Saturday, December 2, 2017

Repaid Kindness.

Fruits form a major part of my diet. More the merrier. If there is nothing else, at least a banana is compulsory in my breakfast and dinner. My father was known for his partiality towards fruits. He would walk barefoot but would be extravagant while buying fruits. He always bought the best. Like all 60+ people I make the statement “these days I have not even seen fruits of such a quality as those which my father used to bring when we were children” and I mean it. May be the affinity is in the genes.

When we shifted to this place, where we have little bit of space around the house, I planted few fruit bearing trees. I watered and manured them, pruned them, protected them from cattle and in general took care of them. Now they have grown up and are yielding. Every morning I spend a few minutes searching for fruits hidden among the leaves. I do get some, now and then. Sri Krishna in his Bhagavadgeeta says “ma phaleshu kadachana - You are not entitled to the fruits of your labour”, meaning, don’t expect any fruits from your labour. He probably never planted trees. He was a cowherd. If you have planted a tree, you can’t help searching for fruits. As I understand, he meant "ma phaleshu kadachana" in a broader spiritual sense and I accept that his advice is sound. I try to adhere to it in other facets of life, but ignore it while looking for fruits in the tree.

Some of the trees which have given me satisfactory returns are the Chikoo, Guava, Plantains and Coconut. The chikoo is now a full grown tree and is the best of the lot. In fact I just got quite a few last week. I have purchased a contraption for plucking the ones that are beyond reach. It is being put into good use and I am able to lay my hands on what was earlier the confirmed share of fruit bats and birds.

Papaya is one fruit which is liked by everyone at home but I have not been able to grow it successfully. I did plant some but it is impossible to protect them from monkeys. Monkeys love papaya and they don’t  wait for the fruits. They just tear away the tender leaves and twigs and eat them. My plants never had a chance to grow. One or two of them escaped the monkey’s attention but still had a stunted growth and  grudgingly gave out some fruits little bigger than a lemon. I was disappointed. We don’t get good variety of papayas in the market these days. All that we get are the ones which I have  shown here.

They look diseased and are tasteless. They never ripen well. A part of the fruit is still unripe when the other side is already starting to rot. And depending on your luck you may find  one among the ten really worth eating. I buy them as there is no alternative. Good papayas are not available in the market even if you are ready to pay a price for them.

A man came to the clinic few days back complaining of a terrible toothache and begging me to remove the offending tooth. Since it was not possible to remove the tooth then and there, I advised him to take some medications and  comeback after a few days. He enquired about my fee but did not appear to be strong enough to bear the load of my fees as well as the cost of medicines. So, I waived my fees off. You may consider it a kindness if you so wish.

I saw him standing in front of my house early in the morning two days later when I returned from my walk. I told him that he is too early for his extraction and asked him to come a little later.  He said that he has no pain at all and did not want the tooth removed. He handed me a plastic bag and left in a hurry. I was overjoyed to find in the bag among half a dozen plantains, a nice plump papaya with a blemishless yellowish orange skin, fully ripe and just right to be cut. It contained a thick, creamy and sweet pulp and it was years since we had got such a tasty fruit. It made our morning breakfast and my day! I have saved to seeds to make another attempt at growing papayas.

I had mentioned about my kindness towards the man. I consider my kindness repaid many times over!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

IFFI 2017 - A grouchy old man's wrong notes.

During my visit to Panaji yesterday, I saw the frantic preparations going on around our capital, Panaji, for the 48th IFFI.  Panaji roads were having a hurried hot mixing, some hurried construction work to ‘beautify’ the city  and other arrangements to successfully host the Film Festival. Shah rukh Khan came, Smriti Irani came, Sridevi came and a glamorous opening ceremony was held at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium. We are spending crores of rupees to showcase our small state as a place to keep in mind, when the question of holding big festivals comes up. A proud moment for all citizens like you and me.

Overwhelmed with the greatness of our state which has hosted more than a dozen IFFIs, I wrote the above lines. Then I thought for a moment. Thought for another moment. Yet another moment. But no. I did not know the purpose of holding an international film festival! Have you any idea? Don’t tell me you are as ignorant as me. I thought my friends are much better. You see, a man is known by the company he keeps and I don’t want the company I keep to be as bad as I am!  Anyway, since there was no one knowledgeable around to answer my question, I went to the greatest guru of all. The guru with a big G. He/she said  - I quote - “the festival aims at providing a common platform for the cinemas of the world to project the excellence of the film art; contributing to the understanding and appreciation of film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world”

Now look at me. The excellence of the film art has been projected forty eight times since I was twelve years old, fourteen of them just a stone throw away from me, (with lots of noise, fanfare and of course, expenditure) and I have never noticed it! Nor have I any understanding of the film cultures in the context of social and cultural ethos of the countries around the world, in spite of my government trying to educate me by bringing those films close to me by spending crores! And I never saw any increase in friendship and cooperation between me and other distant inhabitants of this world!  I am a real frog in the well if ever there was one.

I hope, you my friends, are better than me and have absorbed all the above knowledge and if yes, please explain to me, in simple words, what you have seen and learnt.

As far as I am concerned, a movie or a film is produced by a producer to make some money. A director directs it to make his money. An actor acts in it to make his (lots, as I hear) money. The movie is distributed by a distributor and is projected in a theater by people who are interested in raking up their share of money. I, when I have nothing else to do and have money to spare, (and  lose my mind because of that) pay through my nose, go, see, whistle, laugh and cry and come back thinking that the money was well spent and that I have been entertained well. Me, who paid and all those who earned, are quits.

If someone ( like the above mentioned movie connected fellows) intends achieving all the above mentioned blah blah blah goals and have a happy time for a week in the bargain, they are welcome to spend their money and have a good time. Why should I pay for their education and an opportunity for our politicians to pose with the filmy glitz?

If I did not learn something in forty eight years even after my government putting in its best efforts, I am not going to learn it. It is high time my government stopped spending my money to make me understand and appreciate “film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world” .

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Amthanem Dam - October 2017

Last weekend we went for a overnight stay near the Amthanem dam in Goa. The water from the reservoir flows out through a private property and the owner has walled the sides of the canal to make it a pool and has built some cottages next to it. It is somewhat remote and quite pleasant. It was already dark when we reached there and we could not see either the dam or the surroundings. Hence we cooked our semi prepared food and sat around the table which contained the ingredients required to make the evening pleasant, trying our best to ensure that we leave the place with lighter bags and heads. I set out early next morning and spent about an hour walking around the dam. The following pictures are taken during the walk.

I walked over the embankment before sunrise when it was just light enough to see around.

Followed the pathway at the end of the dam to reach the Amthanem Village.

When I returned, the sun was rising over the reservoir.

The narrow road on the embankment. 

My friends posed for me.

A view of the place where we stayed. 

The pool which contains plenty of fish which give you a free pedicure. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

(Un) Lucky 7

More and more problems that the casino vessel Lucky seven faces, the more and more pleased I am!  I believe this mentality of deriving pleasure from other’s misfortune, is called Schadenfreude. Tongue twisting and difficult to spell. But I am that - as far as the lucky seven is concerned. Someone has simplified the word to ‘eviljoy’. Not proper english but gives the proper meaning.

Coming to casinos, it is not just the Lucky Seven that I hate. I hate all casinos. I mean all of those which are cluttering the Mandovi. I would be very happy to read in the newspapers one morning “All Casinos in Mandovi sink”. It would be a nightmare for salvagers but it is OK. I would go there as a volunteer to help.

Now, please don’t read me wrong. I am not against gambling or against any other vice for that matter. I am for all of them and rue the fact that I do not have any! In fact I feel a vice in an otherwise blemishless (or seemingly blemishless) person enhances the stature. Like a dash of black on the Wimbledon player’s shorts and shoes. What I am against is the off shore casinos which have marred the beautiful view of river Mandovi and are polluting it.

If what I read in the newspapers is right, the Goan society in general is against casinos in the river. The government initially agreed with the sentiment and promised to kick them out but now it says that no new licences would be given. Meaning, the half a dozen which are already in, would be there for ever. And no new licences would be issued because there is just no space to put another ship there!

In spite of that, our intelligent CM allowed the entry of one more, the Unlucky seven, into Mandovi and claimed that  he is just following the high court order. He wisely masked the fact that the high court ordered the entry on technical grounds like the government accepting the licence fee but keeping the file pending. Then he further justified his action saying that the state needs the revenue generated by these casinos. If it is the revenue that matters and not the way it is generated, I suggest that we allow off shore massage parlours also along the Mandovi and I assure our CM that they would generate even more revenue!

All this thoughts about casinos came out because when I read the news of this Lucky7, driven by a storm, landing on Miramar beach instead of anchoring in Mandovi - my first thought was that it was not a storm that pushed it there but the collective ill will of the citizens of Goa. If there is something called will power which can make the impossible possible, is it not possible that a collective will power could shove a vessel off its course? Now it seems that the vessel has developed a hole in the bottom. It is not likely to arrive in the Mandovi soon. I wish the vessel more and more trouble and request like minded citizens to add their will power to my wish!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sarzora Lake - A Short Outing.

It is weeks or may be months since I found something to write about and put it here. I still haven't found anything worthwhile but we visited a man made lake today, the surroundings of which was very appealing. I took some pictures and posted them here. Instead of just posting the pictures wrote  few lines too, just to retain the touch.  

Rainy season is my favourite season.  When it starts raining in Goa, it usually goes on for weeks. You wont find one dry spot anywhere around the house, washed clothes remain wet for days, at least a dozen varieties of insects and worms would be crawling all over our front yard, my patients step gingerly on the algae covered side walk and we never get a chance to fold our umbrellas. 

It is the peak rainy season now but we are yet to witness what we can call a good pour. It hasn’t rained for more than half an hour at a stretch. Needless to say my spirits are low. It has been raining sporadically, the surroundings are greener and weather somewhat bearable. But that’s it.

We decided to make the best of a dry evening and went to see a man made lake which my son had visited earlier and found to be worth another visit. The place is Sarzora, about half way between Margao and Quepem. I was hoping to see a overflowing lake but it was not so. Still, there was some water in it and the surroundings were green and picturesque. It is not very well known and hence devoid of water bottles and beer cans. (I have nothing against beer drinkers but hate their ability to select the best of naturally beautiful places and destroy the beauty in the shortest possible time by filling it with empty beer cans.)

I hope against hope that people remain sensible and allow the place to remain as it is. The house by the way is a classic old house which we saw on the way. I envy the people who get to live there but not the trouble they have to face in maintaining it as to make  people like me, more so my son, go gaga.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Can Your Age Mask Your Stupidity?

I was in the clinic doing nothing worthwhile. One of the consultants who visits my clinic was attending to a patient. It was a young boy and his parents were standing closeby, anxiously watching what was going on. (Though all they could see was the back of the consultant’s head).  I had nothing to do. In fact, there was no need for me to be in the clinic at all but my patients feel better if I am around. This is not my statement. Patients say that! God knows what makes them feel so, it blows up my head! Well, anyway, In such a situation, I either occupy myself writing some nonsense like this and forcing it on others or if I cannot conceive anything, try to be harmless with reading a book or listening to some music on my laptop.  

It was the same scene yesterday. I put on some music, plugged my ears with the earpiece and was listening. ( I don’t like these ear plugs.They keep falling off my ears and I have to repeatedly push them in and hold my head in one particular position to keep them in place. But I have to use them because of the presence of others in the clinic and what I listen to, may not be ‘music’ to their ears!). It was a lively classical composition of carnatic style and without my knowledge my fingers were tapping on the table.  My consultant asked me what was so interesting and I disconnected the earphone and put the speaker on for a moment so that she could hear and appreciate it. By then somebody called at the door and I switched the music off and went out to answer.

I returned after few minutes, placed the earphones in my ears again and switched the music on. It was now  hindustani classical, ‘Bhairavi’ By Panditi Bhimsen Joshi. Usually Pandit Joshi’s  rendition is robust but here, I felt that the sound was very low. I increased the volume. Now, I could hear the music but felt it would sound better if the volume was even higher. There must have been something wrong with the recording. I turned the volume to full and felt that was OK. The consultant raised her head and looked at me. I smiled and signalled it was fine. She and the boy’s parents exchanged some words but I concentrated on the music and did not interfere.

Some time later my son entered the clinic. He is also a dentist and he puts in a cameo appearance in my clinic now and then. The consultant who was working was his good friend. As soon as he entered he covered his ears with his palms, came close to me and said

“What is wrong with you? Why have you kept the volume so high?”
“There is something wrong with this stupid YOU TUBE, the sound is very low. I can hardly hear anything”

“What do you mean  low? I could hear it in the next room and came to see what is happening”

Then he looked at the lap top and said

“Wah, No wonder the volume is low. You have put the earphones in your ears but haven’t connected them to the laptop. You are the one who is stupid. Not YOU TUBE”

Then the tube in my head clicked on. I had detached the earphone from the computer so that the consultant could hear the music but later I had not connected it again. I had only plugged my ears with the earphones and had switched the music on. The faint sound that I was hearing was actually the blaring lap top, filtered by my ear plugs! Thinking that something was wrong with the recording I had taken the volume beyond the tolerable limit of others and they had been politely bearing with the volume and my stupidity.

I was very much embarrassed for having made a fool of myself. I switched the music off, took out the ear pieces and addressed everybody present.

“ I am so sorry. It was so stupid of me. I did not notice that I haven’t connected the earphones to the computer” And to save my face, I added

“ I think it is my age”  ( I completed sixty last september and am now allowed a reasonable margin in my social behaviour)

My son smiled and bent low

“Good try” he whispered “ but you can’t always mask your stupidity with your age!”  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Naayi Bandaavo Benhatti .......... (Dogs Are Behind Me)

The four stalwarts out of the eight title holders of the first 250 mts of my walking path.
It is five in the morning. Still dark outside. Though the summer makes the interiors stuffy, outdoors is refreshingly cool.  As I step out, I can feel the scent of the jasmines wafting in the air. I stop for a few seconds to enjoy the fragrance and start walking. I turn into the only road around my house that is not yet dug up for laying the sewerage pipes. I am surprised to find my muscles and joints not protesting my attempt of a brisk walk. May be they are still sleeping. I decide to utilize the opportunity and start jogging very slowly so as not to wake them up and proceed cautiously along the edge of the road. A part of my brain starts chanting the “Sahasranama” a sacred verse, which I have by heart, and which is now almost involuntary. (Sahasranaama once is twenty minutes. I don’t need a watch to keep time of my run!)  The other Part gives way to many of the flippant and useless thoughts that occupy the mind when there is nothing else. To put it in short, I am chanting, I am lost in my thoughts and am jogging peacefully.

Suddenly there is a sharp bark close to me and a street dog which might have been lurking unseen amongst the heap of mud and trash by the roadside  jumps up on me. My heart skips a beat, my chanting stops (and I forget where I was), brain shifts in an instant from peaceful to dreadful thoughts. I stop in my tracks and attempt to scare the dog away by shouting at it. I try to show that I am not scared but  have started sweating and my legs are shaking. The dog also stops in its tracks and looks at me with a very innocent face as if questioning me “why are you shouting?”. It walks back to its heap of mud and curls up as if nothing happened.

Nothing happened to the dog. But my pleasant morning and the peaceful reverie is shattered. Now all my senses are alert looking for other unseen dogs which I imagine lurking behind the fences and shrubs and I can’t make myself chant or jog anymore. I am jarred. I start walking wearily and curse myself for not getting my stick along. Not that it would have made any difference. I don't think I am capable using a stick against street dogs effectively. I would have just felt better. But the stick has its disadvantages too. It attracts attention. I have noticed that dogs which just ignore other walkers, bark at me when I pass by carrying a stick. And a stick is Ok if you are walking. If you suddenly shift to jogging (as I often do ), it is a hindrance and sometimes tends to get entangled with your legs.  In spite of all these, I do feel better with a stick in my hand.

People who know dogs and their ways tell me that I should take it easy and the dog did not mean any harm. It was bored spending the night alone and just jumped at me to express happiness over finding company and tried to exchange pleasantries. May be. But I am bugged.

I am jealous about people who can get pally with dogs. I meet a gentleman who comes walking on the same road everyday. As soon as he is seen at a distance, the dogs run towards him vigorously wagging their tails and without barking. They prance around him and he bends down, pats them on the head, mumbles something in their ears and proceeds on his walk. The dogs come back smiling as if blessed and if I happen to be close by, growl at me and go back to their places. I am not as gifted. Hence I prefer to maintain my distance. My policy is just peaceful coexistence. I never trouble them and expect similar courtesy in return. But how will I make them understand?

The stretch of road which I love and on which the dogs have ownership rights.
Not that they are intent up on troubling me always. I am fated to be troubled by them! I will tell you what happened yesterday. The road I go walking  is about a kilometre long. I walk up and down the road several times making up the distance that I want to cover.  There are four groups of dogs along the road and they have divided it amongst themselves into four parts. Each group claims a territory of about 250 mtrs and they zealously guard their territory. When I started jogging yesterday there were about two dogs of each group sleeping next to the road guarding their places. I finished a full lap passing all eight dogs twice and they left me to myself. I finished one lap and turned about for the second. Just as I turned the Pavwala (fellow who sells bread) came along on his bicycle and one of the street dogs, which is his pet, ran in front of the bicycle. The moment this dog got into the next territory all hell broke loose. There was a lot of barking yelping and fighting. I was jogging just behind the pavwala. Luckily for me the dogs were busy with themselves and did not notice me. But the noise thus created alerted the dogs of the next territory and they came charging on to the road barking and baring their teeth, eager for a good fight.  By then the pavwala turned back and his dog (which was the cause of disturbance) went back with him.The charged up dogs which came rushing on to the road saw their target disappearing at a distance but found me on the road instead. Since they did not like to loose the pent up charge they decided to make do with me for their target practice! All of them rushed forward baying for my blood. I had to do a lot of waving the stick and dancing on the road before they reluctantly gave up and went back.
A lone watchman of the third territory.
What I mean to say is it is just my fate and I have to be resigned to it. Santa Shishunaala Sharif must have had similar experiences in his life with dogs. That is why he compared his fellow men who barked at him for no reason to street dogs and composed his song  “Naayi Bandaavo Benhatti”.

Shishunaala Sharif was a 19 th century saint poet, who was born a Muslim and who took a Hindu Guru. Both the teacher and disciple are said to have worked for the unity of the two communities. The guru, Govinda Bhatta was accused by the hindus because he took a muslim disciple and Sharif was targeted by muslims because he accepted a hindu guru. (In a way they succeeded in uniting the two communities - in hating the 'Guru - Shishya' combine!) Sharifa called it 'barking for the sake of barking', ignored them and compared them to street dogs in his famous composition, 'Naayi Bandaavo benhatti'.

“Naayi bandaavo benhatti, naaraayaNa, naayi Bandaavo benhatti.
Naayi andare naayi alla, maanava janmada heena naayi,
Jnaanaananda tiLiyadantha shwaanaanandadoLu dundhe”

“Barking dogs are chasing me, Oh god, dogs are chasing me.
Not the street dogs but wretched human dogs,
Who can't experience the bliss of enlightenment but enjoy acting like street dogs!"

This song is one of my favourites and I wanted to provide a link to the song. Though I tried my best I could not find it. I only got a 'Disco' version which I hate but could not upload even that. Hence I decided to sing myself. Sorry for the assault on your senses. Please close your eyes and ears and listen with your heart. That may help you forgive me! And if it is any solace, I did not sing the full song, only the first two verses. (If you are lucky, your mobile will refuse to recognise my video and you will not hear the song!)