Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kausalyaa Suprajaaraamaa....................

Kausalyaa suprajaarama poorvaa sandhyaa pravartate
Utthishta narashaardoola kartavyam daivamaahnikam

I don’t think that there is any one in India – at least in south India, who cannot immediately relate these words to the melodious sing-song recital of Sri Venkateshwara suprabhatam by the legendary Smt M.S. Subbalaksmi.

The moment I hear or even think about it I go back to the Saturday mornings of my primary school days. Those days, Saturday was something we looked forward to. The daily classes were from 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday was ‘morning class’ - 8.00 am to 10.30 am. We had only four short periods out of which one was sports. Verymuch bearable. And, after finishing the school we still had plenty of Saturday and the whole of Sunday for ourselves.

Monday through Friday, we ate our - just off the stove - lunch at 9AM, scalding our hands and tongue and rushed to catch the peak hour crowded bus, pushing in through the mass of bodies with our bulging bags getting stuck between bulging stomachs, to reach the school by 10 AM, panting and sweating. Whole day of arithmetic, geography and English grammar in store for us. There was a break for lunch but the packed lunch was usually the same rice and sambhar or rice and curds that we had had in the morning which was now dry and with an additional metallic taste of our brass lunch boxes.

Saturdays were different. We got up early on Saturdays, spent a few minutes warming ourselves in front of the wood fire used for heating the bath water,- a great pleasure - then had a refreshing hot bath which felt so nice in the cold weather, drank a warm glass of milk and walked to the bus stop enjoying the warm rays of the rising sun, carrying a light bag with few books and no lunch box. The bus used to be empty with seats to choose, the window seats or sometimes, even the seat next to the driver (the biggest privilege). School was not at all bad with only four periods and we would be back home before noon for lunch. Mother usually made something special as the children were eating at home in the afternoon. The rest of the day for play. Marbles, gilli – danda or spinning tops. What a contrast!

Saturday WAS special. But what made it even better was Smt Subbalakshmi’s Venkateshwara Suprabhatam which was aired on All India Radio every Saturday morning. It started just as we left home but we did not miss even one verse during our walk to the bus stop as none of the radio sets in the houses on the way strayed from the Suprabhatam when it was on. Perhaps people did not want to miss any of it as they moved around the house on morning chores, and so it was set louder and could be clearly heard from the street. I relished that walk to the bus stop on Saturdays. And I almost had the Suprabhatam by heart.

I have heard many other singers reciting Suprabhatam and Vishnu sahasranamam and even though some of my friends insist that they are as good or even better than MS in enunciation and rendition, I feel none can match her. That is probably because these new cassettes and CDs are made with sales in mind, while MS sang with god in mind.

Now, let me come to the reason for bringing this subject up today. We had a cassette of Suprabhatam and my wife used to put it on our partly broken cassette player now and then. Our coastal weather is perfect for spoiling tapes and recorders and within a short time our tape was giving out all scratchy sounds and bits of Suprabhatam in between. I asked her to throw the cassette out and buy a new one. My wife, who thinks twice before throwing out even a dead rat, insisted that it is fine and persevered with it. I could not bear the torture for long and one day while I was clearing unwanted clutter, of which there is no dearth in our house, I cleared out this tape too.

A few days later my wife wanted to play the cassette and looked for it in the usual spots on top of the refrigerator and behind the microwave oven and having failed to get it, came and stood in front of me.
“Did you throw the cassette out?”
“What cassette? Why will I throw anything out?”
“You need no reason to throw things out. It is a wonder that I still exist in this house. If I stop moving for a few hours I will go into the garbage bin”
“I have no intentions of buying a giant garbage bin and you are safe. But, which cassette are you talking about? Why accuse me?”
“Don’t try your innocence with me. I cannot find the Suprabhatam cassette. There is no one else who can be responsible for its disappearance. I only need confirmation.”

I evaded the court of enquiry as best as I could but was pronounced guilty and the sentence was passed.

“Now, get me another cassette immediately.”

I was under the impression that the Suprabhatam being so famous it should be available in any music shop but I was wrong. I tried all the shops in Panaji and Margao but could not find the cassette or CD. I promised my wife that I would buy one when I visited Bangalore next time. A visit to Bangalore is always a rush and I could not get them in one or two shops that I enquired.

“I know that you only made a half hearted attempt in the second rate street corner shops selling ‘wooden’ music. (bollywood, tollywood, sandalwood and other woods). I cannot believe Venkateshwara supraabhatam is not available in Bangalore, however bad the present day tastes are.”

I offered to recite it every morning myself.

“Thanks for your consideration. You need not take extra pains to ruin my days.”

So, this time when my son came home on vacation she pestered him and made him down load, upload, middle load or do whatever they do to make the computer sing and ‘cut’ a CD. I commented that the CD looked as shiny and round even after it was ‘cut’ and so, may not work. My son thanked me for my observation and suggested that there is no need for unnecessary exhibition of ignorance and requested me to restrict my observations to dentistry.

This morning my wife had put this new CD on, filling our living room with the glorious melody of M S’s voice. It made our maid servant Sayeeda bi pause in her work of wiping the floor and listen to it. She listened quietly for a minute and said “didi, what is that you have put on your CD player? I cannot understand it but it feels so very nice to hear that!”

Smt.MS has put her soul into that recital and it sure touches souls.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

today's news

Since the last few days there is something or the other item in the newspaper which I feel is worth mentioning. What impressed me today is the Supreme Court saying “if you have such strong religious sentiments and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote”. This was during the course of hearing of arguments on a petition challenging the election commission’s stand that it will not issue the voter ID cards unless muslim women who follow ‘purdah’ take the veil off and get themselves photographed.

The ridiculous petition wanted muslim women following ‘purdah’ to be photographed with their ‘burkha’s on (!) and voter cards issued.

I am not a hindu fundamentalist rejoicing over something going against muslim fundamentalists. I am fed up of our politicians bending backwards and accommodating all whims and fancies of any section of society if they feel there are a few votes at stake and was very happy to see the election commission asserting itself and the Supreme Court holding the decision up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Govindaa….., Gooovindaa……….. and other unrelated matters.

I had visited the holy shrine of Tirupati about tweleve years back. I had had a face to face with Lord Venkateshwara for a second, after waiting in the queue for seven and a half hours. After the experience, I had resolved to maintain my contact with the lord only at spiritual level and if necessary, visit any of his lookalike representatives spread all over the country who are easier to approach. But the passage of years had erased many aspects of that visit from my memory. So, when a group of our relatives decided to visit Tirupati, offered to make necessary arrangements, and invited me to join them, I joined them.

The lord of Tirumala is standing there to collect money to repay his never ending debt, and it is no surprise that money plays a big role here. You get to see the lord for free if you wait in a queue for twenty four hours. Pay fifty and you join the queue half way up and the waiting period is reduced by half. Pay three hundred and you start still further and the time is reduced to a quarter. Etc etc. These are official amounts and they play a role only till you enter the inner precincts of the temple. Then onwards all three lines merge, all are equal and it is a stampede. Might is right there. But the good thing is that you don’t have to move. You join the crowd and it takes care of you. You are like a leaf in the rushing water. You simply enter the temple and shoot out from the other side without realizing what is happening and apart from keeping your body parts intact, if you can think of anything else, you may think of the lord and have a glimpse. The temple is open for about 18 hours on a normal day and about sixty thousand people visit every day. That gives about a second per person in front of the lord. But, if you can slip a hundred or two in to the hands of one of the guards without making it obvious and if you can assume that the lord did not see you bribing, (in my opinion he will not mind even if he notices your bribe. He himself is one of the biggest bribe seekers but I do not know if he will be lenient towards his subordinates emulating him) you may get another two seconds in front of the lord.

We paid three hundred and waited for four and a half hours, which is supposed to be not bad at all. By evening the same line had stretched for more than two kilometers and I am sure the ‘quick darshan’ took not less than eight to ten hours.
There are many other things which impressed me at Tirupati but all that is common knowledge.

The eagerness to see the lord, the devotion and the frenzy cannot be explained. One has to experience it. Whether you have faith or not, a visit to Tirupati is a must. But once is enough.

I was talking to a friend about it and wondered whether it is devotion or madness?
He called it mad devotion.

On the way to Tirupati I was in Bangalore for a day. I had to visit some of our relatives. Moving around in the Bangalore traffic is a pain and I dread these visits. But it cannot be avoided and I usually spend three fourths of my time in Bangalore, on the roads learning to live on carbon monoxide. This time I landed in Bangalore on the day of solar eclipse. I did not know that solar eclipse also eclipsed the mental abilities of Bangaloreans. People were afraid of the ‘harmful rays’ coming out from the sun and remained indoors. All shops closed. All offices closed. No schools and colleges. All roads empty. No cooking, no eating. I wish solar eclipse occurred more often. I could just plan my visits to match the eclipse and have a field day in Bangalore. I covered distances that usually take an hour, in ten minutes. Since none of my relatives cooked in their houses, I had to eat my lunch in a hotel but I am ready to sacrifice home food if I can zip around Bangalore as I did on the eclipse day.

Today’s papers carried two items which gave me something to feel happy about. One is the decision of the central government to de recognize about forty five ‘deemed universities’. I do not know about other colleges but I am sure that the medical and dental colleges which are in the list managed to get their DU status by pulling strings and filling pockets only to get exempted from sharing their seats with the CET candidates so that they could ‘sell’ all of them. It may inconvenience the students a bit but will save the future of many thousands.

The second item: TOI dt 20.1.10
‘As is the rule with our netas, CM Digambar kamat arrived fashionably late for a concert of Zakir Hussain at Margao on Tuesday. The Tabla maestro had asked the organizers to block movement in the front rows once he started playing.
Kamat arrived an hour late and was being ushered to a seat in the front row when Hussain changed his beat and said “this is for late comers. Those who are late have no right to the front seats. They should take the back seats no matter who they are”. Stunned, the CM scrambled to the first available seat.’

Cngratulations to Mr Hussain.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reacting to some news.

Many news items that I read in the morning papers bug me. I try to mention about them to people who are around me like my wife, son or my assistant in the clinic. All of them have many other things to bother about and their response is usually lukewarm. And the topics that I broach do not affect them (or even me for that matter) directly. My wife says “That’s how the world is and your opinions or views are not going to make any difference. Put it in your blog if you feel like.” I think that is all that is going to come out of it.

During this week two things caught my attention. One is a directive by the supreme court to the central government to consider the feasibility of starting a three years ‘mini MBBS’ course in rural areas to train half doctors who hopefully practice in rural areas and treat simple ailments. This is during the course of hearing of a public interest petition about qualified doctors not practicing in rural areas.

What makes them think that these semi doctors are going to remain in rural areas? Is it possible to restrict them to treat specified simple ailments only? Who will keep a check? As it is, the government or the medical council have not been able to do anything about the unqualified ‘quacks’ practicing freely or the graduates of ayurveda and homoeopathy practicing allopathy after substandard training.

Every medical student is made to sign a bond that he/she is going to work in rural areas for two years after graduation if required. Why can’t that be enforced?

The government has no machinery to control any of this.

A three year LMP (licenced medical practitioner?) course did exist decades back and many popular doctors were LMPs. This course was considered unsuitable and was stopped after medical colleges offering MBBS degree came up. Now we are going back to LMP once again. Looks foolish to me.

The second item that caught my fancy was in today’s paper. This is regarding the high court ruling that the chief justice of India’s office comes under the purview of RTI act and the CJI has to disclose his assets. Apparently the supreme court is miffed about the order and is now likely to appeal before itself to sort out the matter. I do not know the intricacies of legal system but my immediate response is B*** S***.
What justice!

Incidentally the letter that I wrote to the news paper which I posted on this blog (criticizing the two wheeler rally by the congress party – ‘letter to editor’ 29th dec) did come out in print. It made me a green activist and upgraded my status.

I had been to the bank today. During January I usually get a calendar from the bank. A plain one showing only the dates (what really matters) in keeping with my banking status. I am not entitled for the ‘deluxe’ calendar. This year the ‘deluxe’ calendar that the bank had brought out had “go green” as its theme. The manager called me in to his cabin and handed me the ‘deluxe’ model saying “please accept this sir. This is YOUR subject”! I believe he saw my letter in the paper. It did serve some purpose. It upgraded my calendar entitlement!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Money Matters

Most of my patients are very keen and very serious about putting their teeth in order and are prepared to make as many visits to my clinic as necessary and spare no expense to achieve the objective - till they make an appointment and leave my clinic.

While fixing an appointment I try to explain the inconvenience caused to me and other patients because of missed appointments/delayed appearances and request them to inform me if they are unable to keep up the appointment. People do appreciate my views but follow their ways.

Once out of the clinic, the enthusiasm dies down, doubts appear, better uses are found for the money, appointment is forgotten and I am left to use the appointed time for deep breathing and meditation to keep my irritation under control.

“You have eight cavities out of which three are quite bad. The one which is causing pain may need a root canal. If they are not treated they will deteriorate further and may have to be extracted. “
“But right now I am fine doctor. I do get some pain once in a way but it goes away on its own. I don’t even take a pain killer.”
“That is typical of a tooth ache. One day the pain will start and not go away. It will only get worse, you will wait till eleven thirty in the night and then wake me up.”
“No doctor, I will not allow it to get that bad. I intend getting all my teeth treated. I want you to do whatever is necessary. I don’t mind the cost. I will come whenever you call. Please give me an appointment.”
“Please think it over. I have explained everything to you. It will take more than a dozen visits and cost a few thousands. You may call me and take an appointment later, if you really decide to start the treatment.”
“It has to be done one day or the other is it not? It is already delayed and I do not want to delay further. I have decided doctor. Earlier the better. Tell me when I should come. Let’s start at the earliest.”
“Well, this Friday then. 15th, 6 PM. Please make a note.”
“Sure. I will be here. Ten minutes early.”
“In case you are unable to keep up the appointment please let me know in advance.”
“No, no chance of missing it. Still, if I can’t make it I will let you know at least two days before.”
“OK. Now, please pay me Three hundred rupees. This will be a deposit and it will be adjusted against my fees. You may take back this deposit if you decide not to go ahead with the treatment. Just call me and let me know. But, if you miss the appointment and do not inform me in advance, you will lose this deposit. Please remember.”
“You mean I should pay now?”
“Yes of course. This amount will be deducted from my fee any way.”
“But doctor, what if I happen to forget? I mean, I surely want the treatment to be done but, is it Ok if I come tomorrow or the day after and fix the appointment?”

Nothing like cash for commitment. My new tactic is a great help in separating the frivolous from the serious.