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.