return last evening, the icing on the cake was the movie, '3 Idiots' which was worth seeing yet another time.
It's another week and new happenings and hope it's full of interesting happenings.

Incidentally, the President has formally agreed to inaugurate the concluding activities in connection with my Muthachan's yearlong birth centenary celebrations on 13 Aug '10. Must endeavour to make it there for the occasion!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Ammachi, Chempakakutty Amma - Mrs. PN Panicker

It's a hectic weekend amidst friends at Pune after that lecture of mine at Bombay. Have been on the move ever since I'd left Delhi on Thursday.

But today's my Ammachi's remembrance day and I need to be with her and the fond memories that I've of her. She passed into eternity this day in 1991. We were very close to each other and I must admit that even my mother has not been able to come to that proximity with me.

When I used to be at the Holy Angels' Convent during my primary school days, Ammachi used to make it a point to see me off in the mornings and receive me when I returned in the evenings, with snacks that I was fond of. She cried most when I was sent to the Sainik School and would wait for my vacations to begin when she used me as chaperone to visit her doctor (her ailments were a closely guarded secret between Muthachan, me and her). We both would go for movies during the noon shows when all the others were either away or would have seen the movie earlier. There was a tremendous sense of happiness and contentment whenever I was with her and she fondly called me 'monay'.

The way she kept her house was legendary. The house used to be teeming with guests, at times even at odd hours, thanks to my Muthachan's hectic workstyle and Ammachi was the perfect host all the way - a tough thing, by all standards! Many people have told me glowingly about my Ammachi's hospitality and her personal touch in everything that she did. Even my Muthachan had candidly admitted many a time that he was able to go about his professional activities without hitch only because he was sure that Ammachi could handle everything on the homefront without any personal demand or unsolved problems!

During my marriage on 16 May '91, sometime during the course of events of that day, she told me that she did not mind death as she was happy to see me wedded at long last and little did I realise then that her words would be prophetic as she passed away a couple of months later.

Why did she have to go off so abruptly?

Ammachi, I miss you always in every waking moment of mine!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Great Escape!

Tomorrow I'm off to Bombay to deliver my annual lecture to a group of about 35 bright minds. My interaction with them is in two parts - a 50 minute power point presentation on the topic followed by an hour and ten minutes of question-and-answer session. I really look forward to the latter part always, as it pumps in adrenaline into my system, when I take on queries and answer each one of them - the high that I get by the end of it is unexplainable. I sincerely hope that my past students reciprocate these feelings and also hope that I'm able to satisfy the current lot. And I would still insist that I'm a learner of the subject and hope to get new insights from the students.
It provides me an escape from the monotonous grind of life in Delhi, which ofcourse, has its own highs and lows.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's time to move on!

I've been a bit lazy on the blogging front, in that, I've skipped a day or two when I'd not posted any thought of mine. Living through daily chores, one feels comfortable when there's nothing of urgency happening and the condition is nothing but redundancy or in simple, layman's language, 'falling into a rut'. I've been trying to convince myself that I'm yet to reach this plateau because if it's so, then it's a clarion call for me to move on.


Happened to see the movie 'Inception' - a fairly absorbing story of a gentleman who could transcend from one level of the mind to another, fully in control of his senses, keeping a track of the sequence of events and their relativity without ever losing sight of the goal.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What a farce!

In the name of good neighbourly relations, the process of dialogue is being progressed at various levels - be it at the secretarial or ministerial levels and the pantomime is repeated. But what exasperates me is the callousness and lack of sensitivity displayed by the Pakistanis during such exchanges.
To cite just one incident, I was shocked to see the histrionics on the part of the Pakistani Foreign Minister, whose body language clearly indicated that he believed in neither what he said nor what he was pursuing at the meeting. And if peaceful coexistence was indeed the key word, the Pakistani team would have come to the meeting with specific steps towards fulfillment of the stated objectives.
Over the years, at every summit that one has seen between the two countries, a general sense of mistrust coupled with an eagerness to score brownie points at the expense of the other side - more often resorted to by the Pakistanis - has been perceptible. This is surprising given the fact that there has been encouraging signs, with a positive inclination of a give - and - take policy, at the track two level diplomacy. Translated into layman's language, even while the common man on either side of the border wants peaceful coexistence, it's the establishment strongly bound by their Army (the cornerstone of whose existence is a stinging anti-India theme) that calls the shots. They know that they can never win a war with us and hence, resort to unfair means to put us down.
I suppose, time and history will one day give them the right sense.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kerala to Keralam - Will it make any difference?

This piece of news has been bandied about by the media all over. I would term it as another gimmick because, qualitatively, nothing changes. By glossing over trivia like these, the real issues are being swept beneath the carpet.
There's an increasing intolerance of criticism and people take the law into their own hands at the slightest provocation. Wrong things like illegal sand mining from the river beds with police blessings, conversion of agricultural land for commerc ial purposes without adherence to existing norms and rivalry between religious groups with narrow agendas are just a few very, very wrong things that seem to happen in God's own country.
The society as a whole needs to sit up, take note of these disturbing developments, suggest and enforce corrective measures forthwith before things go out of hand. And when everything is set right, perhaps, we could think of changing the name of the state to 'Keralam'.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Belgaum, I weep for you!

Belgaum, a lovely cantonment town on the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra has currently shot into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The ineffective Chief Minister of Maharashtra has made a call for this hamlet to be included in his state- a game of one upmanship with the Shiv Sena who'd earlier raised the pitch on the issue.

Two clarifications are in order at this juncture. I'd stated that Ashok Chavan, the CM is ineffective due to the following reasons;-

(a) He'd silently watched the whole of Maharashtra burning, for days, thanks to the vandalism perpetrated by the Shiv Sena goons to prevent the release of the movie `My name is Khan'.

(b) He behaved like a rat when he distanced himself from the organizational responsibilities, after sharing the dais with Amitabh Bachhan, at the opening ceremony of the other half of the Bandra-Worli sea link.

To my mind, he is no leader as he has really not shown any prowess in governance which is what the people of his state want from him. And less said about the goons that masquerade as Shiv Sainiks!

It’d be appropriate to go back into history at this juncture. Years back, many wealthy Maharashtrians had migrated into Belgaum to set up business ventures due to the favourable factors of climate, resources and proximity to their homes. And to now claim that it should be added to the state of Maharashtra just because of a high percentage of Maharashtrians living there, is stretching things a bit too far and twisting history just to gain political mileage. It has already developed into a slugfest between the BJP(ruling Karnataka) and the Congress (ruling Maharashtra) and the central government watches it, with growing inaction. And mind you, none of the young MPs have raised their opinions, so far - isn't it a shame?

I am sure that the common man in Belgaum doesn't care a sausage as to whether he belongs to Maharashtra or Karnataka as he's fully aware that he is an Indian first, always and every time.

My soft corner for Belgaum began in the summer of 1970, when I'd stayed at the premises of the King George school, for ten wonderful days as a member of our school's NCC camp team. I remember our route marches to the surrounding hills and dales and not to forget my first Hindi movie- "Kohara" – at the cantonment's open air theatre.

O Belgaum, I weep for you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rains! And it's chaos in Delhi!!

I’ve always preferred the dry heat of Apr, May and Jun of Delhi over the wretchedly humid and sultry heat of Jul, Aug and a considerable part of Sep. While many may shrug this off as a mallu’s double standards (as the sultry heat is so very common in the coastal state of Kerala), I must quickly reiterate that Delhi’s swelter is harsher than its counterpart in Kerala.
I remember my Geography teachers explaining to me the vastness of the Indo- Gangetic plain, with its fertile soil and high productivity with hardly any drainage capability. I could never visualize this aspect till I started living in Delhi and by God, now I’m so familiar with it that I shudder at the thought of rains continuously for even over a couple of hours. Huge puddles of water mushroom all over and driving through the otherwise good roads become a nightmare stretching the very limits of one’s patience. This pathetic state is further aggravated by PWD work, the electricity board’s cabling work or the beautification work as a prelude to a prestigious event – currently, the despair is mainly on account of the preparations for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.
Along with the difficulties cited above come long power outages and frequent interruptions to the water supply for domestic consumption and may I remind you that I’m considered to be from the privileged lot as I stay in one of the best addresses of Delhi! At times, I feel that I'm in some remote rural area where development is yet to arrive.
And the powers that be claim that Delhi is a world class city. Isn’t that a joke?

Spain has won the FIFA cup. I must admit that I’d loved their earlier matches compared to their performance in the finals. Holland, the team that I’d rooted for, fell by the wayside – but why did they resort to rough play?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A doubt and my favourite for today's football finals

I was away on work for the major course of the last week and have returned just today. The break away from home was unusually hectic, as connecting with people after my professional itinerary, had been the mainstay. This was basically to take stock of existing projects and also to begin the process of dialogue for future projects that are feasible. Lots of promises have been made and consequently, a lot more of spadework needs to be done.

Oracle Paul, the octopus.
I’ve been reading the extraordinary story of Paul, the octopus who has given the right predictions of six of the previous matches towards the finals, with fascination. How does he do this or how has this process of him hugging the box containing his food and a nation’s flag being declared as the possible winner’s, been evolved? He has already predicted a Spanish win in today's finals.
On this, I’m gonna differ with Paul and as I'm rooting for Holland to lift the FIFA cup! That notwithstanding, I wish both the teams luck and look forward to seeing a clean, well fought match and may the best team win.
And was Paul a human being and that too a well evolved one, in his previous life? My random thoughts, as usual!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We 'mallus' are regressive!

The High Court of Kerala has been the harbinger of very many pathbreaking judgements. Years back, it had passed a ruling to say that ‘bandhs/strikes’ that caused undue hardships to the common man were illegal and people should refrain from exercising this option to air their grievances. We, mallus, were genuinely thrilled that we’d seen the last of these bandhs, as it was common knowledge that the only thing that happened during such times was the unwanted destruction of public property coupled with harrowing times for genuine patients or travellers who’d the misfortune to fetch up in the state that particular day.
But the political parties and their goons had other ideas and have continued to resort to the same rigmarole with a change in nomenclature –‘hartal’ – and carry out their antisocial activities under this new garb.
The High Court of Kerala, last week, has come up with yet another landmark ruling in that it has warned that all roadside activities – even under makeshift arrangements- that caused disruption to traffic and normal communication, should be done away with as they came under the ambit of illegal activities. And as expected, there has been a flurry of negative reactions from political parties, across the spectrum and what really crossed personal decorum and code of conduct was when a local legislator from the CPM said that the judges who’d passed this order were morons. It was definitely ungentlemanly!
But then, when were we mallus ever decent?
O, we Mallus!

We mallus also take the law into our own hands
A few months back, a lecturer of a college in Thodupuzha of central Kerala had set a language question paper that covered some negative aspects of the Prophet. Consequently, the muslim student outfits had organized agitations which brought about the suspension of the said lecturer from his job, pending legal investigation. During the course of the agitations, the guys had said that they’d chop off the hands and legs of the lecturer for his folly and today, those guys carried out that threat of theirs in broad daylight! The lecturer was immediately transferred to a hospital in Kochi for stitching the mutilated hand back into its place and his left leg,that has had a hack with an axe, is out of danger.
What have we mallus become? A clutch of blood thirsty people who doesn’t believe in the laws of the land? May God be with us, or is he scared too?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A day of myriad hues

I cry for you, Yamuna
Today was my Muthachan’s(PN Panicker) remembrance day as per the Malayalam calendar. Me and my maman, who’s currently visiting us, went to the Nigambodh Ghat to offer the ‘shraadh pindh’ . The drive, though long, was event free and the whole sequence of activities went with clockwork precision. There was one dichotomy though. The ‘pindh’ or the offering had to be finally transferred to my grandfather’s soul by immersing it into the River Yamuna and I’d hired a rowing boat for the purpose to go midstream, as the shore was totally contaminated and emanating of stench. As we went through the actions, as told to us by the ‘panditji’ who’d done the pooja, I felt guilty for having contributed to the contamination of the river!
My hopes dashed in World Cup Football - 2010
My interest in the ongoing football world cup matches has diminished over Brazil’s ignominious exit out of the quarter final match of last night. What a shame? As I punch these thoughts in, Argentina is also out of the reckoning. That serves them right as I was very sure right from the start that their coach, Diego Maradona’s antics were far fetched and not that would have made them world class beaters!!
Radhappa chettan, now a memory
This evening, around 4 o’clock, Radhappa chettan’s body was consigned to the flames and his cheerful, loving countenance that I was so familiar with had been reduced to memory. The TV grab showed the moment as his body was slid into the furnace and I was left too dumb to react as the truth of life sunk in. RIP Radhappa chetta and I shall find solace in your vast musical offerings , thanks indeed. I’m proud to be related to you during this life of mine and here’s hoping that we continue to have our association in the lives to come!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A part of my music died today!

Radhappa chettan breathed his last and passed into eternity this afternoon. My mother has been inconsolable. I’d made a promise earlier that I’d be in constant touch with him once he came out of this difficult period but that was not to be.
About four days back, early in the morning, while saying my customary prayers to all those who’ve passed into eternity but have had a significant role in my growth thus far, I’d reached the last name and Radhappa chettan came inadvertently into my thoughts and I was shaken. On discreet enquiries, I’d then come to know that he was deteriorating and was on a ventilator. Knowing the strength of his character, I was sure that he’d come back unscathed and hence my earlier blog, but fate had willed otherwise. No, I don't claim to be another Nostradamus and I must candidly admit that I really do not know what's gonna happen to me in the next couple of minutes nay seconds.
What happens when one’s promised something and is unable to fulfill that promise? I’d said that I would have a continuous dialogue with Radhappa chettan once he returned from his difficult period, unscathed. But that was not destined.
So God, you need to help me on this before I lose faith in you, and you’d better buck up.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Much ado about nothing!

Last Monday I’d seen a senior’s lament on our school circuit that he’d a problem with the Kerala State Electricity Board(KSEB), in that, since January this year, of the three phases of his household’s power line one had gone duff and despite repeated lodging of complaints, the local guys seem to have told him that he’d have to buy a new coil of cable to replace the existing one, between his house and the electric post from where it led.
To me it seemed to be a genuine problem and after speaking to the troubled schoolmate, I decided to use my powers of persuasion, on the people that matter, to retrieve the situation. Amongst the present dispensation at the Electricity Board I know two people viz. :-
(a) the Chairman himself who’s again a junior from my school and whose House Captain I was in
1971 –’72
(b) an Executive Engineer, who used to be my playmate, during our primary school days, as her family were our neighbours.
I decided to start my quest for the problem with the second official and accordingly, called up on Tuesday and apprised her of the problem(there was no hesitation on my part asking for this favour because it wasn’t my personal requirement) and presto, within 24 hours the problem had become a thing of the past without the complainant having to spend anything from his pocket and wasn’t he thrilled and profusely thankful? In addition, he has put this act of mine in the public domain on our old alumni net. Congratulatory messages, coupled with telephone calls, have been pouring ever since for a small thing, which I’m sure, anyone in my place would have done.
And thanks, Neena for your swift action!