Sunday, November 22, 2015


The much awaited Seventh Pay Commission report has been submitted after long drawn deliberations with stakeholders. The media is agog with the word that the employees await a bonanza which will be repeated till the Government decides. Thereafter, it would again hit the headlines as and when the decision is taken and later on implementation. The net result is a market hype that a large sum is dished out to the employees. In this background, the essence of the report was to be seen dispassionately.

The Government had not merged the Dearness allowance as recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission on it reaching the 50% mark thus depriving the employees of a benefit but it is a travesty of justice that this Pay Commission has also merely adopted a lacklustre approach of laying a multiplying factor without considering any of the anamolies that had arisen in the last six pay commissions report implementation.

In the Fifth Pay Commission, the existing employees sacrificed their increments for pay fixation as part of the austerity measure. This has not been restored rightfully either by the Sixth Pay Commission or the present Commission. A glance at the matrix adopted shows that this does not need a massive documentation of nearly 900 pages nor the time taken. The Commission needs to be held accountable for the public money that has been spent by it without doing its duty it states to be that of improving the pay structure to attract better talent and competence.

Let us examine this matrix which has been laid out. Persons who are graduates compete in competitive exams to enter the portals of Government service at the levels indicated at 4, 7 and 10. In fact, for the exams taken are common for levels 4 & 7 and the ones with higher scores are selected for level 7. The personnel at level 4 are on completion of 3 years eligible for promotion to level 6 on availability of posts. As per the projected matrix the person at the beginning of the 4th year of service at level 4 would be eligible for basic of Rs 27,900/-. On promotion to level 6 he would be eligible to draw a sum of Rs 35,400/- which is the beginning of the scale for discharging the same work.

Compare this with the person who has been absorbed on higher merit at level 7 directly. On completion of minimum 3 years he is eligible to move to level 8.
At the end of 3 years he would be drawing a basic pay of Rs 49,000 and on promotion to level 8, the starting point is fixed at Rs 47,600 which he was drawing the previous year, thus entitling him for a princely increment of Rs 1,500/-. This would make it clear that the first two points in Level 8 are virtually redundant.

Contrast this with the hike of Rs 7,500/- or 26.88% for continuing to discharge the same work. It will be all the more astonishing that for this increment he takes the responsibilities of a Gazetted Officer too. If the Pay Commissions are to lead one to believe that better and competent talent would be attracted by such brilliant packaging, it could only spell administrative doom. This is coming from the pen of a judge who preaches the principles of equity and natural justice to all and quotes the preamble of the Constitution in his foreword! 

Let us see what happens to this young man who moves upto level 9 after 4 years. As he commenced his tenure at Rs 50,500 mark his pay will be enhanced from Rs 55,200 to Rs 58,000 an increase of Rs 2,800 for discharging the same work. Thus, the Commission believes that when one gets a promotion to a higher post he needs to be compensated lesser but if he successfully completes a tenure then it should be more compensation. This cruel joke comes after "Analysis" over years speaks volumes about the justice system.

The career progression ahead could also give much fodder for the cartoonists of the day. Level 9 to Level 10 means the movement to the Civil Services cadres. The Sixth Pay Commission believed that it was no great deal and hence retained the Grade Pay at the same level to cut the benefits to a single increment. The Seventh Pay Commission merely uses its multiplication skills. As per norms, a person who has completed 3 years at Level 9 shall be eligible for the benefit of a promotion to the cadre of Level 10. At that stage he would be drawing a salary of Rs 63,300/-. No such person is promoted at that stage but  even theoretically if he were to be promoted at that stage he would draw a pay of Rs 67,000 an increase of Rs 3,700 which is nowhere near the largesse for the movement with the same level of duties to be discharged. Does the Commission wish to retain the talent attracted at all is the million dollar question.

The career progression of the person who is directly recruited at Level 10 however is taken care of by ensuring that there is a direct jump at the time of each progression. The following table would reflect it

Level 10 to 11    from Rs 63,100 to Rs 67,000
Level  11 to 12   from Rs 76,200 to Rs 78,800
Level 12 to 13    from Rs 88,700 to Rs 1,18,500

Even here the levels 10 and 11 discharge the same type of work while level 12 is actually the next level in the hierarchy. Level 12 and 13 are the same functionally. This is again puzzling.

The media and corporate honchos with the economists would also have some explanation when they know that the persons moving from levels 9 to 10 at the time of implementation would appear to gain whilst those who had been promoted one year earlier would also draw the same pay as them. The arithmetic of all these could explain the indices adopted, the meetings held but whither is the concept that talent needs to be attracted and retained, competence needs to be rewarded for motivating enhancement. Will someone do some soul searching?

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Saturday morning was a rude shock as the airwaves were ruled by the ghastly accounts of the attacks on Paris. As the news slowly sank in, the stark contrasts emerged clearly. The Western world was shaken and it was therefore an "Act of War" while India had been counselled over the years to bear the brunt of terrorists attacks while ammunition found its way from China and US for the strategic balance to be maintained. Phrases such as "Non State Actors" had been coined to explain the menace away. It is time the world woke up to reality.

Let us understand that a well guarded bank can be robbed. A compound wall can be scaled. CCTV cameras can be escaped. Bugs can be evaded and intelligence agencies can be fooled. But the one loud message these attacks over the years have failed to send to our visionaries is that "United we stand, Divided we Fall". The billions who are unarmed need to stand up together. We need to insulate our spaces by interactions. Let us note that there is no attack on any village. This is due to the very rustic culture of identifying the stranger and working on him in a non intrusive manner but always keeping a guard. The network functions without any need for tipping off. No Government teaches them the need for survival. They do it by instinct.

In the urbane world, we wear privacy on our sleeves. Unless introduced we would not venture to talk. A stadium or a cafe or a concert hall or a railway station wherein the terrorist will be easily outnumbered does not act in cohesion but reacts as being terrorised. We succumb to a bully due to our naivety. Let us wake up and get back to our roots. The roots instil in us a survival instinct. We will not entertain an intruder. We could make him uncomfortable and feel endangered. The weapons will fall and terror would be a "past" word in the dictionary.

Will we really rise upto bell the cat which is strolling around as a maneater?

The media also needs to highlight the courage of the people and not play up the terror aspect. It needs to term the entire act as cowardly and not dastardly. It should stop riling the security forces for failure but should focus on the fate of the aggressor if the crowd had nabbed him. They should realise that media is also followed by these entities which would feel victorious in the manner we cover and should be made to thirst for victory. We need to resist the temptation of identifying the organisations but should merely term them as ragtag associations which style themselves under a banner. The thirst for attention would thus remain unquenched. The media glare on the good rather than the bad would make people feel better to be in the good camp. The fencesitters would bid goodbye to such acts. Will the media world over come together for this act or prefer to rake in the moolah for some primetime coverage is a question only time can answer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It is raining return gifts for all persons who have awarded and rewarded various persons for their accomplishments and achievements. The veterans of war have also turned veterans at war and are willing to return their gallantry medals for pension. Let us look at it dispassionately. On the day of their felicitations, the dignitaries were different, the persons who desired that they be feted were different and the felicitations were applauded by a different audience. Years later is it befitting for one to toss the much revered award or reward back at a different set of persons to drive home a point of theirs.

Imagine a person who was adjudged the best cadet of his alma mater returning the title years later when he felt that the institution did not match his expectations. Could it be called a revolt or disillusionment or desperation or sheer frustration to press home a point? Should the heroes of various wars desecrate the decorations they received to press home the precise One Rank One Pension version they desire? Have the issues got muddled to such an extent that the treasured gift by one friend is tossed out at the other without realising that though this act may draw blood, the earlier friend has been left humiliated. Is it fair to thus humiliate the one who honoured you?

Well, veterans may be in need of dignified pension scheme but what is the peeve of the littĂ©rateur? Their peeve is that secularism as they see it is being strangled. But if someone came to even rob their house would they have allowed him to pick the trophy without a fight? Then why are they hurling at a person who they feel have hurt the secular fabric? Are they really persons who could have changed the destiny of the society with the might of their pen? Is it their dream that a person who destroys the social fabric will be morally traumatised by the return of their awards? 

These queries could in reality have been raised through a literary piece which could have stirred the society's conscience or altered the route it took. All these persons require to reflect. Did Nelson Mandela not receive the Nobel alongwith De Klerk? Did he not fearlessly press for reconciliation without resorting to tokenism? Did the Mahatma return his title to stop the violence at Naokhali? Did Tagore not gracefully accept the Nobel but still motivated the heroic figures of the Independence Movement? Did Rajaji not step down as Governor General, float his own party but never return the praises he was a recipient of? Did the Sardar sacrifice his title to coerce the Congress and the Muslim League to see his point? 

While the world rues according to the positions it takes, yours truly painfully rues that today we are lacking men of stature who can hold their own, fight the right causes as well as gracefully accept the rights of the opponent too. Is this the change we wished to see- a million dollar question for the persons who have returned or contemplating to return their felicitations. Non acceptance is one thing and returning is another thing, gentlemen. Stop and introspect. Differences can be ironed out not hammered in should be our motto.

Friday, October 23, 2015


The facebook post on the Chidambaram temple which is now said to be located on the magnetic equator set me thinking. Astronomers indeed have made their mark in several civilizations as in any other way of life but we know nothing of the astronomer who achieved this feat. History which chronicles the progress and fall of mankind has only eulogised the known and the powerful or influential of the ages. We know of Alexander who wished to rule the world but nothing about his soldiers. We marvel at the idea of Roosevelt to fight depression by investing in infrastructure but know nothing about the persons who played the role of crystallising the idea or implementing it. We eulogise Shahjahan for his love immortalised in the Taj but know nothing of the architect or the workmen. It brings one to the parody of Jaspal Bhatti wherein the professor is willing to hand a Ph. D with the idea of making the student his son- in-law. From times immemorial we have only attributed successes to the powerful but not to the ones who made it. Every nation builds a memorial for the unknown soldier but fails to commend the persons who build it.

The works of Shakespeare are stated to belong to another playwright by some circles but nothing is established. The only thing that emanates from these examples is the fact that there are many behind the scenes who work for the success of this one individual. But does the individual even have the basic courtesy to at least to acknowledge this fact behind the scenes remains an unanswered billion dollar question.

There are many successful icons who dedicate their feats to parents, colleagues, friends, relatives et al but few who would lay the credit at the door of the co owners of the success. The late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam often quoted a nugget of his experience with Dr Satish Dhawan who took on the mantle of facing an aggressive media in the wake of failure but shied away from the arclights in the hour of success thus bringing at least one Kalam to light. How many of us will even eulogise this aspect of Dr Dhawan?

Recently, I was privy to a conversation wherein the successful individual was nursing a grouse against a few who failed to acknowledge his feat. A couple of queries later it emerged these persons were the ones who executed the work albeit at the directions of His Highness. The paradox in the tale further emerged when the workman was called a cynic who could not digest the success of the individual and the socialist world endorsed the statement.

There is nothing lost for anyone to congratulate the feted individual but would the families of martyred soldiers fete a Prime Minister on the victory in war or for that matter if Shahjahan had indeed chopped the hands of his artisans, would they kudo him on the construction of the Taj even if he fed them with his own hands.  Even if they do so who merits a better acknowlegement - is it the political head or the gracious layman? Something that people who nurse personality cults require to ponder over.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


On a bright sunny evening as I boarded a bus for a long journey, the man in the front stooped to pick the wallet he had dropped revealing a large chunk of his innerwear flashing its brand too. As he fashionably raised himself, the T shirt he sported refused to drop down whilst the jeans threatened to succumb to gravity. The sight triggered a trip down the memory lane which was brusquely interrupted by the word "Ticket?". Quickly, purchasing my right to travel, I scoured for a comfortable seat and settled into a cosy one on the aisle side which would allow me the liberty of stretching my limbs at will.

Having nestled into a seat and as the engines revved up and a breeze caressed my locks off the forehead, it was time to get into the nostalgia. It was not long ago that the male of the species would in typical Victorian style exchange meaningful grins whilst the females did a similar act which had gathered some acclaim thanks to the likes of Marlyn Monroe. Then what turned the tides the other way was the thought albeit the saying curiosity kills the cat.

After rummaging through the memory box, it was realised that the men especially the rustics were normally ridiculed for wearing a dhoti which was folded upwards to expose a portion of the shorts. Evidently, these shorts had the treasured pockets and needed to be accessed to recover the moolah. It was also a practical method of carrying money which could not be easily accessed by a pick pocket. However, these wise men had to suffer the ridicule for decades at the hands of the urbane lot.

Apparently, some trouser manufacturer's tagging personnel unwittingly changed the tide by placing the waist size tags on to a larger one. These when picked up by the Genext was found to be fashionable making others follow suit. There is need for research to substantiate this thought process but at least I could find no other. Some mistakes make fashion as long as the marketing man knows how to sell. It is at least one area in which men can now pride in equalling women - matching their plunging necklines to their own waistlines. 

But is it not fair to follow the tradition by installing an idol of the unknown fashion icon donning a dhoti folded upward exposing a portion of the shorts. Let us now wait for some designer to come up with gorgeous fig leaf whilst we invest in cultivating a fig orchard. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Rumour mills had been churning and e mails decrying such fake news were in circulation for sometime. The news was about the untimely demise of the iconic APJ Abdul Kalam. On a fine Tuesday morning, yours truly was a recipient of one such SMS. Gosh! People ought not to be in a hurry to bury the man. Took a second look after sometime on the sender and the time. It was the previous night. The sender had posted yours truly earlier too. Could it still be a rumour? Looking around, everything appeared to be normal. There was no palpable grief or signs of mourning. There were school children being readied up for their routine. Heaving a sigh of relief that the icon was around to still ignite minds, the delete button was executed.

Couple of hours later, the newspapers with the large portrait of the icon were seen. Doubts resurfaced. Conversations opened up. The grief was not one that was being directed. There were no theatrics. People felt the loss of a near one. Soon another facet of the news emerged. It was that there would be no holiday as desired by the icon. Sure enough, there could be murmurs. But strangely, everyone merely said, "Wish the other bigwigs were like this man. He knows the value of time."

Undoubtedly, not the one falling under the handsome category but one who could cast a spell on his audience from the mesmerising orator A.B. Vajpayee to the young infant on the street. A person who could seat a hundred politicos under a roof and give a class on vision. A person who could turn on his exuberance to divert attention from the physique to persona. An icon who touched many lives, lived life on his terms and faced death on his terms. None could desire for a better end doing what you relish the most without a trace of any ailment. 

It does remind one of the famed poem Abhilasha( if memory serves me right) wherein the flower wishes to rest on a martyr rather than anywhere else. The flowers which rested on his mortal remains would undoubtedly have been inspired to rest on such an icon whilst on their last journey too!

What a journey, What an end!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2015


It is said that some persons are born great, others made great. Viswanathan Anand would qualify under both categories. A child prodigy in the field of chess, he was spotted, nurtured and goaded to the pinnacle of the peaks of the chess kingdom by a little known but a lady who mattered most in his life - mother, Sushila Viswanathan. Silently, through her son she changed the world of chess from a monopoly of the Russian Grandmasters, gave it a pride of place in its nation of origin as well as triggered a chess revolution in India which has seen the rise of several Grand and International Masters. 

The generations which have been brought up on the feats of the likes of Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan, Leander Paes, Manuel Aaron, Michael Ferreira, Mihir Sen, Milkha Singh, Usha and their likes who challenged the best in the world with their skills and finesse, the advent of Viswanathan Anand was only another such proud moment. The history, however, shall remain faulted if the tribute is not paid to the mother who nurtured this talent so well and even played the roles of the natural second to the world champion. Probably, Sushila Viswanathan was Anand's toughest competitor. Unlike many other celebrity mothers, she gave way for her son to bask in the glory. The handing over of the baton to Aruna was also such a low key but complete affair.

In a classical chess move, she has probably taken the Grandmaster by surprise and checkmated him by timing a quiet exit. She deserves the royal salute for being the mother and mentor but the question that would remain unanswered is did the women's chess world in India fail to exploit an opportunity to tap this hidden potential and explore the rare double of mother son duo. Even Time cannot answer this question as she enters the books of history. 

Anand, need not regret his loss to Carlsen in the last championship as he has now more reason to annex the crown the next time over.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Placing pen on paper or thoughts on a keyboard are two different experiences. The flow of the almighty pen is an ultimate experience. The pen appears to aid the flow of thoughts. As against this, the keyboard provides an obstacle as the search for the characters on the keyboard vies for a priority over the flow of thoughts. The mind refuses to give in and races ahead. This brings in a larger gap between the fingers and the mind. The experience of the typists or the GenX and GenY may be different as these generations breathe life through gadgets.

The communication between a close friend who lost his only child and yours truly is frozen in time. The memories of the days when we would attempt to emulate to men of letters. Correspondences which used to zoom in and out of our pens were known for their emotional and factual contents. The postal department had to keep pace with the correspondences that were exchanged. Some of these would run into a few pages in a scrawl that would have put a seasoned medical practitioner to shame. The responses used to be in a neat and well spaced precise communique. The passage of time ensured that the flight of letters between us became spaced. The advent of the telephone ensured an end to this unique custom that was in force for a large part of a decade.

Last year ensured that even the chat over the phone got replaced by messages. This did not reduce in any way the bond we shared. On the day of grief, we shared mute expressions which spoke in volumes. Days have passed but the communication through expressions remain etched in the mind. As an attempt is made to put pen to paper, yours truly finds no words. The thought arose as to whether those correspondences existed. They existed and today we correspond through unspoken and unwritten thoughts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The epic Mahabharatha has several fascinating characters with immense scope for literary analysis as well as character sketching. The issues that are dealt with are no less either in number or the gravity. The issue of polygamy is one such that surfaces. The polygamy of the Lord Krishna or his cousin and alterego Arjuna do not as much as elicit the raising of an eyebrow while the wedded life of Draupadi albeit with the sanction of the maternal figure of Kunti remains a controversial subject to date.  This aspect came to the fore when it was seen that one of the teleserial versions laboured to justify this act by a debate amongst all the principal characters. 

Kudos to the author who is also a character in the epic, Ved Vyasa. He has not differentiated between men and women. He has also provided for the third gender in Shikandi. The fact that Kunti herself begot four children including Karna from four different celestial entities as against her co consort Madri opting for the celestial twins is also captured in great detail. The fact that this aspect is in the knowledge of the grandsire Bhishma and Lord Krishna are borne out from the latter events. In fact, a generation earlier, Ved Vyasa himself performs niyoga on the spouses of his half brother. This practice was in vogue for a long time and probably is still indulged in some households which aspire for a heir. The fact that in the earlier generation, Satyavati who wedded King Shantanu was already a mother of an offspring fathered by Sage Parashara also cannot be lost sight of. In fact, Ganga, the consort of Lord Shiva, weds King Shantanu, the father of Bhishma, only to redeem the Vasus from a curse.

The question is what does the epic drive at. Does it promote polygamy may be the question posed by a Rajdeep Sardesai or Arnab Goswami for a television show. The nation apparently needs to appreciate the finer aspect of the epic which is subsequently brought out eloquently. The definition of "right" and "wrong" change perenially. It is "change" alone that is permanent. The situation warranting a particular act would justify it. This may be the slaughter of Shishupala publicly or the preservation of Arjuna over the life of his young son, Abhimanyu. Besides this, it is quite probable that in such a period of time the system of matriarchy and patriarchy must have co-existed which provided a base for such an epic. It is an epic that needs to be read dispassionately without aligning with any single character. An analysis at the end would reveal that there are certain facets of different characters which are embedded in each one of us. Thereafter, it is for us to mull over and decide how to mould ourselves. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


Nothing can rival the experiences of rail travel. Few days ago the opportunity of rail travel and its associated experiences brought to memory the most popular poem in poetry recitation contests of Stevenson which is reproduced with due apologies:
From A Railway Carriage
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

This was a poem that used to be diligently recited during our train travels in summer holidays of our school days with much abandon (probably much to the amusement and discomfort of the fellow travellers).

As against the above, we had some hilarious experiences. The announcement at the Railway Station being relayed in trilingual format with special emphasis on the "superfast express" express from the capital was running late by two hours made people chuckle despite the inconvenience. There was another announcement that took the cake. Passengers were awaiting the rake to be placed at the platform. A lady chirped that the said train would be arriving on the platform shortly in trilingual format well past an hour of the scheduled departure. The station being the originating station deserves a mention. But the icing on the cake was after the passage of another quarter hour, the rake remained to arrive while the announcement stated that the train was on the platform. Even as it ended, a young man on the platform made an announcement that the phantom train had departed in trilingual format dissolving the "heated" passengers into a mirth of laughter. 

A few days back, it was the turn of passengers in a train were held to ransom by some who desired to be termed "backward". Evidently, their contention is we will not allow you to move forward unless we are termed backward. Apparently, if it were within the reach of the passengers, they would have unhesitatingly declared them "backward" to gain the way forward. 

In such a stimulating environment a friend of mine berated the lack of vision as the nation had failed to build a four lane rail highway from north to south, east to west, north east to south west and south east to north west besides coastal corridors. His vision set apart the middle two paths for short and medium distance trains while the extreme ends were reserved for the long distance trains which could steam ahead stating "My way is the highway".  Appreciating his railing (pun intended) vision, as well as the need to share the sense of humour with which we as a nation can accept the most travailing (or travelling) situations, the keyboard reaches its destination. Folks think as you laugh!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


It was not the run of the mill news headline. Amidst, an international tour of the premier, the battle of wits in the capital, a controversial interview by the former dictator of Pakistan, the upping of the ante by the Opposition and peaking of the IPL, Aruna Shanbaug ceased to exist. A lady wronged by a man, who is now free, discarded by her family on pecuniary grounds, but silently sought to draw the limelight on to the insensitive system on the one hand and on the humanitarian face of the employees of a municipal hospital on the other hand. Homage is to be paid but should it be a mere lip service for this soul which existed but did not live nor was allowed to die.

Many issues have crept up even in her ceasing to exist. The queries that crossed the mind were
  • Did the judiciary not find this a fit case to be taken suo moto cognizance for a higher penalty?
  • Was it not the rarest of the rare cases?
  • Was the brutality of the family masked by the brutality of the offender?
  • Did her fiancĂ© and offender extend the courtesy of being present for the final rites?
  • Was the Attorney General right in distinguishing between right to life and right to die unnaturally?
  • Whether the right question was whether the right to life meant a right to exist physically with no semblance of ‘life’ ?
  • Where were the women’s / human rights activists who failed to speak out on the existence or non existence of the “lady”?

42 years is a long time. It is close to half a century. It is the maximum service for a Government servant who could be enrolled at the minimum age of 18. It is six to seven times the term served by her assaulter. It is the number of years by which politicians claim that they are in their youth.

Contrast this with hardly a month left for her marriage on the date of the incident or exactly a fortnight left for her to complete her 67th year. The magnitude of time that has passed in this vegetative state could be compared to eons. Attendants being kith or kin start deliberating on the need for life support systems in scenarios which last alike for more than a couple of days. The crime of such magnitude goes unrecognised with the charge being of assault and robbery. It is time for us to introspect as to whether we are a civil society wherein the system tolerates such injustices and moves on. 

It is time that we as a nation stopped tarring the municipal workers with a general brush and doff our hats in tribute to the King Edward Memorial hospital which has unflinchingly stood for its employee without expecting anything in return. In a capitalist era, these unsung faces have shown us that humanity could survive the toughest of battles. A feat that is unparalleled which is an ode to kinsmanship which needs to be emulated not only by all other employers but each one of us.

Aruna has for over four decades attempted to awaken us through her lifeless existence. Will the end trigger a new beginning is a question only time can answer. But can we make the effort? 

Friday, May 15, 2015


The tale of Mahabharata has been an all time favourite and each version of it never ceases to fascinate yours truly. It was in the narrative of a new teleserial titled Dharmakshetra on EPIC TV that attracted my attention. It has always been my opinion that the tale holds its audience in raptures over centuries by bringing out the innate qualities of the humans. It sheds light on the bright and dark side of each character and provides a reasoning for their actions. Probably centuries later, the Bard of England thought it fit to introduce a flaw in his lead characters to provide the audience with a thread to connect to the play and its theme.

The characters of Bhishma and Vidura have always been ones that yours truly would love to play legal counsel to defend their actions. The Vidura neeti at times outplays the dharma of Bhishma, Krishna or Yudhishthira. But the innumerable readings did not for once bring out the stark reality that the author's son did have a special place in the epic. An angle that remained unexplored even in the teleserial.

Imagine the harsh reality of Satyavathi's lineage being the protagonists vying for a throne which they are not entitled to. Ved Vyasa being the offspring of Satyavathi of her first spouse fathers Vidura, Dhritarashtra and Pandu. The complete acceptance of Vyasa by the maidservant mother of Vidura gives the offspring the wisdom, completeness and the hidden love of the author in the narrative. The male in Ved Vyasa could only point at the hesitation of Ambika and Ambalika by penalising the progeny. What an angle for a debate before Chitragupta but remained unexplored.

Bhishma's highlight being Brahmacharya at the cost of incurring the wrath of Amba, Gandhari, Shakuni and at a point of time even Sathyavathi is actually much lesser in magnitude to the act of inviting his stepmother's son to procreate the lineage of his own dynasty - thus holding true to his vow that it would be the children of Sathyavathi's lineage who would rule Hastinapura. How many could even think let alone traverse the distance of even sharing a cup of tea (?) with such a foster sibling. Travel in history to the Priyadarshini Ashoka before an answer to the query is even attempted.

The regard for the character in Bhishma, however, diminished when the fact that he could have considered Vidura for the kingship was highlighted. The disaster may have been postponed or more characters may need to have been spun into the epic. A choice for most teleserial makers of today to expand the number of episodes their serial could be telecasted.

It is time for a fresh reading of the epic. Will there be greater insights to pen a book this time over?

Saturday, May 9, 2015


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It was one of the routine days of chores which had to be wound up to reach home. Weaving the way through the dense traffic on the roads and the clutter in the mind, the journey to home brought the eventual question of my friend - " Why do humans evolve such complex situations and enslave themselves to each other? Could we not be like any other animals looking at the needs of food and shelter?" How true it sounded as the honks from each direction brought to the fore the functional abilities of the ear.

The mind which had no reins or leashes leaped from one thought to another as the destination finally arrived. Parting ways with the others in the cab, I lustily crashed into my home looking forward to rest. Even as your truly changed into the casuals, the information of a friend incessantly attempting to reach me over the telephone was put across to me. As a movement to refresh myself was made, the fact that he failed to respond to the courteous query of "How are you?" raised an alert. Picking the invention of Graham Bell, the ten digits were punched in. At the first ring, the call was picked. The voice at the other end was aggrieved unmistakably but enquired as to whether yours truly was doing well. Responding to this query was the inevitable query as to whether all was fine at the other end.

My friend who normally was a cheerful person carefully chose words and said, " Anusha, accident, spot". The message hit me hard. Anusha was the name of the daughter of my other friend who has been an elder brother, a guide, a mentor and most of all my emotional ventilator. The heart ruled that the words did not mean anything while the brain said, " It is all over". The silence and the queries exchanged over tense moments. He then said, " I do not want to say it but it is all over. The parents have been informed that she is in ICU so please do not inform anyone as of now." He went on to admonish me for not reaching to him and the call was terminated.

The fact could not be digested. The trauma continued. This friend who had called was the local guardian of this young lady. He had played a similar role to yours truly decades ago. Unable to come to terms, I attempted deluding myself but to no avail. The lady was yet to get out of her teens. She was the only child. During my last visit she had ribbed me apart with the aid of her parents who were humour personified. Nothing could faze them to my knowledge but was this one of those cruel tales of the Lord who loves to play leelas to show the world how goodness was feasible in the worst of times. Markandeya came to mind. The Sai temple to which my friend devotedly attended crossed my mind. During this interim period, I shared the news with others at home. Grief is too short a word to express the emotions that cascaded through our minds. 

Holding back till the next morning to avoid making the mistake of wrong timing the call as the parents were expected anytime was the only course which was duly adopted. The morning commenced with a return call. The entire sequence of events were narrated. The grief that he had once held her in his arms as a baby or the fact that she had visited home a couple of days back to share a meal and obtain inputs for a project had accentuated the grief. The only words that could be mumbled was if this was his position then what would be that of the parents. The dictum came that visit them and attempt to assuage them. He had consciously kept off the funeral saying at least that is one thing that could be avoided.

Two days later, I moved to visit the bereaved. Reaching their place was less of a difficulty compared to meeting the gaze of the bereaved mother. She had on several occasions invited me home. I had been looking forward for the birthday of the bereaved father but had only chosen to mention that I would visit them on an appropriate occasion. Words, these can sometime play a cruel joke on people. The occasion demanded my presence but was it appropriate? Her gaze seemed to question me. After minutes of silence, the ice was broken. Candidly, I told her that there could  be no words of solace to a mother and only beseeched her to give vent to her emotions. 

She queried me, " Do you want me to cry? Will it bring her back? Will it not hurt her soul?" Expressing inability to answer these queries I responded that it would only ensure that she had shared the feelings. The resounding answer, "The event is not digested and I cannot accept something has happened to my daughter". Neither was I, the Buddha nor was I a casual visitor. Emotions ripped me apart. I could not speak to my friend and I left. 

Reaching home within a spate of ten days, I was greeted by three more tragedies. True we aspire for so many things that we have forgotten the value of life. It is said Mashana Vairagya remains for a short while. But the impact that it has left will take a long time to heal.

Friends, if this is my case, will Father Time be able to heal thy wounds? Unfortunately, Time is not Mother and can only heal some wounds and not all. Could we stop to learn or is Time too precious that we will not utilise it to even reflect let alone ponder or introspect- the answer lies with you.