Monday, September 30, 2013

What exactly is the 'fodder scam'?

Lalu Prasad Yadav has been convicted by a CBI court in what is infamously termed as the 'fodder scam'. The scam is all about the politicians of Bihar - across the political spectrum - having connived with their bureaucrats to siphon off huge funds meant for expenses on livestock, including provision of fodder. Let's try to make some sense of the drama that was played.

(a) During the period between 1993 and '96, the then Bihar government had approved Rs.10.5 crores to buy the following:-
       (i) Pigs         5,664
      (ii) Hens      40,000
     (iii) Goats       1,577
     (iv) Sheep         995

(b) VS Dubey, as the state's Finance Commissioner, stumbled on the scam while reviewing the performance of the different departments in Dec '95. While studying the resources vs expenses of the Animal Husbandry department over the previous years, he found the following anomalies:-

       (i) withdrawals were the highest in the department.
      (ii) expenditure was incurred under non-plan items.
     (iii) withdrawals had been beyond sanctioned amounts.
     (iv) supporting vouchers claimed that goats, pigs and hens were purchased under a welfare scheme for
           the dalits, the tribals and the poor.
     (v) supporting vouchers of expenses claimed that money had been paid for transporting the
          cattle, even on motorcycles and mopeds!
     (vi) and the purchase of 500 kgs of mustard oil to polish the horns of buffaloes and pigs from Ludhiana
           @ Rs.15 lakhs by RK Rana, an Animal Husbandry officer who rose to become an RJD MLA
           and later, MP! He'd famously claimed, during the investigations, that half the pigs had died near
           Varanasi during the process of transportation!!

(c) And the money that was swindled was to the tune of over Rs.600 crores, as follows:-

      (i) Rs. 255.53 crores from different treasuries for the same purchase.
     (ii) Rs. 409.62 crores withdrawn from the treasuries spread all across the state - Ranchi,
          Chaibasa, Dumka, Gumla and Jamshedpur(now, in the state of Jharkhand)!

A typical Indian 'rags-to-riches' story where Laloo Prasad Yadav, a milkman's son rose from clerk to chief minister to railway minister!


1. 18 years later, nemesis seems to have finally caught up with the frauds. It's now left for us to see as to how they carry out their punishments - already, Jagannath Mishra one of the convicts, has moved into a hospital on grounds of ill health! Some drama!!

2. And yes, based on the fraud, I'm now convinced that 'pigs can fly'!



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Felix's woes.

Felix is my 'saarthi' these days. 65 years and short statured, he's an efficient man behind the wheel. Our interaction has been a revelation about his world that had recently turned topsy turvy because of his wife's ailment.

The narrative goes something like this. His wife, all of 55 years, had developed gastric discomfort with a perennial bloating of her stomach. He'd shown her to many of the doctors beginning with a specialist in gastroenterology. After many tests and analyses, the problem was pinned down to a malignant tumour in her ovary. Chemotherapy was begun and after three such administrations, the size of the offensive organ had shrunk sufficiently to facilitate its surgical removal.  She continues to be on treatment but seems to be on the definite road to improvement. But the entire episode seems to have shaken the poor gentleman and as he narrated his woes to me, his tears flowed unchecked.

There were attendant problems in the course of the treatment when the lady had lost her hair after the first session of chemotherapy. Their two daughters and their families, along with their son who's just completed his graduation in nursing and is awaiting a job, were of immense help to them to rally through the crisis.

Felix seems to have been hit hard and consequently, smokes like a chimney except when he's behind the wheel. I only hope that he doesn't end up with health complications! Keeping him continuously behind the wheel seems to be the only remedy, but thoroughly impractical!


(a) Yet another dialogue between the leaders of India and Pakistan had taken place today at New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. A repeat pantomime as usual with nothing concrete in the form of results especially when Nawaz Sharif dragged the Kashmir bogey in his speech. Our PM had made a befitting counter to it! Nothing can change as long as the Pakistani army calls the shots in that country! Sad!!

(b) There's a sudden proliferation of Gandhiji everywhere. The 2nd of October, his birthday, is looming large and it's fashionable to remember him as a sort of a ritual! When will we change?   

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mom has changed. So it seems.

1. I'm at my mom's feet. I mean I'm punching these thoughts into the keyboard while she's in deep slumber on the bed.

2. I've been observing her for the past few days that she's been with us, after returning from my sister's place. The changes have surprised me because the qualities that she exhibits now is far from what her real personality is, that I and the folks close to her are aware of. Does advancing age bring about radical changes in an individual because the body tries to adjust itself to the accompanying infirmities? I shall now list out the changes to make out some sense of the changed behavioural pattern:-

    (a) Tends to withdraw into her shell a bit too often. She used to be involved with anything and everything
          that was happening around her!
    (b) Never attends the telephone. She used to attend all the calls herself and give her opinions, directives or
          just listen to the caller as the situation demanded. Probably, this has been brought about because she             has difficulty in hearing but she refuses to use her hearing aid saying that it's irritable and gives out a               booming noise!
    (c)  Does not watch the television and even if she does, is not able to concentrate for a long time. And                 come to think of it, she used to have her favourite serials and programmes that were never missed,
          come what may!
    (d) Tends to sleep it out most of the day and she seems to have got back her habit of uninterrupted sleep
          at nights. She used to be of the opinion that people wasted their lives by sleeping beyond the
          permissible/acceptable amount of six hours. Is it the combined effect of the medicines, I wonder?
    (e) Her movements have become pathetically slower but she steadfastly refuses to use either a walking
         stick/walker. She is vain about her age and feels that she's not that bad enough to take the support of
         props and I wouldn't like to insist!

3. Otherwise, she seems to be pretty okay. Her doctor and the people visiting her also confirm this as she follows the threads of her conversations to the minutest details. We try to bring her into our conversations and I still manage to elicit a few laughs from her through my PJs.

4. Sadly, her vibrancy is on display only rarely.


During the Dussehra holidays, we'd be getting together at my dad's house. Looking forward to see her in her elements and in the best of spirits as of old!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Great happenings!

A lot many things are happening in our country. Governmental decisions are coming by a dime a dozen that would have far reaching ramifications and a change in the mindset of the people. These were bound to happen and it's just a matter of time - probably, they're coming in now because of the impending parliamentary elections. Let's go through a couple of other happenings for the sake of understanding them in the right perspective:-

 (a) The 'negative vote option'.

 The Supreme Court has passed a landmark judgement saying that the voters have a right to reject the
 candidates on offer, in a constituency. It's hoped that this would compel all the political parties to field only
 'sound' candidates! If implemented, India would become the 14th country in the world to adopt this

 But I've the following queries:-
    - would it come into being in the forthcoming round of elections?
    - what happens if the negative votes polled is the highest?
    - doesn't the process of translating such a thought into legislation require to have the Parliament's
      endorsement through deliberations.
    - if the answer to the above is in the affirmative, can it take place within the period before the Election
      Commission brings out its notification on the next round of elections?
    - will the crafty politicians, sitting in the seats of power, allow it to pass because their shenanigans will
      come under check?

  (b) Rahul Gandhi's objections.

       As the congress party's Prime Ministerial candidate, his utterances bear significance to his partymen.
       His trashing the governmental ordinance on convicted lawmakers being allowed to continue in
       legislatures has been a master stroke in its timing. But what needs to be seen is his earnestness in
       ensuring that it's converted into action.

       My scepticism is based on a similar happening in the congress, way back in 1985. His father, at the
       party's session in Bombay, soon after acquiring the massive mandate to rule, had lashed out at the
       power brokers and the fixers that controlled his party - a candid confession of a newcomer on entry
       into the cesspool of politics. People, then, had looked up to him for bringing down that system but sadly,
       had to eat humble pie at having to see a nice dream gone horribly wrong by the end of his tenure.

       Is the will to change and stop corrupt practices really there at all, now?


All said and done, the things that are happening will definitely bring about a churning. And something good will happen. I'm that eternal optimist who looks for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The script of life!

I'd taken the slot of the first appointment of the day with my mom's doctor and accordingly, reached his clinic on time. Mom was sporting enough to limit her breakfast to a cup of Horlicks and a banana, to meet the deadline as she knew that it would take time for her to walk up the short distances between our flat and the vehicle and then at the destination, from the vehicle to the innards of the clinic.

The doctor has become a good friend and mom and he get along well, discussing other things not related to her medical woes and at times, I've to step in to remind her that there were other patients waiting for his attention. This morning, the numbers outside were just beginning to fill in and therefore, we'd more time to ourselves for a chat and the good doctor seemed to be in a mood for just that - unburdening himself of a sad incident that had happened around 10 years ago, as I came to realise by the end of his narration!

He'd begun by inquiring about my recent trip abroad and then said that the city of Kuala Lumpur gives him painful memories. His sister and her family - her husband and two children - had spent a fortnight's holiday with him at Kochi and had left for Kuala Lumpur. Since the flight was dot on time, his brother-in-law had decided to go to his office direct from the airport, while the lady and the children headed for their flat. They must have just about entered the flat and begun to unpack their personal belongings when the multi-storeyed building crashed. The survivors were many but the doctor's sister and her children were among the unfortunate lot who'd kept their tryst with death.

I realised that the incident continued to be a raw wound, deep within the doctor's psyche, as his eyes had become moist. My mom told him a few words of comfort and I leaned over his table and gently gripped his shoulder, implying that I could feel his agony and as a sort of reflex action, he kept his hand on mine acknowledging my very belated condolences.


1. Life is mysterious with all its ifs and buts. The doctor's sister and her kids seemed to have kept their appointment with death after having traversed over 3,000 kms!

2. In Malayalam there's a saying, the gist of which goes something like this, "The grain that you eat, the person that you marry and the place of your end have already been scripted". The doctor's loved ones were just enacting their scripts!!

His brother-in-law continues to stay at Kuala Lumpur immersed in his work.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Musings on the trip abroad.

As I'd said earlier, my outing abroad was the first in my capacity as a private citizen. It was a great experience and has egged me on to future outings. I'd like to share my innermost thoughts based on the sights and sounds that were experienced and so, here I go:-

  (a) Indians have taken on to globe trotting and the touring crowd cuts across age and background. I was
       particularly happy to note that there's a nice sprinkling of Malayalees on such pleasure trips. Not long
       ago, there was this tendency among the government employees, especially, of claiming their LTC
       allowances, use a small portion of it to do a local tour and deposit the remainder into their personal
       bank accounts! It's indeed a great transformation of the mindset!!

  (b) Amplifying on the point above, we'd come across three groups at Colombo during our onward transit
       that were headed to the following destinations:-
       (i) an all Malayalee group to Thailand.
      (ii) again an all Malayalee group for a comprehensive tour of Sri Lanka and
     (iii) a north Indian group to Malaysia and Singapore.

  (c) But our habits die hard. Most people on such jaunts give emphasis to shopping while giving the go by
       to sight seeing which, according to me, should be priority! Probably, I might be exaggerating the
       phenomenon but let me put down what I'd seen at Colombo. There was a sizeable crowd among
       the gentlemen who were lugging carry bags containing scotch - probably, it's their choice and I'm no
       prude to laugh at them!!

  (d) On the flip side what's the general impression that the hosts of the visiting countries have about the
        Indian tourist? I must admit that my inputs are based on what I'd gathered from the ordinary men
        and women with whom I'd the privilege of interacting with, during my short stint with them:-

          (i) he's a tight fist spender. The habit of tipping is absent.
         (ii) he tends to 'ignore' people like the driver, house keeping staff at hotels etc because of the feel that
              they're meant to do their jobs and a word of appreciation was unnecessary.
        (iii) he washes his personal wear and leaves them to dry, often with negative results ending up with
             an all too pervading stench of clothes that refuse to dry in the airtight air conditioned rooms.
        (iv) he makes tea/coffee directly in the kettles meant for boiling water!

I'd like to believe that many of these 'faults' are actually caused out of ignorance and definitely not out of defiance of the system. And over a period of time, the Indian tourist shall also learn!


1. It's back to the normal routine out here. Soon after work today, I'd made a dash to my sister's place at Palakkad to get mom back and we'd returned an hour after sunset. She needs to go for her doctor's review tomorrow!

2. Our friend from Muscat has dropped in to spend a day with us. It was a blast to the past yet again!!



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Singapore to Kochi via Colombo!

Since our flight was in the morning, we're at the massive glass and aluminium complex that's Singapore's Changi airport fairly well in time. The jovial and much informed Rice, our 'saarthi', gave us a continuous commentary on the various landmarks that we're zipping past as he guided his maxicab effortlessly, through the morning's traffic.

On reaching our checking in point, much to our dismay, we're told that our flight was delayed by over two hours. And it looked so conspiratorial - to me at least - that it was only this one, single flight among the many that were, according to their terminology, 'retimed'! What was bothering me was that if we're to miss our connecting flight from Colombo, we'd have had to stay another extra day at the Sri Lankan capital for no rhyme or reason! And, in my case, the clothes that I was carrying catered for the day and nothing more was left, which coming to think of it was actually not much of an issue as one could easily pick up the desired 'change' from any of the markets that came by!!

The consequential advantage was that the airline had sponsored our breakfast and we'd additional time to do some window shopping!!!

But I'll never forget Rice's words as he bade us good bye and I quote, "Come back soon, sir. Perhaps, by December?". I dunno whether he really meant that but the reality is that one cannot be extravagant to be visiting Singapore every quarter, just for fun! But jokes apart, it's these minor bits of conversation by these 'service providers' that make them so adorable - wonder whether our cabbies mete out the same courtesies to the visiting foreigners? Perhaps, they do too!

The transit was uneventful but nice, underscored by the excellent Sri Lankan hospitality on order! I happened to watch a nice French movie(hope my French is correct!?) - 'Amiticus Sinceres' meaning 'True Friends' - that panned the strong bonds of friendship between three guys, all in their late 50s. The turbulence that come in the relationship when the daughter of Jacques - one of the three friends and the pivotal character - falls for another among them forms the central theme!

We're at Kochi and in our homes by tea time which brought the curtains down on an essentially short but nice trip!


Was back on my customary evening walk and felt tremendously happy to be back amid familiar surroundings! Of course, backed up with a host of pleasant memories of a 'glitchless' journey!! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Understanding the maze!

It was sight seeing within the city of Singapore and Nysa, a graduate in Arts & Mass Communication was our guide for the purpose.

We'd started off with the Botanic Garden and the world of orchids. It was a lot of walk but made in a cool ambience thanks to the thick foliage shielding us from the fierce heat. The serial was follwed by the boat cruise in the Singapore River and with the commentary on the screens, within the confines of the boat, along with Nysa's inputs made it a knowledgeable and pleasant experience. All too soon it was lunch time and then we're off to the Bird Park - a blissful two hour experience with a 'tram safari' followed by a scintillating show! The birds - of various species - have been thoroughly trained, I must say!

And having completed the itinerary for the day, it was back to scouting the markets for momentoes and curios.

A dinner invite made the evening interesting with the opportunity to meet more people and in the process, picked up a few friends.


All in all, an interesting visit and quite a few sights! Meanwhile:-

   (a) F1 formula races on the Singapore circuit is on and Vettel seems to be in form.
   (b) The Malaysian Open tennis matches are on at Kuala Lumpur! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Technology at its best.

The whole day was spent at the Sentosa - the Universal Studio, the underwater world, the dolphin show and the Songs of the Sea, a son-et-lumiere.

The lack of history to back it up - unlike what India richly has - is attempted at being compensated with technology - which, according to me, in the final reckoning falls flat.

But enjoyed the sights and the myriad sounds of the day, thoroughly.


Met Bindhu, from Tellicherry and who runs a chain of three restaurants. Despite the wealth, she's humility personified and outgoing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Off to Singapore.

A drive of 306 kms on the expressway brought us to the Malaysian border town of Jo Baru after which it was a cross over to Singapore, clearing the emigration formalities. Chandran, our guide for the last few days, after landing at KL, looked sad or was it all my imagination? He's promised to be in touch.

Murthi took over from him and he seemed to be quite aware of the officialdom, in that, he could get everything done in a jiffy and we'd deposited our luggage at our hotel before rushing off to be in time for the night safari.

22 year old Atim had taken over from him to be our 'saarthi' and guide from then on.

A hectic day and a late night!


 1. Keeping pace with technology is important, otherwise one can get stranded in the lift, if you please!

2. Atim, an innocent boy, is right now on parole serving a jail term for having used drugs. On query, he disarmingly shrugs it off as the result of bad company!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tea @ 8 RM.

It was sight seeing time at Kuala Lumpur where tradition has blended well with modernity. 'Kuala' means estuary and 'Lumpur' means muddy. The city is on the  estuary of the rivers Gombak and Klang. The rivers still inundate the city but at a low ebb.

What sights, what sounds?


1. The streets are flooded with vehicles but horns rarely used!
2. And a cup of tea @ 8 Ringitts Malaysian at a swanky joint. Duped?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Doughnuts from Krispy Creme, BerjayaTimes Square, KL.

We'd kicked off from Genting after breakfast. Earlier, there was a frantic search for Lekha's misplaced spectacles but to no avail! We're on the road back to Kuala Lumpur and this time, it was Raj behind the wheel.

Enroute, a strawberry farm, a wholesale watch factory and the Batu caves and temple were the highlights. 

Our accommodation is in the heart of the city and the sights of the city are on the agenda.

The evening was spent at the Berjaya Times Square. 


An aspect that was discernible - when the red light turns green at a traffic junction, there're no cacophonics of honks. The Malays are a people with tremendous patience unlike us!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

At Kuala Lumpur.

A trifle past midnight we'd taken off for Kuala Lumpur. Earlier while we're headed to the airport from the hotel, we're witness to the aftermath of a gruesome accident. Hope the people involved have escaped danger.

The flight was uneventful and comfortable. We'd touched down at Kuala Lumpur at a quarter past 7 local time and by 9 we're off in a maxicab driven by a fourth generation Indian, Chandran. Affable and voluble, he gave us a running commentary of the places that we're driving past.

Our first transit was through the nicely planned city of Putrajaya into which most of the government offices have shifted over a period. Wide roads and imposing yet eye pleasing concrete structures are the specialities. There's a beautiful waterbody that has been artificially created giving the city a grandeur that's discernible.

Our destination for the day was the Genting highlands. The over two hour drive took us past acres of palm tree plantation, the source of palmolein oil and a continuous stretch of tropical forest. The final three and a half km stretch was performed in gondolas, slung on cables with a panoramic view of the rain forest.

We're booked into the First World hotel.


The local cuisine with a roller coaster ride were the highlights of a worthwhile day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Off on a foreign jaunt!

For the first time, we're venturing out abroad as private citizens, thanks to my persuasive cousin. Accordingly, she's programmed a week's package that will cover Malaysia and Singapore.

We'd kicked off from Kochi by a quarter past 10 by the Air Lanka. Since we'd gone to the airport well in time, the formalities of checking in and emigration went off like a song. A point that was discernible was that the Sri Lankan in flight personnel were so respectful and charming unlike their counterparts back home, whose behaviour - a few of them that is - is so contrived, so obnoxious!

An hour's flight and we're at the Bandaranaike airport of Colombo! After going through the arrival formalities, we're taken to the hotel, by the seaside, that was going to be our temporary home for the next twelve hours after which we resume our journey to Kuala Lumpur. The weather, replete with rains, has followed us from Kochi out to this picturesque island and the waves of the emerald green Indian Ocean play on the beach which can be viewed from the window of my room!

There wasn't any question of sight seeing because of the wet weather and since there wasn't anything scheduled in the programme. So it was frolic and long walks on the beach.


A midnight flight - again by Air Lanka - to the capital of Malaysia. The serial starts off in right earnest!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

A nice afternoon.

Our onam was at my cousin's place and I was at my wits' end as to what I'd carry for the two elderly moms. The senior of the two, all of 97 yrs and bedridden, responds to communication though her speech takes time to decipher and a nurse looks after her requirements.

The junior mom, aged 79, had recently spent a few days at a nearby hospital as her sugar levels had gone haywire and it took a while before her doctor had brought it back to normalcy. The scar of an angioplasty done on her left foot has healed - well almost, as the wound is being tended even now.

I could get over the impasse with a bit of prodding from Lekha and knocked on the door of their house by a half past 12. The junior mom was thrilled with the diet rusks and her query as to how I knew that she'd wanted to have it, did indeed give me a nice feeling. I really felt happy that I'd got her something right for the occasion! Or was she sportingly playing up to my ego?

A shawl - a hand loom spun stuff with 'zari' - was draped around the elder mom's shoulders as she was gently propped up and there was a round of photo opportunity to capture the special moment. She'd uttered something that was not quite coherent but we knew that she was happy, for, she'd grabbed my hand and held it, sporting a lovely smile all the while. I do not remember as to how long I'd stood there in that pose but a harsh reminder that the lunch was getting late, from my cousin, brought me back from my euphoria. As I left her, she'd floated into the realm of sleep quite oblivious of the happenings around.

I'd like to believe that her favourable reaction was spontaneous as she'd liked my gift!


I was able to get over the melancholy of not spending time with my mom on this special day. She's anyway in much better company - that of my sister's!        

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A hilarious yet embarrassing mix up.

We'd an invite to an engagement ceremony at Aluva, this morning. The venue was a temple's auditorium smack in the middle of the town and the way to the venue was carefully jotted down - the traffic snarls of Aluva are legendary, notwithstanding the fact that it was a Sunday!

And as luck would have it, it poured as we'd begun our onward journey. On such occasions, I tend to forget many things essential and slowly realise my follies on commencement of the event - making it look very, very conspiratorial! And the first mistake was that I'd forgotten to put an umbrella into the car - hoped like mad that the rains would stop by the time we reached the venue as it was about 15 kms away. Secondly, for no particular reason, we'd decided to leave Lekha's cellphone at home as no important calls were expected, after having made the mandatory ones earlier! But that was the second faux pas - all the important numbers, including that of the hosts, was on that phone while mine was blank as my service provider had replaced the original 'SIM card' with a duplicate one, just the other day.

The ongoing work on the Kochi Metro necessitated detours, upsetting the carefully drawn out route, but we could reach the venue after seeking help from a gentleman, towards the final lap. What I saw at the parking space was something that I hadn't envisaged - the adjacent school's playground, that was used for the purpose, was slushy with quite a few vehicles getting bogged down, fraying tempers though the rains had thankfully stopped. After having dropped Lekha at a dry spot to prevent her delay any further, I'd done a few intricate maneuvers to find a passable parking slot but walking through slush made it an uncomfortable experience. But a comedy was soon to follow, perhaps, to lighten the charged atmosphere crafted by none other than the 'Master Scriptwriter'!

I'd entered the venue where the ceremony seemed to have just concluded and seeing me trooping in, I was
escorted to the dais to meet with the couple. I'd noticed two things as I made way through the rows and rows of people watching the proceedings - there seemed to be none neither among the audience nor on the dais whom I could recognise and secondly, the couple stood garlanded and decked as though it was a wedding. And sure enough, it was and it had dawned on your's truly - after all, a recurring 'tube light' phenomenon - that he'd made his grand entry(?) into a wrong function indeed. Hiding my sheepishness to the extent feasible, I'd explained the situation to the people at the dais, blessed the couple and made a hasty retreat to the 'right' function. Phew! Never before had I been so embarrassed!!

Earlier, Lekha'd also gone through a similar experience but had realised her folly well in time to avoid any major embarrassment! And in the hurry, she was in possession of my cellphone.


Life, indeed, is a comedy of errors!

And Ammu and Rahul are gonna wed in mid Jan '14. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

They'd waltzed with us!

It was an early morning today as we'd to go to Thiruvananthapuram to attend an engagement ceremony. The journey, up and down, were by train which made the serial all the more interesting! We'd come across some very nice people unique in the manner in which they'd conducted themselves during our interaction.

  (a) Li'l Rohit.

   The UKG going child was a bundle of energy and effortlessly outgoing. He seemed to have a myriad
   number of questions that he kept hurling at his dad, who was sportingly giving spontaneous answers
   but, shortly after, he seemed to have exhausted out and meekly, went off to catch his 40 winks. It was
   then that the kid befriended me and turned his salvo of queries at me as a sort of a logical turnaround.
   I think I was able to provide him with the answers!

   (b) Shruthi.

   Specialising in Information Technology in a reputed institution, she was on her cellphone almost
   continuously sending messages, answering calls that came in at regular intervals and also listening to
   music while conversing with us and mind you, without losing the thread even once. This spirited young
   lady seems to be the apple of her dad's eye because he was constantly monitoring her travel, to be in
   time at the destination to pick her up without any delay. She's fed our contact number into her phone
   promising to be in touch with us from now on.

   (c) Mr. Balan.

   All of 72 years, he was an amazing bundle of energy who was going to Chalakudi to attend a wedding.
   His patience to know about the others, effortless narration of incidents and people, coupled with a genuine
   show of concern for the others' well being endeared himself to us. Fit as a fiddle, he does not impose
   restrictions on his intake and enjoys everything. He's promised to look us up and be a frequent visitor
   to our house at Guruvayur, once we eventually shift in there!

   (d) Neetu and Natasha.

    A mother-daughter combination who got friendly just because we'd offered to share our berth with
    them as their reservation had gone for a toss and the TTE had offered to help only after a while. Neetu
    teaches in a school, where li'l Natasha studies in class VII about which she isn't very happy because all
    her mistakes and misdemeanour are reported to her mom, pronto! She says it's quite difficult to be well
    behaved at all times and what the hell, she too needs to have her quota of fun and pranks!

The journey was nice and informative. We're at the venue of the engagement on time, thanks to Gopu who'd
willingly taken on the role of the chauffeur and at the venue, I was able to meet up with most of Lekha's relatives whom I was meeting after a fairly long time.


Realised that train journeys can be fun, once in a way, as they give the added advantage of being absolutely hassle free compared to the mental state one's in while having to drive through bad roads and errant motorists!

And Rejish and Renu will wed in the third week of Jan '14!


Friday, September 13, 2013

We're Malayalees...we don't work before, during or after Onam!

We Malayalees are simply great because we do nothing or do wrong things and are capable of sweetly justifying everything. If anyone is in Kerala now and god forbid, that that person has to get something done from a government office - say, like getting an innocuous thing like a birth/death certificate for example - the most likely reply that would be received would be one among the following and that too, accompanied with a disarming smile from the fellow who's gonna give the answer:-

     (a) "Oh! You seem to be new out here. Come after Onam and the certificate shall be your's". And when
          you remind them that Onam is still quite far away, you'll receive that sympathetic look stamping you
          as an ignoramus and a babe in the woods!
     (b) If you're persistent and insist on meeting with the concerned officer, the answer is ready, "He's out in
          the field to directly oversee(?) the preparations for the Onam celebrations", leaving you to wonder
          as to why an official must be doing such things when it should be the responsibility of the social/cultural
     (c) And after the Onam week, the refrain would be, "It was a busy schedule organising the various
          functions and we need to have a break. I'm sure you'd understand(You'd like to shout from the
          rooftop saying that you don't!), you can come after a week when everything will be normal, saar".
     (d) And if a Malayalee good Samaritan were to intervene saying that the outsider must not be put
           through unnecessary difficulty, he' d be firmly told to "go, take a walk".

And now, consider the present impasse:-

     (a) The work on the segment of the Kochi Metro - from Kaloor to Ernakulam south - has come to
          a standstill for the past four days due to labour trouble. I shudder to think of the occasion when
          E Sreedharan is gonna pull himself out of the entire project saying that he's had enough!
     (b) The truck drivers, helpers and cleaners who deliver domestic gas cylinders to the households have
           struck work demanding revision of their remuneration and if they're to persist with their agitation,
           the womenfolk of the southern districts are gonna have a tough time. The remedy is in place, if you
           please... refills are available at err..enhanced rates in the black market and housewives succumb
           to the blackmail because it's Onam!

Why do these things happen, I've always tried to find a reason. Is it anyone of these or a deadly combination of all of them:-

     (a) Playing politics to show the ruling dispensation in poor light?
     (b) We like to play it this way because we can never be satisfied.
     (c) Ask for the moon during important occasions and you'll achieve the impossible!
     (d) The state be damned, it's I, me and myself! Don't you mess with me!!


No wonder that Swami Vivekananda had, years ago, dubbed this part of the country as a 'lunatic asylum'. We continue to live up to that reputation!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A short yet quick trip.

Next week is gonna be hectic with plenty of travel on the cards and as per earlier arrangement, mom had to be shifted to my sister's place at Palakkad. So, it was work as usual in the morning and after having cleared the log, we'd hit the road by lunchtime. The traffic was smooth with no major clutter of vehicles enroute and after a brief respite for lunch at the half way mark, we're at my sister's place by a quarter past 3.

The 30 odd km from Mannuthy through the Kuthiraan hill was much better with the resurfacing done, on a war footing a couple of weeks back, but I'm doubtful about its longevity and my reasons are:-

    (a) The highway's new surface does look brittle and not strong enough to take on the wear and tear
         that would be caused by the movement of heavily laden vehicles on interstate material transfer. A sad
         testimony to the fact that we aren't even able to grow our own food grains, vegetables and fruits within
         the state!
    (b) The width of the new surface leaves out fringes on both sides unsurfaced, with the net result that the
          highway has become narrower and the thickness of the new lay has increased, so much so, that
          there is a sheer drop - about a foot at places - at the extremities. Speeding and erratic vehicles can
          fetch trouble for the asking!
    (c) There are patches that require to be done up and the motorists, I'm sure, go through despair while
         negotiating those unbelievably huge craters. The erratic driving that could be consequential, can make
         a few of them drive crazily on the resurfaced stretch to bring about a hasty wear and tear, what with
         the frequent rains that are prevalent!

After the detailed briefing about mom's medicines - the dosages and the timings, that is - to my sister, we'd kicked off back for Kochi by 1600h, after a quick cuppa, so as to avoid driving after sunset, to the extent feasible. And thankfully, it was managed as all factors seemed to work favourably.

There was a minor skirmish just before entering the city, when another vehicle had passed uncomfortably close, to slam the extended left rear view mirror into the stowed position with a loud thump. And weren't I relieved?

It was indeed a short and uneventful trip!


Mom will be with my sister for the coming fortnight. The temporary stillness in her room has brought about an unusual 'quiet' - we've already started to miss her!                  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When nothing went right.

There are certain days when nothing goes right and for me, today, was one such day. Though there's an initial tendency to break the deadlock, come what may, the sequence of events - and they've this conspiratorial way of going bad, one after the other, leaving one gasping for dear breath - tends to overwhelm! What I do on such occasions, is to become philosophical and wait for the sorry phase to pass without trying to be uptight about the changing schedule of my carefully planned itinerary!!

The morning had begun on a nice note and I was looking forward to a hectic day as mom had to be taken to the ophthalmologist for which a prior appointment had been taken. I was trying to get back home after work and had almost reached the railway level cross when it closed in front of me. Now, this gate has a peculiarity that I've observed over time - when I'm homeward bound, the railway station about 700 mts ahead, northward, is to my left. There's an inordinately long delay for the trains from the station, to pass by and the gate correspondingly takes longer to open! And there's no such delay for the trains headed on the reciprocal!! Today was one such afternoon and I could only twiddle my thumbs, literally, during the wait. And it took more than a half hour before I could continue.

The result was that we could reach the hospital a few minutes after the scheduled appointment and by then, the doctor had moved into the OT to oversee a surgery. It was he who'd done the cataract surgery on both her eyes in May '11 and she was keen that he saw her and therefore, it turned out to be a long wait. Getting her eyes prepared for the clinical examination, an impromptu scan since the doctor couldn't find anything wrong on the initial inspection but taking note of her complaint of frequent pain in her right eye(thanks to her recent fall, perhaps?), the final diagnosis along with the corrective actions followed by placing an order for a pair of new set of glasses, took over three hours. The intermittent waits had also begun to irritate her but the doctor's final piece of conversation with her, thankfully, put all that aside.

It took a long while to manoeuver the car through the busy thoroughfare in front of the Eye hospital, since it was evening rush hour, speeding motorists getting back to their homes after work weren't in any mood for accommodation and hence, a 'u' turn to get us back home materialised after what seemed to be eons fraying my already 'disturbed' nerves!

It was only after getting back home and hitting my familiar 'walking circuit', soon after, that things had settled down. Phew!


Remembered Mac Murphy's famous piece, "If anything has to go wrong, it will!" But the bottom line was that I could finish doing everything that I'd wanted to.     

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Is it the trend of the times?

I would like to go through a few observations about the present happenings and voice my candid comments on them. What amazes me is the sheer audacity in their happenings, making me wonder as to whether the authors really believe in the frivolousness or they're merely testing waters to chart out a future agenda - an aye or a nay doesn't really matter because they've nothing to lose anyways!

1. Opinion polls.

    There are a lot many opinion polls carried out on almost every aspect of the media - be it in print or on the
    visual medium. Wonder whether the outcomes represent a wide cross section(as one would like to
    presume) or a measly number - it's anyone's guess. To my mind the polls that have been conducted - say,
    psephological predictions or on 'weightier' issues cover a wider audience and hence, authentic in knowing
    predominant or prevalent mood.

    The rest, I'm afraid have no real standing and especially, the 'yes/no' variety that gives me the laughs. For
    example, here's a gem after Leander Paes and his partner, Stepanek had won the US Open's doubles

         "Will Leander Paes break Martina Navratilova's record of winning a grand slam title at 46 years of

     And as Perry Mason says, 'the prosecution rests'!

 2. Servicemen into politics.

     Many servicemen, having shed their uniforms, have tried their luck at politics and quite a few have
     succeeded. And why not? I'm of the firm opinion that the fine values imbibed during their training in
     the armed forces make them a different class altogether, who would really care for the welfare of the
     masses and may, there be many. No, I ain't making out a case for myself.

     Rajyavardhan Rathore, seems to be the latest to join the bandwagon. He'd done us proud by winning
     the silver medal in shooting, during the Athens Olympics. While stepping into the political arena, he
     needs to understand that the ultimate success would be his only by a genuine allegiance to the Academy
     credo of 'service before self' - the associated power, glamour and glitz are too short lived! And above
     all, the essence is to be a good human being. Period!

     I say this because, a few years ago, he hadn't acquitted himself well when a brother officer was badly
     mauled by his dogs. Handling fame and wealth is a tough job old boy and therein lies the strength of
     your upbringing!!


I'm awaiting the punishment that's gonna be meted out to the guilty in connection with the Delhi gang rape case of last year. Sincerely hope that the young lady's sad end would not go in vain!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Old age and lack of sleep.

I'm gonna share my thoughts on the subject based on my experiences of looking after dad and mom. They might not have sound medical logic nor am I suggesting similar experiences for everybody, under the circumstances, but I'm sure that what I'm gonna say could be added as additional information!

As is common knowledge, sleep becomes a casualty in most people during old age. While I shan't dwell upon the causes, the restlessness that it causes to the individual besides denying sleep to the attendant can give rise to strained nerves and irritability. Doctors usually prescribe soporifics, depending on the graveness of the ailment and they can be either effective or devastating in their effects. Let me try to explain this dichotomy from my own experiences.

Dad was ailing from the Parkinson's Syndrome and at times, used to get violent and hurt himself in the bargain, especially when he did not quite agree with a particular idea - it could be trivia, that came up in the normal course of conversation. In his case, the soporific administered, every night, helped him to calm down and there was no problem, whatsoever, thereafter.

My mom's case has been totally different. She just doesn't get sleep at night while having her snatches of sleep during the daytime. And there's no complaint of any violence. Her doctor had prescribed a soporific and on the first night of its administration, she was reduced to something like those dazed, helpless human beings coming out of rubble consequent to an aerial bombing! The affable doctor agreed to my request of withdrawing the medicine pronto, on my plea.

Many of my friends have suggested remedial measures and consequent discussions with a few pharmacists, have added a new dimension in this regard. Narcotic-laced drugs - with almost no after effects - are popularly used to tackle this vexed problem. But what everyone reiterates is that the prolonged use of such drugs chips away the vitality of the individual! And the flip side is that one can't blame the people who endorse the use of such drugs as their primary concern is that of the safety of the geriatric.

Home remedies have also been suggested to me and I shall touch upon just a couple of them:-

     (a) Light massaging of the soles of the feet - with any oil - just prior to sleep. Its flip side is that the
          individual can slip and fall, on an attempt to go round the corner when the urge beckons, in complete
          forgetfulness about the oil that had been applied earlier!

     (b) Giving a nice bath before being sent to bed. Easier said than done because, in most cases, there's a
           general reluctance to bathe, especially, after sunset!


I've decided to keep my mom free of any soporifics or other methods. We try to keep her occupied during the daytime so that she avoids sleeping and conserves it for the night. And I pray that she doesn't hurt or fall during her nocturnal visits to the toilet at night. God, please keep a constant watch on her!

I'd never ever like her to lose her vitality, her effervescence which are her hallmarks!!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

My favourite programme is back and other stories.

This weekend has been really nice. It was a restful one and I was able to tie up a lot many things for the coming week and also clear the backlog! I shall touch upon a few things that thrilled, amused and irritated me this time.

1. KBC is back!

My favourite programme, 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' hosted by Amitabh Bachchan is back on the Sony entertainment channel. It's gonna be aired for the next twelve weekends and I shan't, to the extent feasible, miss any of the episodes. Mr. Bachchan's easy and natural act in putting the contestants at ease should be a lesson for the other hosts on similar shows.

What makes it endearing for me are the following factors:-
          (a) Mr. Bachchan's class and effortless act as the host.
          (b) The genuine thrill on the part of the participants to be with Mr. Bachchan(In fact, this
                evening, a young gentleman literally threw himself on the host after being cleared to sit
                on the 'hot' seat).
          (c) The quiz covers a fairly wide repertoire.
          (d) Am a quiz buff myself and have hosted a few similar programmes!

2. Insistence on speed governors.

After a spate of road accidents that took many lives, the Motor Vehicle Department of the state has swung into action. The accidents have been caused mainly because of overspeeding to meet unimaginable schedules in the greed to make more money. The drivers negotiate their vehicles through traffic as though the roads form part of their personal fiefdom and most of them drive with a gay abandon with scant respect to their fellow motorists.

 Over 300 private buses and almost a hundred buses of the road transport corporation find that their 'road worthiness' certificates have been annulled for not having the mandatory requirements - the speed governor being just one among them! The bus owners have decided to take their buses off the roads, beginning tonight, saying that they're being discriminated by the Motor Vehicle Department vis-a-vis the state road transport corporation. What amuses me is that they don't seem to understand the need for speed governors and chastising their workers to be more disciplined.

Or is it that a strict MVD is unacceptable to us mallus? We actually want them to be corrupt and compromising so that we can cut corners the way we want without caring a damn about rules and regulations!

3. Carnage and riots in Muzaffarnagar.

Muzaffarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh, has flared up this time over an innocuous issue as per my understanding - the love affair of a girl and a boy belonging to different communities viz. the Jats and the Gujjars. Scores of people have died and I wonder as to how people can take the life of another on such a flimsy reason. If one is averse to such a relationship, the prudent thing would be to leave the couple to live by themselves and if they succeed just accept the simple fact that they're made for each other.

Wonder what the law enforcing agencies and the elders were doing? Life doesn't seem to have taught anything for the latter. Sad!


I suppose this bundle of contradictions makes India quite different from the rest!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Saturday soliloquy.

The sky was overcast throughout the day and the meteorological department has predicted a week full of rains. It was a quiet half day at work and I could catch up on a lot of pending personal work that had accumulated, over time, after the working hours. A collage of thoughts come into my mind, quite haphazardly, and I intend going over them.

Today is Atham. 10 days from now, the Onam festivities begin and the blisteringly skyrocketing prices of essential commodities on account of a falling 'rupee' hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of the average Malayalee in his anticipation of celebrating the annual event. From today onward, for the next 10 days, flower patterns(Athappoovu) would be displayed at the front courtyard of every Malayalee's house as a mark of receiving Mahabali, the 'Asura' king, on his annual visit to his erstwhile kingdom that he'd ruled eons ago very efficiently. And not to forget the swing on a suitable tree, within the premises, which would be used by every member of the household cutting across age and other trivia.

And no, we've no 'athapoovu' in front of our house as we stay in a flat! We'd be celebrating Onam at my sister's place at Palakkad.

Zubin Mehta's Peace Concert. I was on tenterhooks about the peaceful conduct of the maestro, Zubin Mehta's peace concert at the Shalimar Bagh on the banks of the Dal lake in Srinagar. He'd named it as the 'Ehsaas-e-Kashmir' and a tight security cordon ensured that there was no untoward incident during the show because the separatists - the Pakistani stooges - had threatened to disrupt it. Out of spite, they'd organised a parallel event but found not many takers and a grenade was hurled at a group of policemen resting outside the district hospital in Pulwama. The cowards!

His group's performance was brilliant, as usual, and I was able to view snatches of it thanks to the coverage on television.

The Reserve Bank of India has a new Governor. Raghuram Rajan has taken over as the new Governor of the RBI and the rupee had gained in expectation, without much change in the existing structural. We shall now see his signature on our currency notes and it's my fond hope that he will be able to bring back the rupee to its robust health!

Nothing short of Capital Punishment. A thousand kg of 'Tsunami meat' - of low quality and over a week's vintage - was seized by the Health department of Kochi. The tsunami meat consists of liver and chest portions and is usually, left overs of exported meat. Going into further details, it's a mix of 15 kg of low grade meat and 5 kg of quality meat tagged at Rs.40/- per kg. I never knew that we 'mallus' were so greedy to eat meat compromising upon quality and hygiene! The meat was brought into the city from Hubli and stacked in a rundown shed that had neither refrigeration nor proper ventilation!!

It's my opinion that the unscrupulous guys who dish out dangerous food to their fellowmen, should be rounded up and tried in a fast track court to be served the sentence of capital punishment because what they're indulging in is tantamount to mass murders! They deserve no mercy, whatsoever!!


Sister Grace went about her work without any problem and she was effusive in her gratitude for having made it easy!


Friday, September 6, 2013

In search of an 'ampule cutter'!

Sister Grace, who comes to our house every Tuesday and Saturday to administer injections on my mom, has been having a tough time to open up the injection ampule made of glass. Usually she comes in just before she's rushing off to the hospital for joining up on duty. Last Tuesday, she had spent quite a bit of her 'rush hour' in prying the damn thing open.

She'd 'gracefully' agreed to administer the injections on my request and consequently, I felt that I was duty bound to make her job easy with a minimum lapse of time at my place. My mom would be readied after her morning routines, bath and breakfast followed by medicines just to ensure that the kind sister didn't lose any of her valuable time. Seeing her predicament using one of the kitchen knives, I'd asked her as to how I could help her to sort out this vexed issue and she'd said that she'd get an 'ampule cutter' from the hospital during her next visit. However, I decided to solve the problem myself.

This evening while on my walk, I'd asked the pharmacist whom I frequent, as to where I could get the coveted(?) instrument and had imposed two conditions. It had to be a shop that sold medical equipment and the shop had to be within the limits of my walking route so that I could possess it by the end of my exercise schedule! Thankfully, there was one such shop that required my detour only by a short distance and the pharmacist did explain its location to the minutest detail.

As I walked home with the instrument @ Rs.25/-, I was happy to have achieved an unachievable milestone - so I thought - and hummed the number, though totally unconnected with the situation:-

        "Everybody was Kung Fu fighting
         Those kids were fast as lightning
         In fact, it was a little bit frightening
         But they did it with expert timing.....

         O ho ho ho ho ho....ha.....o ho ho ho ho ho
         O ho ho ho ho ho....ha.....o ho ho ho ho ho

         China Kung Fu man, Kung Fu China man....."


At least Sister Grace would not have to labour unnecessarily when she comes by tomorrow! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Teacher's day.

On the occasion of the 'Teacher's Day' today, I'd like to remember all my teachers who'd taken great pains to nurture me and ensured that I would imbibe the right values as I grew under their watchful eyes. I've heard stories from people who're bitter about their experiences with a few of their teachers and I could only sympathise with their misfortune. I can unhesitatingly say that all my teachers of the different schools and institutions - the portals of which I'd the privilege to pass through - were worthy ladies and gentlemen who'd the healthy growth of their students uppermost in their minds.

My silent prayers for those who've passed into the mist of time, my prayers and good wishes to the rest with an earnest appeal to god to give them a healthy and trouble free life. And to all my friends who've chosen the noble profession of teaching, my good wishes and the reiteration that every achievement of yours delights me, because it shows your dedication and earnestness towards your profession.

And now, I shall go back in time to my days at the Academy to remember three instructors - there were many but for starters I shall concentrate on these fine gentlemen - who'd nurtured me and liked me despite the pranks that I'd played on them:-

   (a) Mr. AB Santram.

   My Chinese instructor whom none of us had ever seen to be angry. He used to persistently insist upon us
   to learn and enjoy the use of the language. It was he who'd told me that my name in the language would be
   'Lajiwa'(pronounced Laachiwa, meaning 'the bearer of good luck') and I can never forget the happiness
   writ large on his face on seeing my results in the 'prelims'. And there was an occasion, on one of the
   'foreign language dinners'(used to be held in rotation at the 'Cadets' Mess, where the students broke bread
   together and spoke only in the language for the entire duration, under the watchful eyes of the instructor!)
   when he'd taken great pains to help me in the use of chopsticks and the clumsy guy that I was, took an
   awfully long time to take in the nuances!

   Subsequently, on my getting back to the Academy as a member of the Directing Staff, I'd the privilege of
   interacting with him more often and brush up the language. I used to eagerly look forward to those trysts as
   I was the beneficiary of a wonderful education!

    (b) Dr. SH Hussainy.

    A dignified and quiet instructor of Maths, who took me through the intricate world of Differentiation and
    Integration as I fumbled quite often in their intricacies. I can never forget the time when he'd taken upon
    himself to help me with extra coaching when my marks at one of the unit tests were far from encouraging.
    His concerted efforts had yielded results and I can never forget the thrill that he showed at my enhanced

    I'd the privilege of interacting with him subsequently on my posting back to the Academy and had a lump
    in my throat when he'd recalled my personal number and squadron. I can never forget that glint in his eye
    during the occasion - too small and trivial to be remembered by him!

     (c) Company Havildar Major S Gurung.

      He was our 'drill ustad' and addressed me as 'Rajvir'. On the drill square, during instructions, it used to
      be the reason for my course mates' ribbing when he ordered, "Ab peeche mur ka word of command
      dega, Rajvir". I can never forget the time when he'd come and hugged me for having cleared the 'drill
      square test' in the first chance during my first term.

      That gave me the privilege of shedding the armband with my personal number inscribed on it for a
      lanyard, with the added privilege of going to the city on weekend 'liberty'! And yes, Gurung saab's
      Hindi was worse than mine. His oft repeated words while taking permission from his immediate
      superior, Nayub Subedar Shyam Singh were, "Saab, mein ja rahi hoon". The retort from N/Sub
      Shyam Singh - with a wink at us - was even more humorous, "Aap ja rahi hai tho jao".


How do I convey my feelings to those gentlemen who'd contributed so much towards my evolution in life?

I shall ever remain indebted to you for looking after me. Thank you, sirs. Thanks indeed!    

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A quiet half day!

The early morning was peaceful sans the useful noise of fast moving vehicles, screeching brakes and long drawn out, irritating horns. It was due to the dawn-to-dusk strike called by the all-party trade unions protesting against the oil price hike and they'd advised motorists from getting their private vehicles on the roads as an expression of solidarity with the strikers!

 (a) In my Chevy.

 As is the current practice, I'd taken my Chevy for going to work and I'd a couple of guys who'd wanted to
 hitch a hike, fearing retribution of sorts from the strikers. Thankfully, there were no such unsavoury incidents
 mainly because I was in uniform and also, more importantly, there's a police station half way on the route
 that acts as a deterrent! The speeding private buses, the zigzagging autorickshaws and pick up trucks with
 loads were thankfully off the roads.

 And the strikers were magnanimous, in that, they'd offered a Nelson's eye to the motorists who ventured out
 on their vehicles. The net result was that many of the two wheeler riders and a few cars zipped past
 uncomfortably, drawing butterflies in one's stomach. All in all, a peaceful strike and thank god and of course,
 the strikers for minor mercies!

 (b) Things are a changing.

 Happened to come across the extracts of the National Economic Census 2012-'13 which takes a complete
 count of all establishments located within the geographical boundaries of the country. Further, an
 establishment is defined as 'a unit or an economic entity situated in a single location where one kind of
 economic activity is carried out such that at least a part of the goods or services produced by the unit is
 sold'. The last such census was carried out in 2005.

 With technological innovations, more capital intensive industries are coming up to displace the traditional
 ones that largely depended on skills.

 A couple of curious and sharp changes that have occurred over the past seven years are:-
     (i) STD/ISD/Local call facilities have largely been rendered redundant by the advent of the cellphones.
         The traditional booths that provided those facilities have been replaced by the mobile recharge shops!
     (ii) Skilled workers writing number plates of vehicles are being increasingly substituted by units that
          use sticker cutting machines!!

 So, we're making great strides ahead absorbing the galloping technology to our advantage, eh?


Another day when Kerala was paralysed in certain areas thanks to the strike - the children had an unscheduled holiday, running errands for the common man was a difficult proposition and what one would like to know is as to what has been achieved in the end. To me, it defies logic!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why fret?

This evening there was this young lady of our residential area who'd dropped by for advice and directions to conduct classes in painting and cooking. She's a talented individual with a double graduation, one of them being that of the Fine Arts. And she'd come knocking at my door to remove her apprehensions and have a clear idea as to was expected of her as per the by-laws, laid down by the residential committee.

She was accompanied by her three children - a boy(5 yrs), two girls aged 3 yrs and 10 months, respectively. The two kids had instantly made our house active and noisy with their playing around, punctuated with frequent fights and the object of their 'possessive battles' was my rocking chair. I was apprehensive that the chair would careen and topple over hurting them in the bargain as the kids tried to rock it harshly, to dislodge the one who was perched on it. Finally, I was able to bring the two kids under a sort of truce by letting each one of them to rock alternatively, for a specific time period!

The young lady was told about the existing regulations and in the course of our conversation, I'd expressed my admiration for her ability and the patience in bringing up the three children. It was in response to this statement of mine that she talked of a 'fourth kid' at her home - her mother, stricken by the Parkinson's Syndrome at a comparatively young age of 57 yrs!

She should have an unlimited source of energy and patience to take on such a situation 24x7, I thought privately and what was commendable was that she wanted to take classes in cooking/painting over and above her tight schedule. Silently, I saluted her for her positive outlook and the obvious bundle of energy that she was!

And as she was leaving, I wonder why she said this and I quote, "It was my husband who'd insisted on a two year gap between each child", in a barely audible voice. Probably, she was apologising in her own cute way for the ruckus caused by her children, poor thing! And as if on cue, the baby in her arms, had begun to cry. I was nonplussed, wondering as to what appropriate response could be provided to reduce her agony and soon heard my voice, "Don't worry, they'll grow up in no time and will be raring to help you out in your work"!

Tailpiece - A dad's angst!

My school mate and friend had called up after what seemed to be a long time. I was his 'House Captain' at school long ago and he considers me as one of his mentors(?). Today, he was lamenting as to how his daughter - super specialising in Law abroad - had lost her laptop that contained her painfully crafted dissertation, which was to be presented shortly. Knowing the young lady, I'm sure she'd overcome the setback and come out with flying colours.

I listened to his tale not having the foggiest as to how I could lend him a helping hand, in the circumstances!       

Monday, September 2, 2013

Why did he do this?

I was at the doctor's for my mom's review, after three weeks of medicines, when the sad news had trickled in. In fact, my cellphone was with my man Friday as I did not want any interruption while my mom's medical examination was on and to enable me to mentally note down the dosages/timings of the medicines without any ambiguity! There's been a slight progress and a couple of medicines have been added.

It was with a sigh of relief that we'd come out of the doctor's inspection room when the boy at hand, had
informed me about an urgent call from my sister. As I made my connect, she broke the sad news about Suraj having taken his life the previous day. He and his wife are in the armed forces, and they've been at New Delhi over the past three years in pursuit of their professional careers.

I'd first met Suraj at their wedding reception on the eve of 30 Dec 2007 at a hall, adjacent to the headquarters of the Kerala Grandhasala Sanghom, in Thiruvananthapuram. His wife is related to me albeit, a trifle distantly, through my elder brother-in-law. A handsome young man, full of life and raring to go in his professional career - that was my first impression of him. And he was a damn friendly and outgoing guy. Subsequently, he used to visit us at our place at Delhi whenever he would come by on duty.

I'd met his wife and daughter, a few months back, at a relative's wedding here at Kochi, when she'd told me that he couldn't attend the function as he was busy at work. And the bad tidings have come by today.

Here's hoping that the young lady and their daughter have the strength to tide over these difficult times. But what keeps haunting me is as to what had gone wrong, when everything seemed to be going right for him, to have egged him on to take such an extreme step.

Suraj, here's wishing you peace in eternity and I must confess that I shall miss your smiling face!


The width of the highways, all over the country, has been fixed at 60 mts. In Kerala, citing lack of space thanks to its density of population - a weak alibi, if one were to ask me - a case was made to reduce it to 45 mts but the latest buzz is that it has been agreed at 30 mts!

We seem to be missing the cardinal point. With adequate width, a center median can be erected all along the highway, which would greatly reduce accidents and enforce lane discipline. But we, mallus, just don't seem to care because human lives are cheap out here, perhaps!!   

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The drama over Syria!

The yanks seem to be zeroing in on the present regime of Syria. But contrary to their wish, Britain and Germany have come with a 'nyet' on an allied assault thanks to their internal compulsions and on the other hand, France is willin'! The allied forces basically want to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons against its people and in the process bring about a regime change, perhaps. Russia and China have expressed their unwillingness to support such a venture and hence, it's a stalemate at the United Nations. And India has taken the stand that she'll only support an action that has the blessings of the UN.

In Syria, there has always been an existential struggle between the Alawites and the Sunnis, the Druze and the Christians ever since it was carved out of the ruins of the great Ottoman Empire. And there's been a sort of after effect of the Arab spring that had witnessed stunning results in neighbouring Egypt. But what has brought Syria to this sorry pass when she's counting the hours in anticipation of the might of the armoury of the allied forces, that would befall upon them anytime?

Bad governance and failing to take note of an even greater catastrophe! Natural calamity and mismanagement of natural resources had triggered off intense sectarianism. Shahrzad Mohtadi, a scholar on global security, has explained the connection between climate change and political uprising in the country. Consider the following facts:-

    (a) Syria's patchwork of religions and sects had coexisted peacefully over the years. But five years ago,
         an environmental catastrophe hit the country's agricultural belt.
    (b) Scanty rainfall between 2006 and 2010 resulting in unprecedented drought rendered its north-
         eastern agricultural fields into deserts!
    (c) Unable to eke out a living, over 1.5 million destitute farmers moved to the suburbs of Damascus and
         other cities, living in makeshift tents and scrounging for a living.
    (d) Massive shortfalls in production turned an exporter of wheat into a major importer. Food prices hit
         the roof, punishing the mostly Sunni farmers, who once fed the nation.
    (e) Their plight was largely ignored by the country's Alawite rulers that stoked anger and initiated conflict.
    (f)  To make matters worse, Syrian security forces had tortured children who'd made a graffiti of anti-
         government slogans on their school wall, sometime in Mar 2011 and its epicenter, the city of Dara'a,
         exploded in anger.
    (g) The destitute Sunni farmers joined the protest and their congregations in the suburbs were targeted by
         the government's forces using conventional weapons and more recently, chemical weapons.
    (h) Incidentally, another wrong agricultural policy on the part of the government of promoting water-
         intensive cotton for exports quietly began depleting the groundwater reserves at an alarming rate of
         the Tigris and Euphrates river basins!
One feels sorry for that country. Negative factors have arraigned themselves and have put her in the tight spot she's in. And there has to be a way out because uncertainty can never be endured for long! It's the time for statesmen, well wishers and intellectuals to bring about a lasting solution for a durable peace. Asking for too much?


Can't help but be reminded by that age old saying, "When ill luck comes, it comes in legions"!