Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Drop your guard, Bare your soul'

‘Ring out the old, Ring in the new’, another year gone by. As the sun sinks into its golden cup this last day, we will all bid adieu to 2008. And then would wake up to a new tomorrow , a tomorrow in the New Year that is about to dawn with lots of hopes, aspirations, dreams, promises, resolutions - so on and so forth.

It is only optimism in my sinew that is the driver this new year. Though I have drawn a laundry list of things to be achieved, my ultimate cup of joy would emanate from giving myself fully to whatever comes my way. Whether it is work, leisure, being with people or being with myself, savouring every moment and living life fully will be my declared credo.

On the lighter side, talking about our hopes turning into fruition in the new year, I remember a short anecdote. There were two donkeys, one seemed very happy and the other sad. When asked the secret for its happiness, it replied to the other donkey “ My master with whom I work is one who performs rope balancing tricks. He and his daughter walk on a rope tied between two poles and do the balancing act. While training his daughter, I heard my master telling her that if she lost her balance and fell down while walking on the rope, he would get her married to me. I am waiting for the day when she slips and falls.” That’s hope. The second donkey continued “What if she never falls?”, to which the donkey replied “ Life continues and heavens will not fall down”.

So, finally its all about hitching one’s wagon to a star, and going full steam with unwavering faith married to unstinting effort. If at the end, one fails, so what? It’s not the end of the world. At least there was meaning and purpose in what one aspired for.

The thought therefore is to drop one’s guard and bare one’s soul. Like James Dean said “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today”.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In conversation with myself

A thought flashed my mind ‘ What if I started the New Year as if I had nothing to look back to?’ No past baggage, no experiences and nothing from the past to the present, and then to the future. Oh! great, but how then would the present look like? And then the future? A lot of such questions passed my mind. Somewhere, something that I had learnt then popped up.

‘Nothingness’ at the present was at first discomforting, but also enabled in me the possibilities of 'everything'. If I have nothing, then everything is possible. A new paradigm to live life, a powerful life to lead and actually write the script that I can dream to live - everyday of my life. So the future, then, will be a life full of possibilities and anything I want, I dare and would be ‘raring’ to go. That looked interesting but overwhelming.

Life, I thought, anyway was a zero sum game. One starts from nothing and ends up with nothing. Rich or poor, all end up the same way. Some are cremated, some are buried. Life, finally, is empty and meaningless. What remains is the present....

Then why not start life anew? The immediate possibility now is to think on ‘New Year Resolutions’, and take them on with curiosity and excitement every day in the New Year.

I am sure you will wish me all the best.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To Sir with Love

Mr. Ramnarayan was our English teacher at our Cuddalore factory. An extremely nice gentleman who authored books on ‘How to write and speak English’. His speciality was his impeccable accent, diction and his strong basics on English grammar. He will be, I am sure, squirming within and without when he reads today’s SMS and E mails. Wit, humour and sarcasm have been his forte. When some student had told him that ‘a rose by another would smell as sweet’, he had retorted that ‘a chrysanthemum by another name would spell easier’. All of us present enjoyed his class thoroughly and looked forward to his weekly lectures.

In one such class, he had narrated a short story which till today remains etched in my mind. This was a real life story and I vividly remember the manner in which he had narrated this one. The story goes like this. Quote“ Ramnarayan Sir’s family consisted of five brothers, five sisters and their parents. One day it so happened that their mother prepared delicious halwa (Indian sweet delicacy) and all the brothers and sisters had feasted on the halwa. The father was at work and was to return at night. Their mother had lovingly kept a piece of halwa for her husband and duly placed it in a container. Her husband returned home at night when to her shock and embarrassment found the delicacy missing. She promptly ordered an enquiry into the ‘MISSING HALWA’, and informed her husband about the incident. Her husband, a disciplinarian and more catholic than the Pope, summoned all his children and got into intense cross examination. No one was ready to come out with the truth which made the father rant in fury. He gave them a final opportunity and closeted all his children in a room, bolted the door with instructions to come out clean within an hour. (These children, as ordinarily children are, would have even broken the eleventh commandment if one existed).

What, of course, transpired in the room is rather interesting. No one confessed to the salivating crime but rather a strategy was worked out. The grandiose plan was - all the brothers and sisters told Ramanarayan Sir that since he was the favourite and pet child of the parents, he should confess to the disappearing act. After initial refusal, Ramanarayan Sir was coaxed and convinced to believe that the parents wrath on him would be miniscule as compared to what would befall others. As the gong struck after an hour, our Ramanarayan Sir confessed to his parents and was anointed ‘Martyr at the Halwa Altar’. Sir was admonished before his siblings and part one of the story ended.

Part two seems to be more interesting and revealing of human nature. Ramanarayan Sir, after having owned the mistake on his siblings’ behalf, asked them who had in reality consumed the halwa. No one , again, relented. All of them got married over a period of time, had their own children and grand children and met once in a year congregating at their native place during Diwali. During every such get together, Sir asked each of them whether they could at least now reveal as to who had eaten the forbidden halwa. The answer to this question was never forthcoming. The family has met over the years several times, their parents have expired, some of the brothers and sisters have expired but to date the riddle of the missing halwa still remains unresolved. One cannot fathom whether the halwa has gone with one of those brothers and sisters who are no more, or whether the mischievous one who had indeed hideously consumed it is still alive. Ramanarayan Sir, for sure, rests comfortably content in his house knowing fully well that he is not the real culprit, and still smiles reminiscing the incident.

Why do human beings behave the way they behave?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Look good or feel good'

I have been out of circulation for more than a week. A lot of travelling followed by a little sickness. Here I am up on my feet again.

Was reading a blog of a student of mine and this thought emerged. Do we, human beings, have this penchant to look good in the eyes of others? A lot of experiences came to my mind and I thought I will share some of them. My first experience was to belong to a group of people though I was feeling uncomfortable. This group was a popular group and being there was the 'in thing'. Despite my discomfort, I tried to belong there and be a part of the inner circle. If I did not belong, I thought I was a nobody. I died a thousand deaths but chose to come out alive.

The first time I made a presentation in public and I was shivering. The thought that passed my mind was if I did not present well, what will people think of me. Looking back this thought was the culprit that made me shiver. Rather than focusing on my presentation and making adequate preparations, my thought lay on others impression about me rather than what I thought of myself.

A friend of mine, a teetotaller, chose to miss most of his office party because of the peer pressure to drink. Recounting his experience, he shared with me that he felt it was absolutely necessary to socialize and mix with people at the party but missed it because of the compulsion on him to drink. His version was that not acceding to people’s requests would be considered as socially unacceptable. Thus he chose to ignore his own desire to socialize and mix with people though it was important to him professionally.

Examples can be many but where do most of us get stuck. I strongly feel it is in the choice between ’looking good’ and ‘feeling good’. This distinction seems to me to be the most significant factor in the several choices we make in life. ‘Looking good’ is most of the times like playing to the gallery, being popular, not playing in the court but critiquing from the stands, and not living the ‘life’ one really wants. ‘Feeling good’ is most of the times about risking and getting rejected, being in disagreement with others when one strongly feels so, being unreasonable with oneself and being out of the comfort zone, being assertive, and finally assuming responsiblity for one's actions. The bottom line of ‘feeling good’’ is about living life powerfully and on one’s own terms and wishes.

Choice, of course, is purely ours.

Friday, December 12, 2008


·The recession in the economy is reflected in the size and weight of the daily edition of ‘Mumbai Mirror’. Guess there are no advertisements given by the small and big companies now a days so much so that it has become easier to handle the daily edition. At last, some good that the recession has done.

·'I want to see my mom’ says terrorist Kasab. Quite heart rending. But what about the wailings of those children who lost their mothers, and of those mothers who lost their children in the recent killings. Kasab, remember: “ the mills of God grind slowly, but surely”.

·Pakistani cricketer and ex captain, Rashid Latif is seem to be moaning that cricket playing countries seem to be going to India despite the recent killings , only because of the cricketers’ greed for big money is seen in India. Rashid seems to be blind to what the world sees in India, and to what is abundantly missing in Pakistan. Rashid, open your eyes and look at things happening too close at home. The ‘India Imagery’ is not your cup of tea. One requires elan and taste to appreciate this.

·Interesting to read millionaire John Haynes has written to soccer ace Cristiano Ronaldo dumping his wife Olena Haynes as a cheater and a liar and that she come with a health warning like one finds on cigarettes packets – ‘Injurious to health’.

·Finally, the thing I read somewhere – ‘If you cannot annoy somebody, what’s the point writing’.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It can be any of us tomorrow

I read with a lot of trepidation the thoughts of Yasin Merchant in today’s edition of the Times of India. Yasin Merchant is the two time Asian Snooker Champion and Asian Games Doubles Gold Medallist who did India proud. Yasin was saying that he was born in Mumbai, his father, grandfather and fore fathers lived in Mumbai, and that all of them had contributed their bit to Mumbai. In spite of this, he needs to prove, time and again, that he is an Indian, just because he happens to be a Muslim.

I suggested to my wife, Seema, and my niece, Priya, that all of us go through an exercise of imagining that we were Indian Muslims, and then share our experiences. This piece is an outcome of this exercise and some of our thoughts and feelings are being put onto paper.

At a personal level, our feelings were of rejection, indignation, anger, frustration and exclusion.

At a reaction level, feelings of proving oneself time and again despite being a true Indian, no different from others, came to the fore. There were also feelings of not being accepted accentuating the need to belong when there was no iota of doubt of ‘belonging’ in our minds. Added to these were feelings of discrimination for and against which meant that if something was achieved, it was because one belonged there and not because one deserved it, and in certain spheres of life one was not even being included just because of the label ‘Muslims’. Many a time, names and surnames proved as turning points because of the association these had in some minds. Stereotyping the majority of Muslims as traitors became evident because of a few overzealous and misguided miscreants who indulged in reprehensible acts of violence and killing . During our conversations we wondered whether the label ‘Muslim’ was written on foreheads for others to see.

At the third level we were groping with the type of mental image that the majority of the citizens of this country carried of Muslims. This image has been formed and built assiduously by those so called leaders who have an axe to grind . These power brokers to achieve their personal ends and to detract citizens from other significant issues, instigate the citizens against Muslims to sharpen the Hindu - Muslim divide. They have understood the psyche of the majority of our citizens, and are clear most of them are indifferent. They know very well that the ordinary citizen has no time to sift the wheat from the chaff, and gather data to call the bluff. Thus, they thrive, but at whose cost?

The answer, of course, is begging the question. The conclusions that we arrived at was that all of us in this great country need to think beyond the mundane where enlightenment and education of the masses is the key. It will dawn on us through this heightened awareness and consciousness to appreciate that we are human beings first and only later Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs. Today it is Yasin, tomorrow it will be John, sometime later Balwinder, and finally Iyer. These hurting and painful narrations need to be stopped and a crying need exists to uphold the self esteem of those who shed their blood, tears, toil and sweat for our motherland.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Enough of Indifference

I have been restless the whole of last week and have read the several outpourings on the Mumbai riots. Majority of them centre around anger, rage, despair and compassion. Much more than in 1993 or after the serial blasts that were witnessed some months back. This is necessary. But is this enough? Just enough to propel into action.

Considering the normal way we have behaved, and if past is any indicator, it will be not be surprising that there is calm after the storm, and we recede to predictable indifference. In such a case, anger, rage …. will die in no time. Indifference is, then, easy to set in. We can have innumerable reasons and justifications to fork out for our indifference. Our own work, the daily travel, inadequate time even for ourselves, reasons unending. Indifference places us on the comfortable zone since we are not asked anything out of the way to do. Indifference does not ask of us to be unreasonable with ourselves, and take the less treaded and more difficult path. Reasons, justifications and stories that we spin serve as wonderful cushions and crutches to put us into inaction. But we need to remember that the events of last week are the culmination of our collective indifference.

So, the million dollar question is ‘what do we do?’ I was on the telephone with my dear friend Hari and he was talking of ‘people’s movement’. He beautifully summarized and said let us take on what is meaningful, purposeful, measurable and immediately achievable (mind you Hari is no MBA). In this regard, he mentioned (a) availability of trained commandos at least at all the metropolis and other sensitive cities and towns, (b) educating and training people for such situations, and (c) galvanizing people into action ‘here and now’. The third point hit my chord and propelled me into action. I asked myself what was I doing? Am I also indifferent and do I continue to be so? If I am indifferent to acts that cause suffering, am I being ‘human’ at all?

Such questions do not leave me to rest, and no wonder I was restless. Answers did not easily come, and such answers never easily come for me. I said to myself ‘ proof of the pudding is in the eating’, and let me begin. I decided to enroll to the “Times of India – Mumbai Cares initiative”. I have decided to spend eight hours in a week for the victims of the blast and offer my personal services. I have decided to render all help to a child orphaned due to the latest attacks. And I have decided to undergo special training to sense and identify in advance such threats and happenings. A small but satisfying beginning.

The bigger agenda will be to galvanize ‘People to move the government into action’, and I have some good friends like Hari and Kavi to take it forward. The need of the hour is action, and a lot of accountability on our people and our government. Of course!, if the government does not act, like Hari said, responsible citizens will have to resort to the famous ‘Satyagraha’, which Indian history testifies has worked. Let us act so that so many of our loved children, grand children and great grand children can be saved.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Let's stop being divisive

Headlines in the TOI and the Mumbai Mirror reading ‘SMSes lampoon Raj and MNS stand’ and ‘Missing Raj Thackeray’ caught my attention. One of the TV channels also talked about Raj Thackeray and other political leaders attending the funeral of Late Hemant Karkare and gaining political mileage.

The media is losing sanity and without rhyme or reason slinging mud. I think we need to be just and fair. I have personally seen the ambulance vans of MNS at the sites of tragedy ferrying both the injured and the dead to the hospital. Where credit needs to be given , it needs to be given, whoever it is. Then why talk about lampooning Raj, and ask where was he missing on that fateful day. Why send an SMS – quote: “ Where is Raj Thackeray and his ‘ Sena’? Tell him that 200 NSG commandos from Delhi (no Marathi manoos, all south and north Indians) have been sent to Mumbai to fight the terrorists so that Raj can sleep peacefully tonight at Shivaji Park. Please forward this so that it finally reaches the coward bully’.

This is vindictive and more than that ‘truly divisive’. Do people expect Raj and his men to combat the terrorists? Can Raj not attend a funeral and pay respects? Why call this gaining ‘political mileage? Why look at everything with a jaundiced eye? Is it only the South Indians and the North Indians that fought the terrorists? Did Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte – all of them Marathi Manoos not do so?

I was taken aback at the degree of degeneration that has enveloped us. I guess the media is going berserk. A lot of responsibility rests on the media to keep people together, understand the public psyche, provide right and appropriate information, and not indulge in divisive politics. Degeneration is at its lowest ebb. I am reminded of what Mr. Gopalakrishnan, Director of Tata Sons Ltd had to say ” Degeneration happens over a period of time, and thereafter it is considered normal”.

I thought I should step in and protest, lest it becomes the norm of the day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Not any more, again!

What and how does one comment on all this? Creating terror, causing panic and spreading mayhem – what are they up to? What is the super ordinate goal, or what on hell are these terrorists imposing their faith on? What of those innocent victims who never expected the sudden turn of events, what of Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar and others and their grieving families, and what of the police, national security guards force, army personnel and volunteers who going beyond the call of duty are ever willing to help at the cost of their own lives? What a contrast, but both these disparate groups claiming it is their call of duty.

This will also have to end but are we sure it will never ever start again? The impact of the residual feelings and the scars it leaves is indelible and unimaginable.

Some days back, I had read what Sardar Ali Jafri had to say – I quote – “ The war planner boasts that he can destroy everything under the enemy territory within five minutes”. He then adds ’what about the sixth minute? A great thought to hold. Will the terrorists be moved as much as I am?
Yes, I am mentally disturbed and shaken, but definitely not deterred. We need to offer our salutations to our heroes who disregarding their own personal safety have plunged to restore balance. A great lesson learnt from our protection force consisting of the police, security guards, the army and the many volunteers – it is ‘sacrifice before self’.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Strange Brew

Some days ago, I read a news item in Mumbai Mirror entitled 'Shiv Sena Kerala Mandal'.It intrigued me, my imagination ran wild and some of these are being put to paper.

What gave birth to this strange combination? Is it opportunism, a concoction because of the environment or just a convenient marriage? The Shiv Sena, I guess, has a clear agenda compelled by the forthcoming assembly and parliamentary elections, and the sibling rivalry with Raj Thackeray. The Keralites, as I have known them, are an enterprising and enigmatic lot. It is said of the Keralites, Sardars and the Marwaris that there is no place on earth where one cannot find them. Back to our Keralite brethren and their omnipresence, I have come across a lot of interesting stories.

Neil Armstrong descended on the moon and was heartily welcomed by (you know whom) with the question 'Cha ya veno ?' - (do you want tea?). During my visit to Ludhiana, I came across a shop - 'Manikandan Tyre Service'. I have heard that the Sheikhs in Midle East/ UAE are adept in speaking Malayalam, and it is only a question of time when it will be declared the official language. The icing on the cake, of course, was when Misbah ul Haq spooned the famous twenty - twenty overs catch behind the keeper, and we, once again, saw the 'Malayalee presence or omnipresence'. It was our own Sreesanth who gobbled up the catch and brought smiles, cheers and joy to our countrymen.

Yes, they are a dynamic and enterprising lot, who seek opportunities and very well know which side of their bread is buttered. What better confirmation can there be to 'Darwins Theory of the Survival of the Fittest'- with the ubiquitous Keralites claiming the honour. The sad part is that the whole of their dynamism seems lost in their own hinterland, where we see their dynamism in the form of hartals and bandhs, critiquing politicians, and gulping innumerable cups of tea reading the newspapers end to end.

Now having said that, it is not all surprising that the Keralites embraced the Shiv Sena in Thane, Maharashtra. I hope this marriage is consummated well, and to quote Mills and Boons, wish 'they live happily ever after'. What, however, left a lasting impression on my mind was what Shreekumaran Nair, Secretary of the Malayalee Samajam had to say. He said that the Keralites could never forget the sacrifices rendered by the Late Shri. Anand Dighe , and it was in his memory that they had joined the Shiv Sena. I have personally heard a lot of late Anand Dighe, and his innumerable sacrifices and contributions to the cause of the common man. Irrespective of caste, creed or religion, people revered and respected him. It was often said of Dighe Saab that whoever went to him returned with a patient hearing, and resolution of their problems. When he breathed his last, there was a sea of mourners, vocalising the selflessness of Dighe Saab, and his endearing and helpful nature.

That the Keralites joined the Shiv Sena is a testimony to the fact that good work and selfless leadership is never forgotten. Let this country be blessed with more such great leaders.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Vada Pav - the golden goose

I was amused to read the news item - ' Engineering Vada Pavs' in today's edition of the Mumbai Mirror.

I recall that years ago I along with the editorial committee members of our Company's inhouse magazine 'Tutari' had met the Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray for an interview in connection with the Deepavali issue. As we entered his room at "Matoshri" , we saw Balasaheb seated on a huge chair resembling a throne, with the Shiv Sena symbol, a growling tiger right above his head. Indeed it appeared to us as "a tiger riding on another tiger." The interview was full of facts, puns (mostly intended),sarcastic wily barbs and regaling humour. I remember he had at length mentioned about the 'birth of the Vada Pav'. He had initiated the idea of vada pav to provide employment to the sons of the soil, at a time when 'abundance of people and scarcity of jobs' was the phenomenon. He was rather emphatic when he mentioned that the sons of the soil preferred cushy and comfortable jobs as compared to the hard but lucrative and stable jobs that he had offered to them at MTNL,Ceat Tyres and other companies. Hence it is not very surprising to see that majority of those employed at MTNL and Ceat Tyres hail from UP and other places in the North (hope this statement of mine does not provide fodder to Rajsaheb and his followers).

Balasaheb and his party did ensure a lot of opportunities for employment to the sons of the soil in many big companies like L&T. However, to ensure that others who were still unemployed eke out a decent living, he announced the setting up of Vada Pav stalls throughout Mumbai, Pune and other places.The Vada Pav has continued to be the delight of one and all and offered 'value for money'. I fondly remember when in college with barely anything in one's pocket,it was Vada Pav,Usal Pav and Misal Pav that satiated one's hunger.To this day, I remain committed, especially, to the Vada Pav. I will for the benefit of vada pav lovers like me, recommend the 'Golden Vada' shop at Lonavala. It's just amazing wth the 'chatni'.

It was extremely pleasing to read the news item that vada pav has once again become the platform for providing employment to the unemployed engineering and other graduates.The Shiv Sena, this time, has professionalised the Vada making and is holding a workshop on 24th November at Shivaji Park where it has invited the top 25 Vada Pav vendors, food experts and chefs to provide training to the wannabe vendors in the making.

I am extremely happy that by continuing to provide jobs to the unemployed, the'Vada Pav' has been living upto its promise. Can we say the same thing about the Government of India ?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Missing you dad

The first post on this blog is in the fond memory of my dear father who passed away on 17th April,2007.

The musings of writing have often visited me but today it was irresistible. I needed to pen my feelings and out from the gut these flow. Looking back, life has been wonderful and the many people I have met have made it wonderful. The most wonderful people - my parents.

My father, a very loving soul, who lived by what he believed was right, and often he was right. A man who was sought by many for his counsel, advice and blessings. Continued to live life till his very last on his own terms, and steadfastly by his own convictions and principles. Ever ready to sacrifice his comforts which he always did and which came very naturally to him . A 'Gandhian' to the core that after his retirement in 1974 from then 'ESSO' and now 'HP' always sported a khadi jabba and dhoti. Had barely any wants for himself but would shower whatever he had on his wife and two sons and all those who visited him. Whatever may be the hour of the day, all who came home were cheerfully welcomed and fed to their heart's content. Unconditional love was his hall mark.

His day started wishing everyone good morning and addressing his wife' Aho Bhagya vathi Naari". They doted on each other for sixty four years till he bid her good bye when he was eighty eight. Imagine togetherness for sixty four years - an extremely loving couple who complimented each other in all respects. My mother, of course, was the erstwhile 'Bhartiya Naari' who never crossed the 'Lakshman Rekha' she had drawn for herself. Probably, seen in today's context, this was the reason that they unflinchingly besot each other for sixty four long years.

After retirement from HP in 1974 after 35 long years of service, he earned pension for another equal number of years as his service. So loyal was he to HP, that he insisted that my brother and I fill up petrol only from HP petrol pumps. He helped my mother in her household chores after retirement right from cutting vegetables to meticulously ensuring good 5 S at home. He maintained a personal diary which apart from mentioning incidents and people, also contained the daily expenditure of the household. There was never any day when his expenditure did not contain cash given to people who visited him and sought his blessings. He truly was born only to give.

So much has been his influence on all of us that his presence is always felt. He looks at me from his Heavenly Abode as I write this blog and whispers to me ' Go to bed, my son, its getting very late'.

I know he is always there for me , but I will always miss him.