Sunday, October 22, 2017


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Deepavali is a festival lights which celebrates the return of Rama, the end of Narakasura, the end of the reign of Bali, the bonding of siblings with the worship of the Goddess of Wealth besides being a new year season for some. However, the Deepavali's start signifies the birthday of one of the close to heart friends of yours truly. After a long time the Gregorian calendar has come quite close and his birthday falls on this Sunday.

Cherishing the bonding that we cherish mutually and understanding our long silence, the email was checked. Elation writ large on my face, a treasure of Hanuman Ramayana was found which was promptly packaged as a gift while an old (pun intended) friend who had flown into the country dropped in to lift the spirits. ( Of course, he had to return as a teetotaller with no room for any liquid spirits being afforded). Even as this cherished day of friendshp was getting etched into the voluminous RAM, the drift proceeded to another mail which dealt with the comparison of Karna with Arjuna and a conclusion that Karna was after all the better one with fate determining things against him.

With due apologies to Karna, my journey within Mahabharata began again. It first went to Puru who unconditionally traded his youth with his father Yayati not being able to bear the unfulfilled pangs of his father. Much later, the much gifted Devavrat inflicted the tragedy of being celibate on himself without realizing that he would have to fetch brides for his incompetent brother or defend the acts of the blind Dhritarashtra or the wily Shakuni or the stubborn Suyodhana. That also took me to the author of this illustrious work Ved Vyasa who himself was an offspring of Sage Parashara and Satyavathi, the step mother of Bhishma. He was neither nurtured by father or mother akin to Karna. He had to bear the brunt of penance as well as discharge burdens cast on him by his mother from her second liasion with King Shantanu. Imagine the man's plight when he is called upon by his mother and step brother to father children for the royal lineage and the queens chose to send a maid servant to him. As though this was not enough they panic at the sight of him subsequently. However, none respect his divinity or knowledge to even as much as seek his counsel much like an use and throw item of today.

This took me to Vidura, the father of Vidura neeti which remains uncontested even by Kautilya. Born of an illustrious father such as Ved Vyasa and a maid servant, he was given a gubernatorial post, denigrated, suspected and even accusations regarding his wisdom and loyalty hurled for justly discharging his duties. He did not stake a claim to the throne unlike a Haider Ali or Sher Shah Suri on grounds of competence. He did not justify every act merely because it came from a friend like Suyodhana or a son or a nephew or a relative or an acquaintance. He reprimanded Suyodhana and Sushasana on one hand while he did not spare the rod for the Pandava princes either. He respected them all while they sought refuge for crisis management and chose what to follow. On the day the war becomes imminent, he chooses to relinquish his post rather than side with either camp. He never questioned his father's identity nor did he lament over his fate. He was neither treated on par with the princes nor with the Gurus. That way even the trauma of teachers such as Kripa and Drona get marginalised. He had the nerve to chastise Shakuni in an open court when even Bhishma and Kripa were quiet in the name of Dharma. He respected Krishna offered him his residence but differed with him. He sheltered Kunti and counselled Gandhari. None showed any gratitude. Yudhishthira regrets that Karna's identity could have saved the war but does not offer the throne to Vidura but only seeks counsel which he can have the freedom to choose to follow or not. He held the state secrets well but was not trusted by his own king.

The cake is truly taken by Vidura as none regret that he was more capable and competent than his keepers but they only to rebuff him for their detriment. Is then the story of Vidura a lesson for the present day Governments and bureaucrats to learn. Should they understand and evaluate persons more from the perspective of talent and not from the perspective of class? No doubt Karna makes for a glamorous tragedy king but Vidura lacks glamour as he does not aspire. This is also the case of the friend whose birthday is today but can he say he is celebrating it - a million dollar question for which the answer is an emphatic no.

A must read for Vishal of the earlier blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


It was of those bright sunny mornings when yours truly was settling down to make a good day when the news broke that the young teen, Sharath, was declared to be murdered in cold blood by a person he adored and cherished a deep friendship with. There were many lessons that his untimely demise held.

Ten days earlier when the news reports carried out the picture of the youngster astride his new motorbike flanked by his mother stating that he was abducted and a ransom was placed on him. Within a couple of days the news died down and most had dismissed it as a prank by the teen himself or his friends. The first lesson that, therefore, emerged was never take any such event lightly.

The media which loves to speculate and adjudicate as well as interrogate the investigators also switched on to more "spicy" news items to gorge on. As people moved towards Dussehra, it became evident that except those close to the family the rest had on with life. Thus, this event showed us that the second important lesson was that one should not lose the empathy towards the family in distress.

The revelation of the gruesome murder made one wonder whether the third lesson was on the validity of the second lesson itself as the accused was none other than the victim's childhood friend, Vishal. So should such families trust anyone with their moves became a question by itself. Similarly, the question arose as to whether such complaints could be registered by police in plainclothes at a different place rather than a police station. Imagine the accused being part of the discussions on the tracing of the victim.

The next lesson is for the media. It should refrain from reporting on issues wherein lives of people are at stake. This blunder during the Mumbai attacks had cost many lives. Still the media acts at its whim and fancies. It even questions the investigators' competence as well as fairness. The fourth estate is to keep vigil. It has to report what is an established fact. Any investigator's false moves could also be a strategy. Left alone the police could have tracked the victim and the abductors. However, the reporting of the fact that the police were on to it and the cell phones were being tracked would only hasten the dastardly act. Arnab and his local versions need to seriously debate their sensitivity indices and India wants to know their findings with live feedback.

The hard lesson is whom to trust as a friend. A person who is known for over a decade to the entire family, a person who sports a devoted look, a person declared to be innocent by his own, a person who dines at your home and you at his, the families are known to each other, the camaderie is unfettered over years- Must be that Krishna and Sudama days are over. It reminds one of a story that used to be a bedtime tale to nurture friendships. In the tale, two friends are caught and one is to be executed. The friend strikes a deal that he would return in a day's time lest the friend will be executed. The friend keeps his date and both are left free. 

Well friendship is one relationship which we choose and are not born into. This beautiful relationship has been sullied by this young lad who cannot be trusted with another reprieve. The virtues as to why capital punishment is on our books is comprehended only in these circumstances. 

But should the young one pay with his life for us to learn these lessons? Wish we were more mature to comprehend that there could be another point. Youngsters, a last word for you is never flash luxury goods. We remember fondly the schools we were taught in. They taught us to shed our footwear to be on par with the ones who could not afford it, they taught us to share the bare minimum so that the other does not feel that he is underprivileged, it taught us the dignity of labour by asking us to sweep our classrooms, it taught us that livelihood mattered more than academic degrees or the marks on the marksheet, it taught us that humanity was higher than any of the primal goals. So, is this not a lesson for the teachers and parents of today too!

Sharath, in your demise you have enlightened us but could we live upto this lofty standard or will the world instead pray to Vishal as the messiah of the world. Only time can answer but in this case it can never heal the wounds of the family or the taint suffered by the much adulated relationship of friendship.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


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The trip to Lucknow had a spinoff in the form of yours truly acquiring a book which had been recommended for reading long ago by a sprightly pal who believes there is more than what meets the eye in me. With time weighing heavily on the hands and the sight of this book resulted in a split second decision to add it to the cart. After discharging the mandatory bills, the leaves were turned over. The reading took yours truly a couple of decades back when the pleasure of reading eighteen volumes of the epochal Mahabharata was cast on by destiny. Now after having read a historian's version of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru, it was the turn of Tharoor relating the iconic characters of the epic to the more recent contributors to the Indian history. The added advantage was a visit to Naimishaaranya which refreshed the memories of Mahabharata as yours truly was witness to the Pandits (many who appeared to have gone through a fast food course on pilgrim toursim) providing their masala version of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The characters needed to be identified and as a pre meditated effort, yours truly made an effort to relate the characters. The prediction of Bhishma Pitamaha being our Father of the Nation was bang on. The Great Indian Novel requires a fair knowledge of the history of the sub continent with the undercurrent of politics of the day. One would not be able to digest certain deviations to the epic characters unless the effort to relate them to the contemporary political figures is realised. The conferring of the Ved Vyasa imagery on the erudite Rajaji would have been missed by many persons as he has now been pushed to the oblivion by current historians. The amazing thing was that the edition was a silver jubilee one meaning that this was written before Tharoor took the plunge into politics.

The cud chewing of this version of the epic was still on when another rendition of the epic in the form of Vasudevan Nair's Bhima was placed as a treat. The coincidence were that both the authors are Keralites. Their perceptions of the epic are different. The realisation that the mighty Bhimasena was much more human comes to the fore as the reader begins to detest the acts of Yudhishtira. One begins to wonder whether Kunti and Draupadi are fair to him. The movie moguls who had characterised him as a wrestler, a mace wielder and a marauder begin to pale before the reader as the human image emerged. A psychological treatise emerges as against a comparative one. It starts tilting the scales against characters as the human hero Bhimasena emerges as a traumatised soul who is used as a muscle machine or dubbed a foodie by others. The read makes one wonder what would be the impact of the Malayalam original on the reader as one's images race through the read as a Kathakali performance or a Mohiniattam.

The setting aside of the two contemporaneous pieces makes one realise the masterpiece that is rendered by Krishna Dwaipayana Ved Vyasa who never allows any character to move into the dark black realm of villainy or the dazzling white realm of heroism. The epochal element in the epic surfaces that all have their strengths and flaws. The circumstances that make a Shakuni, Shikandi, Dhritarashtra or Karna are brought out while the flaws of Bhishma, Drona, Yudhishtira, Draupadi, Drupada or Arjuna are not given a miss. The spectacle of Shishupala, Suyodhana and Jarasandha pointing flaws in Krishna is a highlight in itself as the tale makes it clear that flaws are a vital ingredient for the genesis of a human being and even the Lord in human form is unable to forgive to attain divinity. This is the strength of the epic which probably had inspired the Bard of Avon to immortalise himself by introducing at least one flaw in his mainstay characters.

The moral of the tale remains that flaws exist in any person but the effort must be to identify these flaws and work towards elimination of the same as these could have disastrous consequences. The Naimishaaranya has a Vyaspeeth which is one place where every author needs to pay a tribute as the best of authors are yet to match the skills of this great composer who some would argue was a historian. Even historians need to in that case match his skills in presenting all sides of a character rather than being biased.

Does that not bring us back to the present day anchors who drive out panelists from a discussion to press their own viewpoints? Should journalists also not take a leaf out of this epic? An answer would definitely enlighten yours truly if not the nation.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


It was one of those early summer days and yours truly had a day out at the famed Oudh City of Lucknow. Flanked and guided by three youngsters who shared the lust for keeping company while also showing the splendour of the city they dwell in, we weaved our way to what they termed as "BhoolBhulaiya". Mocking in jest as to whether they wished to lose yours truly forever in the maze, we entered the complex which greeted us with the green lawns and a spectacular pathway which led to a structure which is revered as the Bada Imambada. We were enlightened that this was a structure which resembled an Imambada located in Iraq and was constructed by a Nawab whose mortal remains lay interred in the very structure. Legend has it that it was built by the day for over 11 years to ensure that people did not starve nor forgot their work culture - so different from the present day solatiums and compensation disputes. The most refreshing thing was that the name of the architect and structural engineer is also known to be the awe inspiring Khilafat who if one could have it could be a good mentor to the scores of civil engineers and architects manufactured in the country year on year.

The above is a bird's eye view while the sketch below will take you to the ethereal world of the Nawab Asaf ud Daula with the tomb at the centre.

Constructed on a vacuum technology of building ventilating windows to support the largest arched roof with no beam or pillar to support it. 

The depressions created in the roof to act as an acoustic system enthralled a person who is basically not of scientific temper as this was designed in the eighteenth century while we are unable to construct bridges which hold for a decade with all the scams to the boot. 
Before taking us to the maze, we were ushered into the Chinese Hall, the Persian Hall and the Indian Hall which were probably a tribute to contemporary architectural styles though the guides have different stories to tell. Leading us to the popular maze of corridors which were to take us to the top most floor we were repeatedly asked to keep to either the left or the right. 

The curiosity in the cat never dies and deceptively we gingerly went to the other side to see through the opening and realized the warning was true as the fall therefrom would at least render some of the bones futile if not damage our existence forever. The beauty of the structure was that the corridors provided the much needed respite from the heat outside and provided a natural air conditioning effect. So much for the corporates who manufacture these gadgets on western technology.

To sink this undisputed fact into our earthy heads, we were led to the terrace after a fantastic view from one of these windows to test our barren feet on the heated exterior of the terrace. This made us realize that the technology of the bricks which were said to be made from various products such as coal, sugarcane etc is truly remarkable. The time has come for us to use this very technology to build our havens rather than go for the concrete hollow bricks which bake us in summer and sends shivers down the spine in winters. Probably the cost of these bricks would also be much lesser than what is manufactured today with lesser pollution from limestone based cement.

After spending over two hours we were led towards another stairway which after probably two flights of descending one has to ascend to get out of the structure. A marvel for visitors. What a vision and what precise execution! It is time the remains of Miyan Khilafat and his labour force are also celebrated.

The descent did not end the marvel. It led us to another wonderful well. A sheet of water which provides a clear reflection which can be viewed from the other side. As we exited the structure and our cab driver was ready to take us to the next stop, yours truly was truly stung, humbled and reprimanded beyond words by the makers of this structure. We look for accolades for small routine tasks. We look forward to place our names on plaques. Here are many of them who bravely fought a drought, built a structure and made it a place which can generate funds over centuries to feed and clothe the poor over two centuries. Is doffing our hats sufficient? The answer is a resounding "NO". We need to pull our socks forget the need for accolades and credits while we leave a remarkable legacy behind.

Through this blog yours truly thanks the youngsters to have shown me a new way of life and credit them for the first pic while the other two are picked from the net. Due apologies for not placing there identities on record. Wondering whether EPS or OPS could take a leaf out of this for the drought hit farmers of the Southern state of Tamil Nadu - with no offence meant.