Sunday, April 30, 2017

The East Wind.

It's the name of the recently started freight service between England and China. 

Here are the important nuggets of information about this service:-

   * Reminds about the 'Silk Road' of yore, the route between China and Europe bringing silks, spices,
      Chinese porcelain and even, gunpowder from the east.
   * It's as per China's 'One Belt, One Road' strategy to connect Asia with Europe and Africa.
   * The train travels more than 7,500 miles over 16 days.
   * It passes through seven countries viz. France, Belgium, Germany, Poland. Belarus, Russia
      and Kazakhstan.
   * The journey began at Barking, east London, passed through the 'chunnel'(The tunnel beneath
      the English channel) to the manufacturing city of Yiwu in eastern China.
   * The new weekly service is quicker than a container ship(Reduces travelling time by 30 days)
      and half the price of air freight.
   * Has 34 carriages/wagons that carried 68 containers with a maximum capacity of 88(A ship,
      however, can carry 10-20,000 containers).
   * Differing rail gauges in different countries means that no single train can travel the whole route
      and the containers have to be reloaded at various stages.
   * Could end up being costly but the advantage is that the goods can be moved easily from one
      place to the other.
   * A few of the items that are in demand in China, from various countries are:-
      - Spanish hams, cheeses and wines.
      - German beer and
      - British cars, machinery and food items.  
   * And the Chinese locomotive is named after a Mao quote, "The east wind will prevail over the
      west wind!"


It was a quiet Sunday as we went about the process of settling down with the washing of the soiled clothes under a tight water routine, that we've imposed on ourselves, because of the reduced water level in the well. Selvam, by chance, came to press the clothes by afternoon to complete the cycle. Ramakrishnan, the newspaper boy dropped our papers consequent to a call to him in the morning. Damn sweet of him!  


Saturday, April 29, 2017

To Kollam and beyond!

After more than a week of getting up early to meet the morning deadlines, today was a quiet one with me getting up around 5, reciting the prayers and drifting back to sleep to wake up at 6 to go through my chores. Packing up, getting ready and breakfast, happened one after the other and Alex took my baggage and proceeded to the Foundation.

Maman and I'd gone to Vichaani kunjamma's house to look her up but it was to no avail - despite my ringing the door bell and calling out her name loudly - as everyone was out of the house on some errand or the other! She remains locked within the house, with no other company, for the fear that she might run away thanks to an erratic memory because of her Alzheimer's condition. No amount of advice from the others have made the family employ the services of a nurse because during old age, it's the loneliness and the lack of company that drive individuals to doing abnormal things!

Whenever I've interacted with this kunjamma of mine, she has always reacted positively and I must frankly admit that I haven't found any problem with her. Her erratic bowel habits, at times, upset the rhythm for the household members, but then, so is the case with many patients suffering from either Alzheimer's condition or Parkinson's syndrome.....the elders require compassion while their children go about their lives at a hectic pace.

I've always maintained that it's the children's responsibility to look after their parents during their old age. You can do whatever you want, claim and convince the others that you're giving all the care to them but ultimately, is your mind satisfied that you're doing everything right? If it isn't, you're the one who is ultimately going to be unhappy and feel guilty about the many chances that you'd squandered away!

My departure for Kollam was, finally, at 1030 hrs after a futile wait for Lekha - she wasn't even answering her phone which bugged me no end. No one should be handing over their cellphone numbers and leave calls leaves a bad taste in the mouth! To top it all, my return reservation wasn't done despite my telling her on the very next day after my arrival and Sekhar, who was supposed to do it tells me sheepishly, "Sir, I was waiting for the confirmation". From whom, I wanted to ask but just left it at that!

So, it was an infuriated me who drove off in the Qualis with Alex as my 'saarthi'. Despite the speeds achieved, I could reach the venue of the meeting only towards the end and apologised to everyone for my delay. They're good natured and kind to accept my apology.......that's all I can say!

After calling the meeting to an end and after a quick bite of a 'natural' lunch, Alex drove me to the road transport corporation bus stand from where I boarded a low floor a/c bus, to Ernakulam, at a quarter to 3. The crowd was huge at the bus stand thanks to the long weekend and I didn't get to sit within the bus too which I didn't mind as I stood in front - taking in the sights - and was in conversation with Manoj, the driver and Ajeesh, the conductor. They're nice to me, in that at Kayamkulam, they even waited for me to finish my tea and 'vada'! There were two huge traffic snarls, one soon after Kayamkulam and the second at the approach leg of Alappuzha town with the effect that the bus fetched up late at the Vyttila hub.

I, finally, got a less crowded super fast bus from Vyttila and got off at Thrissur around a quarter to 11. Meanwhile, I'd rung up my friend, taximan George, to ferry me home.


It was on our way home that George, quietly told me that the bus that I'd boarded would have dropped me at Kunnamkulam, just nine kms from home. He'd realised that I'd called for him without knowing this and was genuinely sad that I was incurring a loss in the form of his taxi fare, thanks to my ignorance. Thanks George for your genuine concern but I don't look at it as a wasteful expenditure because:-

    (a) You'd the decency to be frank with it.
    (b) I could be home comparatively early and
    (c) There wasn't any travel weariness!

It was nice to be back at 'The Quarterdeck' and with Lekha, in particular, after a lapse of so many days!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Day 8 at Pangode panchayat.

Sleep was passe by 4, recited my prayers and I drifted to sleep only to hear Ammayi calling out to me, saying that the time was 5. The chores were gone through and I was ready well before a half past 7, when I saw Alex cleaning the Qualis. Maman, too, had come out to see me off along with Ammayi and Chambu, who was supposed to have come along with me today but had dropped the idea as he'd a bad bout of sneezing! Maman, incidentally, had returned from New Delhi at about a half past 1!!

Komalam was already at the Foundation as she'd reached 5' earlier than us and we set off for Pangode panchayat soon after. Had picked up Aji and his son, Anto, from Chullimanoor and reached our destination by a half past 9. To while away time, we'd stopped at a wayside stall for tea, just beyond the panchayat's premises!

The panchayat, however, was slowly building up with people and it took about a quarter to 11 for the quorum to be completed within the roofed hall atop the building. Geetha, the Panchayat President draped a shawl around me during the welcome and soon after, I'd given the overview of the e-literacy campaign, that was the aim of the 'yatra'. And consequently, the people were taken into the Exploratory for seeing the exhibition.

After a quick bite of lunch at the canteen within the premises, we're on our next halt in front of the mosque where Javed Musaliar was in action to receive us and see through the crowd management during the conduct of the road show. What impressed me about Javed was that he has many facets to his personality, in that, to his fundamental job of being the cleric, he indulged in coin collection - he did show us his rare collections - sale of 'attar' and collection of antiques and as we bade good bye, he'd put forth a special request to help him pick up a vintage gramophone!

We're, then, off to the Bharathannoor LPS, where there was a steady stream of camera clicks and selfies with yours truly and I felt truly humbled. Princy, who'd worked with my grandfather on the literacy campaign trail, was at hand with joyous tears streaming down her cheeks.

The last two road shows were equally spectacular with good attendance, with the ward member, a retired Subedar from the CRPF, Shri Ramachandran Nair gave me an immaculate salute as we drove off, his dhoti and bush shirt, notwithstanding. Nirmala, again a KANFED(Kerala Association for Non Formal Education) worker with Muthachhan, hugged me for being my grandfather's grandson!

We'd wound up by a quarter past 6 and parked the Exploratory in the courtyard of the police station, after taking the senior's permission. It was on our return that everyone said that they'd miss my company as I leave for Kollam for the Board meeting of the Jan Shikshan Sansthan and my onward journey by the Guruvayur Intercity Express by 1825 hrs tomorrow.

I'd given a debrief to Maman about the past week plus with Aji and Komalam in tow, on reaching the Foundation. Earlier, I'd streamlined the activities of tomorrow and cleared all the bottlenecks so that Maman did not have anything to bother.


Our return was with a call on Indira Kunjamma. Suresh and Reshmi were back after the former's discharge from the Amritha hospital, the day before yesterday. Suresh looks relieved, now that he has returned home, but has lost a lot of weight! Reached home by 10 and sleep was late, thanks to the work that I'd to finish.    

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Day 6 at Kallara panchayat.

Sleep was interrupted at a half past 1 and after a wash, I'd recited my prayers. It was a trifle too early, I know and the question that I asked myself was, "Hey Rajeev, is your praying act getting reduced to something that you've to do, failing which you think that you aren't able to tick off 'a must do duty' in your daily activity?" The answer's a big 'no'!

Ammayi had given me a shake up at 5 as I'd instructed and I went about my chores and was ready by a half past 7. Alex came soon after and we're on our way to Kallara to make it there at 10 o'clock after picking up Komalam from the Foundation. Everything seemed to be going fine when hell broke loose and the sequence of events went something like this:-

    (a) The Exploratory was parked within the premises of the panchayat headquarters for the night
          and it was a tight fit between the gate and the building's frontage. This was based on the
          President's instructions to ensure the safety of the vehicle.
    (b) There was a water bowser within the premises which had to move out, collect water from a
          nearby water point and distribute it to the people of the panchayat whose wells were dry.
          Neither did we visualise such a requirement nor did the panchayat staff tell us about it.
    (c) Our day's programme was to begin at 10 and we're making it on time when calls began to pour
          into poor Santosh's - the co-ordinator - cellphone. The gist of the news that was being passed
          on to him was, "A group of people was restive that the water bowser had not reached their
          houses and they'd collected up in front of the panchayat headquarters blaming the 
          Exploratory's faulty parking. The President had come by, exhibited his annoyance and
          threatened to bash up Aji, the driver and Santosh, the co-ordinator and blurted out expletives.
          My team did not want me to face the flak and hence, prevented me from going to the spot!
          The President, consequently, did not come to our first venue of operations as promised last 
    (d) A message was passed on to me through the co-ordinator that it was all a 'put on' by the
          President to thwart the opposition from making a mountain out of a molehill!

For me, however, it was a let down regarding the man whom I'd placed on a pedestal, at our first meeting last evening, when he spoke movingly about my grandfather and his association with him from 1968! I did tell the co-ordinator to pass on my feelings to the old man and decided to let bygones be bygones and went about our interactions at six places that had been slated for the day. During lunch, I suddenly felt queasy and didn't partake the food and rested in the Qualis till the others returned. A nice wash of my face with ice cold water and many deep breaths made me feel better and there was no looking back. I'd resumed my interactions, thereafter, with the same vigour, as before, to allay the fears of my team.


It was a late secure at a half past 6, in pouring rains. Had dropped Komalam at her house before heading for home. For a change, today I felt tired! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Day 5 at Kallara panchayat.

Had got up at 4 and recited my prayers, as has become my habit, these days. Drifted off to sleep, soon after, only to get up by 6. Went through my chores and had deliberately left home at a half past 8 along with Chambu, who had to attend his course at 10. Tried to tell Komalam about our being delayed by half an hour but her cellphone was erratic! It was then that my director from JSS, Kollam had called up to say that there was a certificate that needed my signature and had sent it to Lekha last evening and it was to be sent today itself after I'd signed the damn thing!

I'd called up Lekha and she said that she would be arriving soon after but arrived half an hour late and that, too, after Padmakumar! Both of them looked sheepish and I understood as to why Maman keeps saying that his staff comes late, at 10 and secures early in the evening by 4, during his absence. I didn't tell them anything because I wanted them to feel guilty and change their habits, forthwith.

We set for Kallara soon after and it was then that the co-ordinator of our visit called up to say that we must reach there by 1100 hrs as the Panchayat President had organised a gathering of 200 to receive us. I sent the Mobile Science Exploratory from its night parking to cover the delay in my arrival! The President left the conglomeration meant to receive us, soon after, as he'd to attend to another pressing commitment. I could reach the venue only around a half past 11 and it was a poor show on my part.

We'd got off to our task on arrival and could keep the crowd enthralled by what we'd to offer. After a quick bite of lunch within the panchayat premises, we're off for the roadshows at two busy junctions and it was on our return that the elderly Santhakumaran Nair - in his late 70s - had made a beeline to our convoy to meet up with PN Panicker's grandson! He'd met my grandfather, for the first time in early '68, he said and held my hand for a long time, muttering, "I can see Panicker sir in you" and showed me the consequent goose bumps all over his hands. It was humbling! He's a towering personality and I looked too puny in front of him!! That, definitely, was the Kodak moment of the day and he has promised to join up for the first roadshow tomorrow, with me.

By the time we're on our return trip, it was dark and raining. After dropping the others, I'd a small job of buying an extension cord for Chambu for his music system and reached home by a quarter to 9. Another hectic day but it wasn't tiring and I realise that I
'd begun to enjoy my interactions with the people!


1. Never knew that I resembled my grandfather, till was the moment of reckoning and I felt nice!
2. My trail, today, was the same that Muthachhan had taken, way back, in Jun '95 consequent to which he was hospitalised for a massive heart attack that eventually saw him pass into the mist of time.
3. Felt nice to see the thrill on Chambu's face as he listened to his favourite music, after his system was connected, thanks to the extension cord!  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Day 4 at Tholicode panchayat.

The day had begun on a slack note in the sense that it was a day of road shows, beginning from the Pulimoodu junction of the panchayat. Suja, Elsy and Nadia were at hand to guide us through the eight points that were slotted for our visit. In this scorching heat to meet the deadline, itself, was a scorcher. But seeing the enthusiasm of the people, we didn't have the heart to slacken our efforts and the day saw us criss crossing the entire landscape of the panchayat!

Earlier, had got up around 4, recited my prayers and drifted off to sleep only to wake up, on the dot, at 6. Alex was on time and we'd left for the Foundation by a half past 8. Komalam fetched up by 9 and Lekha, from our staff, came in by a quarter past 9. she'd three jobs viz.:-

       (a) To get my return ticket booked on the Intercity Express for the 29th, after the Board of
             Management meeting of the JSS, Kollam.
       (b) To permit expenditure to buy accessories for the Mobile Science Exploratory and
       (c) To give Alex the box of spares for the Exploratory.

We're off for the Tholicode panchayat by a half past 9. After parking the Qualis, the three of us had hopped on to the exploratory to the first road show point. The President of the panchayat, Ms. Shamna arrived a few minutes later and together, we launched the day's activities. From then on, over the entire stretch encompassing the eight points, the crowd was ever flowing. The modus operandi was that the welcome followed by my overview of the essential steps to attain e-literacy, delivered from the rear platform of the vehicle had the desired impact, encouraging many among the crowd to clear their doubts.

And I met people, who made it a point to interact with me. I'm naming just a few:-

    * Rajmohan Nair, all of 58 years, fully scarred thanks to high sugar levels in his system but who
       encourages his daughter and son to study and attain higher educational levels than him because
       he was uninterested in his studies.
    * Samoorah, all of 68 years and a keen activist who also runs a wayside hotel where we'd lunch. 
       She was enthusiastic that the grandson of her hero - PN Panicker - was at her place!
    * Umayath Beewi, all of 63 years, who had come from her house on the hilltop with her broken
       ankle and a weak left leg, consequent to a surgery for varicose veins, just because she wanted to
       see the innards of the exploratory.
    * Sushma, all of 54 years, who was thrilled that I'd taken her name to illustrate the working of
       the telemedicine.
    * Suja, the energetic 'saksharatha prerak'  who'd wanted me to bless her two sons - a humbling

Aji, the 'saarthi' of the exploratory, his son, Anto studying in class X, Nadia, studying in class IX - the daughter of Sajida who's a ward member, Komalam, our health specialist and Alex, the 'saarthi' of the Qualis worked hard to make it a stupendous success!


We could secure only by a quarter past 6 and by the time I reached Maman's place, it was 9. Despite the hectic day, I wasn't tired at all! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Day 3 at Tholicode panchayat.

I was angry with Alex for reaching home by a quarter past 8, but proceeded to the office where Komalam was yet to come by. I'd waited till 9 and we, then, proceeded to the Tholicode panchayat, adjacent to Vithura for the following reasons:-

     (a)  There was a public meeting, scheduled at 10 and we couldn't afford to be late.
     (b) Late coming without giving me adequate warning as to what the reason for the delay was,
           needed swift tackling.
     (c) I was clear that I could stand in for her and handle the show, till she fetched up.
     (d) The meeting would give her adequate time to catch up!

The ice breaker was at the busy junction below the loftily positioned panchayat headquarters atop a hill and the mobile science exploratory couldn't have climbed the steep approach without damaging its extended rear view mirrors! Eighty year old Subeida Biwi, from the inquisitive crowd, inaugurated the proceedings and I outlined our mission from the extended platform at the rear of the exploratory. It was a smash hit and the visitors came by in droves. Komalam had fetched up at the correct time.

We, then, shifted to our second post where even students constituted a large gathering. The star, however, was 68 year old Rajamma, who'd been felicitated recently for passing the class X exam! The Ward Member, Sheela was at pains in streamlining the procedure, organising our lunch and finally, showing us our next post which was called, 'Vinoba', a bastion of the scheduled tribes. I took on the task of explaining the science exhibits to reduce the load on poor Komalam because even today, the crowd was making a beeline of getting their BP, Blood Sugar and weight measured! No amount of telling them that our main aim was to promote e-literacy and therefore, to refrain from us being used as mobile clinical labs!

However, we'd to relent because of repeated requests and by the time we secured for the day, it was 6 and I reached home by a half past 8!


An interesting day with plenty of interaction with the people.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Day 2 at Vithura panchayat.

Was awake at 4 as it had happened yesterday and I said my prayers, drifting to another session of sleep soon after. Maman and I were off from the house by 8 and reached the Foundation but we went our different ways as was planned yesterday. He'd gone to set the ball rolling with regard to the 'brassiere making unit' at our unit at Chathannur and I'd gone eastward to continue with the 'yatra', initiated at Vithura, yesterday.

But before I could head for my destination, I'd to drop a guest of ours - the genial cardiologist, Pankaj Srivastava from Lucknow - at the airport. Consequently, we're at our designated place for the first of the three roadshows by 12. The crowd began to trickle throughout the three hours that we're there and sometime in between, we'd a quick bite of lunch. The next two junctions saw more crowds, comparatively and we, finally, wound up at a half past 5.

The panchayat officials blamed the low turnout due to general laziness that prevail on Sundays, when people usually prefer to stay indoors but what I've observed within these two days, about them, make me happy, which are:-

    (a) The majority of the people who've visited our mobile science exploratory are health conscious.
    (b) They are of robust health(Introducing them to the salient aspects of telemedicine, there are
          facilities within, that provide individuals with instant blood pressure and blood sugar readings.
          But we've restricted it to a few as the main aim of our 'yatra' is to educate the people as I'd said
          in my note of yesterday).

Met an interesting youngster - Abhay, from Shimoga of Karnataka - who'd doing a three year course in the Research and Science Institute within the vicinity. His father works in the BSNL while his mom is a teacher and he's their only son. He dreams of making 'quantum computers' and I was quite glad to hear about his firm resolve. At the end of our interaction, he insisted on taking a 'selfie' with yours truly that tickled me no end!

The journey took less time because for some reason, the return traffic from the hill station, Ponmudi, wasn't heavy.


Maman was off to Delhi by the 6 PM flight.       

Saturday, April 22, 2017

'Digi Gaon Yatra - Day 1 at Vithura panchayat.

Had woken up at 4 and found that my sleep had taken a flight to, I dunno where! So, had a wash and recited my prayers after which I glided back to sleep and woke up a trifle past 6, when I saw the morning sun's rays stream in through the window of my room. Went through my chores, a quick bite of breakfast and Maman and I were off for the Foundation by 8.

A quick check of the things that were being taken, apportioning of personnel in the vehicles - the Exploratory, a car and an SUV - and we're off for Vithura, 40 kms away eastward that spread over the slopes of the western ghats! The journey took approximately over an hour and we're at the panchayat headquarters where a warm welcome awaited us. Without much ado, we went about explaining as to what we aimed by our 'yatra'.

They gave us a lovely lunch on completion after which there was a longish break and then, was the kerb side interaction at one of the most busy junctions of the place. The Exploratory, brightly painted with the theme of the 'yatra', all over its sides, was an instant hit with the young and the old competing with each another to have a 'look see' within. I'd provided a brief overview, prior to it, from the pulled out platform, from the body of the bus, at the rear.

To highlight the facets of telemedicine, two of the exhibits are the blood pressure reader and the blood sugar indicator. Once the fact was known to a few of the teeming visitors, everyone wanted a check of his/her BP and blood sugar values. When I saw that the focus was turning to a mere mobile lab activity, I decided to call it a day since it was also getting to be sunset time. My approach in my initial presentation needs to be modified, suitably, tomorrow so that the focus of the 'yatra' never shifts!

We're back at the Foundation by 7 but not before the particulars of Aji(The driver/operator of the Exploratory), Alex(The Driver of the SUV and Aji's assistant) and Komalam(The teacher interacting
with the visitors, all through) were assimilated from the interaction during our return trip!

On arrival, it was an immediate trip to a friend's sons' wedding reception - their weddings had taken place, one after the other, last week. It was a pleasant event but I must confess that I'd two reasons to feel self conscious viz.:-

      (a) I wasn't personally invited but Maman had insisted on my attending the function since the
           boys' father complemented the Foundation's activities.and he was fond of me and
      (b) I was wearing the same rig that I'd worn throughout the day, for the 'yatra'.

We're back home by about a half past 8 and it was yakkitiyak, thereafter!


As part of the retrieval of encroached land in Munnar, a huge cross that was rigged up by the encroachers was removed by the revenue department team along with the police. The chief minister was quick to voice his unhappiness over the incident, publicly vented his anger at the poor officials which clearly showed the fault lines between the chief minister and the CPI(The revenue ministry is under its charge) regarding the matter and lo and behold, a new cross has come up in its place within 24 hrs!

Do not demoralise honest officials who're trying to bring about some semblance of fairness in the ugly land grabbing saga - that's become a continuous activity resorted to by every political party - Mr. Chief Minister! It's just not fair!!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Off to Thiruvananthapuram.

The day had begun at 5 and Lekha had gone down to the kitchen to rustle up breakfast and lunch for me. Anto had come around promptly at a quarter past 6 and I was in the train well in time with three adjuncts. The erstwhile upper class waiting room has been air conditioned and converted into a waiting room that's available to everyone on payment @ Rs.20/- per hour.

There are visible changes that are coming around in the Indian Railways and as I see them there's an attitudinal change that's coming in. It augurs well for the customer - the regular Indian passenger!

Paulson had got my reservation in the normal chair car, but somehow I didn't find it comfortable. Moreover, my back was giving me a discomfort that was all pervading. In addition to it, Malu, my cousin, was travelling in the adjoining coach with her daughter. Earlier, her parents had given me a frantic call saying that their daughter was having a severe back pain and to provide her all possible help. I, therefore, shuttled between the two coaches a couple of times but her li'l daughter just wouldn't come to me. But her statement, "Chetta, your mere presence has made things okay for me".

Meanwhile, I was able to get a seat in the a/c chair car and had shifted at Ernakulam Town. Malu was handed over safely to her dad at Kottayam and the journey had gone off uneventfully, thereafter. Maman had sent the car to the station and within no time I was headed for the Raj Bhavan, for the Governor's flagging off of our 'Digi Gaon Yatra'. Meanwhile, I'd invited the entire staff of the Foundation for Ammu's wedding saying that it was their presence that I needed and no presents were expected!

The flagging off ceremony was a short yet sweet affair. It has always been a nice experience to interact with the Governor and this evening's affair was no different.

Meanwhile, Lekha had reached Palakkad later than usual as her bus was diverted from the main track. We're at Maman's place late in the evening after the spadework for tomorrow's interaction was put in place.


(a) It's gonna be a long day tomorrow.
(b) Meanwhile, reports and photographs from the Goa get together of our course mates have been flooding our What'sApp site!      

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Adieu TK Chandramohanan sir!

My senior at school and an active member of our Old Boys' Association, till recently, succumbed to cancer of his pancreas this evening around 2035 hrs. I wasn't that friendly with him but we used to exchange pleasantries whenever we came across each other. Two years back, while I congratulated him on getting the 'lifetime achievement award' during the old boys' day, he was effusive in his thanks and spoke to me for a while, inquiring about my stay at Guruvayur.

RIP sir. My prayers and tears for TKC, Roll no. 64 as he was popularly known among us schoolfellows. May god give the strength to his family to tide over these difficult times.

     *                         *                           *

The preparation for Ammu's wedding is proceeding at a satisfying pace. Sanil came in from Bangalore this morning at Ayur and he and Mini will go about inviting the guests. Lekha will buy the last of the trousseau, along with Rema, while she's at Palakkad later this week.

     *                         *                           *

Finished up the backlog of work today. It had to be done as I'd be off to Thiruvananthapuram for the week long 'yatra' in the district taking our efforts on e-literacy to the next level. The Science Exploratory will be accompanying us and we hope to enrich the children with the facilities that are being provided at their doorstep.

     *                         *                           *

The 'What'sApp' site of our course mates is all agog with excitement as guys are making a beeline to Goa for the get together. Had the requirement to go for the 'yatra' not been there, we'd have been off by this evening's Rajdhani Express on which we'd reserved earlier and was cancelled this morning by Paulson. One can't get everything, can one?

     *                         *                           *

I'd been, all along, calling Selvam, who periodically comes for pressing the clothes, as Kumar till now. It was only yesterday that I realised my folly. When I asked him as to why he never corrected me, he smiled and replied that it was nice to hear me call him so! His arrival, this evening, cleared the backlog of clothes that have been piling up and I could get the clothes, that I was to carry along, pressed and ready. Thanks, Selvam!


A quiet day otherwise!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Churlishness in diplomacy!

China has done it yet again! For a while it had made a lot of noise and let it be known to the Indian government that allowing a Dalai Lama visit into Arunachal Pradesh would incur its displeasure. The government, following a refreshing change from the past, did not buckle and saw the spiritual leader's visit go through without glitches. The people had welcomed Dalai Lama with unrestrained enthusiasm and during the visit, he'd underlined the fact that China was hoodwinking its own people about Tibetan aspirations and spreading false stories about him.

Well, China has hit back at India and see the churlishness. While calling Arunachal Pradesh, South Tibet, it has gone and given Chinese names to six places of Arunachal Pradesh viz. Vogyanling, Millary, Khoydengarbo Ri, Meinkyuka, Bumo la and Naam Kaapab Ri but has stopped short from identifying them with the present nomenclatures of places! It seems to know that the act could be termed an 'aggression' and that it could lose its face in case of a face off!!

And it considers itself a superpower! Is it, really, with such churlish actions? It seems to be having problems with everyone and for sure, everyone can't be wrong!

Similarly, Pakistan had refused consular access to Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav thirteen times and has now rescheduled a meeting of the Indian High Commissioner with its Foreign Secretary, over the issue. The date is yet to be announced! Nothing much is expected of that country in terms of a fair outlook as the cornerstone to its foreign policy is a virulent anti-India stance!

       *                      *                        *

Prime Minister Modi has taken yet another step in moulding this country's attitude. The VVIP culture of displaying red beacons on vehicles will become a thing of the past from 01 May. Let's hope that the culture of 'pompous, self imposed importance', cultivated by the average Indian, will recede in due course of time.


Our plans of attending a course get together had to be quashed for the following reasons:-

      (a) to participate in the 10 day 'yatra', the Foundation is undertaking in the Thiruvananthapuram
           district, as part of its push towards digital literacy. The Science Exploratory will be in
      (b) Lekha wasn't very keen to go because of the workload regarding Ammu's wedding

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Major Gogoi, you're my hero!

On 09 Apr a mob of 900 civilians charged towards a polling booth, at Budgam near Srinagar, to prevent people from voting. Not only did they've stones to pelt but they, even, used boulders and rocks to disrupt the electioneering. And the strength of the personnel at the booth? :-

    (a) 12 election officials and
    (b)  9 personnel drawn from the ITBP, J&K Police and the Indian Army!

Seeing that they're heavily outnumbered, one of them called up the Army's Station Commander for additional manpower to overpower the increasingly belligerent group of stone pelters. A Quick Reaction Team, under Major Leetul Gogoi, was promptly sent to the scene. A quick appreciation of the situation, by the young officer, told him that he'd only two options viz.:-

     (a) Open fire on the mob, resulting in a bloodbath.
     (b) Carry out an innovative technique to forestall the situation from getting out of hand.

The team managed to pounce upon one of the stone pelters - Farooq Dar(The guy has since become famous saying that he was always pro-India and had voted in every election, as though he was doing us one hell of a favour!) - and after tying him to the bonnet of their jeep, dashed into the polling booth and rescued the stranded personnel. The timid mob just froze and stood flummoxed, watching a young man who showed courage and presence of mind by avoiding a great tragedy and thereby exhibited his love for his country. A true leader!

It's against this courageous act that a section of the media, the separatists and the J&K politicians have had the gall to condemn. Hey, you misguided idiots, try to assimilate the invaluable lesson that the young Major has taught you, without remuneration!

My salute to you, Major Leethul Gogoi. You're my hero! May god be with you in your endeavour!! 

The crooked and the villains have tried to tarnish your exemplary leadership by painting you a villain of the piece. Fear not, for, you'll come out of it unscathed because what you did was honourable!.....And the people of J&K must behave and don't bite the hand that nourishes them.


Today, I couldn't believe what I saw in one of the Malayalam television channels. It was the finale of a programme called, 'Tararaja, Tararani'. The actors that had made to the final three of the Tararaja were the late Sathyan, Mammootty and Mohanlal. Sure enough, the winner was none other than Mohanlal.

I found this programme to be absolutely ludicrous for the following reasons:-
     (a) No competition is ethical or right between the dead and the living.
     (b) The late Sathyan has a unique place in the annals of Malayalam Cinema. That can neither
           be trifled with nor substituted.
     (c) Mohanlal is a fine actor and he's my favourite too but for heavens' sake don't deify him.
           Don't put him on a pedestal.
     (d) The run up towards the final positions was made through online voting which is totally
           unreliable because of the methods resorted to by the fan following of the stars! It has been
           proved to be bogus, many a time, due to multiple voting by individuals!!

And having said this much, I wouldn't like to go any further and say anything about the 'Tararani'.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Attending a Tamil Brahmin wedding.

The day started off as usual with me going for my customary walk in the morning. It was, then, a race to be in time for the wedding at Thrissur. Lekha was helped with her saree by her assistant, Preetha who'd come in earlier than normal and we set off for the Lulu Convention Center at Puzhakkal by a quarter past 9. The Monday morning traffic was heavy and by the time we'd fetched up at the wedding, it was 10.

Subbu had invited us for his son, Sandeep's wedding with Smrithi. He'd offered the invite to make up for our inability to attend our mutual friend, Savio George's daughter's wedding, this coming weekend, at Chicago. The Tamil Brahmin wedding has a lot of quaint traditions and customs and both Lekha and I concentrated on each step, made clear by the large LED screens at vantage points! The part I found to be the cutest was when the groom took his bride from her dad's lap and then, together, go through the lap of becoming man and wife, chanting mantras, recited by the conducting priest!

The lunch was an elegant spread of the typical Brahmin dishes and I ate myself silly so much so that I was distended by the end of it and could hardly move! We left the venue soon after and was back at 'The Quarterdeck' before 1 o'clock. Santosh Francis, who manages my bank folio, had called up to confirm as to how I wanted my new investment to be, after the maturity of the current one.

In the evening, my aunt and her grandson, had called me up after boarding the train at Thiruvananthapuram on coming to know that they'd forgotten their identity documents at home. My aunt's cute statement that she'd tell the ticket examiner that I'd purchased the tickets tickled me no end. She genuinely believed that by uttering my credentials, the railways would overlook her lapse! Frankly, I must admit that I do not believe in myself to such an extent........Anyways, they were able to perform their journey without hiccups and had reached Ernakulam Junction by a half past 9. They'll visit Suresh, at the Amritha hospital, tomorrow and I'd like to believe that Suresh's present medical difficulties will recede to a considerable extent. The youngster had finished his class X Board exams, earlier in the day.

Lekha's abdominal cramps began around sunset time and she went through severe spasms of pain. Antidotes in the form of Eno and Cyclopam (As prescribed by the doctor) were taken but seemingly, to no avail. She skipped dinner while I'd a bite and we hit the sack at our usual time but not before she'd thrown up everything that was within her in two episodes. Thankfully, she was back to a semblance of normalcy, thereafter!


Invited two of our close relatives to Ammu's wedding. They're gracious in accepting the invite over the telephone and have promised to be there at the wedding. They're Leela chittamma's elder brother who stays at Neyyattinkara and Shalini's mom and elder sister who stay at Thrippoonithura. Damn sweet of them!    

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Journey on an Easter Sunday.

The day had begun at 4 AM, we went through the chores and were able to leave Raj Nivas by a 4' past 6. We reached the Kalpakavadi Inn by a half past 7 and an ever smiling Bhadran looked after us in his customary style. I also gave him an invite for my niece's wedding next month. After spending about half an hour out there, we're back again on the road.

The highway was comparatively sparse, traffic wise and we're at Thrissur by about a half past 11. At Guruvayur, Lekha had picked up a few things before we went in for lunch at our old haunt, the Gokulam Sabari. It was like old times when we used to come down on weekends from Kochi, to oversee the progress of work on 'The Quarterdeck'. The staff knew us and they looked after us in their inimitable style.

The opening up of the house, unpacking and finally catching up on siesta were the subsequent activities. Into a few minutes of my sleep, Lekha'd called up to ask me as to where I'd placed my wedding band as she didn't find it in the usual place where I placed it. A rewind of my activities after arrival was required and then I'd checked in the pocket of the trouser that was spinning away in the washing machine. Sure enough, it was there......blame it on my forgetfulness!

In the bargain, my sleep had vanished and I, then, went through the day's happenings on the net. For the last few days we've been missing out on the television viewing as the system at home couldn't be revived due to the rain on the day we'd fetched up followed by the spate of holidays, thereafter. The walk in the evening was refreshing and it helped me shake up the lethargy of no physical activity all these days.

Earlier, I'd spoken to Reshmi to inquire about Suresh's medical condition. The hiccups, the throwing up continue unabated - the doctors attending on him are biding their time to take action as they are of the opinion that it's an allergy to the morphine that's being pumped into him to keep him immune to the pain. However over the last couple of days, he's been complaining of the pain that emanates from the point of surgery and creeps into the ear. My cousin is by his side all through and I pity her plight as she takes in these difficult sights while the rest of us are going about doing our respective work, not knowing as to how we could alleviate her difficulty!


1. Tomorrow their son, Kripashankar along with his grandmother, will fetch up at Kochi in the evening. His presence should lighten up Suresh and many of his aches and pain will, I'm sure, vanish consequently!
2. I'm damn annoyed by the waywardness of the nursing staff in looking after the patients under their charge, the exorbitant charges notwithstanding!
3. Achu, Rema and Padmakumar had started from Pidavoor, after an early lunch, for Palakkad. They'd to drive through heavy traffic thanks to the people returning to their destinations after the long weekend! The roads were clogged with heavy traffic, it seems.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Checking all arrangements.

The day had begun as usual with me cleaning up the Chevy with the dew that had fallen on its roof and the bonnet. The first guy who'd come by was Vijayan, who was making a bid for the 'pandal' arrangements for the pre-wedding reception PM 20 May. He has been shortlisted on two counts viz.:-

      (a) He's a local guy and
      (b) I didn't want people to think that I was getting outsiders(?) for getting my job done. Yes, here
            people frown upon avoidance of local talent however below par they are in your assessment.
            A kind of cultural restriction/ostracism!

Since Padmakumar and Rema were getting late, Lekha was off to the Siva temple at Kottarakkara for
the 'Mrityunjaya homam' for which she'd done the bookings yesterday! Soon after, we set off for Kottarakkara to review the hotel bookings for the guests. The rooms were okay - the rest rooms, in particular - and they were told of the specific requirements after the arrival of the guests, PM 20 May till their departure twenty four hours later. Lekha had joined us when we're at the first of the three selected places.

We, then, went off to Kunnicode so that Mini could do her personal work. At the Village Office, we went about making the bid for a 'legal heirship certificate' for the bank, that had my mom's pension account, to hand over the arrears to us from her account. It's gonna be a three month procedure when the gazette finally will notify that I and my sisters are mom's children! Ridiculous, to say the least. Anyways, the task has been initiated. Phew!!

Rema and Padmakumar were dropped at Pidavoor and Mini and us had returned to Raj Nivas. A quick lunch, a short siesta and we're off to Ayoor, to drop Mini at Sanil's place. For the next three days, she will be going about the invitation process - the friends and relatives of Sanil's family. It was on reaching there that we came to know of Sanil's mom's hospitalisation - earlier in the day - because of an erratic ECG. Since she was in the critical care, we couldn't get to see her but her doctor had told us that her parameters were under control but insisted that she should be in the hospital for a couple of days!

The both of us were back home much before sunset. Unni, the local contractor, had dropped by and he was asked to initiate the repair/replacement work in the house by next week. Painting can only be done after that. The rest of the evening saw us packing our stuff for an early morning get away to Guruvayur.


1. A labourer was at work on the rubber plantation righting the tender rubber trees - from droops/bends thanks to the strong breeze - with the help of two sets of stay wires on each. Of the 143 trees, 6 have withered away in the summer's heat. They've to be replaced with similar vintage trees once the rain begins to fall next month.
2. Another round of weeding out the wild grass around Raj Nivas has to be undertaken before the 21st of May.
3. I'd also wanted to wash down the well but people have advised me against it as a few had stopped getting fresh infusions subsequent to the cleaning and have gone dry!  


Friday, April 14, 2017

Vishu '17.

I'd got up around a quarter past 3 and after a quick wash, lit the lamp in the puja room and helped Mini and Lekha from their beds - with closed eyes - to the puja room to view the 'Vishukkani'. We hit the sack soon after to get up later at 6, as usual.

Lekha was off to the Ganapathi kshetram at 9, by an autorickshaw fully knowing that the place would be crowded as the day was auspicious. She'd insisted on doing the trip because the ticket for the 'Mrityunjaya homam' tomorrow - for my sake - had to be arranged. The tentwallah, who was supposed to come by 10 AM, ditched me royally and I could only swallow bitter bile for his lack of responsibility.

It was a late lunch, followed by the arrival of our man after two 'false starts'. Padmakumar and Rema were called to come by for the discussions and Achu had made sure that they were at our place with the least amount of delay. Our requirements were put across, serial wise, and the team consisting of Ajib and Shafeek gave us the details of what they'd be providing while we noted down the list of items that had to be managed by us. The rough financial estimates were jotted down while we gave the outline of the stage, the accompanying decorations and the menus for the previous evening's reception dinner at Raj Nivas, the next morning's breakfast for our close relatives who'd be staying along with us and the ceremonial lunch, soon after the wedding.

We'd, then, gone to Pidavoor to look up Padmakumar's mother who was recently hospitalised for congestion of the lungs and low blood pressure. She looked much better after the feedback that we'd got about her medical state last week. Interacting with her is always a pleasure and our feelings for each other are mutual. She looks frail, but at 90 years, she's robust and nimble footed. She insisted on taking me around the recently renovated house.

We reached back by about 7 PM and as I was going around the house to unlock the rear door, a black snake had crossed my path. I froze at its mere sight as I'm deadly scared of the species. Once indoors, it was back to yakkitiyaking between the three of us.........Tomorrow's gonna be another long day!


During the forenoon, two reps of a popular jewellery shop of Kottarakkara, had dropped by to ascertain from us as to whether we were interested in buying new jewellery for the bride. News really spreads fairly quick and I'd to state the obvious that we'd no such intentions! They went back, but before leaving, expressed their appreciation of the frank conversation that I'd with them. Damn sweet of them and I've invited them for the wedding.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

At Raj Nivas.

The day had begun at a quarter past 4. We'd to make a quick get away as I wanted to enter the Amritha hospital, look up Suresh and depart without a fuss before parking, at random within the premises, didn't become a problem and the traffic didn't get out of hand.

Suresh looked subdued, wondering as to why he has to go through this phase. The continuous episode of hiccups followed by a few episodes of throwing up had sapped his energy but there was a look of expectancy from this visit of ours. We're there for almost an hour and heard Reshmi's updation of the events passed.....she has gone through hell, poor thing! I wish I'd something solid to give them but alas, there was nothing!!

The journey onward went through without hiccups. Our first halt was at Hotel Mithila, off Aroor, for breakfast. A quick bite and we're back on the road, Isow seeing us off with a smart salute and plenty of smile. We'd also made a halt at our favourite place short of Kayankulam, to shake a leg, go round the corner and to have a cup of coffee with a light snack.

The traversing through the newly laid Bailey's bridge by the army, as an alternate to the crumbling Enathu bridge, was a great experience for Lekha. The flip side was that the vehicles do have to wait for a while as it's a single lane thoroughfare. Lunch was at Kottarakkara and we're amazed at the speed with which the small eatery has developed over a short span of a year and a half. Shows that it's making good profits in business. Good for them!

The wait at Kottarakkara to meet up with the 'tentwallah' turned out to be a fiasco because he was held up somewhere and it began to pour. Having experienced unbearable heat for the past month, the rain was a pleasant yet wet wet unnecessarily. Was really sad that my hand stitched leather sandals got wet in the rain caused puddle that seemed to be almost everywhere and the dish TV guy found a convenient excuse not to visit us in the evening. That source of entertainment, thus, became wishful thinking during this visit, within no time due to the spate of holidays.

Above all that, there was no electricity at our house and though it was restored by sunset there were frequent interruptions, subsequently. Wonder why the state electricity board insists on maintaining the vintage of the system and I've this serious doubt about the present set of guys being professionally competent. There's a reason behind this increasing tendency to take short cuts in problem resolution!

It was yakkitiyak all the way. Mini, my younger sister, joined us a trifle after 4 and Raj Nivas was slowly brought back to life. The caretaker was of a great help in buying knick knacks for setting up the place.


On arrival, I'd made my customary visit to my parents' burial sites to talk to them and apprise them about our programme. The coconut palm on mom's site had withered away in the heat and I felt bad.   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At Kochi.

We'd got up at a half past 4, gone through our chores and were off on our journey by about a 20' to 7. The traffic was not heavy but we saw three accidents enroute. The first was a silver coloured Wagon R that was trying to overtake a lorry when there, actually, wasn't any space as three vehicles were coming from the opposite side. Luckily for him, the first guy from the opposite side was a taxiwallah, who maneuvered his car well and avoided a headlong collision!

The Wagon R driver instinctively edged closer to the lorry that he was overtaking and in the process, touched his left bumper with the lorry. The uncouth guy put the blame on the lorry driver and was trying to stall traffic when I'd to shout him out of my way, asking him to get well clear off the road and sort out his issues, if any, but I added that he was in the wrong. There was an electrifying effect and he gave me adequate clearance immediately but I realised that he was gonna slug it out with the lorry driver.

Barely 10 kms after, there was a bad accident between a fully laden truck and and an overstuffed pick up truck and from the state of the two vehicles, the drivers seem to have taken direct hits and my estimate was that it was too difficult to say whether they'd have survived after such an impact! It must have happened sometime in the wee hours of the morning!!

We fetched up at Leela chittamma's house by a quarter to 9 where we'd a sumptuous breakfast of idlis with three varieties of chutney. After handing over Ammu's wedding card and inviting them for the wedding, we'd dropped Shalini, my cousin's wife, at her workplace and wasn't she thrilled? She introduced us to many of her friends.... it seemed as though she has placed us on a pedestal! Damn sweet of her!! Earlier before leaving the house, I'd handed over the 'Vishukkaineettam' to the children and Shalini, as per traditions.

We, then, went through our usual routine of me and the Chevy parked comfortably under the shade of a tree at Panampilli Nagar while Lekha had gone for a few purchases. She'd returned by about 1 and by then, I'd browsed the mail and sent replies to a few. We, then, headed straight for my cousin's house. The invitations were handed over, 'vishukkaineettam' handed over to the two girls who'd prepared our lunch and it was quite satisfying to see them happy.

The next visits were to Lekhsmi's and Kannan's, long interactions and by about a half past 5, we'd fetched up at Lekha's Rajan chittappan's house, at Vennala, the last destination for the day. The invitation was formally handed over, caught up from where we'd left last and soon they're driving us to my cousin's place where I'd parked the Chevy in the afternoon and the subsequent ferries were by the Uber taxi service.

We're at my friend's place by about a half past 8. Since Jojy and Saly were away attending a mass in church it was their daughter-in-law, Mili and li'l Shanaya who'd looked after us. The churchgoers returned close to midnight and we'd gone yakkitiyakking for a while turning in for the night.


It was indeed a long but could do everything that we'd planned earlier. And that was satisfying!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Getting ready.

I believe that there was a news item in today's vernacular newspapers that power would be interrupted from morning till evening in the light of charging new sections of 110 KV cables that have been newly strung. I'd missed it completely, as usual. Anyways, it went off promptly at a few minutes past 8 only to return at around a half past 5 in the evening....... The heat took charge, thereafter throughout the day, the inverter providing emergency power, notwithstanding.

I'd made a brief foray outdoors for bankwork, to collect a few medicines and to top up our Chevy with fuel and to check its tyre pressure. During the course of doing the work mentioned above, I came across some interesting instances of human behaviour and I'm gonna narrate them here and so, here I go:-

  (a) Was it intentional?

         As is my wont, I neither barge into anyone's office nor do I occupy a chair unless I'm invited
         and offered. At the bank, there were a few customers, more than the normal, especially those
         who're awaiting their turn to get their loan applications cleared against ornaments that were
         provided as surety. Since there weren't any seats available, I kept standing and tried to pass
         the time by browsing through my What'sApp messages that had already started to clutter. A
         while later, I saw the assistant manager whispering to the manager that I'd been waiting for a
         while and that he should look after me, forthwith. Damn sweet of her!

         After my work was over, I found that the manager hadn't returned to his seat and decided to
         wait for him. He'd gone consequent to a telephonic query. On return, finding me waiting for
         him, he seemed to be surprised and I'd to tell him the reason. While one's sitting in an office
         and the incumbent leaves the cubicle/room, it's mandatory that one awaits his return and then,
         take his leave. It's to ensure that he's adequately satisfied that none of the official documents,
         lying unattended on his table have been tampered with!..... I, then, wished him and his staff a
         very happy Vishu and walked out of the bank.

  (b) Are These Messages Hoaxes?

        I'd seen a message on What'sApp warning me that the IOC has issued a warning that in the
        present day heat, all motorists are advised not to fill the fuel tanks of their vehicles full as there
        existed a threat of explosion. I've been sceptic about it because my knowledge of Physics
        couldn't really give me a valid reason. But before topping up the fuel tank, I asked the guy at
        the counter as to whether the bunk had received any 'Dos and Don'ts' from the IOC and he
        gave me a rather quizzical look.

        The gem he gave me was and I quote, "Sir, in this heat, a bit of fuel vaporises and to avoid
        that loss you might take just adequate fuel". Shedding my inhibition, I'd gone ahead and topped
        up my fuel tank for our journey to my parents' house tomorrow. I didn't want to confuse him
        further by telling him that vaporisation happens irrespective of the fuel levels in the tank!  


The Quarterdeck was shut down in phases, Lekha did the packing and I made out the sequence of the activities tomorrow after cross checking with the folks that we're gonna meet tomorrow. It's gonna be a long haul!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Well washing and other stories.

1. Well Washing.

     The annual ritual of washing the well is carried out during the hot summers when the water level
     is low. This morning my neighbour had said that their well was being cleaned, would I also like
     to have their services? Since we didn't have anything happening, I, too, decided to go through the
     rigmarole and finish with it. I've already told our caretaker, looking after my parents' house that 
     I wanted the well, there, to be cleaned during our Vishu stay out there, later this week.

    Before the work was to begin, maximum usage of the water was carried out, including the washing
    down of my Chevy. The overhead tank was filled up with water which was gonna be available for
    the 24 hours after the washing down of the well!

    Mohan and Vijeesh went about their job systematically, pumping out the water with a portable
    motor that they'd brought for the purpose. Our well has nine rings and the mud that had
    accumulated over the past one year was taken out and spread around in our backyard. The well,
    now, looks clean with its sides spruced up! I completely forgot about dumping a bag of rock salt
    and charcoal at the well floor post cleaning and the guilt of having missed out on it shall remain
    till the next year!

    I must confess that I missed the boisterousness of Sarath and his three friends, who'd done the
    job last year! 

2. Sad News from Across the Border.

    Pakistan has done it again. A kangaroo court has awarded the death penalty to Cdr Khulbhushan
    Jadhav on charges of espionage and sabotage activities. He was kidnapped last year from Iran and
    his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly.

    As a navyman myself, my heart goes to his family which has to bear this tragedy and it's good to
    note that the Indian government has called it a premeditated murder and stopped the release of a
    dozen Pakistani prisoners who were to be repatriated on Wednesday after completion of their
    prison term.

    Khulbhushan Jadhav, my prayers and I hope that better sense will prevail upon those tyrants.

3. The Churlish and Unethical Chinese Government.

    China denied any credit for the Indian Navy for rescuing a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates
    in the strategic Gulf of Aden, claiming that its naval ship equipped with a helicopter saved the 19
    member crew. Declining to acknowledge any role for the Indian Navy which said its chopper
    provided the air cover for the Chinese soldiers to enter the Tuvalu flagged ship OS35, the Chinese
    foreign ministry spokesperson said that the air support was provided by the chopper of the Chinese

    I'm pretty sure that the Chinese navymen, who're on the spot, will have another story to tell!


Another day of unbearable heat!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A few scientific nuggets.

1. Being a Night Owl is a Genetic Inheritance. 

    Researchers at the Rockefeller University in the US have discovered that a variant of the gene
    CRY1 slows the internal biological clock - called the circadian clock - that normally dictates
    when you feel sleepy each night and when you are ready to wake. People with the "night owl"
    variant of this gene have a longer circadian cycle than most, making them stay awake later,
    researchers said. Compared to other mutations that have been linked to sleep disorders in just
    single families worldwide, this is a fairly impactful genetic change.

    The so called 'night owls' are often diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder(DSPD). Their
    24 hour sleep cycle is delayed, making them energetic long after most people have fallen asleep.
    Going to bed late has its side effects in that they're forced to wake up before their bodies tell them,
    so as to make it in time for school or at work, leading to insomnia or fatigue during the day.

2. Vitamin C Does Not Cure Cold!

     The myth that vitamin C cures cold started back in the '70s after Nobel prize winner Linus
     Pauling discovered the supposedly miraculous benefits of the vitamin and published a book on
     the subject. The book, 'Vitamin C and the Common Cold' was a huge hit.
     But according to Sara Chodosh, writing for popular science, there is actually no real clinical
     evidence to prove it. Certain studies have found evidence that regular usage might shorten the
     duration of your cold but not when taken after the onset of the cold.

     Others have found associations with daily dosage and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases,
     though still more have shown no relationship whatsoever.

3. Pets Protect Kids from Allergies?

    A new study shows that babies from families with pets - 70% of which were dogs - showed
    higher levels of two types of microbes associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.
    The theory is that exposure to dirt and bacteria early in life can create early immunity, though
    researchers aren't sure whether the effect occurs from bacteria on the furry friends or from human
    transfer by handling the pets. The study is being conducted at the University of Alberta in Canada.


It was a rather quiet Sunday. Padmakumar's mother has been discharged from hospital but she has been advised complete bed rest by her doctor. Now, that's a tall order for Pidavoor Amma!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

China gets its own medicine?

1. What Perfect Timing!

Looking back into Trump's action of sending 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the Syrian airport, from where the chemical attacks were carried out, it has given China a taste of its own medicine. Its President was in the US, on a state visit, when Trump had ordered the attacks. Must have been terribly embarrassing for the former!

China had done this on the Indian leadership on two occasions and had sat smug, watching the Indian leadership going through the discomfort. It serves them right!

2. A Massive Lie is Being Propagated.

Despite Jishnu Pranoy's family members' versions of the turn of events at the gates of the DGP's office and the tell tale television grabs, there's a massive attempt by the government and the CPM to give it their twist. A half page advertisement by the state's public relations' department on all the newspapers, of the day, giving the government's support to the family and its version of the incidents followed by Prakash Karat endorsing the government's actions, thus far, had three quick fall outs viz.:-

     (a) VS Achuthanandan's support to Jishnu Pranoy's family was muted.
     (b) MA Baby's earlier stand altered to fall in line with the party's stand and
     (c) The CPI leader, Kanam Rajendran's watered down statements compared to his earlier ones.

Was it being done to contain the tremendous damage to the government's credibility, among its cadre, at the Malappuram bypoll? And in the process, harass the ex-personal staff of VS Achuthanandan, KM Shahjahan, who'd filed for a speedy trial of the SNC Lavalin case which alleges Pinarayi Vijayan's involvement in causing loss to the state's exchequer?

3. The Buying of Votes.

Income Tax sleuths have unearthed a racket wherein the Sasikal-faction of the AIADMK has distributed money @ Rs.4,000/- to the public to vote for it. Are the others' free of this virus? Only time will tell!

In a democracy, corruption begins at the time of elections which is the biggest irony of them all!


Our guests who'd fetched up last night were off to Kozhikode by lunchtime. The heat is getting to be unbearable!   

Friday, April 7, 2017

US military action in Syria and other stories.

1. The Syrian Imbroglio.

59 American Tomahawk missiles destroyed a considerable number of assets of Assad's air force on the Shayrat airfield in Syria. This was in response to the chemical attack carried out by Assad's forces earlier this week drawing prompt criticism from Russia.

Why did Trump order the strikes against his campaign promise of not involving the US armed forces in interventions abroad? Though he has not deployed the 'boots on the ground', military action can be spurred within no time owing to a number of factors. So, why did he do it?

It has always been the case that a government when cornered internally, tries to rustle up an external aggression to deflect public scrutiny and thereby, reduce the pressure. Here, the Trump administration is increasingly under the weather with three simultaneous inquiries going on to find out the truth about the covert Russian involvement in the last Presidential elections to ensure Trump's victory. Increasingly, his key aides are falling off like kingpins as the investigations gather momentum! 

Does he feel that his countrymen have come to the conclusion that he was soft on Putin and the Ruskis implying a past connection? Then, this one action would help wipe away that feeling. Possible, huh!?

2. A New Low in Electioneering.

It was a bizarre sight in the Madras' RK Nagar assembly constituency today when the Panneerselvam faction of the AIADMK took out a rally with a plastic fibre replica of the late Jayalalitha's body in a coffin.

Literally, parading the dead for votes? This is the limit!

It, incidentally, drew support from a section of the people who maintained, "It's very emotional. It reminded us of Amma. We lost her unexpectedly. We'll never forget her".

3. Amazing Ingenuity, But for a Wrong Cause.

Aiswarya Bar, of North Paravur, bypassed the Supreme Court directive that stipulates a distance of 500 mts from national and state highways for liquor vends by building a 250 mt long maze-like walkway.

The beer and wine parlour located around 150 mts away from the NH 17 was closed down on 01 Apr following the Supreme Court ruling. Trust the 'mallu' to come up with such an ingenuous idea!


Why do I get this feeling that this year's national film awards could have been different? I'm no expert but something within me tells that it's a Priyadarshan - he was the chairman of the jury - orchestrated script! Sad!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A hotchpotch.

1. Finally, the GST is Through.

    The Parliament passed four legislations to pave the way for the roll out of the historic Goods and
    Services Tax(GST) from 01 Jul. The bills were returned by the Rajya Sabha after the negation of a
    host of amendments moved by the opposition parties. The Lok Sabha had passed these bills on 29
    Mar. All the states will now have to pass the States GST Bill after which the new indirect tax
    regime - common for the entire country - can be rolled out.

    In the Rajya Sabha, it was the consensus brought about by the former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh,
    that saw the Congress drop all the amendments that individual members had given notice of earlier,
    on the appeal of the Finance Minister that any amendment moved will have to go back to the GST
    Council, inviting a further delay in the roll out. The CPM and the Trinamool Congress, however,
    stuck to their amendments which were outvoted, though.

    A rare show of spirit of accommodation and camaraderie in the legislature for a national cause!

2. Vasundhara Raje Needs to Buck Up.

    Pehlu Khan, 50, was brutally beaten up by a gang of cow vigilantes in the Alwar district of
    Rajasthan last Saturday while transporting cows. He later succumbed to his injuries on Monday
    night. It's a bad show, Ms. Scindhia! These guys must be rounded up and tried for murder, nothing
    less because they've no right to:-
           (a) snuff another life and
           (b) to take the law into their own hands!

    Madam Chief Minister, let's see a positive action, on the issue from you, forthwith!

3. The Chief Minister Explains at a Campaign Rally.

     The chief minister had tried to explain to the people as to what all have been done by the
     government in the Jishnu Pranoy case, at one of the election rallies at Malappuram, raising
     more questions on the issue. A few points that need to be noted are:-

         (a) The good that a government does must be spoken about by the others/the beneficiaries
               rather than by the chief minister or his ministers.
         (b) By resorting to such a thing, he should have ensured that he spoke the truth. Here,
               taking the help of the television grabs he'd said that the police never dragged Jishnu's
               mother nor manhandled anybody from the family. Soon after his utterances, the arguments
               have been countered by the victim and some of the 'television grabs' themselves! His
               credibility is the factor at stake.
         (c) A quick acceptance of the police excesses and an apology were all that's necessary, the
               people concerned would have only been willing to forgive and forget.


The ugly spat between the Indian Tennis players, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in the
selection of the country's Davis Cup team for the match against Uzbekistan once again, brings to the fore the petty egos that play with scant regard to national feelings! .........In this case, I must concede that I'm on Leander's side!!  


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A script gone awry!

The Kerala Police drew widespread criticism for manhandling the mother and close relatives of Jishnu Pranoy - the engineering student who allegedly committed suicide three months ago - when they attempted a sit-in outside the police headquarters, today. They're protesting the delay in arresting those responsible for Jishnu's death which, they allege, is a murder, committed with the connivance of the top management of the Nehru College where he was studying!

The television grabs were disturbing and one wondered as to why the police were so tactless and brusque. The way they dragged the grieving mother on the road would have moistened the eyes of even the most emotionless man! To many Keralites, the police must have become the villain with this one tactless act.

But how and why did it happen? Let's see the circumstances:-

     (a) A bypoll for the parliament is slated on 11 Apr and the electioneering is on in full swing at
          Malappuram. No political party would have liked to get into a defensive position in the run up
          to the polls.
     (b) The CPM's state secretary had said that the election results shall vindicate the performance of
           the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
     (c) A harmless set of members of a grieving family formed the protesters.
     (d) A decision, acceptable to all, could have easily been brought about through discussions.

So, why did it have to get ugly? Was the police rattled by the fact that a group of protesters had fetched up at their gates, literally, which is supposed to be a 'sacred, no protest zone'? Did they feel threatened by the anger unleashed by the aggrieved?

The justification by the chief minister, in the aftermath, added fuel to the fire. Being the home minister, he'd to take that stand, perhaps, to prop up the morale of the police force. He'd blamed the outside forces like 'the BJP, the SUCI and Thokku swami' having joined the family and forced the issue! Is it true or is it a desperate shot in the dark to shake off the criticism? 


1. Jishnu's mother has been admitted into the Medical College Hospital for medical management. Sympathy is piling up for her from every nook and corner of the state much to the discomfort of the state government.
2. The opposition, UDF and the BJP have called for a statewide 'hartal' tomorrow to protest against the police action.
3. A word of advice to the government, "You don't have to win every argument. Accepting your own mistake will be appreciated, which actually shows your inherent strength".
4. Lastly, it's ironic that such an incident had taken place on the 60th anniversary of the first communist government - under EMS Namboodiripad - having come to power in the state!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There we go again.

1. The Latest Offer from the US.

     During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump had said that he would put Pakistan
     on notice for its use of terror in the conduct of its foreign policy - in J&K in India and the
     dangerous game of playing the Taliban card in Afghanistan. As an Indian, I was happy that:-
           (a) Here was a good articulation of his-would-be-foreign-policy-initiatives having taken into
                consideration the ground realities.
           (b) Since he was a rank outsider, he did not carry the baggage of political ideology which
                 would have necessitated him to take the oft beaten path of making lip service against
                 Pakistani indulgence in terrorist activities in its neighbourhood and yet, provide it with
                 military aid.
           (c) He's a good set of people to advice him on foreign policy matters.

     But all that seems to have been misplaced optimism, after hearing Nikki Haley, his envoy to
     the UN, say that the US is willing to mediate between India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions in
     the region. And mind you, Donald Trump, is offering himself to be the mediator.

     Mr. Trump, why don't you realise that we've been saying all along that Kashmir is a bilateral
     problem which we'd thrash out ourselves. Thanks and no, thanks for your 'offer'. And I thought
     that Nikki Haley, an Indian-American actually knew the ground realities! Sad!! Wonder why we
     swell our chest with pride saying that she's an Indian, doing well in the US?

2. Currency Crunch in the State.

    Shortage of currency affected the functioning of several treasuries in the state and disrupted the
    distribution of salary and pension for the month. The finance minister was quick on the draw while
    putting the blame on the RBI and the central government. Mr. Thomas Isaac, why do you cut a
    sorry figure always? Shouldn't you've anticipated the situation and taken adequate measures, well
    in time, to have thwarted the sad spectacle.

    The television grabs showing the sad plight of the senior citizens were heart rending. The look
    of discomfort coupled with the disgusting knowledge that the government accorded no priority
    for their needs shall remain ingrained in my mind for days to come.

3. Adieu Kishori Amonkar!

    Kishori Amonkar passed into the mist of time, late yesterday, at her home in central Bombay
    after a brief illness. She was 84. The highlights about her are:-
           * A classical vocalist recognised as the foremost singer in the Hindustani tradition and
              as an innovative exponent of the 'Jaipur gharana'(A community of musicians sharing a
              distinctive musical style).
           * She'd learned the finer points and techniques of the Jaipur gharana from her mother,
              Mogubai Kurdikar.
           * She was known primarily for her skillful singing of classical 'khayal' songs set in the
              traditional 'ragas' of Hindustani music. She, also, performed the lighter classical 'thumri'
              repertoire, 'bhajans' and film music.
           * Apart from being a musician, she was a popular speaker giving lectures on the theory of
              'ragas'(Feelings and emotions) in music.

   RIP Kishori Amonkar. My salute to a great musician and prayers.


It was during my 'one year ten month' tenure at INS Chilka during '89-'90 when I heard Kishori Amonkar for the first time at Surgeon Commander Sanjay Goil's house, one evening. Sangeeta, his wife, was a connoisseur of good music and it was she who put me through the groove of classical music. I can never forget many memorable evenings, at their place, as I got through the nuances of enjoying music! Thanks Sanjay and Sangeeta for those heady days!!


Monday, April 3, 2017

A couple of interesting news bytes.

1. The One from Jammu and Kashmir.

    The Prime Minister had dedicated the 9.2 km Chenani - Nashri road tunnel on 02 Apr. It's also
    known as the Patnitop Tunnel. It's in J&K on NH 44 (Former NH 1A) whose work had started in
    '11. Asia's longest tunnel boasts of a distance of 9.2 kms or 5.8 miles and was built at a cost of
    Rs. 3,720 crores. It has a fully integrated tunnel control system. Here're the vital statistics:-

       * Cuts the distance between Jammu and Srinagar to around 250 km from the earlier 350 km.
       * It connects Chenani in Udhampur district with Nashri in Ramban district.
       * As many as 1,500 engineers, geologists, skilled workers and labourers constructed this tunnel.
       * The all weather tunnel bypasses snowfall and avalanche prone areas in winter at places like
          Patnitop, Kud and Batote that obstruct NH 44 causing long queues of vehicles, at times
          for days at length.
       * Has 2 tubes that run parallel to each other. The main traffic tunnel of diameter 13 mts and a
          separate safety/escape tunnel of diameter 6 mts alongside.
       * The two tubes - each about 9 km long - are connected by 29 cross passages at regular intervals
          of 300 mts along the entire length of the tunnel.

     Surely an engineering marvel that will enhance communications and trade towards the betterment
     of the people of that state!

2. The Other One from Leicester, England.

     A couple who enjoyed 71 happy years of marriage died within 4 mts of each other.

       * Wilf Russel(93) took his final breath at Magna Care Homes in Wigston at 0650 hrs last
          Wednesday. He was suffering from dementia for the past year.
       * Four minutes later, three miles away at Leicester Royal Infirmary, his 91 year old wife, Vera
          was pronounced dead.

     She'd gone to visit him a few months back and he didn't recognise her at all. Her health started
     deteriorating from that day.
     Wilf met Vera when he was 18 and she was 16. They got engaged before he went to North Africa
     and Italy, with the RAF, during the Second World War.

     Surely, this is what eternal love is all about!


We went for the matinee show of the Mammootty starrer, 'The Great Father'. A nice story of a father-daughter relationship and the film deals with 'child abuse' which is on a rising graph, of late.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Aren't we pushing it a bit too far?

The Supreme Court has passed a judgement that all liquor vends, including star hotels with bars need to be kept at least 500 mts away from highways. A super decision owing to the following:-

       (a) Ever increasing loss of lives on the highways and main thoroughfares due to drunken
       (b) Trafficking of illicit and spurious liquor that also claims lives periodically.
       (c) The control of the Excise Department regarding the handling and distribution of liquor
             to the public is abysmally poor.
       (d) The liquor mafia seems to have a massive hold of everything connected to this industry.

But what worries me are the following factors:-

       (a) Total prohibition is but a 'Utopian' dream because it has never succeeded and it's not difficult
             to list out the reasons:-
             (i) social drinking is accepted in any society.
            (ii) if liquor is not easily available, the diehard goes for illicit brewing and spurious liquor
                  that can affect their health, even be the cause of death!
           (iii) a guy who does hard labour would like to have a tot or two to forget his worries about
                  the aches and the pains, at the end of the day.
           (iv) what bewilders him is that those who can afford it imbibes the choicest bubbly as and
                  he feels like it.
       (b) By bringing about restrictions, the government is gonna lose valuable revenue into its
             coffers and it has no other source of income to overcome this loss.
       (c) Will its excise and police departments be able to monitor and prevent the making and selling
             of illicit/spurious liquor?
       (d) What prevents drug peddlers from gaining an upper hand?

It's my firm opinion that the lawmakers must sit together and find out a durable solution. Instead of prohibition, what must be emphasised should be as to how control in the consumption of liquor can be brought about through sustained propaganda and education. For this, the government must make use of the numerous NGOs to popularise the idea.

There are a few incorrigibles, however, who need harsh treatment which must be given without hesitation.


The evening walk was towards the temple as I'd to collect an eye ointment from the 'Medicare'. Did the 'parikrama' of the temple on my return!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lekha's dad's remembrance day.

It was Lekha's dad's first remembrance day as per the Malayalam calendar. Our day had begun at a quarter past 5 and we're ready by 6 when Anto had arrived at our gate, with his auto rickshaw as per last evening's understanding between us. We're at the Thiruvenkatachalapathy temple within 10 minutes and found that we're very early.

To while away the time, we'd entered the temple to have a 'darshan' of the deity and it was then we came to know about two things from the gentleman at the counter, where one bought the tickets for the various 'pujas'. He was inquisitive to know about us and after I'd answered his queries, he gave us the following information:-

    (a) the ceremony for the departed was always carried out after 7 o'clock, every morning.
    (b) the 'thil homam' was not carried out at this temple and that we'd have to visit the Mammiyoor
          Siva kshetram, after the ceremony.

The avuncular priest and the Master of ceremony greeted us with a warm nod of his head as I took a place at the first slot to his right and it was he who'd insisted that Lekha must go through the ceremony herself, offering her a plastic stool to sit and had three biscuit tins arranged together to make a makeshift table. Damn sweet of him and I, thus, was made an observer. An interesting observation was that there were eight of them and everyone had come to remember their dads! The whole process had taken about an hour and after taking leave of the priest, we'd set off for the Mammiyoor kshetram.

The 'thil homam' was registered and the receipt was deposited at the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Siva, at the Mammiyoor kshetram. Lord Vishnu, who sits beside, had gone into a short nap after his morning meal, his  sanctum sanctorum was closed and therefore, I couldn't see him as I went through the 'parikrama'! We headed home soon after.

An interesting thing had happened around lunch time. A jet black crow(The 'Bali kaaka' as we mallus call them) hovered over the food - soon after its placement, out in the courtyard - and flew off after feeding from the offering! Was that Lekha's dad's soul in attendance, pleased with his daughter's remembrance of him? She was pretty sure that it was and I didn't have the heart to pooh pooh her belief because I, really, do not know..........but I'd like to believe that she's right!

It was a quiet day, thereafter.


As I went through the paces of my evening walk, dark clouds had formed up in most parts of the sky over the temple town and was glad that there would be rains at night. How wrong I was because the night was warm without even a trace of rain, at least, till the time we hit the sack!