Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year that was!

On the last day of the year it'd be right to take stock of the activities undertaken thus far.

I'd list the following as personal achievements:-

   - streamlined mom's and Lekha's medical management.
   - monitoring dad's house periodically to ensure the upkeep and cleanliness, though I must admit
     that the last visit was not as I'd expected.
   - maintained communications with near and dear ones to the extent feasible.
   - the activities of the Foundation was engrossing enough as more responsibilities are forthcoming.
   - the audits undertaken for the QCI were an education and an occasion to meet people ofdiffering
   - hosting relatives and friends which became a recurring theme but exhilarating experiences.
   - and I think, I've been able to control the pace of my life!

There were quite a few departures of people who'd showered their unrestrained love and affection on me and the void created by their passing away can never ever be bridged. The fickleness of life accentuated yet again!

Coming to national and international events, Modi becoming the Prime Minister and the tremendous hope that he's given his countrymen - his detractors' opinions notwithstanding - will go a great way in steering the country through these tricky times. That international curiosity has been converted to an increasing interest in his 'Make in India' policy is a turning point in the way the foreigners looked at everything Indian. His 'Swachch Bharath' campaign is another important initiative, that, if undertaken meticulously will go a long way in taking the country forward!

Internationally, there's a united thinking that terrorism is the greatest bane of the times and the combined effort to tackle the ISIS, in particular, is the biggest happening on this front! The scourge needs to be wiped off permanently.


(a) 2014 has been a year that was a combination of good and bad happenings, as is but natural and am sure that the events definitely contributed to the learning curve. Let's wish all of us a very interesting, happening and a nice year in 2015!
(b) We continue to be at my kid sister's place at Bangalore waiting to ring in the new year! 


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Pakis still don't seem to have learnt!

The last few days have been witness to a series of flip flops on the part of Pakistan regarding the detention of Laqvi, the mastermind behind the Bombay blasts of '93 and for whom. India has been on the lookout all these years.

One was under the impression that the Pakistani judiciary was with the truth since the time it had crossed swords with Musharraf, when he wielded power. For it to rule against the detention of the dreaded terrorist and to grant him bail can only be viewed as an act of defiance and a move to prick India. What gives credence to the doubt is that the court's decision comes in the wake of the brutal terrorist attack on innocent school children at Peshawar just a fortnight ago - that country can go through any problem but India must suffer. Period!

The Pakistani establishment had vowed to go after the perpetrators of terror then. And now, comes this condemnable act on their part to let Laqvi go free! Why don't they realise, at least now, that they'd get singed in this diabolical game? They seem to want to get at India at the slightest pretext.....jealousy at our progress and prosperity can't be the continuing basis of their foreign policy!

And yes, if Pakistan really wants to compete with India it must be ready to carry out the following:-

   (a) Depoliticise their armed forces and send them to their barracks.
   (b) Embrace genuine democracy
   (c) The politicians must get off their anti-India mindset and endeavour to provide good governance
   (d) Stop comparing itself with India because the two are incomparable and
   (e) All those who blame India for the dismemberment of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh in
         '71, must get their history right in that it was their politicians and the armed forces that had
         provoked the then, east Pakistanis by their years of misrule and exploitation! To take 'revenge'
         on India is the silliest excuse that a Pakistani harbours and it must also clearly understand that
         it can never win a war against India...its nuclear arsenal notwithstanding! 

By carrying out all the actions mentioned above, it will become a genuine democracy and then acquire the capability to compete with India on the path of development!


Mom was in bad shape by sunset. She seemed to be out of her depth and totally disoriented. The neurophysician, next door, had made a house call and put her on antibiotics....her medical diary that we always carry while on the move enabled him to take the right decision. Her urine sample was offered for a 'culture' before 2300h at the nearby path lab and blood tests will be carried out tomorrow.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another example of how we pick up unnecessary controversies!

Yet another instance of how we Indians rake up controversies and fritter away valuable time, that should have been used for productive purposes!

There seems to be a consistent effort from some quarters to show the movie, 'PK' in poor light. It's my firm opinion that everyone has the right to criticise or put across a point of view but no one has the right to prevent the others from expressing their points of view, though it's incumbent upon them to do so in a civilised manner!

The fringe Hindu groups have gone about vandalising cinemas of Ahmedabad that are screening the movie. While the police have been going about their duty, in removing the miscreants, the state government has been absolutely silent about its stand on the rioters' demand of banning the movie from further screening! Five aspects shown in the movie are being depicted as the ones that upset 'Hindu' sentiments and I'd like to highlight them to show their sheer absurdity:-

       (a) Lord Shiva is shown in poor light.
             In the movie, there's a scene in which a person, in the garb of the lord is chased by PK into
             a public washroom and later locked within it!

       (b) The followers of Lord Shiva are shown in poor light.
             In the movie, PK asks aloud as to why milk is wasted by pouring it over the 'Shiva linga'
             instead of providing it to the starving millions!

        (c) The god is likened to a common man.
              In the movie, PK asks a godman as to why his god needs security and hype like a human
              being if he's omnipresent and all powerful .

        (d) Encourages what's now commonly referred to as 'love jihad'.
              A Hindu girl falls in love with a Muslim boy, from Pakistan.

        (e) The movie, once again, puts the Hindus against the Muslims.
              I can't think of a single scene that does so, after having seen the movie!

It can be clearly understood that the entire ruckus is much ado about nothing.


And what do we have to say about an artist's creative freedom?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Three disasters!

Bangalore had woken up to a dull day with the sun behind the clouds for most of the day. The nip was less but the roads saw fairly heavy traffic thanks to the IT professionals, along with their families, making their weekend calls and merriment!

As time races towards the end of '14, the city is all decked up to ring in the new year. There's festivity in the atmosphere and an air of cautious optimism - about the impending future - seems to be the overwhelming, prevalent mood. And it was this idyllic setting that suffered a setback with the depressing news of three disasters - two incidents, taking place far away from us and the third, right in this city, in our backyard!

 (a) Disaster in the air.

  Air Asia flight QZ 8501 - an airbus A320-200 carrying 155 passengers and 7 crew members - had
  gone missing, 42 minutes after taking off at 0535h local time from Indonesia's Surabaya. It was  
  headed for Singapore. While rescue operations are on there has been no trace of the aircraft, making 
  it an uneasy, tearful vigil for the relatives of the passengers!

  (b) Disaster at sea.

  The ferry, 'Norman Atlantic' - flying the Italian flag and carrying 477 passengers - was gutted by
  fire off the Greek coast, in the Adriatic Sea during the morning hours. It's been ascertained by
  workers on board that the fire had erupted at the parking bay for vehicles, in the cargo hold.
  Ferry disasters, usually, show the leeway taken in ensuring foolproof measures in disaster
  management by the concerned authorities - sadly, a global attitude!

  (c) Disaster on land.

   And in our own backyard, as the city of Bangalore is gearing up to ring in the new year, an IED
   had exploded on the Church street, a few minutes past 2000h! We'd traversed past the point, about
   half an hour prior to the explosion on our way to my friend's house near Ulsoor. A 38 year old
   lady was the instant casualty, hit by the splinters of the comparatively low intensity device - some
   cause for comfort that a major catastrophe hadn't taken place, huh!

My prayers for the deceased. Hope their relatives are able to tide over these stressful times!


The evening at my friend's place was a nice affair. My classmates, residing at Bangalore, had got together to celebrate our arrival at the garden city - damn cute of them! And Uma and Venugopal played the perfect hosts!!

Our 'saarthi', Shivamurthy Reddy was brusque, to the point of being rude and had brought us back in record time!!! Was it a reflection of his anger that we'd gone late into the evening? Many of the drivers, hired by the Tours and Travels guys are uncouth and ill mannered. Wonder whether their antecedents have been whetted thoroughly by their employers........otherwise, disasters are waiting to happen.


Saturday, December 27, 2014


Our third day in the garden city! We'd booked for the morning show of Aamir Khan's new film, 'PK' at a mall nearby.

It was the show at 1030h and we're at the premises on the dot but by the time the vehicle was parked in the basement, tickets collected and we'd taken our seats, it was ten minutes into the movie - a situation that I abhor but given the circumstances it was acceptable. The multiplex hall was packed, in fact, we'd got our bookings on the second row and the screen looked really big(?)!

The movie - made by the winning trio of Vidhu Vinod Chopra-Raju Hiraani-Aamir Khan, after '3 Idiots' - was nice and we(There were eight of us and I can safely say that mom was the oldest viewer in the hall) enjoyed it thoroughly. It had a social message about God being one and the people being exploited on their fear factor by the numerous 'messengers of god'! The society is divided into religious communities, each distrusting the other - a feeling perpetrated by the heads to reinforce their enduring importance!!

Tautly edited, the story is told in an interesting manner and the actors play their parts well. Every character has a role, I mean, no one seems out of place and is integral to the storyline.

During the afternoon session, there were visits by a few of our relatives and friends of my sister. The day was packed, therefore, with activities and we didn't realise as to how time flew!


A lack of forethought saw mom feeling uncomfortable in the harsh air conditioned environs of the multiplex. But she insisted that she'd enjoyed the movie anyways! Sorry mom for the faux pas.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What madness?

It was supposed to be a day of calls. Our journey had commenced at 11 AM - to cater for the traffic madness - and boy, what a horrendous experience it was and to make matters worse, we'd to traverse from Gottikkere to Yashwantpur, back to Gottikkere and then to Hormavu! At any given direction the distance was around 25 kms and the transit duration shouldn't have taken more than half an hour provided the roads were navigable, without glitches.

To cater for the present needs that will also encompass future trends and requirements - say, for the next 25 yrs - infrastructural augmentation needs to be vigorously followed. Whenever such work is undertaken, there's gonna be obstruction to the smooth flow of traffic and people, generally, accept the impasse sportingly hoping for the better times ahead!

It speaks of the enormous patience of the Bangaloreans that they've endured the traffic snarls that have been an ongoing saga for the last so many years! Governments had come and gone, tall promises were made by each of them without delivering results. The people have given up all hopes, becoming cynical in the process - as I could gather from my interactions with the people that I'd come across - saying that there was no point in hoping for better things as none was able to deliver owing to the hopeless situation.

And what do the concerned agencies - involved in the work of commissioning the metro rail, flyovers, etc - say? Each - the telecommunication department, the PWD and the water authority while throwing the spanner in the works, periodically - blames the other for being obstructive and insensitive to the requirements! It's a typical Indian syndrome of faulting the other without accepting the blame for their own mistakes!!

I doff my hat to the enduring patience of the Bangaloreans! You deserve a better deal folks. Period!!


(a) Who should be blamed for this colossal mess? To my mind, all the governments that have ruled here, thus far, for not being imaginative and for lacking the foresight to assess the requirements of the future. Instead, they'd concentrated on short term goals to score brownie points over their political rivals and win elections! How did they envisage an industrial and productive hub without setting up the basic infrastructural development? Couldn't they have set up satellite townships and connected up them up to the old city?

(b) Meeting up with Sunny and Theresa was a pleasure as always. It was nice to catch up with their tidings and the evening just flowed!           

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In the garden city.

We'd set off from Rema's place by a few minutes after 6 AM. Soon after - barely a kilometre later - we hit the scene of a ghastly accident involving a truck, a Maruti omni and a two wheeler and from the sight of the mangled remains of the machines, it was fairly clear that a few of the passengers had taken a grave hit, God bless their souls!

The drive was a nice experience with comparatively less traffic on the expressway. Stops for breakfast, tea and lunch were taken to shake off the dreariness of the long journey and to make it easier for mom from the aches and the pains. 'The Peppermint', at Hosur, had laid out its Christmas buffet lunch and we, being their first set of guests for the afternoon, were lavished with their hospitality. I'd stuck to being a vegetarian even though there were mouth watering dishes including the aromatic 'Hyderabadi biryani'!

Without losing our way, we could reach Mini's place by about 1400h. The conglomeration of the entire family - minus Achu, my nephew, as he didn't have adequate leave to make this outing - was made possible after weeks of planning!

The evening walk and meeting with many of Mini's friends made Christmas '14 a memorable occasion! But a faux pas - sorted out with immaculate ease, though - was to follow. My sister had provided an immaculate spread of non-vegetarian fair for the occasion and insisted upon my indulgence and I didn't have the heart to belittle her efforts. The 40 day abstinence was, thus, brought to an end!

The first evening, at Bangalore, was a memorable one.


(a) My mom's thrill to be with her younger daughter and above all, my niece, Ammu's happiness on seeing us was the 'Kodak moment' of the day!
(b) And a naughty aside. Wish I'd known about my sister's dinner spread well in advance....I'd have tucked in the Hyderabadi biryani - an enduring weakness! - earlier in the day!!     

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On the first leg.

The first leg of a ten day journey brought us to my sister's place at Palakkad, two hours before sunset just as she was returning from the school, where she teaches.

The whole of the forenoon was spent in tying up loose ends and securing 'The Quarterdeck'. The LPG refill arrived a few minutes before we're to kick off. Phew! A special mention of the much touted computerised booking of the cooking gas refill(A grim warning to those who vouch for technology making a system transparent and therefore, ensuring that there's no scope for corruption!) This is just to highlight that, in our country, even the most foolproof system ends up having loopholes and is exploited by the crooked within to suit their requirements! Consider the milestones mentioned below, where it takes 50 days to get a refill from the date of booking as per official clarification and here's what Lekha'd to undergo:-

        (a) 30 Oct              Books for a refill, online and gets a serial number that she notes down.
        (b) 17 Dec             As it's a week from the date of departure out of station and over 50 days
                                      days since the booking was done, she decides to check the status only to
                                      get frustrated to see that the date of booking is now being registered as
                                      16 Nov!
        (c) 18 Dec             She cross checks yet again only to find that the booking has been cancelled!
                                      In a fit of rage, she goes to the Indane office in which the connection is
                                      registered and demands an explanation. The young lady at the counter -
                                      who'd earlier refused to part with her telephone number lest she be disturbed
                                      unnecessarily(?). Wonder what her attitude would have been if she were a
                                      government official? - on being cornered, tells her that the refill would arrive
                                      during the next week without specifying on the actual date!!
        (d) 24 Dec             The refill arrives finally. The delivery boys put the refill in place, are
                                      in a tearing hurry to scoot and are silent about the balance amount of Rs.40/-
                                      (The matter will be taken up with the same office on our return, for sure!)

To recap, it takes 55 days to get a cooking gas refill and that too, after pointing out the lacuna to the gas agency! The delivery boys never carry change and you are supposed to forget about the balance amount because if you're to insist upon it, they'll ensure that the subsequent deliveries are hampered!! And this happens to a defence officer who also happens to be a 'gallantry award winner'!!! I shudder to think of the other poor consumers who do not have any similar appendages to glorify them!!!!

Why do we have to face such misery from our own people? And who's exploiting whom in this case? This organisation needs to be straightened out even if one has to go through personal difficulties and missed deliveries, because the public mustn't suffer!


Reached my sister's place, at Palakkad, by a trifle before 1600h - 98 km within two hours but the traffic wasn't that heavy! Not bad!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Across the political spectrum.

Age old traditions dictate that in a healthy democracy, the lawmakers while being divided along ideology lines will always have the nation's interest, uppermost in their minds. No dilution is possible on that score. Friendship cuts across party barriers, which comes handy in case an impasse is reached in the legislature on any particular issue.

However, from the trends and behavioural patterns of the present, one wonders as to whether such healthy practices are relevant anymore. One increasingly realises that quite a few of the 'lawmakers-in-the-making' can go to any extent to prove their loyalty to the Gandhi family(In the case of the Congress) or to their allegiance to Hindutva(As in the case of the BJP. Unfortunately, how much of it cuts ice with Modi, who harps on deliverance, is open to discussion). Consequently, pouring scorn and insult at political opponents, scoring brownie points, has become the order of the day.

Another aspect is that if someone has a point against any current happening, it should be rightly and roundly criticised taking care to offer an alternative too! That, in essence, is ethical opposition!!

I was appalled at a panelist on one of the news channels being ecstatic about the fact that the BJP could not begin an account in the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir - while making inroads into the Jammu and Ladakh areas - as the results of the recently concluded elections unfolded! It's people with such narrow minded thinking that are the bane of today's politics.

It's my firm belief that every right thinking politician, in fact, must give serious thought to the following against this backdrop:-

   (a) Was the rout of the other parties due to incumbency(which is but natural), candidates who did
         not inspire confidence in their ability to deliver(was their winnability factor considered at all?)
         or due to any other factor?
   (b) Is every other religion an anathema to the people of the valley?
   (c) Was it the fear of the militants' retaliation in case of a variance in their electoral choices?
   (d) Was it the fear of the repeal of Art 370 of the Indian Constitution, if the BJP were to be given
   (e) And finally, what steps should be taken forthwith to improve the situation?

Healthy traditions and fair play coupled with principled politics is the need of the hour.


India needs to go a long way towards being a developed nation and assume its rightful leadership in the international arena. We cannot afford to lose time!


Monday, December 22, 2014

The logjam in Parliament needs to stop.

The nation has been witnessing agonisingly, the stalling of the Parliamentary proceedings over the last fortnight over various issues.

While every political party is entitled to raise issues and voice its rightful concerns in Parliament through their elected representatives, no party is entitled to disrupt the smooth functioning of the august house. To me, it appears that the opposition is getting jittery over the fact that Modi is fast becoming popular across the country as he's poised to introduce badly needed reforms through back up legislation. The two bills that are currently hanging fire are the ones that cover the 'coal block allocation' and the 'introduction of FDI in the insurance sector'!

But from the government side why isn't there a conciliatory gesture, a tentative step towards rapproachment? The opposition is demanding that the Prime Minister should make a statement on the recent spate of religious conversions. Why can't he just do that? Or is it a question of egos? And that too at the expense of the interest of the nation?

And talking about the subject of conversions, why has the RSS become strident over the issue and is going about making statements galore that's definitely not helping the Prime Minister in his thrust for providing good governance ? One was under the impression that the organisation would go along with what Modi requires as he's been nurtured by it and supports him wholeheartedly! Is it all a political game that has larger dimensions which can't be assimilated by you and me? Or is it waiting for the declaration of the results of the recently conducted elections for the Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the Jharkhand Assemblies?

The bottom line is that this nonsense has to stop.


And the MPs should not be allowed to draw their allowances for the unproductive sessions.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We don't need no religious conversions!

The media, these days, is talking about religious conversions and the 'ghar wapasis' being organised by the Hindutva groups. The conversion of about 50 odd Muslim families to Hinduism, in Agra, a month ago, sadly saw them being ostracised by both the communities subsequently, leaving them in a lurch! It's believed that they're lured into the act with the promise that the government would issue them with their 'Aadhaar' and ration cards, out of turn.

The various Hindutva groups seem to have got their act wrong. While religious beliefs and practices are strong among the Indians, there's no madness associated with religion as such except for a very few misguided ones. Praying to one's God is resorted to as a last resort by individuals to get over the perceived block in achieving their goals! And towards this end, visiting places of worship is but a natural outcome to invoke divine intervention for achieving one's requirements!!

But to mistake it to be the people's blind need to embrace religion would be like missing the woods for the trees! In fact, most of the people - if not all - abhor the practice of pushing religion to the streets in the form of celebration of festivities that invariably results in avoidable traffic blockades and consequent misery.

The fundamental fact that seems to be missed by the so called 'enlightened elite' is that poverty and the lack of means to lead a decent life - by virtue of an accident of birth - pushes an individual to convert to a religious faith that promises them a better life. Period! The need of the hour, therefore, is to eradicate poverty through good and effective governance so that religion recedes into the private and personal space of the individuals, which is the right thing. In the process, the fringe groups that are extremely selfish and narrow minded will lose their relevance!


It's fondly hoped that these aberrations would meet its natural end when sane thinking people give it the go by! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A peek into this week's news bytes.

Another week has passed by with the world witnessing a lot of events that would change the course of the future, I'm sure. Here's a review of a few of those events:-

  (a) Normalisation of ties between the US and Cuba.

        After five decades of animosity, the two neighbours have decided to put their past differences
        aside and work together. The 60s and the famous heightening of tensions thanks to communism
        having arrived at their doorstep, the US had looked at the island nation as everything inimical to
        its interests! The, then, USSR's open flaunting of its friendship with Fidel Castro and the latter's
        frequent diatribes against whatever the Americans did, made matters worse.

        Much has changed over the years and frankly, the thawing of relations between the two
        countries, at this juncture, is not gonna make much difference. A lot many past riddles that exist
        between them will get sorted out. May the trend towards healthy neighbourhood relations

   (b) Sony hacking.

         The hacking of the Sony pictures and the subsequent call by North Korea for a joint
         commission with the US to probe into the reasons was another interesting story to hit the
         headlines this week. The devastating 'cyber attack' which led to the Hollywood studio
         cancelling the 'The Interview', a comedy on the fictional assassination of the Korean leader
         Kim Jong Un. The Sony attack, some say, may have been a practice run for North Korea's
         'cyber army' as part of its long term goal of being able to cripple its rivals' telecommunications
         and energy grids.

         Whatever little entertainment that was available for the elusive nation
         has broken down and it's but natural for it to want an early restoration.

         But do the US and even Sony, for that matter, reciprocate on the sentiments?

   (c) The Pakistani doublespeak.

         Pakistan has vowed to destroy the Taliban's network and reserves its rights to hot pursuit of
         their tormentors into Afghan Territory. A point that India must take advantage of, as official
         Paki endorsement, for its right to hot pursuit and destroy terror network of guys like Hafiz
         Saeed and Laqvi, who've been pushing in terrorists to create havoc in our country.

         The civilian ire, consequent to the Peshawar school killings, has made the Paki government
         and its army to introspect and it's my fond hope that there would be a turn around in their
         outlook! It would be good for that country!!


Situations, that one could never think about even a few years back, are coming into being. I suppose this is what we mean by saying that 'change is the only constant' in this world!


Friday, December 19, 2014

The e-literacy trail - day 2.

The morning had begun in right earnest, though our work had really kick started only by a half past 11. In the government guest house at Ramanilayam where we'd spent the night, there was another guest in Amit Shah, the BJP's president, who'd gotten to be our next door neighbour late last night. Consequently, there was much slogan shouting by the party workers in the morning with the central security forces and the Kerala Police forming protective rings around him. The place resumed its deserted outlook by a half past 9, when he and his party workers set off for Palakkad for their party meet.

The result - a fuming Sitharama Iyer, a local Congress leader and Florence, who were part of our team for being kept waiting at the gate for almost half an hour by the police! Our security considerations, at the best of times, is skewed!! It took time and all our persuasive powers to pacify them and soothe their ruffled feathers.

The panchayats that we'd visited today were Parappookkara, Adaattu and Kodakara. The enthusiasm, the interaction and the adulation were no less than what we'd encountered yesterday but on a personal level, one wished that the communication mismatch hadn't taken place at the second point of contact. They're apologetic for the faux pas on their part and has promised to make amends soon, but we'll require to make another visit yet again.

After winding up the Thrissur trail by 5 in the evening and a couple of temple visits, my maman had set off on his return journey to Thiruvananthapuram after dropping me at 'The Quarterdeck' and interacting with mom.


Another interesting episode in my foray into the field of social work. It's been a great experience! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On the e-literacy trail!

The morning had begun in the normal manner with me going for my regular walk. After tending the garden and watering the plants as well as the grass patch, the countdown was swiftly gone through and by 0830h, with my overnighter slung on my shoulder, I was off to Thrissur to join up with my uncle for the e-literacy campaign in seven panchayats of the district.

Today, we'd covered the first set of four panchayats viz. Nadathara, Puthoor, Venmanikkara and Pudukkad. The reception in all the four panchayat headquarters was overwhelming and full of finer emotions. As has been my earlier experience, the people see my grandfather in us and at times, the sentiments are expressed by their insistence on being photographed with the team or even insisting on shaking hands!

The huge gathering of the panchayat leadership and the people within their purview were explained the nuances, amplifying on the advantages that would accrue and the advance of Rs.1,00,000/-, of the total outlay of Rs.6,00,000/-, was handed over to each president. Their assuring promise - without fail - "We shall achieve the target within 45 days!"......... Maman had done the explanation in his inimitable style!!

The sunset hours were used to visit the Vadakkunnathan - the ancient and the massive temple of Lord Siva, the landmark of Thrissur town, the cultural capital of Kerala. Well kept lawns and ancient architecture are its speciality. The temple is getting ready for the 'Mahasivaratri' in Feb '15.


Sitharama Iyer conducted us through the entire day's proceedings that went off without a hitch. Thanks, Sitharama for your thoughtfulness, you really did take care of the minutest of details!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Adieu Bala sir!

Commander Balaji Iyengar passed into the mist of time last night, around 2200h. He'd suffered a brain stroke on 04 Dec, was hospitalised at the Narayana Hospital in Bangalore soon after, but never regained consciousness despite a surgery that was carried out.

'Balaikes' as he called himself on e-mail was a wonderful human being and always full of beans. He never hesitated to accept his mistakes and was a compulsive 'do gooder'. His greatest asset was his ability to make friends easily and would go that extra mile to put the other at ease in his company.

The last I'd met him was when we're attending the wedding reception of Commander Tommy Tharian's daughter at the RSI, Bangalore almost about two years back. I was talking to someone when he'd come from behind, closed my eyes asking me to recognise as to who it was! That was the quintessential Bala Iyengar, ever ready to lighten up a situation with his antics that had his own, distinct trademark! I remember having spent the rest of the evening interacting with him over various aspects, including his post retirement passions.

Never did I visualise then that it was the last time that I'd be seeing his smiling visage!

He'd promised to visit us at Kochi which now remains an unfinished task. But true to his word, he was in touch with me over the e-mail through his colourful as well as informative forwards and updating me about the key developments concerning us. I still can't believe that he's not amid us anymore.

RIP, Bala sir! My salute, tears and prayers for a great human being. Jyothi, Tushaar and Tarang, I know that my words would be of no use to you in your hour of grief. Here's wishing that god gives you the strength to tide over these difficult times!


I'm reminded of a mad evening at the USO club at Bombay, many, many years back and the after dinner drive through the Marine Drive on our bikes at prohibitive speeds! Life could not have been greater than that - carefree and daring to take on life at our terms!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another long day.

We're up by 4 again for the resumption of our journey. For no rhyme or reason, we'd got delayed and it was 5 minutes past 6 when we'd hit the road. The traffic wasn't very easy once we'd got onto the NH 47 at Kayankulam and there was a bad accident involving a two wheeler and a small container vehicle. From the looks of it, it seemed to be a fatal accident for the two wheeler guy, with a pair of leather slippers lying badly displaced from each other and a helmet, with its innards coming out lying close by, indicating as to how transient life is!

By the time we reached Kochi and at Panampilli Nagar, it was a quarter past 9. I'd to call up the clinic to tell them that we'd be delayed by about a half an hour as we needed to have our breakfast.

It was fascinating to see the chemistry between mom and her doctor, Mathew Abraham, the reputed neuro physician. On a personal level, it's a pleasure to have a chat with him - within the short while - as he's a fund of knowledge by himself and can speak on any subject because he's a voracious reader! His initial reaction of, "Mom's looking good, bright and five years younger" had galvanised her to tell him that she too was all right except for the nagging pain on her left knee! After spending about 45 minutes with him(It would have gone on had it not been for the patients waiting outside!), we'd broken off with one medicine changed and the promise of meeting for the review after two months after wishing each other a merry Christmas and a happy '15.

A quick dash to the naval canteen for purchases - Nidhin, my man from the previous organisation was a great help during the evolution - and we're off to see my grand aunt, whose 101st birthday was celebrated recently and we'd missed the event. She's become emaciated from what I'd seen of her last, about a year ago and her bones have become prominently visible. The nurse takes good care of her, while my cousin and her husband are away at work. My aunt was alert, observing us intently and held on to Lekha's hand while we tried to make conversation with her.

A quick bite of lunch and we're on our 'home run'. By about a half past 3, we're back at 'The Quarterdeck'. A short sweet trip where a lot was accomplished and everything had gone off like clockwork!


The evening walk was the time to unwind and come back to the normal frequency!


The dastardly massacre of innocent school children at Peshawar in Pakistan and the Taliban saying that it was a revenge killing for the Pakistani armed forces' offensive on them was reprehensible, shocking! While offering my tears and prayers to the young ones who'd met their violent ends, it's my fervent hope that the Pakis would desist from being coy with the terrorists to hit at India because it's ultimately gonna affect them!!   

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's been a long day!

The day had begun at 4 AM. Mom and Lekha had to get ready for our early morning departure at the crack of dawn at 6, so as to beat heavy traffic and unnecessary blockages that are quite frequent once the school going children as well as the office goers are on the move. The appointment with Lekha's doctor was at 0915h.

We're at his new clinic on the dot after breakfast. And we could meet him at the appointed hour which was quite different from our previous experiences. He was mighty pleased with his patient's medical status. The dosage of her medicines have been revised and he did open up about the change in his working environment that he'd been planning for quite a while. While snapping the umbilical cord with the hospital that he'd served for the past several years he conceded that it wasn't very easy emotionally. But I can vouch for one thing, he's gonna make it big by his dedication, sincerity and steadfastness towards his work.

May god be with you in your efforts, Dr Padmanabha Shenoy! And our best wishes shall always be with you. As usual, he's fascinated with our impending tour programme covering Bangalore and Bombay, straddling the new year's eve.

We made a quick exit after our tryst with the doctor. While Lekha had taken off for a few essential purchases, mom and I spent our time talking about a lot many things. She'd to be constantly made to move her limbs to shake off the blues while undertaking a long journey.

Traffic was fine but there was this incident where a young lady - on a Kinetic Honda, yet again. I seem to be having some sort of repeated trysts or fatal attraction with this specimen, wonder why? - had scraped the Chevy's right forward tyre. Luckily, she was able to hold on to her balance and nothing untoward happened!


1. Shouted at mom when she complained of stiffness while getting out of the car at the end of the journey. Felt bad, but had to do that to ensure that she didn't get into a state of self pity.

2. The caretaker, entrusted with the safe keeping of my dad's house, had been busy setting up his son's coconut business. He was, therefore, not able to give his attention to the overall upkeep of the house which was not very pleasing. Apologised to dad at his resting place and between us, we've chalked out a plan to get the place spruced up over the next ten days!

3. It's a boisterous evening at Lekha's sister's. The night had to be rung in early as tomorrow's yet another long day. We take off at 6, so as to be with mom's doctor - for her review - by 0915h.       

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Total recall!

This evening I was watching the programme, 'Director's Music' on Malayalam's Amrita Channel as is my won't at 2000h every Sunday. This one hour programme that gives interesting insights and at times, graphic details of the picturisation of a song sequence along with memorable anecdotes has made me its willing and enthusiastic viewer. I've admitted this fact in an earlier post too.

Today's episode had zeroed in on my favourite lullaby from the movie, 'Sita', directed by Kunchako years back. Sita is rocking her children, Luv and Kush, in the cradle urging them to sleep. The black and white shots looked lively and the music just took me years backward in an instant.

I was transported back into my own cradle with my young mom, rocking me, singing the number and beckoning me to go to sleep. I don't remember as to how long I was in that time warp but I woke up from the dream, feeling my mom running her fingers through my sparse hair! She was also drawn to the programme, thanks to the evergreen and melodious lullaby!

It was heavenly! It was a total recall!!


How I wished that the song would go on and on!


Was stunned by the news grabs showing the Pakistani hockey players gesticulating rather crudely at the Indian audience, soon after winning their game against India. Their hatred towards us seems to be ingrained permanently and how can one ever think of coexisting with them peacefully? 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Technology can fail.

The manner in which the Heathrow Airport had to be shut down owing to computer failure must send alarm bells to all the airlines of the world. While appreciating that the glitch was handled well by the airport authorities, imagine the colossal work that must have been undertaken to tide over the resultant situation viz.:-

   * immediate diversion of flights in the air to alternate destinations and instructing subsequent
      flights coming up for departure from various destinations to be rescheduled
   * ensuring the availability of intra-airport transportation and catering support for the additional
   * arrangements for their stay
   * reschedule their onward flight plans.

Besides the Heathrow airport, the ones at Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Stansted also service the city of London which must have contributed in greatly reducing the after effects of the chaos.

What amazes me about the whole incident are the following inputs:-

   * a technical fault in the flight data system at its Swanswick center in Hampshire was the problem
   * the software used in the system was of the '60s vintage
   * uses the computer language 'Jovial' which is not in use now and a lot of money is spent on
      training computer professionals on the language!

My take.

(a) I thought that India, being a developing country with scarce resources, could not afford the state-of-the-art systems and consequently relied on comparatively obsolete technology to derive maximum benefits, by effective management of the existing systems. But et too, England? What a fall of the once mighty kingdom that ruled the world from the west to the east!

(b) But what was the cause of the computer's failure? The bottom line is that the best of technology
can fail!


I shudder to think of such a breakdown in any of our airports. Perhaps, the comparatively less number of flights that we handle could be a plus point!


Friday, December 12, 2014

The three extraordinary gentlemen.

I'm gonna talk about three gentlemen who provide essential services to us. Without them, I wonder as to how we could have lived hassle free in this comparatively new set of surroundings. Each one of them is ordinary, living a busy life and contended with what he has and that's the extraordinary part of their lives. I shall dwell on each individual based on the time of the day that I come across them and therefore, begin my thoughts without any further ado.

  (a) Ramakrishnan, the newspaperman.

   A frail man in his mid 40s, whose wiry frame pedals the bicycle through the roads and by lanes
   of our neighbourhood every morning at a furious speed, he has a disarmingly simple outlook
   towards life. His family consists of his wife and a school going daughter, who, incidentally,
   monitors all the calls that come on his newly acquired possession - a cellphone! He doesn't take
   even a day off because he 'doesn't want his customers - whose day commences well only with the
   day's newspaper having arrived on time - to feel the pinch owing to his absence!'

   Recently, much to my horror, I'd seen him sport a swollen leg while going about his daily duty.
   When I told him that he needed urgent medical attention and rest, his quick retort was, "Sir, there's
   no one to substitute me and moreover, these things come and go and as it is, since I'm on a cycle
   there's no undue pressure". Ultimately, he'd to take a few days off as the pain had gotten out of
   hand. But that's the story of his dedication.

   (b) Pushpaakaran, the farm labourer.

   Short, stout and dark with long, curled tresses, he gives the impression of a 'godman' at first
   sight. He's a fund of knowledge about plants, soil and all things concerning his work and the
   best part about him is that he's a green thumb. Never have I seen a person who empathises with
   his wards - the trees and the plants. He, too, is in his mid 40s.

   He works for our elderly neighbours, who'd brought him years back from his native village in
   Kozhikode and given him a piece of their land to build his house. Over the past year, he's gotten
   to be friendly with us and has offered not only suggestions but also helped us to streamline our
   modest kitchen garden and the tuft of Mexican grass on the forecourt.

   He's two children, who're school going and I usually cross him riding his bicycle to work when
   I'm on my morning walk. He, too, doesn't miss a single day because, to put it in his words, "Sir,
   just like you walk to maintain your health, I need to do work to stay fit".

   (c) Kumar, the laundry man.

   Short, dark and handsome, he hails from Tamilnadu and has been staying here for the last 20 years
   and more. He's, however, maintained his roots and goes to his hometown during important
   occasions. His elder daughter is graduating in Arts while his son is doing his class XII. His
   visage, pushing a well oiled trolley with the press and accessories, is a familiar sight and he makes
   it a point to visit us, once every week. He's, again, hovering in the mid 40s!

   He's never missed his tryst even once and if at all, for some unavoidable reasons, he's unable to
   make it, he sends his brother to do the honours and with a disarming smile he says, "You should not
   suffer because of me".

There, I've told you the story of the three ordinary men with extraordinary thinking. It's people like them who make us feel secure and complete. May their ilk grow and my prayers that they get whatever they aspire for!


The manner in which we maintain our relationship, do we have a cosmic reason to stay connected, I wonder?!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

I just can't understand!

News bytes again continue to baffle me, the main aspects being the sheer audacity of the news makers and the ridiculous extent to which the people go towards justifying their point of view. Here are a few of those that have hogged the headlines for no rhyme or reason!

  (a) Free travel.

       The transport minister has pompously announced free travel for school students, up to class XII,
       from 01 Feb 2015. This was in response to a request by his own party MLA to reduce the bus
       fares in view of the lower prices of diesel in the market. About 1,30,000 students who've been
       paying concessional fares, thus far, are gonna be the beneficiaries. Now, consider this too.
       The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation is debt ridden - surviving on frequent fund
       transfusions by the government for its survival - and has not been able to pay its staff and
       pensioners, their emoluments for the past so many months and the court has had to intervene
       many a time to ensure the disbursal, albeit partially, to ensure their survival!

       What does one make out of this absurd offer? Why don't we have ministers who really work
       for the well being of the people and make laws appropriate to the need of the hour rather than
       jump for populist measures. This is gonna have a cascading effect and there will be a clamour
       for the reduction of fares on the private buses which, in turn, is gonna be the bone of contention
       between the private bus owners and the student unions.

       Consequential disruption of classes and damage to public property cannot be ruled out.

    (b) They call it 'welcoming back home....'

          A zealous BJP leader has gone about overseeing reconversion of Muslims into Hindus and
          news has it that the 60 odd families of Agra have been promised Aadhaar cards and other
          governmental schemes on priority. The latest news is that they've been left in the lurch by
          both the Hindu and the Muslim communities and one can only imagine their plight! Thanks
          to the media, their case has got publicity and I reckon that something positive will be done by
          the government towards their rehabilitation.

          Why are these fringe groups and madcaps allowed to get away with such idiotic stuff? It
          cannot be forgotten that the people had overwhelmingly voted for Modi and his party as they'd
          promised good governance. The fringe groups must definitely be put in their place.

    (c) Where's propriety gone?

          An FIR has been filed against Kerala's finance minister, KM Mani, by the state's Vigilance
          and Anti-Corruption Bureau based on 'solid proof' of him having taken a bribe of Rs.1 crore
          from the Bar Owners' Association against an assurance that they'd not be shut down. The
          minister has since stated that it's a conspiracy to malign him and that he'll fight against it, tooth
          and nail, both politically and legally.

          One had heard of high morality among political leaders when, years ago, Lal Bahadur Sastri
          had resigned as the railway minister by accepting moral responsibility for a train accident!
          Everyone is aware that if a person continues to be in power, he'd be able to sway investigations
          to his/her advantage and say, even if that didn't happen, the final outcome, especially, if it were
          to give a 'clean chit' to the protagonist would be viewed with suspicion!

          Sadly, no one seems to care or more likely, who cares anymore about morality or the truth?
          They seem to be reserved for lesser mortals!


I'm restating my grandmother's statement, "It's kalyug, my dear!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Decriminalising suicide.

The government's move to decriminalise attempted suicide, thereby scrapping Section 309 of the IPC, is a sensible decision.

The legal debate 'for' and 'against' the scrapping of the statute began, in this country, way back in 1981 when the Delhi High Court had first condemned it as unworthy of society. Subsequently, a two judge bench of the Supreme Court went on to call it irrational and cruel and hence void in 1994.

However, a five-judge constitutional bench of the apex court later overruled these judgments and let the law stay in the Gyan Kaur vs State of Punjab case of 1996.

The government's move is a sensitive and humane step because of the the following:-

   (a) In our country, where suicides have emerged as the second highest cause of deaths, there was a
         much needed legal corrective.
   (b) People who try and take their lives need compassion and support, a view that has been endorsed
         even by the Law Commission.
   (c) Decriminalisation will make it easier for everyone to extend support to individuals, thereby
         reducing suicides in the country.
   (d) Needless to say, it will bring down the curtains to post attempt legal discomfort to the
         individuals which more often than not, go on to be lengthy affairs.

In the world, France was the first country to decriminalise suicide soon after the French Revolution and all European and North American countries have since done it.


It's my fond hope that Article 21 of our Constitution that guarantees right to life and liberty for every citizen is enhanced to include the right to die. Yes, euthanasia needs to be legalised!  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A meeting after a long while.

Babu, my classmate in school, and Suma had come to spend the day with us. They've come from Toronto, Canada to oversee the arrangements of their younger daughter's wedding at Kochi, in Aug next year. The last we'd met him was about 61/2 years ago at Guruvayur, when his elder daughter was getting married and sadly, we couldn't attend the function despite having arrived at the venue because of having to get back to Kochi without delay.

He was 307 and I was 519 - our roll numbers at school - because he'd joined school two years ahead of me but we're good friends throughout. There's a disarming simplicity in his thoughts and he's very meticulous in his work. His endearing quality was that he couldn't hurt even a fly and was a lovable person to have around, all times.

Though he was maintaining a packed schedule, he'd kept time for us and had dropped by, around tea time, after the 'darshan' at the temple. From then on there was no time to waste as we'd to catch up from where we'd left last and we did just that. The fact that Suma and Lekha had got along famously was an added advantage. Mom was floored by their charm and soon, we're sidelined in the conversation as she'd taken center stage, and no, we didn't mind it a wee bit!

The beauty of being with them was that I could go out for my evening walk and pick up sundries that Lekha had wanted me to fetch, prior to the dinner. He was very keen to know about many of our classmates and I was only happy to brief him on almost everyone barring seven among us. That incidentally reminds me that they've to be contacted and cajoled to attend the grand get together that we're organising next Dec.


A lovely walk down memory lane!

Monday, December 8, 2014

From here.....and there!

Some of the news bytes that caught my attention over the past few days need to be discussed for the sheer audacity of their having taken place. What amazes me is that, in one case, the elected government chose to dabble in questionable means to sound the death knell of one of its own organisations to favour a private player! And so, here I go:-

 (a) The plight of the BSNL.

  Happened to come across an investigative program that was analysing threadbare, the current woes     of the communications' public sector undertaking, the BSNL. Formed early in the first half of the
  last decade, it was a very healthy organisation to begin with - the entire telecommunication set up
  under the government of India was bifurcated into MTNL(to service the metropolitan cities) and
  the BSNL(to service the rest of the country). And then, the latter got the step motherly treatment.

  The periodic proposals for the modernisation programme of the organisation to absorb 3G and 4G
  technologies were tardily addressed, delayed deliberately and at times, even refused quoting lack
  of funds by the government. The connected auctions of the spectrum where a private player gained
  undue advantage is history and currently under the scanner! But the outcome is that the BSNL's 3G
  services is yet to take off thanks to glitches and it has gone on to state that it doesn't have the
  wherewithal to take on 4G technology. That successive pliant managements coupled with a restive
  labour force sounded the death knell of this once, healthy organisation speaks of the governmental
  apathy. And mind you, the one private player who has made enormous strides in this field is the
  Reliance company - during this period - making further discussions unnecessary!

  It's my sincere hope that the guilty, who brought about this decline of the BSNL, are brought to
  book at the earliest.

  (b) The rising tide of the 'Kiss of Love'.

   Kerala, of late, has been witnessing this craze of the 'Kiss of Love' protests against moral policing.
   What started of as a 'strong statement' against obscurantist groups resorting to violent means to
   question the individual's right to normal life has now become a sort of irritating and an unnecessary
   show of exhibitionism!

   Kissing a loved one is a personal thing and it carries much more meaning and intensity when done
   in private. The expression of love does not need exhibition. In fact, I feel that there is a negative
   streak in the recent episodes that's highly provocative to the aesthetics, coupled with a 'see what you    can do to us' sort of an attitude.

   The point is taken that moral policing is simply not acceptable. But stop this public show of 'kiss
   of love', please!

   (c) The sad story of Shweta Prasad Basu.

    Am saddened at the plight of young Shweta Prasad Basu, starlet and TV actress, who was initially
    sent to a rescue home after being arrested from a hotel in Hyderabad for questionable
    activities. She was later released by the police with a clean chit. My melancholy was basically
    because I'd loved watching her as a child actress on television, as well as in the movies and thought
    that she'd a great future because of her histrionic talent.

    Sincerely hope that she's able to come out clean with her reputation intact!


Strange stories! Stranger explanations!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

At God's doorstep at an unearthly hour!

I've two principles that guide me on visiting a place of worship:-

    (a) God is all pervasive and a powerful entity, whose form is what I've been praying to at our
          puja room, since childhood. I consider it, therefore, not necessary to go to a temple to have a
          tryst with my God. However, Lekha visits temples and I dutifully become her chauffeur!

    (b) If serpentine queues have to to be joined to get a peek of my god - and it's perennially long at
         Guruvayur - I do just that, notwithstanding the long time that is necessary, at times, even
         though I can get 'special treatment' by putting in a word to any one of the authorities of the
         temple trust in advance.

These were temporarily set aside as my classmate, friend and namesake had offered to take us for the
early morning 'nirmaalyam darshan'. I'd to chauffeur him anyways and seeing Lekha's keenness, I
didn't have the heart to say anything to the contrary. So, the day had started at 0130h because we'd to be at the eastern entrance of the temple by 0230h, where the three (Earlier, mom had said that she'd continue with her sleep and that we could proceed after locking up the main door!) of us were shepherded, along with another family of five members in a special queue and we'd a long wait till about a half past 3. The rest of the crowd - with a generous dose of the Sabarimala pilgrims - stood beside us in the second and parallel queue and also behind us.

The massive ornate door of the entrance was opened precisely at the appointed hour and boy, I'd not expected the violent surge of the crowd to make the final dash to the sanctum sanctorum. The last flyover had to be scaled and it took an effort to see that Lekha was steered safely through the push and pull of the frenetic devotees. In the melee, I heard a lady wondering aloud as to why people with physical difficulties should attempt at the 'darshan', probably seeing Lekha managing her way through with my assistance, as we're a 'stumbling block' - understood the full import of the phrase at that instant - to their movement!

And we're pushed behind in the surge, by quite a few notches, but reached the sanctum without further glitches and had our glimpse of the good Lord, getting ready to be bathed and robed in the facade that the world over is familiar with.


Standing with folded hands I'd a fleeting moment of triumph, of having achieved the impossible, pass through me because, for the two of us, it was a task accomplished after our stay here for over a year!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

In lighter vein!

The movie, 'Dilwaale dulhania le jaayenge' is creating history of sorts. On the 12th of this month it attains the milestone of being the first Indian film to run a 1,000 weeks, non stop, in a single theatre. The film featuring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol has been playing at the Maratha Mandir in Bombay all this while.

It's slotted in the 1130h show every morning and continues to run 'houseful' on many occasions - especially, Sundays - even to this day! By achieving the milestone, it completes 20 years of screening!!

Interesting snippets:-

      * The role of Raj Malhotra, played by Shah Rukh Khan, was actually offered to Saif Ali Khan
         initially but he wasn't interested

      * Shah Rukh Khan had till then acted in roles with a negative streak - Baazigar, Darr and Anjaam

      * It's a positive oriented film and the lead actor captures the heart of the viewer

      * The name of the film was suggested by Kiron Kher, the wife of Anupam Kher, who incidentally
         plays the role of Shah Rukh Khan's father

      * It was the first movie that was directed by Aditya Chopra

      * The Punjabi 'bhangra' and 'balle balle' became universally acceptable after this movie.


And in attaining this unique milestone, it has pushed the following behind:-

       (a) Mughal-e-Aazam        6 yrs
       (b) Sholay                         51/2 yrs.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Beeline for Mars.

Mars is slowly getting the attention of mankind. With more space expeditions being planned to the red planet by nations, it's gonna be a matter of time when man sets foot on it and discovers its intricacies to overcome them ultimately! The launch of Orion by NASA today was to test the space capsule intended to carry human beings on future expeditions.

The project had commenced eight years back and NASA has spent over 900 billion dollars, thus far. The follow on mission will be in 2018 so as to finally, put a man on the red planet by 2021, on the third expedition.

What did the Orion do?

     * It was a test flight that lasted 41/2 hrs
     * It flew up to a height of 5,800 kms before commencing its return
     * On re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, it had achieved a speed of 32,000 kmph
     * The splashdown was in the Pacific Ocean and the capsule was towed away to San Diego
        in California by US Naval ships.

As the European Space Agency, the ISRO and the Chinese Space Agency plan their future expeditions to the red planet, the scenario gets to be more interesting!


Interplanetary movements by mankind are gonna be a distinct possibility in the foreseeable future.
And yes, space vehicles capable of incredible speeds are going to be the most sought after transport reminiscing HG Wells' fictional Time machine!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Adieu, Krishna Iyer sir.

A colossus has passed into the mist of time. Around 1530h, this afternoon, his 'flight' had finally arrived. Sometime back he'd said about his state, with a touch of humour and I quote, "I feel like being on a prolonged wait in a departure lounge of the airport, waiting for my flight".

The media is already covering the details of the illustrious lawman, to the minutest details and any attempt on my part to add on to it would appear to be presumptuous and trying to flaunt my association with him - too little, compared to what my maman had and to confess, weren't I a twad jealous of him on that matter? A couple of years before my grandfather's passing away, he'd told sir that he was placing his son under his tutelage and that he'd the right to correct him and guide him in all his future endeavours. From then on, there was no looking back and they'd an excellent rapport.

Sir's respect and admiration for my grandfather was touching and everlasting. In 1978, when the Kerala Grandhasala Sanghom was taken over by the government and put under a 'Control Board' of nominated members, PN Panicker - its architect and founder - did not find a place in it(A hasty decision taken by an inexperienced AK Antony, as CM, which he'd the grace to correct soon after, on realising his mistake). The irony of it all was that he'd been previously urging the government to take over the administration of the mammoth organisation that he'd set up, consisting of over 6,000 libraries spread all across the state!

It was a 'broken' PN Panicker who was resurrected by Justice Krishna Iyer sir, through his personal involvement! That he'd built a thriving organisation - The Kerala Association for Non-Formal Education(KANFED) - which had provided leadership to all the agencies connected with making Kerala 100% literate in 1991, is history.

Years later, when I'd a professional setback, my maman had taken me to him for advice. After hearing me out, he'd spoken to the then naval chief about me and I can never, ever forget his preamble and I quote, "Good evening Admiral, I'm Krishna Iyer. I know this young man, Commander Rajeev Nair......" From then on I used to drop in at his residence - beautifully named, 'Sathgamaya' - whenever time permitted and it was always a pleasure to interact with him because it was not only stimulating but an education, by itself.

Again it was his directions that got my maman and me through the corridors of power in New Delhi to have the Post and Telegraphs to bring out a postage stamp in honour of PN Panicker in 2004, after an initial setback!

Years back, I remember Chellappan Aasaan, an astrologer of repute in Thiruvananthapuram, predicting that sir would live to be a 100 years. To pass away within a few weeks after his 100th birthday, appears to me, that he lived to prove the prophecy right! Unfortunately, the one who made the prophecy passed away soon after without having the privilege of validating his announcement!!

RIP, Vaidyanathapuram Rama Iyer Krishna Iyer sir! I, along with my colleagues at the PN Panicker Foundation, offer our tears and prayers. You're not merely our Patron and Chairman, but our beloved patriarch! My salute to a wonderful and kind human being!


(a) In Jul '91, after the passing away of my grandmother, he was prompt in offering his condolences to PN Panicker and sometime, later when they'd met, sir had 'welcomed' him into the 'widowers' club'!On realising that he'd unknowingly caused him hurt, he went out of his way to placate him saying that he'd no right to have done it when he, himself, was devastated at the untimely passing away of his wife!

(b) I believe that he'd instructed the doctors not to unnecessarily prolong his life by putting him on ventilator support if things weren't working for him. Was he tired of being with us, eagerly wanting to pursue eternal life?......One would never know!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Recalling the horror of the Bhopal Gas tragedy of Dec '84!

It's thirty years, as of date, since the Bhopal gas tragedy had taken place.

The tragedy.

At 2330h on 02 Dec '84, the workers at the Union Carbide fertilizer plant in Bhopal complained about a burning sensation in the eyes and suffocation due to gas leaking from a pressurised tank containing deadly methyl isocyanate(MIC). At 0030h on 03 Dec, the alarm siren was sounded and water spraying was resorted to. At 0300h, the safety valve collapsed and the tank exploded, releasing about 40,000 kg cloud of lethal gases and a gentle breeze blew this cloud of death over sleeping people in 36 wards of the city of Bhopal!

The run up to the tragedy.

MIC needs to be maintained below 5 degrees Celsius under pressure. But the refrigeration system had been shut down since Jun '84; the tank and the valves were defective. Temperatures seemed to have risen to 350 degrees Celsius in the tank and the highly reactive gas had decomposed and created a deadly cocktail of poisonous gases that were released into the atmosphere when the tank had exploded!

The consequences.

Death and injury came without warning to the sleeping population. Symptoms ranged from suffocation, blindness and vomiting to spontaneous abortions, lung, kidney, liver and brain damage. Over 20,000 people were estimated to have been killed and over 5 lakhs injured! Cattle and birds died in the surrounding areas, dead fish floated in the lakes and even trees lost their leaves!!

And 30 years later, justice still seems to elude the poor victims! Consider these:-

       * Warren Anderson, the then chairman of Union Carbide, was arrested on arrival at Bhopal.
          He was given bail within 6 hrs, flown to Delhi in a state government aircraft and he flies out
          of Delhi, never to return. He died on 29 Sep, this year, in the US.

       * The Supreme Court of India okays the settlement signed by the Union Government and 
          Carbide. Accordingly, Carbide was to pay Rs.705 crores(470 million $) as compensation
          and all civil, criminal charges were dropped! This had happened in '89!!

       * Partial payment of the compensation was made by the Carbide in '94.

       * Union Carbide bought by the Dow Chemical Company in 2001. 

       * In 2004, the Supreme Court accepts that the actual number of gas victims was 5.73 lakhs and 
          not 1 lakh as assumed in '89. Victims file for increase in compensation.

       * In 2010, a petition was filed by the Union government to change the 1989 settlement
          and increase compensation.  


(a) Is the lethargy in settlement due to the fact that the people affected are poor people and aren't             influential enough? Does the foreign company think that the Indian lives are too cheap?

(b) There's a family connection to this incident. My younger brother-in-law was doing his post                   graduation in Bhopal but was lucky to have been away from the epicenter! And no, he wasn't
      related to us then!! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

From here........and there.

A busy day with me actually doing nothing in the real sense. Have I confused you, then I've achieved my aim to a certain extent. Without much ado, here I go:-

 (a) The 'Vaikuntha Ekaadasi'.

 Today's the day of the Vaikuntha Ekaadasi, when the temple town celebrated the day with all the
 pomp and show that it could muster. Devotees, from far and wide, have been making a beeline
 for the town to have a glimpse of their favourite god and this frenzy will go on till tomorrow
 evening. The sanctum santorum has remained open since 3 AM, yesterday morning and will only
 be closed at 9 AM tomorrow.

 'Ekaadasi' is the 11th day of every fourteen day lunar cycle and the 'Guruvayur Ekaadasi' falls in
 the Malayalam month of Vrushikam on the 'sukla paksha' or the full moon phase of the cycle!

 It's also believed that the charioteer, Lord Krishna, gave his famous discourse - known as the
 Bhagavad Gita to 'Arjuna' when he broke down emotionally at the battlefield of 'Kurukshetra'
 seeing his beloved Bheeshma pitamaha, Dronacharya and the others arraigned against him as his
 foes - on this day!! 

 (b) Many happy returns of the day, GoI!

 The landmark monument at Bombay, facing the Arabian Sea, to commemorate the visit of King
 George V of Great Britain - the Gateway of India - is gonna celebrate its 90th birthday on 04 Dec.
 It continues to be the landmark for all seafarers making a landfall off Bombay, even to this day! At
 a height of 85 ft, it doesn't fail to catch the eye despite the numerous skyscrapers that have sprung  about, in its vicinity.

 (c) Wow, what a catch?

  A student of the IIT, Gorakhpur has been offered a job, by the Facebook on the first day of the
  campus placement, that promises an annual paycheck of 2,50,000 $ equal to Rs. 1.55 crores! The
  identity of the sudent has been kept under wraps, for the time being.

  Well, heartiest congratulations! It's a befitting offer for your hard work and life can never be the
  same for you, again!! A piece of unsolicited advice, "Do not lose your head, ever"!!!


The day, for me, had begun at the stroke of midnight when I was at the railway station to pick up my aunt, coming from Thiruvananthapuram, to pray at the temple on the occasion of the Ekaadasi. Sabu and Madhav joined her towards late noon, had their tryst with the good Lord and the three of them were off to Pondicherry by 2200h.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why don't we react when a grave injustice is happening near us?

This is a take off on the experience of the courageous Rohtak girls who took on their villains, in a moving bus, with scant support, nay reaction, from any of their fellow passengers, a few of whom even went on to enjoy their discomfiture!

I've a few queries with regard to similar instances:-

      (a) Is this phenomenon only prevalent in our country?
      (b) Is it because everyone wants to mind his/her own business?
      (b) Is it that a problem is considered as one only when it happens to oneself or someone close?
      (d) Is it that we've a cowardly streak in us that we're dead scared of the repercussions?
      (e) Is it that we want to react but avoid doing so because of the follow through - umpteen number
           of visits to the police station and having to face uncomfortable questions at a court of law?

And I also seem to have the answers for my queries above, which are ad seriatim:-

      (a) No, there have been similar cases reported from the other parts of the world too. But why go
           that far, within our country there are many places where the 'onlookers' are rare or are in a
      (b) A statement that's totally false in the Indian context. More than minding our own matters,
            we're bothered about what's happening with our neighbours/friends/relatives, etc. The list can
            be endless!
      (c) Sadly, yes! Probably, the best example to highlight this trait is when we dump our waste into
            our neighbour's space, a trend usually noticeable in the 'flat culture', completely ignoring the
            fact that your neighbour's well being is of paramount importance to your own hassle-free life!
      (d) Yes, most of us - if not all - are cowards! We're scared of the repercussions. Period!!
      (e) Of course, the formalities of the law are viewed as dampeners and a sheer waste of time
            because there have been umpteen number of cases where a witness was made a villain. This
            happens in cases where one is pitted against the VIPs or the one's with 'connections'(?)

So what's the remedy? Simple, an attitudinal change is needed!


1. And it can be brought about easily - when every individual learns to respect the other's sister, wife and mother just as he expects everyone to do so in the case of his own!  

2. My salute to the Rohtak sisters! Let your courage ignite the empathy in each one of us!!