Saturday, November 29, 2008

terror in Mumbai - stray thoughts

As I type this post, the latest episode of terror in Mumbai appears to be over. Just as most other citizens of our country, I too felt sad, frustrated and helpless. I also felt guilty watching the happenings from the comfort of our drawing room with out missing my food or sleep and alternatively tuning into NDTV and my favourite serial.

I am usually cynical about the media coverage of events, but this time I felt that most of the anchors were really feeling what they were talking and I was glad that there were no commercial breaks.

There was lot of talk and suggestions about all political parties and leaders coming together to find a solution but I agree with Pranoy roy’s statement. He said that when the PM and Mr. Advani, both of whom had decided to travel together to Mumbai could not even co ordinate their travel plans and had to travel separately, what unity can we expect?

I appreciate the person who thought of a SMS “where is Raj Thackeray and his brave sena? tell him that 200 NSG commandos, (all south and north Indians) have been sent to Mumbai to fight the terrorists so that he can sleep peacefully in shivaji park”

I look at the NSGs with great respect and have lot of regards towards them. If there is a minor bundh call by a stray group of people, we try to remain indoors lest we may be hurt. These great men know that they should consider themselves lucky if they are back with only a few organs missing, and get into action bravely. What are the emotions of their family? What do these men feel when they wave at or kiss the infant as they go out? I never forget to tell my son to send me a SMS as soon as he reaches college, if he is going on the bike. I feel so small and silly.

I saw a shot of the smart young commandos seated in their bus, after the encounter at the Taj was almost over. There they were, calm and quiet. No euphoria, no smiles and no victory signs. ‘Karmanyeva adhikaaraste naa phaleshu kadaachana” they had done their job, not bothered about the results and now were sitting like “sthitapragnyas” with out showing any emotions. True karmayogis, following the teachings of Bhagavdgita. I fold my hands.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

terrorism all pervading

This blogging is turning out to be an obsession. I try to make a writing out of whatever I see, experience or hear. I saw this crow’s nest on top of the tree next to my house and took a photograph. I did not know what to do with it.
I also saw this nest of a sun bird on the same tree. My wife pointed it out to me and said that this bird is a stupid bird because it has built the nest hanging on the stalk of a single leaf. She felt that if the leaf is shed, the nest is gone. I told her that the bird knows what it is doing and she need not label it as stupid. But apparently this bird is really stupid. This morning the nest is not there any more. It has fallen along with the leaf. And the bird is frantically searching for it’s nest. Since it had seen me near the window quite often, it might have felt that I may be the culprit and is trying to look in my window too. The result is more words for me to eat. One of the comments for one of my previous posts said that the rate at which I am eating words, I should be quite large. Appears to be true. My weight has gone up by three kilos. Now my wife takes a dig at me and says that I am the one who will need a new weighing machine.
The picture of the flowers mercifully has no stories attached. I saw this blast of flowers in a low swampy area near my house and took the pictures for the heck of it.

As I am typing all this, there is the disturbing news of terrorist attacks in Mumbai making it difficult to go on with my usual narration. Even though it does not directly affect me and I have no active role to play in controlling it, I feel very much disturbed. Any break in the peaceful routine troubles me. Whether it is a bundh some where, a bus strike, train accident or even a traffic jam.(which can be easily avoided if only people retain some sense while driving) I just can not imagine the plight of people directly affected by it. If my son were to be in Bombay now, on his way back from Durgapur would it have been possible for me to keep typing this piece calmly? So much loss of property, funds and human resources. And what a frantic situation for lakhs of people. I feel we as a country are losing inch by inch. What can we do to put an end to all these? And I wish the TV channels stop calling it a STORY. Burkha dutt of all people, whose speech usually is OK. But then, unfortunately that is the truth. unless we are involved, these are only stories for us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

innovative birthday gift

I saw this weighing machine on the open platform of a non descript station ( I have forgotten the name) on the Hubli- Bangalore route. Our train had stopped there for a crossing and I was out as I feel fidgety sitting in a stationary train. On such occasions I aimlessly stroll up and down the platform, stretching and bending every few steps. I Walk up to the tea stall or cigarette shop and observe people smoking, eating and drinking. I try the taps to see if water is running, look if sand is filled in the red FIRE buckets, (which give a lot of information on the pan eating habits of the local populace) peep into the station master’s room, TTE’s room and waiting room etc etc. If there is further delay I read the notices on the notice board, read the posters and pamphlets of the railway worker’s union which are pasted all over the stations, go through the shift list of the staff, and such other things which nobody ever reads. My wife sits in the carriage observing my imbecile activities, fuming alone and rehearsing the words to be delivered on my reentry into the carriage.

During our recent journey I was once again inspecting the railway station and my son who is ‘like father like son’, had joined me. He covered the luggage room which I had overlooked and spotted this machine. He was excited with the fact that it had been manufactured a hundred years before he was born. I made a detailed study of it from all angles and since there was no porter nearby to shoo me away, pressed the weighing bed with my toe and confirmed that it is working well. I was enamoured with the machine which had been manufactured in 1881 in England- more than 125 years ago- and which is still in use. It is an antique piece doing it’s job with out any pretence or fuss! Since I was interested in it, my son took a photograph with his mobile phone- which has no use other than assisting such ‘time pass’ activities.

Since I had the photograph I decided to post it on the blog with a small caption and the additional useless information gleaned from the history of the railways. I wanted to know how long has the station been there and found that the Gubbi-Birur section came into existence in 1889. Sri Chamaraja Wodeyar was ruling the Mysore state then. Small caption ended up two paragraphs long.

My wife looked over my shoulder at the photograph and asked me what am I up to? I thought that I will have a joke at her expense and said that I am thinking of a birthday gift for her as I am worried about the health of our present bathroom scale.

The result of the joke is that I am unable to type any further and my son is typing the last paragraph as I dictate. He already has a dozen SMSs waiting to be replied and has refused to oblige further. Bye for now.

Ashwin: Cheap joke which turned out to be costly for appa. Some Garfield cartoons which I had seen him reading recently might have influenced him and since it was near midnight he must have been half asleep and had lost the power of discretion.
He has asked me to post this. If you do not see any more posts for the next fifteen days you may send him a ‘get well soon’ message. Another point, it is true that I was there on the platform and took the photograph of the weighing machine with my mobile. But I strongly object to the ‘like father- like son’ tag.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

words for breakfast

She : I intend planting a banana plant in our garden.
Me : I do not intend planting any more plants. As it is, we are not able to take care of what we have planted already.
She : I do water the plants.
Me : Once a week. And that is all they get.
She : What else do they need?
Me : If you want to maintain a garden you need to weed, spray the plants, add manure and water them EVERY DAY.
She : We are not professional gardeners. We only have a home garden. Yesterday evening I went to the market, the day before I had to visit Parkar’s house for pooja. Otherwise I water the plants daily.
Me : That apart, there is no space for any more plants. You have filled all the space with whatever rubbish your friends have offered. Any way, we will see when we get a sapling of good variety.
She: Mrs. Joshi called. She said that we can take the one that they have in their house.
Me : Mrs Joshi stays in the third floor. I am sure she is not growing banana in her flat.
She : She is not growing any. They had brought two saplings for decoration during Ganapati pooja.
Me : But Ganapati pooja was last week.
She : She said that she has retained the saplings after dismantling the mantap.
Me : You intend bringing the saplings which have been uprooted five days back? Don’t you have any sense? Mrs Joshi does not want to climb down three floors and walk to the garbage bin and she wants you to do it. Don’t be a fool. Forget about it.

We visited the Joshi’s a day after the above dialogue for some other reason. I did not see any banana plant.

The next day my son opened the boot of the car.

Son : (shouting from the parking) Appa, what is it in the boot?
Me : What is there?
He : There is something which looks like a limb of a person murdered sometime back.
Me : Throw it out.
He : I have had my bath and am on the way to the college. I will not touch it. You please take it out.

It was the stem of the banana sapling. Mrs Joshi had chopped off the top to make it easy to carry and my wife had managed to smuggle it into the boot.

Me : (shouting aloud) What is this nonsense in the car.
She : (shouting back louder) Throw it out if you don’t want it.
Me : You are the one who brought it. You please do it.

I took it out and placed it next to the gate where it remained for the next five days.

Me : (after five days) It was idiotic of you to have brought that rotting banana stem. Having been stupid enough to bring it, you should have carried on your stupidity and planted it. Now Mrs Joshi feels that she has favoured us by parting with her rotting banana stem and you have to carry it to the garbage bin.

The next day the rotting stem was not near the gate. I had won the banana plant round at last. I gave a winning TOLD YOU SO look and smiled. She pointed to a corner in our garden. The banana stem had really been planted there fifteen days after having been uprooted and after having it’s head chopped off! I sighed and threw down my hands. There was no end to this lady’s stupidity.
When I watered the plants I ignored it. My wife kept watering it.

Last week I was astonished to find a thin rolled plantain leaf sprouting at the top. And this is what it is today. I ate all my words for breakfast this morning. I hope to eat the banana fruit one day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

cleaning time and Kailasam

Once a year or so, I make an attempt to clean and re arrange the small book case that we have. The intention would be to dispose off the books that have been lying un touched for years along with the redundant pamphlets and booklets which will have found a place there, clear the dust accumulated on the books, segregate the kannada and English books,
arrange the ‘favourites’ in a separate row, etc etc.
I start the work, take out and dust the books from the first shelf and the next, segregate some books prior to ‘proper arrangement’ and find myself at the centre, with piles of books, dusting cloth, discarded pamphlets and booklets surrounding me, and the dust settling around, along with ‘dustwool’ gently swirling in the breeze from the fan.
Then I open some book which I will have enjoyed reading dozens of times and randomly turn pages. I will invariably find some interesting passage or situation and start reading it again. When the phone or the doorbell rings or when a shout is heard enquiring if I have finished with the cleaning, I realise that I am yet to finish the second shelf and six more are pending. I put back all the books in the shelf in a hurry - minus the dust, and make it a point to start and finish the work at the earliest opportunity. I start the same exercise nearly after a year – with similar results.
I just repeated the exercise today. The book I opened was the complete works of Sri T P Kailasam. Born 1885. Sri. Kailasam was the son of Justice Paramashiva aiyyar. He was a geologist by training. He studied geology and graduated in England. Learnt as much, if not more, of English literature and foot ball. Was a fan of the Victorian body builder, Eugen Sandow and became an expert body builder. Retuned to India, spent some time(very little in fact) in mining, and spent all his remaining life in a room behind his father’s bungalow always surrounded by fans, eager to hear his witty words or just be with him. I gather that he had a magical personality.
His works include seventeen kannada plays, four English plays based on characters in Mahabharata, Seven kannada poems, five kannada stories, and about fifteen English poems. I have enjoyed his writings in kannada immensely but most of his english goes over my head. He did not actually 'write' any! All his works were recited by him through the night, himself lying on the bed and were written down by his close friends who knew his worth and gave up their sleep for the pleasure of listening to him and preserving his thoughts. The following is one that is with in my reach and which I have liked.

The Recipe

Into a bare handful of bones and skin
Pour just an ounce or so of flesh and blood
Put in a heart love-full as SEA in flood
Likewise a mind sea-deep and free from sin
Fix on two jumbo ears….two goo goo eyes
Paint on a smile of babe at mothers’ breast
Inclose a soul that caps Himavats’ crest
And speaks with tongue which honeys’ sweet defies!

“The stuffing?”: Goat’s milk, soya beans and dates
Now, cover to brim with suff’ring human’s tears
And bake this dish in gaol for one score years
Take out and “garnish” it with pariah mates
Wrap up in a rag, prop up with lithe bamboo
And serve: the world Redeemer : Our Bapoo!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

perennial gifts

The paarijaata flowers, for which we had been waiting, bloomed at last. And with that my thoughts turned towards flowers again. We planted the paarijaata last year and have been pampering it quite a lot. The roses grew with out much effort from us. The bunch of white roses, the red button rose and also the pink rose which is trying to make my clinic look harmless, or even pleasant, are gifts from one of my friends. The bunch in the picture is one of the hundreds that I have already received and I hope to receive many hundreds more. Similarly I have other plants one of which is seen in the picture that are treasured gifts.

Guru naik and his family were my neighbours when I was residing in the government quarters soon after I shifted to Ponda. Guru owned and drove a pick-up van and had a contract for procuring milk from the dairy farmers located in distant villages. He used to start very early in the morning to collect milk and bring it to the processing dairy at the earliest. Once the milk reached the dairy, he was at ease. I have used his van many times as a taxi, by placing chairs in the goods compartment. Guru, with his wife, three children, his mother, and his wife’s brother, owned more than hundred and fifty teeth between them and one or the other appeared in my clinic every now and then. My services were gratefully accepted and acknowledged. We had a very cordial relationship. Over the years I changed residences periodically and ended up in the one I am residing in, right now, which is my fifth in Ponda.

Guru worked hard, did well with his transport business, upgraded himself by buying tipper trucks which were put to use in mining. He repaid his loans, purchased a piece of land, built and shifted to a bigger accommodation a little away from the city. He intended retiring after his children grew and were on their legs. Unfortunately, though they were well mannered and good by nature, they were not interested in their studies. Nor were they up to hard work. To top it, one of them had an accident which made him incapable of any hard work. Guru had to keep driving his truck. He put his truck to work in mines of Karnataka and is slogging in the heat and dust. His family remained in Goa.
As a result, though I knew their whereabouts, we lost touch.

At the time of our house warming, I was trying to control the guest list and bring it to a manageable level and Guru’s family was one which I ignored.
He remembered to invite me to his daughter’s wedding, and his wife managed to search out our new house and came over to invite us.
She just expressed her surprise and said that they were not aware of my shifting to the new house. But I felt guilty and ashamed. She extended the invitation, looked at the few plants that were around and volunteered to send some cuttings for planting in our compound. After a few months, in the next rainy season, her son promptly delivered a load of rose cuttings which I planted haphazardly. I was not sure of them flourishing. But they did. I am receiving the gift of roses every day from a family which we had ignored intentionally.

Immediately after shifting my clinic here, when the part of the building was yet to be finished, I was busy getting the remaining works completed and had no time for gardening. I had given a free hand to my assistants in the clinic to bring any plants that they could find and plant them around. More than half of the flowering plants that are around my house yielding bountiful flowers, are gifts from my assistants. One of them shifted to another city after her marriage and the other left on an un pleasant note. But the sight of the plants which she had planted and the flowers, is always pleasant and make me remember both of them everyday.

While writing about flowers and gifts, this beautiful poem by the well known kannada poet Sri K S Nissar ahmad came to mind.. I do not know anything about the finer points of prose or poetry but I liked it very much. I have reproduced the poem below. Also, I have made a feeble attempt to bring out the essence of the poem in English. I hope it gives an idea of what the poet is trying to convey.

ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಗೃಹಪ್ರವೇಶದ ದಿವಸ
ಕನಿಷ್ಟರು ವರಿಷ್ಟರು ಎಂಬ ಫರಕಿಲ್ಲದೆ ನಂಟರಿಷ್ಟರು
ವಿಶ್ವಾಸವಿಟ್ಟು ಹತ್ತಿರ ದೂರದಿಂದ ಬಂದರು
ಹೊಸಮನೆ ಅಮಿತ ಸೌಭಾಗ್ಯವೆರೆಯಲಿ ಅಂದರು
ಕರೆಯೋಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬೇಡವೆನ್ದಿದ್ದರೂ
ಕಣ್ಣುಕುಕ್ಕುವ ರಂಗುರಂಗಿನ ಪ್ಯಾಕೆಟ್ಟುಗಳಸಲ್ವಾರ್ ಕಮೀಜ್ ತೊಟ್ಟು
ಸೂಚಿಸದೆ ಲವಲೇಶವೂ ಗುಟ್ಟು
ಮರೆಮಾಚಿದ ಮಿಠಾಯಿ, ಪುಷ್ಪಗುಚ್ಛ, ಕಪ್ಪು ಸಾಸರ್ ಸೆಟ್ಟು
ಗಡಿಯಾರ ಬಟ್ಟೆಬರೆ
ತಂದಿತ್ತರು ಇನ್ನು ಏನೇನೋ ಪ್ರೀತಿಯುಡುಗೊರೆ
ಮಾರನೆಯ ದಿನ ಮಿಠಾಯಿಯ ಆಯುಷ್ಯ
ಮುಗಿದಿತ್ತು ಬಾಯಿಗಳ ಬೇಟೆಗೆ
ಅದರ ಮರುದಿನ ಬಸವಳಿದ ಹೂವಿನ ಬುಕೆ
ಕಾಲಕ್ರಮೇಣ ಒಡೆದ ಕಪ್ಪು ಬಸಿಗಳ ಚಕ್ಕೆ
ಪಾವ್ತಿಯಾದವು ಬೀದಿ ತೊಟ್ಟಿಯ ಹರಿಶ್ಚಂದ್ರ ಘಾಟಿಗೆ
ಗಡಿಯಾರ ಗತಿಗೆಟ್ಟು ಉಪೇಕ್ಷೆಗೊಳಗಾಗಿ
ವಸ್ತ್ರ ಹರಿದು ನಿರುಪಯೋಗಿ
ವರ್ಗವಾದವು ಹಿನ್ಮನೆಯ ಹೆಳವ ಕಪಾಟಿಗೆ
ಇನ್ನಿತರ ಕಾಣಿಕೆಗಳ ಕಥೆ ಸಹ.

ಅಷ್ಟೇನೂ ಗುರುತಿಲ್ಲದ ನನ್ನ ಕವನಾಭಿಮಾನಿಯೋರ್ವ
ಬೆಲೆಕೊಟ್ಟು ಕೊಳ್ಳದ, ಎಂದೇ ಬೆಲೆಕಟ್ಟಲಾಗದ ಅಪೂರ್ವ
ಉಡುಗೊರೆಯೊಂದ ಅಂಜುತ್ತಲೇ ಕೊಟ್ಟ
ಕಾಗದದ ವರ್ನರನ್ಜಿತತೆಯಿಂದ ಅದಗಿಸಿಡದೆ ಒಳ ಗುಟ್ಟ
ಅರ್ಥಾತ್ ನಿತ್ಯಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಹಮ್ಬಿನೊಂದು ಕಡ್ಡಿಯ ತಂದು ಗೇಟ ಬಳಿ ನೆಟ್ಟ.

ಇಂದಿಗೂ ಒಳಹೊರಗೆ ಹಿತಮಿತ ಗಮಗಮ
ವಿದೇಶಿ ಅತ್ತರಿಗೆ ಸಮ
ನೋಟಕ್ಕೆ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಊಟ ಚಿಕ್ಕೆ ಹೂ ಹೊರೆ
ಅವನೀಗ ಆಗಿದ್ದರು ಕಣ್ಮರೆ.
Many years back, on the day of our house warming,
friends and relatives, forgetting class differences
Visited from near and far
Wishing us unbridled luck in the new house
And, even though requested to refrain,
affectionately brought
packets wrapped in bright colours
Camouflaging the contents within
sweets, bouquets, cups and saucers
Clocks and cloths and manymore loving gifts.

Life of the sweets ended in the mouth the next day
the day after, the bouquet looked strained
in due course the cups and saucers chipped
and ended up in the dust bin.
the clock lost it’s run
and along with, the cloths that were torn
were shifted to the lame cupboard in the back room.
It was a similar story with the other gifts.

An admirer of my poetry, whom I did not know well,
Hesitatingly brought a gift for which he had not paid for,
hence which was invaluable.
And it was not camouflaged in bright wrappers.
He brought a jasmine creeper and planted it next to the gate.

Even after years, the fragrance is spreading all over
Mild, like imported perfume
flowers, like stars, a feast to the eyes, grow more and more
Though the admirer is no more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

centre of attraction?

I started practicing yoga, I mean my own version of yoga - which does not follow any school of training and in which the extent to which I can flex my body and limbs determine the positions – nearly forty years ago. By nature, my body was quite flexible and I could easily manage to bend this way and that way. A casual onlooker might have felt that I have been wrestling with myself, or have been searching for a foot hold in the space, but a person who had some knowledge of yogic positions and had seen some, could find a resemblance, though distant, between my positions and some in the book. One of my cousins, who once saw me torturing myself, decided to help me torture myself in a systematic way and presented me with a book on yoga. It did not make me perform better, but I learnt all the names and could call my positions by some name or the other in the book. I could impress few of my uninitiated friends and relatives with my expertise in yoga.

Our house had a roof which of course every house has, but no facility to climb on to it. Climbing on to the roof was by itself a challenge and I had mastered the art of jumping on to the compound wall, then on to the ‘chajja’ or the sun shade ( a projection of a concrete slab from the top of the window as a barrier from sun and rain- I do not know the English equivalent for the word) and from there on to the roof. This, I performed many times a day just out of amusement and sometimes out of compulsion. There was no way that my younger brother, whose wrong emotions I sometimes kindled, connect his stick to my body once I jumped on to the roof. In due course, his limbs grew and he learnt to climb on to the roof and was as good as myself in the art. When I realized this the first time, I was stuck on the roof. The only way out for me was to jump down from that height, which I did and still managed to keep my limbs attached to my body. In due course I mastered the art of jumping down also and could impress or shock people by the display of my skills.

As I grew, I mean bodily - many of those who know me insist that I have never grown mentally – I learnt to work out, on the parallel bars, horizontal bars and slings in the nearby park. I could swing with my arms skillfully on the parallel bars, do dozens of pull ups on the horizontal bars, hang by my legs etc and used to get exclamations of appreciation from the group of youth who were around trying out similar acts.

These are all old stories, and now, even though I try to fool myself that I can still manage to do some of the antics, my body does not agree. There is an ongoing fight between me and my limbs. I coax them to act as they once used to and they protest. If forced, they damage themselves and oppose my efforts. And my profession is very helpful in damaging the back and neck. As a result, at least one of my limbs or a part of my back and neck, is always strained and sore, limiting my gymnastic and yogic adventures.

Right now, I am on a holiday and am in Chennai. My sister resides close to the beach and very early in the morning yesterday, I went for a walk on the beach road. There were hundreds of people, most of them as old as or older than me, goading their limbs to move, trying to match the pace of ‘Vishnu sahasranama’ or the ‘suprabhata’ on their MP3 players, and I joined the crowd. I walked along the road for some time and then even managed to jog the length of the road twice. I was happy to note that my limbs were not protesting. Then I noticed that some parallel bars and horizontal bars were installed on the beach and next to them some facilities to do weight lifting and associated exercises.
There were a group of young people who were trying out these facilities. I could see that though they were doing weight lifting and associated exercises quite well, they were not able to bend and stretch to the full or work the bars. On an impulse I decided to exhibit my expertise in the field and establish an aura of awe around my grey head. I walked over to the arena, did some good stretching and bending followed by some yoga exercises. I was expecting at least one or two to stop their work and look. No body cared about the old man with white hair, trying to look young with the help of matching white shoes, and contrast black shorts and T shirt. Then I decided to do some pull ups which many of them were attempting with out success. I was sure to get the appreciation my decades of practice deserved. When I went near the horizontal bar, those who were close by made way for me, wondering what this old man was up to. I stood below the bar, did some stretching and swung my arms wide ready to jump and hold the bar. Now many pairs of eyes were on me. I jumped, had just caught the bar, but my fingers slipped and I fell on my back on to the sand with a thud. It must have been a very good show. People all round had stopped their exercises and walks and were looking at me with amusement. One or two boys came running to assist me get up. Those who had missed the action were curious to know what the fuss was about and the witnesses to the spectacle were eager to explain, pointing at me. I did get the attention I was hoping to get and was reminded of the Sanskrit verse, which – if I am right- goes
“Ghatam bindyaat, patam chindyaat kuryaat raasabharohaNam
EnakEnaprakaarEna prasiddha purushObhava.”

Break the pot, tear the cloth and (if necessary) ride on a donkey. Somehow or the other, Be famous.

PS: my understanding of Sanskrit is as good as my performance of yoga. If you do not know Sanskrit, I insist that the verse and my translation are correct.