Monday, October 31, 2011

Remembering Indira Gandhi.

27 years back, on this date, Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated plunging the entire nation in shock coupled with an immense sadness. She was the country's prime minister for over 16 yrs and had a charisma that won her admirers, not only from within the country but also, from all over the world.

To my mind, her finest hour in the entire tenure of her premiership was when the birth of the new nation state of Bangladesh took place in Dec '71, which was the result of a brilliantly won war by the Indian Armed forces over their Pakistani counterparts. Her leadership coupled with statesmanship of a very high order was undoubtedly the catalyst and the prime mover. The signing of the Indo-Soviet pact, her subsequent visits to all the major capitals of the world to apprise the leaders of those countries of the unprecedented influx of refugees from the then East Pakistan and the consequent burden on her country's economy, during the run up to the war,  were master strokes of diplomacy. She displayed  that a woman was equally good as her male counterparts, if not better, in the art of statecraft and took bold decisions to exhibit the steel in her. The Indians loved her without restraint.

But what happened subsequently, was sad. The people who're with her and who should have given her sound advice-to the extent of giving negative feedback as a fall out on her policies-remained mum and became mere stooges and 'yes men', presumably out of the fear of incurring her wrath. Sycophancy reached himalayan proportions! The result was that she'd stopped getting the feel of the ground reality. A sad state for a leader, who derived her strength from the grassroots who're ever ready to forgive her mistakes!

Whatever said and done, her tragic end shall always remain a blot on the Indian psyche. It's my opinion that we, as a people, had let her down when she needed us most.

My humble tribute to a great leader!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hospitals or horror centres?

It's with concern that one has viewed the spate of deaths of children - and that too quite a few infants - in a couple of hospitals of Calcutta. The callous attitude of the concerned people, who're answerable for the entire episode, makes one angry. Just sample a couple of happenings that point out to the utter disregard and disrespect shown to the sentiments of the public, at large, by them:-

      (a) Since one of them happens to be a referral hospital, the explanation given by the superintendent of
       that place is that all the cases that reach there are referrals and therefore, medical cases with no hope
       and consequently, a high mortality rate is more often the rule rather than the exception!

      (b) Mamta Banerji, the chief minister, as well as the health minister, is yet to come up and give an expla-
      ation and her silence is getting to be deafening as each day passes by!

The hapless parents and relatives are totally confused as to whom, they should be turning to for succour or
more appropriately, for some soothing words for starters. And going by the hospital's explanation, one needs to alter one's thinking of referral hospitals!

Hope the chief minister does something right and fast!


Saw a delightful programme 'Dance dance' showing little kids in action on the dance floor, as part of a reality show, being aired on the Asianet network. The pair - Priyadarshan and Mariya, both primary school students - was the one that I was rooting for because their grace, movements, expressions and timing were simply, a visual treat! The kids of today are simply superb and capable, in their own li'l way!! I wish this 'baby couple' the very best in the forthcoming rounds!!! 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The beginnig of the end?

The scenes of my aunt's final moments in her earthly form have taken me on an emotional roller coaster and the loss is yet to register - rather, I can't believe that her smiling visage will now remain only as a painful memory.

On the 'pundit's ' instructions, as I broke her toes free from the knot tied with a piece of string and removed the cotton wool from her nostrils as she lay still on the pyre, I was overcome with emotions and couldn't help but cry at the thought of never being able to see her in this form, ever, in my life. Was her soul somewhere in the vicinity then, taking in my discomfiture and laughing at my ignorance about the truth of life? Or had her soul already attained its final destination and become one with the universal soul by then? Or had her soul taken another form and if so, what is it?

It's a fact that the zest for life keeps a human being going despite the many travails that he undergoes in the course of his personal life. But the zest takes a huge dent when people close to him leave for their eternal life(no wonder they say that 'parting is a little death').

And it's the beginning of his end, perhaps?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Adieu Leela kunjamma.

The last few hours have been horribly depressing. I simply can't believe that my happy-go-lucky maasi - Leela kunjamma - is no more. The doctors had done an angioplasty on her, she was wheeled back into the coronary care unit for post operative care and within a couple of hours subsequent to that, complications had set in and she was gone, plunging the entire family into immense sadness.

She is the second daughter of the PN Panickers, had finished her matriculation and because she was shy about her pronounced lisp, decided to take up a vocation rather than continuing with her education. And that was that! She was an outgoing, simple and helpful lady and had brought up a lot of young, underprivileged children in addition to her three - two sons and a daughter! Her husband, the mercurial Sivasankara Kurup who used to essay the role of 'Munshi' on Asianet till recently, is a broken man. As I sat with him, when the connected ceremonies with the funeral were on, he was voluble about his 52 years spent with her and the way she'd accepted him with his warts and the moles.

We'd a very close relationship and she used to insist on my calling her up once every week, a habit that I maintain with my mom and dad. I can never forget 20 Jan this year, when I'd called up at 6, in the morning to wish her a happy birthday. She was excited and told me that I was the first to call her up before her children and added, that she preferred it that way. Disarmingly simple in outlook, she was charmingly unconscious of her charm!

As we're shifting her body to the pyre for her final journey, I realised as to how frail she was - notwithstanding that, she'd always been a bundle of energy. Resplendent in the silk saree that she'd worn 52 years back at her wedding, she looked beautiful and full of grace. My mom, her senior, is inconsolable.

I still can't believe that she's no more as she'd promised to come to Kochi and celebrate my birthday next month. All of 74 years, she's coincidentally disappeared into the mist of time almost like her mom with whom she'd a very special relationship.

My tears and prayers for you, Leela kunjamma. Missing you and shall continue to miss you till my very end!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thangamani comes calling.

Thangamani hails from Thirunelveli in Tamilnadu. He's fought two parliamentary elections from his constituency under the banner of a less known political outfit called the 'Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress' and in the process, lost his security deposit both times. He's a diehard optimist - I remember his emphatic explanation during his second attempt(we got to know each other only after his first) as to how poised he was to win, in the prevalent conditions! When the results were out, I did not have the heart to ask him as to why it turned out to be otherwise. He's one of the volunteers who work for my grandfather's Foundation and is a very sincere worker at that.

His physical being can deflate the confidence of the toughest guy and the faint hearted feels comfortable staying far away from him. This is because he sports a very offensive looking moustache, is a huge hulk giving one the impression that he's a toughie and anyone who messes with him could be in grave trouble!

The simple fact is that Thangamani cannot harm even a fly. Period! So, I'd like to believe that god has given him his tough exterior so that he doesn't get taken for a ride by the others!!

 I remember the time when he cried and he cried seeing a fellow volunteer going through tough times and he could be pacified only when that person was retrieved from his difficult situation. He's asked me time and again as to whether he could work in my vicinity so that he could take care of my safety also. I have only laughed away at the suggestion and left it at that.

Today, he'd come to town, on work. Last night he'd informed me about his programme and about coming to meet me, for a while, at my workplace. I was shocked to see him with a fruit basket and his trademark grin. When I chided him, he tells me nonchalantly that in his part of the country, one always went to meet one's 'anna' with a small(?) gift!

Now what does one say to that?   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In retrospect.

1. The pot-pourri in the Kerala Assembly.

The Kerala Legislative Assembly is in session and probably because Diwali falls during this session, there has been a series of fireworks within its four walls. The treasury benches and the opposition vie with each other to score brownie points, at each other's expense, resulting in frequent walkouts or disruptions. Is there a methodicity in this madness? The people have elected and sent in their representatives to discuss and churn out meaningful legislations to put the state on the path of progress but what is on display belies those expectations.

I've this sneaky feeling that the progress report of the government's achievements, during its first 100 days in power, had received a favourable response from every quarter. Has that jolted the opposition to put spokes into its working as they seem to fear a growing popular supprt in favour of the government? A responsible opposition, while being quick to point out mistakes made by the government and have them corrected should also support the right decisions in a sporting manner. But I suppose that's wishful thinking! When will we learn to respect other's views?

2. Diwali '11.

I've been keenly watching the run up to Diwali and the celebrations this year. While it has been nice, dignified and spectacular, the celebrations out here doesn't match the fervour and the grandeur with which it's celebrated in the northern parts of our country. An element of brashness coupled with a tendency to 'show off' is generally the trend out there and to my mind, it's done on a much larger scale! I'm reminded of my Diwali '10 at New Delhi!!

Anyways, here's me wishing all my followers a fantastic Diwali. May the festival of lights bring health, wealth and happiness in abundance, to each one of you.

3. Displaying emotions.

I was halfway through my customary walk, when I saw a handsome young couple, coming from the opposite direction, having a serious difference of opinion amidst themselves. While the young gentleman seemed to be on a continuous verbal onslaught(he didn't seem to be bothered by my seeing him) , the young lady hastily tried to cover her tearful eyes(unsuccessfully) with her pallu as they passed me!

It's none of my 'bloody' business,  you might say, but I hope that they could resolve their differences quickly! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Targeting Anna's inner circle.

I'm reminded of Jesus' famous words to a group of people who're getting after a young lady for her supposedly wayward life, 'let the one who hasn't sinned amongst you cast the first stone'.

This is in light of the various allegations and counter allegations being hurled by hard core politicians(the smug look that Digvijaya Singh sports, when he is accusative of Anna's core group of misdemeanours, seems to suggest "look they're not any different from us, so why waste your time on them?") The whole strategy is to use superior lung power to hurl accusations - one after the other - on the crusaders against corruption, so that their momentum is stalled and their energies are diverted to salvage their reputations. The morbid fact is that the average politician has not promised to get rid himself of corrupt practices but seems to silently endorse and justify those rotten habits.

On the flip side, the group fighting against corruption need to have a squeaky clean reputation in their dealings, their lives. Let there be no doubt regarding that. Against that backdrop, the stories about Kiran Bedi's inflated travel bills or Kejriwal's siphoning of funds into his NGO are dampeners. Their veracity or falsehood need to be established at the earliest, failing which cynicism can set into the minds of the common man and he can be distracted! And that would be sad for this fledgling yet noble movement!!

May Anna Hazare have the strength to tide over the difficulties and continue with his honourable crusade!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Remixes - the cons!

These days the trend of remixes is catching on and what bewilders me is that such a musical hotchpotch has a sizeable following.

A number that gathers popularity or widespread appeal could be due to the beauty of its lyrics, the musical score on which the lyrics ride or if it has a filmy background, then the scenes on which the song is picturised - either individually or collectively. And such a number is ageless - it's enjoyed by generations over the years. Remixes are tried on those ageless numbers and to my opinion, the first casualty is the longevity of the numbers!

It needs to be accepted that there's no dearth of talent at any given point of time but what undergoes a change is the choice of music being made, based on the popular sounds and beats of the times. Remixes, that are currently the rage, originate from this school of thought. And one has no right to trash them outright just because one doesn't savour it.

But my humble appeal to the young talent is that they should give us the privilege of hearing their original scores which showcase their talent coupled with the prevalent music of the times. Let their music, then, transcend time and generations!   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On connecting.

1. With my classmate.

It was nice talking to this friend of mine, years after I'd left school. Life has been unduly harsh on him and to my reckoning, it started from the day he'd joined school. Since I was an appointment from class IX, I was shifted out of the house where my classmates were in majority and given the responsibility of junior boys of classes V and VI and thus was not aware of the goings on amongst my classmates! It was much later that I'd come to know as to how he'd been given a raw deal by my classmates(me included as ignorance is no excuse!). He has no communication with his mother and sister thanks to the differences that had cropped up during the division of the family's ancestral property. To make matters worse, his marriage had floundered after a baby girl was born to them. Thankfully, his professional excellence has made him a star, today. It was him that I was privileged to chat with, last night.

At one time conversation came to a standstill, as I heard him cry............I didn't interrupt and finally, after what seemed to be ages, he regained his composure and promised to visit me soon.

2. With my uncle.

I'd called up my uncle, just to find out as to how his wife - Leela kunjamma, my maasi - was faring. She continues to be at the hospital and the doctors are toiling to get her parameters back to normal so that they can carry out an angioplasty on her. Everyone attending to her seems to have forgotten the fact that her husband, back home, is worried about his wife's state, though they might be withholding the minutest details with the good intention of not upsetting him, perhaps!

So when I'd called up, I gave him an overview of the situation that I was aware of. After listening to my update, I heard him cry..................I didn't interrupt and finally, when he was through he thanked me for reducing his agony.

3. With Murali Nair.

He was discharged from hospital late last evening and is back home. Since I couldn't visit him, I'd given a call this morning and Radhika had put me onto him. I cannot describe the immense relief that I got on hearing his voice and he was only too eager to relive those difficult moments of Wednesday night till he lost all consciousness after the cardiac arrest. He says, he can't recollect anything that happened during the subsequent hours.

He then said that 19 Oct, from now on, would be his second birthday and was crying.................I was at a loss for words and didn't know how to respond appropriately. I could only mumble that I'd look him up at the earliest when he seemed to have recollected his emotions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Who, the hell, gave them this right?

A couple of weeks back, there was an unfortunate incident in Kozhikode where a police officer had fired from his personal weapon while tackling unruly moments of a students' agitation. The students belonged to the CPM and they're exercised over an engineering student's admission into the government's engineering college in the city. It's also pertinent to mention that no student was hurt by the firing but the casualties - on both sides, mind you - were due to the scuffle between the policemen on deployment and the rampaging students!

Last week, MV Jayarajan, a prominent leader of the CPM, had much to one's anguish, exhorted the students to 'deal' with the police officer when he was out of uniform. Yesterday, Sivadasa Menon, another leader of the same party, had gone a step further and exhorted the students to 'tackle' the police officer even while he's in uniform! One can't help but look at such misdemeanours with disdain and the contempt that they deserve. Sadly, no leader across the political spectrum has either indicted the protagonists or condemned the incident thus far. And rightfully, the police has filed cases on the duo!

Who has given the right to these people to take law into their hands? Would they've done so if their near relatives were men in uniform? Do they think that men in uniform have no right to live with dignity? Anyways, it's a known fact that the political parties, on assuming power, use the police to attain their political agendas.

Having said that, I'm not condoning the actions of the police officer. Departmentally, he's answerable for his actions and he needs to provide satisfying answers, failing which, he'll have to face appropriate punitive consequences. For the sake of the effectiveness of the police force, in the state, do not meddle with their work or the society will have to pay for their consequent demoralisation and ineffectiveness!!

The police have a tough task and they need to be respected. And if one can't respect them, at least, refrain from demeaning them!    

Friday, October 21, 2011

Knowledge is amusing, power!

I was under the impression that I knew most of these, that were passed on to me by my friend as a forward. But I must confess that I too have learnt a few for the first time and so, would like to pass them on.

1. Fortnight                                             Fourteen nights.

2. Pop Music                                          Popular music.

3. Moped                                               Motorised pedalling.

4. Bus                                                    Omnibus (meaning everybody).

5. Drawing Room                                   Withdrawing room where people withdrew after dinner. Later,
                                                               the prefix 'with' was dropped!

6. News                                                  Refers to information from directions N, E, W and S.

7. Agmark                                               Which some products bear stem from 'Agricultural Marketing'.

8. Queue                                                 Comes from 'Queen's Quest'. Long back, a long row of people
                                                                waiting to see the Queen prompted someone to comment upon it
                                                                as 'Queen's Quest'.

9. Journal                                                 Is a diary that tells about 'journey for a day' during each day's

10. Tips                                                   In olden days, to get prompt service from servants in an inn,
                                                               travellers used to drop coins in a box on which was written
                                                               'To Insure Prompt Service', giving rise to the custom of 'Tips'.

11. Jeep                                                    A vehicle with a unique gear system invented during 'World
                                                                War II and was named 'General Purpose Vehicle'(GP). GP
                                                                 was changed to 'jeep' later.

12. T shirt                                                 Trend shirt.

Some more nuggets.

(a) Did you know that all the continents end with the same letter that they start with?
     Asia, America, Australia, Europe, Antarctica!

(b) The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood up to 30 ft!

(c) If you sneeze too hard, you can fracture a rib. But if you're to suppress a sneeze, you can rupture a blood vessel in your head or neck and die!

(d) Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:-
      (i) Spades                        King David
     (ii) Clubs                           Alexander, the great
    (iii)  Hearts                         Charlemagne
    (iv)  Diamonds                    Julius Caeser.              

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Their problem has been their hearts!

Leela kunjamma and Murali are currently in different hospitals - the former at Thiruvananthapuram and the latter at Kochi - nursing their hearts as each of them had experienced difficulties.

Leela kunjamma (my maasi and the sister immediately younger to my mom - they're five sisters in all), in the recent past has been often complaining of breathlessness and pain in the chest. The family had not given much seriousness to it because the doctor attending her, attributed it to her anxiety based on her mom's(the late Mrs PN Panicker had succumbed to her heart's problems 20 yrs back) experience. Another fact that complicates matters is her mortal fear of hospitals - to cite an example, last week she'd gone for doing the 'treadmill test' but got so flustered by the environment that her BP had risen abnormally and the exercise had to be abandoned and postponed for a later date. Yesterday, she'd experienced difficulties all over again and consequently, was wheeled into the 'coronary care unit' of a hospital. A block has been identified and the doctors would do an angioplasty on her, wherein two stents will be put in place, to bypass it.

Murali Nair, a good friend of mine, was sweating profusely sometime late last night, had experienced pain in the chest and was wheeled into the 'coronary care unit' of a hospital nearby. Soon after, he'd suffered a cardiac arrest and the doctors had revived him - the hospital said that he'd reached there at the correct time! He's fit as a fiddle and works out for a couple of hours daily and I just can't figure out as to what could have gone wrong! It's now come to light that he's been having a persistent problem of a high cholesterol reading. But my sneaky feeling is that it's just about a month that he'd retired from active life and the consequent lull in activity has caused unnecessary pressures on his heart.

I'm sure Leela kunjamma and Murali would come out of their difficult times without much ado and will continue to be amidst us for many, many years. God, please help them to achieve it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Mallu's propensity to use Hindi.

I'm a thoroughbred 'mallu' and I've tried to analyse the many peculiar and quaint traits that we possess. One such thing is our weakness to break into Hindi, at the slightest pretext, in a multi-cultured environment. In Delhi, I'd often felt like shrinking into my clothes when a 'mallu' answered my query - put across in English or chaste Malayalam - in that depressingly accented Hindi. No wonder my friends sum it up as the 'yo, yo aiya yo' syndrome that we suffer from.

This morning I'd to visit our hospital for a few routine blood tests. I warned the young 'Malayalee' sister that my veins have this mysterious property of disappearing from near the surface skin, every time blood has to be drawn. She gave me a proprietorial smile and nodded, as if to say that I could rest easy as I was in expert hands. She'd indeed done a good job because I must admit that I did not even register the prick of the needle!

And then all hell broke loose as I didn't respond to her numerous 'mutti kolos'(kolo pronounced as 'colo' in cologne) - 'muthi kholo' or to unclench my fist! In the process, some of my blood spilled into the uniform and I'm sure our maid is gonna be unhappy for the additional task slapped on her!

I tried to analyse my reaction at that point of time. At the start, I'd given the warning about my non co-operative veins in chaste Malayalam and therefore, was expecting the young lady to respond to me in the same lingo. Her reply, in Hindi had me nonplussed and consequently, brought about my strange reaction! Or no reaction, to be precise!!

Oh, why does the 'mallu' insist on speaking Hindi?     

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The extraordinary coupled with trivia.

1. Turbaned Tornado.

It's amazing to know about 100 year old Fauja Singh, who's got into the Guinness records for being the oldest person to have completed a full distance marathon in Toronto, Canada. It took him over eight hours to cross the finishing line which was more than six hours after the winner, a Kenyan, had done so. The event workers had by then dismantled the barricades, the sponsor banners and the buntings but that did not deter the media, family, friends and supporters of his in giving him a rousing welcome. 

He'd begun running about 20 years ago after he'd lost his wife and child and is affectionately known as the 'Turbaned Tornado'.

How do people like Fauja Singh do the impossible that cannot even be dreamt by the others? They've enormous grit and the will to do the extraordinary. Like John F Kennedy had said long ago when climbing Everest had become the latest fad among people after Tenzing and Hillary had scaled it for the first time, "people climb the Everest because it's there".

2. Formula 1 in India.

The sport is in India at long last. Three cheers for it! I remember having watched the spectacular movie 'Grand Prix' so many times(I've lost count really) as the sport has a unique appeal!

No, I'm not even for a second, joining the debate as to whether a poor country like ours can afford to waste money on the rich man's game of fast cars!

How I wish it had come earlier because it's all about speed, more speed and still more speed!!


I was waiting for the lift at the ground floor of my building when Ameeta, a young lady, who's having an exhibition of her paintings in the city shortly, came in to give me the invite for the event. In the excitement, she'd dropped her BlackBerry which disintegrated into three pieces. As I helped her in retrieving the dismembered cellphone, she tells me that this is what the white uniform does to her always!

I was pleased as Punch. Am I being narcissistic?  

Monday, October 17, 2011

From Orissa with love.

Today I'd come across a very simple gentleman from Orissa who goes by the name of Bidyadhar Rout. An armourer by profession, he'd prematurely retired a few years back only to return to the surroundings, familiar to him, by the call of his work. Today, he'd fetched up from Thiruvananthapuram at my place on duty and after its completion, had come to brief me about what he'd done for the day.

After finishing with the official requirements, I had enquired about his personal particulars, the details of which was an education of sorts, for me. He truly surprised me when he said that he'd seen me in a few of the activities, with the volunteers of my grandfather's foundation!

Bidyadhar was astonished to hear the names of some of the remotest villages and hamlets of Orissa that I'd visited as part of a relief team in the early 90s. Since the work, then, had spanned a period of almost a month my memories still remain fresh and I've a few hard core friends from the area - the district of Ganjam and nearabouts - who keep in touch.

 Incidentally, Bidyadhar is very keen on settling down in God's own country. His wife would rejoin him once the formality of admitting their only son at the engineering college in Bhubaneshwar is complete. His observation that the Malayalees are 'docile and helpful to others' sounded like music to my ears. And he has a disarmingly simple outlook about life in general!!

Hope he never changes that opinion, ever! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Small men with big egos.

One comes across a lot of people, drawn over a wide microcosm, in one's official work. The experiences can work out to be a thriller that will defy the box office qualities of a meaningful movie by the sheer outrageous behaviour that are on display! Let me narrate an incident that I was privy to.

The local pointsman of the railways had asked me as to whether a meeting could be arranged for his senior with the concerned guys of our department, when he came here during the coming week, from Thiruvananthapuram. Like a good friend, I tried to contact the concerned guy over the weekend but to no avail. It was from someone working close with him that I learnt that 'the worthy' was miffed by the fact that I was trying to meet without having called on him officially! Frankly, I'd not done so because I'd nothing related to his department pending resolution!

Just imagine, one's ego coming in the way of meaningful output! Small men with big egos.

In our country, it is the trend, going by the numerous incidents that one reads or hears about. The guys occupying important positions in government or any organisation for that matter, have bloated egos often fuelled by subservient behaviour on the part of their subordinates - the 'Sir ji syndrome' as I'd like to call it. I suppose this is what a study conducted on human behaviour, in world organisations like the UN etc, had underlined when it talked of a 'KUPD(kiss up piss down) syndrome usually exhibited by Indians, whereby they bootlicked their seniors but booted their subordinates!

The mind has to be unshackled from such narrow outlook to do something big!!     

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interesting times.

We're definitely passing through interesting times and the media is all agog with covering diverse issues for the benefit of the masses and passing it on real time! I'm just going through some of these happenings that make me wonder as to whether tolerance and accepting the other's point of view are slowly becoming alien to us. Are the behaviours that we're being exposed to becoming the rule rather than the exception?

1. Tamasha in the Kerala Assembly.

Our elected representatives - both in Parliament and state legislatures - are many-a-time prone to exhibit outrageous behaviour just to score brownie points over their rivals. Yesterday, it was the turn of Kerala's opposition to ride roughshod over the 'watch and ward staff' and one amongst them, who bore the brunt, was a young lady. The histrionics and the theatrics, post tamasha, make it even more disgusting.

Why don't these people understand that we'd elected them to look after our interests and pass legislations that would ensure safe and prosperous life to each one of us? And do they consider us as imbeciles, unable to separate the grain from the chaffe? Some of their explanations are outright putrid and pathetic. And why're the elders in the house not guiding the misguided ones? Perhaps, they too are equally guilty of such misdemeanour!

2. Mayawati's Dalit Park at NOIDA.

Mayawati has dedicated the Rs. 684 cr Dalit Park to the nation yesterday. What a colossal wastage of resources? The money could have been used for activities aimed at providing meaningful livelihood for the weaker sections of the society. Or it could have been used for setting up minor power generation schemes against the backdrop of what we hear about UP, alongwith quite a few other states, reeling under a serious power shortage.

Voices had been heard - right from the beginning of the work on this project - about everything from land acquisition to its execution that were horribly wrong. But Mayawati just didn't seem to bother about criticisms saying that people were opposing her schemes just because she is a 'dalit ki beti'. And people had decided to keep quiet for fear of her party lumpens getting after them!

3. Ex-Babus nuking projects earlier worked on.

It's interesting to read about ex-bureaucrats torpedoing the projects that they'd once steered while in service, as members of the new organisations(mainly NGOs) that they're working for. How can one even think of doing that? I'm of the opinion that if they'd serious differences, they should have put across their point of view in an unambiguous manner to their political masters who'd have definitely listened to them! What's considered beneficial for the country's interests have to be given its due importance. One cannot change one's loyalties that fast, can one?

4. Big Boss.

On to another entirely different stuff. I've been watching this reality show out of sheer curiosity. I'm still trying to understand as to who ultimately benefits from the show. 

Friday, October 14, 2011


A day when things happened and many of them had the property of touching a chord deep within!

 1. Dependence, becomes a way of life.

Lekha's dad is once again with us, since yesterday. He's here in connection with the fitment of a new Jaipur foot as he finds the existing one heavy and cumbersome. We're put on to the 'Otto Bekk', which is a stone's throwaway from our house, by Savio - a classmate of mine and a doctor, currently practicing in Chicago. The trials will go on for a few days as the exact measurements have now been taken and finer adjustments will be carried out, followed by familiarisation sessions.

He needs help to get up from where he sits and as I was helping him into the rest room, early this morning - he continues with his routine of getting up early, going through chores and is dressed up as though he's ready to go out - says, 'I know that I'm disturbing you but you need to suffer me out for these few days'. It's a great change in his personality over the last ten months, after the amputation of his right foot. I suppose, deep within him, he realises that dependence on others has now become a way of life for him and that has softened him!

2. Ganga Dutt Gupta.

Happened to come across him in the course of my official work today. His three month old child, back home in Ludhiana, was seriously ill and he was going on urgent leave. He'd clamoured on to a train without proper reservation, to end up being with the law for all the wrong reasons. After being slapped with the fine, the ticket examiner had asked him to shift to another compartment  for berth allocation which he'd refused, resulting in a minor altercation with the railway guys, who'd promptly dumped him at the station under our jurisdiction.

He seemed to be very confused and terrified as though the world had come down upon him. My boys, trained as they are, went about getting him pepped up and ensured that he was put into a subsequent train. As is the custom, they shall be tracking him till he reaches his home safely!

3. The matured youngster.

I'd a school mate of mine calling me up to say as to how his son had humbled him. Over the last few months, they're having a running battle over the latter's decision to bunk the campus selection after his professional course and opt for working in an NGO, based in suburban Bombay - which is working towards upliftment of the weaker sections of society - for a paltry pay packet.

The father had called up to say that his son had deposited a sum of Rs.1,000/- into his bank account, from his first pay and he intends to continue with the contribution, towards his old age care. What a fine thought and what a lofty idea in a young mind?!

You've proved that you're far senior to me in wisdom, young man. May god be with you in all your endeavours!    

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When technology fails.

I've a few of my friends whose world has temporarily come to a standstill because their 'BlackBerries' have been erratic. They're part of over a million BlackBerry users, all over the world, who're left without text communication services for a third day yesterday as RIM(Research in Motion), the originators of the BlackBerry, struggled to fix what it called was a switching fault in its private network.

Users in Europe, West Asia, Africa and India suffered from erratic e-mail service and the malaise has spread to its users spread across South America Argentina, Brazil and Chile. If the fault isn't rectified quickly, the consequent negative sentiments towards RIM could dent its market outlook vis-a-vis Apple and Samsung, who're its competitors.

RIN has been extremely popular with the youth by its free 'BlackBerry Messenger'(BBM) and I believe, the latest joke making rounds on the twitter, post the faux pas, is "What did one BBM user say to the other? Nothing!"


Thankfully we, in India, need not lose sleep over the problem because most of us are still struggling to be abreast with the technology, available with us, that's years behind in vintage!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's primitive, it's ghastly!

An innocent man being beaten to death on the suspicion that he's a pickpocket is an unpardonable tragedy and that too in God's own country!

40 year old Raghu of Palakkad was travelling in a bus of the road transport corporation headed for Perumbavoor and on his person, was carrying a sum of over Rs. 10 grand that he'd collected, as loan, from a bank in Palakkad after pledging his gold ring. As the bus reached its destination a few of the co-passengers, based on a complaint that someone had lost a similar amount while on transit, caught hold of the hapless Raghu and assaulted him mercilessly. He succumbed to the grievous injuries, sustained during the assault, soon after.

The two main protagonists - Santhosh and Satheesan(whose name to fame is that he's the gunman of an MP) have since been nabbed by the police and have been charged with manslaughter. The guys were covering their faces with newspapers to prevent being caught on the media cameras. To my belief, that singular act of their's establishes their guilt! Why're they shy to face people if they're innocent?

In fact, I must say that I'm rather amused by people, caught for misdemeanour, trying to cover their faces as they're taken away by the police. Except for the cases where the identities need to be withheld from the public owing to requirements of investigation, I'm of the opinion that the police must not allow such a 'tamasha'. They ought to be ashamed for their misadventure/ignominy and their faces must be registered by every other citizen!

My prayers for Raghu and here's wishing that his family(his wife's from Gujarat and they've two young children) musters enough strength to tide over the sad incident! And the culprits need to be brought to book forthwith - the harshest punishment, perhaps!!

Yet another reason for the Malayalees to hang their heads in shame!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Adieu, Jagjit Singh!

It was early Feb '82 and it had been just a fortnight since yours truly was posted as a DivO at the NDA. I was on a dinner invite at the Kapoors - Pradeep and Anjana were known to have exquisite tastes.

During the course of the evening, as I listened to the wide range of their collection of music, Jagjit Singh's three ghazals viz. 'Kal chaudhavi ki raat thi', 'Der lagi hain aane mein tumko' and 'Saun da mahina yaaron' struck a deep chord within and I'd fallen for this genre of music instantaneously! By the end of the evening - a pretty late one at that, I remember - Anjana'd helped me memorise the first stanza of the second number which continues to be an all time favourite of mine and I quote,
"shafuq, dhanuq, mehtaab, ghataayein, taarein, nagme, bijlee, phool
us daaman mein kya kya kuch hai......kya, kya kuch hai........
woh daaman haath mein aaye toh................."

I was fascinated and got pulled into the magic world of ghazals!

Again, it was around that time, as I reckon, that Jagjit Singh's number in the Raj Babbar-Anita Raj starrer, 'Prem Geet' viz. 'hoton se choon lo tum....' had become extremely popular. The number, 'tum itna jo muskura rahi ho....' from Arth is another haunting number. I can go on and on but must hastily confess that my repertoire of his music is pretty limited. However, 'umra jalvon ke.......', 'patta patta boota boota haal hamaara jaane hai.....' are a couple of others that come readily to mind.

Jagjit Singh had carved a niche for himself in the world of music through his inimitable style of rendition. Despite grave personal tragedy, he continued to perform and regale his audiences. He'd, I believe, planned to perform in 70 concerts to commemorate his 70th birthday but alas, could complete only 46 of them when death had come calling.

My humble tribute to the music maestro and prayers for peace in his eternal life!

Monday, October 10, 2011

That's just another way of looking at things!

My saarthi, Sebastian, is just back from Bangalore after a 10 days' leave. As he gave me his customary salute in the morning, on boarding the Gypsy, I asked him about his family and the way his leave had shaped up. He's an extremely quiet and shy guy and one has to really be persistent to draw him into a conversation.

He'd gone in connection with a betrothal ceremony in his wife's family. The apple of his eye is his one-year old daughter, Andrea Fiona(I'm fond of the name and have told my men and their families that she's my latest girl friend, much to their amusement) who, along with her mother, have stayed back and will join him a fortnight later.

He was rather pensive  as he recounted his grandmother's death that had occurred early in the morning. She was 82, had her third heart attack last Thursday and was in the ICU of a hospital in suburban Bangalore when he'd boarded the train yesterday. Seeing his countenance and thinking that he wanted to be back there for the funeral and connected proceedings, I told him that he'd my permission to proceed on emergency leave forthwith.

His reaction, indeed, surprised me. He politely declined my offer and confessed that he was ruing the fact that quite a lot of money was spent on the old lady, fitted to life support systems, when there was actually no hope left in her survival. He was angry with the hospital authorities for making money at the expense of their sentiments!

Yes, a very dispassionate observation indeed!! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guru Dutt and other stories.

1. Guru Dutt.

It was a quiet Sunday to begin with. I was delighted to watch the TV programme 'Rangoli' dedicated to the versatile Hindi cinema man of all times and my favourite- Guru Dutt! How can one stay away, without being affected by those immortal lines of the beautiful number of 'Kaagaz ke phool', accompanied with the powerful visuals,
               "Waqt ne kiya
                 Kya haseen sitam
                 Tum rahe na tum
                 Hum rahe na hum".  

And it's my gut feeling that Guru Dutt had decided to embrace death after his movie, 'Pyaasa' as inherent in the number,
               "Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye
                                       Tho kya hai?

2. An afternoon at the mall.

Our friends, Suresh and Sindhu had come down from Thiruvananthapuram and they'd insisted on hosting lunch while spending time - shopping and yakkitiyacking - with us in one of the malls, nearby. It was a pleasant afternoon when we caught up from where we'd left last and I must admit that the gaiety, coupled with the pleasant ambiance prevalent around, rubbed into us too.

But what got written off in the bargain was my afternoon siesta - too small a sacrifice, however, to spend quality time with one's friends!

3. Offering condolences.

Syamala, my cousin's confidante and help, lost her 82 year old mother last week. I was wanting to look up the old lady ever since she'd been brought in at my cousin's house but it was not to be. The only solace was that she was ailing with cancer of her colon for a long while and had silently suffered a lot of pain. She's six daughters and a son and was at her ancestral house, undergoing treatment till last week!

What's remarkable is that she'd embraced her end with her most beloved daughter in company. A conspiracy of place, time and circumstances?   

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Finally got him!

Daljeet Singh Chopra had joined us in 'Hunter' squadron as a coursemate in Spring '73. His father was the CinC of the Southern Command and his elder brother, a sixth termer in the same squadron. For a first termer, it was an ideal situation for good performance in those days of ragging and tough life when our seniors behaved like gods!

But for Daljeet, alas, it was not to be. His 'waterloo' was long distance running and little did we realise that he saw nightmares thinking about 'cross country' - a championship that saw the participation of the complete strength of a squadron and where each participant's enclosure, post - competition, mattered most to the squadron for its placement in the hierarchy of the Inter Squadron championships that contributed towards being crowned the 'Champion Squadron', by the term's end.

It was our first X-country and we're putting ourselves through the pace of practice runs towards the run up to the championship. Two more days were left for the fateful day and as usual, we're going through our morning chores in the rest room, when Daljeet came in matter-of-factly, handed over his hockey stick to Suresh Inani(another course mate of ours) who, in turn, gave a tight thwack across the former's outstretched palm according to a pre-conceived plan hatched between the two of them. The result - Daljeet became a medical category thanks to his fractured wrist and was exempted running the x-country.

Eventually, Daljeet's waterloo overtook him in the second term and he was, consequently, withdrawn from the Academy on grounds of being weak in outdoors. He'd then joined the merchant marine and went on to be a successful mariner. I'd lost contact with him soon after.

In my endeavour to get my squadron mates networked, I'd fallen back on the help of the ethernet and thank god, finally was able to get in touch with Daljeet today. Delightfully, he has neither lost his bluster nor his sense of humour! We've decided to interact and make up for lost time over the coming days!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Happenings, happenings.

1. Another 'Malayalee' ingenuity.

Thanks to the police being vigilant to apprehend motorists who drive under alcoholic influence, the men behind the wheel - especially those of the private buses - have found an innovative way to outdo the impasse. They inject drugs - alarmingly, available in plenty from reliable reports - into themselves before exhibiting their prowess on the roads. By doing so, they go undetected in the 'breath analyser' tests! One shudders to think about the safety on the roads!!

We Malayalees can teach the world, a lesson or two, in ingenuity. Haven't I been saying that, time and again?

2. The 'Miss Kerala pageant'.

Tomorrow's the finals of the Miss Kerala beauty championship. Enthusiastic participants drawn mainly from the student community as well as new professionals are gonna make the event an interesting one for the Keralites to be proud of. The event has come a long way from the days when girls gave a wide berth to such competitions as they were thought to be harbingers of a life of waywardness and debauchery.

I shall view it closely from the ringside to understand the young Malayalee lady of today - her hopes, psyche, aspirations and the things that ails or actuate her. Am I sounding pompous - no way, I consider it as a process of an ongoing education, a part of my growing up!

3. The same mistake being revisited.

When the officials of the Corporation and the government promised us roads - resurfaced to world class quality - I'd swallowed it hook, line and sinker. I was impressed that the powers-that-be had, at last, learnt from their mistakes and we're gonna get good, durable roads to drive on. Nothing could be farther from the truth from what's witnessing in the form of the shoddy work that's going on all around.

The unscrupulous contractors, along with their political and bureaucratic mentors, are going to rake in the moolah at the taxpayers' expense! The roads are not going to last beyond the approaching North Eastern monsoons, for sure - one doesn't have to be a 'Nostradamus' to predict that!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On the Rheumatologist's trail.

Lekha's ongoing medical management, on our return to Kerala, was undertaken by the Physiatrist at the AIMS, who's a consultant from Kozhikode. He was introduced to us by her doctor at Delhi. Quite an affable and genial doctor who(as he puts it) was quite fond of his patient and looked forward to his interaction with us during his bimonthly visits to the hospital.

Last week, realising that his medical management of Lekha needed augmentation, he'd referred her case to the Rheumatologist. Going from one doctor to another at the AIMS is a tortuous evolution and an ordinary patient can soon get disillusioned and opts to move out of the hospital thanks to the irritating red tapism prevalent at the reception counters - why quite a few of those young ladies, who man the numerous counters, behave in a callous manner beats my imagination! They can at least treat those who approach them with respect and a smile, at no cost!

We too had our disappointments and moments of disillusionment, but finally was successful in achieving our goal thanks to our dogged persistence and boy, wasn't it worth the wait? The doctor was affable and dot on his prognosis despite the fact that he was working late into the evening. And as coincidence would have it, we soon found out that we'd a lot many common friends in the medical field thanks to Lekha's ailment!

Lekha's on to a new set of medicines and it's my fond hope that she takes off for the better without further hiccups!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Durga Puja courtesy Rajani.

Lekha and me are indeed fortunate to have picked up a few good friends over the years. Rajani is a second generation Bengali who's born and brought up in Kerala. Her father was a businessman(he'd migrated to Kerala quite a while back in pursuit of his banking business and if I were to borrow his words, fallen in love with the 'green country') and she's the wife of a successful businessman - these are Bengalis who've beaten the mallus at their game, as I put it to pull their leg! They've a lovely villa at Kochi and the entire family- their two children, especially - can speak Malayalam fluently and can beat many of the mallus at that!

It was on Rajani's insistence that we went 'pandal hopping' and boy, wasn't it an experience? She took pains to explain the nuances and introduced us to many of her Bong friends to ensure that we never felt out of place. The universal Bengali fervour in celebrating Dussehra was very much in evidence and we couldn't help from getting sucked into the celebrations, the related bonhomie!

The Durga Puja, this year, was indeed a memorable event for Lekha and me. Thanks, Rajani for making it special!


I always end up stuffing myself silly with the 'bhog' that's at once mouth watering, delicious and sumptuous. This year was also no exception!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dussehra wishes. Those were the days....

May I take this occasion to wish all of you a very happy Dussehra!

I'm taken back in time when I see the frenetic preparations for setting up 'pandals' at various parts of the city for celebrating the 'Puja festival'. I used to be a part of a huge joint family, the patriarch of which was my maternal grandfather, PN Panicker. Since the house consisted of around 26 people - included about four to five resident guests over and above our static strength of 21 - every event was celebrated at a correspondingly large level. We kids - 13 of us - enjoyed such occasions thoroughly!

On the eve of the Dussehra, we used to be instructed to hand over our study materials and musical instruments to be offered for puja, in the puja room and on those three days no one would ask us to study(one's supposed to abstain from reading of any sort during those days when Goddess Saraswati was perusing one's books!) which was a great thing. We kids used to be on the look out for defaulters amongst us who read inadvertently during this phase - I must confess that I was a constant defaulter on this front because of having read a line or two from the newspaper or magazine lying around! The other children - my cousins - used to consider me a 'black sheep', on this score and because of their constant surveillance, I was prone to err much to their mirth. What made matters worse was that some of the uncles and aunts used to take a vicarious pleasure in pointing out the defaulters to the others! And the penalty was high - the defaulter had to sacrifice his or her pudding(It was here that my grandmother was very helpful in that she would give me secret helpings with a promise that I should not tell about it to the others. No prizes for guessing that I'd break it soon after consumption, making her position rather tenuous).

Another added attraction was that there would be so many visitors on call that we children would be left to ourselves without the supervision of any of the elders and usually, we took advantage of such situations!!

O, those halcyon and carefree days! Hope one had the power to rewind to such happy occasions....

Monday, October 3, 2011

My latest girlfriend!

"Man realises the importance of a relationship when he gains one or when he loses one".

What a paradox, eh? If relationships were that important why should one ever reach the point of losing it - but that's the tragicomedy of life! And I'd like to leave it at that and dwell upon a new friend that I've acquired in my present neighbourhood.

She's Anoushka, all of 9 years and studying in class 3. Actually, I must recount as to how I made friends with her. About a month back, when I was returning from my customary evening walk, a bunch of five little girls - Anoushka was one amongst them, of course! - crowded around and requested me for a donation for a nearby orphanage. I promised to help them but with a rider, that they'd to help me with my spelling! I'd then asked for their assistance to spell 'pudding' and each one of them rattled out the correct answer. I stumped them by saying that it was actually 'pu..ding...ding' and that they're all wrong. The li'l girls went to town with their mirthy laughter and it was Anoushka's reaction - that reflected a maturity far beyond her age - that really stumped me, 'Uncle, that was a good joke' she said rather matter of factly. Thank god, she didn't call me a joker! The foundation of our friendship was firmly laid that evening.

From then on, there has been no looking back. She waits every evening to tell me about all that happened in her class that day and I really look forward to these interactions with Anoushka. This evening she's let out a secret - her birthday falls on 13 Oct and she's invited me(and I would like to believe that I'm the first and the only uncle that she's invited!!).

It'd take a lot of effort on my part to think of an appropriate present for the li'l princess.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Mall culture and other trivia.

1. The Mall culture.

The numerous shopping malls dotting the cityscape have changed the concept of spending a holiday. People throng these massive arcades where shops of all varieties, alongwith facilities for entertainment, rub shoulders with one another and makes shopping a wonderful experience, amply supported by the availabilty of 'plastic money'.

Another significant factor that attracts crowds to the malls is that one doesn't have to drive through clogged and overpopulated roads looking for specific shops - it's a one stop shopping! Parking - which, otherwise is a pain due to dwindling sites - is also easier within its precincts.

We'd gone to the nearby 'Gold Souk Grande' to catch up on a new Malayalam movie and couldn't help but join in the general exuberance of the popcorn culture!

2. Another Gandhi Jayanti is here.

02 October is synonymous with Gandhiji. People come out in large numbers on a cleaning drive under the glare of the arc lights of the media. I've always wondered as to why we remember that we live in filth, only on this day, to go into a frenzy of collective cleaning and again lapse into insomnia till the next Gandhi Jayanti.

Probably, it's the guilty conscience deep within every Indian that he's living in a make believe world prone to corrupt practices, where the values and principles that Gandhiji tried to inculcate in his fellowmen have been conveniently forgotten. By resorting to 'shramdaan', some sort of spring cleaning is achieved off this guilty thought, perhaps!

3. Onam celebrations are still on.

Yes, Onam is still being celebrated with verve and fervour in many parts of the state - in fact, I'd an invite for an Onam lunch today. In my opinion it should be termed as 'Onam - on - Dussehra! The ongoing celebration is because of the fact that most people had taken off on leave, to be with their near and dear ones, during the actual period. Strictly a matter of convenience to celebrate the festival with their official counterparts - the authenticity of the dates be damned!!

My afternoon was, indeed, a very interesting one. A residential welfare association, nearby, where my friend is an active organiser was the prime mover. Children, ladies and gentlemen participated in the lively and colourful cultural programme prior to the sumptuous lunch spread. My favourite was the 'thiruvathirakkali' put up by the ladies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why is Kerala reeling under a slew of illnesses?

I've now spent ten months in Kerala after my transfer from Delhi. Many things have undergone a change but what baffles me is that the famous 'Malayalee' addiction to all round cleanliness has taken a beating. Consequently, ailments of all types are rampant and the average Malayalee continues to suffer silently as the govt hospitals are pathetically understaffed, badly maintained and quite a few of them, lack the latest medical tools to tackle normal, if not, additional workload! Paradoxically, all these are available in the 'five star hospitals' set up in the private sector but one needs a fortune to enjoy those facilities and hence, the common man is at a serious disadvantage.

Formerly, a 'mallu' used to flaunt his penchant for keeping his surroundings clean and used to make fun of his immediate neighbour from Tamilnadu, in that, he lived in much wretched and filthy conditions! I wonder what he's to say now with the widespread problem of illnesses that obviously stems from unclean/unhealthy living. I think, the 'mallu's' fabled cleanliness was limited to the four walls of his house beyond which, any amount of filth could accumulate and he didn't care a damn. It was someone else's problem, not his! And therein lies the problem.

It's indeed sad that a state like Kerala, whose people are more aware of things thanks to their high literacy levels, has neither taken steps to encourage serious thinking nor undertake massive initiatives focused on the setting up of an effective waste management system backed by scientific reasoning. The pathetic manner in which waste is managed, according to my perception, is the prime reason for the spate of illnesses plaguing the region.

An effective waste management system is the need of the hour. Let's not hesitate in our actions on this score!