Thursday, April 22, 2010


The concept of right and wrong are instilled into every person from one's childhood days. These rights and wrongs then get refined by one's perception of things. Over a period of time the perception of these things translate the views into opinions. The opinions then lay the foundation for the pride and prejudices one carries with oneself unto one's grave. Thus, the very basis of these biases lie in our attitude towards each aspect of life and translate into consequential actions formulating reactions as a chain as envisaged in the theory of karma.

Many speak eloquently about the prides and prejudices being instilled by the leaders, the media, the friends et al. It is a common adage that one can be judged by the company he keeps. Similarly, we are adept at creating terms like Gandhian, Hitlerite, Nazi, Nehruvian etc. Let us take a look at history and analyse the same.

We find that Gandhi was an unparalleled leader in the freedom movement of the country. There are many who are cited to be the principal disciples of his movement to such an extent that they would not even venture to question his wisdom on any move. They headed the league which came to be known as Gandhian. What did Gandhi represent? He represented non-violence and he represented a movement which would claim a right by passive resistance. How many of these persons would unflinchingly adhere to these concepts in domestic life as well as under all circumstances? How many of them would at least follow the same in the presence of at least their beloved leader? The analysis would reveal the selective tendencies of these very persons. As long as it was something acceptable to them, they were capable of asking another to adhere to it but if they found the same unpalatable they would flinch from adhering to it. Essentially, it was a matter of convenience for pushing oneself in a direction to take the cover of another popular person. This would to a large extent deter any criticism. They were neither students of the movement nor disciples or devotees. They had a mind of their own. The minds had to be churned in a single direction. Gandhi was able to feel the pulse and channelise the popular pulse in the popular manner for a larger part of his life. This gave him the pre-eminent position among the leaders of the day.

Take a look at Tilak. He also effortlessly channelised the movement with the help of populist diatribes in the Courts as well as blunting the machinery of law by organising celebrations for the popular God Ganesha as well as the local icon Shivaji to turn the tide in his favour. This did not mean the populace meekly took his bait. They followed him as long they felt they would do a similar thing in the given situation. If they felt otherwise, they chose to deferentially differ.

Then does it mean that these leaders were men of no stature. No that's not the case. It takes a person of mettle to identify a cause, an issue of common interest, a string that could bind the mass together to further the cause. This is what made them the leader. It is not that they influenced the mass to behave in a particular manner but found what would be the obvious way in which they would react positively if suggested.

In our school days we would have a common topic of debate as to whether movies were good or bad for the youth. If the same topic were to be tossed to me today, I would state that the movie remains the same. I relate to such views that I relish and cherish. It neither instigates or provokes me. It only binds me to my existing feeling. It cannot even be given the credit of unearthing my emotion. At best, it can only be given the credit for binding all such similar thinking persons.Unless the person has the base instinct to react violently, no movie can instil that thought in him.

There is a story of King Solomon in which he banishes a corrupt official to the seashore with a punishment to count the waves. Any normal person who was misled into this unethical practice would have been adequately humiliated and would have vowed not to resort to such practices. However, the person in question had the base instinct beyond repair. He chose to stop the boats which were sailing through and accuse them of preventing him from discharging the royal duties. Thereafter, this man goes on to seek a consideration for not reporting the "crime" to the monarch. Thus, this person who was neither inspired nor provoked resorted to baser deeds. The relating of this tale may reform a person who resorted to corrupt practices but was by nature against it. The same tale may also encourage a person to go ahead with his corrupt practices since this tale is only an excuse for his premeditated action.

To sign off, yours truly would remind you of certain ads that were placed on the then pristine Doordarshan wherein a drunkard merely finds excuses for his premeditated action of consuming liquor liberally. First its a birthday, then an anniversary, a wedding, a promotion so on that even a demise makes this noble soul hit the bottle. Is it then the crime of the bottle or the crime of the person who would find one anyway?

Folks, we need to understand that we react exactly as per our nature. Let us accept this natural truth rather than foist this upon another. Is it my view? Then please do say whether you agree or disagree !!!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Rains lashed Bangalore and exposed the state of sewerage, drainage systems as well as the roads. Early morning there was a hue and cry amongst the general public. All were reminded of the fact that the BBMP had not done its duty. An elderly man remarked that these guys know how to draw the salary but fail to do the work. Another person remarked that he was nostalgic of those days when a scavenger would respectfully appear at beck and call to do the needful. Unmindful of the drizzle, two boys perched on a motorcycle were zipping around distributing newspapers of the day. None had time for the newspaper since the rains had wreaked its havoc.
Unfortunately, no permission or leave would be available on this count and the office goers were trying to sort the sewerage issue to the best possible extent to ensure that there would be a smooth outflow. I absolutely felt that the stench was unbearable but had to go through the motions and finally was on the way to office.
The commuters in the bus for a change were unanimous in their verdict that BBMP had failed to discharge its duties though it promptly collected taxes. The FM radio station was giving information on the state of the clogged traffic and water logged areas to be avoided with a dash of humour and entertaining songs. Slowly, we reached a point where the bus could neither weave its way ahead nor could back out. Commuters who were standing urged the sitting ones to open the windows. The ones who were blissfully sitting pointed that the bus was on a bridge over an open drain. I peered out to verify the veracity of this statement. In the large open drain, dark waters were swirling and even the best of poets would not have composed poetry as was done on the dark waters of the Yamuna. One could see through the drizzle that there were some objects like plastic containers which were lying around and four men clad in khakhi had rolled up their trousers and were standing in these “holy waters” of the denizens of Bangalore. One of the commuters who was in a great hurry requested that he be allowed to alight from the bus and the doors swung open to let in the “fragrance” of the rivulet. All who had insisted on opening the doors hollered for it to be shut forthwith. Hankies went up to the nostrils. Since the bus did not show any signs of moving, my mind drifted to another incident which occurred over a decade ago.

I had been travelling by the train and was chatting up a Travelling Ticket Examiner when a friend of his joined. Since there was sufficient accommodation, the friend also sat down and we introduced ourselves. The TTE then said that his friend was being modest since he was at the forefront of a revolution in the Indian Railways. He then went on to elaborate how many small stations did not have the facility of drainage system. It was a revelation to me that in these places the railway officials used what was known as dry latrines and the night soil was carried by the scavengers. This friend was at the helm of the movement in that sector which rightly considered this as inhumane and sought that such a system be dispensed with. In the present context, I wondered what had changed in the case of a drainage system. The frequency of being subjected to daily humiliation was deferred to probably a periodic one. Additionally, a system was in place, which provided them pay and allowances along with a uniform for the same work.

Should we not scavenge our mindsets to find a solution for all such issues? Should we not be able to empathise with our fellow human beings? Will we able to scavenge not only the night soil issue but also all issues that confront us on which we maintain a hypocritical double or multiple standard?

Monday, April 19, 2010


It is a norm in any society that one would be greeted and congratulated on assuming a new important or sensitive assignment. The year was 2002 when I was put in charge of a portfolio which was considered as prestigious to say the least. Persons around me eulogised my invisible capabilities and should there me a mention about me being transported to cloud nine not for the posting but for the ubiquitous qualities which were being recognised (as I thought). The whole charade came down as a house of cards when a senior colleague called me up and told me that it is time I landed on Planet Earth though he would prefer me to delve into the netherworlds by a couple of miles. He warned me that there was a vast difference between the terms praise and flattery. "Praise" he said, " was the recognition of existing qualities. This would be not necessary unless one feels that his qualities needs to be recognised and felicitated." He added that the persons who feel such a need were narcissists by nature and he did not expect me to fall under this category. Flattery on the other hand he said was the seeming recognition of the non-existing qualities.After a long prologue he gave me an example that if someone were to tell me that it was only I who could identify such matters which require great intellect then I could be rest assured that the person was resorting to flattery. He asked me to remind myself that I could not be the only one who could see a white elephant standing in front of a whole crowd as against identifying an ant on the ground. The euphoria died down and what would have been otherwise termed as a dampener appeared to me as the most valuable counsel that one could expect at this juncture.

Immediately thereafter another well wisher called me and counselled me that the portfolio required the tact of an eel, the eye of a hawk and the humility of a farmer. He reassured me that the expectations though high would be met with diligent work. However, he emphasised that I would remain on his radar for the times to come to ensure that I did not falter. These reassuring words made me confident that there were at least two well wishers who would venture to steady this boat when it is rocked.

These words reminded me of the words of Sant Kabirdas who had said in a couplet that it is best to keep a person who sings praises afar and make the person who finds faults one's neighbour. What would he have said of flattery?

We do live in times when flattery is taken more kindly than the words of wisdom. How would one rate the verdict of Birbal that a king is more powerful than God since he could banish one out of his kingdom while God could not. Was it not tactful flattery? The reward was of course immediate. However, I still believe that my well wishers have done me good by putting me on a firm platform and so would I where I wish one well rather than flatter them for immediate pleasure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Cooking has never been my forte and I am no great eating buff too. I have sometimes even ventured to wonder what must be the resourcefulness of the person who traced some dishes. Imagine to think one could scale up a coconut tree, pluck and crack the nut only to make myriad dishes savour in a different manner. Being the son of probably one of the co-pioneers of a recipe book at least in South India, I empathise the immense agony and trauma caused to her by a son who hardly can polish a plate off without complaining that too much was served. The blunder is further aggravated by the fact that no attention is paid to the ticklers of the tasta or their absence in the peeving glory.

However, life does not treat such souls kindly. Yours truly can vouch for it. Life contrives situations where one has to battle the fires of hunger with a dish to be rattled up by oneself. The icing on the cake of irony is that one is already too sure that the dish rattled up only has a psychological name tagged to it and is not even remotely connected to the probable one. For people who could relish humour at others' cost, this piece would be irresistible.

In the year 1991, I was at Belgaum and we were having dinner at my friend's sister's place. For all practical purposes I was treated as one of the siblings. To top it all I was considered the youngest (being unfair to my friend's younger brother) and my weaknesses were laughed away while the strengths were glorified. As we finished dinner, news came in that one of their relatives had passed away. The nephews were to be in left behind due to their school and college schedules. Being an orthodox family, it was pronounced that they would not be permitted to enter the kitchen nor could they have their grub outside. All was fine till this point. The bombshell was then dropped without the slightest hint. I was told I would stay back till the elders return. I was then told that I would be the COOK.Pray what offence did I commit to attract such a severe punishment was the immediate response. The ifs and buts were simply brushed aside. Instant instructions were passed on the places to locate the various ingredients. I was also designated to pack their baggage and off the family left leaving me in a daze. The youngest of the three nephews was in ninth and the eldest was just out of college. The three musketeers surrendered themselves to my custody. The night passed peacefully since no culinary delight was to be created. Then came the dawn. A bleak dawn of which the three musketeers had no idea. I gingerly asked them whether some bakery food could be a bright idea. They said no. The next three days at least no outside food. My next question was could they at least find some help for me. The answer was no. The salt was rubbed into the wounds by affirming their faith in me.

A shower was had and a ceremonial entry made to the kitchem. Rice was to be washed and placed in the pressure cooker. But how much water? The youngest fellow gave me a measure which I followed. Then came the question of a dish. I looked at the side shelves and started picking a spoon of each powder and dumping then in a vessel of water with a wee bit of salt. A couple of tomatoes was sliced with the effort that would have put any Hercules to shame. I then announced that they should all pray for their well being. After a couple of hours, the breakfast and lunch boxes were ready. I left them to savour the delight and hoped if Almighty was indeed ALL MIGHTY, he should insure and ensure their good health. After a restless day at office, I reached home to find the three waiting for me. Horror of horrors, they said I should not have lied that I did not know cooking while dishing out a tasty dish. I was reminded of a relative who would say that none should venture to name the dish while it is under preparation but should name it only after it is prepared. Two more days passsed with the same fanfare. Truly God was on their side or they were truly tolerant.

The unforgettable encounter with the kitchen ended albeit on a happy note for us but the wishful thinking of medical practitioners was laid to rest.

Lessons are hardly learnt and no attempt to learn this fine skill was made. In 1995 I landed at Panaji where vegetarian food is scarce and rare. But Lady Luck smiled on me in the form of senior colleagues who shouldered the kitchen. The toughest cooking task assigned to me was the removal of the stem from the green chillies. A year later, I was deputed to knead the flour for rolling out chapathies. When they were not around, the Nala in me would emerge and cook rice which would be had by mixing it with the famed curds of southern India. Of course, the pickles imported from our respective homes.

Last week was a reminder of these incidents over which I have regaled many friends of mine. My mother took ill and the kitchen landed in my custody. Imagine converting good healthy persons into patients is itself a bad exercise but here I had on hand a couple of patients who were battling their ailments. But the uppermost question in their mind was not the dosage of the antibiotics or the notoriety of the viruses affecting them. The big question was whether the things I was supposed to hand over to them as edibles would be food worth consuming. Dr Iyengar's words acted as an inspiration and I hoped that they would bounce back to normal health.

Should they bounce back to good health, it shall be three cheers to Dr. Iyengar!!!!
Three cheers to Nala, Bhimasena and all the best cooks, the good cooks, the mediocre cooks and anyone knows cooking including a bad cook!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


An old friend of mine converses with me frequently. The term old could mean the age of the person or the age of the relationship or should I put the donkey in the front and say could reveal the age of yours truly. The reason for me to start ruminating on this was the fact that I had once remarked to a friend dufing a conversation that " The problem is sitting before me". The intention of my remark was to indicare that a person's valour or wisdom needed to be measured on one's intention to sit before me since I have an appetite for human brains. But the person chose to put me in my place by suddenly rising and saying the problem will leave. I was quick to realise that the words could also be read as that I was referring to the other as the problem. Undoubtedly, it was succint way of reminding me that I was not the doorstep of mastery over language and communication skills. Therefore, any one reading should empathise with this handicap of yours truly and only take the opportunity of correcting the use of such phrases through the comments menu.

Reverting to the old friend of mine who converses with me across continents, it must be said that I have carefully chosen the word old. By quirk of fate, he happens to have appeared ahead of me on planet Earth by a couple of years but convert them into months, weeks, days, hours et al, the young friend indeed is much older to me. I am sure that on reading this the adventurer in him will bring him straight to my doorstep to land his boots on my bottoms. Be that as it may since this bonhomie of ours is over quarter century young. Normally the sort to humour me in the worst of situations, I must concede that he set me thinking by one of his remarks. without building the suspense any more, let me share the remark. He remarked " Man was not meant to be employed and earn money from another. He is just another animal whose primary tasks were to hunt for food, shelter himself from nature and procreate for the sake of Noah's Ark". Think about it mate.

In jungle law, might is right. The weaker ones with a crafty brain brought in concepts of social living. They administered while the others did the work. Paper touted as money was dished out as wages. Nomenclature of incentives and promotions thrown in to distract one from the main agenda. These have gone to such an extent that today money measures the worth of a man. Similarly, one's status is dependent on the number of followers (preferably mute ones ). The arguments went on and it looked like he would soon set up a jungle and invite us all to join in the paleolithic style of living.

Mate, every species has this. The bees have queen bees and worker bees. So do have ants. Elephants, cows et al move in herds. Leadership qualities are there in all types of living beings. The saddest part today is enterprise means the capacity to betray the trust reposed in one and not the resourcefulness to innovate and deliver. Can we not redeem ourselves by setting ourselves as models for others to emulate? The urge to set a trend which would reverse the existing degenerating ethics is the need of the hour. Another friend of mine has displayed courage in tossing the papers of employment since it did not conform to the ideals but this courage needs to be supplanted with the courage to lead from the front and mould at least another dozen such persons. This would impact the social change.

Mate, I hope my answer is clear. Even if we lead a jungle life the battles would be there to fight. We will fight and we shall show that the victory does not lie with the individual but with history. Recently I had been to a laboratory which displayed a portrait of Gandhi with the lines that "He believed in disarming his enemies with a smile." May I take the libery of saying that though I have been a steadfast critic of Gandhian idealogy, I would like to correct the above statement to read " He believed in disarming his adversaries with a smile." Apparently, the man did not consider anyone his enemy. Should we not give him his due? As my good friend could be my adversary too or a rival or a competitor but he does not become my enemy. Even with the boots on my bottoms, I would still consider him my friend and not a foe.

Another day of wild solo brainstorming

Saturday, April 3, 2010


School days emphasised on our language skills. Communication in English was mandatory and THE HINDU was the prescription for improving our standards. The right word in the right place was given the utmost importance. Soon English was replaced by (I)nglish followed by (KAN)glish. Of late the influx of the north Indians has let us have our own style of (HIN)glish too. These dialects add to the wide variety of dialects already smothering the country. We used to have a ten mark portion aside for framing our own sentences in the English paper of examinations. The word "one" with a specific mention to be used other than for its numeric value was the doosra of those days. One had to exercise one's grey matter to frame one such sentence. The lessons of Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore and Radhakrishna set us thinking on the varied expressions of communication in the language. Radhakrishna was his eloquent best with a generous sprinkling of complex and compound sentences. His speeches were the best to understand the various clauses of the language. Does language matter so much?
Can we not use any term as long as it iw understood correctly? These queries had been posed to me time and again. Some of my friends used to compare me to the epic poets and desire that I frame my sentences in a short crisp manner to facilitate easy comprehension. I used to look around me for a suitable example to drive home my point of view.

Lo and behold! Today's newspaper had a wonderful caption which drew my attention. It read "NATION CELEBRATES GOOD FRIDAY". The occasion of Good Friday is marked by solemnity. The Son of God and the messiah was crucified on this day. Apparently, this could not call for a celebration. The right word would have been "observe" . The caption could have read as " NATION OBSERVES GOOD FRIDAY" . We do not celebrate anybody's demise. Similarly, the sports columnists generally tend to pen " On the demise of X, India tottered". The word "demise" is ordinarily used to indicate the ultimate departure from planet Earth and not the loss of a wicket. The word that could have been appropriately used is "exit" or "departure". The virtues of knowing the language correctly is lost. Today, if any one would attempt correcting such a wrong he would be termed a snob or a delinquent. Unfortunately for these souls the beauty of a language and the import of every word is lost on them. No two words in the dictionary mean the same. They are different albeit subtle differences qualify them to be synonyms.

Urdu poetry would seldom be understood since its words in this language are itself sheer poetry. Khushwant Singh has through his columns made Urdu poetry a fascinating part of our lives. Probably to appreciate the importance of a specific word, the need to educate people in Urdu should be considered. Hopefully we will start observing Good Friday and celebrating Diwali in the near future.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Stories shape a lot of minds. Mythology is the greatest repository of tales and the attraction it holds for young minds is undisputed. Recently, my cousin paid a visit to my place alongwith her son and daughter in law. This young nephew of mine always reminds me of the fascinating tale of Ganesha brought out in the Amar Chitra Katha series. In his young days when he was unable to read but was curious to know the written word, he would make me read out the tale and translate it for him repeatedly. This tale therefore has got imprinted in both his mind as well as mine. This memory however kindled my desire to put out the long festering doubt on the way the character of a maternal uncle is brought out in mythology. The impact of a presentation made by my sister in defence of Shylock of the famed Merchant of Venice had actually made me think on these lines. I had once even discussed this with some of them. A couple of my friends had ridiculed me while another couple had evinced interest in my arguments. The fact that I had received a lot of affection from my maternal uncles only aided my arguments. The catalyst to pen on this issue was the way my nephew showed his affection for this relationship.

In the South of the Vindhyas the relationship of a maternal uncle is next only to the mother. In fact, several communities accord him the place of the rightful groom and only with his consent would it be right to go in for any other alliance. Then how do we accept the roles of Kamsa, Shakuni, Shalya amongst several other such mythological maternal uncles. The tales are predominantly from the Aryan households wherein the system of patriarchal society was prevalent. In these communities it is believed to be a sin to even have a day's meal in the daughter's house. Therefore, the fact that Shakuni moves in with his sister is made much of. Similarly, the need to make Kamsa a villain when his nephew is destined to bring him death subtly puts this relationship in dark shade while the rivalry between brothers is supposed to be a macho quality.

Let us take a look at the epic through the eyes of Shakuni. He is a young prince of Gandhar, the present Kandahar of Afghanistan. He is fond of his sister and dreams of a wonderful alliance for her which would befit the royal princess. At this stage, the grandsire of the Kuru clan Bhishma makes an entry and seeks her hand for the prince of Hastinapura. In some versions, it is not even made clear as to whether the alliance is sought for Dhritarashtra or Pandu. The father of Shakuni is in a dilemma since he does not want to wage a war with the Kuru clan which would be inevitable in the background of Bhishma's war to woo the pricesses of Kashi for his brothers. Tamely, he gives in to the wishes of the mighty Bhishma. Was might right in this case? Shakuni is not in a position to disobey his father nor can he resist the tender feelings for his sister. He makes the calculated decision to be with her to ensure her protection since Gandhar would no more require an able king being a protectorate of Hastinapur. The fondness for his sister translates into a fondness for his nephew. The fact that the nephew is not even seen by his blindfolded sister makes his affection for Suyodhana greater.

Take a break to the present. Most parents want their children to fulfil their unfulfilled ambitions. The parents of Suyodhana are bound by several factors. This makes Shakuni the natural choice to ensure that at least Suyodhana is put in a position of strength. The young prince who would otherwise have been an able king of Gandhar is now the custodian of the destiny of Suyodhana. He therefore does not spare a single effort to ensure that fate does not mete him an unfair treatment. Bhishma could afford certain errors due to his status. Lack of empathy was never attributed to him since he had made a great sacrifice for the happiness of his father. But Shakuni had no such liberties. Neither did he possess the might of Bhishma's Hastinapur nor his skills and stature. The clash between the rights and wrongs become evident. From times immemorial the status determines the righteousness of an act. People would move heavens and earth to justify the acts of Bhishma. The only place where Ved Vyasa forces the society to look into the flaws of this character is through his silence during the scene of Draupadi's Vastraharana. It is here that we understand that Ved Vyasa does not seek to make any character in his epic a perfect one to be emulated. He seeks to portray different facets of human tendencies through different characters but plays along the societal mores by ensuring that the failed ones are as per the perceived notions.

Another maternal uncle Shalya's bravery during the battle for the princesses of Kashi is merely a flash in the pan to the eloquence reserved for his being taken for a ride by Suyodhana. The mighty king gives a word for one meal that is served by Suyodhana as against the love for his dear sister Madri. In fact, if he had known the extent to which Shakuni goes to redeem his love for Gandhari, Shalya's dilemma to back his nephews against the word to Suyodhana itself could be a master epic in itself. The image of this man is tarnished further when he ensures that the concentration of Karna is decimated by him.

These two characters may be reviled by most but fascinate me no end. It would have been a wonderful experience if I had the pen of a Shakespeare or a Kalidasa or a Mythili sharan Gupt to defend these characters in true style.