Monday, March 22, 2010

New meanings for old words

“He is a very intelligent and sharp fellow, uncle”

The young man said. We were in the same queue waiting for our chance in front of the speed post counter. The young man was my friend’s son and he was talking about one of his former classmates who happened to be a dentist. Like me. Well, not exactly. His classmate was intelligent and sharp. And I mean mentally sharp. (Any dental patient will testify that all dentists are sharp when it comes to cutting pockets.)

“He is completing his post graduation in maxillofacial surgery this year.”

I agreed that he must be really intelligent and sharp if he could qualify for a MDS seat in maxillofacial surgery. I said that he must have been quite high in merit list. I also mentioned that in the ‘open market’ that seat cost anywhere upwards of 35 lakhs.

“No, no, he did not have merit. He did not even take the entrance test. But he got the seat. That’s why I said that he is very intelligent. And he managed to get the seat for 20 lakhs. He is very sharp!”

Even though I am nearing fifty five and have learnt the meanings of the words like ‘intelligence’ and ‘sharpness of mind’ nearly forty years back, I have been seeing the world and have noticed that these words have acquired new meanings. But old learning does not die and I still tend to associate the words with old meanings. I need to be constantly reminded that the meanings of certain words have changed. If you had just narrated my young friend’s words and had asked me to use one word for such capabilities, I might have foolishly used ‘cunning’ or ‘crooked’ or some such thing.

“You know what he did? He went to this college well in advance, even before he finished his internship, made a deal for the seat and booked it paying in full. He got it cheap. Later the prices went up. still,the college did not ask for more. And they arranged things very nicely without any hassles or goof ups. They are very efficient and smart. They gave him the entrance test paper, asked him just to write his number and other details and told him to mark answers in pencil if he so wished. Rest, they arranged perfectly. Now he is finishing. He will be starting his practice in Bombay.”

New meanings for ‘efficient’ and ‘smart’ too. We had been taught to call the above arrangement, ‘fraudulent’ or ‘cheating’. And I am sure that the student was as intelligent and sharp while doing his MDS and the college management, equally efficient in seeing him through.

As we ‘liberalised’ ourselves in all ways, overhauled our attitudes and money replaced brains in our education system, use of whatever one processed (in whichever way), to get what one did not or could not, is no longer frowned up on. But still, I was under the impression that we had retained a bit of old values and saw the acts such as the one mentioned above with contempt at least when they were obvious. Here, I did not see even a hint of a feeling of wrong doing or contempt when my young friend spoke about his classmate. It was pure admiration and appreciation.

I am not a puritan and I do not stand on a moral pedestal. Still, this tendency scares me. But, maybe there is no need. If this is how things are going to be and if they are accepted by the society and future generation with equanimity, well, who am I to comment?

The photographs of Ms Mayavati with her huge garland of currency notes caused lot of enragement and invited sharp criticism. But, one of the well known columnists has written that Ms Mayavati needs to be appreciated for her candour. What other politicians did in their drawing rooms, she did in front of a large gathering.

So, if the wrongs are openly done, at least appreciate the ‘honesty’!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


17th march 2010 is the 123rd birth anniversary of the legendary kannada author, historian, biographer, poet, philosopher, social activist and much more, Sri DVG.

It is beyond my reach to describe him completely or even name all his works the most popular and famous of which is the ‘Mankutimmana kagga’ a collection of nearly a thousand verses which gives us an insight into Sri DVG’s thinking and help us take a philosophical view of ourselves and our life while moving along with its compulsions. This quality of the collection has made it earn the title ‘The Bhagavadgeeta of Kannada’.

The complete works of Sri DVG totals nearly ten thousand pages and include biographies, plays, poetry, philosophy, political and social science and much more. Though he wrote in Kannada, he had extensive knowledge of English and Sanskrit and has liberally quoted from both in many of his works. He was an expert in economics, history, political science and social science and he worked and lived on his own terms.

He earned his living by running a news paper and expressed his views fearlessly. His knowledge and morals earned him respect and goodwill, and his help was sought by people at the helm of affairs of the state.

Even though he rubbed shoulders with Dewans, princes and other highly placed officials he never sought any favours and even turned down offers of help. I believe people like Sir M Vishweshwariah about whom Sri DVG had very high regards knew that he had financial difficulties and tried to force him to accept a ‘fee’ for the help he had rendered. Sri DVG accepted the cheques as he did not want to displease Sir MV. The cheques were never cashed.

In spite of his capabilities, achievements and stature he remained a ‘common man’ and was humble enough to describe himself and ‘Mankutimmana kagga’ as

Kaviyalla vignaaniyalla bari taaraadi
Avanarivige etukuvavolu ondu aatmanayava
Havanisidanu idanu paamarajanada maatinali
Kavana nenapige sulbha - mankutimma

I have damaged the kagga by separating the words to suit English typing. The broad meaning of it is that “Neither a poet nor a scientist. Have rendered in simple words, the inner feelings, to the extent (am) capable of reaching. In the form of a verse only because it is easy to remember.”
Meaning “nothing great about me or these verses”.

The more I try to write about him the more I get confused and go on babbling endlessly. I neither have full understanding of Sri DVG’s persona nor his work. I am like one of the blind men describing the elephant by touching a part of it. I think I should stop here and before doing so would like to mention that I have made a better mess writing about him in kannada, which is posted on the kannada blog by sri venkatesh murthy, who maintains the blog and posts one verse everyday on the blog along with the meaning. You may get it in your e mail everyday if you subscribe to the group. (free). That is a great service.

You are free to go over there and read my kannada article on your own risk.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bird in my living room (after snake in my backyard)

No. I had no intention of starting introduction of all birds, reptiles and insects living in my backyard/living room. It so happened that I got up a bit earlier than usual today and opened all the windows and the French doors leading to the balcony. This bulbul which had risen early too, probably in the hope of catching an early worm, and was searching for it in the vicinity of our house, mistook our living room light for a brighter morning and thought that there were better chances of locating the worm there. It did locate a worm but of the two legged variety, not edible and not worth socializing with. It decided that the darker morning minus two legged worms was far better and wanted to return. But it could not locate the door through which it flew in and got scared. It started flying around frantically and my efforts to lead it to the door/window only scared it more and made matters worse. It was flying dangerously close to the fan and so I switched the fan off. The first sensible act. As the fan stopped rotating the bird calmed down and sat on the blade for a little rest. I had used the camera just a day before in my effort to capture the snake and so, it was within reach and was charged! I could not help the temptation and got a picture.

Within seconds the bird decided that it cannot spend all its life sitting on the fan blade and renewed the search for the exit. I switched on the balcony lights and tried to help the bird see the way but what was clearly visible to me was not visible to the bird. No surprise. Even my wife and children fail to see what is very clearly visible to me. After another frantic search, it selected the short wall next to the clock for a rest and probably felt better looking at its friends.

From there it flew straight to the French door and I thought that its troubles were over. But no. it missed the door by six inches and settled on the inlaid ‘ashtalakshmi’ plaque hanging just above the door.

I settled on the sofa and instead of trying to act, tried to think. It occurred to me (surprise) that if I switched the lights off the bird may be able to see the twilight outside and find its way. I performed the second sensible act of the morning and the bulbul flew out to be free again.
Lesson: Sensible acts get results.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

snake in my backyard

I went to the balcony to throw some trash into my neighbour’s empty plot strictly following the urban tradition and casually looked down to see if any of the clothes that we hang on our balcony for drying had fallen down. I noticed the snake gliding slowly along the compound wall between the banana sapling and the wall, lifting itself up every now and then as if to see how tall the compound is and if it can climb it over. After looking at it for a minute I felt that I would be better off with my glasses and since the snake was not in a hurry to move ahead, went into the house hoping that the snake would be there till I return with my glasses. The snake was not in a hurry. Yes. But it did not have so much patience as to remain there waiting, while I ran to the TV table, searched for glasses, ran to the computer table, searched, ran to the book shelf, searched, remembered that I wore my glasses to sign the courier fellow’s papers at the front door, ran to the front door, found the glasses on the window next to the door, put it on my nose and returned. It had better business. So, this is what I found when I returned at last with my glasses firmly on my nose.

I expected it to have moved along the wall and focused my improved sight along the wall but there was no sign of the snake. I looked this way and that way and found it trying to climb on to the coconut sapling. Now the next madness caught me. I wanted to get a picture of my subject of observation and I ran inside to get the camera. The hunt for the camera turned out to be more challenging than the hunt for the glasses and when I returned with the camera, again there was no trace of the snake. Coconut sapling was present and I captured whatever was present. (the white stuff by the way is my effort to make it grow better).

There were some shrubs and bushes next to the coconut plant and I thought I lost the snake. But just as I was searching from my vantage point, it reappeared on top of the compound wall as if to give me another chance. I switched the camera on, turned it in the snake’s direction, thought that I had got it but got “remove the lens cover” message on the screen. By the time I removed the lens cover and focused the camera again, there was only the empty compound wall and I could see the tail disappearing into my neighbour’s jasmine bush.

From the jasmine bush it must have got underneath the pile of wooden pieces and when it emerged out of that pile, I was ready with the camera (with the lens cover removed) and managed to get it on the screen and got the first picture. If you have an eye sight better than mine, you will succeed in locating the snake between the pile of wood and my neighbor’s basement plinth. Yes, that piece of thread is the snake.

Now, I was bending precariously over my balcony railing trying to reach as near to the snake as possible and get it into my primitive camera when my wife reminded me that even my camera contains a zoom button and I need not zoom out of the balcony myself. I used the zoom just in time to get the head and half of the snake in one picture

AND half of snake and the tail in another.

At last I did get the full snake though in two pieces. I may not win a prize for backyard wild life photography but can always boast my photography skills on my posts.

Now, for some info on our resident snake. It is not intruding in my property. We have intruded in its property and it is tolerating us. It has been residing in this area since much before we thought of building our houses. I had last seen it one and a half years back and had thought that it has found some other place free from human irritation. But it seems to like our company. Nice to see it again.

Monday, March 1, 2010


The Sunday evening quiz club, SEQC for short and pronounced ‘sexy’ to exhibit a streak of naughtiness, meets every first Sunday evening, and invites anyone ‘who has nothing better to do on a Sunday evening’, to join. My younger son, who has some interest in quizzes, came to know about it and decided to attend. We, the other three members of the family who had nothing better to do on a Sunday evening, decided to tag on.

We reached the location, the meeting hall of the Corporation of the city of Panaji, and found an informal gathering of about thirty people huddled in groups around the oval meeting table. There was a quiz master with a laptop in front and a screen behind him. All four of us were invited to join any one of the groups, ‘teams’ rather, and the program went on. There were six rounds of verbal and visual questions with a break after three rounds. A side table contained tea, snacks and lemonade and I enjoyed the ‘break’ as much as the quiz.

At the end of the activities the next date was announced and those present were requested to contribute whatever they felt right, by putting the desired amount into a cardboard box kept for the purpose. It was to be used for next month’s refreshments.

I have attended three meetings till date and have considered the evenings well spent. And I feel that the SEQC is the only good thing that the corporation’s meeting table is being used for.

Yesterday was the finals of the SEQC ‘Mastermind’ contest and it was arranged on the lawns of the Goa international centre. Apart from the finals of ‘Mastermind,’ there was another round of quiz for everyone where I drew a blank once again, maintaining the tradition which is developing. It was another nice and lively evening, made livelier by the chief guest Sri Victor Rangel Ribeiro’s witty remarks and comments. Sri Ribeiro is a well known author, editor, music critic and member of the American Mensa. When asked to ‘say a few words’ he said “may be later” and added “you may accept those as my few words and be done with it”.

Sri Vidhyadhar Gadgil, a journalist, emerged the winner and it was nice to know that I have something in common with the winner of ‘Mastermind’. Nothing in common as far as general knowledge or IQ are concerned but a taste for PGW. Yes, if I ever happen to be lucky enough to be asked to associate a word with the letters PGW, I can also hit the buzzer for once, say ‘Jeeves’, ‘Wooster’ or ‘Empress of Blandings’, and win a point!