Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The festival of lights wherein the Lord Subramanya is feted will be celebrated in the evening. The occasion calls for lighting of lamps within the homes as well as decorating the exterior of the homes with lamps. Traditionally the mud lamps are lit with oil and wicks. These lamps dot the household and similar lamps are lit in various temples to mark the occasion.

The festival at our home is more significant as my mother began the purchase of a set of lamps made of brass for each year. The purchase of the lamps meant the draining of the exchequer of princely sums out of the meagre income of those days. Accordingly, painstaking savings used to be earmarked for the occasion. Secondly, it also called for finding a new design which would also go with the rest of the collection. These lamps would be washed to its golden timbre on the previous day and the same would form a part of the decorations. As years passed, the collection grew and slowly it needed to be housed properly.

The construction of a residence gave her the idea of placing a showcase in the living room at the top instead of its usual eye level position. This was adorned by  a wooden frame which was decorated by carvings. Behind the glass doors sat the lamps in their pristine glory. It has always caught the attention of any person who visited our home and the unique position such lamps were provided. Unlike regular dolls on display or trophies on display, this unusual display of various types of brass lamps made it draw an admiring comment from one and all.

Soon, the addition to the collections stopped for want of space. Probably the ecstasy of purchasing a new pair was also lost considering their affordability. Any collector can find passion only when the article they are looking for is rare or beyond their reach. If it comes readily with neither much effort or cost, the passion dwindles. Or so I presume.

It is also the occasion for the preparation of certain sweetmeats which called for the use of puffed rice and beaten rice which was puffed. These are normally devoid of the husks but one has to ensure that each one of them are dehusked. This exercise was once performed in the presence of my cousin who was a tiny tot. Being a mere spectator to the exercise was beyond him as he was and continues to have a penchant to ask for some of this puffed rice as a snack. He was, therefore, initiated into looking out for the husks and performing the act of dehusking. The young fellow would term the husk to be a thorn and perch himself  on the table. Thereafter he used to loudly observe " Is there a thorn?" "No" and the ritual would be continued much to our amusement. The amusement would only make him to concentrate further with the question and answer session which was supposed to be a soliloquy. We also had to repeatedly monitor the young fellow for he would just be reciting the question and answer but actually stuffing the puffed rice by fistfuls. This session is now performed by the adults though we are not permitted to consume what is meant for the deity.

The tiny tot has grown into a young man but this action of his remains etched in our minds much to the chagrin of the young fellow. Age has however not cast a shadow on the passion with my mother observes the festival. The occasion serves as another reminder of the stern will power the earlier generation possesses which we atguably do not possess at least in equal measure. Only a survey would either substantiate or disprove this observation but I hold this opinion.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


An attack of gastroenteritis had laid me back and ensured that I was the recipient of the ultimate care. Small discomforts such as the pillow being in an incorrect position or the covers slipping off added to the woes. As I was recovering, I felt the need for a breath of fresh air. The rituals of the motions and the nausea were to be set aside. I ventured out to change this dreary routine and move to the window of the living room and attempt to bring myself to be part of the rest of the world.

A glance outside made my mother draw my attention to a tree opposite the house.  The construction on the site opposite the house was an irritant. Sand lorries and trucks laden with stones competed with each other to unload their burdens. Even as I was about to query her as to what was so fascinating, I noticed that a cradle made out of an old sari was slung from one of the branches of the tree. Therein lay an infant absolutely in bliss. Neither the noise nor the granite slabs below made any difference to the babe. The resourceful mother had ensured that the child was at rest while she earned her livelihood. No management institute could have imparted such a lesson. 

Even as I appreciated both the mother and child, I realised that except on such days of illness, I was blessed with sound sleep during the nights. This brought to my memory two incidents. On one occasion, a house had been burgled a street away and the bike outside had been set on fire. The area residents had been a hassled lot as they had tried to douse the fire and contact the police. All this while yours truly slept through the entire episode much to the chagrin of the adults who were light sleepers.

The other incident was hilarious in hindsight. On duty we had travelled to Shimoga. After five days of hectic activity, our day for return was finalised. Rest assured, I went into deep slumber in the hotel room. Apparently, my friends had held a conference around me and finalised a plan to start a bit early and pay a visit to the famed Jog falls. The whole idea was unknown to me though they were under the impression that I was feigning to be asleep. Subsequently, the next morning, I was disturbed by loud thuds. Finding my room mate fast asleep and a glance at the watch suggesting it was only nearing the Brahmamuhurat, I rose flush with anger and glowered at my friend at the doorstep. The cautious man who is at least a decade senior to me, gently told me to get ready and unfolded the plan finalised. Irritated I told him we could think of it after my slumber. Profusely apologising, he squeezed past me to wake my room mate. To this day this friend of mine never ventures to even make a call to me during the sleep hours.

Thus, Kumbhakarna has his present day version much less the child in the cradle.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


The news of the hanging of Ajmal Kasab was undoubtedly a breaking news. The demise of probably the most hated convict drew reactions of ratification across the strata and more so from the kin of the victims of the attack. The demise of a young lad on a noose raises several issues which also needs to be examined. The purpose of this blog was to look at this from the angle of Kasab himself besides from the judicial system and the diplomatic victory of India in giving even an established convict all the avenues of justice proving itself to be a much nobler nation that most of its citizens envisage it.

There has been considerable hue and cry over the laborious process of law being adhered to in the case of a terrorist beyond doubt. There has even been sarcasm on the front of the expenses incurred on his security, food and trial besides providing him with legal assistance. Probably in the history of the world, India got an opportunity to nab a terrorist alive in full public glare with television networks working overtime to cover the attacks. This was not another case wherein a hot headed approach of shooting him and terming it as an encounter would work. Instead the approach of holding him captive and providing him the facility of a legal counsel which most nations would have denied has lent credence to the fact that India can be tolerant even in the most testing of times. As against this the repeated denials and roadblocks placed by the neighbour did it more harm in exposing its hard stance than any diplomatic offensive could achieve in the past six decades. Let us compare the costs incurred for this trial to the diplomatic costs we have suffered besides the ignominy of being preached tolerance by a hawkish US or the threatening posturing during the wars by several nations. Apparently, the trial of Kasab has given us more and it would have made Kautilya proud of the approach of going through the entire process of judicial tests including a mercy petition to demonstrate the extent of our noble intentions. The victims of the attacks, their kith and kin, however cannot be faltered as the impact on their lives are so great that it would dwarf the macro considerations involved. The only solace for their grievance could be a parallel drawn from the Bible where one learns to accept his agony in comparision to another's. Let us in this context draw a comparison to the thousands who have perished under similar circumstances in the valley of Kashmir. the paradise on Earth or those in the Punjab or the North East. In these cases justice does not even appear to done in a delayed manner. Therefore, as fellow citizens we should extend this demonstrative effect on to other terror attacks as well. 

Let us now look at Kasab's own angle. To be ready to die is one thing but to be captured by your enemy is another. To add insult to injury you are afforded all facilities and taken through a long drawn process of law when you are fully aware that the noose is certain. The only uncertainty is the period for which the fate can be deferred. Probably the most agonising period for him would have been when his nation disowned him. Imagine a situation where one is tasked to perform a task and since the end result was slightly disadvantageous, the task provider disowns the task as well as the person entrusted with the task- the effect is devastating. This is a common malady in the corporate world of today and most of the corporate honchos would admit to this fact at least in privacy. The realisation must have dawned on him but with no evident change in the ultimate result being in sight, the young man would have thought it fit to be obstinate rather than seek forgiveness. This should make every task setter thinking as to whether he is willing to take the onus irrespective of the consequences. Suicidal missions need not always result in encountering another Tukaram Gopal Omble. Hence another message was sent by this brave man in his act. Omble deserves the Bharat Ratna for the service rendered to the nation taking into account the huge diplomatic victory he single handedly ensured for the country.

The judicial system has been at the receiving end of many. It must be given the credit for concluding the process without compromising on the credit worthiness of a fair trial. The defence counsel must also be given his due credit for taking up a lost cause and risking the ire of the fellow citizens to contribute to the huge success.

Let the success not make us complacent. The threat of the Taliban reveals its frustration but cannot be taken lightly. Each one of us have to replicate an Omble to put paid to the terrorist hopes. Sorry Kasab you died young for a cause which even you could not defend. So you are no Porus to an Alexander. As for Omble he deserves a highway in each State to be named after him and a tribute paid in text books with the details of the diplomatic gains India derived from this single act of bravery.

Monday, November 19, 2012


The innate Indian qualities are a source of amazement for the peoples across the globe. On display was one such quality in the multitude accompanying the cortege of the late Bal Thackeray. Hatchets were buried and people across walks of life, political spectrum and geographical locales joined to pay tribute. Even if a resolute person were attribute it to fear or to curiosity, it was brushed aside as people in a disciplined manner tracked the cortege for kilometres at end. Death they say is a great leveller but in India one's measure of life is gauged by the numbers who would pay respects to one's mortal remains. Undoubtedly being a popular figure such as a political leader or a cine star in the sub continent gives an unfair edge to such persons due to the sheer numbers and their beliefs. But all said with a full fledged live telecast and webcast in place and it being a Sunday, the only day available for the Mumbaikars to attend to their domestic affairs the cause for such a number to choose to move without any effort to rally them would astound any person who is not familiar with the ways of an Indian.

It is popularly held that for any auspicious event none shall attend without an invite and for the tragic circumstance of a demise, no invite shall be extended and the mere word of mouth shall communicate of the event to all known persons. Despite the advent of various modes such as the print media, electronic media or the mobiles and their texting facilities, the word of mouth continues to dominate the mode of communication. No wonder people were around at the residence even before the official announcement. The fact that most of the people who accompanied the cortege may not even had a glimpse of their beloved leader makes the presence of such large numbers even more intriguing.

This is where the innate Indianness creeps in. The farewell could be extended in the form of performance of certain rituals, placing floral tributes, rendering assistance or solace to the kith and kin or merely silently accompanying the person in question on his last journey. None is better than the other and each one is considered to be merely performing his duty. Therefore, the concept of duty or repaying of a debt in kind ( a very loose translation of the Indian concept of Vrun). In this context, I remember my friend's observations during his presence in London during Lady Diana's funeral. He found the westerners were scared of death and would never wish to see a body. Contrast this with the Indian psyche which appears in multitude to ensure that the departed soul does not feel lost when it can virtually feel the affection of the people around. 

In fact in the book written by Benazir's niece I think there is a reference to one of the Bhuttos actually feigning to be dead only to have a feel of the people who would actually pay tribute to him on his demise. Similarly, an aunt of my mother spends most of her time wondering whether all the rituals will be performed post her era. In fact, she is so paranoid of the "modern day youth" that she sometimes ventures to even hope that the end comes on a day when the water supply is on. Similarly, there is a tale on the email wherein a son considers his mother to be a burden while the mother defers her end since the son would not be able to take a cold water shower unless the summer has set in. The obsession with the ultimate end is so great that everyone wishes to complete certain tasks by the appointed time.Similarly there is so much truth that on giving birth and at the time of death a sense of detachment creeps in for a microbial second of our life only to be taken over by our worldly ways.

But I must admit that I was bowled over by a remark of one of my chums who is devout but worldly wise - " At the time of birth there is only breath and no name while at the end there remains only the name and no breath" . Having said this he goaded me to leave an imprint for the posterity. This was one day prior to the demise of the Shiv Sena leader. On that day, I merely chided him for turning philosophical but now I can only say it is a tall order!!!

Controversial or otherwise very few have the ability to touch the lives of several others during their lifetime much less impact them even after their lifetime. Should I ask him to reconsider his fiat to me or should I just follow my path of performing my duties and leave the rest to destiny?  

All said, the controversial leader has had another last laugh at his detractors by pulling a coup which would be hard to replicate leaving so many queries unanswered. As he said be it Hitler or Stalin or Gandhi or Nehru or Kennedy or Bhutto mass leaders need to be admired for their ability to touch a chord in millions of hearts and minds irrespective of whether they beat for their cause or against it. A red salute on that count too!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


The telecast of the Nehru Memorial Lecture delivered by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi   the Nobel Laureate established her as an iconic figure. The lecture merits to be included in the text books of the future as it compares and contrasts the experiences and visions of Nehru and Ms Kyi herself. Her sense of humour with the charming smiles and laughter only added to her charm and made at least me wonder whether the lady could be only second to Mandela in my living memory. The anecdote on how the aristocratic Nehru ignored the crowds and the young Kyi while discussing matters of import with her mother with a mischievous twinkle or the deep readings of Nehru's works while analysing a poem which both loved were charming the elite crowd. However, she also subtly set all of us thinking when she spoke of renunciation. Even as she paid glowing tributes to the sacrifices of Gandhi and Nehru, she made it clear that they had the unstinting support of Kasturba and Kamala respectively.

The remark set me thinking as I had just completed the reading of a fiction of Ashwin Sanghi titled Chanakya's Chant. In this book, the enviable Kautilya keeps emphasising that the power of renunciation is what that attracts the multitude. The remark of Ms Kyi that the sacrifice of the icons were to fulfil an egoistic pursuit of a goal or to have a tryst with destiny could not have come at a better moment.She poignantly drew parallels and indicated that while she had chosen to stay be the Burmese at the cost of her family, it was their sacrifice that was greater as they contributed to another's ambitions and not to further their own agenda. 

Hats of Ms Kyi!!! you truly answered my mind in simple words. I have always wondered who is better the individual who sacrifices to attain better goals or a person who sacrifices his interests to further others' goals. The thinker in Kyi answered me unequivocally. The latter was the better individual though the former was celebrated. This happens in every home. The homemakers hide themselves under the cryptic behind every successful man is a woman while in organisations, the top brass bask in the glory of the multitude they "manage". In a nation the leader basks in the glory of the masses. 

In an interview with the combative Karan Thapar she charmingly disarms him by asking who am I to forgive? For once Thapar must concede that here is a batsman who says he is out before the umpire rules him out. Here is a leader who without hesitation accepts she is not infallible, she is human and she could be incorrect. This is indeed a breath of fresh air in an era wherein persons across strata do not wish to introspect or even consider for a moment that there could be a possibility of being in the wrong. We should envy the Burmese to have such a leader in their midst while we should also pity them as it is not she who is leading them.

I must admit that I have learnt the hard way that it is difficult to make another person hear you let alone listen. It is for this reason alone that mass leaders fascinate me irrespective of their affiliation or ideology. But their charisma is enhanced when they are able to admit that they could be in the wrong or they have erred. This is a rare quality more so in the political space which is busy teaching our batsmen a lesson or two in deflecting doosras and googlies. 

May I express the gourmet's appetite for a joint session to be addressed by the two living legends - Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi - more as a measure of lessons for the generations to come - a recipe for a connoisseur. Another lesson that was delivered in no small measure was the importance of reading, analysing and digesting the material that is read. Many read for the sake of reading. But historical accounts are to be studied, opinions of legends valued, differed on rational analysis and digested to be part of history itself. It is time for us to rediscover the treasures of reading and debating. A gift that Ms Kyi has left for us to pick. Will we honour it by picking it up?

Friday, November 9, 2012


An era in satire came to a crashing halt as the vehicle carrying the inimitable Jaspal Bhatti met with an accident. As ironic as things could get, the tributes to the man were far and few though he was one among the pioneers who attempted to instil a sense of ethics albeit through humour in the large Indian masses. Days when the fifteen minute Ulta Pulta would be eagerly lapped up by the audience led the mandarins of Doordarshan to give him another chance with Flop Show. Bhatti dazzled with his wife and a devoted disciple in tow. The fact that Bhatti was given a second chance despite his biting sarcasm by the all powerful bureaucrats of Doordarshan spoke volumes for the then unknown TRP ratings that he had bagged.

The eyeballs that lusted for his sarcasm quietly betrayed his message by following them on the wrong side. The misdirection has become the direction of the day as productions have been indeed reduced to farces. With multiple channels and breaking news there is none who could match the witty Bhatti. The true tribute to the man would be to be able to change the system for the better. We have had another attempt in Office Office which has a cameo character who specialises in " do baatein ho sakthi hain". This entire serial is another tribute to Bhatti as it has picked on his idea and developed it into a full fledged serial for another channel. Similarly, CNN's Cyrus Broacha would also do well to acknowledge the role Bhatti played in his formative years for the rip roaring " The Week that Wasn't"

The comedians of Bollywood and other tinsel world would definitely agree that Bhatti did an impeccable act in a short span of time but to put it in his inimitable style, the road and the car miscarried him. Ironic Bhatti saab we lack the humour to pay tribute to your departed soul. May your soul be filled with laughter on the plight of these humourless Indians!!! Just be a pal but with your humour intact!!!