Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Terror struck Mumbai after striking Jaipur, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and scores of places in north east and Jammu and Kashmir. In all these instances the definition of terror would be the mortal fear of the death dance in these places. Adults and children alike faced this mortal fear. Few individuals displayed courage, conviction and presence of mind in these situations. They remained unsung heroes. The heroism always embraces the person who embraces death.

Is terror a new phenomenon? For me the answer is a big “NO”. Let me elaborate on the issue. Through the seventies of the last century and the early eighties, I was a mute witness to terror or should I say a mute victim of terror. We resided in a house on the first floor which consisted of a hall, room, kitchen, bath and toilet. A similar house was on the ground floor. The staircase to our house as well as the forecourt of the ground floor was accessed by a common door at the end of a common passage leading from the street.

The ground floor was inhabited by a young couple with their only son and three daughters. The son was an epitome of the saying “boys will be boys”. His exploits could form a novel by itself. Some of the most important heroics of his boyhood were passing under a moving truck a la the movie icon Rajkumar of Kannada theatre, ripping his eye and going to the doctor valiantly holding it to be stitched into place. Another incident which remains etched in my mind is him being locked in the bathroom of their house as a punishment. The enterprising lad managed to pile some items to climb up and squeeze himself out of the ventilator much to the dismay of his corporal mother.

Apparently at her wits end the unforgettable words “Anna barli madisthini” would be uttered. Loosely translated it meant Let father come I will get things sorted out. The father was working in a factory and would return a tired man. Even as he entered he would be given a version of the exploits of his son during the day. The man would immediately caution his son in typical Mahabharat style where a warrior puts his adversary on alert with the famous “Sawadhan”. The only difference in this case was the caution bugle was sounded with the Kannada version ‘Hushar’. No sooner was this uttered, the common access door would be sealed to shut out the escape route for the valiant son. Then the blows would be rained amidst cries from neighbours for sanity to prevail. The boy would be thrashed mercilessly. As children we would be terrified of this entire theatrics even though it was a routine event.

The entire thing would be played out without any media glare. There were no big fights or face the nations. Unfortunately, this boy did not grow up into a jawan or a policeman as terror struck him day after day. Lest he would have proved to be an excellent commando who would fearlessly combat any foe with or without weapons. There may be many such unsung heroes too. The need of the society is now to identify such heroes at a tender age and groom them. Today, this young man is a victim of terror who also needs help.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The rains that brought into fore the D/L formula in the last couple of matches against England evoked memories far nearer to home. The scene was that I was to leave to Belgaum for joining on a new assignment. My grandmother who was in town was more worried about the date of leaving since as per her calendar the preceding day was not the auspicious day to leave. My mother was worried about the various goodies that were to travel with me to ensure that I did not miss home. At this point of time, a noble soul, reminded her that Belgaum was a place where torrential rains were the order of the day during the monsoon. Talk of gum boots and raincoats tumbled from everywhere as I was puzzling as to how I would lug the entire luggage. An ancient raincoat which had weathered several storms was pulled out from the attic, dusted and washed. The raincoat was a khaki raincoat of yore and legend had it that it was gifted by my grandfather to my father when he was in his teens. So no question of saying negatives to the family heirloom. This was packed on the top of the briefcase with a nylon rope which was to be used as a clothesline at my destination (Oh! the care they took to see that I would definitely wash myself and my clothes would make one thing that I would have never allowed water to touch me or my clothes but for these gorgeous reminders). Belgaum had its own invitations and after the initial unpacking I had totally put the raincoat in a corner of the cupboard and forgotten about it.

The monsoon set in and on the first day I was held up in the office for over two hours watching pails of water lashing down from the skies. I knew that I would be soaked and waited for it to subside. The next day, very meaningfully, I pulled out the heirloom and lugged the same to the office. The khaki coat which went upto the knees was a heavy duty one unlike the light plastic designer raincoats that children and adults wear now. Colleagues glanced at it quesstioningly. My boss enquired about the age and when I revealed the saga, he revelled in laughter and suggested he would organise festivities for its forthcoming golden jubilee. I soaked myself in all the attention till the rains commenced lashing the city towards the evening. At the stroke of 5:30 p.m., I bid goodbye to all as all of them looked at me. Cloaked in the heirloom, I walked into the rain. Three buildings away stood the lodge and it was a wet raincoat covering drenched person who reached the lodge to the bemusement of the lodgemates. That was the last day I bedecked myself in this powerful robe which weighed me down literally.

Love after all knows no bounds and so does the family heirloom. None at home could be convinced of the futility of donning this robe.

Monday, November 17, 2008


We have given India the moon stated a beaming ISRO Chairman while the former President Abdul Kalam envisioned the ISRO realising the dreams of several children to be astronauts who wish to voyage to moon and Mars besides the deeper space. The cheer on his face said it all and reminded one of the love he shared with children. May be Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) and Chhaccha Nehru are the only others I could think of who could match this bonhomie with children. Well I also belong to a family of children crazy persons and we closely observe every movement of a child as well as imbibe every word uttered by children. The former President's remarks on the aspirations and ambitions of children brought to fore many instances which I thought could be shared.

As a six year old, my cousin felt he was saddled with homework and schoolwork while I enjoyed life since I had just taken up a job. To add to his misery, when queried about the nature of job, I had remarked that I was to scale a mountain of chocolates and eat them once I reached the peak. His ambition was instantaneously to bid goodbye to school and swap portfolios. But a more amazing ambition he had was that he should travel to the sun. May be he is the only one after the mythical Hanuman who dreamt of such a possibility and would not the ignitor of minds be pleased to know about this dream?

A neighbour's kid had another ambition which was very much childlike. He wanted my sister to be his teacher who would give a lot of statement problems to other children and then take him out to play.

A third child had an interesting way of celebrating Deepavali wherein he would want to be slapped on his back instead of bursting crackers. He once travelled to Raipur and stated that it would be daylight there when it wouldbe night here. All from a four year old - Newton or Galileo in the making.

Many children have had dreams of being a teacher, an engine driver, a bus conductor, a flier, a pilot, a policeman etc but have you heard of a child which aspired to be a thief and all for a jar of pickles. Today this very child is a bright engineer pursuing studies in London.

The sone pe suhaga came during a journey from Delhi to Bangalore. A child boarded the train with his parents. He warmed up to me and reached out to my food much to the chagrin of his parents. As we chattered on, I asked him about his aspiration. Lo and behold he answered without batting an eyelid that he wanted to be a CHOWKIDAR. The reason - all children listen to him and his cane..

Truly the innocent world of children remains unmatched.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The days at high school was one of early rising with a hectic schedule. We were then residing close to the famous Harishchandra Ghat of Srirampuram. One had to be in the bus stop prior to 7:45 a.m to be able to escape the long merciless cane of Fr. D'Souza, our Vice Principal. The route no 84 would park right outside the compound of the burial ground. It would start with a U turn around a circle which now does not exist. The red bus which was fondly referred to as the "Yamadooth". The overloaded bus would wind through the Sampige Road, Shivananda Circle and past Vidhana Soudha. The Vikasa Soudha was not in place then and the road between the two Soudhas was open for traffic. We used to disembark at this stop and make our way through the sylvan surroundings of Cubbon Park to the then landmark of Tiffany's. It would then lead to the school premises.
The school had academics, sports, fun and frolic. The end of the school at around 3:30 p.m would signal groups trouping towards various directions. Our group used to take the route of the Tiffany’s , walk past Cubbon Park on the side of the Kanteerva Stadium to reach Hudson Circle. The Hudson Circle was a wonderful huge circle with lush green plants and grass. At this point we had to move towards the Kempegowda Road for which we would reach Nrupathunga Road and cross over from the Martha’s Hospital side to reach the bus stop. Both these roads were then two ways. A median separated the Kempegowda Road. Crossing this road in a group was a merry affair.
On one of these occasions, I was a wee bit late since I had visited the City Central Library close to the Airlines Hotel and had got separated from my group. I had been mentally dealing with the issue of which of the four novels I had picked up was to be read first. Absorbed in these thoughts, I had reached the Kempegowda Road almost mechanically. I scampered across the first half to the median and was looking for a wee bit of space to cross the remaining part. A hand suddenly clasped mine and dragged me to the middle of the remaining half. The Yamadooths in bright red colour which were racing in our direction came to a grinding halt. With a petrified look, I had managed to glance at the person who had placed me in this situation. Nothing but the spectre of death had loomed large. The Yamadooth had been merciful and spared me at the first brush I had with him. The mentally challenged person who was responsible for the act was escorted away as I sipped some water. Years later, another stroke of destiny has spared me from another such catastrophe. The only change was the bus was replaced by a black Scorpio and though I escaped by a whisker, a friend of mine who was with me suffered. The culprit this time was the Scorpio driver who jumped the signal.

Monday, October 27, 2008


The year was 1991 and I was preparing to celebrate the completion of one more year and the dawn of another year of my lifespan. My colleagues were equally enthused to find my birthday nearing. One among them was a senior person named Ranganath. He used to fondly refer to me as Chhota Pandit. His weakness was sweets and being the youngest of the lot, I had been entrusted with the onerous task of snatching any sweet offered to him. He was diabetic and had been advised strongly to avoid sweets. The fast approaching birthday threw up a dilemma as to how I would be able to offer him sweets and the same time take it away. Luckily for me he planned a tour and was informing us of this. Impishly he looked at me and said "Chhota Pandit I will be back for your birthday" He also said he would make me pay for my earlier deeds by taking away the entire sweets. Another colleague confirmed that he would be back. However, on the day prior to my birthday, I found him missing and on enquiry came to know that he had been hospitalised. After my office hours, I returned to my room and after deliberating thought it would be best that I visit him after my dinner. After a quick dinner at about 8 pm I made my way to the hospital. On reaching the hospital, I found him on the bed but his wife requested me to procure a drug which she said was not available in the hospital pharmacy. She claimed that I was god sent. After reassuring her, I made my way to a couple of pharmacies and drew a blank. One of the pharmacists said that only a distributor could help me at this late hour. This reminded me of my lodgemate Krishna. I rushed back to the lodge and told Krishna about the requirement. Both of us set out on his Bajaj and procured the medicine. The roads were more or less deserted and we could reach in good time to the hospital. As we handed over the drug to her, she wept and asked us whether we could help her in taking out his body. This came as a rude shock. Neither was I god sent nor had my avarice for dinner helped the cause. Guided by Krishna, I quietly joined him in lifting him to the car parked outside. We dropped him home and returned.
The next day was solemn and sombre. Colleagues counselled me that I should not go to the crematorium. However, I felt I owed this to him. We all escorted him and bid him the last farewell. Mr . Ranganath had the last laugh. My birthday was never celebrated. None got the sweets. He took them all forever in lieu of the sweets I had snatched from him. Today, when someone greets me on my birthday with the standard phrase "Many happy returns of the day" , I ask to myself " Having lost a happy man on the same day could this day turn happy" From birth day it has turned into his anniversary. Never has my birthday been the same and never will it be.

Monday, September 22, 2008


It was a new day at a new place. Belgaum was the place and I was a stranger to the place. On a new posting I had come down and enrolled myself into one of the lodges close to my workplace late in the evening. After a quiet solitary dinner, I had hit the sack with a promise to be on the dot to the workplace the next morning. The biological clock did wonders and I was up in the morning. The new place did not in any way hinder the drowsiness associated with the waking hours. Drowsily, I was brushing my teeth when I heard my name being called. Turning around I beheld a bespectacled character of about the same age grinning at me. He disarmingly said "You have not changed much". The succour of the drowsiness melted into the misty morning as I gazed at the stranger. My mouth was frothing with the hand gently brushing my teeth. The youth went on " Well, finish your chore, remember my name?" I made up my mind that this character must have merely glanced through the register maintained and was pulling a fast one. Nonchalantly, I went through the motions of the morning, passed on a fleeting smile with a "Meet you in the evening". The day was filled with introductions, a wonderful lunch hosted by a gracious boss followed by some colleagues giving me helpful tips. One of them went ahead to present me my probable leave periods which would benefit me. Another, took me to the Extension Counter and opened a bank account for me. The terrorising picture of a world which would not have the protective arms of your parents waned. At the end of the day, I joyously made my way to the nearest post office to purchase some postal stationery. After a quick snack, I settled in my room to pen my experience to my parents. After finishing with this exciting chore, I rushed to mail the same. No sooner did I drop the mail into the mail box, I started looking forward for a reply. Forget about mobiles, email etc , even telephones were a luxury and the PCO culture was yet to really gather momentum. Fixing an appointment in the mess for dinner, I strolled back to the lodge only to be greeted by the bespectacled youth. Without any invitation, he walked into my room and started querying me about my history on the planet Earth. Courtesy prevented me from snapping at him. He understood my dilemma and traced our common roots to a single year association at school when we were six year olds. My jaws dropped. Could someone who met me when we were six year olds recognise me when I was in my twenties? The alleged buddy then started reeling out names of the other classmates who went on to study with me through the rest of my school days. The names of our teachers were also etched in his mind. Apparently, this was not entered in any register for him to con me. Disbelief was writ all over my face. After a night of disturbed sleep, the next morn, I shot of another letter to my mother with the name of this blighter, Puran. A week of admonishing from him continued. My roommate, a lecturer, gave me the much needed succour. The reply from home came and there it was clearly written that this fellow was indeed my classmate and the photograph of those days were there. Blurred to the hilt, I resigned to the fate of conceding defeat to this super human whose memory still bogs me whenever I fail to find a pen in its place or hunt for a document.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


It was a day for nostalgia. A new bunch of young recruits joined and took me back to the days when I had hesitantly taken the few steps in the outside world without the protective arms of a parent or guardian. The city was Hubli and I was to attend an interview. Alighting from a bus at Hubli in the wee hours of the morning, I looked around and located a lodge to station myself. A slingbag contained my original certificates and the change overs. All of about 5 ft 9 in tall and a thin mush cropping up on a slender frame the receptionist at the lodge placed me as a student. He quizzed me on my intentions of the visit as well as the location of the interview. The elderly man then decided that I was not in need of a room. He queried me in the Dharwad dialect -"Jhalaka adhare saakalla". The term Jhalaka was new. In South Karnataka the term used is Snana. Once he explained this to me, he offered to give me the facilities of refreshing myself as well as have a bath. My suspicions arose as to why he was doing this. He explained that the location for the interview was close by and he would offer the facility for a princely sum of rupees two as against the room rent of rupees fifteen. I saluted the man accepted his proposal and remember his good gesture. May be another day I would also be able to extend such a gesture to someone!!!!!!