Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Early Bird gets the Worm!

I remember having had the ‘punctuality gene’ from the early days of my life. My paternal grandparents had a diurnal timetable that they worked on till it spun perfectly. Rising with the lark, [which is such a British expression that I have no idea why we still use it!], they would pray aloud for four hours, have breakfast, manage their household affairs, take classes, meet visitors... all in perfect timing, without missing a beat. An appointment delayed was an appointment missed, and no one dared to barge in or sneak in incognito.
My father was in the Army, and his keywords were honour, diligence and, of course, punctuality! Many a time my mother would struggle to keep pace with him as they got ready to go somewhere, one eye on the clock, the other on her earrings, lipstick, bindi, comb, deodorant, safety pins, all of which would go into her tiny handbag, so that they would go on her person in the vehicle. Something in the genes, I guess, as I followed suit in exactly the same manner, after I got married to an Army man!
When Mom settled down in Thrissur and metamorphosed into Principal material, the punctuality gene crept into her system and took total possession of her. The school ran like clockwork, and so did her family. For functions we were always there thirty minutes before the specified time, chewing our nails till we had none left. The specified time would come and go, and the VIP would arrive just as almost everyone in the audience had fallen asleep. Most of the time, the speeches alone would be enough to evoke sonorous snores. By then, we would have spent almost half a day at the venue, crabby enough to set the whole place on fire! And yet, the same thing would happen the next time as well. Mom never did learn!
Catching a train was never difficult. At times we would be so early that we could almost climb on to the earlier train! The reasons for moving out early were, of course, all valid! Traffic, rains, rallies, riots, car breakdowns, earthquakes...! Most of the time, we would land up hours early, and then begin chewing what was left of our nails. How much could we browse around, look at the people milling around, buy magazines for the journey along with a bottle of water, and check our weight at the decrepit machine that blinked red and refused to deliver?
So finally, as everyone says, the early bird gets the worm; the question is, with all those wonderful options floating around the wide world, why would anyone actually want the worm? Any suggestions, anyone?

City Journal, Thrissur

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Ray of Sunshine

The first thing that I notice about Anna Smita Thomas Eapen is her smile that flashes like a ray of sunshine, making me feel as though I have known her forever. Her liveliness stems from the fact that she has travelled a lot, both within India and without. Her father initially worked at BHEL, Hyderabad from where he shifted to Delhi, where Anna attended the Jesus and Mary Convent from the fifth to the twelfth standard.
Twenty years ago, her father turned to her and said, “Annamma, you must write!” Considering that she had travelled to places as varied as Thailand, England, America and even the Ivory Coast, [where she recalled watching the French troops marching in all their glory], Anna had wonderful memories and much she could have written about. It was in Thailand that her father-in-law took her aside and repeated the advice, “Smita, you must write!”
This was to form a kind of refrain in her life, as years later, when she joined a prayer group, her pastor’s mother, a feisty lady who was suffering from bone cancer, spent a restless night, tossing and turning as sleep eluded her. Suddenly Anna’s face came into her mind, and she sent a message to her that she wanted her help to write her biography in English for her. The original would be in Tamil. As Anna put it, “I believe in the will of God. I did not want to jump into anything, especially as I had never written anything before!” Finally it was Mrs. Nalini Chandran, Founder Principal of Hari Sri School, where Anna’s son, Aaron was studying, who told her, “Anna, you should write!” This definitely had to be the will of God!
For Anna is no ordinary person. She brings joy to all around her with her love of life, even though she has a visual disability, one that has been robbing her of her sight over the years. As a child, she could read without glasses, but found it tough to read from the blackboard. At the age of seven she went through the whole gamut of viral infections - measles, German measles and a particularly nasty bout of chicken pox, which left patches on her retina. By the time she reached college, she needed thick glasses and realised that she had to live with the problem. Her mother would read her lessons aloud to her.
When she was young, she was enthralled by Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Hardy boys, and graduated to the romantic novels of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mills and Boons. Years later in America, she had access to a good library, where she would spend hours together, listening to unabridged books on tape.
Once when she was in Thrissur, she had a virulent viral fever, during which her eyes clouded over as if covered by a mist. A doctor in Cochin prescribed Cortisone drops to bring down the inflammation, and even though the intense haze cleared, whatever clarity she had in her eyes earlier was lost. “Before this, I loved writing letters and sending Christmas cards to my friends and family.” Today she uses a thick felt pen to write with.
Despite the obstacles she has had to face in life, Anna believes in smiling through them all. She states, “There are only two clear cut options before me. One, I can grumble and be unhappy at my lot. Two, I can be bright and cheerful, a much happier option!” And that is what makes her a ray of sunshine – her cheery smile and her diehard optimism, as she digs out her felt pen to write down my phone number, even as she regales me with a story about how the family loves dogs. “My husband wanted to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback, but my son took one look at its picture and found it too ugly!” she laughs.
Her Dad has been her inspiration in life. He admires him for being a true gentleman, chivalrous to the core. Her parents were this ideal combination. “Dad was an idealist while Mom was the practical one”, says Anna. Her dad was a symbol of absolute self control and restraint, and she doesn’t recall hearing him lose his temper even once, or saying a bad word about anyone. His advice is what she follows today, “Don’t react to actions!”
And as she lives her life in the beautiful house which was built by her father in law, and supervised by her efficient mother in law, in the warm bosom of her immediate family – her mum in law, her husband, Ajit and her bright little son, Aaron, it is this cheerful equanimity that makes her such a delightful package, truly exemplifying the saying by James A Garfield:
“If wrinkles must be written on our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old.”

Published in City Journal, Thrissur

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Bewitched Hour of Twilight!

He was a bachelor, bespectacled, with a round face that gave him the semblance of a little owl. He devoured the newspaper to compensate for the loneliness that had engulfed him after his retirement. He enjoyed the robberies and the murders, but the rape cases disgusted his near-Victorian sensibilities. The obituaries prompted him to piece together a gruesome patchwork of dead persons. Thus, many an hour went by!

It was the bewitched hour of twilight. Dark shadows lurked as dogs howled. He checked his doors and windows. "No point in being sorry after the event!" he mused, as the trees whispered softly and a branch scratched on his window.

Rap, rap! That was no branch! The rapping came again. It was a knock on his front door, followed by a frantic pounding. He made his way to the door and peered through the keyhole.

A young girl stood outside, clothes in disarray, large doe eyes filled with panic. "Let me in, please...!" Her voice reached him faintly. "They are after me...they will kill me!" He opened the door and the distraught girl nearly fell into his arms. She was a slight lass, forehead beaded with perspiration. Never ever had he seen such large eyes, with such fear in them!

He shut the door in one swift moment, and fetched a glass of water. She drank it thirstily, thanking him. In his state of solitude, she appeared like a dishevelled Helen of Troy to his unlikely Paris.

"Who is after you?"

"I was walking on the street when this van stopped by me." Her voice quavered. "Four men got out and came towards me. They looked dangerous." She should not have been walking on her own. These days girls were not safe..."tried to grab me, but I broke away and ran as fast as my legs could carry me!" He saw the rip on her sleeve. "They were right behind me, pounding the pavements. I managed to dodge them by ducking into your garden."

A loud knock sounded on the door. She cowered in desperation as he put an arm around her. "No one can take you away by force!"

"But there are four of them. They will beat you up!"

"Only if I let them know you are here," he smiled slyly at her. The knock came again. Her terror woke a deep emotion within him, as he pressed a brick on the wall of his dining room. Part of it opened up, and he shepherded her in, showing her the tiny lever that would open it. He walked to the door, mussing his hair.

The four men strode in, ugly and menacing. "Did a young girl come in here?"

"I would hardly have been asleep in that case!"

After a thorough search they looked at him. "Listen, she is a lunatic on the run, and has murdered three people - her parents and her brother." I bet she has, he smirked inwardly, as he replied, "I'll let the authorities know if she comes here."

As they moved out, one of them spoke. "She has this habit of twisting her hair around a finger as a prelude to violence!" He was incensed. How could they dare to frame an innocent girl! He banged the door behind them aggressively.

"Come out, my dear! Now it is just you and I!" The sly smile was back on his face.

The wall slid back, she stood there poised gracefully, and then stepped out. There was a strange silence about her, a faint smile on her face as she twisted her hair around a finger!

Won first prize in the Pipeno Launch Contest

Why place a hooch victim above a martyr?

Who can forget the precious lives snatched away in the heinous 26/11 Mumbai attacks? Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the army commando who died, saving many lives, etched his name in the annals of history. The terrorists were killed, all except Kasab, who made the mistake of being caught alive. Today in jail, he lives in celebrity comfort, with much money being spent to keep him alive. The pampering has made him arrogant, as he spurns questions in court, behaving like a brat. He couldn’t be safer elsewhere in the world, as attempts continue to keep him alive till he is sentenced to death!

Mark Antony remarked, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with the bones!” Sandeep Unnikrishnan became a national hero after martyrdom. The sight of the bereaved mother leaning against her son’s body, weeping pitifully, still plays on people’s minds. His father came across as a strong man, stoically keeping his composure in public. A war of words with a public figure created headlines, but the nation sympathised with him. The compensation awarded by the state to the bereaved parents on the death of their son was `3 lakh — a sum which it thought adequate to wipe their tears.

The agony of the victims succumbing to spurious liquor mixed with battery acid and other unmentionables has often been highlighted. The recent Mallapuram tragedy, in Kerala, was the latest case in line. The culprit was methyl alcohol in the toddy, and killed 22 persons. The hooch capital had proved its prowess once again. The blame game saw the government point fingers at officials concerned, and the Opposition trashing the excise minister for supposedly sporting a Nelson’s eye towards illicit liquor trade.

A strongly worded message flashed via e-mail and gathered momentum, snowballing into a public outcry. The aforementioned government had awarded Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the liquor tragedy victims, a laudable gesture indeed. However, the message being sent to the youth of the country underlined that it was foolish to join the Indian Army and sacrifice their life for their country. In fact, it was more honourable and profitable to consume illicit liquor and die.

Death can come in many ways, but is there any doubt that a man in the defence services deserves to be honoured, as he spends a lifetime, standing guard over the mountains, valleys, hills and seas, ensuring his country is not attacked? Living in uninhabitable conditions, he faces danger from within and without, standing indomitably to safeguard the nation’s future by risking his present. Martyrdom stands a shoulder’s length away, there is a bullet with his name somewhere, yet he does not flinch. The respect he commands is tremendous, as the nation salutes him for his courage and patriotism.

Sadly, this does not translate into monetary gains! He ends up with less compensation than a man who ambles into a bar, consumes illicit liquor and falls by the wayside. What has the latter done for the greater good of the nation? He might have been the best son, husband and father. But when one thinks of a young war hero, the only son of his parents, who ends up in a coffin draped with the tricolour, surely there is a strange mismatch of sentiments shown to him by the state’s lawmakers.

The adage, ‘The crying child gets milk’ seems to be all too true. Soldiers do not cry aloud, and nor do their loved ones. That, maybe, is their only mistake, but a costly one at that!

Published in the New Indian Express - November 12th, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Muthassan - a Grand Old soul!

Superheroes need not always be men with amazing strength and the power to take on an army of enemies and come out victorious. Sometimes there are ordinary men who have qualities of greatness in them, which make them heroes in the eyes of their loved ones. This article is dedicated to one such wonderful man whom I have known and admired, not for his longevity, but for the sheer zest for living that made him a colourful actor on the stage of life!
My maternal grandfather, my Muthassan, was a tall good looking gentleman who got better and better with age. Age did not dare wither him, and he could have posed for the portrait of Moses or any such venerable figure in his seventies. Muthassan had a prodigious collection of books, most of which could be found verbatim within his prodigious mind. What I found fascinating in all his well-thumbed volumes was that almost every page found comments written in his crabbed but legible hand, comments that could make me pause, ponder, understand, and many a time, burst into giggles! For he had an impish streak that made him rise above the author’s mind and add on his own pithy humour. When I was eight I knew poems like Tennyson’s ‘Lady Clare’ and Longfellow’s ‘Psalm of Life’ by heart, and maybe it was his sonorous rendering of the lines that made me opt for Literature, much to the dismay of my professors. Muthassan was not a pedantic scholar... he made use of Literature to illustrate mundane examples. He could quote profusely from the Bhagwad Gita, the Bible, the classics, and what was amazing was that he was actually a metallurgist by profession!
As Muthassan got on in years, he became more and more lovable. With his erect bearing and his silver mop of hair, he would stride along the streets, walking stick in hand, smiling genially at passers-by, till he reached the Thrissur Round. There he would make a beeline to Johnsons, his favourite store, and buy a bottle of ink, a ream of paper or envelopes... that was not important. Then he would unfailingly ask for toffees “for my grandchildren, you know!” The next moment he would walk off, having forgotten to pay for the lot. The shopkeeper would ring up my frantic grandmother and inform her that all was well, and the driver would promptly be sent with the money. By which time Muthassan would have reached home, beaming all over his face, holding out the toffees, the only item that had not escaped his mind!
Often, at the stroke of midnight, when the whole world was asleep, we would awake to the sound of all the clocks chiming, even those that had been in hibernation so far, and we would hurry downstairs, only to find a lungi-clad figure, repairing “all these clocks that refuse to work”. On other occasions, the pounding of a typewriter would resound in the silence of the night, and Muthassan would be huddled over his ancient typewriter, trying to put down “that brilliant idea!” that had just struck him. Funnily all the brilliant ideas had a habit of coming to him just when the rest of the family was trying to get some sleep.
Another pastime of his was lugging stones. He would lift the heaviest stones and carry them to the other end of the garden. Once he had positioned them all, he would carry them back to their original spot. But what took the cake was the sight of him standing under a gigantic tree, sawing off a branch right over his head. It took our combined pleas to make him lay off “that disgusting branch”. My poor grandmother was always on her toes, wondering what he would be up to next.
Once in a blue moon, the green eyed monster would take a tiny nibble at Muthassan, mainly when another eighty year ‘young’ gentleman would come a-visiting! Muthassan was never thrilled about the attention that the family would lavish on this gentleman, and would content himself with making sly digs that luckily went over the latter’s head. But these were never malicious for Muthassan didn’t have a single mean bone in his body.
Unfortunately it was a clock that was finally his undoing. One day he was atop a stool, winding one of his beloved clocks when he overbalanced and toppled down. He never fully recovered from the fall, and was bedridden for quite a while. It was heartrending to see him lying down, but he seemed reconciled to the idea for he was the most tractable patient possible. When the end came, it was like the passing of an era for each one of us, for not only had we lost a loved one, but a friend as well! The void was never filled as no one could ever take his place!

Published in the City Journal, Thrissur

Cat O'Nine Tales - Rusty

"Cats sleep anywhere, any table any chair!" T.S. Eliot had
probably never met a cat like Rusty - one who prowls about
all night, making weird mewing sounds that run up and down
the scale, from a shrill soprano to a sinister bass. It is
even more weird when he pounces on inert sleeping bodies,
and scares them out of their skins.
When my daughter moved to Dubai and into a flat of her own,
her ever concerned friends landed up on her doorstep with
this adorable honey and white colored kitten, with the most
beautiful eyes possible. They also presented her with a
little cage and a litter box, which Rusty as he was
christened, took to with surprising ease.
Today Rusty is monarch of all he surveys, as he clambers up
the kichen slab, tears up bits of paper or, most irritating
of all, opens out his mistress' wardrobe and pulls her
carefully folded clothes down onto the floor. He pounces at
anything that moves, be it a billowing piece of cloth or a
pair of quick moving ankles.
The day another kitten came a-visiting,Rusty was all over
it, sniffing at it and generally trying to boss over the
terrified creature. it was as though he was saying with a
twist of his whiskers,"This is my home and my space! Don't
One of his favourite pastimes is watching people eat. With
those unblinking green brown eyes, he stares at every morsel
of food as it travels from plate to mouth, even though he
has a special diet of cat food that he digs into with
relish. He also loves little snacks that he is offered on
Rusty is known for the exasperating habit of curling up on
his favurite cushion and sleeping during the day, and
turning into an insomnniac at night. There are days when he
makes mewling sounds which sound eerie in the dark,
especially when accompanied by a pair of glowing yellow eyes
shining like headlamps on a moonless night!
The first time we took Rusty for a drive to my sister's
house, he was in his little cage, producing the most raucous
sounds possible, as he rattled around every time the car
braked. The moment we opened the cage door, all we saw was a
streak of greased lightning as Rusty ran out as though his
tail were on fire.
The day my daughter put up a bold orange and black poster
of Barack Obama, her hero, Rusty decided that he was a real
person and gazed at him, making conversation with him as he
mewed for all he was worth. There were occasions when he
would climb up the mantelpiece and stare intently at the
Ganesh idol on top, remaining surprisingly calm for that
length of time. Of course very soon he would be imitating
greased lightning again, pulling down stuffed toys, sinking
his sharp claws into them, and jumping up to pull open
curtain ropes.
Rusty has his own toys... a stuffed grey mouse, four balls
with bells in them and a little yellow rat. But as in the
case of babies, he prefers to poke his nose into areas that
are more exciting... the kitchen and the bathroom, for
instance. It is clear that the proverb 'Curiosity kills a
cat' must have originated after an encounter with a cat like
One very amusing sight is Rusty sparring with his own
reflection. He glares into the mirror, seeing a rival cat
within, and arches his back, even as he stands on the tips
of his claws and pounces furiously on his reflection. His
other achievement has been learning to open the bathroom
door by springing up at the knob and turning it, after which
he sidles in to explore the dark unfathomed caves inside.
Most times when I am sitting at the computer or lying down
reading, I suddenly find Rusty staring unblinkingly at me,
and it is then I realise how much I will miss him when I go
back home to India. And all his little idiosyncracies,
whether it is scraping his paws after using his litter box,
or the quivery quavery sounds he makes as he watches birds
flying outside his window, and especially the endearing
manner in which he curls up on my lap and dozes off. And to
cap it all, Rusty is an exception to the rule that cats are
basically selfish vain creatures, for in his own little way,
he gives us unconditional love, even though he does use his
claws on us while doing so!

Published in the City Journal, Thrissur
Photo Credits: Priyanka Menon

Friday, August 20, 2010

From the Burning Ghats to the Frozen Lake!

How would you be able to connect children with a burning pyre? Wouldn’t it be akin to trying to juxtapose life with death? This is exactly what Rajesh S. Jala, film maker par excellence and winner of myriad awards does through his thought-provoking and heart-wrenching documentary ‘Children of the Pyre’. In stark contrast was his other documentary titled ‘Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley’, a film as picturesque as its name, as Arif, a nine year old Kashmiri boy traces his life, its hardships and his work as a boat boy on the Dal Lake.
The two documentaries were screened in the Savera Hotel under the auspices of the Bill Roth Hospitals and the Dr. Jeganathan Foundation. Dr. Rajesh Jeganathan, Managing Director and Dr. Manoj Beno, Medical Director of Bill Roth Hospitals, both spoke about how several public outreach programmes were being offered by them, like free medical treatment and research and development. However, an important initiative was to create awareness about cancer through CANSWER, the brainchild of Dr Rajesh. They stressed that the key to cancer cure was early education, and a sustained one year programme was going on to educate people on how to combat stress and make the right lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Mr. Mithran Devanesen was the moving force behind the whole event, having brought these documentaries to the notice of the public, as well as being the Chief Advisor of the CANSWER Campaign.
A top priority was child welfare as children are the pillars of the nation. It was in this regard that the two documentaries which had children as their protagonists were screened.
Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley:
The strains of Allahu Akbar and the flicker of a lantern reveal the paradoxes of Kashmir, a land of wondrous scenic beauty and the starkness of militancy. Across a frozen Dal lake, Arif, a nine year old boy labours to break the ice to ferry his passenger across, a metaphor that stands for his struggle for survival in real life. At the tender age of seven, he took up the oar to feed his family – an ailing mother and four siblings even as his abusive alcoholic father neglected them. With dreams of buying land, building a house, educating his siblings and marrying off his sister, Rosy in the future, he works diligently, making enough money for his family to celebrate festivals like ID, all the while taking care to repair his boat to keep it in mint condition.
The documentary also talks about the political scenario in the backdrop – the Hazratbal firing and the meteoric rise of terrorism, the detonation of nuclear devices by India and Pakistan, the Srinagar-Muzaffarnagar Bus initiative that was meant to be the perfect solution to the Kashmir problem, and the Kargil incursions. Arif hates his father who was once a terrorist and remarks candidly, “I will never be a militant. One bullet can kill you. Besides they kill people and killing is bad!” Simple but profound philosophy from this young lad with a mature head on his shoulders!
The cinematography is breathtaking, as the camera travels through beautiful vignettes of the frozen lake and sombre skies, the rich hues of autumn, the riotous burst of spring and raindrops of a green lily pad, ending with a joyous glimpse of the brothers gambolling around like playful puppies with the snowy downy flakes of a plant burst engulfing them, as hope reigns supreme!
Children of the Pyre:
Vivid images of fires burning fiercely are associated with Manikarnika, India’s most ancient, sacred and popular cremation ground. This documentary records the poignant tale of seven children who work through the day and night in the burning ghats of Varanasi, where burning bodies is a serious business. Each of these boys has been baptised by fire, having spent years in these grim surroundings, watching gruesome scenes of melting torsos, arms, legs and faces, but their main occupation is snatching the shrouds from the bodies, a harrowing task indeed. In turn, they face abuse and beatings, and when they do succeed they haggle to sell these pieces of cloth. At the onset, they went through stages of dread, unease, disgust and abhorrence, dreaming of ghosts and corpses. Today they do not flinch, inured to the stench, as they have to earn money to fill their bellies. They honour fire which is the mainstay of their existence, and this has even turned them into philosophers. As one boy puts it, “Happiness and sorrow make life. If there is only happiness, you’ll never thank God!”
The film documents all the horrors at the ghats with intermittent wisps of graveyard humour. For instance, one boy wonders what the corpse has eaten before it dies as it burns so brightly. Leaders come wrapped in the Tricolour, which too can be sold. But the boys know enough to salute the Flag, even if they are outspoken about leaders who fleece the poor and line their own pockets. Unclaimed bodies are given a mock cremation by the lads, as they mimic the actual rites, intoning the prayers in a macabre pantomime. The boys are aware they are the untouchables, as they handle the dead, but that does not prevent them from living life, day by day, and more so on occasions when dancing girls provide entertainment, even as bodies burn on an adjacent site. The boys dream of a comfortable future when they will own houses and cars, even be doctors, as the documentary ends in a haunting melody where Pt. Kumar Gandharva sings of the messengers of Death.
What was gratifying indeed was the Dr. V. Jeganathan Foundation handing over a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh to the PLAN – NGO to rehabilitate these seven boys who worked in the ghats. In a spontaneous gesture, the Foundation also announced that it would pay for Arif’s educational expenses for the coming year.
In order to catch the eye of the youth, the Foundation had also held two competitions for college students in and around Chennai – one on short films and the other on photography, both of which evinced an astounding response. An expert jury would evaluate these entries, around 200 in all, and attempt to use some of them in future campaigns. An enlightening interaction followed after the screening, in which such renowned names such as Balu Mahendra, Madhu Ambat, Sivasankari and Hariharan spoke their minds on film making and invited questions from the audience, which consisted of many young film makers and film buffs. However, the impact of the two movies still lingered in the minds of all, enveloped with a feeling of true happiness that something concrete had been done for these unfortunate children who had touched them briefly, but deeply!

Published in Eve's Times - May 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Lessons We need to Combat Life

When other children ran ahead, he stumbled often and fell, but got up each time, determination brightening his face. “Why can’t I be like other children, Ma?” When the query banished the happiness from his mother’s beautiful face, he stopped asking. Instead he overcame his physical frailties by allowing his mind to encompass the world with one click of his computer.
As his body became frailer, his mind travelled across continents. Through Facebook, he created virtual albums, segregating spaces to family and friends, and browsing to build up his already prodigious knowledge. In his every action was the urge to experience life in all its hues, as if there were no tomorrow!
His doting parents took him everywhere in his wheelchair; his grandfather would discuss interesting topics with him, his father physically carried him around. His cousins spent time with him; each person wanted a little space inside his large heart.
At the age of 23, he invited a large gathering of family and friends to the 25th wedding anniversary of his parents. Joy shone out of his large expressive eyes as he watched, content that those invited had attended, for his sake and for that of his parents. He sang a classical song, and as congratulations poured over him, his parents watched in pride!
Maybe coming events do cast their shadows ahead! Was there any inkling that he would not be around for their next anniversary? For he fell ill, but held on stoically till their anniversary came around again! Ironically he passed away on that day, a staunch little fighter till the end!
His Facebook page still exists, for people who loved him to share their thoughts, being administered by his parents, strong enough to have let him go, taking solace in the fact that he had given them enough love and strength for an entire lifetime!
She was eighteen, born to an adoring family, living an idyllic childhood with no major conflicts! Life was one smooth sail, with no rocks in the horizon, no storms to shake her well- orchestrated world.
A bright and popular student, her fatal flaw, maybe, lay in her over-dependence on her parents. When she got into AFMC, she was ready to move to Pune and start a new life altogether. “I’ll go out in the evening and get sweets to celebrate!” she promised her elated old grandfather.
Lunch over, she went for a nap, while her excited family speculated proudly on her future. In the evening, her mother went upstairs, only to be greeted with the most agonizing sight ever. Her daughter had hanged herself! It was the very end of happiness as she had taken her life, for no apparent reason in sight!
The grandparents were shattered, the parents turned into statues, struggling with the enormity of the tragedy! The light had gone out of their lives, and they did not even know why!
When my mother, a well known educationist, sat in mute sympathy next to the 84 year old grandfather, he said to her brokenly, “Ma’am, I have a request! Stop teaching your students English and History and Mathematics.” He stopped, overwrought, and then continued, “Teach them to have strength of mind to face life and withstand obstacles; only that will sustain them in the end!”
My mother wept at the emotion on his gnarled face, at the effort he made not to break down, at the betrayal he was facing...
Two dearly loved children!
One who yearned to live, clutching on to every joy, a beacon of love and endurance, whose body gave up before his mind did!
The other, with everything to live for - love, family, career, whose mind gave up before her body did, as she took that final step, leaving her loved ones in darkness!

The New Indian Express - July 21st

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Priyanka’s comments...

Reasons Why I Miss Home:
• •Her ‘pun’ny (sometimes awful) jokes, leaving Pa and me to look at each other and think, “What is wrong with her? Sigh!” But we still love her…”
• •Walking into the house screaming, “What’s for dinner todayyyy?”
• •Mama’s lecture on how I should learn to eat everything after I scrunch up my face hearing it’s either Bhindi Sabji or Korma curry!
• •During dinner, the first sentence is always, “How’s the chicken?” resulting in Papa and I rolling with laughter. We would both in unison say, “Excellent, excellent!!”
• •Telling her to stop being such a Face book addict and stop adding strangers to her profile. But according to her, the world is too good and human beings can do no harm!
• •Her late evening jaunts to the super market when she suddenly realizes there’s no bread or eggs or chillies in the house!
• •Her random cleaning sprees, which usually do not affect me. However, the words, “CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” usually made me see red!
• •All the food she used to cook for me
• •Her standing up for me against the whole world and getting criticized unnecessarily.
• •Seeing him on the laptop fiddling with his Flight Simulator like a little boy!
• •Him calling me to the kitchen to show me the meat and asking me how I wanted him to cook it!
• •Telling him to make his super duper mutton curry as spicy as humanly possible
• •Laughing through the tears after dinner because it was so spicy but thoroughly enjoying it
• •Him asking me every Sunday afternoon, “Beer piyega?”
• •Him supporting me every time when we decide to go out for lunch on Sunday despite Mama’s protests to try new places
• •His obsession to buy the best brands always, which I have definitely got from him
• •His innate passion and talent for photography, which I plan to take full advantage of the next time I go home
• •Sitting with him during the News, especially Arnab’s sessions, calling him ‘a bloody idiot’!
• •Asking him if he wants a ‘bit’ of my maggi and his eating three spoonfuls, leaving nothing for me!
• •Him always standing up for me and saying, “Tell them to deal with me. No one is going to mess with you!”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Frying Pan Saga

Oh no, I groaned as I flew out of the house. “What a way to start the day!” My wife stood at the door, brandishing a frying pan, a non stick one at that, which she maintained in its immaculate condition.
However, there were times when she did forget about taking care of it, as now, a moment ago, when it descended on my head more than once. “I’ll fry you, you worm!” she screeched at a glass shattering pitch that would have done an opera singer proud. The worm squirmed. I cocked a wary eye behind me, and thankfully saw her retrace her steps. She would never come out on the street minus her lipstick. The storm had abated for the present. I was so occupied in sneaking a peek behind me, that I failed to notice the paper boy sailing along merrily on his shining paragon of a bicycle. He saw me too late and we came together with a resounding clash.
I picked myself up gloomily and dusted my poor rear which had come off the worst in the encounter. Maybe I should acquire a suit of armour for days like these, I thought distractedly as I looked around for the culprit. However, he seemed to have taken to his heels, faster than a streak of lightning, before I could nab him.
His cycle lay glinting in the sunlight. I don’t know what prompted me to have my cycling ‘arangetram’ right then. The cycle beckoned like a sultry temptress, and I picked it up gingerly, and lifted one foot over it. After a couple of false starts, I got it moving. People around scattered at the fierce scowl on my face, as I concentrated on getting my feet to move and keep my balance at the same time. I found myself going down a gentle slope, and had I been a bit surer of my balance, I would have almost enjoyed the ride. In reality, I was now wondering how to get off. Should I let go and tumble off? Or should I hang on and clutch on to something solid like a branch and heave myself off? I felt both ways were rather undignified!
I wobbled past a jewellery shop, and this brought back bitter memories of the spat with my wife. The crux was that I had forgotten her birthday, which had landed up a couple of months too soon (or so I thought!). The day also happened to be Woman’s Day, which she had pointed out sweetly, even smiling when I parried that by asking her if every day didn’t belong to the fairer sex.
As I sat sipping my filter coffee, after an unusually sumptuous breakfast of my favourite ‘upma’ done to a nicety, with tiny vegetables and aromatic curry leaves, and finished off with a bowl of rich carrot halwa, she had waited expectantly. I had belched in enormous satisfaction and complimented her on being the best cook in the world. What a wonderful way to begin a day, I had thought.
And then, the day had blown up in my face. A simple question about what the occasion was, and she had turned into a regular Godzilla. Her eyes flashed, her nostrils flared and her ears waggled. And that is how the frying pan episode took place!
Now here I was astride a cycle, and I had no idea how to stop the darned thing. The wobbling was becoming more noticeable, and suddenly a huge pothole materialized before me. I grabbed onto the right hand brake, and suddenly found myself whizzing through the air at full speed. After a not so gentle flip, I found myself flat on the ground, my nose in a handful of dust, with nothing bruised but my ego. The day seemed to be going just the way it was meant to go! Was it true about getting up from the wrong side of the bed, and straightaway getting onto the wrong side of one’s spouse?
I hobbled to my feet, my bones creaking in protest as I straightened up, and turned my face towards the way back home. As I limped along, I suddenly found myself in front of the jewellery shop I had passed earlier. Here was the perfect solution to appease my Lady Godzilla. I walked in, only to find myself bedazzled. There was a little bridge within, with water running below, and bright fish darting to and fro. The counters sparkled as light fell on the different varieties of earrings, bangles and necklaces strewn around in perfect order. Eager sales ladies converged on me, sensing a kill.
“May I help you, Sir?” trilled a particularly musical voice, and the charming young lady beckoned me to her counter. Dazed as I was, I was astonished at the alacrity with which she whipped out a dozen or so trinkets, and soon the counter overflowed with glittering, eye catching articles. I sent up a silent prayer of thankfulness that my wife was not with me. In the end, I chose a charming bracelet that was as charming as the salesgirl, and left for home, my wallet as light as my heart, now that I had done my good deed for the day.
I stepped out jauntily into the balmy day, sunny side up. My mood had lifted miraculously, and I felt like singing with the birds, but refrained from doing so as I did not want to alarm people enough to cause a traffic jam. I tripped along merrily, imagining a pleasant reunion with my spouse. I straightened my collar, and brushed an imaginary speck off my shirt. “God’s in His heaven/ All’s right with the world”. Browning’s words seemed to fit in with my mood, as I hummed a tune beneath my breath, this time to avoid scaring the birds.
As I neared my house, the gate stood open, invitingly open. The sunrays were falling on the roof, turning it a mellow yellow as I quickened my step and made my way in. This was my home, my haven!
Ah! What a tender moment – tender enough to awaken a poet’s senses. I stepped in carefully and looked around for HER – my Muse! She came gliding down the stairs, as beautiful as a queen and looked at me with a raised eyebrow. She seemed to have got over her blues.
I was in fine fettle, and going along with the romantic mood of the moment, I knelt before her and presented my offering (I mean, offered my present) to her, expecting nothing less than a bear hug in appreciation. I closed my eyes for a quick moment, and then opened them again.
I was never sure about what happened next. The lights flickered for a frozen moment, and my wife held out a delicate hand. My mind whirled as I saw a familiar bracelet nestling on her slender wrist. The penny dropped as I looked on in dismay. I had made the supreme mistake of giving her the same present twice over. A grave folly indeed in her eyes!
Her eyes blazed fire and she reached out for something on the table behind her, and to my horror, out came the frying pan for the second time today, and made contact with the same spot as it had done earlier.
“Oh, no”, I groaned, as I flew out of the house yet again. “What a way to end a day!”

Eves Times Magazine

Monday, July 12, 2010


The waves lap around the parent vessel
As it cuts its way
Through the azure carpet;
The little life boats tied to its sides
Are guided through the stormy waters
In a snug cocoon of protection
Against the swells that threaten
To engulf them!
The gentle mantle placed on them
Creates a halo in the ripples around,
Cushions their falls, every little bump
Makes them stronger!
The day arrives,
When each little life boat is cut adrift,
Sent on its way, to meet new challenges –
New dangers, in the world of chaos outside!
Each traces its own path
Through a sea of change, yet below the surface,
The lifelines stretch out,
Leaving room enough to move on,
But they remain tethered,
The invisible bonds under the surface,
And the age old links continue, unbroken.

Picture courtesy: Gopi Menon

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wodehouse - wish you were 'In-House'!

“Get me an autograph of Dhoni’s!” my sister ordered. “And one for me too!” chimed my daughter, as I nodded like the cat that had got the cream! Hadn’t I just been invited to the IPL party after the home team had won magnificently? ‘No problemo!” I said, brimming with confidence. That would make it three autographs in all; one for yours truly as well! And so I left, armed with a notebook, a pen, and oodles of confidence, all set to meet the Chennai Super Kings in my Sunday best. A misnomer, as I stood out like a sore thumb, in what seemed to be a spiralling out-of-control collection of PYTs in micro minis, healthy cleavages, and flurries of giggles! But more on that later!
Security guards seemed to be the norm, as I got to the counter at the venue, and a pretty lady asked me to wait, as I had got there much too early. A terrible habit that was a relic of having been part of the Indian Army! It was 9.30 pm, and I crawled into a safe corner, pretending to be part of the ornamental potted plants! 10.30 pm and guests had begun trickling in, the lucky ones able to waltz in with their huge smiles and huger connections.
I got back to the counter, only to have the pretty lady say, “Oh sorry, Ma’am, but you will have to wait till the guest list arrives!” Obviously the said list was supposed to arrive only after most of the guests had! Back to my safe corner, as avid photographers took up their positions, hoping to catch celebs in action, and even more so, PYTs in double action! Around fifty five guests having walked in, I went back to the pretty young lady. “Ma’am, you are on our guest list, but not on the IPL list! So you’ll have to wait till that problem is ironed out!”
My safe corner was waiting for me with a warm smile. After all, we were old friends now! More flash bulbs, more bling, more micro minis and white teeth, and when suddenly I remembered I did have a contact inside, a very important lady, who had supposedly invited me. My mobile phone bowed in deference as the dulcet but firm tone came across, “Sorry, but I really can’t help you. You will have to get in yourself!” The meaning was crystal clear. Please don’t bother me with unimportant details, including yourself!
I don’t really remember what happened next, but close to midnight, when I felt myself slowly turning into Cinderella’s pumpkin, a miracle took place. A very genial young gentleman, who was part of the IPL media, managed to get me in; the magic doors opened, a blast of music almost swept me off my feet, and I was in! Alibaba’s cave had ‘Open Sesame-d’, as I hobbled into a mass of bodies, all sizes, shapes, colours and proportions, almost like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, and finding herself immediately at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!
As my vision cleared, I looked around. Burly security guards stood between the milling crowd and the few cricketers who were present by the ramp. And suddenly models began sashaying across the ramp, teetering on their high heels, as watchers-on teetered at the length of their skirts. They were uniformly beautiful, apparelled and automated. Truly beautiful!
The designer came out to brief applause and vanished so quickly that as Wodehouse once said, he almost met himself coming out! By now my throat was parched and I looked around desperately for a Diet Pepsi! The bar beckoned, but the way towards it was unrecognizable as I bumped, goose stepped, nudged, shoved and stepped on a few toes, before I could get anywhere near it.
By now the music was at a crescendo and the bartender’s elbows working at double speed to catch up with the orders. My faint bleat did nothing to his eardrums as I clung on to the bar to avoid being trampled over. My height has never been a cause for worry, even if most mortals tower over me, but there comes a stage in every person’s life when they long to be seen and heard! So it was with me at that moment!
Around one in the night, after having been at the job for over an hour and a half, I emerged, frazzled but triumphant, holding a tall glass of Pepsi[unfortunately, not Diet, but then I figured that I had lost enough calories at the counter earlier]. The next half hour went smoothly enough. I found my hand shaken by a ex cricketer who said, “Hi, nice to see you again!” having mistaken me for one of my seven lookalikes somewhere in the world, a lanky model who told me she loved the cricketers, the modelling and the excitement of it all, and a foreign player who was trying to hide himself away, but who ultimately gave me an autograph which I desperately tried to decipher in order to figure out who he was.
What was more fun was meeting two top Chennai designers who were obviously having a great time checking out the models and soaking in the ambience. One girl looked vaguely familiar and when I asked her if she was one of the models, her accent almost rocked me off my feet. She happened to be a cheerleader! So much for the sense of familiarity! I had seen her cavorting on TV, and then it struck me like a jolt of lightning. All these folks looked so different when they were not sporting their uniforms. No wonder that I was having a tough time identifying the players from the crowd, and the models from the average underdressed girl!
The night ended when I made it end... for it could have gone on for ever, with all the celebs, and the mock celebs acting out the famous song ‘I Could Have Danced All Night!’ Having downed my solitary glass of Pepsi, and having missed dinner under the sprawl of humanity, I homeward plodded my weary way, footsore and heartsick... with absolutely nothing to show for my pains! No friends, no photos and worst of all, no autographs!
And at two in the night, as I drove home, I looked back at the evening gone by. Was there anything I had achieved? The answer stared me in the face, as clear as the Pole Star! I was not meant to be a creature of the night, a reveller of giddy social whirls, a tippler of the finest wine, an air- kisser, a vital statistician! And thank God for small mercies! After all, wasn’t it Warren Buffet himself who hit the nail when he confessed that his pastime after he got home was to make himself some popcorn and watch television? I was in exalted company, after all!

Picture courtesy:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Forget about Incredible India, can we have a Clean India?

Are you on the side of those who make India hang her head in shame or those who raise her head in pride?” asks Aamir Khan in an ‘Incredible India’ advertisement. I am as big a patriot as the next person, but sometimes, queries buzz about inside my head querulously. Is there any harm in talking about those aspects of our country that could be wished away!
Do you need that big gob of spit that just misses your big toe on your way to an important appointment? Or that red-flecked liquid spewed out so casually in a traffic snarl? What could be worse than that giant phlegm-filled hawk that begins from deep inside a champion ‘spitter’, making you wince and shut your eyes and ears in anticipation of the actual event? And those artistic red squiggles on pristine walls, winding staircases, and ironically, below signs which scream “Please do not spit here!”
What about male members of the human species with undoubtedly canine habits, when they sight a vacant wall, and proceed to let loose in public? The movie ‘Three Idiots’ has a funny yet effective way of dealing with this, where the culprit receives a gentle jolt, just enough to bring him to his senses, yet do no permanent harm! Pedestrians are often caught between the devil and the deep sea; is it safer to sink into excreta, or step off the pavement and be hit by a bus! Tread on mush or turn into mush, as it were!
The tagline of Lays Chips [no one can eat just one!] rings true as one perceives bright wrappers forming part of the vast garbage dump that our roads have turned into. Plastic bottles, cans, fruit peels and groundnut shells turn the picture murkier! On one memorable suburban train ride from Guindy to Chetpet, I walked in confidently to a deserted corner in the Ladies’ compartment, only to be assailed by a stench that made my insides churn. Someone had let her child squat on the floor and left the evidence behind! ‘Incredible India’, anyone?
On occasion, people do clean up the beaches, a laudable task indeed! But more important is to drill the idea into heads that littering is damnable! If there were no litter, there would be no need to clean up either! And no bubble gum under bus seats or used sanitary pads clogging up public toilets! Keeping one’s home clean is all very good, but throwing one’s trash into one’s neighbour’s compound is unforgiveable!
Historians, film makers and teachers turn blue in the face, trying to inculcate respect for ‘India’s vast cultural heritage’! Yet modern Lotharios go down in history, using sharp implements to etch their names on age-old structures. Thus ‘Rahul loves Sunita’ hits the eye, as you walk in with reverence, and are forced to imbibe history with modern romance. I say, increase the entrance fees to our valuable monuments! Art is meant for the common man, not for the man who is ‘common’ in behaviour! The money earned could help maintain the said monument to ensure history does not become the dead past!
Anna Salai came alive when the side walls were adorned with paintings - from Ravi Varmas and pastoral scenes to flora and fauna. Unfortunately, down came the rain, and washed everything clean! The mammoth effort went down the drain literally, along with loads of money and artistic labour. Now more paint is being brought in, and hopefully the masterpieces will be made waterproof! The concept to turn Mount Road into a Manhattan, or to link the various canals to create a Venice in Chennai is appreciable, if only concrete foundations could be laid down to crystallize the same!
For the crimes mentioned earlier [for they are no less], stringent fines should be levied, and a talking-to by a stern policeman or a night behind bars, for those who cannot afford to pay. Couldn’t we make a start in our own backyards? The earlier our minds turn clean, the faster our habits will follow suit! Which brings to mind a quote that went something like this; I saw a stone on the road and wondered why someone did not shift it, till I realised that I was also someone!
Deepti Menon

23rd May 2010 - The Hindu

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Deep Ties

Don’t we sometimes wish we could remain children
All our lives? Nestled under the wings of our parents?
Isn’t it ironic how they nurture us till we are able
To stand on our feet, then let us go, content;
Is it really worth it, showering love on a child
Who has to leave one day?
Is it worth the pain, the tears, the smiles, the joys,
The anguished hours of growing up
The lessons of defeat and triumph
That strike an echo in their hearts too?
Or is it that the very threat of separation
Gives sweet poignancy to the relationship,
Making the ties as delicate as cobwebs,
Yet, at the same time, strong enough
To withstand the ravages of nature?
Ties – unfathomably deep, the bonds of a lifetime!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nalini Miss

Thousands of students have passed through her loving arms and gone on to create niches for themselves the world over. For them, Nalini Miss is the person who held their tiny hands and walked along with them through their school years, whispering words of hope, but chiding them when they slackened! She is the mentor who smiled encouragingly when they did well academically, but smiled even brighter when they did something good. She boosted their morale, and built up their self confidence through various co-curricular activities, which made them hold up their heads against a competitive world outside.
For each of her students, she is Nalini Miss, the one teacher whom they treasured deep within their hearts, especially when they won laurels and collected bouquets, when they met friends and talked about the good old ‘Hari Sri’ days. She represented the mother, the guru, the mentor and above all, the friend who could create magic in their lives. Today there are students around the world, who have blossomed forth, thriving in their careers, and others who have created families in perfect love and harmony... in each of their hearts, Nalini Miss reigns! May her tribe increase!

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Father, Eshwara Chandran

Whom the Gods love, die young...
What can I say about my father, Lt. Col. K.R.E. Chandran, who, despite being an Army officer of exceptional calibre, was yet the gentlest man that I have ever known? The eldest of three sons, he was the favourite and the most loved one in his family. What one noticed first about him was his smiling eyes, punctuated by a jerky laugh that came straight from his heart. When he joined the Indian Army, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the epitome of an ideal soldier – patriotic, straightforward and chivalrous to the hilt. His penchant for the written word, and the beauty of his calligraphy, made his letters unique, especially in a time when people tended to speak more and write less. Even today, when he is no more with us, it is these letters, much read and frayed, which truly capture his spirit on paper.
The Army was an ideal backdrop as he set out to use his engineering skills and agile mind in various ways, both in peacetime and in war. His men adored him, fellow officers swore by him and ‘Sam’ Chandran, as many knew him, was slated to go far in life.
He was the balm to my mother’s fiery nature, always the quiet tensile strength behind her. Nalini was effervescent, like quicksilver. He tethered her down with his steadfast nature, taking care never to quell her myriad flights of imagination. Together they made magic, as they sat out to do everything they loved together, be it in the realm of entertainment, music, dramatics or literature. It was as if they were one soul in one body. When the children arrived, they only cemented the beautiful bond further. There was so much to be done, so many mountains yet to be climbed together!
Then came ‘the most unkindest cut’ of all...
Fate decided to take him away from his family at the young age of 42. There were many things about him that we missed – his quirky sense of humour, his wonderful writing style through which he imparted nuggets of wisdom that enriched me personally, his devotion towards his loved ones which made him the ideal son, the committed husband and the exceptional father... and above all, his steadfast presence that always made us feel that all was right with the world! On the 29th of January 1979, he passed away, having ensured that my mother would be able to face the world in her own forthright manner, but even today, after thirty long years, the void and the ache in our hearts remain. If there was one wish in all our hearts, it would be this...
“Would that he were still with us, his crown full silvery grey,
Would that his face were a map work of wrinkles, and that we could watch him age;
But we are denied this pleasure, only a photo remains,
To remind us of what he was, but not of what he would have been!”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Colored Folks!

This was written by a black gentleman in Texas and is so funny. What a great sense of humor and creativity!!!

When U Black, U Black!

When I was born, I was BLACK,
When I grew up, I was BLACK,
When I went in the sun, I stayed BLACK,
When I got cold, I was BLACK,
When I was scared, I was BLACK,
When I was sick, I was BLACK,
And when I die, I'll still be BLACK.

Now, you 'white' folks....

When you’re born, you're PINK,
When you grow-up, you’re WHITE,
When you go in the sun, you get RED,
When you're cold, you turn BLUE,
When you're scared, you're YELLOW,
When you get sick, you're GREEN,
When you bruise, you turn PURPLE,
And when you die, you look GRAY.

So who y'all be callin'

Picture courtesy: Rogue Design and Image's photostream

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Minefield of Extramarital Affairs!

"When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her".

Sacha Guitry

Marriage is two hearts that beat as one and two souls that crave to be together... all very poetic and pleasing to the ear! Often this gives way to the seven year itch, when after the first stormy onrush of emotions, replete with Valentine's Day gifts and outpourings of love, signs of ennui seem to set in. The husband begins to stop pretending that his wife is Helen of Troy and begins looking around, albeit discreetly. The wife is likewise occupied, emptying her spouse's pocket to line her cupboard, buying expensive clothes, perfumes, accessories, in short, everything to stay attractive and ahead in the race.

However, the first step is always the most difficult as there is the blasted conscience that has to be reckoned with. Once that is quashed, with the little red devil patting one on the back encouragingly, the actual affair begins. What is ironic is that one has to travel the same path of flowers, chocolates, jewellery and romance to strike lucky again!

The Tell Tale Signs: Cupid, don't be stupid! Women have very strong instincts about their husbands. A straying hubby tries to hide it by turning extra loving towards his wife. Jyoti, a beautician, found her husband bringing her roses, and acting very romantic all of a sudden. He had never been so, and her suspicions were aroused, and she set a tail on him. The act fell apart when she discovered him with his boss' daughter, who was about sixteen years younger than him! She walked out on him, unable to stand the idea of being thrown over for a younger woman.

Another sign that is a giveaway is when the spouse begins to take special care of his appearance, wearing sexy clothes, spraying on that extra bit of aftershave, striving to lose weight or dyeing his hair, more so if all these changes are brand new. He turns secretive about his whereabouts, switches his mobile off, starts working overtime and yet, is not in the office when his wife calls!

Thus, there are examples galore of people seeking excitement outside marriage. However, most times, the blame must point within... the excitement and the love have smouldered and died down, and no attempts have been made to stoke the fire. It is time to identify the threats to one's marriage when this point arrives. There are certain values that must not be forgotten, that actually enhance the sacred bond of matrimony.

Being honest with each other is all important. Respecting each other's views is paramount. Giving each other space within the relationship without being possessive can make life more exciting. Doing things together, like going on a vacation, spending a night out at a restaurant, communicating feelings and most important, trusting each other are all core values that can make your marriage work, and how!

Published in 'Just For Women'

An Epic Reversal

There are moments in life when a quick wit and presence of mind work wonders.This incident was no different. The play practice was going on in full swing, the theme being the evergreen epic, the Ramayana. As all the participants were physically or mentally challenged, the roles had been chosen with much care to make sure they could be essayed with ease.The young hero, Rama, was a hearing impaired child, who guided his little spouse, Sita, tenderly across the stage as she was blind. In return, she paid heed to the music in the background and the ensuing dialogues, prompting him at opportune moments.

Hanuman performed his antics wonderfully, despite being afflicted with cerebral palsy, and the audience rooted for him whole heartedly. The rehearsal was really going well, especially as all the little actors had memorized their lines and knew their cues perfectly. Suddenly a high pitched voice piped up. “Ma’am, ma’am!” The teacher looked down only to see Ravana, tugging at her dress.
“What’s the matter, Rohan?” she asked, for the little fellow’s lip was quivering and he looked as though he would burst into tears any moment. Though he was mentally challenged, Rohan was excellent as Ravana, performing his role just the way his teacher had coached him. When he twirled his fake moustache and guffawed, everyone would clap in appreciation.
Yet today he did not seem his normal chirpy self. The teacher knelt down and brought her face down to his level. “Why are you upset, Rohan? Did anyone say anything to hurt you?”
Rohan pouted as he struggled to explain, tears flowing down his cheeks. He wanted to say something but his emotions were getting the better of him. Wiping his tears for him, the teacher smiled, and said loudly, “Ok, children, take a break!” As the youngsters ambled out, she made Rohan sit down beside her. “Now tell me what the matter is, Rohan!”
“Ma’am, why do I have to die every day in our play? Why can’t Rama die instead?” The little boy’s question came like a thunderbolt, even as the teacher struggled to answer. What could she tell him? “Nobody dies but me all the time!” he wailed. “Why can’t Rama die instead?”
The teacher listened to the young boy’s reasoning patiently. How could she solve the dilemma? What words could she use to console her Ravana? Suddenly a brainwave struck her, one that was simple yet effective! It was as though God Himself had decided to intervene. Drawing the little rebel towards her, she caressed him on his unruly mop and said. “I agree. Why should Ravana die in every performance?” he turned to the other actors who were looking on, raising her voice.
“Listen, all of you! Ravana here wants a change of plot. He does not want to die today.” She smiled as she continued, “So today Rama will die instead of Ravana.” There was a gasp, followed by a silence when she stopped talking. The other teachers who were helping out looked at her in amazement. How could Rama, the hero die? How could the epitome of good be defeated by evil?
The teacher’s next words solved the enigma. She turned to Ravana again and asked, “If Rama dies today, will you allow Ravana to die tomorrow for the stage show?”
The little face brightened up as Rohan nodded enthusiastically. After all, Rama would die today! He did not know the difference between a rehearsal and an actual show. The so-called insurmountable problem had been cracked through the patience and sagacity of an understanding teacher!
Needless to say, the show was a huge success, as the children performed beyond expectations. The audience members had tears in their eyes as they watched, and little Ravana got a special encore and a round of applause for his enthusiastic portrayal of the Lankan king!
Picture courtesy: Shailesh Nanal -

Your Children are not your Children

Who exactly is a new born parent? Just every parent with a new born child, groping in the dark, even as he or she marvels at the God given gift before them! Perfect fingers and toes, delicate pink nails, round little eyes, a nose uniformly flat till it perks up later in life, every part a miracle of life! Benjamin Spock deafens with his ubiquitous advice, as well meaning friends and family members offer long homilies on what to do and what not to do. Most of the time, these opinions clash, as do titans who have booming voices that drown all else!

New born babies are smarter than their inexperienced parents. They know the right buttons to push to reduce the latter to blubbering masses, much akin to the Chinese [or is it the Japanese] form of torture that ensures that they do not sleep at night. So new born parents end up, bleary eyed and cranky, fighting to keep their peepers open even as Baby dear sleeps the day away in blissful oblivion, emitting tiny snores intermittently. Food has to be conveniently ready at the touch of a switch, and the switch of a bottle, to prevent the emergence of a baby Ghatotkach, all set to prove his rakshasa identity.

And just when the parents feel that they have mastered everything that they need to manipulate their wee offspring, off he springs, turning into a human dynamo, crawling on his knees at full speed or wobbling his way, clutching on to everything fragile along his path, be it glassware or crystal. A parent suddenly grows a gimlet eye, taut nerves and a supernatural sleight of hand, all weapons to control his little ball of energy, and stop him from eating anything and everything in sight.

The next age is even trickier, as mental faculties need to be sharpened along with physical endurance. This is when one’s little girl begins to speak her mind. She cannot help experimenting, whether at home or outside. A big toy store seems the perfect place to check her lung power, as well as stomp on the floor in a strident tantrum. The parents’ normal reaction is to wish they were invisible, or that they could switch their daughter off with a remote control. This behaviour is better nipped in the bud with suitably firm action, as the little miss is only testing the waters. One helpless nod, and her parents find themselves floundering in hot water! As one old adage goes, many smart children do not smart at the right places!

Teenage is the age of rebellion! Parents know next to nothing, nothing that makes sense to their rapidly growing youngster. In the words of Gibran, “You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts”. Peer pressure increases till the sun and the moon revolve around that one gang of precocious badly behaved adolescents, who wear tattered jeans and unruly locks, sporting tattoos and rings God knows where. They are ultra ‘cool’, the ‘YO’ gang, the rappers and the ragamuffins, who wouldn’t be caught dead in well styled clothes. College days are meant to be lived out in enjoyment, and cutting classes, sitting in the canteen, going for movies and paying money for adequate attendance to be able to write the examinations, are all the best part of growing up – at least that is what it is called!

Then one day, the young person suddenly grows up. The torn jeans and scruffy T shirts give way to smart trousers and semi formal shirts. The locks are mercilessly chopped off, the tattoos carefully stowed away, and the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, a vulnerable maturity in sight. The dreaded interview season is looming in the horizon, a natural consequence to all the exams and tests that go into making men and women out of raw clay. Salaries and job contracts pop eyeballs, as the brand new generation white collared employee moves into his new mode smoothly, reversing into a parking space all his own, and a sanitised cubicle the size of a cubby hole, as his soul dwells “in the house of tomorrow”. A whole new world awaits him, or her, as the case may be, as proud parents fluff their collars and preen, even as they are bewildered at the speed with which their children have grown, and how! Child is father of the man, in Wordsworthian parlance, and the parent still gropes in the dark, as life comes full circle once again, “for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday”. And suddenly Kahlil Gibran’s words make perfect sense...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Could anyone have said it better than that?

Picture courtesy:
The original of the article published in the New Indian Express on 13th April 2010

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