Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When death came calling.........twice.

I'd reached office a trifle late as there was something that had to be wound up at the residential complex and while on my drive, my cellphone had rung a couple of times. So, on reaching, my first task was to see as to who the caller was. It was my friend breaking the news of the death of a classmate at 3 o'clock, this morning.

I couldn't believe that Balagopal wasn't with us anymore.

And soon after, Joe rings up from Bombay to say that he needed a reservation to Thalasserri tonight to attend to his father's last rites.

.....My flight has been called. Will fill up on the details on landing at Delhi where I'm off on work.


Joe's dad had seen his end coming. He was 89 and had no medical problems but 48 hrs prior to his passing away, he was confined to his bed, which had upset him no end. He'd told Joe, over the telephone, that he could not accept the helpless state that he was in and it was better that he left the scene and that's exactly what he did about 48 hrs later. RIP sir, my humble prayers!

Balu was known among us as an outright prankster, who spared no one to get his dose of mirthful laughter. His consuming a whole bunch of bananas on the basis of a bet with another friend showed that element of lovable craziness that was the hallmark of his personality. Somewhere, in between, he'd taken to the bottle which scarred him with weakened innards and had ultimately paved his early end. I just can't believe that his smiling face will never ever be seen again. RIP, Balu. Each one of us who've had the privilege of knowing you'll miss you.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

The pantomime is being repeated.

Sarabjit Singh is precariously ill and under ventilator support at the Jinnah hospital at Lahore. His immediate family is at the hospital premises, perplexed by the games Pakistan seems to be playing in the name of diplomacy. They've spurned India's request for his transfer to this country for better medical management.

Sarabjit has been on the death row since 1991. He'd raised alarm about his life being unsafe in the jail after the hanging of Afzal Guru and had conveyed his concerns to the jail authorities - was it a premonition or did he see it coming, what with the sustained hostility and intimidation from the other inmates! He was attacked with bricks and other sharp objects which had caused serious injuries resulting in him being comatose.

And diplomatic games are being played with scant thought to the finer feelings of the immediate family. Is his life that insignificant to be ignored? And why's Pakistan doing this again and again - is it because it knows that we follow the spirit of the Geneva convention, to the last letter? We're once again reduced to being helpless spectators while a rogue state is taking us to ransom.

And on the Chinese border, we're witness to the second pantomime. The latest sitrep is that they've pitched a fifth tent, 19 kms deep into our territory at Ladakh. One can only term it as audacious provocation! I was particularly amused with a statement made in one of the newspapers and I quote, "However, no aggressive moves have been made by either side at the stand-off point". The hollowness of the statement rings loud against the fact that the Chinese are deep within our territory by 19 kms!!


I'm sure the government will bring about a solution thanks to the hectic parleys that are being undertaken at the military and the diplomatic levels.


Sarabjit was convicted of spying for India and involvement in a series of bomb blasts(trumped up charges? We'd never know) in 1990 and was housed in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail. His life must have been miserable!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Playing the patriarch!

We'd set off from my sister's house by 8 o'clock as the venue of the wedding was about thirty kms away. This function had to be attended at any cost as it bore a lot of significance and importance, which will become clear as I go forth with my narrative.

Krishnan is one of the bright young lads of my unit. He'd lost his father, last year, in an unfortunate family feud wherein, one of his grandsons had pushed him in the midst of a scuffle and he'd hit his head on the concrete floor to go into a coma, from which he could never recover. And the fight was over a silly property dispute!

He has two sisters, one elder and the other, younger to him both of whom are settled, tending their own families. His mother is still recouping from the shock of her husband's passing away and in the meanwhile, he'd got his marching orders to leave Kochi shortly. It was due to this reason that he'd decided to marry and move to his new station with his wife and mother. I'd got his move deferred to facilitate this arrangement and he was keen that I should play the role of the patriarch, to substitute his dad at his wedding! A heavy responsibility indeed but I'd to deliver without upsetting his father's elder brother who, was actually supposed to play that role.

I was pleasantly surprised that the elderly gentleman was only too keen to abdicate his role as he made a disarming statement and I quote, "we've given our Krishnan to them and it's they who're responsible for him at work. I'm only too happy to note that Krishnan is in mature hands". I felt that my responsibility had increased tremendously and as I went through the motions of the ceremony, it was as though I was conducting the wedding of a son that I do not have!

May you both have a long and happy married life and here's wishing that you get whatever you wish for.


The crowd, that I'd the privilege of interacting with, was made up of simple people. Wonder why a fight for property could shake the foundations of this simple family?

And somewhere into the ceremony, my identity as my grandfather's grandson was revealed and I was thrust into the limelight for no rhyme or reason!   

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A nice drive and a memorable call.

It was a hectic day. After tying up the loose ends at work, it was kick off time to Palakkad to a packed itinerary. Since the shortest route had traffic snarls, quite frequently as the widening work was in progress, we'd opted for the longer one - via Guruvayur, which facilitated us to have a look see of our house too!

The highway had comparatively less traffic, wonder why? Probably, because of a few political roadshows that were on for the weekend on this route!!

On entering Palakkad town, we headed straight to Geetha. She has been on treatment for cancer around her uterus over the last four months. Lekha and me were seeing her for the first time after the commencement of her treatment. In fact, we'd seen her last at a family function in December and she'd looked really unwell then. The diagnosis was done a fortnight later and her treatment had started in right earnest soon after. The poor thing had to undergo a surgery and six doses of chemotherapy - the last of  the chemos is scheduled next Wednesday.

Usually, such a sequence of treatment saps out the individual in a deep sense - I've seen it in a few and had felt miserable, because of impotent rage, at having to be a meek and helpless bystander! But in Geetha's case thankfully, there has been a change for the better. She's cheerful and has retained her zest for life. She's the 'Yul Brynner' look but I must admit and had told her that she looks even more beautiful, now and no, I wasn't fibbing!!


Geetha, attaboy girl! You've shown what mental strength, coupled with a positive outlook towards life can do to a person. May you get back all your laughter and everything that you wish for. Take care and I shall pray for you. Promise!!

And Valsakumar, you've been the perfect foil and a pillar of strength. Hope you're taking care of yourself too.      

Friday, April 26, 2013

A junkie?

I'd to visit the 'path lab' to give samples for analysis. As I'd said earlier, my veins disappear conveniently on such occasions giving nightmares to the medical attendant at hand. Today was no different, in fact, it was worse than previous times!

I'd made it a point to be a trifle earlier at the sample collection point. The attendant was a young man but appeared, recent in induction and was a thoroughbred 'mallu'. After giving me the initial instructions in Hindi, he was poised to draw blood from my vein but alas, my blood vessels would not budge. He went on an exploratory spree after inserting the needle into my skin and was able to hit dirt on his third attempt. But the trickle of blood was a bit too slow for his liking. He kept muttering something incoherent and so, with an utter bankruptcy of thought,  I'd inquired of him as to why it was happening.

His answer surprised me. "Sir, it's because you've less blood" and looked at me seemingly, with accusing eyes. It just couldn't be because many of the people who're familiar with me say that I'm a 'bloody, jolly good fellow'. There must be a terrible mistake and I wanted to shout out, but kept quiet keeping in mind the decorum that had to be maintained. The youngster had started panicking because he'd 'poked' his senior many-a-time and had managed to draw only half the amount that was necessary. He desperately turned to the sister at hand, complementing him in the sample drawing business, for help and advice.

The sister's reaction was unexpected and pathetic. Quite audibly, she says insensitively and I quote, "Keep all the people, with whom you've problems in drawing samples, waiting or ask them to come later. We can't waste our time on a single person". That was the time that I felt that I should intervene and set the wrong, right. Without raising my voice nor losing my composure, I reminded her as to why she happened to be there, as to what she was supposed to do when a junior looked up to her for support and told her that if all these were hassling her, she could put in her papers and go in search of another job. There was no dearth of dedicated nurses who'd do the job better and in an efficient manner while being courteous to the people they serviced, which was the sine qua non of the followers of Florence Nightingale's traditions.

It had the requisite effect and she apologised(?) for not realising as to who I was. I'd to tick her off yet again by saying that the 'rank' or the 'class' of her customers should never come into her reckoning while doing her job as everyone was to be served on an equal footing.

It was getting to be too much for comfort and I just wanted the whole thing to be over at the earliest.


1. By that time, the youngster attending me had hit the right vein and was apologetic for his clumsiness. He'd switched over to chaste Malayalam a little while earlier. And this is what I've noticed of the 'mallus' - they speak all other languages when they want to be officious but finally, come down to their mother tongue when their chips are down!

2. And I was looking a junkie after so many visits of the needle on my arm!!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another dent!

Driving through the comparatively narrow roads and a large volume of traffic, over a period of time, might lead one to be a lunatic for sure. One's fellow motorists are of different hues and I'm listing down a few of those characteristics:-

    (a) The obnoxious. The ones who drive with a gay abandon. If he's behind you, he uses the horn
         to intimidate and shall not rest till he overtakes and while doing so, he glares at you for having dared to
         drive ahead of him.
    (b) The 'couldn't care less'. The ones who select the lane of their choosing and drive at their own
          pace. He expects you to take avoiding action, overtake through the limited space that he's offering you
          without complaining.
    (c) The discoverer. The ones who're on a continuous state of inquisitiveness as they drive all
         over the road as though its width was insufficient. In the process, if he were to 'kiss' your vehicle, he'll
         expect you to take it in your stride, as everything goes while driving and you need to be
    (d) The sadist. The ones who're perennially on the look out for cheap thrills at the expense of
          their fellow motorists. Indiscriminate use of the horns, drive at varying speeds to allow an unsuspecting
          driver to overtake only to be overtaken soon after and be driven off the road when he passes by
          rather close at an unwieldy angle are their weapons.
    (e) The decent. The ones who drive, literally, by the book. He drives at reasonable speeds,
         uses indicators well in time to indicate his intentions and is never unhappy when someone overtakes
         him. This tribe, however, is fast gonna be extinct!

The two wheelers and the autorickshaw drivers use the roads in unimaginable ways making you wonder as to whether they've acquired the ownership rights! They overtake from both sides, stop suddenly without warning and use the horns in an unlimited sense.

One such guy, had stopped suddenly in front of me at the middle of the road, to disembark his pillion rider as I was driving back from work this evening. And as I was waiting for it to move off, another two wheeler rammed into my rear bumper causing a fairly visible dent. I think I've said earlier too that I'd ignore an injury to myself but any 'injury' to my vehicle upsets me, angers me! It's not the expenses but the marred looks that affect me!!

My heart sank as I saw the gash and yet another visit to the service station has been necessitated.


I'd got off my Chevy and had spoken to the guy who'd done the damage. He gave me his contact number when I'd asked for it and seemed to have accepted his mistake. No, I've no plans of squeezing the damages from him but that deliberate act of getting out of my car, conversing with him to understand that he'd realised his mistake had calmed down the anger that was rising from deep within!

I need to grin and bear it. And thankfully, I hadn't created a traffic snarl by my action and the two motorists immediately behind me were watching the sequence of events without being impatient!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A scary sight!

I was on my morning walk and there was plenty of early morning joggers, walkers and a couple of people walking their pets. It was still dark, the early morning Kochi was playing her role to perfection with the sights, sounds and smells that I've, by now, become familiar with.

The uniqueness of these days is the continuing call of the cuckoo. The changing weather pattern, perhaps? It exhilarates me always though I must hasten to add that I ain't been able to reason why. Probably, it could be that some of the exuberance with which the cuckoo calls is passed on naturally!

Today was no different. Soon after my tryst with the bird, I was in for a rude shock. There was a loud sound that rent the air as though someone had fired a pistol. Soon after, smoke had started emanating from a black coloured car parked by the roadside, in front of a building that housed offices. And immediately after, tongues of flame were visible from under the car's bonnet. A couple of early morning customers who're having their cuppa at the roadside tea stall on push cart, on the opposite side of the road, were struck by the sight and as I approached them for a cellphone(I do not carry mine when I'm on my walks as I feel that any caller could wait till I was finished with my exercises!) to summon the fire force, I heard one among them already at it.

The fuel tank should not catch fire - that was our collective prayer. Meanwhile, a volvo bus which had come by, seeing the scary sight, had lurched itself away from the burning car and snapped an overhead television cable to add to the confusing sequence of events! Anyways, two fire engines had arrived by the time and had commenced their fire dousing activities soon after, without much ado.

Realising that I'd nothing further to do, I'd resumed my walk.

And this entire episode was being played out at the doorstep of the Malayala Manorama!


Well, I'd only heard about parked cars exploding by themselves and seen some of them in movies but to see it in real life was an experience by itself. Felt bad for its owner and only hope that the insurance cover of the vehicle was indate and adequate enough to tide over the loss.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Of hollow sounds and misplaced fury.......

I've been rather amused by the goings on around me for the past few days. What comes out thanks to the media is undiluted humour and people's propensity for double speak! Quite a few of the political leaders utter statements in haste, to show 'correctness', only to realise their folly as the situation plays out to its logical conclusion. And sadly, where they ought to state their positions and voice opinions, they've been deafening in their silence. It's really amazing to see how people resort to gimmicks just for those fifteen minutes of fame. I'd like to visit a few of the stories anyway:-

  (a) The Modi invite.

  Narendra Modi, the CM of Gujarat, has been invited by the 'Sivagiri Math' as the chief guest of its silver jubilee celebrations beginning tomorrow. There has been a slew of protests from both the UDF and the LDF camps and VS Achuthanandan, the opposition leader has said that he'd stay away from the celebrations. Coincidentally, the state's labour minister, had faced a lot of flak for having met Modi recently on the sidelines of an award distribution ceremony in which, ironically, the PM had felicitated him for providing a conducive and innovative work culture coupled with imaginative labour policies in his state!

  However, when the two major community organisations viz. the NSS(Nair Service Society) and the SNDP(Sree Narayana Dharma Paripaalanam) didn't find anything amiss in the Sivagiri Math's invite, things have quietened down. I suppose all the guys who'd spoken against are now licking their wounds because their vote bank cannot be antagonised, you see!

   (b) The Chinese intrusions.

   The Chinese are at it again. Their latest incursion has been into Ladakh. They've erected tents 10 kms into the Indian territory saying that the LAC(Line of Actual Control) is disputable, in gross violation of a signed agreement between the two countries that neither will indulge in any sort of activity that upsets the current situation on the ground. The sequence of events was that on the night of 15 Apr, a platoon strength of the PLA(Peoples' Liberation Army) had come into the Indian territory in Burthe of the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, in Ladakh, which is at an altitude of 17,000 ft. And mind you, a Chinese platoon has a strength of 50 soldiers.

Now, consider this. Political parties are yet to make their stand known. The media has not been allowed into the area. Probably, there's hectic backroom pressure being exerted by our government on the Chinese. But on the face of it, judging from what one sees as a layman, we seem to be weary of taking on China when they do wrong.

   (c) Protests against rape.

   The protests by the common man against the rape of the five year old has been going on unabated for the last few days and the outpour of grief and torment are visible. But what's gonna come out of all this? Is it just a pantomime without concrete results as has been the case in the past? No political leader nor government official has come forth to give a coherent statement to soothe the anguished minds.

No one is bothered!


What sort of a people are we? We seem to be going from one agony to the other, totally insulating ourselves from them, with most of us concentrating on our private lives. But what we seem to forget is that such incongruities need lasting solutions and it's the responsibility of each and every Indian citizen to participate in the decision making process.


Monday, April 22, 2013

An unforgiveable faux pas!

I'd fetched up at work, as usual, on the dot. After a meeting with the staff and a quick review of the work done yesterday and going through the list of activities for the day, I realised that there was a need to update my personal bank accounts - before anyone were to jump to conclusions, the balances in both the accounts are modest or should I say meagre? But the bank pass books need updation for one's satisfaction for some unfathomable reason - I mean, what's the need to be reminded about what one has or more aptly, about what one doesn't have?

And usually, for this purpose I seek the services of the 'Dispatch Rider'. For him it will be one of the errands, in a long list of work meticulously listed down in his diary, to be done in the course of the day. And today's fall guy was young SK Singh or 'SK' as he's familiar to all of us. I'd called him into my office to hand over the books and I think I'd noted a spring in his step, coupled with a tingling anticipation, which dissipated all too soon after I'd finished my deed - or was it all my imagination?

The tea during the recess was accompanied by 'high eats' and on queries with the steward, I'd come to realise that it was SK's wedding anniversary and the special treat was his largesse. It was then that I realised as to how badly I'd let him down because customarily I give a card to every individual on his special day. The reason for the change in his demeanour , during our earlier interaction, hit me with all its ferocity.

He was subsequently given a card with apologies and a sheepish smile, but did I see that 'I-did-not-expect-this-from-you' look on his face? I wonder.


I'd let him down! Sad!! And I was left kicking my shins for an avoidable faux pas!!!    

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In contrast!

We'd quite a few guests over the weekend and it was indeed a pleasure to interact with all of them after what has been, a long while! But what caught my eye during the interaction was the contrasting personalities of two youngsters - a young man and a young lady - poised to appear for interviews, this week, that would fetch them their jobs. If I were the selector, no! I shan't pronounce the verdict but shall leave it to your imagination because I must admit that I want both of them to pass the muster!

Ankit is aspiring to join the Army and he has a good military bearing. Having an engineering degree adds to his 'curriculum vitae' and in addition, he's just finished attending a coaching class to familiarise himself with the nuances of going through the paces of a 'services selection board'. Brought up with the right value system, he's a well behaved boy and the only son of his parents. And he's keen that his father, who's abroad, retires and takes rest soon after he gets settled. He's under pressure, with frequent doubts about his capabilities, thanks to the 'fear of failure' syndrome because of a 'no show' in an earlier attempt!

Megha aspires to be an air hostess and she's the second of two daughters of her parents. After finishing her graduation, she'd been to New Zealand, where her elder sister resides, to do a few related courses. And on return, she'd joined a reputed five star hotel in Thiruvananthapuram at their front office. A bundle of energy, she keeps telling her mother that she'd take her around the world after achieving her desire. A buddy of her's who'd got through in the first phase of the interview along with her, has just returned from New Delhi without clearing the second stage. However, she's undeterred and seems to be pretty sure that she'd make it! A clear example of a candidate high on the 'hope of success' syndrome.

I sincerely wish that both of them make it on their own steam because they're genuinely nice, have the requisite qualifications and will do well.


The job opportunities are a plenty these days. The young ones need to understand their aptitude, give an ear to their hearts' calling and put in their best. And success will be their's!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

The same old story!

The brutal rape of a five year old child in Delhi, a few days ago, has again come to haunt our collective psyche. The perpetrator cannot be a normal person for sure, he has to be mentally sick. And therein arises my fundamental doubt, are we a country of mentally sick people?

What's happening then? Are we focused on the moral improvement of the Indian people? Ethics and a feeling of nationalism - being an Indian first and always, with all other affiliations receding to the background - among its people go a long way towards the strength of any nation and we need to lay emphasis on this aspect while striving for economic betterment or improving the GDP index. To be stressing only on the economics, giving the moral growth the go by, does not augur well for the future as we'd only have uncouth and overbearing citizens, ever ready to exercise their 'money might'!

Coming back to the Delhi incident, there has been a nagging doubt deep within me. Would it have taken place had the Nirbhaya case been tried in the normal way and not as it's being done in camera now? The details of the shenanigans of those beasts, screaming as headlines, would have prevented potential rapists!

The clumsiness of the police and the highhandedness in their moments of confusion makes me wonder as to whether we're being reduced to revisiting the same drama, again and again.


That poor child is gonna be in perpetual trauma if she survives the ordeal. And that pains and saddens me. I hang my head in shame, little one, we've let you down......collectively, yet again!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Is there life, similar to our's, in outer space?

The NASA scientists of the United States have discovered the presence of two planets after analysing the data collected by the 'Kepler probe'.

Here are some of the interesting facets of their analysis:-

        (a) The planets are 1,200 light years away from us.
        (b) There's a star similar to the sun of our solar system and the scientific community has named it as
              "Kepler 62".
        (c) Of the five planets around Kepler 62, two have been found to be remarkably similar to the earth
              that we inhabit, in that, they've similar factors that facilitate life. And they've been named
              Kepler 62E and Kepler 62F!
        (d) Four of the five planets are 11/4 to twice the size of the earth while the fifth is just its half!

And there are additional tidbits that would be of interest to many of us, which are:-

        (a) Kepler 62E and 62 F are almost as distant from their star Kepler 62 as our earth is from our sun
             (Apologies for sounding proprietorial in calling them as 'our' sun and earth and no, I've no
             ownership illusions!).
        (b) Scientists are also of the opinion that those planets have rocks and water just like what we're
              familiar with.

My take.

1. Are there human beings, like us, who inhabit those planets?
2. If affirmative, do they also fritter away their time on trivia?
3. I'd read a long time back that our planet continuously transmits sound signals, in various forms, into outer space in the fond hope of receiving answering signals from similarly inhabited planets like ours. Haven't the Kepler civilisation - as I'd like to call it - received them or are they:-

     (i) Not wanting to have any truck with us because of our insensitivity to fellow human beings?
    (ii) Using a technology not as developed as our's?
   (iii)  More recent in their evolution, in that, they're still traversing through 'stone age'? And hence, are
         busy working on their own survival?
   (iv) Fearing that we'd swarm into their planets and muck up things there too?
    (v) And lastly, my most serious doubt. Is it possible that everyone - who has passed into the mist of time
         from our earth - has taken his/her next birth out there and is leading a peaceful, contended life?


I might be termed crazy for this piece of mine. But I'd like to quote Rudyard Kipling to justify myself and I quote, 'Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'Sudden death'!

The phrase is usually used in a pleasant sense in a football or a hockey game. But I'm gonna use it in a tragic sense to cover an unfortunate incident that happened out here, this evening.

Ujwal is a smart young lad in his mid-20s, who is one of the four young men entrusted with the security of our residential premises. He's the oldest incumbent from his date of joining on duty here and he's been quick to earn the goodwill and support of the residents by his winning manners and the uncanny ability to tackle any tricky situation. He's, in fact, a man for all seasons thanks to his quick-fix solutions for electrical/plumbing defects that are minor in nature. And he's learnt a smattering of Malayalam with which he's able to stand his ground on occasions!

As I came in from my walk, I saw him with a dishevelled look, wearing crumpled clothes(He's one guy who's meticulously dressed always and takes pride in his uniform/clothes) that's quite uncharacteristic of him. On enquiry it was revealed that a cousin of his, Kanak, who'd taken up a similar job with another security agency, nearby, had come visiting an hour before and had collapsed, all of a sudden, while in conversation. He was rushed to the nearby hospital for medical assistance but was declared 'brought in dead'! The 22 year-old had died of a massive cardiac arrest!! The heart giving way at the age of 22?

Ujwal is devastated as the deceased has only his mother, who's badly arthritic and her locomotion is severely restricted. In other words, there was no one to come from back home at Karbi Along and the entire responsibility of the postmortem, the last rites and the funeral fell on his young shoulders. I must hasten to add that the youngster is tending to his responsibility well, like a seasoned campaigner!

And we're providing him moral support so that he doesn't feel lonely.


As I'd said earlier, there's a sizeable population from the northeastern region of our country in Kerala, in search of jobs. Since the average mallu detests manual labour, all billets in the construction and farming sectors - the latter to a lesser extent - have been enthusiastically taken up by Ujwal's place types. There are quite a few of them working for security agencies too. And I believe that their earnings have been the cause for an 'economic boom', poised for even better tidings, in the interior recesses of Assam  and places around!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Terror has the same face everywhere!

As more and more details come up in the course of the investigation, it seems to be pretty sure that the explosions that took place during the Boston Marathon were caused by 'pressure cooker bombs' - the pressure cookers were loaded with nails and ball bearings, along with explosives, for maximum effect! To a lot of innocent civilians who're at the spot, life's never gonna be the same as before!!

Reading about it, I was taken back in time towards late 1987, when the Indo-Sri Lankan accord had slowly begun to go awry and our defence forces were pitted against Prabhakaran's deadly LTTE guerrillas. The latter was wreaking havoc with their unconventional use of IED and home made crude bombs to stunning effect. I'd only heard about it from second hand accounts and so when an army course mate of mine had offered to give me the feel of the prevalent ground realities, I'd jumped at his offer. He had sent a jeep to fetch me as the distance from my location to his, at Elephant pass, had to be traversed through uncharted territory as the guerrillas had haphazardly strewn mines and booby traps on the pathways and only the armymen could find their way through safely 'marked channels'!

And I'd set off on my journey in the morning after an early breakfast as I wanted to return to my ship before sunset. We must have driven for over an hour and a half, when we sighted a devastating scene. It was a badly mangled station wagon - with two Tamil civilians in it - that had taken a direct hit from one of the 'claymore' (derives its name from the Scottish, two-edged broadsword)  mines in its path.

What was explained to me then was that the guerrillas used to pack the normal biscuit tins with phosphorous and put a large number of nails and ball bearings along with it before attaching a remote controlled fuse. The furiously flying nails and ball bearings, soon after the blast, would hardly give any time to the victim, even to say his last prayer! I could never get over the frightening sight of those poor civilians for many days after!!

Coming back to the Boston mishap, the biscuit tin has been replaced by the pressure cooker. And as I'd said in the beginning, terrorism has the same face everywhere, irrespective of groups or affiliations. They need to be tackled and dealt with swiftly and without compassion!


Had my jeep passed that spot before the station wagon, that morning somewhere in northern Sri Lanka, I wouldn't have been here to write this piece. But I must admit that I learnt a lot from that journey, besides seeing the lush, green Lankan countryside and of course, spending an interesting and informative time with my friend!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Memories, courtesy the railways!

Today happens to be the 160th anniversary of India's first passenger train journey that had taken place from Bori Bunder, in Bombay to Thane. On 16 Apr 1853, covering a distance of 34 kms, the train was hauled by three locomotives named Sahib, Sindh and Sultan!

The Indian Railways has grown into a vibrant organisation, undoubtedly the largest public sector undertaking in the world and covers the entire nation by its footprint. It's also important to understand that it's accessible to the poorest of the poor. The flip side has been that successive governments have milked the organisation to pamper their vote bank and consequentially, its growth has not been in the manner it should have been.

But I shall take a break from the stark realities and ruminate on the memories that I've picked up from my train journeys, on this occasion. And here I go......

  (a) A lasting friendship.

  Dinesh and Indu are my local guardians whenever I'm at Bombay. They'd feel let down if I were to stay at
  any other place other than their lovely flat, opposite the Opera House at Chowpatti. And they're the perfect

  We'd become friends thanks to a flash strike by the locomen of the southern railway. No trains were
  allowed to ply, by the striking workers, except for the Madras-Dadar express which had a few coaches
  from the Kerala express attached at the Arakkonam junction and your's truly happened to be travelling by
  the same train, headed for my first appointment on board a ship, at Bombay. Prodded by the TTE,
  the Kapadias who're in Madras on work, had approached me for help and I'd readily agreed to share
  my berth and by the end of the journey, we'd become good friends and there has been no looking back!

  (b) On pulling the chain.

  Another occasion, another journey! I was on my way for my flying training. A family consisting of the
  husband, wife and their kindergarten-going daughter shared the coupe with your's truly and we'd set off
  from Thiruvananthapuram by about 10 in the morning. Shortly after lunch, the gentleman had complained
  about a bad pain on the rear side of his head(it was unusual, so I thought!), writhed in pain for a while and
  became still. I remember having gone in search of a doctor in the coach in futility - there were neither
  vestibule connections nor were we armed with mobile phones. I'm talking of an earlier vintage, the late '70s
  - and finally, had pulled the chain. Gosh, I'd to literally hang on to that damn chain as the train came to a
 grinding halt at a desolate stretch, about 45 kms short of Madurai.

  The worst was confirmed by a doctor who's travelling in another coach and between the guard, the
  doctor-in-attendance and me, we'd decided to disembark the family at Madurai. I can still hear the wails
  of the lady - as I write this piece - as the train slowly started chugging out of the station for its onward journey. The patient was declared 'brought in dead' by the railway hospital nearby and efforts were on to contact the family's near and dear ones, both at Thiruvananthapuram and at Madras.

  (c) Bruno's popularity.

   Our journey by the Ist class a/c coupe of the Rajdhani, from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram, every year
   with our pet Dobermann, Bruno, was a treat for more reasons than one. He loved the attention and the
   food and behaved as though it was he who owned the train! His forays outside, for the nature's call, was
   always a matter of touch and go, but the guards were always accommodating and would keep the train
   waiting for that fraction of a minute extra, to help me and Bruno in.

   Bruno was popular among the attendants on the train who vied with each other to give that extra piece
   of a chicken leg or a piece of bone and we're merely his glorified attendants, as conveyed by his behaviour.
   At least that's the impression that he gave to an outsider by his haughty countenance throughout the  
   duration of the journey - but we didn't mind it a wee bit!


I think I can go on and on with the flood of memories coming by but more on them later as the piece is getting to be unwieldy by its length. But before signing off I can't help but remember my journeys in the innards of the steam locomotives after striking a rapport with the locomen. On term breaks from the NDA headed for home, I used to enjoy their largesse and still remember the cosy warmth within - courtesy the blazing twin furnaces and I've even tried my hand at shovelling coal into the furnaces - compared to the harsh nip outside.

RIP Mr. Louis Fernandez and Mr. Ramanathan for giving me the privilege of knowing you. The lessons that you'd taught me during those trysts have been invaluable in my journey through life. It's the perseverance and the dedication that you've displayed and inherited by your juniors, that have made the Indian Railways what it is today. My salutes!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Do we care?

As a people, do we Indians care about another fellow human being? Does his pain and agony upset us? Do we really feel glad at the good things that happen to him? Or is it that 'I-don't-care-a-damn-till-something-affects-me' syndrome that rules the roost?

Judging from the past experiences and the continuing trends, I must rather ruefully admit that we really do not care! Period.

The latest incident has been at Jaipur where a young lady and her infant child - riding pillion on her husband's scooter - met with a tragic end as no fellow motorist stopped by to offer help and had chosen to drive past, instead, showing crass insensitivity. One can apologetically ferret out a few excuses by saying that the passersby were busy with their own preoccupations and hence, couldn't spare a moment of their's! I'd have accepted it had the lapse been restricted to a few, but a multitude to show insensitivity speaks very low about us, as a whole.

Having said that, I must touch upon an incident that I was privy to, only yesterday showing the other side. I'd taken my mom to the nearby ayurveda hospital and while the initial registering process was going on, 'Nangeli pembila' - in her 60s and she stays in the neighbourhood. She's known by that name to one and all in the village and I must concede that it's regrettably casteist! I must hasten to add that I do not subscribe to that form of address - let off a wail seeing my mom's aged visage and her difficulty in walking.

She recalled as to how she and her children were looked after by my mom, during their visits to our house to provide the household's daily requirement of milk. She also remembered the Sunday morning trysts at the courtyard where my mom used to make 'payasam' on a temporary 'chulha' made with stones for the purpose, carry out the 'puja' and distribute the offerings to everyone present - in fact, she used to ensure that we too joined the group to partake the goodies.

'Nangeli amma' has promised to meet mom more frequently. She seemed to be in a state of disbelief in seeing my mom in her present condition as she's used to her energetic personality!

And so do I!

And yes, she cares!!


During our stay at Delhi at Arjan Vihar, in the Delhi cantonment, there used to be numerous accidents at the speed breaker on Cariappa Marg, opposite our building. While the victims used to go through the turmoil, it was invariably the sikhs who stopped by to offer the first help. As a community, I think they're very, very compassionate and I salute them for that wonderful quality of their's!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A nice, quiet Vishu!

Mom was up and about quite early in the morning. She'd woken me up at about a quarter past 4, to take in the resplendent 'vishukkani' and the puja room looked ethereal, with a yellow-golden hue thanks to a battery of lamps lit up which enhanced and highlighted the rich colour of the abundant strings of Laburnum used for the occasion!

All of us had assembled at the Puja room, within a matter of time and I secretly wished that the moment never ended.

Though I'd ducked off to a short snooze it was a quick wash and change soon after, to be back in the puja room for the collective prayer and the distribution of the customary 'vishukkaineetam'. Ammu, my niece, was beaming and quite thrilled at her collection thanks to her privilege of being the youngest in the crowd.

A lovely Vishu indeed! It was worth the drive even though the duration was quite short as we'd to get back to Kochi by evening.


Was reminded about the Vishu celebrations of the past, when I was a kid and staying with my  grandparents. The celebrations involved a larger crowd of uncles, aunts and cousins and the merry making went on and on and never seemed to end!

1. My mom could also be taken to her ayurvedic doctor as she'd been complaining about a nagging pain on her left knee. She's like an obedient child while being with the doctor and listens to her instructions in rapt attention and they seem to be genuinely fond of each other, talking about a whole lot of stuff that didn't concern either the ailment or the treatment!

2. And we're back at our place, at Kochi, just before sunset in time for my walk!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

To be with mom.

After work, it was a quick bite of lunch and we set off for home. The drive was without hitches and we're at home much before sunset. Mom was thrilled to have additions to the existing crowd(?) at home. Minni and Ammu were getting the 'vishukkani' organised.

And it was yakitiyak all the way.

Great to be at home for Vishu!

This was the first Vishu without dad. I mean, last year we didn't celebrate as we're in mourning. I was reminded of his last Vishu with us when he waited patiently and watched us as we set up the 'Vishukkani'.


Tonight the setting up of the Vishikkani was undertaken by all of us but mom was the 'architect-in-chief ' and we're only too happy to take instructions from her. She was very, very excited and that was the most beautiful thing to watch!

Friday, April 12, 2013

An unparalleled Vishu bonanza!

Kerala is reeling under the worst drought conditions after years. Drinking water, in many areas, has to be supplied by bowsers to satisfy the needs of the people. Power outages, to the tune of about six to seven hours, have become a routine happening as water levels in the reservoirs of the hydel projects have dipped to alarmingly low levels. And there have been losses in the agricultural sector thanks to the unprecedented heat.

It's in the midst of these woes that the agricultural department has given each of the 141 MLAs, of the state's Legislative Assembly, a special gift on the occasion of Vishu - fondly termed as 'Vishu Kaineetam' - a 22 inch, LCD television set of a leading brand. The expenditure incurred has been to the tune of Rs.16.92 lakhs @ Rs.12,000/- per piece!

When grilled, the agriculture minister has quoted precedence and added that the gifts have been purchased using the funds of the public sector enterprises under his department. He, further, stated that the sets were bought cheap as the MRP actually was @ Rs.15,000/- Was he hinting that the money, from this source was meant to be squandered away over such mindless expenditure, I wonder? And the beauty about the episode is that the members of the opposition also do not see anything wrong with it, though the leader of the opposition has since returned his gift, citing personal reasons, without taking a stand on the issue!

I suppose that the ruling and the opposition groups do not see eye to eye only on matters concerning governance. Sloth and misusing funds be damned!


This Vishu shall always be remembered for the largesse that our lawmakers had received when the state was reeling under difficult conditions!! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

At the wedding, revisiting the past!

We'd reached the venue of the marriage well in time. Driving my Chevy through the final stretch of narrow roads through a crowded market place did give me the heebie-jeebies and I'd a harrowing time. But after reaching the venue and on seeing many familiar faces - that too, after a lapse of a long while - all my travelling blues had vanished as I'd taken it up on myself to meet everyone of my relations.

This part of the family tree is courtesy the late Santhan kochachan. He came from a respectable family of landlords from the small hamlet of Koduvayur. They're eight siblings - consisting of 4 brothers and 4 sisters - out of which, two brothers and a sister have traversed into the mist of time. Santhan kochachan was the fourth in the pecking order by virtue of his age!

As the strains of traditional music rent the air, I couldn't help but recall the wedding of Santhan kochachan and Vilasini kunjamma that had taken place at Guruvayur on 27 Apr '64. Many people who'd been present then to bless the newly married couple were sorely missed and our conversation veered around each one of them, touching upon each one's uniqueness. The eldest of the siblings, Chinnettan in his late 80s, was the grand old patriarch reviewing the entire set of proceedings, giving directions where needed and offering suggestions when asked for, meeting people in his inimitable, humble manner. I remember him being the strict disciplinarian of the family after the passing away of the grand patriarch and Santhan kochachan used to surrender himself, willingly to his diktats!

Their youngest brother, Unnikrishnettan and his wife were the proud parents whose daughter was being given away in marriage.

As we bid farewell, Chinnettan choking on his voice, said that god had been very unkind to him by taking away his younger siblings before him. The wistful look on his face mirrored his emotions!


Padmashree and Aneesh whose wedding it was are software professionals. Here's wishing them a long and happy married life and everything that they wish for!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An interesting experience!

We'd set off for Palakkad, after lunch, to attend the wedding of a young niece tomorrow. The plan was to go via our house at Guruvayur as the short route via Mannuthi after Thrissur was clogged with traffic due to the extensive widening of the highway that has taken off now, in right earnest! Thank god for minor mercies because the roadwork had been held up for a long time thanks to the difficulty faced in the land acquisition process!!

It was a half past 3 and we'd crossed Guruvayur, on our onward journey. As it was approaching teatime, I was looking for a good wayside tea stall that had an adequate parking space. And sure enough, at Vaadaanakkurissi, I found what I was looking for and brought my car to a stop. As I moved into the shop, after parking my Chevy, a well dressed, elderly gentleman accosted me and asked for Rs.10/- We'd never met each other before, but the confidence with which he'd asked for it saw me giving him the money without any hesitation.

While having my cuppa, I enquired about the elderly gentleman with the tea stall owner. And it was he who'd filled in the details for me. The gentleman was from a respectable house in the neighbourhood and he was in his mid 80s. He usually walked that way, twice a day - once in the morning and the second in the evening - and approached only certain people with his unusual request. And received one of the three responses - ignored totally, shooed away or gave him what he's asking for! The important fact, however, was that he never asked for more than a paltry Rs.10/- and he never reacted if he did not get what he'd asked for.

And why he does so, no one knows!


Why did I react in that manner? Connected from the past birth, maybe?  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm learning everyday!

Rajesh Khanna stays in our residential area and is an enterprising and hardworking gentleman. His parents, though hardcore Malayalees, were enamoured by the first superstar of the Hindi movies and had named their son after him. A cheerful and friendly person, I was seeing him this evening after a long lapse.

He was in the hospital for the last forty days or so during which he was transferred for expert medical opinion/management at Bangalore. He was profusely thankful for the train reservations secured for him, without prior notice, during the peak season. But what he had told me about his ailment threw me off balance.

He suffers from an ailment called 'Pneumo Thorax', wherein due to his physical attributes, there's a tendency for fluid accumulation within the outer lining of his lungs! It results in his lungs working at a reduced capacity - this time at about 45% - causing difficulty in breathing accompanied by indescribable pain!!

He has been discharged as the fluid retention has been contained and he's back to normal. What amazed me was that he has not been advised any medicines to prevent its recurrence. I understand that the medicine for the cure of the ailment is still at a conceptual stage probably, because the causes aren't known! Consequently, Rajesh has been told that he'd be under periodic medical review.

My take.

As mankind makes tremendous strides on all fields, there are so many things around him that stay hidden in a cloak of secrecy. It sort of shows as to how vulnerable man is in the working of this universe and the intricacies of life continue to baffle him. Perhaps, the treatment for 'Pneumo Thorax' is gonna crystallise soon and Rajesh Khanna would be able to cast his worries aside.

God, please take care of him.


After the long patch of relentless heat, with the Mercury surging towards 40 degrees Celsius, this evening we were subjected to the first pre-monsoon thundershowers. The sheets of lightning accompanied by the scary thunder seemed to be relentless and harsh. But the resultant cooling of the environment is lovely!   

Monday, April 8, 2013

Being godfather!

Raphael is an unassuming service engineer in the service station that I frequent. Though it's another gentleman who has been my 'Customer Adviser', Raphael has always made it a point to come and interact with me during my stay out there. He speaks faultless English,has pleasant manners and is ever smiling. And it's not that I'm the only customer that he looks after, he's like that to everyone as though he's taken upon himself to look after the people on behalf of his company!

He has also taken upon himself to explain to me the intricacies of the work undertaken on my car with crisp recommendations on the options available during every visit of mine. He has, thus, given an impression that he's bothered about the money that I spend on my car and insists on giving the 'best bang for the buck'. And I've no reason to doubt his genuineness!

He's asked me as to whether I could introduce his little daughter into a Kindergarten school of repute, in the area. He and his wife are convinced that the doors of the best schools would open for their daughter after the  little one's tenure at the Kindergarten school. And hence his request!

I've given her my letter of introduction because I'm sure the li'l one will carry on with her dad's traditions as she grows up. Some qualities can never be faked as they come from deep within and has got something to do with one's upbringing. And Raphael's good work should not go unnoticed.

May his daughter get all that she wishes for!


Former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, has passed into the mist of time. A remarkable leader who'd come up from humble beginnings. I remember a quote attributed to her, "If you want a thing said, tell a man but if you want a thing done, tell a woman". And that clearly etches her personality!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A well oiled mechanism or a planned racket?

This afternoon, we'd gone to look up an old lady of the extended family, who'd recently undergone a kidney transplant. Though frail, she looked cheerful and seems to be on the sure road to recovery as her parameters have been registering normalcy - the Creatinine levels have been under 1, consistently over the past five weeks.

The visit was undertaken soon after attending a wedding and we're in our finery just to give the old lady a feeling of wellness and gaiety!

But what amazed me was that the entire colony of about twenty houses provided shelter to kidney patients at differing stages of their treatment - from a person awaiting her surgery after having identified the donor to this relation of our's, who now needs to report to the hospital(which is a stone's throw away), twice a week, for review. And her doctor insists that she walks the distance, which is a trifle over a km.

Consider the following aspects that are related to the arrangement:-

      (a) The two room accommodation is owned by a member of the staff of the hospital. Wonder whether
           the other dwelling units had such a connection?
      (b) The accommodation provides essential creature comforts like a kitchenette with cooking gas but
            the replenishment of the cylinders is at a premium.
      (c) Provision of a/c in the rooms is subject to the inmates' demand.
      (d) The current going rate of the rentals is Rs.13 grand per month with Rs.500/- extra, as electricity

It's definitely a boon and a cosy arrangement for the patients and their attendants, especially when the visits to the doctor - immediately after the surgery - are to be undertaken on a daily basis and the moves have to be undertaken in a vehicle! Taxis and auto rickshaws are available for the purpose.


I would like to wind up my thoughts with the following:-

    (a) It's definitely a profit making venture to all concerned! But mind you, a kidney transplant in our country    
         today can only be afforded by the affluent.
    (b) What about the member of the staff who seems to be 'making hay while the sun shines'? The person
          has an edge over the others in that the complete information of prospective patients is available on a
          platter - Professional inputs for personal financial gains, eh?  
    (c) Wonder whether there's a nexus between the staff of the hospital and the 'agent' who arranges for
          the donor?
    (d) I'd like to term the entire system as 'exploitation of another's misfortune'!

Though I was happy to see the improvement in the condition of the old lady, I was saddened to see the 'business' oriented venture and I could sense an all pervading gloom and illness that surrounded the houses of the colony!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Much ado about nothing.

I can't understand the uproar caused in the United States over President Barack Obama's remarks on the good looks of California's female Attorney General, Kamala Harris. He's accused of old fashioned sexism!

I think, he was just giving expression to his thoughts by saying that she was the 'best looking AG' in the country. And what's wrong with that? Can't a man express his feelings? Or is it that the people who seem to be exercised by his words, suggesting that he's hinting at a relationship with the lady?

Come on, take a walk! Firstly, he'd be dumb to risk his presidency on a non issue like that and secondly, let's hypothetically take it to be true for a moment, then he'd chose much safer means to do so rather than crassly announce it to the world on a public forum!!

Can't help but laugh at the brouhaha over nothing. The yanks need not get after their President just because he hasn't been able to bring about the change that he'd promised - his approval ratings have been on the down slide!

As a far away observer, I'm sure that he didn't mean any harm!!


Wonder how we, in India, would have reacted to an issue like this? 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Trivial, yet thought provoking!

I want to share a few happenings that may appear trivial at first perusal but have nevertheless touched a deep cord within me. And the beauty is that I can't fathom the real reason for being affected by them:-

    (a) Ichcha's death. I'd mentioned earlier that I'm a fervent follower of the Hindi soap 'Kya hoti utharan'
         on the channel 'Colors' every evening at 10. A couple of days back, one of the lead characters,  
         died of a tragic accident and in her dying moments, she bequeaths her heart to 'Tapasya', her friend.
         The paradox is that she's blamed by most of the family members, throughout her life, that she was
         scheming against the very same person who gets to be the ultimate recipient of her largesse. Ichcha     
         has been portrayed as a strong young lady who suffers innumerable miseries in her life, including a
         jail term, but steadfastly stands by the truth and nothing but the truth, always and every time.

         From what one hears in real life, such miserable and sad endings befall upon good people many a
         time. One's left wondering as to what's god doing all the while because god was to ensure that
         good prevails over the evil!

    (b) Telepathy? During the course of the day, two people had come into my thoughts after what seemed to
          be a long time. And no, the thoughts came at random, for no particular reason and at different
          occasions. They were Durga and Rajan - the former and I'd spent some wonderful times together
          at Chilka and the latter's a simple lad who's been duped by a job racketeer to do strenuous, manual
          work at the construction sites of Singapore for a pittance!

          Durga, after a prolonged silence, had sent me a mail asking me about my whereabouts. Settled in
          Secunderabad, he seemed to be cheery and full of beans! Rajan had called up from one of the public
          telehone kiosks and poured out his woes - his greatest worry is that he's unable to save from his
          earnings as food, palatable and acceptable to his taste, costs a fortune. He's desperately counting out
          his two-year contract and reiterated that he felt nice after he talked to me. When I'd asked him to give
          me his contact number, he said that he'd make the calls as it suited him. I feel damn guilty making
          him spend on me!

     (c) A mother's anguish. I've become a marriage counsellor of sorts, albeit, a poor one at that by my own
          admission. Usha, one of the residents out here, came in to tell me about her woes. It was about the
          collapsing marital relations of her son and daughter-in-law and that too after siring two children,
          with the third on the way! The daughter-in-law is willing to go her own way(she's alleged to be friendly
          with another guy and gets messages and calls on her cellphone, much to the consternation of the
          mother-son duo) but the son insists that he'll give up his life if that happens!! And their's was a love
          marriage and they're drawn from differing religions!!!

          I've advised Usha to summon the girl's parents to have a comprehensive round of discussions and then
          go in for a divorce if no other plans work. And I've promised to attend that meeting to put in my two
          bits' worth!


Am I getting too personal? Do I've the wherewithal to erase the woes of the people immediately around me? I'm reminded of a conversational piece from one of the Hindi movies that I'd seen quite a while back. Roughly translated it goes something like this and I quote, " At certain times one has to assume a godly role. And the paradox is that there's no escape from such a situation as circumstances bind one. And all the while one's fully aware of the fact that one's a a very poor imitation of the original and wants to desperately don a  simple, quiet  role". Unquote.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A quaint request!

This evening I received a rather strange request from one of my playmates back home. It was the shy and mild mannered Sydney, who stayed at a stone's throw away from my house. Sydney and me were good friends and our friendship had begun on the volleyball court of our village. The court was at the busy market place which boasted of a thriving, boisterous business on all Mondays and Thursdays. The land for the market place was donated by my paternal grandfather who was clear that the residents around would interact better, when they met each other at such a place. The patch of land also boasted of an open air theatre where cultural activities were performed, at frequent intervals, round the year. For us, it was like viewing a kaleidoscope of events from our house as the market place straddled the northern boundary!

My grandfather, even during his final days, insisted upon sitting on his favourite easy chair, at the verandah of his house - the ancestral house was towards the east of the marketplace - for viewing the ongoing activities and the manner in which people went about their chores of buying and selling wares coupled with haggles and banters! I remember that he used to get rejuvenated and happy just by viewing the scene and was ecstatic when people came and met him.

The volleyball field was witness to many spirited and keenly contested matches. It was during one of my holidays from school that I'd joined the frenzy and was fortunate to be part of the winning team. And the combination of Sydney and your's truly had brought in a few crucial points for that win! The one thing that remains fresh in my memory is the manner in which Sydney used to narrate the stories of the Malayalam films that he'd seen. The narrations used to be replete with actions and the sound effects - and for me, it was always fascinating as it gave me a feeling that I was watching the movie with him!

Our friendship had taken off from that point. It had gone on for another three years or so, after which we'd lost track of each other as Sydney had gone abroad in search of work and had almost settled there, but the lure of his village and his fond memories of childhood eventually brought him back, about five years ago. Soon after, on hearing that I was home on leave, he'd called up to find out as to whether I was free(?) to meet him and our subsequent meeting, after a lapse of many years, was awkward to begin with but soon attained the hues of old and we're interacting as though there wasn't any chasm of time after our last tryst on the volleyball field!


Sydney's request of me, this evening, was to bless his son, Mervin, who's gonna write the NDA entrance examination next week. I was flustered at him having put me on a pedestal and had conveyed to him my awkwardness. And of course, I did speak to the young man and gave him a few tips!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Parent promoted divorces?

I happened to come across an interesting news-cum-statistics about the increasing trends in divorces taking place in Kerala - a state that has surpassed the national average on this count. Just peruse these to understand the sheer acuteness of the problem:-

      (a) About 1,00,000 marriages take place, on an average, every year.
      (b) Of these, 8% opt for a divorce within the first year itself. What it implies is that 8,000 marriages go
           'kaput' within the first twelve months! Disillusionment at such a short span of time?
      (c) And then there are many other cases, the common reason cited being 'incompatibility'.

So, what's the problem? What actuates this appalling situation? Again, the findings are interesting:-

      (a) The proliferation of mobile phones.
      (b) Splintering of the joint family system into nuclear families.
      (c) Financial independence for both, men and women, at a comparatively young age.
      (d) Themes that have become the staple diet of family soaps which highlight varying aspects of
            relationships, which were hitherto uncharted territory. Do I find a man-woman competition in this
            area - I mean, something like a 'if he can do it, why not me?' - sort of a syndrome?
      (e) The permissiveness in the Indian society - can the mallu society be far behind, then? - that has taken
            great strides, almost aping the decadent west of the '70s and the '80s! The paradox is that while they've
            realised their past follies and swear by a strong family system for supporting the institution of
            marriage, we seem to have embarked on that path with a gay abandon!!
      (f)  Consequentially, a growing disillusionment in the institution of marriage that takes recourse in live-in
            relationships sans commitment.
      (g) Easily formed relationships at the workplace, when the couple put forth their best foot forward only
           to rue about it later on being confronted with the actual personality.
      (h) And lastly, I found this very interesting, there has been a spate of 'parent promoted divorces'! It's
           popularly known by its acronym, 'PPD'!
I was always under the impression that parents, in the Indian context, were the 'shock absorbers' for their children especially, when their marriages went through strain. By their wisdom and experience about life, they had the right to interject and infuse a new meaning to a withering relationship! And the beauty of the whole thing was that the affected parties accepted this 'course correction' wholeheartedly and without rancour. However, the trend these days is for the parents to exploit the simmering differences in a couple, drive in a wedge and encourage them to go in for a divorce! This is what the phenomenon of 'parent promoted divorce' is all about!!

I suppose these are the strange and absurd trends of the 'kalyug' as was told to me by my grandmother, long ago.


1. The media in Kerala has been churning out the colourful stories of the Ganesh Kumar - Yamini rift. He'd to resign from the state cabinet against allegations of wife bashing, when she'd confronted him with his peccadilloes! To my mind everyone in this drama is a loser. And we seem to be gladly lapping up their discomfiture with the colourful stories emanating from their bedroom. It's in extremely bad taste and I tend to agree with the person who'd said that there's a 'voyeur' in every one of us!!

2. Marriage, undoubtedly, is a sacred institution and to make it work, a lot of give and take is expected from both the parties. It also takes in the fact that one does not get everything that one wishes for and therefore, must willingly accept what has come one's way. The children, otherwise, are the ultimate losers carrying the trauma of their parents' bad vibes throughout their lives!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Depleting resources?

Are the earth's resources depleting? And if so, what happens to what has always been drilled into our minds during our student days that the earth's resources never get depleted as they get replenished continuously, proportional to the usage?

The thought has been at the back of my mind ever since a group of environmentalists had raised the alarm of depleting potable water from the wells in our neighbourhood. Many of the 'ever' full wells have either dried up completely or have very, very low water levels. Even the well in the backyard of my ancestral house is low on water but since the household consists of my mom, my sister and my niece, the amount is adequate to  look after their daily needs. My sister works up the motor to fill up the overhead tank, every morning, to cater for their requirements.

We'd - at least, I'd reckoned so - attributed the receding water table, over the last few years - to the extreme heat and erratic rains that have been recurring without let up. But after hearing what the environmentalists had to say, a doubt has been nagging my mind and hence, the query with which I'd begun this piece. They seem to be sure about the fact that the present state is attributable to the soft drink manufacturing unit and want me to help them to have the unit shut down/shifted elsewhere!

It was about eight years back that Usman and Zaheerabeewi had shifted from their hometown, about a hundred odd kilometers from our place, to set up their soft drink manufacturing unit. Towards that end, they'd met all the local families explaining the nuances of their project and in the process, had come and met my mom and dad too. My dad had reservations about the project on three counts which were:-

      (a) The effluents and the associated waste had to be disposed off in a proper, hygienic and scientific
      (b) Sincerely hoped that it did not affect the water table due to increased usage of water.
      (c) The workforce would be drawn from the available local talent.

He'd voiced his apprehensions at the simple inaugural ceremony of the project but had gracefully added that he did not want to come in the way of an entrepreneurial initiative that was providing job opportunities!

Zaheerabeewi and Usman had this point, uppermost in their minds, when they'd asked for help for their son's re-employment when I met them over the last weekend.

I need to be fully aware of the factors before I give my advice to the environmentalists. And if I go the whole hog with them, what about the rehabilitation of Usman and his family? A Hobson's choice, really!


1. Weren't my dad's apprehensions right? I'd, then, laughed off his misgivings by saying that the earth's resources always got replenished according to usage.

2. A test case is 'Plaachimada' where a Coca Cola bottling unit had to be shut down, a few years back, after the local residents had agitated against depleting water resources and effluents wreaking havoc in the surrounding water pockets!     

Monday, April 1, 2013

April fool!

Since I did not have my pair of walking shoes, the walk was a non starter. I'd got up a trifle late and was generally going about my morning chores.

Earlier, on getting up, I'd told myself that today was the first of April and the telephone calls that came by were to be analysed before jumping to conclusions and gearing up for action that wasn't warranted. And without much ado, came a phone call that an assignment had fetched up at the transshipment container terminal and that I was to take action forthwith, to avoid delay of any sort to avoid consequential penalties!

I was puzzled, all right, as to why such an alert had come on my residential telephone as these were usually conveyed through well established, official channels. But the clincher was when the caller made the error(?) of calling up again to find out as to whether actions had been initiated. Identifying the caller, I told him to give another try at the effort with more authentic ones!

It was then that the calling bell announced its existence and on opening the door, I found that it was Majid, the garbage collector. He'd earlier, almost a couple of months back, asked for a loan of Rs. 20 grand for acquiring water connection for his house and I'd then told him that his case could be considered only in the next financial year as he'd already availed of the facility(for electricity connection) once, in the ongoing year.

I was pretty surprised to see Majid in front of my door, pronto, on the very first day of the new financial year, obviously to remind me of my promise. Hats off to his meticulousness! So, I told him that he'd to put up his application to the caretaker who'd process the case as per 'standard operating procedures' and had almost closed my door when he muttered, "Sir, Kanak, the security guy, had told me that I was to meet you urgently. That's why I've come". He seemed to be relieved when I told him that I hadn't called and it was only then that he'd grinned - from ear to ear - and said, "Sir, my loan".

I got my eventual surprise from Kanak, the security guy on duty at that time. On asking him as to why he'd sent Majid when I'd not called him, he said, "Sir, I was making him an April fool".


What neither Kanak nor Majid, perhaps, didn't realise was that in the process, the real April fool was none other than your's truly!