Saturday, June 30, 2012

On being in the news.

The month of June has been hectic. The first fortnight encompassed our visit to Pune in pursuit of renewing old relationships and go on a nostalgic trip through the portals of my alma mater, the National Defence Academy. The experience was fantastic and on a very personal level, I could cement existing relationships further but I must hasten to add that the intensity or rather, the cooling down of the ones that I thought were everlasting was another lesson learnt in life!

The third week saw me driving a few hundred miles between Kochi, Kottarakkara and Thiruvananthapuram in connection with my grandfather's remembrance day and the alumni day of my school. It was again about interaction with people and the beginning of new partnerships! In between, my organisation had to go through the paces of an administrative inspection by a superior which of course, went off well.

It was towards the end of the 'Vaayana Vaaram', that Roy - a youngster from school and an admirer of your's truly- put his friend, the resident editor of a national daily to collect reminiscences that I've about my grandfather and consequently, I figured in the columns of the newspaper for the whole of last week through the district-wise editions of the daily. Roy'd, further, uploaded the interview on the school website and my phone has been ringing ever since with calls from friends and well wishers.

So much so, that I was the most sought after guy at a wedding reception this evening and had people trying to get more, about my grandfather, from me. I was quite amused with this newfound, yet surely shortlived celebrity status of mine and must admit, felt thoroughly uncomfortable with all the attention.

I still believe in what I told almost all of them that they're congratulating 'the accident of my birth' in being related to a legend who'd become great by his deeds. I've done nothing as yet but yes, would like to be known for my deeds too and then have people say, "It's only in the fitness of things that he's been pursuing what he is because he's his grandfather's grandson"! 

And yes, I'm proud to be the legendary PN Panicker's grandson!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Disturbing news!

The CPM's cup of woes seem to be overflowing. The arrest of another local leader, P Mohanan, of their Kozhikode district committee by the special investigation team probing the TP Chandrasekharan murder has rattled the party. The party's cadre was up in arms against the police and the judiciary, consequent to the arrest of their colleague.

From the information coming out, in bits and pieces, from the interrogation thus far, this person had attested the killing of TP soon after the party congress which was held a few months ago. He was the middle level leader in charge of the Onchiyam area and had come to the conclusion that TP's continued presence would not be in the interest of his party's future and hence his elimination was the only way out! It's also of interest to note that Mohanan's wife is an MLA of the CPM in the current legislative assembly.

The noose seems to be tightening as the investigation team is trying to ascertain as to whether the top leadership had indeed given the instruction for TP's killing. 

What a fall for a party that had begun on principled ideology and noble intentions! The only positive thought that comes to me, at this juncture, is that the 'manthan' would purify the party off its extreme elements and bring it to the disciplined, cadre based party as of the days of old!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inefficiency cannot be tolerated...

This morning, a couple of men from the local office of the electricity board came into my office to change the meter. In fact, as I was entering my office they're leaving the premises after completing their work.

There was a sudden flow of excess energy and due to the high voltage, many of the electrical/electronic equipment went 'kaput'. Work had come to a standstill. I was incensed and had the electricity board workers recalled and gave them a piece of my mind for not waiting a while to confirm that their work was right. I'd read in the newspapers, in the past, about meters of incompatible impedance having created havoc in domestic houses courtesy some ignorant workers of the organisation. And mind you, these guys are always quick to raise slogans and strike work if they've a grievance and can be vicious if the consumer is at the receiving end!

The two linemen, along with their foreman, were an apologetic lot and cowering in front of my belligerence. They agreed that the fault was their's in that the wires were plugged in wrongly, creating the erratic flow of energy. Their request was that I should not report the matter to their higher ups and the quid pro quo was that, they'd defray the complete expenses towards the repairs/restoring of the incapacitated equipment.

Much against my grain, I'd almost agreed to their request when one of them had the gumption to say that I must help them further by shelling out a part of the expenses from the official funds as all the equipment were government owned. That statement rattled me and I rung up his superior and briefed him about the incident. I added that they'd admitted their fault and had promised to defray the expenses for the repairs. The superior, then, replied that based on my complaint, disciplinary action would also be slapped on the defaulters.

So much about the callous attitude, that many of us have, towards government items!


And guys, on a lookout for government jobs, would go to any extent, for getting one and after achieving their end, take all sorts of liberty to shirk work. 

It can never be tolerated!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

59 years later.......

This evening, I was lucky to be a witness to a unique reunion between Kurup kochachan and Kamalamma aunty(they're cousins and their roots are in south Paravoor and I address her as 'amma'. Her eldest daughter, Prabha Ramakrishnan is a lawyer, practicing at the High Court), at the latter's house.

They'd last met at Paravoor in 1953 - yours truly was yet to inherit this earth, then! - when she and her family were off to Singapore due to her husband's professional requirements. She recalled my kochachan's 'youth and glamour' and the way he used to tease her then. He was, however, very protective about her and had kept the other boys at bay and ensured that none among them took liberties with his kid sister! I could also feel their sadness at the way time had taken its toll on their personal being!!

Names, places and events came and went, during their two and a half hours' conversation, giving me an insight about our family tree from Paravoor. For them, traversing through 59 years and catching up with the present, was an exciting experience. Had it not been for the paucity of time, I reckon, they'd have gone on.
Many important people in their lives have passed into the mist of time, the latest among them being Leela kunjamma, last October and one could feel the pain they're trying to live down, with little success.

Amma has problems in moving around as both her knees have been badly affected by arthritis and Kochachan has a problem about his right knee, but as he says, he is on the go despite the discomfort.

For Lekha and me, the whole experience was educative and we felt happy that such a meeting was taking place! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

With trepidation and in grief.

1. With trepidation.

News, in bits and pieces about a recruitment racket at the National Defence Academy, have been trickling down over the past few days. It revolved around the intake of the non clerical staff like the orderlies, the safaiwalas and others, as I understand. Colonel Kulbir Singh, the Staff Officer to the Commandant, has been arrested as unaccounted money has been recovered from his house and also from the houses of his civilian friends living outside, in the city. He seems to have been the mastermind behind the misdemeanour and I'm sure that more gory details of the scam are gonna tumble out over the coming days. He'd interacted with me and many others during our recent visit to the Academy about a fortnight back. Little did one realise that he was stewing his on juice in the meanwhile. A sum of Rs. 96 lakhs have been recovered thus far.

I only hope that Lt Gen Jatinder Singh, the Commandant and my school fellow comes out of this unscathed. I   still remember the affable sardar, dancing amidst us in typical Punjabi style with outstretched hands and index fingers pointing skyward on the makeshift dance floor, erected in front of the Cadets' Mess for the occasion. A great guy with an even greater school spirit than all of ours put together! Knowing him I'm sure that he must be extremely sad that a subordinate had gone astray right under his nose!!

2. A tragic end.

It was with a heavy heart that I received the news of the death of Shibu K John (Roll no. 666 of Sainik School, Kazhakootam) thanks to a tragic road accident at Kollam. I didn't know that he's a bachelor since I'd never seen him after I'd left school and he's survived by his mother, a brother and a sister. I've offered my condolences to the family though I'm sure that they'd not have placed me among the many faces that they've gone past.

Shibu was in class VI and in the no.5 dormitory of the school in which I was one of his two Prefects, during 1969-'70. Shibu was short, dark complexioned and quiet and kept away from the limelight, to the extent feasible. I recall his propensity to burst into tears when he was caught by anyone of us for his pranks, so much so, that our House Master - the late Mr. CV Sankaranarayanan sir - used to say and I quote, "Enthanu Shibu, karayaathe karyathilekku kadakku". I reckon he was initially overawed by the environment, as he'd a rural background, but got over it immediately after. And I also remember his slow smile, whenever he was given a pat on the back, which is vividly etched in my memory like a frozen snapshot from a long lost family album.

His tragic and untimely end on the same road (I'd passed through it last Sunday) just doesn't seem to be fair on the young man.

RIP Shibu. May god give your family the strength to withstand your loss.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Munshi is with me.

After what seemed to be ages, Kurup kochachan has finally come calling. He'd gone to Thrissur, on the 20th, to attend the first meeting of the newly constituted committee of the Kerala Sangeetha Naataka Academy, of which he is a member. After his wife's (Leela Kunjamma) death last November, he has been staying with his eldest son at Thiruvananthapuram and has a serial or two on Malayalam television as well as being part of a commercial advertisement.

His transformation has been tremendous. From a fun loving, ever smiling, gregarious person that I'd always known him to be, he's become quieter and unsure of himself, lapsing into long periods of silence. The passing away of a spouse has lasting effects and I must admit that I too miss my ma'asi, when I'm with him and can very well appreciate his predicament. But being media savvy, he's been penning his thoughts on current issues that grate him and he's given me one such effort of his for perusal, before sending it to the press.

In an unguarded moment, he said that while he's glad to be with us it would have been a lot better had my ma'asi also been there with him and I saw his eyes brimming with tears.

And yes, Leela kunjamma had promised to come to our place, last November, to celebrate my birthday but death had other plans for her.

At 84, he's kept himself fit and has just finished a treatment session, of a fortnight, at an ayurvedic spa at Thiruvananthapuram. Except for a lingering pain on his right knee, for which external application of oils are resorted to, he doesn't take any medicine unlike some of his counterparts!

I hope that his mental agony and loneliness are reduced further - however small in measure - during his stay with us.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The 'Vaayana Vaaram' - 19 to 25 Jun.

Though I've been one among the backroom boys, as part of the PNP Foundation, I must admit that my contribution has been less thanks to my professional commitments. Consequently, I've been flitting in and out of Thiruvananthapuram over the last week as can be surmised from my previous posts. Having said that, as reiterated earlier, my maman, Balagopal and his team have given the logical thread to the string of activities. They deserve the kudos!

Today's seminar on e-governance and its advantages had a packed, attentive audience. And there was the quiz competition between select teams, comprising of smart young boys and girls, from each of the 14 districts of the state along with a painting competition for children of all ages - from kindergarten to class X! The exalted portals of the Kanakakkunnu Palace wore a festive look and the huge gathering confirmed the fact that the people didn't mind spending a 'Sunday' out of their homes. Muthachan would have been really glad, I'm sure!!

My mom has been quite active at my father's place. I'm glad that she's ventured out of the house despite her aches and pains, my niece Ammu being her 'live' walking stick and interlocutor!

There have been numerous events all over Kerala in connection with the 'Vaayana Vaaram' and judging by the feedback received thus far, the response from the people has been fantastic.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Alumni Day.

The day had started off with the wreath laying ceremony at the 'Stupa of Rememberance'. There was a great deal of bonhomie, backslapping and hugging when classmates met after a lapse of one year at the familiar portals of the Sainik School, Kazhakootam. The school wore a festive look and it always
gives me an overwhelming feeling when I meet up with my old teachers and other staff members. Their genuine excitement, backed up with the recounting of some of the reminiscences left by your's truly thrilled the 'young kid' in me and the experience was humbling!

The business meeting was a serious affair but clear guidelines have been set for the new 'executive committe' to move forward and run the old boys' association. The prolonged discussions were brutally frank and never did the gathering lose the sense of propriety, expected of it with the decorum being maintained as serious issues were taken up and sorted out with maturity and restraint!!

After a hasty lunch, I was back at the venue of the 'Vaayana Vaaram' at the Kanakakunnu Palace to contribute my mite. The discussions on women empowerment were lively and interesting, with pertinent points being talked about, threadbare and remedial measures suggested. I wonder as to why women still continue to be dominated, harassed and exploited in Kerala despite being adequately equipped!

The evening's get together, of our classmates, at the well kept Army Officers' Institute was in continuation of the proceedings of the previous evening and boy, one was in splits as humorous incidents of the past came floating by with ease.  

Inspection and after!

Dateline 22 Jun.

This morning, we'd our annual inspection. The inspecting officer seemed to be pleased with what he saw because his remarks on the visitors' book said it all. It was possible only because of the hard work put in by my boys over the last few days, I just needed to give them the general direction at the start. The fact that the inspecting officer happens to be a good friend also helped.

Soon after, we kicked off for Thiruvananthapuram to take part in our school alumni day alongwith pitching in my bit as one of the organisers of the 'Vaayana Vaaram'. The old boys' day falls tomorrow and the 'business meeting', on the occasion, is gonna raise a lot of heat and fury thanks to an unpardonable bungling - again, by an alumnus - in the making of a promotional documentary on the school.

The events of the 'Vaayana Vaaram' have been carefully scripted by my maman and his team. Frankly, I'd nothing much to do except for lending a helping hand to the staff to straighten the rows of chairs and ensuring that the guests were conducted properly, at the venue!

The evening get together of our classmates at a friend's house was simply great. Thanks, Vijayakumar and Anitha for hosting the lovely evening! We enjoyed every minute of our stay at your place!!


As we're leaving for the evening's do, my young nephew, Kripashankar, who's studying in class V, asks me in hushed tones, "Mama, will you be having supper with us tomorrow?" I must've hurt him when I'd replied in the negative, thanks to an earlier commitment! How I wish I did not have to let down the little boy!! Life can be complicated!!!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Truth will win, ultimately.

Since my childhood days, it has been drilled into my mind that I should speak and adhere to the truth - and nothing but the truth - always and every time. Yes, I must admit that I did have tough times while following the dictum but looking back now, I feel my mind was never cluttered up, ever.

Let me go back in time. My mom used to teach me at home and she was particularly harsh when I committed silly mistakes - especially in Maths, but to me they're far from being silly ones. I just couldn't fathom as to why anyone wanted to know the cost of 1,000 coconuts when he already knew what it was for 100 nuts! She used to insist that I write the answers on the question paper, during the examinations, which she'd cross check on my return and I do not have to recount as to how dreaded those sessions were. She used to pinch at the soft flesh under the upper arm and boy, I can still feel them as I punch in this narrative. A few of my friends even advised me to scribble down the correct answers but I could not bring myself to doing that because telling a lie to my mom was sacrilege! Because truth wins.

Another poignant incident, from my lower primary school days, was when I'd lost a book. Initially, I'd tried to hold back the news about the loss but found that life was getting to be suffocating, every passing minute and I think I blurted out the truth on the second day or was it the third? I forget. Though the punishment was harsh, I remember as to how 'light' I'd felt soon after. And again, because truth has no substitute!


Why did I give a long preamble? It's against the backdrop of the raging fire in the 'Mantralaya' of Bombay today where a lot of valuable records seem to have perished. As Arnab Goswami articulated as to why it could be a sabotage to shield the powerfully corrupt and their shenanigans, I couldn't help but agree with his arguments. Will the truth come out ever about the numerous scams like Adarsh and many others? Or will the crooks get away and fade away as decent, clean guys?

It just doesn't seem to be fair. And truth has to win, here and now, not decades later!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A sad state of affairs!

It's awfully disgusting to read about the ongoing feud between our tennis stalwarts, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Both of them, have reacted to the recommendation of the All India Tennis Association that they'd be the official doubles team to represent the country at the forthcoming London Olympics. I thought that people looked forward to play for their country as it was a unique honour. What does one say about sportsmen with big egos whose personal problems deny their country a medal?


19 Jun - Remembering the legendary PN Panicker.

Dateline 19 Jun.

17 years back, around 1917 h, PN Panicker had breathed his last at the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. The crowds that had come to pay homage to him was unprecedented. They consisted of poor people from the villages whom he'd empowered by making them literate and essentially, given them the ability to put down their signatures on documents!

Today, is his remembrance day. The programme, at the Kanakakunnu Palace, was a well attended function and the conference hall was overflowing with people from all walks of life, with a generous sprinkling of children. In fact, as part of the organising team I was sorry to see that not all of them  could sit and watch the proceedings. But, I must admit that their enthusiasm never lost its intensity!

I shall not talk about the luminaries that graced the stage but I intend to touch upon an incident narrated by the Jnanapith Award winning poet, ONV Kurup sir on the occasion.

He'd met my grandfather, for the first time, during the early 1950s and was able to practise his oratorial skills, on big platforms, thanks to my grandfather's invitations. After a while, he'd started getting to be bored with such invites and to put it in his words, he was irritated and told my grandfather, one day, that he was not inclined to attend such programmes any more. One must understand that ONV was a budding poet then and PNP was trying to do the impossible - educating the masses!

PN Panicker's answer was the trump and I quote from ONV's speech when he recalled the incident, 'Young man, if people like you do not help me how can I accomplish my task?' ONV sir says that from then on he never missed a single event connected with my grandfather!

Even Oommen Chandy, the chief minister, came in though late thanks to a heated session in the Legislative assembly as the house was in session. His statement, 'Panicker sir's programme is something that I cannot afford to miss' showed his respect for the legend.


My grandfather bestest!     

Apologies yet again.

I was on the move, again, for the past two days and had to spend a great amount of time in areas which had, at best, a very patchy coverage. Hence, I could not update my posts. I suppose, I need to be tech savvy with smarter tools for accomplishment!

Dateline 18 Jun.

An elderly lady - she was 89 and ailing for the past month - in our extended family had passed away and we'd gone to offer our condolences. The journey, for a fairly long stretch(about 10 km), was through a single lane, country road and I shall outline two incidents that happened during the occasion - the first one was on the road itself during the onward drive and the latter was on reaching our destination.

I was trying to make a good speed and wanted to be back home before sunset and was pushing my Cruze through 'impossible' speeds on the narrow pathway. Luckily, the traffic was sparse and I'd no vehicle to reckon with. But the idyllic situation was short lived and I'd to negotiate past a bus of the road transport corporation with a cyclist coming in from the opposite direction.

I experienced 'akrasia' - the urge to do something, fully knowing that the end is gonna be disastrous! I'd negotiated the narrow path but heard a distinct thud on the left side of my car - I'd touched the bus and felt bad, almost immediately, for having been a bit too hasty. I'd not mind getting hit on my person, but my car, no way - it's a different ballgame! And I didn't want to upset the others with my foul mood. So, on reaching our destination, after letting the others disembark, I'd an inspection of the affected side. Thankfully, it was the front left tyre that had taken the impact and there was hardly any damage except for a blotch of paint on it!! I'd never felt relieved ever before.

I was in this 'euphoric' condition as I followed my folks into the house. We sat in their verandah and had begun the conversation when I noticed my niece trying to tell me that I should remove my glasses. It was then that I realised that I was wearing my goggles and removed it hastily. To the others, I must have resembled a person having a 'red eye'. These days, I switch over from goggles to spectacles while I drive, depending on the weather and as I'd entered the house, I'd forgotten that I'd my dark glasses on thanks to the excitement of having escaped the mishap on the road, unscathed!

Or is it that dementia is really setting in?


Our condolences were offered to the family and in the process, came to know as to how she kept track of each one's progress in life and that she's particularly fond of me after our first interaction, during Rema's wedding. I'm humbled. RIP Kallada amma!  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A collage of thoughts.

1. Father's day.

Achu and Ammu, my nephew and niece, called up to wish me on 'Father's day' and I'm thrilled. It's a tremendous boost for a guy like me who has no biological children. I've told them that I've accepted the responsibility placed on me with humility!

And yes, I missed my dad because we'd spoken about a number of things after wishing him this day, last year.

2. A father's woes.

Ramjee Thakur had come in, this time, to give me my fortnightly haircut and massage - a ritual that I really look forward to and since Chandradeep was away on business. The ever smiling and positively oriented Ramjee, from Bihar, was but sad today. He'd married off his daughter - he's a daughter and a son - about a year back and she'd recently given birth to a baby boy. Stricken by polio during childhood, she's a pronounced limp as one of her legs is shorter.

The young lady has had a torrid time over the last one year at her husband's house where she's taunted for her disability, beaten black and blue for the slightest mistake with an ever increasing demand for money and material 'as a quid pro quo for the family bearing her burden'. It's a sad story, really. I've initiated certain steps and shall keep my readers posted about the results, as they unfold.

3. In the Sangeetha Naataka Academy.

KP Sivasankara Kurup, who'd earlier essayed the role of 'Munshi' on the Asianet channel, has been made a member of the Kerala Sangeetha Naataka Academy based on his contribution in the field. It's my fond hope that he'd put in his mite to make the organisation dynamic and in keeping with the times.

Here's wishing you the very best in all your endeavours, Kurup Kochacha!

4. A music extravaganza.

This weekend, it was a retrospective of Asha Bhosle's light hearted numbers on the programme 'Total Recall' and the selections were superb. I enjoyed every bit of it especially the number, 'paan khao sainya hamaro.....'

How I wished that the programme would go on and on and on.....!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An aspect that baffles.

I'm gonna narrate an incident that happened during my recent trip to Pune. I was at the RSI waiting for my guests.

As they came in, I noticed a gentleman observing me rather closely and preparing to occupy the cluster of chairs close by. I must add that I noticed him peering at me a couple of times more but did not give any further thought to it as, by then, all my guests had arrived and we're busy with our catching up of so many years! It was then that the gentleman approached me, yet again, to confirm my identity and presto, the mist had lifted off and I realised that it was 'bkr'(let me maintain his identity by his initials) with whom I'd worked before. We, then, exchanged pleasantries but the awkwardness remained and did not interact further during the evening. My demeanour must have upset him for sure!

I recall that we'd a good working relationship during that tenure and I cannot forget our trip to the Bhitarkanika sanctuary and the Wheeler Island, as by then, we'd become friends or was it all my imagination? He was instrumental in Lekha getting access into the AIIMS, at Delhi, for medical management.

Subsequently, our relationship had cooled off and we lost contact altogether. Why had it happened, I do not know. Did he expect me to constantly pamper his ego and keep up the communication? I don't think so because I'm sure he understood me well enough by then, as I believe that any relationship will sustain if its foundation is strong..........

My take.

I suppose that in this case, the foundation wasn't strong enough. For my mind to be totally blank, had I subconsciously erased 'bkr' from my system without trace? Or is it that dementia is setting in? If yes, this early? I'm baffled.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Adieu, Mehdi Hassanji!

I fell in love with the man and his voice over this number, which was the first that I'd heard out of his numerous renditions,
      'Baat karni mujhe mushkil kabhi aise tho na thi
       Jaise ab hai teri mehefil ................ '

He'd performed at the Tagore Centenary hall, at Kozhikode in 2002 and won the hearts of the people by his rendition. He was in the city to undergo treatment at the renowned Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala at the behest of the then PM, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. After the concert, so overwhelmed was he by the response from the audience that he'd promised to return yet again. That promise he'd never be able to keep, ever.

RIP Mehdi Hassanji. My humble bows to a phenomenon!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The great train robbery!

Train no. 22150, Pune - Ernakulam Superfast Express - departure 1845h on 13 Jun from Pune.

I'm not gonna forget this train for a long, long time because, it was this train that we'd boarded on our return trip. Everything about the train had a 'mystery' around it beginning with its starting platform which was announced towards the last 45' of its departure! Those passengers who've medical difficulties, with particular problems in walking, would find it extremely difficult to negotiate the maze of steps and the crowded thoroughways!

The train, on leaving Pune, goes towards Panvel from where it goes on the Konkan rail and joins the southern railway at Mangalore. It's switched over to the monsoon timings - to cater for the landslides on the Konkan section during the rains - from the first of this month.

On boarding, the vendors were quick to remind me that the train had no pantry car attached to it and therefore, it's better to buy the dinner packs - there's not much of variety and it's a bland version of 'biriyanis' for the vegetarian, with an egg tucked into the same fare for the non vegetarian - for a fortune. Any further query or a cross question can render one hungry for the night which would have been an unhappy proposition and therefore, I bought a couple of them without much ado!

A word about quite a few of the fellow passengers. Those who've their berths in the main enclosures, draw the curtains on entry and retain their 'fortress like enclosure' zestfully during the entire journey. Any request by their unlucky 'side berth neighbours'(we're one) for using the facility to charge their cellphones is rudely negated as it's being used - continuously(?) Wonder why people don't realise that they do not own the train by acquiring tickets for their travel and that the facilities available in a coach are meant to be shared equitably by one and all?

By 12, this morning, there was no running water available in many of the coaches. Mysteriously, bottled water was available in plenty and many of the hapless passengers were seen using that water to cleanse themselves. To add to their miseries, the vendors, with lunch packets and other eatables, stopped entering the coaches and had begun to distribute their wares on the platforms itself. The passengers swooped on the guys before the train came to a halt and the prevalent confusion need not be elaborated upon. Watching the bedlam from far, I waited for my turn and thanks to a nice, watchful vendor - he must have noticed my agony - called me aside and gave me my requirement. May god bless him in all his endeavours!

Meanwhile, the train rambled on and on, stopping at unscheduled stops - it's supposed to have only five stops between the end stations, as I understand - for long periods. Thanks to repeated complaints from the passengers, one of the TTEs had rung up the authorities at the Kozhikode railway station, whereby an announcement was made for water replenishment but to no avail. Here was an open case of dereliction to duty, by the concerned staff, but the train had to chug along further for a couple of agonising hours without water. Water was provided thankfully, subsequently!

The vendors, for some reason, kept away from serving indoors and the passengers made a dash after careful observation and calculation of the matrix which consisted of the changing colours of the signal lights, distance of the vendor's stall from their positions and the density of the crowd around the vendor!  What else can a poor, travel weary guy do? By the time the train reached its destination, it was 10 and quite a few of them would be subjected to further torture by the cabbies and the auto rickshawallas, waiting outside. Could only feel pity for them!


Here's the best example of a public utility service not ensuring that its users are looked after properly. Periodic cleaning of the innards of the coaches by the railway staff is but a pipe dream. I know that many of my friends in the railways would not be quite pleased to read this piece but facts must be told, however unpleasant they are, hoping for a redemption! And what about the common man being looted and exploited by his counterparts who're into vending?

Doesn't being human have no value in this country?

Love your countrymen! Ahem!! Go take a walk, we're Indians and don't you dare give us 'bhaashans'?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sights, sounds and smells!


Saw an advice from god to all motorists, put on a bill board on the wayside which read, "You're not quite ready to meet me yet". Quite cute I must say, but the few motorists that passed by me - I was on my morning walk - didn't seem to have registered the caption and drove past with a gay abandon! Perhaps, they're ready, after all!?

The noisy afternoon.

The arrival of the 'palkhis' connected with Sant Tukaram and the attendant religious fervour that had gripped the Puneites and many more Maharashtrians, from outside town, was palpable. There was a festive mood all round and I was told that the people looked forward to covering a distance of about 40 kms by foot during the transit of the palkhis! And here was an example where the crowds would be decently behaved and never jostled or pushed each other in the course of their walk over the next five days or so. The sounds of the trumpets and the topi clad men gave it a distinct 'tantia' flavour. I've always liked the festivals of Pune for its enthusiasm, as it's a microcosm of the entire state and shows as to how simple and good natured, the ordinary Maharashtrians are!

The 'heavy' exit.

Thanks to a botched up lunch date with yet another course mate and Chinese language partner, we'd more time with Joe at his place. He took the embarassment caused by me in his stride and had rustled up a lovely, impromptu lunch. Then, all too soon,  it was time to bid goodbye and we kicked off to the railway station to be in time for our train through snarled traffic - though, I must admit that it was never a threat to reach the destination thanks to the intricate selection of roads by Joe's driver, Subhash Yadav.

The crowd at the Pune railway station was unprecedented and it had me nonplussed, for a while, till my counterpart had sent his man, Friday to help us board the train!


My heart's always heavy when I've to leave the town and this time, too, it's no different!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Harley Davidson, Empress Garden and so on.....

The morning walk on the Prince of Wales drive, on to the Empress garden and a chukker inside it was enough to rejuvenate me and revive fond memories. But what saddened me was that the garden has lost its pristine glory and the sight of plastic and waste, littered all over, was a damn eyesore. When will we, Indians, learn to love and nurture the environment that we live in?

Joe's prized posession is his gleaming, black and silver, Harley Davidson. When I asked him as to why he drove with his headlights on, he said that it's mandatory as it's heavy(275 kgs, if you please) and therefore, meant to warn fellow motorists and pedestrians! It's a new lesson learnt but I must say that the mean machine really looks impressive. Joe keeps it locked inside his garage while both his cars are parked outside. And its cost......only Rs.71/2 lakhs!

The evening affairs were a whirlwind. I could finally meet Prakash Vishwe, my squadron mate and the armoured corps veteran and matching him drink for drink required dexterity on my part - I think I managed it rather well but was pooped by the time we'd fetched up at the Bagwes' whose patience must have been running out waiting for this erratic guy. His good lady had prepared the most aromatic and tasty chicken biriyani (In fact the aroma continues to linger as I punch in these thoughts) for the evening and I must say rather shamefacedly, that I ate myself silly.......yet again!


Lekha's quip that she'd enjoyed being with everyone, whom she'd come across during our whirlwind tour of the city, was heartening.


It's one more day down at Pune and the prospect of having to leave soon makes me sad.

Monday, June 11, 2012

With Joe and Priscilla.

Our stay at the institute had to be abruptly ended as Joe and Priscilla had insisted upon our staying with them. So, there was another round of packing of our personal effects to move next door.

It was a roller coaster of emotions from then on. It was the reunion of the Directing Staff gang of '82 of the NDA Wing, Ghorpuri and eventhough the get together could not garner everyone's presence, those who'd made it to the evening, ensured that the event was a memorable one. The dominant emotion was the genuine thrill to meet each other and be part of the show that we could ultimately pull off. Those of us who could not be around compensated it by taking in a running commentary of the goings on from each one of us, in turn, thereby ensuring interaction with one and all.

My take.

What makes such groupings possible? It's universal that there are groupings and bondings that stay active by having a close knit communication, all through. But I'd like to believe that our gang of '82 had the singular aim of bringing up the cadets with the right values and towards that end, we'd studied,  played and enjoyed every moment with the youngsters. And that is the cornerstone of our relationship!


Joe and Priscilla stay in one of the sprawling bungalows on the 'Prince of Wales drive'. And they've maintained it with their characteristic elan and class. For us it's become a home away from home!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

At the RSI.

It was a wonderful evening at the institute. The get together of my course mates of our squadron was memorable in more ways than one. Firstly, many of us were meeting each other after a long lapse of time. The camaraderie that was struck a long while back has sustained itself and it was at the meeting that the intensity of the bonding had unreeled. Time flew and we did not want the conglomeration to end!

Dateline 09 Jun.

At my alma mater.

Thanks to our school mate, we'd a wonderful reunion of our school mates at the NDA where I was nurtured years earlier. As I retraced the roads, the pathways and the places through which I'd spent so much of my time, a feeling of 'deja vu' crept in and left me overwhelmed. It was like many of the scenes that had been frozen in my mind all these years had come to life all of a sudden and I longed to stay in that euphoric condition for as long as I could! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

In the train.

 The helping attitude towards fellow passengers is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Or is my observation way off the mark? I'd only be too happy if I'm wrong!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another journey by train.

Off to the NDA for an alumni get together. Will be at Pune till 13 Jun. Hope to meet as many friends as possible. Shall fill in on the details as the serial progresses.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A couple of happenings.

1. Royal century.

Rama Varma Kochaniyan Thampuran of the Kochi royal family is celebrating his 100th birthday today. The connected ceremonies were conducted with elan. What makes it more meaningful is that his wife is also an active participant in the celebrations. It's an example of them having led a good life as the couple remain active even now, on their turf.

Here's me wishing the centurion many happy returns and all that he wishes for! Further, it's a tribute to the simple and clean lifestyle that he's followed.

My take.

A point that needs to be taken by all of us to ensure that one's faculties are intact till death to avoid the requirement of a nurse or prolonged palliative care!  

2. A lifetime treat from Venus.

It was a treat for all the celestial enthusiasts to watch the movement of the planet Venus past the Sun today. It happens once in a lifetime of a human being as the frequency of the celestial happening is once in 105 years. The thought that you'll not be seeing it ever again is intriguing just as what life's all about and reiterates the fact that one's too small in the universe's scheme of things!

It must be understood that it was from this phenomenon that Johann Kepler had calculated the interplanetary distances and the distance between the sun and the earth accurately!

Seeing Venus as a small dot on the Sun reminded me of the 'bindi' on a girl's forehead. For, us Malayalees, the celestial feast, however, was of a short duration thanks to the dense cloud packs of the monsoon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A sad case.

This evening, I was confronted with a difficult and ugly situation on being the president of the residential association. It was a case of wife battering and the lady had come out of her house badly bruised and crying, seeking immediate succour. The husband, on the other hand, was advising me to stay away from the mess, saying that she was mentally not sound.

The things that struck me were the following:-
      (a) the lady seemed to be cognitive, coherent and logical. She looked far from being a mental case.
      (b) she was badly bruised with blood trickling from the wounds on her elbows and was in deep pain.
      (c) she looked quite young compared to her husband.
      (d) throughout the incident she spoke a rustic Hindi (was it a marriage of convenience, I mean, a well off
           guy marrying a poor girl, I wonder).
      (e) his mother also happened to be at the house(was the misdemeanour carried out with her connivance?)
           If the answer's affirmative, what's the reason?

I think I'm crazily veering to the script writer in me and frankly, it's none of my business to be snoopy. But I could feel a deep sense of rage sweeping all over me and had to use all the powers, under my command, to control my emotions.

My take.

What's the use of carrying on with a relationship if it has ended or lost its meaning? How can one bring one's partner to submission using brute force? Shouldn't a mother stop her son from doing a wrong thing? The right thing would be to have the relationship annulled legally and release the lady to lead her own dignified life!


Couldn't sleep a wink as I was seething with anger and sleep was hard to come by. 


The matter has been reported to his seniors in the organisation and I've offered the couple the services of my cousin, an advocate, for counselling.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Another academic year has begun.

The schools have reopened after the long summer vacation. Little boys and girls, in their uniforms, were seen at the various pick up points of their respective conveyances. One such point is just below my window. Playing around with makeshift items of support helped many among them to beat the boredom of waiting and their excitement was evident as some of them narrated the details of what they did during the hols. The parents' benevolent presence added to the exuberance of the 'riotous' crowd.

There was another bunch of very young children, in bright clothes, with brighter accessories like the schoolbags and umbrellas. Their's was going to be the first foray into the world of learning. Behavioural scientists would term it as their first social interaction which would go a long way in the moulding of their persona.

The schools were also ready to accept their students and almost all of them had taken great pains to make the occasion celebratory. The accompaniment of the traditional orchestra added to the flavour. This year, the south west monsoon is late by a couple of days but the sky is overcast, announcing its imminent arrival.

School going has begun yet again.


The parents' active participation in the school going activities are a welcome sight. In retrospect, when I go back to my school going days, I distinctly remember that my parents were actively involved in all that I and my sisters did, but had always made it a point to watch us from afar - without making a fuss - ready to step in when help was needed!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bashir - our saarthi.

Our 'saarthi' for the trip to Gavi was young Bashir who is an expert driver. It was an experience to see him weave the bulky Tempo Traveller through heavy traffic on the highway with ease and subsequently, the way he'd negotiated the numerous curves and the hairpins up the hills showed that he's perfected the art of driving in a remarkable manner.

Married, at a comparatively young age, he dotes on his wife, Noorjehan and his four year old son, Altaf, who incidentally is getting to school tomorrow for the first time. He was insistent that we meet them enroute and boy, wasn't he thrilled when the meeting took place! He's already had a stint in Saudi Arabia for four long years as a store keeper and to quote him, 'while being at it absorbed the nuances of life'. Always smiling, he has a pleasant countenance and was eager to show us the important landmarks that came on our passage. And what made the sights all the more interesting was that he'd quite a few anecdotes related to the places/landmarks that came our view.

The thing, however, that worries me is his fiery temper. He'd taken on the group of people who'd blocked everyone's passage at the exit point of the forest area, saying that they'd no right to block our way. And I'd to literally hold him back, on a short leash, before the incident got out of hand as I sensed that everyone's ire was turning on to him.

As he finally bade us good bye, on completion of the journey, did I see a hint of tears in his eyes or was it just my imagination? He's been the 'saarthi' to so many people before us on long journeys, by his own admission. So, why should he show any special inclination towards us? But, as I'd begun punching in these thoughts of mine much later in the evening, he'd called up to say that he would be ready to take us on any trip that we plan in the future. I've assured him on the affirmative.

Attaboy, it gives me a nice feeling!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The tamasha at the gate!


Many of us have misguided opinions about ourselves and today, was just a day when I'd come across such a bunch of guys who'd held quite a few of us to ransom - for over two hours - thanks to their boorish behaviour!

The day's proceedings.

Gavi, is indeed, the perfect weekend getaway for people staying in the concrete jungles of the cities! The forest has been carefully insulated from man made inflictions like littering with plastic and muck, plucking flowers or removing shrubs for transplanting them at their homes etc. The flora and the fauna are of a wide variety and are a pleasant sight. I must admit that the colourful scenery, all round, was a fantastic experience. Walking through narrow paths up and down the hills, through thick foliage, with amazing sights everywhere was a rare experience. The trek, the boating and a visit to the makeshift museum - a permanent one is in the process of being built - were the activities that were packed into the itinerary.

So, it was with a satisfied feeling that we're returning after tea time, when we got to be at the receiving end of the famous 'mallu arrogance'. There was a group of people, travelling in a set of six vehicles who'd an altercation, at the exit, with the forest officials - over trivia, actually. Gavi has two points of ingress for people approaching it from the south and the rule is that every visitor must enter and exit through the same gate. The recalcitrant group wanted to flout this rule to save some distance on their onward journey! I'd personally intervened and tried to make the people see reason and avoid the logjam.

But alas, no one was willing to budge but what tickled me no end was when the erring group dropped names and insisted that they're pretty close to a particular minister, whom they wanted to contact desperately to resolve the issue - the difficulty was that all the cellphones were rendered useless due to the absence of transmission coverage! The minister happens to be related to me but I kept this information to myself and directed the forest official to fetch the police from the nearest point to untangle the impasse.

That's what was eventually done after a lapse of over two hours!


Later that evening, I saw the same group at dinner at the place where we're staying. They'd managed to get their way through and gave us those victorious(?) looks which we chose to ignore. Deep within, I'd the feeling of having been let down by the law enforcers. Sadly, laws don't get applied uniformly in the manner that they should be -without fear or favour!

Dateline 01 Jun.


I'm on a trip to Gavi - the new hot destination thanks to the Malayalam movie, 'Ordinary' that was a superhit. Shall fill in on the details as soon as I finish my journey.

The experience.

We'd kicked off at 8 in the morning, from Kochi with Bashir as our 'saarthi', in a tempo traveller and the group consisted of eight of us. The excitement was palpable as the journey was meticulously planned by my cousin after doing a lot of research! A word about the place, 'Gavi'. It's a small hamlet in the forest adjacent to the Periyar Game Reserve and was an unknown factor until recently, when the movie 'Ordinary' covering the story of its people who depended on the state road transport corporation's lone bus service that serviced the area -  it stopped at all points to pick up or drop passengers and hence classified 'ordinary' and was the only form of communication with the outside world - had hit the screens.

The movie was a smash hit and had set the cash registers ringing. Overnight, the Malayalees have been making a beeline to see the place and we, too, happened to be one among the curious ones.

We'd halted at Springdale at Vandiperiyar, enroute. The manager of the resort, Sai Gopinath, is an affable gentleman who took great pains to look after the guests and put them at ease. I'm sure it's gonna be popular thanks to his conduct, dedication to the job at hand and genuineness. I would also like to add that he's won his battle against the dreaded cancer which had affected a part of his brain, rendering his speech to slur because of a permanent damage to the connected nerve!


I felt like a heel when I'd come to know of Sai's personal story because, at the beginning, I was convinced that he was inebriated, while on duty and did not give much credence to his persona. Just goes to show as to how much I need to grow up in life! Apologies, Sai, for my wrong perception!!


And tomorrow, we shall spend the whole day at Gavi!