Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Aruvikkara byelection.


1. Aruvikkara, a sleepy hamlet in the district of Thiruvananthapuram, had lost its incumbent G Karthikeyan, the former Speaker of the legislative assembly and a Congress member of the ruling UDF due to cancer and went to polls on 27 Jun. The three main candidates were KS Sabarinadhan of the Congress and the son of G Karthikeyan, M Vijayakumar of the CPM and a former speaker and minister of the LDF and O Rajagopal of the BJP.

2. Besides these, PC George, an MLA ousted from the UDF had formed a forum against corruption accusing the Oommen Chandy government in all sorts of scams and the father-son duo of R Balakrishna Pillai and KB Ganesh Kumar - who'd left the UDF earlier in retaliation for the son not being reinstated as minister - sharing the LDF platforms during the run up to the elections had assured the people that there would be enough of fireworks during the run up, which was the case anyways! Even Madani - languishing in a Karnataka jail, as an accused in the Coimbatore blast - had fielded his trusted Lieutenant in the fray. And there were quite a few independent candidates too.

The Results.

3. KS Sabarinadhan of the Congress and the UDF won over his nearest rival by 10,128 votes. Going into the vote tally:-

       (a) KS Sabarinadhan                               56,448
       (b) M  Vijayakumar                                46,120
       (c) O   Rajagopal                                     34,145
       (d) NOTA                                                  1,430.
Note. The subsequent tallies were insignificant as they fell much behind the NOTA!

My take.

4. I neither understand politics nor psephology but I thought that I must put down the pluses and minuses of the adversaries to come to the exact reason for this sort of answer the simple folks of Aruvikkara gave and so, here I go:-

      (a) The UDF.

            The pluses.

                (i) A refreshing, young face. That he happened to be following his father added to his
               (ii) The chief minister's relentless interactions with the constituents informally.
              (iii) All the UDF leaders put up a united front.
              (iv) The clearance to the International seaport at Vizhinjam was the latest feather in the
                     cap to show their government's thrust on development.
               (v)  The closure of the bars brought in the womenfolk's votes.

             The minuses.

                 (i) Allegations galore on scams, the latest being that of the bar closure.
                (ii) KM Mani's, the FM, feeling that he was being isolated by a section of the Congress
                      on charges of corruption.

         (b) The LDF.

               The pluses.

                  (i) A candidate with a clean image.
                 (ii) The alleged list of scams was long, from the Solar scam to the latest, Bar bribery
                       case and their investigations that were in progress to hit the government with.
                (iii) The well oiled party machinery was in action - Pinarayi Vijayan behind the scenes
                       and VS Achuthanandan, the star campaigner.

                The minuses.

                  (i) Followed an extremely negative and a vicious campaign peppered with below-the-belt
                       personal attacks.
                 (ii) Took people like R Balakrishna Pillai and KB Ganesh Kumar, whom they're
                       castigating as corrupt till the other day under their wings. 
                (iii) The scenes of the ruckus created in the Assembly by their leaders like EP Jayarajan
                       and Sivankutty destroying public property, during the Budget presentation, remained                          fresh in the mind, like a continuing bad dream.

            (c) The BJP.

                  The pluses.

                   (i) A likeable candidate, across the board, for everyone.
                  (ii) The party's growing relevance in the state because of Narendra Modi's image of a
                        capable and strong leader. 

                   The minuses.

                   (i) Did not have very many acceptable faces among its leaders.
                  (ii) The party needs to have more people's support.


It's one's fond hope that the young man elected would be the trailblazer for clean politics, with a thrust for development! And also, that the political parties will rectify their shortcomings and avoid unwanted negativity.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The seat of one of the world's oldest civilisations is in trouble!

Greece is in dire straits! The government had decided to close banks for seven days and limit withdrawals @ 60 euros/day, to tide over the period. Let's have a quick run through the anatomy of this economic crisis:-

     2001                Greece joins the euro. Greek economy grew, a big economic boom followed.
     2008                Greece faced with financial crisis. Since it was one of the poorest and most in
                             debt, suffered the most.
     2013                Unemployment reaches 28%.

     A few notable points:-

         (a) If Greece wasn't in the euro, it could have boosted its economy by printing more of its
         currency, the drachma. Consequently:-
              (i) It would have lowered the value of the drachma in the international markets.
             (ii) Made Greek exports more competitive.
            (iii) Lower domestic interest rates and encourage domestic investments making it easy
                   for Greek debtors to service their debts.
         (b) But Greece shares its monetary policy with the rest of Europe. The German dominated
         European Central Bank has given a monetary policy that's just right for Germany but tight for
         Greece, putting that country into depression. It's so deep that it makes it difficult to raise the
         money it needs to make its debt payments.
         (c) For the last 5 yrs, Greece has been negotiating with the European Commission, the
         European Central bank and the IMF - dubbed the 'troika' - for financial assistance with its
         debt burden.
         (d) The troika has been providing Greece with loans in exchange for tax
         hikes and spending cuts. Accordingly, Greece is to pay back $1.77 billions to the IMF by
         (e) In 2010, Greek debt was held by private banks, so a Greek default could trigger financial
         panic. But since then, the debt has been consolidated in the hands of the rich European
         governments greatly reducing the risk of a financial crisis, if Greece defaults.

The Greeks are now with faced with a hard choice between two bad options viz.:-

        * Pay the debt and accept the troika's demands for further austerity.
        * Defy the troika which would lead to a default on debt payment and possibly, a Greek
           exit from the euro!

On 05 Jul, the country goes for a referendum to chose between Scylla and Charybdis!
(The reference to the characters of the Greek epic, Iliad, is intentional though ironical). 


1. Meanwhile, the Greek economy is melting down. Knowing that Greek Euro deposits could soon be transformed to devalued drachma deposits, the rush to withdraw money from the ATMs continues. Hence, the governmental order to shutter down the banks and limit withdrawals @ 60 euros/day!

2. And who're the culprits who've brought the country to such a sorry pass? Politicians, of course. Successive governments instead of following sound fiscal policies, played to the gallery, with populist schemes that bled the economy for short term gains of winning mandates. Let it be a lesson to all politicians that they must avoid following mere 'vote catching' measures and short term gains!!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A disturbing trend.

Quite a few bureaucrats and many professionals allow themselves to be manipulated by the political system. It's disgusting to see learned men bending over backwards to please their political bosses in the fond hope of promotions, transfers to 'exquisite' postings or even a job, post superannuation! The net result is that such people lose respect among their flock and become the focus of their derisive analysis bordering on cynicism, contempt.

Why do people, who should be known for their efficiency at work, thorough knowledge of the rules governing their department, spotless integrity and the ability to withstand pressures from the powerful, buckle down without offering even a token of a resistance? Probably, it's because of the threat that they envisage not only to their own lives but also to their kith and kin! And to top it all, the law takes its own course where, sadly, time is of no consequence.

I must, at this juncture, refer to the infamous 'ISRO spy case' where it's getting clear as the mystery unravels - oh, so slowly - that it was orchestrated to dislodge K Karunakaran, the then chief minister of Kerala from his perch besides providing a setback to our cryogenic engine programme that was a few notches from success. The question as to whether there was a case to answer in the first place, has lost its relevance any more. But the high price that some of the protagonists - the scientist, Nambi Narayanan, for example - had to pay for, at the expense of their personal lives, is heart rending.

It's an extension of this malaise that is oft now being witnessed when politicians deride professional study reports or a commission's findings or even the professional advice if the end results do not conform to their point of view. The sad part is that they obstinately parrot their viewpoint much after the veracity of the report/findings is established, many times over by independent agencies because, by then, it has become a matter  of ego. And the politician can't tolerate any infringement to his carefully manicured image(?), the truth be damned!

This sad state of affairs has been brought about, to a great extent, by my opening statement.

I can't ever forget what my elders taught me at home," Never compromise your conscience, your integrity. Stand for the truth always. It might not bring you dividends, instead it can cause you pain or even harm but your mind will remain clear and truth will win in the end, fetching you the accolades. More importantly, you'll never ever have to lower your eyes before anyone".


I can never forget the avalanche of copies of the then fortnightly, Kalakaumudi - which we weren't even subscribing - flooding our letterbox that contained a derisive article on PN Panicker by the late Thayattu Sankaran. The agony that my grandfather had gone through then, had affected me - a lad, brought up in an environment where I was taught that no one was bad. To make matters worse, our telephone was flooded with calls, from people whom we never knew, inquiring as to whether we'd read 'so and so' article on page...?!

 ............The saving grace was that my grandfather had later said that the author was repentant about his article.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

An MP who needs education and the story of an unreported visit.

Our priorities and opinions seem to be on a permanent skew. How else do we explain the happenings narrated below?

 (a) An illiterate MP.

       Pandula Ravindra Babu of the Telugu Desam party carries match boxes on flights and he
       justifies his actions. He has now come out with the most outrageous statement on the armed
       forces, which of course shows his mean mentality, stunted growth and an overall lack of
       fundamental etiquette!

       The worthy states that those who opt for the armed forces do so for the following reasons:-

             (a) Subsidised alcohol and
             (b) Free rations.

       He needs to apologise for his remarks, forthwith and must be sent on the Line of Control
       between India and Pakistan to understand and have the feel of what the Indian Army is all
       about. Similar attachments with the IN and the IAF, without VVIP hospitality, must be followed
       without delay.

  (b) A visit that went off rather quietly.

        Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the National People's Congress(NPC) - China's legislature - and
        the third most powerful person (One of the 7 that rules the country) was on a visit to India for
        four days and the visit had gone mostly unreported by the Indian press that was busy with the
        affairs of Lalit Modi and gang!

          - On 15 Jun, the PMO had reported through the Press Information Bureau that he'd called
             on the PM that day.
          - The MEA was conspicuously silent.
          - He'd come under the joint invitation of the Vice President and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
          - During his stay, he'd also paid a visit to Bombay.
          - He'd also met the Rashtrapati.
         He endorsed the PM's view that the 21st century is the Asian century and the future of the
         continent will be decided by the collective leadership provided by India and China.

   The visit being completely ignored by the Indian media doesn't make sense, with the juicy
   elements of 'Lalit Modi and his political friends' - from the ruling party as well as the opposition -
   camaraderie trickling down almost on a daily basis, notwithstanding! While the press must be
   the watchdog for the government's misdemeanours, it must also highlight the good points....
   that's very much a part of their duty. Or is it that the press has gone anti-government for not axing
   the ones whom they've painted red?


The days have been wet all through and frequent power breakdowns have become the order of
the day. And on top of that, our landline has also gone dead!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kausalya comes calling.

It was a rainy day right from the start, making it difficult for the newspaper boy. He'd, however, made sure that he delivered our newspapers on time.

A couple of hours later, we'd a visitor in Kausalya who'd come all the way from the coastal hamlet of Ponnani, about 35 kms north of the temple town. She'd been wanting to look up Lekha after her admission and surgery and had brought with her, delightfully mouth watering eatables that she knew we're fond of......damn sweet of her, she must have spent a fortune on them. But, then, that's the quintessential Kausalya who's ever ready to give despite the tough life that she leads.

I'd heard of the difficult conditions that she lived in, only recently, from Lekha's younger sister. But when I heard out the entire story I was amazed that she continued to present a pleasant countenance despite her ever flowing cup of woes.

Kausalya, her ailing husband, her second son, Aby along with his wife and two children and her third son - who's perpetually sick - live in a handmade mud hut that has neither a proper toilet facility nor a potable water point. The family stays in this wretched place thanks to a treachery. The main plot has a 'pucca' house where a widow - as old as Kausalya is and who's a far off relative - and her son live. The story has it that years ago, Kausalya's husband had given his friend the money to have the small piece of land, that they're occupying, registered on his name. Tragically, the gentleman died soon after leaving no documentary evidence of the said transaction - the paradox, however, is that the entire neighbourhood is aware of it, but they've not been able to provide succour to Kausalya because of the stand taken by his widow that she wasn't aware of 'the give and take'.

Kausalya has met the who's who of the municipality but has not been able to meet with any success thus far. She'd taken a legal recourse where a court had asked her to leave the place and she has appealed against the verdict in the higher court. Succumbing to the advice of her friends and well wishers, she has now decided to leave her present abode and move into a house on rent which is also turning out to be difficult because:-

      (a) a sum of Rs. 50,000/- is required as security deposit
      (b) the widow, staying on the main plot of land, refuses to give her any assistance in lieu of
            the space that she's gonna surrender when she moves into a rented house, while giving up her
            claim on the land, once for all.
      (c) no house owner is ready to rent his/her house as Kausalya has a large(?) family of seven
      (d) and she doesn't want Aby to move away because - to quote her - she'd miss her grandchildren
            and moreover, he'll have to shell out a similar amount for his dwelling against his daily
            earnings from the construction work that he goes for.

Kausalya and her family stay in real inhuman conditions - potable water is adjacent to the toilet!

Can neighbours be so heartless that they don't permit the poor family to use their wells or toilets and seem to get a sadistic pleasure to see them suffer? Wonder what the local politicians and social workers are up to?........Sleeping?


(a) On hearing her story we'd asked her to shift to the barn at my dad's house and mom was very enthusiastic about the idea. But alas, Kausalya is not keen to move from her present surroundings as her son is a 'karmi' in the temple nearby to which she and her family have sentimental attachments.

(b) Have put two people, knowledgeable about the locality, to scout for a house that the family can take on rent without having to pay the security deposit. Something needs to be done before the continuing adversity saps the will to live in Kausalya and her family.

Her eldest son and his family had shifted to his wife's place quite a few years back and has not kept in touch with them ever since.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Life's requirements and how they lead us.

This afternoon Radhan chettan and Sathi chechi had called on. They'd long wanted to meet up with mom and Lekha. As I'd said before, Radhan chettan is my nearest relative who stays close by in the vicinity. Let me amplify our relationship, P Kesava Panicker and P Narayana Panicker are the two children of Puthuvayil Govinda Pillai and Janaki Amma of the Puthuvayil house at Neelamperoor.

PK Panicker has four daughters while PN Panicker has six daughters and two sons. Radhan chettan is the eldest son of the eldest daughter of PK Panicker while I take the corresponding slot in PN Panicker's family.

Radhan chettan was an ATO, in the state's road transport corporation, on his retirement quite a few years back. He'd lived a colourful life in the past, had divorced the lady whom his parents found for him after siring three sons and had married his present wife, who has a daughter from her previous marriage. His mom keeps him at arm's length even to this day and she's made it very clear that she hasn't forgiven him for his past! His father had passed away quite a while back.

The road transport corporation continues to run in loss and it finds it difficult to pay its pensioners due to lack of funds. The corporation manages every month facilitated by the government, albeit delayed many a time, by heavy borrowings making the plight of the pensioners very pathetic. Radhan chettan and his wife have been going through these difficult times for quite a while now. To make matters worse, he's badly diabetic and his heart is weak.

Today, Sathi chechi had told us that she has taken up the responsibility of looking after a 92 yr old lady, suffering from Alzheimer's illness, as her nurse from 0830h to 1830h everyday for Rs.10 grand! The old lady's daughter and son are working and they'd been wanting someone very reliable to look after her during their absence. The old lady is prone to disappear from the house under the pretext of going to her parents' house if not monitored!

With a wistful look, chechi says that it helps them to tide over the delays in getting the pension, albeit in a small way!!


Probably, chechi and the old lady under her charge have a 'karmic' connection from the past! They'd to meet.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The dubiousness of China's action.

If China wants to be a true world player, it needs to be magnanimous about having more players in the exclusive club of the superpowers. 'Live and let live' should be the guiding spirit and it's not sportsmanlike to put impediments on its potential rivals.

I must admit that I thought there was a lot of positivity and forward movement in Sino-Indian relations after the successive visits of their President to our country and that of our Prime Minister to the dragon country. The joint declaration sounded very positive with a thrust on mutual cooperation, especially on matters concerning terrorism.

And just about a month later........

China's decision to block UN action against Pakistan for the release of the 26/11 mastermind and the Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, Zaki -ur Rehman Lakhvi on bail, is indeed sad. India had initiated this move with the UN sanctions committee on the grounds that Lakhvi was a designated terrorist under an earlier UN resolution consequent to which, his financial assets are meant to be frozen.

China explained its position that India had not provided enough information about the case even though all the other permanent members of the Security Council had backed India's plea! 

This isn't the first time China has obstructed India's initiatives at the UN. Earlier, it had put on hold - citing technical reasons - India's sanctions against the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin.

China needs to understand that terrorism threatens its own ambitious developmental plan in the region like the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road Initiatives. It has to reconsider its stance on terrorism, aided and abetted by Pakistan, that can target its connectivity infrastructure! And how can it forget its own 'jihadi' problem in Xinjiang?

Does China envisage being superior in Asia by continuously thwarting India's efforts to become a power to reckon with? Their foreign policy mandarins will do good for their country by acknowledging India's rightful position in the region and also the world, by providing the right inputs to their leaders!


Connected to this Chinese thinking is its efforts in building artificial islands in the South China Sea. It had reacted uneasily to and doesn't feel comfortable at India's promise of cooperation with Vietnam regarding economic activity and oil exploration in the South China Sea.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The churlishness is strange.

The other day I read about the manner in which Vasundhara Raje, the chief minister of Rajasthan, had conducted a press briefing. She'd invited all except the 'Times Now' channel and she has continuously avoided answering the channel's reporters.

Strange, I must say. She's a seasoned politician and should know the art of dealing with the press, by now. She, being part of the executive, rules and the press, being the watchdog, punches holes in her claims and points to the people the mistakes! Each is doing its duty and there's no point in avoiding the encounter. To my mind, such churlish behaviour - of boycotting anybody, for that matter - proves that she has something to hide. Or is it a desperate bid to save her son who has got into a cleft? Even then, it's a futile effort.

It would be better to face the charges, take them point by point and provide answers. The earlier it's done, the better it's for the individual who's facing the heat. To stonewall the issue is prolonging the issue with the fond thought that she'd be able to tide over the situation because to stay on in power is an aphrodisia that no one can resist.

The truth will out. And as each day progresses, more and more skeletons are gonna tumble from her cupboard till her stay on the chair becomes untenable. Does she want to reach that stage? Then, what an ignominious loss of face will it be for her? What about the tremendous loss of goodwill that her people has for her?


Once she realises that she's unable to continue because of the mounting evidence piling up against her, she'll cite moral reasons and the prick of conscience and put in her papers but not before putting her puppet on the chair that she vacates so that she rules by proxy. A game played by politicians of all hues!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Don't you've a conscience, Akhilesh Yadav?

I'm asking this question to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. On his elevation to the post, it was tom-tommed that he was young, without any political baggage and with his youthful background, he'd give a clean government and bring about much needed development in the backward state. He's coming to the end of his tenure and has nothing to boast of as administrative achievements during his rule, thus far.

And look at the way he has handled the murder of Jagendra Singh, the journalist. It's 22 Jun today, the culprits have not been arrested and one wonders as to whether any serious inquiry is on because one of his ministers, Ram Murti Verma looking after Dairy Development, is the principal accused!
Under pressure, he's finally met the late journalist's family, today, with the following sops:-

     (a) A sum of Rs.30 lakhs
     (b) Government jobs for the family members
     (c) Permission for arms licence and
     (d) Samajwadi pension for the widow!

And all these for what?

      (a) Jagendra Singh used to run a Facebook page called 'Shahjahanpur Samachar'.
      (b) It had a number of followers and he'd written posts about Ram Murti Verma's links to
            corruption and illegal sand mining but had not backed his claims with evidence.
      (c) On 05 May, the minister and his henchmen had reportedly raped a female Anganwadi
            teacher who, later told a local court that the police was refusing to file an FIR against the
            minister and his minions.
      (d) The proverbial last straw that broke the camel's back was when Jagendra Singh had taken
            up the hapless teacher's case in his blogs.
      (e) On 22 May, he'd reported in his blog about the harassment by police, goons and politicians
            and that he feared he could be killed by Ram Murti Verma.
      (f) On 01 Jun, a group of policemen and goons came in two cars, barged into his house
           saying that he'd been adequately warned against writing anything on Verma, poured petrol
           over him and set fire.
     (g) Though he was rushed to the district hospital and later to the King George Medical
           University at Lucknow, he succumbed to his injuries on 08 Jun.
     (h) Initially, the police had claimed that it was a suicide but the dying declaration made by the
           journalist have made the culprits scampering for cover and the police, claims the government,
           have not been able to nab the perpetrators!

A shame on you, Akhilesh Yadav. As the chief minister, you're ignorant about your minister's whereabouts? Whom are you trying to kid?


We, as Indians, need to hang our heads in shame. It's happening in our country which prides in being the world's vibrant democracy!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An embarrassment that could have been avoided.

One takes care never to embarrass a potential host during a visit or a call. The following measures are usually taken to avoid heart burns:-

      (a) Call up well in advance to pass on the intentions and ascertain as to whether it's convenient for             the host to entertain you.
      (b) Provide the host the details of the visiting group.
      (c) To the extent feasible avoid meal timings, siesta time etc.
      (d) If the host had an outing/errand prior to your visit allow him a reasonable time to settle down
            before you make your entry.

Today we, as the host, were embarrassed. Actually, a couple of days earlier, our relative had called to tell us that he and his wife would like to meet Lekha because they couldn't look her up while in hospital. I'd told him that the formality of a call could be avoided especially because his wife goes for work - she teaches in a school near their place. He was, however, coordinating his movements with his daughter's visit to the temple town with her husband and his folks.

I'd explained the present position existent in our house as Lekha was recouping, with the maid helping us with the household chores and the consequent difficulty to lodge them at our place. He seemed to understand my story and added that they'd make it on Sunday, for a short while, since it wasn't considered auspicious to call on a medically unwell person on a Saturday! I was glad that the matter was closed once for all and that he was finally, able to see my point of view but that was not to be.

Later in the day, he was insistent that he spent the night at our place and it was then that I'd to repeat my stand with the final tag that he could chose his option the way he found it convenient! I think better sense prevailed upon them and their Saturday visit to our place was dumped and we're informed that they'd be dropping by for a very short while, around 1100h, before they returned.

This afternoon, they finally fetched up at 5 past 1, as we'd just begun to have our lunch. It was embarrassing to continue - my mom and Lekha's requirement to have lunch at 1, notwithstanding -
but they said that we could continue and that they would watch us have it because they'd just finished a heavy lunch in a nearby hotel.

I need not go into the details of how we finished lunch in the circumstances...... I shan't forget the afternoon for a very long time to come.


Much after they'd left, I was wondering as to why they chose that time to call on. Was it that they're miffed at my not allowing them to come in the previous day? I'm lost on that!    

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A quiet day, a recall!

It was a quiet day with the rains pouring off and on, throughout. Saw the pathetic state of Bombay, thanks to the two days of deluge, on television. Pity the people because the municipality of the city is the richest civic organisation in the country and despite having been run by almost every political party, no conceptual thinking has taken place all these years!

The infrastructure is vintage, the drains are heavily clogged, the low lying areas get inundated during every monsoon and one is shown the same miseries that people have to go through, year after year, season after season. Why don't all the concerned authorities sit together and find a lasting solution to the vexed issue? Or is it their strategy to keep the problem alive so that money, in the name of damage repairs, can be continuously drawn into their pockets from the government's coffers?

Was reminded of 26 Jul 2005, when Bombay had gone through a similar ignominy. I was headed for Bombay from New Delhi on work. The flight was above Bombay's airspace at the appointed hour of 1530h, hovered around for about half an hour waiting to be cleared for landing and was finally, diverted to Ahmedabad as the airport was shut down. I remember reaching back at home a trifle before midnight.

What I'm trying to say is that quite a few of the images that were flashed then, came into view all over again over the last couple of days. Ten years down the line and not even an iota of a difference! Where have the resources, that was meant for the transformation of the city as 'India's Shanghai', gone? Aren't the successive governments that ruled the state of Maharashtra responsible for this sorry state of affairs?


I was trying to spot at least one difference, in the overall state of affairs, between the battering the city had taken in 2005 and 2015 and finally, got the answer. The city was Bombay in 2005 while it's Mumbai in 2015! And has the change in nomenclature - done with great fanfare - been of any help to reduce the miseries of the monsoon fury? An emphatic No!

Oh.....the games the politicians play!     

Friday, June 19, 2015

Remembering PN Panicker.

1913h............ around this time on this date, twenty years back, my grandfather had passed into the mist of time, while at the Intensive Care Unit of the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

The consequent pain continues to fester, deep within.  This evening, mom, me and Lekha remembered our times with him and mom, naturally, had the largest number of anecdotes about her dad. His end was in the manner that he'd always wanted it to be - to do 'karma' till the last day of his life. I'd said this earlier but shall repeat it yet again, a part of him had gone numb on 25 Jul 1991 when Mrs. PN Panicker had passed into the mist of time.

While remembering him this time, I'd like to list out his sterling qualities:-

       (a) The belief in himself. Stories abound when influential people and those that held respectable
            positions in society poo poohed his idea of setting up libraries at every part of the state for
            providing knowledge, free, to every man and woman. Some of the taunts/barbs that were
            hurled at him show the tremendous resistance that he'd to reckon with:-

                 (i) "What's the use of making those people literate when they're anyways earning their                                daily bread and butter? What are they gonna achieve?"
                (ii) "Panicker, you're corrupting the people with your ideas."
               (iii) "Let the government take the initiative. It's only then that adequate funds would be
                      available to sustain the growth of the libraries in the manner you envisage."
         (b) His perseverance. Initially, he used to visit the homes of the wealthy people of a locality
              and ask them to donate books/reading material from their personal possessions for the
              intended library. The wealthiest of the lot, with a philanthropic streak, was asked to donate
              an adequate space to house the library. There were instances when he used to be shooed
              away or to 'come another time' when they're free'.
              I'd heard a retired chief secretary to the government of Kerala lamenting about how he'd
              purposely kept PN Panicker waiting for almost half a day, before letting him meet the
              chief minister because he found him to be 'pesky'!
         (c) He never nurtured any ill will towards anybody. He went about his work and never had
              the time to harbour any negative thoughts about others.
         (d) His elephantine memory. He'd a way with people and their names. Once having                                  established a relationship, he nurtured it
         (e) His kindness. I've been the most fortunate recipient of his unrestricted love and affection.
         (f) Spotless integrity. He was neither interested in pelf nor money and led a spartan life. He
              was quite happy with his meagre pension and believed that he should not take additional
              remuneration because his work was purely social service.
         (h) Maintained a meticulous diary. Just proves that his life was an open book and he'd nothing
               to hide. He lived his life the way he'd wanted.
         (j)  Disarming simplicity. He lived a simple life with minimal wants.
Remembering my Muthachan with love, affection, tears and prayers.


This was the first Reading Day function that I'd viewed and monitored from home because of the requirements of Lekha's medical management. The function at the University Senate Hall, Thiruvananthapuram was simple yet grand, presided by Sri PJ Kurien, because the chief minister could not make it due to some last minute reasons. The Malayalam movie superstar, Mammootty, delivered the message on the occasion of the 'Vayana Dinam'. He didn't hesitate to point out to the Education Minister's - an amiable and likeable gentleman otherwise, but bound by political requirements - reluctance to light the traditional lamp on the stage saying that the religion wasn't against it and joined the others in the ceremony.

Kudos to you, Mammootty, for your stand. It definitely sends the right message to the young children and the people of Kerala on the occasion, from the Foundation's platform!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The review and another story.

The Review.

It was Lekha's review by her doctor. George, with his shining Tata Indigo, had arrived on the dot despite the rains and water logging in many areas. Surprisingly, the traffic was comfortable till the final approach to the hospital when vehicles from the Swaraj Round at Vadakkunnathan were diverted into the side roads as there was a protest rally that was going on there.

We, literally, inched towards the hospital and reached the main porch by the appointed hour of 10. By the time we're at the operation theatre the doctor was unavailable as he'd to attend to a situation that had cropped up. However, by 12, we're able to return after the following observations of the doctor:-

      (a) the wounds were healing well.
      (b) the dressings on the main wound need to be renewed every alternate day.
      (c) she could start walking without being tied to the bed all the time and
      (d) the next review would be within the first week of July.

The Battle of Waterloo's 200th Anniversary.

Today also happens to be the 200th anniversary of the famous Battle of Waterloo, where the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated and exiled to the island of St Helena by the Duke of Wellington and his allied forces. The fierce fighting between the two forces had begun at 1130h on 18 Jun 1815 and ended at 2030h, with the rout of the French forces.

Waterloo, situated in Belgium, was then part of the Empire of Netherlands.

The interesting part of the celebrations is that every European country is participating in it for the first time. France, despite the fact that its forces were defeated is commemorating the event as the first step towards the union of the European countries!


Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is the place where the headquarters of the European Union is sited.  


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A train of thoughts.

The media was all agog with excitement at having caught three BJP leaders in helping 'Lalit Modi' - who's wanted in this country for his dubious dealings when he was the Commissioner of IPL Cricket. Since the media is picking on the dirt and acquiring all related evidence, there's no point in speaking about it at this juncture.

But I must confess my fondness for the two ladies - Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje Scindhia - because both are articulate, know their ropes(At least I thought so, till this episode has blown up) and when they speak, the people listen! The trial by the media is on and it would be just a matter of time when they'll have to vacate their exalted positions except if both can cough up some valid alibi. The matter of a 'conflict of interest' will continue to linger which will take a long time to wish away!

Wonder who's advising Rahul Gandhi these days? His statement that the Bullet Trains when introduced in this country, will only help the 'suited and booted' people smacks of crassness born out of a complete ignorance of political posturing. Someone needs to tell the guy that political posturing doesn't mean finding fault with his opponent for anything and everything he does. A good leader is one who has the flexibility to accept the good decisions of his opponent while picking on his mistakes/anti-people policies.

In his new(?) avatar, after his mysterious absence for almost two months, he has nothing to provide as a stirring vision for his country. I'd like to seriously ask him as to whether he doesn't like his country to have the best and state-of-the-art services? Doesn't he want his countrymen to enjoy a better standard of living? Why is he being anti-life?

The passing away of Charles Correa - one of the outstanding architects of this country and a champion of affordable housing - yesterday, brought back some very personal memories.

It was in autumn '77 when I was a Midshipman on board the Indian Naval Ship Beas. As the Liaison Officer, I was designated to pick him up by a half past 6 in the morning, from his immaculate flat at the Napean Sea Road, to the jetty off the Gateway of India, so that he could join the other guests on the naval ships earmarked for the 'Prime Minister's day at sea'.

Even though,I'd worked out the transit time the previous day, I'd fetched up at his apartment, about 10 minutes earlier than the appointed time. He was in the process of getting ready and was in his dressing gown as he opened the door. The gracious host that he was, he had his wife provide me with a piping hot cup of coffee with biscuits. I must have been into my third sip of the brew when he'd come out to join me, fully dressed and ready to leave. Since I didn't want to delay him because of my indulgence, I'd asked for a couple of ice cubes into my coffee - he didn't seem to be sure that I would have my coffee in that manner but had played along!


Long after the serial was over, my Captain was very curious to know as to what I'd done to have an architect as my ardent admirer! ........Years later, when I was staying at the Tarangini Apartments smack on Kochi's coastline, I'd written to him appreciating his concept of urban architecture and wasn't he gracious in his gratitude?             

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What's there to discuss?

I was quite amused by a recent survey that has been conducted regarding misbehaviour towards the elders by the younger generation. Am particularly amused by the fact that there seems to be an option to treat the older generation with respect and look after them or to leave them to themselves with their problems et all!

I must hasten to add that the findings of the survey did not surprise me a wee bit. I shall underscore my statement with what I've observed and also from the narrations of a wide cross section of the people that I've the privilege of interacting with while on the Foundation's duties.

The little children watch how their parents behave with their parents and grandparents. Sadly, many of us dictate terms to our elders from the 'perch' of our professional accomplishments. What good is all the professional accolades when one is a bad human being? Recently, an incident had come to light where an elderly lady had been complaining about an irritation in her eyes but her son and daughter-in-law could not spare the time for taking her to the doctor and the old lady had finally ended up being completely blind on one eye and partially blind on the other.

I never tire of saying this story again and again. I've befriended an elderly lady staying in an old age home. My reaction on seeing her for the first time was, "How can her children be so heartless to leave such a good looking mother at a shelter?" Mind you, she has four children, each of them well placed in society holding high positions in their respective professional hierarchy, but seem to have difficulty in accommodating the mother along with them - due to their busy schedule, if you please.

And no, she bears no ill will towards anyone. Of the ten grandchildren that she has, none have forged a relationship with her as yet but she's sure that quite a few of them, if not all, will come to her once they are free from their parents' control.

I could only pity the grandchildren's plight because they're missing the care and love of their grandmother which is very important towards the overall development of their personality! In contrast, I consider myself having been so lucky to have received unrestricted love, affection and knowledge from my paternal as well as my maternal grandparents. And for that singular reason, I shall ever remain grateful to my parents.

Looking after one's parents and behaving nicely with the elders is not an option. It's a duty that one has to perform in the course of one's life.


I shan't blame the children for their bad behaviour. It's their parents who've let them down and they need to be shunned! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

A sad state of affairs!

It's a common trend these days for patients to seek doctors whom they feel will reduce their medical woes. The most acceptable situation is when one's aware of the doctor, personally. That it's, usually not possible, makes the search for the appropriate doctor(?) akin to the finding of an oasis in a barren desert! There's dedication and perseverance among the hard core professionals and without doubt, the Indian doctors can compete with their counterparts, worldwide and establish their professional worth.

So, then what's the problem?

It's in the light of the Supreme Court's cancellation of this year's All India Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Entrance Test(AIPMT) on finding it rigged by tech-savvy students who'd managed to take mobile phones and Bluetooth devices into the examination centers, hidden in specially designed vests to enable them to cheat! The court has ordered holding of a fresh test within a month.

When we'd viewed similar antics by the lovable Munnabhai in a movie, not so long ago, most of us had laughed it off as another one of those gimmicks made possible only in movies. That the same techniques have indeed become reality is a chilling reminder as to what extent man can go to achieve his goals.......... him not being fit, notwithstanding!

And close on its heels comes a revelation that the AIPMT of '14 could have had the same flaws! What faith will the citizens - who keep abreast with the news - have for the doctors of that batch?
It's a very serious problem. The sceptics might say that their professional practice is gonna take quite a few years to establish by which point, time would have eroded memories related to the facts. And anyways, a medical emergency precludes the individual from ascertaining the efficiency of the doctor, he goes to, because of the thin dividing line between life and death where time is at a premium.

It's indeed a sad state of affairs!


It would be in the fitness of things that we take this setback as an opportunity to cleanse the system once for all. The medical profession must have the best, always and everytime.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mom returns.

After almost seventy days, mom's back with us. We'd dropped her at my sister's place at Palakkad because of Lekha's impending hospitalisation and surgery on the tenth of last month. Though it was a necessary arrangement, for her it was nightmarish to spend the forenoons all by herself when my sister and brother-in-law were off for work.

"I used to watch the television for a while, read books and magazines and take naps", my mother answered in reply to the question as to how she spent her time when she was all by herself at home. I'd offered to drop her at the Bangalore residence of my second kid sister, but for some reasons she'd turned it down. She detests long journeys - though I try to have frequent stops enroute - and "Bangalore gives me the impression that I'm too far away from you."

They'd arrived by about a quarter to 4, in the evening and after an hour or so my sister, brother-in-law and Achu were on their return trip. And mom began to get used to the changed circumstances - consequent to Lekha's confinement, post surgery - in right earnest.  For us, it was back to the earlier times with long flowing conversations laced with mom's humorous interludes. She has updated herself on the list of people - both, relatives and friends - who'd dropped by during her absence and will systematically, call each one of them from tomorrow to tell them as to how "she'd missed seeing them and would love to see them as early as possible."

Already, three of our friends living in the vicinity have promised to drop by tomorrow itself and our immediate neighbour was the first to call on, soon after her arrival. By their reactions, it was obvious that they too were missing her company all these days. Even more than us, I wonder?


The reality was that I'd wanted my mom to spend another ten days at my sister's so that I could concentrate on her requirements once Lekha's hospital visits had tapered. But mom was ready to tide over those 'rough patches' and was insistent that she returned. Her lonely mornings were too much to bear, perhaps!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Can't help but laugh at the ignoramuses.

Yoga is fast becoming topical and a subject heatedly debated around for all the wrong reasons. Shallow people view the indulgence in yoga as the blind following of what's being seen as the Hindu religion's contribution to society - the 'sooryanamaskaram', an important 'asana', is the one that seems to irk the non-Hindus. But is it justified?

The ignorance about 'sooryanamaskaram' is perplexing. The basis of this 'asana' is all about the effects of sunlight on the human body. Scientifically, it's been proven beyond doubt that the morning sun and the evening sun emit a fair amount of infra red rays, which in the correct doses, are essential for the overall well being of the body. It's for the same reason that a person undergoing ayurvedic treatment for an ailment is massaged with herbal oils and exposed to the sun as part of the therapy.

It's also an accepted fact that the energy in the human body is at high levels in the morning and tapers towards the evening hours. The story of the legendary 'Karna' of the Mahabharatha is also a case in point though the sceptics might say that he possessed the qualities because he's his son and it's after all a myth.

I'm tickled by the latest demand for 'modifications' to make yoga acceptable to all, which are:-

      (a) Sooryanamaskaram should not be made mandatory and
      (b) The rendering of the related 'slokas' should also not be made compulsory!

I can only liken it to an insistence of abolishing the shooting of goals into the opponent's goalpost in a game of football........er, to make the game more egalitarian!


One can't help but view the paradox. The world over, many people irrespective of nationality, have embraced yoga as an essential tool to leading a healthy life. And in India, the cradle of yoga, we fight over trivia. Even God must have put his hands up - in utter despair - this time!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Adieu Christopher Lee.

The famed British actor, Christopher Lee, passed into the mist of time succumbing to respiratory complications. He was 93.

Long time back, while at school, the biggest bet among us was to read the book, 'Dracula' through the night and to be able to walk through a dimly lit road, on the periphery of the school subsequent to it. It was considered a sign of raw courage and your contemporaries and friends looked at you with deference on successful completion. I was among the handful who were able to manage the feat but the mortal fear that I'd endured during the entire sequence still rankle my mind after so many years.

It was then a burning desire, within me, to see the movie. And like many foreign films that I've viewed, I was spellbound to see not only Dracula, but his castle and the way he slithered down the rope like a lizard - in the wee hours of darkness for his nocturnal activities - in almost the same manner as I'd conceived after reading the novel. The way he zeroed in on his prey - mostly, a bevy of young, troubled women - and sunk his ominously prominent canines into their jugulars, making them his slaves for life, perpetuated horror of the worst form.

Kudos to Christopher Lee for immortalising(?) the character and giving it a personality that only he possessed!

I saw him later as the villainous Scaramanga in the James Bond flick, 'The man with the Golden Gun'
and found him to have become urbanised in it! He had also appeared in the blockbusters, 'Star Wars', 'Lord of the Rings' and quite a few others.

It's said that despite being a master of the horror genre, he detested horror so much so that he even did not like the word. To quote him, "It implies something nauseating, revolting, disgusting which one sees too often these days. I prefer the word fantasy".

The hallmark of a true and fabulous actor!

RIP, Christopher Lee. My humble homage to a great actor. Generations to come will remember you for your contributions to cinema.


Christopher Lee and Dracula, the Prince of darkness have become inseparable. It shows the extent to which he'd got into the skin of the character!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Our distorted outlook towards security!

The high drama that took place at the Karipur airport of Kozhikode last evening is yet another classic case of our distorted outlook towards security.

The Incident.

Around 2130h, a scuffle had broken out between Fireman Aji Kumar and Sub Inspector Sitaram Choudhary of the Central Industrial Security Force, at the entry gate near the Air Traffic Control tower, over the issue of frisking. Soon, more personnel belonging to both the groups joined the fracas and in the resultant scuffle, the loaded pistol of SI Sitaram Choudhary let go one round that saw the unfortunate death of Head Constable SS Yadav of the CISF, when he had taken the bullet on his head.

The subsequent rampage and the consequent scare prevalent within the airport premises resulted in the flying operations being suspended for many hours.

My take.

This is yet another classic case of our distorted views on security. I'd like to remind all of us the words of a dreaded terrorist - on being interrogated - about how the terrorists view security and I quote, "How long can your security forces remain vigilant? 24 hrs, 48 hrs or even 72? But somewhere in between, slackness will set in and the guard is temporarily down and it's that moment that we capitalise to send home the killer shot to do the needful!"

Security has to be 24x7, with zero tolerance in slackness. Period! And it has to be applied on all people equally, without fear or favour, irrespective of their 'positions on the pecking order' or their proximity to power!! In the process, one might have to go through 'checks' many a time in a day but that's a necessity whether one likes it or not. The security forces, on the other hand, must be constantly educated about the need for carrying out meaningful searches while being humane during the process. I've heard an oft repeated refrain and I quote, "Oh, those security guys are dumbos, they do not even know as to what they're doing. They simply go by their seniors' orders".

We, the people, therefore, have to undergo their searches, pat downs where necessary and continuous surveillance through their electronic eyes without any grudge. It's part of the game!

Instead, we get sentimental about Shah Rukh Khan being searched at a US airport.......... Remember every group in an airport is important for its smooth functioning, no group is more important or better or superior to the other and all the support groups have to pull together to make the airport taut and a pleasurable experience to be in it, for the milieu of passengers that pass through, every moment.

This unfortunate incident has happened because of a play of egos, misplaced feeling of importance, in other words, an ugly turf war between the support groups of the airport and has to cease forthwith. There needs to be a fundamental change in attitude!

RIP, Head Constable Sharad Singh Yadav. With tears and prayers. Here's wishing that your near and dear ones are able to brave through their tremendous loss and these distressful times.


Carrying out security duties is the most difficult and a thankless job. Let's learn to respect them and help them in carrying out their duties by co-operating with them wholeheartedly.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Only in Kerala can development be stalled for narrow political considerations!

Vizhinjam, a sleepy fishing harbour, about 25 kms south of the famed Kovalam beach is all set to become a busy hub of shipping activity within a decade. Work on the much talked about Vizhinjam International Seaport is to begin on 01 Nov, this year by the Adani group thanks to the Oommen Chandy government giving the go ahead today.

The two fundamental factors that make Vizhinjam an ideal contender to become an international seaport are:-
      (a) It's smack on the international maritime highway and
      (b) It has a depth of about 24 meters all the year round!

The seaport project was conceived 25 years ago but had gone through a tortuous path of decision making because of personal egos, narrow political considerations, the usual Malayalee reticence to change, ably aided by certain external factors too. A quick recount of those factors show as to how development is stalled and the rightful ownership to its benefits are denied to a people by false propaganda and vicious campaigns and here, I go:-

      (a) Lack of political will.
      (b) Bureaucratic red tape.
      (c) International lobbies had used 'paper NGOs' to stall the project because its advent would
            have seriously dented the business of Colombo, Dubai and Singapore ports.
      (d) Tamilnadu was keen to have the port of Kolachel, about 50 kms further south on the coast,
            to be developed for the purpose - that the concerned ministry was with a minister of the DMK
            party in the UPA government only aggravated the issue!
      (e) 70% of the international transshipment of Indian cargo business is currently handled by the
            port of Colombo - the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal at  Kochi             notwithstanding, but that's another sad story again - and Vizhinjam can pose a serious threat
            if it offers competitive rates!
      (f) The bid submitted by the Chinese Harbour Engineering Company, in 2006, was shot down
           due to security considerations which then went on to develop the Hambantota port in Sri
           Lanka that had commenced operations in 2010, becoming yet another contender in the stakes.
      (g) The LDF government had, then, short listed the Adani group to undertake the project but it
            was shot down by the UPA government at the center citing the group's closeness to Narendra
            Modi which was further augmented by the factor mentioned at serial (d) above.
      (h) The vexed issue of land acquisition for the project had dragged on for the past so many years
            with almost all the forces, against the project, playing merry hell. Thankfully, 90% of the
            acquisition has been completed by now.

Therefore, when the UDF government of Oommen Chandy tom toms the fruition of the dream project as its major achievement, the LDF is peeved about it and has been talking of a massive scam of Rs.6,000 crores out of the Rs.7,525 crore project!

How should the common man react to such an allegation?


I leave you with a pertinent question, "The port, had it been commissioned in the normal course after conception would have made a huge difference not only to the debt-ridden state economy but also rejuvenated the country's revenue". Shouldn't the forces who'd thwarted the project till now answer for letting down the people? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

To stop train, pull chain.

The chain, with a handle and painted red, was a fixture that we'd got used to seeing in all the trains during the years of train travel that were undertaken in the course of our lives. It would have served the purpose of bringing the train to a halt in case of dire emergencies in the days of old. Lately, it's been misused to stop the train at unscheduled stations or more commonly, at the outer of a busy station to make a quick getaway to either cover a ticket less travel or to head for a destination without having to cut through the town's messy roads, causing undue delays for the passengers who're continuing with their journey!

All these would now become a thing of the past with the Indian Railways building new coaches sans the chain. In these days of sophisticated communications - cellphones, satellite phones et all - informing the driver, to stop the train if required, is easily possible. Technological advancements must be incorporated to keep important services meaningful, state of the art and user friendly.

Let me try to recount at least ten changes that I've seen in train travel since my childhood days and I shall try to put them down chronologically, to the extent feasible and so, here, I go:-

     * The substitution of the steam locomotives with diesel and electric traction.
     * The much reduced incidents of connecting up carriages, broken from one train to be hitched on
        to another due to the increased number of trains and better connectivity.
     * The vestibule connectivity because of which one can disembark from and reembark on to the
        train as per convenience.
     * No requirement to eat at/from the railway eateries as the vendors give you packed meals at your
     * The loss of feel (One could ship in plenty of dust and soot in the process) of the nature and its             breathtaking sights while travelling in air conditioned carriages.
     * One hardly comes across even the names of the stations enroute because of the advent of
        super fast trains which have minimum stoppages.
     * No requirement to collect drinking water from railway stations as bottled water has come to
     * The use of computers and recharging of cellphones in carriages have become more common.
     * Computerisation has helped people to buy their tickets online, reducing/eliminating the time
        required at standing queues at the stations!
     * Improved communications have brought about a 'virtual reduction' of distances, thereby
        reducing the need to 'see off' people departing by train. Perhaps, a platform ticket @ Rs.10/-
        is an added dampener.
     * Personal luggage accompanying the passengers have been reduced to a couple of pieces or
        at the most, three to four because of efficient road freight and permissible during one's transfer!


It's against this backdrop that I'd like to recall my first journey to the NDA on 10 Jan '73:-

    - The journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Ernakulam was by meter gauge. The entire family,
       including my grandparents, had come to see me off at the station and it was an occasion for many
       moist eyes!
    - From Ernakulam Junction, there was a carriage earmarked as the 'NDA Special' which was
      hitched on to the Kerala Express, bound for Madras.
    - At Arkonam, our carriage with five others were broken for a six hour halt, before being hitched
      on to the Madras-Dadar Express.
    - Poona - as Pune was known then - was reached at 0830h on the third day since I'd commenced
      my journey!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Righting an old wrong?

The day had begun on a fast note as Lekha had to visit her doctor for another review. That the whole process of registration, dressing up of the wound and the briefing about how to do it at home, meeting up with the doctor to understand his observations and clearing our doubts to the buying of medicines and bandage material took just over an hour, showed that we'd mastered the system much to our relief! There were cases right in front of us where doctors hadn't fetched up despite the patients' long wait.

We're, therefore, back home much before lunch time.

In the evening, there were two of my classmates from school who'd dropped by along with their wives. While I've been frequently meeting one as he works here, at Guruvayur, it was the other whom I was meeting for the first time after passing out of school in May '72. A simpleton to the core, he used to be at the receiving end of everybody's jokes and pranks. Disarmingly simple in his outlook, he believed everyone blindly to a fault. The following narration of an incident will highlight the fact.

He was a good footballer and he fancied himself to be the school's goal keeper. A rumour, therefore, was floated that he'd been officially bracketed to keep the goal for the school's team and he was told that he needed to practice hard so that there was no proverbial miss between the cup and the lip. To hone his skills, the practice was to be carried out with a fruit('Punnakka' is its Malayalam name) since its much diminished size would make him sure of his 'goal keeping' skills! There was a small crowd that had egged him on in this endeavour and I, too, was a villain of the piece in being part of that crowd. An hour or so of this wicked game on our part, he had realised his folly and I can still see an uncontrollably sobbing Mohandas sad at the thought of his hopes of becoming the school's keeper crumbling and dashed for ever. And the beauty about the whole thing was that he wasn't angry with any of us for befooling him!

That, in essence, is Mohandas Kollodi and I must confess that we weren't great friends at school as each of us moved around in our own circle of friends. We're bonding after so many years and by doing so, that wrong on my part was being righted, so I presumed.

But he'd the last word which again highlighted his sterling personality, "Oh, Rajeev, just forget it. That was the work of a schoolboy's pranks and no, I have no ill will towards you, in fact, I'm glad that this evening was possible. Now that we've met, we'll keep meeting up again".


He'd retired on 31 May after a blemishless and meritorious service in the insurance sector. Mohandas, it's people like you who're worthy to have as friends and who make life worth living! Take care and never lose your simplicity!! My Maman, who was passing by and boarding the late night train was also able to meet him.      

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spring cleaning.

It was not gonna be a quiet Sunday..........

I'd called the local farm hand, Pushpakaran, to clean the windows along with their mosquito proofing, the sills, the lights and what have you. It's supposed to be a half yearly exercise but this time it had got extended because the earlier guy had played truant - after doing it twice. Wonder why and I thought that I'd paid him handsomely?

And secondly, Lekha's understudy had also fetched up today despite the fact that she normally takes an off on Sundays - a special consideration because of Lekha's current medical restrictions. Damn sweet of her!

There was plenty of muck that was removed over the day and Pushpakaran had done a systematic work at that. With the rains having set in, the dust is gonna be less next time he said and I told him that I'd require his services from now on for the purpose.

     *                            *                              *

Calls from relatives and friends poured in inquiring about Lekha's condition, post surgery. Mom wanted to know as to whether she could return to 'The Quarterdeck' next Sunday and my sisters with their inquiries, followed.

     *                             *                              *

The task of fine tuning the 'coffee table book', which we plan to bring out on the occasion of our get together, during the first week of December - named 'GTG @ 60' - has now come to me. There are 46 contributions in the form of stories, poems and anecdotes both in English and Malayalam. The finished product has got to be good. Period!

      *                             *                              *

Rains have begun in right earnest. It had begun soon after sunset and the way it's persisting, I think it's gonna rain through the night.


Three interesting tweets on the Maggi issue:-

        *  Just found someone having Maggi at the office and now I wonder if I should report attempted
      ** Man, I've so many cool memories about Maggi. I still remember Harbhajan telling Symonds,
           "Teri Maggi".
    *** What's happening with Maggi is a clear MSG to everyone out there that in the nutritional
           space someone else should take the Lead!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

It has now come out in the open.

Two men were killed and two others, who're seriously injured and currently battling it out for life in a private hospital in Kannur actually brings forth the grim reality that everyone knew about. The explosion had taken place at a spot where crude bombs were being made. They're the latest victims of the 'gun culture' practised by the political parties.

Politics has become very vindictive. Each political party has in its arsenal, unimaginable quantities of crude bombs, swords and other deadly weapons to fight their opponents. The art of playing politics where ideology is countered with ideology through articulations and friendly arguments has become a thing of the past. Vendetta and the use of force has become common where the elimination of opponents is considered normal because scores have to be settled!

I'm sure that the leadership sits behind in air-conditioned spaces while they let their minions go for the kill and get killed! Don't they have any feelings for the parents of the minions who undergo the loss? Or are they considered expendable? There's usually an overdose of gimmickry at the time of the funeral when bland eulogies are uttered by the prominent leaders and crocodile tears shed to appease the relatives along with the remainder of the minions!

My take.

Politics is the art of managing the unimaginable and to that extent, it should be the endeavour of every politician to win over his opponents through his articulations. Shouting down the opposition or eliminating one's opponents show what a poor leader one is. More importantly, once power is achieved, the leader has to provide governance to every member of the society despite his political affiliations/leanings. And a mature, tolerant and one who sincerely works for the entire population is revered and loved by everyone, cutting across party lines.

Magnanimity in victory and graciousness in defeat are the hallmarks of a great leader. Criticism - which will be in plenty once one is on the pinnacle of power - has to be taken in the right spirit and turned into an advantage by course corrections. And above all those aspects, one mustn't lose one's sense of humour and the only way to do it is to never take oneself too seriously!


And not to forget the need for impeccable integrity!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why aren't these things being addressed despite repeated happenings?

Once a government is formed, its foremost function is governance and to provide an effective one at that. Every citizen's need is looked into, legislation is brought out to overcome procedural or legal impediments to ensure the overall well being of the people while ensuring that they too join the activities of nation building.

In Kerala, however, I've seen similar if not same scenarios springing up with remarkable regularity. I'm gonna touch upon three things that seem to be very low on priority, which are:-

     (a) Waste Management.

      A Malayalee is proud of the fact that he lives in clean surroundings with an emphasis on
      cleanliness every time. Not very long ago, the Tamilian came for his barbs and taunts for the
      comparatively lax approach(?) towards cleanliness. All that has changed drastically over the
      last few years and Kerala has had the highest incidence of illnesses - some new and the others,
      not new - affecting the people and the culprit has long since been identified. Poor or absolutely,
      no management of waste.

      Apart from lip service, there has been no earnest desire on the part of the powers that be to tackle
      this menace. Further delays can only bring untold suffering and sorrow.

     (b) Coastal Erosion.

      Every monsoon season, massive coastal erosion is reported but no long term remedial action has
      been put into place. A systematic development of mangroves, building of seawalls etc are some of
      the measures that can be put into effect, the shrinking of land by the advancing seas due to
      climate change, notwithstanding!

      (c) Rabid Dog Menace.

       It's with grave concern that one reads of rabid/stray dogs mauling not only little children but
       also elderly people. Such cases seem to be on the rise all across the state. Wonder why a
       systemic approach towards management of stray animals is not thought of? Or are the lives
       of the ordinary citizen considered to be cheap?


Having said the above, the citizens need not wait for the government to get into every aspect of their lives. They can organise themselves and bring about radical changes in their thinking and put things into place that can make their lives worth living!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Just a couple of points.

I'm continuing my analysis of the news headlines of the past few days and here, I'd like to touch upon a couple. It's amazing to see as to how a story develops and picks up in tempo with respect to the viewership, that towards the later stages, the arguments and their counters tend to get warped. But opinions are opinions, anyways and each needs to be taken note of:-

  (a) Maggi and its noodles.

  There might not be very many among us who've not tasted this yummy, easy to cook and the fastest
  dish to have on the dining table. Mothers prefer it because their children adore it. To let you into a
  secret, I wouldn't mind tucking into it, the high levels of Mono Sodium Glutamate notwithstanding!   But having said that there are a few serious queries on the issue that every right thinking man and
  woman must ponder upon, which are:-

    (i) Does Nestle maintain the same levels of Sodium Glutamate in the packs that they sell in
         countries like the US, Canada, England, France etc? Or is it reserved only for the countries
         of the developing world - after all, aren't we their guinea pigs?

   (ii) To what extent is the consumer influenced by the endorsement of a brand by the celebrities?
         And if the celebrities are aware of the fact that the consumers would follow their sentiments
         expressed regarding a brand, aren't they ethically required to confirm the usefulness, the purity,
         etc of the item before they embark on its endorsement? Will they use it? Or the lure of money
         is so great that ethics and morality be damned for most, if not, all of them? On a personal level,
         I am  not influenced even a wee bit by the celebrities and their endorsements, I choose after
         my own understanding of the product! 

   Nestle and its cronies have a whole lot of answering to do and take quick corrective actions,

   (b) Yoga having a religious twang.

   This is one of the most ridiculous news byte of recent times. To term yoga as anti-religion or to
   say that its ownership belongs to a particular religion shows the level of ignorance on the part of
   the individuals who strut around as leaders or as spokespersons for their group/community.
   Just goes to show that they really don't have anything worthwhile to fight(?) for and thereby,
   justify their positions by resorting to useless rhetoric.

   Yoga is a tool towards maintaining a healthy life by toning one's body through the numerous
   exercises or 'asanas' as explained in its treatise. Let's not make a mockery of a sacred system
   that we've inherited as our culture and honed, over a period of time.


Information overkill can stymie us but perversion of information is unpardonable.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

An act of God?

The day had begun on the usual note of being warm and gummy. The sky wasn't overcast but there were enough tell tale signs to indicate that it was gonna rain later in the evening.

A rooster in our neighbour's house made his presence felt with his energetic calls in the morning. Soon after, one heard it shrieking of pain - he was slowly being bled to death to turn up as an exquisite dish on the dining table, later in the day!

And quite a while later, Lekha's beautician friend had come to chop off her hair and give her a good head bath. She was having her head washed for the first time since 20 May, before the surgery. The relief was visible on her face because lack of bath can upset one's peace in this warm weather, the enhanced use of soaps, deodorants and perfumes post sponging, notwithstanding!

Around 8 PM, the rains had begun. I'd just finished my work out on the treadmill and we're getting ready for our fruit time. The rain picked up in intensity and before long it was heavy, submerging many parts of the temple town. My friend, Narayanan, who stays closer to the temple and who was within the outer precincts of the temple at that time had rung me up and in an excited tone said, "Sir, the lightning has struck the northern wall of the sanctum sanctorum and a part of it has fallen off!" He sounded very, very sad too and it was pretty clear that he'd taken it personal. Well, this is not an uncommon phenomenon out here, anything that does not go well for Guruvayoorappan affects the people!

My reaction was equally irrational when I exclaimed, "What, even God is not spared from the nature's fury?" and advised him to get back to his house earliest as there would be enough people to take necessary action to take care of the damages to the temple.

But news had spread by word of mouth and there were numerous calls subsequently, asking me for the details. A few of them seemed to be genuinely disappointed that I was not there at the scene of the damage! And I, for once, did not have a plausible explanation for that!!


I've seen nature's fury earlier too. Long time back, on one of my vacations from school, I'd seen a sheet of lightning drop on to the earth when it had struck a huge and old banyan tree at the market ground, adjacent to my house. It was spectacular but dangerously close for comfort and we're all huddled in our sitting room deep in conversation........The tree's remnants, the next day, was a sorry sight - burnt and reduced to an insignificant, dwarfed stump shorn off all its leaves and most of the branches!  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Recommendations are good, but will our 'maturity' allow its implementation?

The state's unit of the 'Commission for Women' has come up with recommendations - that would have far reaching implications and will, I believe, have the wholehearted supported of the entire strata of society - to cut down upon ostentatious weddings. Stories are a plenty where the brides' families have incurred heavy debts towards the conduct of their daughters' weddings - just to be at par(?) with the others.

The brides, quite often, look like they're advertising for gold companies and are severely restricted in their movements by the sheer weight of the ornaments that they're wearing! Usually, the ornaments and the clothes that are worn for the occasion are never, ever repeated!! And therefore, they become 'dead stock'!

No, I ain't being condescending nor am I trying to harp on an issue that I've long crossed over. I must hasten to add that mine wasn't ostentatious because, firstly, we'd consciously decided not to throw money around and more importantly, we didn't have the money to throw around, either. 

Let's go over the recommendations indicating the maximum amount that can be spent on each segment of a wedding:-

      (a) Invitation card                               Rs. 25/- per piece
      (b) Auditorium/pandal                        Rs. 25,000/-
      (c) Decoration                                     Rs. 5,000/-
      (d) Reception/party                             Rs. 100/- per plate
      (e) Bride's trousseau                           Rs. 10,000/-
      (f) Bridegroom's clothes                     Rs. 5,000/-
      (g) Gold ornaments                             @ 10 sovereigns for the bride
                                                                  @ 5 sovereigns for the bridegroom.


         * No separate functions for betrothal and marriage. To be restricted to one function only.
            The number of guests for the betrothal @ 50 (25 from the bride's side and 25 from the
            bridegroom's) and the number of guests at the wedding @ 200 (100 from the bride's side
            and 100 from the bridegroom's).

         * Violation of the law (If the Commission's recommendations are accepted by the government
             and it becomes law) would entail paying a penalty @ 25% of the total expenses incurred.

         * The bride's and the bridegroom's parties are to give a signed affidavit regarding the
            expenditure towards the conduct of the wedding with a copy to the religious head conducting
            the same!

My take.

I congratulate the Commission for Women to have come up with the trailblazer of a wonderful social reform during these trying times.


Here's wishing that the government speedily accepts the recommendations and converts it into law.  



Monday, June 1, 2015

For no rhyme or reason!

The two month long trawling ban on the high seas - ordered by the government of India - was supposed to have kicked into force with effect from today. As I understand, the following are the important facets of the ban:-

     (a) The ban extends from 01 Jun to 31 Jul. The Kerala government insists that the ban should be
           only for 47 days!
     (b) Fishing activities by the mechanised boats are not permitted during the period.
     (c) However, fishermen, using traditional boats/dhows that aren't mechanised are permitted to
           do fishing up to the limit of 12 nautical miles from the coast - in other words, within the
           territorial waters!

It's amusing to go through the reasons for the differing perceptions between the central and the state governments on account of the trawling ban:-

       (a) The state is due for the Assembly polls next year.
       (b) Each vote is essential for securing a win in the elections and there's a sizeable population of
             the fishing community spread along the entire coastal stretch of the state that cannot be
       (c) The trawling ban has been imposed by the central government which is of a different political
             hue and hence, gives great publicity to the state government when it defies it!

And there's a paradox here. The months from May to August encompass the breeding season of the fish and as a rule, fishing is not advised during the period. The absence of fishing activity will rejuvenate the resources and end up in enhanced yields, eventually. If one were to query a die hard fisherman, he'll also tell you that eating fish during the period can invite digestive problems! In addition, it's safe for the fishermen to stay indoors because of choppy seas and whipping monsoons!!

Recent statistics on the availability of fish in our coasts point to almost a 35% reduction from the past and it calls for serious introspection! In other words, playing politics should be the last option and anyways, what does a difference of 14 days make?

Moreover, who benefits from the reduction in the number of days of trawling ban? Obviously, the mechanised boat owners and the very fact that they own them is an indicator of their affluence! The poor fisherman and their traditional boats be damned!!

And who're the people who come under tremendous pressure when the defiant fishermen embark on fishing - the trawling ban notwithstanding - and venture out into the deep seas? The Indian Coast Guard and the coastal police. I pity their plight!

And yes, one can brace up for juicy details(?) of the 'Coast Guard's high handedness' splashed all over by the media in the coming days!  


(a) Rahul Gandhi's gimmickry, last week on coastal Kerala. was part of an ill advised suggestion from his local party leaders hungry for instant publicity!

(b) I'm reminded of an elderly person who'd told me long ago that he avoided eating fish during the calendar months that did not have the letter 'r' in it viz. May to August. Now, does that ring a bell?

And what about the numerous foreign trawlers who come and fish in our exclusive economic zone? Do we've the wherewithal for effective and continuous surveillance of that vast area?