Thursday, September 28, 2006

One Man's Drink ( dedicated to all Kudiyanmaar )

Tired from work I reach back home
The body is tired and numb is my dome
Looking for something to drive away the gloom
My fingers feel a bottle and lifes abloom

Caressing the bottle lovingly by the neck
I give it a kiss first and then a peck
My mind cries out , No drinks without Touchings
some mixture , some pickles, maybe chicken wings

Full of happiness , brimming with joy
Seeking an Outlet , Look , a wine cupboard ahoy
Enough to share , and still left to spare
Let me start and lay it bare

Wine makes no distinction of class or rank
It treats the same the King and the prank
Good wine inside him , the King does dance
No status to worry about , minds no one's glance

I love my drink but wouldnt force it on you
If you knew what you were missing , you would be drinking too
I know every man has his own reason
One man's drink is another man's poison

God is in His Heaven ( Grateful thanks to Robert Browning for last two lines)

In the clear morning light, a bird breaks into a song
Yonder by the mountain side, rising to meet the blue sky
Faced with such magic, who can help but sing along
Supported by an unseen conductor in Divine Choreography

The mighty seas dwarf inconsequential Man
If man be so small ,of what account his worries
No matter how many footprints you leave in the sand
The silent beaches will never tell your stories

Every man has a part to play , a time to leave
Dont waste your life in frets and worries
Time is precious, seconds slipping through the sieve
When tis time to exit, futile wishing to change histories

Sing through your life , drunk with Happiness
If sorrow does crease your brow, wave it goodbye
Every moment spent worrying is one moment less
Sand slipping through the glass, and its time to die

Death in the end is a small price to pay
For all I have had, and all I will ever hold
Yea it must be, God is in His Heaven
And all is right with the World

Judge Me Not

I started this journey , all spruced and smart
Expected Life to return in kind
A smiling mask hides my grieving heart
Saddened by a thousand cuts unkind

Buffetted this way and that by Fate, ignored by Chance
Still proudly I say ,"I may break, but will not bend"
I have repented for all wrongs , done my penance
Only one regret , this way it had to end

My eyes have seen all they wanted to see
Betrayed by my own, swept aside by the flow
The Day of Reckoning comes nearer, beckons me
No one to cry over me , neither friend nor foe

The choice of my End, is in mine own hands
No Angel of Death will come , claim me for his own
Sword in hand, I shout my Defiance
Its the time for action, not to mourn

I have drunk my fill from the Cup of Life
Have made good over all I pledged
Let me say now my farewell to all this hate and strife
Judge Me Not that Ye be not Judged


Gandhigiri ( as opposed to Gundagardi ) , forms the basic premise for the refreshing new film "Lage Raho Munnabhai". Watched it yesterday. Good movie. Dont go and watch it as a followup to Munnabhai MBBS which was a pure comedy. This has a more serious message for our troubled times.

At times the solutions offered in the movie seemed a bit too simplistic ( particularly a scene where this person shames a corrupt official into not taking bribes ) . But overall a fresh take on things.

Never knew the Mahatma had 4 sons ( can anyone name them ? ) . A pleasant change from today's politics where nepotism rules the roost and everyone is trying to get wife , son and daughter-in-law a party ticket. The actor characterising the Mahatma was superb. Call me an idealistic fool but the film still left me with the hope that , one day , we will shake India out of its stupor.

To quote Rabindranath Tagore :
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake"

Lage Raho Munnabhai !!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Planned Sick Leave

Planned Sick Leave ( an oxymoron if ever there was one - can oxymorons be phrases or only single words , lets leave that for another post ). How do you plan a sick leave? ( That thunder rumbling in the clouds tells me Iam going to have fever Monday , and so be unable to come to work ). Now you see a conscientious guy struggling with his conscience ( Conscience led on points in the first two rounds, but past experience tells the guy is going to knock out his opponent with a killer punch ).

You know you have to take leave and you are also fully aware that you have exhausted your quota of Annual Leave that your company so generously provides. What to do except to fall back on that tried and trusted friend - Sick Leave ? But can you just disappear and send a text message on the D Day saying you are sick - of course not. You cannot leave your team mates holding the bag like that. So you need to tell them in advance that you are "planning" to fall sick on such and such date

Which leads me to the events that triggered this train of thought. Oct 2nd is Gandhi Jayanthi and Oct 4th is likely to be Karnataka bandh. What more auspicious time to fall sick than Oct 3rd?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cruel Fate

I loved her and she loved me
We were as close as a pair can be

Together in happiness , together in sorrow
Lived each day to the fullest, till the morrow

She was the apple of my eyes
I was her one and only Delight

Such a couple was nowhere to be found
Envy of all , loved and renowned

What fault was ours ,what crime we did
Could God or the Devil , have done such a deed

She lies here now, cold and dead
A sacrifice to God, cruel, coldblooded

Take this dagger, plunge into my breast
That I may lie down , where my beloved does rest

Throughout the world , let this tale be told
Of how Love vanquished Fate, Lo and Behold

Better To Have Loved

Love tis a wonderful thing
Its what gives life its zing

You find yourself breaking into a song
And The whole world sings along

No time for fears no time for petty worries
It leaves you the most wonderful memories

Like the raindrops to the parched earth
Love brings relief to your aching heart

One day you look back in time
and can still hear the bells chime

Smell once more her sweet fragrance
when she stood near, her body a bottle of essence

You reach out and can still touch her
You hold her close and comfort her

Safe in your loving arms, held close to your chest
You shout to the world , She is mine, do your worst

The past is past and she is long gone
You may be feeling lost and forlorn

The memories she left you are still your own
Content with them , you bid all troubles begone

Yay, tis Better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all

Some Random Political Thoughts

BJP stands for the Bharatiya Janata Party , in case you have forgotten. The media darling just over a year back, the BJP seems to be in the news now for all the wrong reasons. Has the BJP become a rudderless ship , tossed this way and that by the waves , having no control ( indeed , no idea ) over the path it needs to take. Sadly , it would seem so. Sad for me personally, because the reasons I initially supported BJP still stand - probably are more relevant now.

I was in New Delhi at the time of the 1984 riots. I was all of seven years of age then - a very impressionable age. I have read Rajiv Gandhi's comments on the riots since then , "When a giant tree falls, the ground shakes". Of course things were not quite so simple as that , they never are.We used to stay in RK Puram Sector 5 . There were around 25 families staying in our block at that time , 2 of them Sikh. At that time Congress was ruling Delhi , so by a strange coincidence no policemen used to come when Sikh homes were being pillaged. I still remember my father and the rest of the non Sikh males lighting bonfires and staying guard throughout the night to ensure the safety of our Sikh brothers. This went for one whole week. At that time I did not realize the seriousness of the situation ( what does a seven year old know ). Maybe later I would have been outraged that any political leader ( let alone the PM ) could justify such a cold blooded progrom to wipe out a whole community. Thankfully nothing serious happened in our neighbourhood during that nightmarish week, but I have never considered the Congress as a serious political option since then.

There were two issues that attracted me to the BJP then - Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code. Strangely enough there is one party in India that shares the BJP stand on these issues - CPM. Only problem is our Marxian brothers conveniently forget this in the "greater" cause of isolating fundamentalism.

I personally feel that the destruction of the Babri Masjid was a situation that should have been avoided. Having said that , lets not attach too much importance to this. This was after all a 350 year old mosque where no prayers had taken place for over 40 years. And therein lies a strange tale. Strange because the Babri Masjid site was disputed even at the time of independence. Pt Nehru had ordered the site locked and no one was allowed entry . No one , that is till 1989 , when VHP were given the keys to the site. The credit for this went to Rajiv Gandhi and to a small extent , to a Muslim lady named Shah Bano.

Shah Bano had been divorced by her husband and she had filed a court case for alimony. The case went right up to Supreme Court which ruled in her favour citing Common Civil law ( common to all Indians irrespective of religion , caste or language ) . The mullahs saw this as an attack on Muslim Personal Law. They went up in arms and the Rajiv Gandhi govt ( they had 400+ MPs at the time ) brought in a Constitutional amendment to nullify theSupreme Court verdict. Of course to balance this kind of blatant minority appeasement they came out with a "majority package" as well. They gave the keys to the disputed Babri Masjid site to the VHP and gave them permission to perform shilanyas. Talk about letting the fox guard the chicken coop. The rest , as they say , is history.

Aint Love Grand?

I have always wondered how people can opt for arranged marriage. To tie the knot to a person you only know through a few casual conversations has always seemed to me a very risky proposition. You never get to see the "real" person. Even if you arrange any meetings, wont the person be putting on a "show" , projecting only his / her positive self. For to show our negative side or vulnerabilities , we would have to really trust the other person - trust which can only be gained after years of bonding.

Thats not to say arranged marriages do not work - far from it. Most married couples I know personally have been "arranged and married" . And they have been successful as well. But I have a sneaking suspicion that these actually work because arranged marriages are usually "Union between families".So your whole family has a stake in guiding this experiment to a successful outcome.

No such familial pressures in love marriages. ( By love marriages , I do not mean the fell-in-love-at-first-sight kind of puppy love ). The kind of love Iam talking about assumes you know a person for years, so much so that at times, they seem to be just an extension of your own persona. No problems sharing your hopes and dreams, fears and worries with them. You feel as much comfortable talking with them as you do talking to yourself. You have nothing to hide from them and vice versa.

These are my feelings but what would I know - Iam not married, yet. Lets see if I sing a different tune after that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

An Empty Life?

I wake up with an empty feeling in my heart
Still , have to get up and make a start

She who was there for me till yesterday
The morning's dawned and she's gone away

Will She return, my heart asks in despair
I know the answer, she doesnt care

Iam thankful to God for the gifts she left behind
Happy memories, which I replay in my mind

Maybe better it ended thus
No recriminations and no fuss

Cannot wallow in despair and sorrow
Life will go on, and bring the morrow

Let me pick the pieces and carry on
Tomorrow is another day , Today will be gone

Monday, September 18, 2006

Swargathile Leela Vilasangal

Wouldnt Life be Grand if you were born a God? I wonder how one applies to be one? Is there a rigorous Entrance exam or is it by draw of lots? Since anyway there are thousands of Gods, one more or less probably wouldnt make any difference. Does anyone know if they do a Assembly roll call every morning just to make sure no intruder has gained admittance.I wonder how the Gods address each other - by name ( not practical when you need to remember thousands even without counting for the different names for each avatars ) or by number ( hey number 2385 - some minor God, no 3 - Brahma wants you to go and clean his room ) . Surely there would be caste system even among Gods - numbers 1 to say 99 lording over all, numbers 100- 999 being the 2nd class gods , courtiers, jokers, Apsaras etc and the rest doing the menial tasks. Of course even Gods would need servants to do all the chores ,cleaning , washing etc. They being up in the vaccum, there wouldnt be any power sockets to plug in any electrical equipment , would there?

And if we could gain admittance to Indra's court , what fun hey? Drinking wine all day watching the Apsaras dance - do you suppose they still do only the traditional numbers like Bharat Natyam, Kuchipudi etc or would they have learnt faster numbers now . Surely Narada would have told them about the latest developments in the music world - jazz, rock , hard metal etc that he must have come across while he was travelling the world stirring up trouble everywhere. And would he have traded in his old Sitar for a Bruce Springsteen guitar.

You hear about Vishnu and all his avatars but what about Indra? Being King of the gods surely he would have come down once or twice. Just wondering if he is among us right now - maybe as Kunhalikutty or P J Joseph ( BTW ,Is cross religion avatharing allowed - otherwise there is always Neela Lohithadasan Nadar).

If Wishes Were Horses

I never believed in love at first sight
Till I first saw her in the morning light

She was sitting by the cliffs
A gentle smile playing on her lips

Struck dumb I was , couldnt utter a sound
What could I tell this angel whom I had found

A gift of the Gods, for me made
She is another's , my mind forbade

Another place , another time , some other age maybe
The look of love in her eyes would have been for me

Forbidden it was , I knew, even to think of her
What to do alas,I alone knew my deepest desire

Sitting in judgement , my conscience sneers
Where do I hide from mine own fears

A glance from her and I would have taken on the world,
Faithless she was, she put me to the sword

Yet,I realize , maybe twas no fault of her
That more than me she loved another

Better than me in more ways than one
He laid his claim fair and won

Beaten by love, beaten by fate
Tied by my mad heart to the stake

No place to run , nowhere to hide
If wishes were horses, Beggars would ride

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Its that time of the year again ! Statues drinking milk, Gods turning salty sea water into sweet nectar , which when drunk by the faithful helps them attain moksha ( thereby cutting short the reincarnation cycle and nobody need worry anymore about being born a dog in their next life ). Relax folks, this is 21st Century India.

Isnt it a pitiful sight? Priests coming on prime time television and arguing about how much milk each one's God has drunk.( Hey, your God was not smacking his lips after drinking the milk, milk was leaking down the statue, whereas my God , hungry chap that he was , gulped down the whole bottle . He even had a handful of Prasad for good measure ).

Whats so special about milk? Does anyone know what kind of milk was served? Was it "shuddh gaayi ka doodh" or Amul , Milma or some other packaged variety ? In "War of the Worlds" , the thing that downed the aliens was mere bacteria. How could the Divine intestines have coped with the bacteria ( or God forbid , plain old 'nal ka pani' that the local doodhwala may have used to increase the quantity ). Did any of the temples have attached bathrooms?

The ancient texts tell us about Som rasa which all Gods were reportedly fond of. Probably Som rasa is white and Gods mistook milk for this divine liquid ( Gods being Supreme Beings can hardly be expected to be concerned with the details - especially minute ones like the composition of any liquids they may suddenly decide to consume ).

Hey wouldnt it be fun if there were really Hindu Gods and Muslim Gods. Muslim God turns sea water sweet. The Hindu Gods ( or was it only Ganesha, the pot bellied one ) decide to go one up and try and finish all the milk. But then they get caught offguard. All the media channels focussing on their mouths, keeping count of exactly how many drops have gone down which throat. Cant say I blame the Gods for stopping their drinking - wouldnt you be uncomfortable partaking food if a thousand pair of eyes were trained on you and there was live commentary going on ( Here 5 drops have gone down, there first drop has reached the throat whereas in that temple having 2 metre statue of Ganesha, the priest had to order for fresh supplies of milk ). Iam sure Ganesha said to himself ( sheesh, these guys, not even letting a thirsty chap have a small drink , and me having to sit like this all year round, watching the priest gobble the prasad and blaming it on me. Oh well , let things quieten down and I will have my next drink then ).

And we all wait eagerly for the next wave of insanity to sweep us off our feet.

An Office Romance

Every day , as soon as I get into the office , I search for her in a crowd of familiar faces. When I catch sight of her, I sigh , "Thank God, Now I can get to work". I dont know why , but I cant bear the thought of her communicating with anyone else. Something inside me seems to burn and I cringe at the thought of someone discovering my deepest secrets from her - secrets I have never entrusted anyone but her with. I know she misses talking to me when I am on leave. I lovingly say goodbye to her at the end of every day . Weekends are a real pain. Not being able to see her for two whole days sometimes seems too much to handle. But I say to myself , "Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder".

Yes Sir, we make a pretty couple - me and my laptop.

Pennu kanal ( a guy's perspective )

Let me start off by saying I have never been the "guy" in the hot seat.Personally I dont think I would have enjoyed it. But I have had lots of opportunities accompanying friends and cousins during their dates with destiny.So I had a real balcony seat view of the proceedings and can offer some dos and donts for the same:
1. Never go for the sweet dishes - I committed this blunder once and have been reminded of this ever since. Seems there is a code that partaking a sweet dish signifies acceptance. Since I was just one of the "baraatis" who was I to read the prospective groom's mind and wave the green flag?
2. Never confuse photos and addresses - This happened during one of my Gulf cousin's pre marriage seasons. He was on a mission to "see" 20 girls in 15 days. Disaster waiting to happen , anyone would have told him. I did anyway. Not that my "I told you so" made things any easier. What happened was we had the wrong photo when we went to this girl's house.So there was the girl all ready with our cuppa tea and we were still waiting for the "right" girl to come out. The rest I will leave to your imagination.
3. Shadowing the prospective bride - To avoid the uncomfortable situation of rejecting a girl based on her looks after the "pennu kanal" we hit upon this novel idea. We would work out the nearest bus stop to the girl's house and park our car there around the time she was supposed to come. This plan worked beautifully - except for one painful occasion when some "concerned citizens" mistook us for eveteasers. Luckily the car was in gear and we made good our escape. As a footnote , we did not try this out again.
4. Keep your mouth shut - If you are not "the guy" , put a sock in your mouth lest your foot gets in. During a "pennu kanal" , I realized that the girl in question was my junior in college. This enthused me so much that we went on talking till , after some time I realized there was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Remember Rule No 1 - "the guy" is the hero and no hero appreciates his sidekick stealing the show. The journey back after this incident wasnt very pleasant.
I could go on about guys who go for "pennu kanal" like shopping for a sari, never make up their minds ( "yes , she looks good in a sari but what about salwar kameez" ) , always finding fault ( "did you notice the way she stared at uncle sipping his tea" ) etc etc but let sleeping dogs lie.
For those of you lucky enough to get a girl who loves you , my heartiest congratulations. For the rest , my best wishes and heartfelt prayers.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In memory of Gabriel

Gabriel George. The name evokes the fondest memories. My classmate for 4 years , hostel mate for 3 and best friend for life. Ironically , our friendship had what could be hardly called an auspicious beginning.
I joined the Computer Science branch at GEC Thrissur in Aug 1994. Gabriel had already spent one year there in Civil Engg. He wrote the Entrance again and got admission to Comp Sci. So eventhough we were classmates, he knew all our seniors. One of these guys came and ragged me to give him Rs 100. Having been warned beforehand about the dangers of freshers carrying money to college, I told him , quite reasonably I thought, that I couldnt give him money I did not have. If I thought the oldest excuse in the book was going to faze them , I was sadly proven wrong. One of his other senior friends offered to lend me the money to give his friend. I was bowled over by this act of unselfish kindness, till the next day this second guy came and asked me for the money he had "lent" me !!! Of course, when I came to know Gabriel better, he confessed that he had personally chosen me as the "bakra" for this operation. Boy, was I flattered !!! That was the low point in our relationship. Things could only get better from there.
And did they!! The next three years of college were the best of my life. Did all sorts of things - parties, fights , movies, even went to classes when we had nothing better to do (your typical Engg college hostel life).Life seemed one long party. Why did they have to end? But "Life has to go on and a living has to be made".After college we went our separate ways - myself to Chennai and then to Bangalore , he to Hyderabad. We did meet up once in a while. Other than that we kept in touch with the odd email ( sending the reply 2 weeks after getting the mail ). I remember sending him a particularly biting email because he had not sent a reply to a previous mail I had sent one month back.That was the last email I sent him.
Sept 9 2004, how can I ever forget that day. My friend and classmate Ajayan was getting married that day. I called him up to congratulate him. After that I called up some of my friends who I was sure had all gathered in Thrissur for the wedding. I got the news. Gabriel had been in hospital after an accident with head injury for two months and had just passed away the previous day. My friends came to know of the news from a newspaper. Nobody told Ajayan till after his marriage. Then they all went to Gabriel's place in Ernakulam. What could I do? I was stuck Down Under in Melbourne. I dug up the email I had sent him two months back from my Sent Folder and offered a silent prayer. "Unwept , Unhonoured and Unsung" - this line from Ulysses had never seemed more poignant.

Gabby buddy, this round is on me.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Confessions of a Troubled Mind

How does one define patriotism ? Pre 1947 the answer would have been pretty easy - those fighting the British were patriotic, the rest were not. Now after gaining freedom, since all Indians are presumably on the same side, it is not so easy. Are the crowds who shout "Hindustan Zindabad" ( as opposed to "Bharat Zindabad" ) on the cricket field wearing the badge of patriotism on their sleeves - or is it more a case of misguided nationalism. Who are ( or should be ) our heroes today ?
Remember Satyendra Dubey? Public memory is short. We all have our 10 minutes of fame and then are conveniently buried in the recesses of the brain. Let me flog your memory. Satyendra Dubey was an NHAI engineer who blew the whistle on corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral project - a product of IIT Kanpur he complained to the office of the Prime Minister no less. His reward ? He was murdered and his dead body left on the roads. There was the predicatable hue and cry, most major media organizations took up his case , many of us dashed off outraged emails and SMSes. The end result - his family got a share of the compensation and we all congratulated ourselves on a job well done - reassuring ourselves that our collective conscience was not dead, that in times of need we would react. React to what end? Was even one person related to that case punished ? I may have missed the news buried somewhere in the inner pages of the newspapers, but I have a strong suspicion there was none.
We treat life cheaply. This is blunt but sadly is nothing but the truth. Just compare the reports for any deaths in India as compared to any occuring in the Developed world. The reports there are precise eg 87 dead and 23 in hospital 12 critical. If the same thing had occurred in India, all the media outlets would be blaring out flash news ( Between 50 and 100 dead ) . In a country of one billion what does an extra 20 or 30 here or there matter? But we shouldnt be blaming the media for this when the highest court in the land has fixed the price tag on every Indian life. In the Bhopal Gas tragedy of 1984 , where 5,00,000 people were directly affected, the Supreme Court ordered Union Carbide to pay the "monstrous" sum of $US 450 million. Compare this with the $10 million lawsuit every second obese person files against Mcdonalds ( in the US , of course ) . No wonder the MNCs love doing business here.
Bhopal and Bihar seem rather far away and so we can all remain comfortable in our sheltered cocoons. But unfortunately the stench is uncomfortably closer to home. Let me tell you of an incident which occurred on a train journey I made between Bangalore and Chennai a few years back.My ticket was RAC - the first in the list . So if there were any cancellations, ideally I would have been the first to be allotted a berth. As soon as I got into the train , I asked the TTE if there were any vacant berths. He kept brushing me off. After some time he came to see me and said, "Berth 17 is free. You can use that. But when I am doing something for you , you need to do something for me". You could have knocked me down with a feather. I had a rush off blood to my face and I told him clearly, "I know berth 17 is free. I also know if there is any vacant berth I should be given first allotment. Inspite of this if I do not get a berth and I see someone else using that berth , I will ask that person for his ticket. If that person does not have a valid ticket, the first thing I will do tomorrow morning is get down at Chennai Railway Station and register a complaint against you. I do not care how many days I have to take leave but I will ensure the complaint reaches its logical conclusion". The TTE just stared at me and left. After some time he came to me and allotted me another berth. Thinking back I sometimes wonder what made me react this way. Maybe I had not yet become cynical , maybe it was the fact that I was alone and did not have a family to worry about. Would it have been different if I was travelling with loved ones ? I hope not.
I sometimes feel we have the spirit of Gandhism imbued in ourselves so strongly that we prefer to see our escapism as an act of Ahimsa. We even have manufactured a phrase for this - "Chalta hai". Edmund Burke rightly said , "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing".
I recently read a poem , the last two lines of which went - Any fool can write a poem but only God can create a Tree . Similarly, I offer no solutions here. We need , maybe not a God ( even if one exists, I do not think he would be bothered to help a people who have nothing to offer in return except prayers ) , but certainly a Hercules to clean the Aegean stables that "Mera Bharat Mahan" has become.

Tapori Talk

Bole to apun jaise tapori ka bhi www main address ho gaya. Ab sab janta log apun se baat kar sakta hai aur apun sabko feedback doonga. Feedback bole to tension nahin lene ka. Jaise Lion King main woh suvar ka bachha bola thha "Hakuna Matata".