Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Memories in flow.

I still remember the enthusiastic welcome that we used to get from the Sri Lankan and the Indian fishermen while going about their fishing activity, in and around the Palk Bay. The colourful sails and buntings that adorned the boats gave the entire area a festive look. All of them seemed mighty pleased to have us amid them and anticipated peaceful days ahead thanks to our formidable presence. Often, the boats used to come close to our ships offering fish, from their catch, as gifts for free.

And our operation was code named 'Aman'. Those were heady days!

                  *                                   *                                 *

One of the first Sri Lankan naval officers whom I'd befriended was Cdr Swaraj Munusinghe, the captain of their command surveillance vessel, on deployment, off the seaward side of Jaffna. Our professional interactions got us to understand each other better and I can never forget the gift that he'd presented me with - a brand new squash racket (after hearing that I played the game) autographed by the then world champion, Jahangir Khan - in return to the official ship's crest that I'd presented!

                  *                                    *                                 *

One of the important and salient landmarks that we used to pass by, on our voyage from Madras to Kankesanthurai , was the imposing and majestic Velankanni church at Nagapattinam. I, as well as my boys, said our silent prayers whenever we passed by the architecturally symmetric beauty!

Similarly, during our numerous passes on patrol, the imposing sight of Sri Ramchandraji's temple at Rameswaram was a welcome one and again where people offered their prayers, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. I can, without any hesitation, say that we in the defence forces respect each and every religion without restraint or reservation!

                   *                                   *                                 *

Similarly, I can never forget my first visit to the Elephant Pass that had seen some fierce fighting between the Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil militants. Stories of the area having been heavily booby trapped and mined did not deter me from my visit to my army course mate and counterpart, to spend an informative couple of hours. I remember the pass against the backdrop of the greenish-blue waters of the lagoon to be a beautiful sight despite its battle scarred background!











Monday, July 30, 2012

Memories....

 On being part of the IPKF.

Exactly a day and 25 years back, the Indo-Sri Lankan accord was signed against the backdrop of great expectations on both sides. With the LTTE reneging on the promise of de-arming itself, the accord did not really come into force all through and was doomed to being a failure.

Having been part of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces as the captain of a ship, I'd a ringside view of the operations. The close co-operation between the three services was great and help/assistance was available for the asking. I've picked some great friends on this tour of my duty. My own boys were a fantastic bunch who're willing to do anything on my bidding - it was, indeed, a heady feeling of power! One of the things that I'd looked forward to those days was the IL 76 flight from Madras to Delhi, on Fridays for the exclusive use of the IPKF and through this facility, I was able to meet my friends, the Banerjees, who're at Jalandhar.

The breaks, in between deployments, were breathers that I looked forward to. But having said that, I must hasten to add that the deployments were equally interesting with plenty of things to learn in the form of experiences and above all, an opportunity to get first hand knowledge of new places.

And of course, the high was when I was awarded the gallantry medal - for my exploits - as part of the '88 Republic day honours.






Sunday, July 29, 2012

Not in consonance.

Important events have begun but, as usual, doesn't bring the usual cheer in my quest for a fairy tale ending that I'm looking for and here's why I say this and I wouldn't mind being wrong in toto:-

1. London Olympics.

Yet another Olympics is here and from the proceedings of the first two days, since the start, sadly this one too is gonna be the same as it has been in the past for team India. Am I being pessimistic? No, my estimation is based on our pathetic show in Archery. The fire in the participants' eyes, as gleaned from the TV grabs showing a few of them in action - to win - was sadly missing.

And yes, right from the start, our contingent seems to be packed more with officials rather than the contestants. When are we going to learn? And yes, one's not looking at mere participation but wants concrete results and glory to the country!

The same mistakes - sloth, inefficiency and the hankering for personal glory - are visible.


2. The fight against corruption.

Anna Hazare has begun his indefinite fast, at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi, to get the government to bring about a comprehensive and effective anti-corruption bill. This time, however, the spontaneous enthusiasm that was much in evidence last year seems to be sadly lacking.

Are we, as a people, really keen on rooting out corruption from our lives? Or is it that the 'chaltha hai' attitude towards corruption helps mediocrity, among us, to aim for and achieve the undeserving? And the government or more appropriately, the crafty politicians, seem to be aware of this sad fact. Consequently, they play the 'watching game' while the poor old man plays with his life yet again! May god protect him.


3. The moral police is back.

Self styled moralists have again struck, this time, at a homestay in Mangalore where youngsters - mostly IT professionals - were partying. As I'd asked earlier, who's given these goons the right to do policing? And who, among them, has laid down the yardstick for acceptable behaviour?

This time, the police has been swift to arrest at least a few of the goons. One hopes that justice would be delivered at the earliest and the guilty punished!  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Diamond necklace.

This evening, happened to see the malayalam movie by that name and I felt happy at having seen a nicely made film. There's nothing new about the story as there have been similar cinematic efforts earlier too and good ones at that. But what this film and quite a few films of recent vintage show is that the film industry has come to accept the fact that a good story line is the prime requirement for whole hearted acceptance by the audience.

Diamond necklace tells us the story of a young doctor, working in Dubai, his trials and tribulations in trying to live a make believe life. The pivotal aspect is that he realises his follies from the women in his tiny world, each strong in her own way - vulnerable, yet undemanding and prepared to give everything without a scant thought to their own desires and requirements.

And the genre of those powerful women - the strongpoints of each character depicted through some wonderful shots:-

    (a) His mother, who hands over the papers of the ancestral house that she lives in, for selling away
         so that his debts are liquidated.
    (b) A senior doctor, who helps him from time to time with monetary assistance and advice so that
          he is kept out of harm's way.
    (c) The young lady, in the throes of a deadly ailment, gifting him an expensive necklace because he
          had given her a few memorable moments in life.
    (d) The young back home type of girl, who confesses that she can never, ever be angry with him
          and can, thus, never take him out of her system.
    (e) And his wife, who flings the necklace that she's wearing into the depths of the sea, in answer
          to his query as to whether she liked him or the necklace.

A nice film that lingers on in the mind much after the viewing is over.


Tailpiece.

Earlier this week, I'd seen the movie 'Ustad hotel' which revolves around a grandfather - grandson relationship equally good and enjoyable for viewing.

I must say that the malayalam film industry is passing through exciting times!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ummer, the 'kabaadiwala'.

This morning we'd called the 'kabaadiwala' to collect the pile of old newspapers, magazines, bottles and plastic that had accumulated over a period. Ummer, from the nearby neighbourhood, has come for the same purpose before too and has a friendly disposition. Since Lekha was pre-occupied I was overseeing the entire operation and as is my wont, I got to chatting with Ummer because frankly, I was impressed with his dedication to work which would be a tremendous strain in this holy month of Ramadan as he fasts during daytime.

Ummer was philosophical this morning. His eldest son , an IT professional in an MNC, wants him to chuck his job of 'garbage collection' as he finds it 'infradig' to his newly acquired status. I must quote Ummer here, "Sir, my son is ignorant of the fact that this is one of the 'cleanest'(with added emphasis) jobs shorn of glamour, though. One can eke out a comfortable living if one's sincere!"

He further added that in Kerala, there's no dearth of jobs but what's lacking among the malayalees is the will to do any job. Here, everyone wants a white collar job and a governmental one at that. I'd a lump in my throat because this was the same conclusion that the PN Panicker Foundation had arrived at after doing a state wide survey, a year ago!!



Tailpiece.

What we forget, in our eagerness to live our lives, is the yeomen service that the 'kabaadiwala' or the ragpicker does for the society in keeping the surroundings clean and unlittered! Perhaps, giving them modern equipments for disposal of waste, integrate their chain to bring about a comprehensive waste management system are the immediate steps to be taken towards attaining a cleaner environment!!



Thursday, July 26, 2012

Simply disgusting!

1. O Jalandhar!

I've fond memories of this place, thanks to my numerous visits to my friends, the Banerjees, during the late '80s. While the city was mad in its own way, with crowded roads and noisy markets - cowed down only to a certain extent by its then fight against militancy - it had a charm and the cantonment area had a quiet, dignified aura.

And from this city, comes a horror story of a government hospital, where a baby infant was pulled off its emergency treatment system just because its parents could not pay up Rs.200/- for the purpose! The little one died soon after.

I have just one question to ask of the hospital authorities which is, 'Would you've resorted to the same action had the patient been related to a VIP or if it was your own?' And for the departed soul's sake, do not make any insensitive statement even if you cannot own up your mistake and apologise.


2. And O Tinsukia!

A young man was picked up for questioning by the police, in the town of Tinsukia, a while back. Wonder what happened at the interrogation but the man had died while in custody. A TV grab showed the dead man's body being stuffed into a car's boot - presumably for postmortem - with smiling policeman as spectators to the gory sight!

If you can't respect life, there's nothing much left to say. But treat a lifeless body with dignity because that's the least one can offer and it doesn't involve costs!


Tailpiece.

An absolutely disgusting situation. What can one say about a country that does not respect its citizens? And worse still, where the mortal remains aren't respected at all? I hang my head in shame with a prayer to the departed.

Will the guilty be caught and punished? Are these the manifestations of the 'kaliyug'?  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Remembering Mrs. PN Panicker - my ammachi.

Exactly, 21 years back on this date, my ammachi had passed into the mist of time. She had a deep cough and was reclining on the sofa - trying to watch her favourite serial on TV and in hindsight, waiting for the end. The time was around a quarter past eight in the evening.  On being persuaded by my grandfather, she was taken by my maman to the nearby nursing home (of which she didn't have a good opinion) where she'd a violent spasm and on advice by the doctor on duty there, was rushed to the SUT hospital. As the car crossed the gates of the hospital, she had queried as to where they'd reached and little did Vilasini kunjamma, Minni - my sister - and maman realise then that those would be her last words! The hospital had notified the patient as, 'Mrs. PN Panicker - brought in dead'. Resuscitation was resorted to but to no avail and the wretched time was 23 mts past 9!

I was at Wellington, Ooty on a course and oblivious of the tragedy. To make matters worse, my folks decided to keep me in the dark for two reasons - the communications were erratic those days and they didn't want me to get 'disturbed' as I was in the midst of an important(?) course!! It took another fortnight for me to come to know of the enormous loss when I'd returned home during the Tutorial break.

Ammachi and me were the best of friends. She used to tell me about everything - about the things that she wanted; her needs were so little though, her innermost feelings and opinions - and she used to wait for me to  come home on vacation from school/ the Academy and subsequently on leave, from work to go to the doctor for her ailments. And mind you, we used to be a twosome to watch the movies in town and express our opinions, laugh at the jokes that we shared with each other. The rest of the family used to be fond of our appraisals, took note of the nuances and then decide to go for the films, subsequently!

I wonder whether she'd a premonition of her impending death because on 16 May, that year on my wedding day, she told me during an unguarded moment and I quote, 'Mone, now I don't mind going away as I was waiting for this moment'. Though I remember chiding her then for uttering pessimistic stuff, saying that I needed her around for many more years, I'll never ever know as to what prompted her to say those words then.

I've missed my ammachi at every waking moment all these years and curse my rotten luck for having lost her so early. I miss our serious discussions on 'anything and everything under the sun' and her greatness was that she never, even once, tried to impose her ideas on me.


Tailpiece.

As I stood in front of her photograph on the mantelpiece this morning, for a fraction of a minute longer than my usual practice, I could feel her presence around me. Or was it wishful thinking, yet again?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Assam, I weep for you.

It's five days old. The violence in the lower Assam, that encompasses the Bodoland Territorial Council areas, continues unabated - the worst hit areas being Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri districts. The death toll has risen to 32 in the tussle for supremacy between the Bodo tribals and the miscreants, suspected to be Muslim settlers.

As an Indian and a layman, worried about my country's unity and territorial integrity, I've tried to analyse the anatomy of the problem and shall try to put them in perspective:-

    (a) The boundary between India and Bangladesh is quite porous thanks to the riverine terrain in vast
         stretches and is understood thoroughly by the Bangladeshi locals.
    (b) The Bangladeshi populace living in their border ares live in abject poverty and are ever on the
          look out for better living prospects, which is abundant in India as perceived by them.
    (c) Consequently, their infiltrations into India, all over the Northeastern states, take place on a large 
          scale almost continuously, round the year.
    (d) The BSF checkposts do not have the wherewithal to stop this continuous trickle.
    (e) The three stake holders, who can put an end to this impasse, are the Government of India, the
          Government of Bangladesh and the Government of Assam. 
    (f) The greatest problem is that short sighted politicians have taken advantage of the prevalent
         confusion and have played vote bank politics to the hilt!
    (g) Consequently, the local population feels the pinch while applying for jobs or while trying to acquire
          a stretch of land to set up their homes and livelihood, as they've to compete with the migrants!


In view of the foregoing, many local groups have formed to reverse the injustice and quite of a few of
them have no remorse in resorting to violence to achieve their ends. This, in essence, is the story of the evolution of terrorism in the area.




My take.


(a) Firstly, the stakeholders must accept the errors of the past and come on to the negotiating table to put an end to fresh migrations. This has to be done forthwith.


(b) The BSF to be given all assistance and the wherewithal to tackle future migrations. It need not be stated that the BDR(Bangladesh Rifles) should get similar powers as it would automatically flow as a consequence to serial (a) above.


(c) Redistribution of the existing migrants. The steps could be:-

           (i) Establish a cut off date.
          (ii) Return the migrants back to Bangldesh based on the cut off date. This is gonna be difficult
                because identification is a problematic job and many of them might have already migrated
                deep into India, but a remedy needs to be found out. The earlier, the better.
          (iii) Make the rehabilitation process of the migrants smooth by involving the support of the local
                 population, at every stage.
          (iv) The documentation process has to be absolutely fool proof!


Tailpiece.

I've just stated the obvious and I'm sure that I'm not the first to have mooted such an idea. Perhaps, there's already a mechanism in place with the Assam accord signed by the late PM, Rajiv Gandhi way back in the early '80s. But a definite action is what needs to be initiated, otherwise the cycle of violence will continue to take innocent lives.

Till then, I weep for you, Assam!


                 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A life well lived.

To be a practising doctor till a day prior to death, at the ripe old age of 97, is no mean feat. And that too, the treatment was for free with necessary financial assistance to boot, to the absolutely needy! It's nothing but an extraordinary life.

A journey that began for young Lakshmi from the 'Vadakkath tharavadu' in Anakkara, a small village in the district of Palakkad on 24 Oct 1914. The daughter of S Swaminathan, a lawyer and AV Ammukutty, a social worker did her schooling, along with her medical graduation, at Madras. She was able to overcome her mother's reluctance - to send her abroad - to settle down in Singapore and open her clinic for the poor migrant labourers from India, in 1940. Subsequently, she'd met Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the rest is history, when she came to be known as Captain Lakshmi of the women's wing of the INA.

Her life has been chronicled well and it will be like carrying coal to Newcastle, if I were to dwell upon it and hence I desist.

I've been to the Vadakkath tharavadu with my grandfather, years back, as a school kid and remember having been excited when the gracious Captain had planted a peck on my cheeks. There was an elegance and aura about her, which I can feel even now as I punch in these thoughts! But alas, I must admit that I'd never met her subsequently even when she'd come to Delhi, many a time, while I was there and I now regret that it didn't happen putting the entire blame upon myself, for not having taken the initiative.

Her will, offering her body for scientific research, is indeed laudable.

RIP, Dr (Captain) Lakshmi. Your extraordinary life shall be a beacon for the generations to come.


Tailpiece.

One aspect that surprised me, when it had taken place, was when she'd actively campaigned against the Miss World pageant in Bangalore in 1986. I mean, a person so evolved, in my opinion should not have got distracted by trivia.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

At Guruvayur, taking in the progress!

Lekha and me were back at Guruvayur, to assess the progress of work being done on our house into which we'll eventually shift. She's been imaginative, putting forth ideas, discussing the merits and demerits of her suggestions with Nandakumar, who oversees the work.

While keeping abreast of the details, I've kept myself studiously in the background and let the two of them take crucial decisions and must endorse the fact that the final results have been good. I'm not being condescending when I said the foregoing, it's only because I lack the patience to go into the finer details! And moreover, a feminine touch is definitely required while setting up a house as it goes a long way.

We'd also visited the Guruvayur and Mammiyoor temples in the morning and noticed that there was no let up in the crowds despite the overcast skies and the heavy traffic on the roads. Keeping the breakfast and lunch dates makes the itinerary crowded but it is exciting to meet up with people and assimilate the latest bit of news as well as their concerns which could be over trivia, at times, however. Moreover, as our neighbours say, they're now sure that we'd be amidst them shortly.

The drives up and down, stretching beyond 200 kms were enjoyable for the most part - on the highways to be precise - but was mad for the final 25 kms each on approach/exit!

  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How can people be so cruel ?

Two elephants dying within a span of twelve hours! And these incidents have taken place in Kerala which is supposed to be a haven for elephants.......where there are projects funded by various agencies to look after the animals and directives of the court exist that they're to be transported from one place to another in suitable vehicles, so that the animals aren't tired on reaching their destination of performance!

And still deaths have taken place! Ill treatment of the poor animals continues to take place in the country's most literate state!!

Let's just revisit the two incidents. The first was an elderly tusker at the temple town of Guruvayoor who was mercilessly beaten up by two mahouts, who were supposed to be taking care of the hapless animal. The reason for their cruelty? An anticipation that their ward would go berserk! The merciless lashing had opened up serious wounds which hastened his end. But I'm sure that the wounds weren't the actual cause of death. He must have been heartbroken to see the cruelty meted out by the very same people who're supposed to be taking care of him and had lost the will to live!!

The second incident was more gruesome. The elephant was being transferred on a truck, whose driver drove rashly, negotiating a bump soon after a bridge enroute at a prohibitive speed, grievously injuring the animal in the process. The animal's head had hit the driver's cabin and it was all over for the unfortunate pachyderm.

I felt miserable seeing the TV grab showing a crane being used to lift the dead elephant out of the truck.

The driver, alongwith the two mahouts mentioned earlier, must be taken to task forthwith!    

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just not acceptable!

I was appalled watching the evening's Malayalam news. The leader of the DYFI - the CPM's corresponding outfit to the Congress' 'Youth Congress'. The age of many of the guys who're in these outfits baffle me as they're much past their youth, but that's another point altogether and is being side-stepped - was on a lengthy and strident discourse about the police's harsh(?) treatment to some of his colleagues of the DYFI and the SFI.

The CPM unit of the state has been facing the heat, post TP murder, as many of its leaders have been picked up by the special investigation team for interrogation. It's understood that certain vital clues have come up which points to complicity on their part in the planning and execution of the brutal murder.

What is highly objectionable was the guy's open threat to the police that they'd be 'handled' appropriately by his outfit with a snide and ominous reminder that, 'their families did not have any protection'.

Is this what 'freedom of speech' means in a democracy? Many of these leaders are upstarts as they tend to lose all sense of propriety, decency and sportsmanship and utter nonsense to score brownie points over their opponents. And paradoxically, they use the very same police, to achieve their narrow political ends, once they come to power! I'd like to ask all of them and this guy, in particular, would he have made a similar remark if his father, brother or anyone from his family happened to be in the police force? And who's he to dispense justice?

A political leader, as I understand, is saddled with a heavy responsibility and here are a few salient aspects:-

           (a) He's to take the entire population along with him by his fair dealings.
           (b) He demolishes his opponents ideologically and by proving that his ideas are better, practical and
                statesmanlike.
           (c) He must understand the ethos of the state's instruments like the police and other professionals.
           (d) He has to be the epitome of exemplary behaviour and compassionate towards fellow human
                 beings, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and political affiliations.

His conduct has been boorish and definitely, not acceptable.


My take.

This guy should be tried for inciting violence among the public and exhorting people to turn against the police. Isn't it tantamount to treason?
     

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eating out is giving me the heebie-jeebies!

Consequent upon the death of Sachin Roy Mathew, aged 21 and a student doing the Hotel Management course at Bangalore, due to food poisoning a few days back there has been determined raids and surprise checks on eateries all over the state, by the food inspectors and other connected agencies. The result has been a shutdown of about 70 odd eateries, spread across the various parts of the state.

Amplifying on young Sachin Roy Mathew's death, he'd eaten a 'shawarma'(a Malayalee version of the Gulf delicacy in which meat is rolled into a paratha or equivalent) from a roadside vendor - incidentally, the meat used is cut neatly to slices, stacked and slung from hanging steel wires(in the same manner that quite a few of us preserve important payment slips like the electricity and telephone bills) in eateries that sell this eatable and is obviously, very popular - before boarding the vehicle to Bangalore and died on reaching his destination. Cause of death - food poisoning! Perhaps, the meat was of an older vintage!!

Usually, we've a meal outside at least once in a month to try out new recipes and dishes on order as well as to break the otherwise monotonous routine. With news pouring in about dead lizards, rats and cockroaches found in deep freezers where foodstuff is stored, one feels miserable of being thoroughly let down and the accompanying urge to throw up is overwhelming! To add insult to injury, the raids have also confirmed the indiscriminate use of artificially coloured vegetables by a few unscrupulous vendors of the industry!!

Is there nothing known as 'ethics' in this industry? How can you offer your fellow citizens food or eatables that are unfit or even harmful for consumption? Will they ever have such food in their own homes? Don't they insist on cleanliness and hygiene in their kitchens/pantries? Are the top notch hotels above board on this issue - or is it only a 'five star front desk' with appalling standards behind, in their kitchens?

It's my fervent hope that Kerala's eateries attain high standards of hygiene and ethical practices, consequent to the present 'cleansing drive'.


Tailpiece.

The kitchen that has always fascinated me is the fully automated one at the National Defence Academy which catered to the gastronomic needs of over 1,500 cadets and the attendant directing staff on duty - and mind you it's of the early '50s vintage. Just shows the forethought of the planners of the institution! Apart from the equipment used, the food handlers are checked for personal hygiene everyday and have to compulsorily wear white caps and gloves while at work!!

In matters of food, there can be no compromise. Period!       

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Today's events have snapped a link to the past!

1. The final salute.

Me and my classmates had set off for Podiyadi, near Thiruvalla, by 0900h to be in time for RGK's funeral. The drive was uneventful and we reached our destination without difficulty thanks to the right directions provided beforehand.

I'd placed a clutch of flowers, on behalf of the SSKZM's class of '72, on the glass topped bubble in which RGK was lying in state. He seemed to be finally at peace with himself but seemed to be badly shrunk because of the potent medical administrations applied on him over a prolonged period. As I stood beside the coffin, along with my other classmates, I couldn't help but notice his feet that had displayed great skills in tackling and hitting the ball to the goalposts, many a time, on our school's football fields.

RGK's script, in this life, had come to an end. As we sat outside at the forecourt of his house, under the shamiana rigged up for the purpose, I took in the entire surroundings where he'd grown up and spent a sizeable amount of his lifetime! And around 1430h, his earthly remains were kept on the pyre and finally, consigned to the flames by his daughters, Amulya and Aditi. It was the end of a life well spent.

With tears and prayers! I'd, however, like to add that I'd like to remember you, RGK, as you figure in one our snapshots from school, always!!




2. Rajesh Khanna is history.


The Hindi movie industry's first superstar - his acceptability cut across ages nay generations - has passed into the mist of time. I remember becoming his instant fan after seeing the movie, 'Aradhana' and had never missed any of his films subsequently. His movies created hysteria among the masses and there seemed to be nothing that could stop him. It would not be wrong to say that the decade of the 70s indeed belonged to him!


His passing away makes me feel that a vital link to those times has snapped for ever.


RIP Rajesh Khanna. Your celluloid efforts shall keep you alive in the minds of the people for the years to come.


Epilogue.


Is it a mere coincidence that RGK and RK - both relevant to the halcyon days of the early '70s - decided to leave this earth on the same day? I wonder.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Another classmate has passed into the mist of time.

This morning, a classmate of mine, had informed me about the passing away of R Gopalakrishnan whose roll number was 290 in school. This meant that he'd joined two years before me into class V. He did not stay very long in school and had left towards mid '67 due to some nagging medical problems though there were rumours that he'd gone into the Loyola school, quite in demand then, due to its haloed status!

RGK, as he was popularly known among us, used to sport the Dev Anand type of 'puff' when he combed his hair. He used to speak with a lot of emotional expressions on his face and on the games field, he was a good footballer. I must confess here that we're not the best of friends in school as he was in 'Shivaji' house while I was in 'Prasad' and each of us had our own circle of friends!

I'd heard from mutual friends that RGK'd got into the IAS cadre as we'd lost touch in the interim. In early Dec '95, when I was to take over the command of my ship, I'd decided to drive down to Kochi stopping at vantage points after each day's drive of about 700 kms. One of the stops that I'd zeroed in was Bhopal because RGK was the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister. I'd called him up to take in the directions to his house and his words, "Rajeev, just drive into the city and give me a call. Leave the rest to me and make no mistake, you're staying with us", echo in my ears as I punch in these thoughts! That I could not make the trip ultimately because I'd to join my ship earlier, is another story altogether.

Subsequently, while we're in Delhi we used to meet - rather infrequently at our class/school get togethers - firstly, because he was busy thanks to being in the PMO and secondly, because the dreaded cancer was slowly gnawing away at his innards. He was a proud man and he did not want us to sympathise about his discomfort and began to distance himself away from us. And he died, sometime in the wee hours of this morning, in his sleep. He was not communicating for the last three days, I'm told.

RIP, RGK. May God give adequate strength to Sudha, Amulya and Aditi to tide over these difficult times! And my humble prayers to a worthy classmate.   

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sans wisdom and another story.

1. Sans wisdom.

I was back on the dentist's chair this afternoon as my wisdom tooth had to be extracted. Thanks to my outrageous dental habits, the tooth had broken - over a period of time - reduced to a stub and was discoloured. The 'toothies' had been advising me to have it removed so that it did not trouble me later and they seemed to be pretty sure about the 'troubling bit'. And finally last week, taking Glence's advice, I decided to close the chapter once for all and had booked this appointment.

The entire sequence of operation had taken a trifle over an hour and Sanju had, indeed, done a good job. Whatever was left of the tooth lay in the tray and I - minus my wisdom! Er, not that there was anything much to boast of, huh!!


2. Sithara - on her maiden run.

During my evening walk, at one of the bus stops, stood a gleaming red bus adorned with sandalwood paste marks all over its body. Its name was 'Sithara' and it was clear that it was on its maiden run and the driver, in his late 20s, seemed to be ecstatic as well as enthusiastic. He was off his seat and chatting with the conductor and the cleaner, during the short break.

The city is known for these 'killer' buses as they race with one another, to collect as many passengers and in the process, set for themselves impossible deadlines. The resultant anguish and heartburn that they cause to their fellow motorists and the recurrent accidents caused by the rash and negligent driving are available as grim statistics about lives perished on roads.

Against this backdrop, this driver looked quite affable and gentle. Out of a sudden impulse, I butted into the conversing three, offered my hand to each and made an appeal to them that they should strive to be an 'accident-free' bus so that their vehicle would become the most sought after among the commuters!

They've given me a promise and their cell numbers!! Let 'Sithara' be accident free. Here's wishing them and 'Sithara' well in their endeavour!!!

  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A short, taut trip.

It was my cousin, Malu's engagement with Ajesh, who'd flown in for a couple of days for the event. The simple ceremony was held at Kidangoor, at an auditorium close to the houses of the couple. They're gonna get married on 21 Apr 2013 at Ettumanoor!

Lekha and me had gone home yesterday to fetch my mom, Minni and Ammu for the occasion and there were a few unfinished tasks that needed to be tied up. We'd kicked off from home this morning and thankfully, the stretch of highway, that I'd chosen to drive was in fine shape, because of which we could reach the destination well within time. It was nice meeting the immediate family on such a joyous occasion.

A couple of points that were poignant on the occasion were:-

       (a) Malu is the last of the second generation girls, from the PN Panicker family, on the road to wedded
            bliss. Of the two boys remaining, Kuttu's getting married next month and Manu has a long way to
            go!

       (b) It was during Kuttu's engagement ceremony, about ten months back, that the entire family had
            conglomerated soon after which Leela kunjamma, Santhan kochachan and dad had bid adieu
            from us in quick succession..........

Showing, yet again, as to how transient life is!


             

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The first superstar.

In the programme, 'Total recall', this afternoon it was the narrative of the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon of the '70s. He was the first superstar of the Hindi movies.

My favourite has always been his 26 minute appearance in the movie, 'Andaaz' immortalised by the peppy Kishore Kumar number, 'Zindagi ek safar hai suhaana.......!' And the subsequent words became the 'sine qua non' of my life and I quote,

         'Hansthe gaathe jahaan se guzar
          Duniya ki tu parvah na kar.....
          Muskurathe hue din bithaana
          Yahaan kal kya ho kisne jaana....'  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Subbu's blessings and a youngster's brickbats!

It has been some time that I'd seen Subbu at the railway level cross after I'd got his admission arranged at the nearby old age home. Since I'd not seen him for a while, I'd surmised that he's happy in his new surroundings and I must admit that I'd not done any follow up visit thus far. So, I was surprised to see him on his old beat this afternoon.

To my query as to why he was back on this demeaning trudge, his sheepish answer was that he was getting thoroughly bored, doing nothing, at the old age shelter! I didn't know as to whether I should get angry with him or shoo him away or forcibly have him sent back to the shelter. I had also begun wondering as to whether my eagerness to put him into a shelter was actually to his liking because my act could be viewed as an infringement on his free will to live the way he liked! Wasn't it a misplaced feeling of philanthropy, on my part, to help the needy!!

As I was required to be back at my office, I gave him my usual tip and he touched my car a number of times as if to tell his God to take care of me. No sooner had I started negotiating my car forward, a young lady on her two wheeler, hailed me to a stop and said, "Sir, it's people like you who spoil these guys. You mustn't do it". She was right and I did tell her so but the words that I stammered subsequently surprised even me, 'You know, I've accepted him as family and hence, this act'. And I really meant it!

She gave me a dazed look and shook her head. Somehow, I get this impression that it's not gonna be the last time that I see her. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Adieu Dara Singhji!

Dara Singhji has passed into the mist of time. I've always considered him to be the original brand ambassador for India's rural simplicity and naivete.

During my childhood, I was fascinated to hear the stories about the 'Dara Singh - King Kong' wrestling matches where he used to pin the latter with relative ease on many occasions.

And I'm sure that there would be a generation, in this country, who'd definitely conjure up Dara Singhji's visage when anyone talks about Hanuman of Ramayana, known for his undying loyalty to his master. Ramanand Sagar's teleserial has had that big an impact on the Indian psyche!

RIP Dara Singhji. My humble prayers for your eternal peace!



Tailpiece.

This is just in jest and not in any way am I laughing at the departed soul's efforts on celluloid. But I must let out a secret that used to be the cause of mirthy laughter among me and my course mates.

In the movie 'Sikander-e-Azam', Dara Singhji as Sikander in an emotional outburst comes out with this statement, "Selucus, mera koda le aa". And after that the camera pans him on horseback where he's shown without any further emotions!

    

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How we tempt fate - a case study.

I'd my cousin, Harilal, giving us a big surprise when he fetched up at home this evening. We're seeing him after a gap of almost six months after my dad's funeral. It's not that he keeps in touch with me regularly as he has a standard excuse in that he doesn't even own a cellphone! His words, as he entered the house were, "Chetta, I was passing through and felt the urge to meet you and so, here I am".

Harilal has extraordinary intelligence, a photographic memory and is a stickler for details. He's an additional secretary in one of the south lying panchayats of the state and holds enormous clout in his area of responsibility, with his professional competence. He has the gift of the gab and thanks to his outgoing nature, he makes friends with people with the least amount of fuss. He's endowed with enormous patience and is a good listener which endears him to people!

Having said all about him thus, he has a problem within his immediate family. He's philosophical in his reflections and to quote him, "You don't get everything in life and I do not have any cribs about it". To ward off the inner pain, he frequently withdraws into his shell and remains incommunicado and it's during those times that he seeks the help of alcohol or at times, even smokes pot! It has taken a toll on him, in that, from the handsome young man that he was once upon a time, he now has a withered look. But he's quick to assert that he doesn't take any medicine unlike many of his counterparts!!

He's in possession of a hip flask, always filled with his favourite spirit and finds nothing wrong in taking a swig at any time of the day or at any place, for that matter. And his explanation, "Chetta, I do not like to get tied up with restrictions on my life. I like to be a free bird".


Tailpiece.

I've heard of geniuses with peculiar behaviour that doesn't toe the line of established or socially accepted patterns. Harilal, perhaps, has his share of quirky behaviour but is a genuinely likeable guy. May God take care of him and it's my fervent prayer that no harm comes his way!

PS.

He'd kept me regaled with his renditions of poems from classic Malayalam literature because he's aware of the fact that I'm fond of them.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What a shame!

Shantiniketan, the cradle for nurturing the finer feelings in human beings and where genuine artistes are encouraged into the world of art has sprung into the news for all the wrong reasons. I'm sure its founder, Rabindranath Tagore, would have never even imagined that such an ignominy would ever befall on the haloed institution!


The ignominy.

A teacher of the institution had decided to make a specimen of a student who'd urinated on her bed while asleep. She made the young student lick the stained bedclothes.


My take.

Now, what sort of barbarism is this? I've a serious doubt as to whether the teacher was of sound mind and analytical thinking. I mean, there're so many ways to deal with such situations which require careful analysis of the problem and handled in a matured manner. How could such a tactless person, with primitive ideas, be given students under her charge, in the first place? And how did she pass through the stiff selection process to be part of the instructor fraternity, when it's clear as daylight, that she's a serious psychological flaw in her persona? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back to Kochi.

It was an early morning departure from Nasik and the gleaming red Innova hit the highway in right earnest. The distance of a hundred and seventy five odd kilometres was devoured in just two and a half hours. It was rains, rains all the way but lacked the fury that Bombay rains are known to have.

Before that, there were emotional scenes at the time of the farewell and I shall never forget Kochachan's words and I quote, 'you gave us an anniversary bash to remember and we never felt the absence of our own children because you were there, as both organiser and participant!' The four of us, who'd fetched up, were only too glad to be part of the celebrations.

The train journey through the Konkan rail is a sheer delight and I've always enjoyed the lovely sights that the nature has arranged for us on either side of the tracks. While doing so, one cannot help but doff one's hat to Mr. E Sreedharan and his team for this engineering marvel which was once dismissed as a non-viable and ecologically disastrous project - the few and far between landslides during monsoons, notwithstanding!

Rajasree and her family came to look us up as we transited through Goa, just before midnight. It was a delightful meeting as we're seeing each other after what seemed to be a long time. The smses that came in, one after the other immediately after, showed that we'd touched a chord deep within her through that short tryst!!

Tailpiece.

It's the expression of the finer feelings that are priceless in life. This trip was yet another one that has given me lasting memories and it's humbling to know that one's simple acts mean so much to the others.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recap of an event 50 years later!

1047h - Ramadasan kochachan and Sarojini chittamma relived the 'muhurtam' of their marriage which took place 50 years ago, at the Chengannur devi temple. Garlands were exchanged and I'd the privilege of draping shawls to honour them for having achieved this milestone! Gifts were given and sweets distributed to all those present at the devi temple near their home at the Trimurthy chowk.

The ceremonies at the temple were followed by the cutting of the anniversary cake at home and we'd the entire neighbourhood observing the chain of events as they're witness to something unique! And the final icing on the cake was the traditional lunch served on banana leaves.

It was in the afternoon, that the immediate family had taken off to Shirdi as Rema and Achu had never been there, before. The 'darshan' was comparatively easier and for me and Lekha, it was our second darshan after a gap of four years.

PS.

I'd begun the morning with the first few lines of an old, popular Malayalam song - in my guttural voice, of course - to describe my uncle and aunt's relationship and I reproduce them below:-

     "Vrischika thoniyil akkare pokaan ethidaamo penne
       Chirayankeezhile penne........

       Ninne kandaal mayangi nilkum thoni
       Ninne kaanaathirunnaal madichu nilkum thoni........."

They're eternally in love, which is the fantastic thing about them and I simply adore them for that!


Tailpiece.

VIP @ Rs.100/- At Shirdi, after showing my Identity card, I'd to pay Rs.100/-  for the VIP pass and consequently, shown a separate passageway to reach the Baba. Two things struck me during the whole exercise and they were:-
       (a) whatever be the passageway, the melee that one has to go through to reach the sanctum
             sanctorum remains as complicated as ever despite the presence of the trust's volunteers.

       (b) is the Rs. 100/- per VIP pass, thrust on unsuspecting pilgrims, a fraud being perpetuated by
             unscrupulous guys of the security apparatus or is it a way to discourage short cuts? None
             of the trustees were available/able to answer!

 PS.
I must admit that to be a VIP @ Rs. 100/- is damn cheap. I felt 'soiled' after the entire episode and wondered as to why I'd taken the easier path. Sad! And I shall never forgive myself for this lapse!!  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An emotional rendezvous.

We'd fetched up at Nasik earlier than scheduled and I must thank the Indian Railways for making this possible. But I would be failing in my duty if I didn't mention the agony it caused Kannan, the in flight caterer, as many people who owed him money for his services had got off the train without paying him - some of them would have genuinely forgotten in the hurry to detrain while some others would have deliberately 'forgotten'.

The thrill that my uncle and aunt expressed, on seeing us, cannot be quantified but the emotions expressed is something that will always remain etched in memory and I'm glad that I could make it possible. The programme for the morrow was chalked out, discussed and the "golden couple's" endorsement taken before we went about our other routine stuff.

The walk, in the evening, was a much needed exercise though the streets were crowded, noisy and mad - the motorists, out here, are of a different genre altogether as almost all of them drove their vehicles with a gay abandon and seemed to be oblivious of the ilk called pedestrians!  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Onward to Nasik.

We're off to Nasik to be with Ramadasan kochachan and Sarojini chittamma, on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary. Lekha and me had boarded the Mangala Express, this morning, from Ernakulam Junction and were joined by my sister, Rema and Achu, my nephew at Shoranur. The journey has been nice with the four of us sharing a four-berth coupe and it has been fun and games ever since we became a foursome. I must also put across our deep sense of appreciation and gratitude, to Biji and Roshan, who were willing to exchange their berths so that we could be together. They've agreed to keep in touch with us on return. Biji works for the Binani group and Roshan is a popular singer thanks to his performance in the music reality show 'Idea Star Singer' of season 2, I think. Unspoilt by success and a nice fella!

Ramadasn kochachan and Sarojini chittamma have three daughters, all of them well settled! The sad part is that none of them will be in attendance on their parents' special day. What they don't seem to realise is that they'd be missing a momentous occasion!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Back to basics.

I could finally make it to the dentist on an appointment, that was long overdue. If I were to say that I was busy and thus couldn't make it all these days, I must confess that I'd be fibbing and can be rightly termed to be a congenital liar. Suffice to understand that I hadn't given my dental management the priority that it deserved because of the simple fact that my pearlies did not give me any problem.

But then, at the back of my mind, a voice kept telling me that a temporary filling had to be substituted with a permanent one and by jove, that should have been done long ago. Since I'm scheduled to be out of Kochi, on a long trip over the weekend, I'd decided to take up the appointment without much ado.

Dr. Glence was assigned to dispose off my case and I did have a long wait of an hour, which cut into my evening walk time and irritated me no end. The kid in me was almost ready to throw a tantrum! Was it a case of the doctors choosing patients on whom the efforts required would be comparatively less? Soon, I was ushered into one of the treatment rooms where the 'toothy' - the naval slang for the dentist - and her assistant were waiting. Little did I realise that the 'Mac Murphy's law' was going to take its course immediately after! The chair in the room had a whole lot of problems in that two of the drills were erratic and to make matters worse, the water wasn't flowing out through the tubes which was mandatory during treatment.

The hospital management, alongwith the doctor and her assistant, ushered me into an adjacent room rather apologetically, where all the systems were working. And the young lady began her work on my dentures, pronto, which included scaling and restoration(the terminology that indicates 'filling', these days!)

The doc, meanwhile, found that I wasn't brushing my teeth right though I'd sheepishly added that the poor state of my teeth was because I puffed on a pipe periodically and smoked cigarettes, during other times when time was at a premium. She, then, went on to show the correct way to brush, on a pair of portable dentures and I must admit that her patient explanation apprised me of the mistake that I was committing, all these years.


Tailpiece.

I find that the process of learning is never ending and thanks, Glence, for your perseverance. It's back to basics!

I must say that you're a good toothy and will do well as you go along. May God be with you in all your endeavours and keep smiling!


  

Interesting happenings!

Dateline 04 Jul.


1. The greatest 'discovery' of our times.

Scientists at Switzerland's European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) have established that indeed there's what's known as 'God Particle'! Before I go any further let me provide certain clarifications, so that, I don't sound to be speaking an alien language!!

    (a) Margin of error. CERN has a 5-sigma result which means that the scientists are 99.999% sure that
         they've discovered a new subatomic particle.
    (b) Higgs Boson.
       
         (i) 48 years ago, British scientist Peter Higgs had first suggested that there could be a particle that
             confers mass. Scientists, till then, were grappling to explain as to how the solar system had evolved
             after the 'big bang' of gaseous and hot molecules in the universe, 13.7 billion years ago(known
             as the 'Big Bang Theory'). Without this particle, the universe would have been a formless soup of
             particles shooting around at the speed of light and hence, the intrigue!
         (ii) Satyendra Nath Bose, a contemporary of Einstein, worked on the sub-atomic particle moving by
              itself and hence, it was given the name 'Boson'.
         (iii) Nobel physicist, Leon Lederman, like the other scientists of his times trying to describe the
              frustrations, called it 'the Goddam particle' and the nomenclature 'God particle' came to be stuck
              with the Higgs Boson after permutations!
       
     (c) the experiment was carried out in the Large Hadron Collider(LHC) - a ring shaped tunnel of about
          27 kilometres long, deep underground near Geneva, where the conditions that existed at the time
          of the 'big bang' were simulated. It's the largest particle accelerator conceived ever!


My take.

I'm sure that this discovery will help science to ultimately unlock the mystery of life and come with a plausible answer to the vexed questions, 'which came first, the egg or the chicken?' or even 'is there anything like God?' or to put it in another manner, 'did God make you, me and the universe?'


2. The Air India Pilots are back to work.

 After 58 days of striking work, the AI pilots have returned without really achieving anything. The airline seems to have lost about Rs.650 crores and the passengers, unlimited - because the missed flights, the resultant agony/heartburn and missed deadlines, that they'd gone through, can never be quantified!

I was astonished by a pilot saying that thankfully the loss is only this much and it could have been over Rs.900 crores had they carried it over for another week. How insensitive and callous? What he and his ilk don't understand is that their gain can never be at the cost of their organisation's loss because it's just not sustainable! His grin will be a thing of the past if Air India were to pack up irretrievably from mounting losses.


My take.

To make Air India, financially sound and an efficient organisation, I'm of the opinion that its management has to be dynamic and proactive to the needs of the times. Privatisation is, perhaps, the best remedy!!         

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pakis at it again.

The Pakis are in New Delhi for talks at the Foreign Secretary level. Soon after their arrival, they go into a huddle with the representatives of the separatist groups - funded by them - like Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer etc, fully aware of the fact that it irks India.

They'd done the same thing in the past with scant regard to diplomatic propriety and without clearance from the Indian side, for such meetings. Why're the Pakis hell bent on embarrassing us and why do I get this impression that they're never serious in problem resolution, once they come on to the negotiating table with India? Their anti-Indian mindset, driven by their army, is the cornerstone of their foreign policy. But tending to be a failed state, with every system crumbling and bringing in a chaotic situation, should they be doing this? They should be more worried about rejuvenating the country with thriving institutions that would sustain their fragile and nascent democracy, so that Pakistan comes out of the clutches of the terrorists and fundamental groups. What India cherishes is a strong and healthy neighbour that genuinely pulls along with her to strengthen the South Asian region!

And what's the standing of small men like Geelani or Mirwaiz Umer among the people of Jammu & Kashmir when their unprincipled and diabolical stand about their welfare is all too well known? They've enjoyed the privileges of being Indians but mouth vitriolic language and stir unrest among the people of J&K against India, to stay in contention. What sort of human beings are they who do not care a damn about their countrymen?

The unholy nexus between the two is not very difficult to dissect. But what they do not realise is that they're never going to succeed in their endeavour.


My take.

Are we gluttons for punishment? Why do we tolerate shabby diplomatic behaviour from anyone, for that matter? Why can't we send the team back saying that we've suspended the talks because of their unacceptable behaviour?

And we need to expose the double game being played by Geelani and co, to render them irrelevant!

Monday, July 2, 2012

How simple things make others happy.

Chandradeep had come this afternoon on his routine visit. He seemed to be a worried man as his elder brother, Ramjit's son has not been keeping well thanks to a bad case of varicose veins. Ramjit and Chandradeep used to man the hair cutting saloon of my ship that I used to command. What was discernible was the closeness of the two brothers and the way they would compliment each other through thick and thin!

Ramjit's son requires urgent medical attention and so, he has called for his brother's presence during the  hospitalisation of the young man in the nearest city, which is around two hours by road from their village. Perhaps, a corrective surgery may also be required and the elder brother doesn't have the stomach to go it alone as he's extremely worried! Chandradeep wanted to board the earliest train - a biweekly from here to Gorakhpur - but his difficulty was to get a confirmed berth at short notice.

I could sort out his problem, without much ado, thanks to a few deft phone calls and Chandradeep was pleased as 'Punch' and was grinning from ear to ear. His genuine thrill at having achieved the impossible(?) gave one the impression that one'd put an entire train at his disposal!


Tailpiece.

Chandradeep gave me a thorough head massage with a small mechanical contraption that reduced his effort to a great extent. And as he was leaving, I could hear him hum a song from an old Hindi movie. I'd definitely made his day and it made me happy too.

And he'd be out of town for about three weeks, if the hospitalisation and surgery of the youngster go off without a hitch!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Getting to know Munshi.

After a week's stay with us, Kurup kochachan has left for Thiruvananthapuram where he stays with Gopeekrishna, his eldest son. I'd the privilege of interacting closely with him, be it within the house while he gently rocked himself on the rocking chair or while walking with him in the park in front of our building as part of his daily routine or in between working on my laptop, sitting at the foot of his bed.

I shall touch upon two stories from his life which relates to the beginning of his relationship with the two legends -  Paravoor Devarajan and PN Panicker.

Kurop kochachan, as I'd known him from my childhood, is a simple man with no ego hassles and is very friendly and outgoing. He has been an active player on the stage and is very talented. Paravoor, south of Kollam, boasts of two of its illustrious sons - the late Devarajan, the legendary music director of Malayalam films with a huge repertoire of evergreen numbers and Sivasankara Kurup, the actor covering a wide canvas of experience be it on the stage, movies or television.

(a) His tryst with Devarajan.

Born in an affluent family of Paravoor, his mother insisted on him being carried to the school, next door, by one of the domestic helps named Gopalan. And Gopalan carried out this ritual four times everyday all through young Sivasankaran's tenure in the primary school! It was when he joined the Kottapuram High School of Paravoor, that he came across the dark complexioned and extremely talented bard, Devarajan. They got along like a house on fire and on one of his birthdays, the bard presented him with a poem which began with the mesmerising words, 'Sangeetha jnanamo, bhakthivina sanmargamo....' And it was while at this school that Sivasankaran did his first play titled 'Sthreedhanam' and the role that he'd played in it was that of the heroine's!


After graduation, Devarajan settled at Madras and went on to attain his rightful place in the pantheon of Malayalam movies. Their friendship continued to flourish and despite Devarajan's repeated attempts to get Sivasankaran to Madras to take up a career in films, the latter found some excuse or the other to stay away as he was in search of a government job, which he got in the then prestigious 'National Book Stall' at Kottayam. In his words, it was his mortal fear of failure on celluloid that made him hanker for a job and then, try his luck on the silver screen later!


(b) Meeting up with his future father-in-law, PN Panicker.


It was while he was the secretary of the 'Kshetra Pravesana Vilambara Grandhasala' at Paravoor that he'd come across PN Panicker, for the first time and he says, with pride, that it was his handwriting that had won his future father-in-law's heart. In fact, for some reason when young Sivasankaran decided to stay away from the library, PN Panicker had gone all the way to his home and convinced his parents to send the youngster back to the library and that's what he did, eventually!


Sivasankara Kurup had heard that PN Panicker had good looking daughters and he'd fallen for my third 'ma'asi', Vilasini, whom he'd a glimpse of during one of his visits to their house. However, he'd to be contended with marrying my second ma'asi, Leela - simply because she was the next in waiting to get married after her eldest sister, my mom and in his words - she was equally acceptable and he'd no complaints! I remember that I was the youngest kid - and the only grandchild - to attend their wedding at the Ettumanoor Siva kshetram and enroute, we'd to switch cars as our's(the old Chevrolet with an inclined, flat tailboard) had broken down at Chadayamangalam in the middle of the night! I also remember vaguely that we'd arrived at our destination just in time for the wedding giving nightmarish moments to the bridegroom's family!!  

After marriage, Kurup kochachan and Leela kunjamma had shifted to the Panickers' house, then TC 804, at Thycaud adjacent to the gates of the Model School and the Intermediate College, at Thiruvananthapuram and it was one solid and happy joint family!

Tailpiece.

As far as I was aware, Kurup kochachan was an atheist who poo-poohed his wife's frequent visits to the places of religious worship. But I must hasten to add that he'd joined me once for my annual Sabarimala pilgrimage which he insisted was not out of any religious fervour but out of a desire to get a taste of the experience! So, Lekha and me were pleasantly surprised when he expressed his wish to have a miniature 'Ganesh' idol which we're only too happy to comply with. I presume that the passing away of Leela kunjamma has made him a convert.