Sunday, December 14, 2008

St. Stephen's College - my Alma Mater

Today, I attended the Old Students Reunion at St. Stephen's College. And I attended every single such reunion for the last ten years.

Each year, when I go back, the experience is of being transformed many years into the past, when I was less than 20 years of age, and not only studied in St. Stephen's but practically lived a good part of the day there. 

Today, like every other time, memories came flooding by. 

Of Rev. Rajpal conducting the morning assembly for the 1st year students, and reading excerpts from the Bible in his booming baritone voice and a clipped Cambridge accent. 

Of teachers - Bhatnagar Sa'ab  - MSB to most, Dr Popli who resembled Prof. Calculus - now no more. Mathur Sa'ab trying to convince our 'blocked' minds that Differential Calculus was actually very easy.

And Dwivedi sa'ab and his 'beedis'

Of chemistry practicals being conducted by us - budding scientists, in dirty lab coats with gaping holes created by careless handling of acids and salts. Being unable to analyse the salts given to us as an exercise and then trying to 'patao' the most reluctant lab assistants to give away the answers...

Heading to the the College 'Cafe' for the delicious mince cutlets and scrambled eggs with toast. Angrily shouting at 'Chhotu' the most harassed waiter to deliver our order quickly as the next class was about to begin..

Of taking hundreds of photos with a borrowed camera, then off to Chandni Chowk's photography market to buy photography paper and chemicals. And locking ourselves up in the dark room of the Photo Society just after dinner, to come out only in the wee hours of the morning.

Of the midnight coffee making session in the hostel room, with the help of a carefully hidden heater and saucepan. To be followed by the 'Maggi' making session at 3 in the morning, before finally going to sleep.

Of Winterfest and the Shakespeare Society productions. Designing and 'doing' the stage lighting in all plays. Climbing up and hanging on precariously to the tall and seemingly fragile ladders to reach and realign the powerfully bright '1000 Watters' and halogen lights hanging from the College auditorium roof...

Of Rohtas' Dhaba and the Nimbu paani and cigarettes and the credit account..

Waiting for the 3.30 and sometimes the 2.30 Moti Bagh specials, at the bus stop just outside College.

Of the so many friends with whom so many hours of one's life were shared but most now lost in the huge World. Some very dear ones having passed on...

It all came back once again today. But memories to be experienced and shared with no one but oneself...

Would have been a far more enjoyable experience if a walk down the corridors of College and the Science block was taken along some of the closest friends...

There's next December to look forward to.. 











 


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

From the Taj Hotel to the Taj Mahal

Last week, terrorists virtually destroyed the Taj Mahal Hotel, an iconic structure and the pride of Mumbai. They simply came by boats up to nearby Cuffe Parade area and walked in..

This time it was the Taj Mahal Hotel. I cannot think of a good reason why not the Taj Mahal next time? Or India's nuclear installations or the Army Headquarters (If they could attack the 'Pentagon' seven years ago, well - India's is streets behind in terms of its security arrangements.

India is still reeling under the shock and anger in the aftermath of the disaster that struck Mumbai last week. The Government in power at the Center and in Maharashtra are the scapegoats.

And while the criticism and ridicule aimed at those individuals who opened their mouth and put their foot in it, is justified, wishing away politicians and politics in general is certainly not the quickest way to prevent India from remaining a 'soft terrorist target' in the future. Rather, the course of action that India must focus on should consist of the following:

1.Strike while the iron is hot - Not the military option but the diplomatic one. Today, all the powers to be - USA , UK, Australia have woken up to India's long lasting tryst with terrorism. 
Use this support to bring Pakistan on the table. And ask them to "walk the talk". If they say they want to help, tell them for instance to ensure all LeT and other terrorists training camps and headquarters are searched, sought and destroyed in a swift focused internal military action, within 10 days.
Seal all their borders too. If India's borders are porous, so are Pakistan's. If 10 terrorists carrying the burden of huge amounts of arsenal can take a boat from Karachi harbour in an east bound direction, something must be amiss. 

2. Learn - Disband all the so called 'Intelligence Agencies' on whom we have depended wholly and solely, to provide vital intelligence inputs to the security agencies. They have failed us every time.
The time has now come to first 'unlearn' everything we know in the name of intelligence gathering and sharing. Then approach Israel, US and the like and request them to teach and train us on the subjects of intelligence and anti- terrorists warfare.

Seven critical days have passed. The common  Indian has focused on venting his or her anger at politicians, and the anti-Neta 'movement' has gained some momentum. However in terms of concrete action, not much has changed in India that can provide a sense of comfort and security to the common citizen that  such a terrorist attack in the future is less likely.   

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mumbai Part IV (Monday Dec. 1, 2008)



Exactly seven years ago, India witnessed an even more audacious and 'daredevilish' attack on herself when Pakistan backed terrorists entered the Parliament House with the intention to eliminate most of the elected representatives from different parts of the Country, when the Lok Sabha was in session. They partly succeeded, in that they broke into the security cordon of what could arguably be defined as the most 'secure' establishment of the Country, took everyone by complete surprise and proceeded to create enough mayhem that ended in bloodshed and loss of many innocent lives including those of security personnel who made the supreme sacrifice in an attempt to foil the evil designs of the perpetrators.
Did the terrorists succeed in their objective? No and yes. No, because they were all shot dead before they could actually harm the VIP parliamentarians attending the Lok Sabha session. And yes, they did succeed because they displayed to India their grit and suicidal determination, and also proved to the Country how vulnerable it was.

The outcome? Some protests here and there, an immediate troops build up along the borders by both Pakistan and India. It was a matter of time before the tension along the borders was diffused, and in a little more time the entire incident was forgotten.

Amazing does it seem now that an incident having more far reaching implications and sending a far more serious message across the length and breadth of India as well as the Globe, compared to the recent attacks on the two 5 star Hotels in Mumbai (with the definite exception that many more innocent lives were lost in the latter case), did not invite the kind of protests and wrath of the common man, as happened recently.

Why didn't we? Perhaps because that incident was Delhi - a supposedly less sensitive and human city compared to Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata? Or because to those living in the Western and Southern parts of India, the Lok Sabha and the Central Government is something very alien?
Or, the realization that it was the lives of hundreds of 'Netas' in grave danger and not that of the common citizen. 

Whatever the case may be, it seems strange that the attack on the Parliament - probably a very challenging target to a terrorist outfit, did not shake us

Whatever the reason, had the same kind of response  been displayed then by the common man in India, it is possible that the Country could have gone in for some course correction at that stage and today, could have been better organized and equipped to prevent or handle a crisis of the kind witnessed recently.

The fact remains - we Indians chose to  ignore history were condemned to repeat it.


 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Part III (Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008)

Politization of terror

The crisis at Mumbai had built up to its peak. 

Word spread that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition LK Advani
would visit Mumbai together to review the situation.

 In a crisis situation when all other considerations party ideologies and other differences should have been overlooked and the leaders should have stood together representing not their parties but India - one Nation.

They went their separate ways.

Mr. Narendra Modi of the BJP and the Chief Minister of Gujarat and expressed his desire to come and visit Mumbai

Modi was very politely requested to not come as this was not the right time. A time when the anti terrorist operations were underway and the entire team of the Government and the administration was preoccupied with the massive operation. He chose to ignore the request and landed up near the Oberoi Hotel, delivered a 'bhashan' and announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the families of the brave police officers who lay down their lives fighting the terrorists.

Hemant Karkare's wife has refused to accept this compensation.

Raj Thackeray, the coward bully, who along with his party - The Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena, has in the recent past been targetting innocent non-Maharashtrians who have come to live in Mumbai by beating up North Indian taxi drivers and workers, quite predictably lay low amidst these entire 60 hours of the crisis. He did not have the courage to come forward and fight these non-Maharashtrians of a different kind. Physically fighting terrorists being a far fetched thought, he did not have the courage to even voice his opinion and take a stand that his thoughts and heart were with the Nation.

Raj Thackeray did however shamelessly land up at the funeral of Hemant Karkare. And was snubbed and sent back.

The above three instances in the recent past exemplify the dirty, third rate and shameless behavior of the worst kind of politicians in our Country. 

And for perhaps the first time - the citizens of India in general and Mumbai in particular have refused to look aside and ignore their behavior and have said "enough is enough"

And like her husband, Mrs. Karkare along with her family have displayed true courage in snubbing these political leaders - who lack any character.

Once again, the Nation stands by and respects the supreme sacrifices made by the policemen, the three  NSD commandos and scores of other people - particularly the Hotel staff who considered their duty above their own personal safety, and in one case the safety of his family, at every moment of the long 60 hour period.

As per news reports, Karambir Kang, the GM of the Tah Mahal Hotel who lost his wife and both children aged 14 and 11, in the raging fire on the 6th floor of the Hotel, is still on duty at the Hotel.

A stark contrast of character.


 









Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai Part II (Friday, 28th Nov. 2008)

Forty two hours have gone by. And the nightmare continues. 

Spouses, relatives and friends wait outside the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Hotels, in what can be termed as desperate anxiety. They don't know if their near and dear ones are alive or not. Every moment of that wait being painful.

The media camps at a safe distance from the place of the real action. Communicating meaningless reports. Speculating. And then a hoard of them - reporters and camer persons alike pouncing upon any VIP who happens to visit the scene of action. "Was there a massacre?" or "Didn't you have any clue that the terrorists would come by sea?" they ask...

More than a hundred innocent people are dead. Hundreds have died earlier - in Mumbai itself.
Yet, India - the magnanimous India, wants to forgive and forget every time. Proud in the thought that the terrorists are dead and democracy has won. 

So are the hundreds of people.

Don't those hundreds of lives mean anything to the wise old policy makers and implementers of this Country?  

When 9/11 happened in the US, we all know how that Country responded to eliminate terror possibly from the face of the Earth, and to make its own citizens feel secure. 

When the current crisis in Mumbai came to light, the currently touring English cricket team immediately cancelled the rest of their tour. Some laughed at this. But England cares for the lives of every single man on that 16 member squad.

But India has a billion people. She does cannot afford and so does not want so many. Doesn't matter then, that a few die in terrorists attacks. It's natures way of controlling and reducing the growing population - some joke.

Its time that the policy makers of India - the wise old men took a tough stance on the most blatant and defiant attitude displayed by its neighbour - Pakistan, in perpetrating trouble within our Country. And respond in a manner that the World will see as exemplary. 

Many in the World will be surprised and shocked. What happened to non-violence and all - they will ask. But India owes it to her own citizens. Every Indian has a right to walk freely and without fear within his own Country. And those entrusted with the responsibility of running this Country have a moral responsibility to grant this right to every single citizen.













 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai - Wednesday November 26, 2008

Terror in Mumbai !

In what can easily be termed as the most audacious terrorist attack on India, a reasonably large number of terrorists landed in Mumbai by sea - undetected. And in the hours that followed, unleashed terror of an unprecedented magnitude, in South Mumbai, targeting two 5-Star Hotels, a cinema complex and the one of the busiest railway stations of the Country. 

Wednesday (last) night - will be one which the World in general and Indians in particular will not forget in a long time. Two prestigious Hotels, one of them a National landmark slowly burned to almost complete destruction. Hundreds of people - Indians and foreigners taken hostage by the terrorists or trapped inside their rooms. Many innocents killed in the indiscriminate firing and grenade blasts on VT Station. 
Three senior and very dedicated police officers who rose above the call of duty and chose to defy the perpetrators of terror, made the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives. 

Over a hundred people dead and over 300 injured at the last count.

And an entire Nation brought to its knees by a handful...watches in shock, disbelief and frustation.

All this while the Intelligence agencies sleep, security forces 'react' and politicians blame the rival party. And wait for the next such disaster to happen

Human life is cheap in India - in fact of no value.






 
  

Monday, November 03, 2008

Death

We all have experienced it, through the loss of some near and dear one. A very emotionally distressing experience. The question is how does one deal with death?

One way  to come to terms with death is to understand it philosophically.

The one inevitable fact in our lives is that we will all die- or, "pass over" from the physical to the spiritual world. The transition from the physical realm to the spirit is not an ending, it is a transformation - to another state of consciousness.

Physical life can best be described by the Sanskrit word "maya". An illusion. According to Hindu philosophy, everything that is changeable and subject to decay and has a beginning and an end is 'maya' Everything that is indestructable and eternal is reality. Since our life on Earth is temporary, it is 'maya'. Mistaking the facade for reality, we are in a state of 'maya' 
Believing that physical life is the only form of existance is an illusion. And thinking we are dead once physical life ends, is the biggest illusion. 

So, the person is not dead - he or she has passed over from physical to the spiritual life.

The other way to come to terms with the death of a near and dear one, is to focus on all the goodness he or she left behind. The person's thoughts, deeds, teachings, contributions towards shaping the family, the children. Principles and values. In short his or her character, and what learnings could be derived from it.

To continue to follow those guiding principles, practise those values and learn from the actions that the departed one was known for. 

Grieving is natural. But to also cherish memories. And to also thank God for having ended his or her suffering.

And paying the ultimate tribute to the departed soul - celebrating life by living it the way he or she loved to.

 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Farewell - Jumbo !


Anil Kumble - Jumbo to his teammates and fans, announced his decision to quit professional cricket, at the end of the 2nd test match in the current series against Australia.

Jumbo was one of the most celebrated and respected cricketers in the history of World cricket.
The third largest number of wickets taken - 619, in the history of the game.  One of the only two players to have taken all 10 wickets in an innings. Jumbo played 132 test matches for his Country, in a long and illustrious career spanning 18 years.

Numbers apart, Jumbo was always respected for his professionalism  and fighting spirit. In the age of 'sledging' and agrressive behavior he stood out as a gentleman. For these qualities, he will remain a 'role model' for many young aspiring cricketers.

Many so called 'experts' of the game are surprised at Jumbo's decision which was made right in the middle of a test series. Others have wisely commented, that it was the right time to go. He was thought of as one of the many 'seniors' in the team who have overstayed their tenure and are now passengers. All of this is debatable. Jumbo still had a lot of cricket left in him and should have been given his due...

At the end of the day, it was Jumbo's decision and has to be respected.

All good things must come to an end - they say. Jumbo will forever be remembered for his professional competence - as one of the greatest spinners of the ball. More importantly he will be remembered as a great human being on and off the field.

Farewell - Jumbo. Your departure is a loss to the game of cricket and to the Indian team. I am sure you will continue to be associated with the game in one way or the other.

 

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sunset at Langkawi

The sea has always held a fascination for many and I am one of them. That it can offer an absolutely unbelievable, breathtaking spectacle, was a learning and one of the most fascinating experiences of a life time.
In Langkawi, Malaysia, there are a countless number of beaches. Each one that you visit will provide a different view of the sea face.

Nature's miracle begins to unfold at sunset time. As the sun begins to set, the sky changes many colors - one after the other with each scene created transitioning into the next one. You will for instance see the sky painted grey and the water surface filled with streaks of silver which is the water reflecting the sunlight of the setting sun. You turn you attention away for only a few moments, and the next scene unfolds which could be a bright orange sky - almost as if it is on fire. And very quickly you see the entire expanse of the horizon - the sky and the sea water turning bright orange. And, as the sun slowly goes down, the orange light dims from on top of the water and for the few remaining moments of day time, remains only high above in the sky. Another fascinating spectacle - the land and the sea engulfed in darkness, and the sky still brightly lit up, in light and then deep orange, then grey.
Physicists explain this as the 'scattering' of light. Whatever may be the explanation, this is one scientific phenonmena which instead of being profound to many, is easily understood and marvelled at.






Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tom & Jerry

Watching Tom & Jerry is an addiction. Every evening between 11.30 pm and midnight. Thirty minutes of sheer fun and joy !

While the stories flash by one after another, one is in stitches, as one story is funnier than the other. But you don't only laugh - when it is over, you are left with a feeling of only admiration for such a creative piece of art.

Every character has a special role to play. Jerry, wants to live in peace in his comfortable little house behind the wall. (His bed is made out of a can of sardines, and the legs of the bed, of match sticks).Once in a while he wants to steal a bit of cheese which he simply loves and cannot resist, from the refrigerator.

Tom has been employed basically to hunt him down. But his skills, speed and intelligence are no match to the little Jerry. So, more often than not he is at the receiving end.

Jerry wants to make peace with everyone. But when cornered, he displays courage, initiative ingenuity of the highest order to beat his main enemy and to save his skin. "Its not the size that counts - its the attitude" they say.

And there's the ferocious dog - 'Spikey' and his son 'Tiny' While most of the difficult and life threatening situations are handled by Jerry independently, he sometimes has to take help from 'Spikey'.

All Tom & Jerry tales are spun around these characters and Jerry's escapades.

You can simply not tire of watching these movies. On the one hand, they can be one of the best stress busters. On the other hand and more importantly you cannot help admire the creators' sheer imagination behind conceiving every story, situation, action, stunts and so on.

The stories don't ever seem to end.

I wish they don't.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 23 - Sidhu

As I was surfing the usually visited sites on Internet, I came across a message informing me that Sidhu has added me as a friend on Facebook. About time Sidhu!
Can't blame him though, he's a busy man. (If you search for his name on Google, there are 11,700 results matching his name !).

WPS Sidhu and I came to know each other when he joined my School and Class -8th standard, way back in 1974. He has come from St. Joseph's Academy, Dehra Dun.

Sidhu was a smart and bright kid, and created a favorable impression on all teachers in School very early, for a new comer. He was an excellent debator, with an exceptional command over English language. He chose to pursue Science in Senior School, but at the end of Class XI, concluded that it would be a mistake for him to continue. So he took a bold but what he thought a wise decision to move to humanities for Class XII. We joined St. Stpehen's College together - he as student of History, and I, a student of Science. We studied together till graduation after which he moved across to JNU to pursue a Master's degree in International Relations.

We knew each other casually in School for the first two years and then we came closer. We lived reasonably close to each other, so visited each others homes often.

There were many common interests but main amongst them were music and girls.

He had an extensive collection of western music, meticulously created on his own, through the process of borrowing and copying recordings, many of them rare. We would sit for hours listening to music on his sophisticated music system,also a rare commodity, and exchanging notes on our respective love affairs. A typical visit to the other's home would last one full day.

Sidhu was also instrumental in getting me interested in watching movies. He would go home from School, and manage to reach my home barely minutes away from the matinee show time. We would invariably walk across from my home in RK Puram to Chanakya theatre. I am particularly thankful to him to have seen some of the ever famous movies that were shown in Delhi. Almost all the movies that I saw during my School days, were with Sidhu.

Sidhu got along particularly well with my father. The admiration was mutual.
I was also always welcome in his home, where in the initial years I got to see only his mother, since his father was sailing.

We drifted for the first time when he moved to Mumbai to pursue a career. And then, for many years when we were tied up and preoccupied with our jobs, we lost touch.

I hunted him down three years ago with the help of some friends. Life had moved on by then. I had lost my father, he, more recently his mother. Now when we are some distance apart, contacts are few and far between. However, I know, and I am sure he does that the old bonds of friendship are as strong as they were many years ago..

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sept 22

This evening after dinner, I stroll across the IIM Ahmedabad campus where I am staying for three days. The campus has a modern architectural design, with all buildings having the appearance of a precise geometric shape. It is also immaculately maintained – neatly cut grass in all lawns and spotless clean roads and pathways. Like most others, this campus is also quiet in the evening, perhaps because the occupants are spread all over the vast expanse of many acres. Lights are on in some of the rooms in the students’ dormitories. Across, there is a fitness centre, and through the windows I see vigorous exercise in many forms – some walking on treadmills, others pumping iron. I see at a distance, a middle aged couple on a brisk walk after dinner. In all probability, one of them is a teacher.

Its been a while since I walked across a campus like this. Memories come flooding back. And foremost amongst my thoughts, is all the teachers who taught me, not only in College but in School.

Amongst those who come to mind are Mrs. Davis the class teacher in 2nd standard who bid farewell to all us 6 or 7 year olds with two toffees and a kiss on the cheek. She still remembers me, and wants to talk to me, and I am guilty of not calling her..

Then Mrs. Caprihan in the 3rd standard who, to an eight year old mind, seemed to be so pretty. Back home, I often take out from my well preserved class photographs, this particular one and re-affirm my belief that she was beautiful indeed. And I remember the times I went across to her home to play with her son and her equally pretty daughter.

The list is endless. But each name and face crystal clear. All my teachers from School and most in College have retired since. And some have crossed over to the other World. An entire life devoted to teaching hundreds of children. In primary school, less of teaching and more of managing little bundles of boundless energy and nuisance value. And the teacher tearing her hair apart in sheer exasperation.

Rushing from one class to another three floors above or below, at the stroke of the bell signalling the change of period. Piles of corrections, invariably carried back home, and dealt with in between household chores. Hndreds of examination answer sheets, yet each wrong answer painstakingly corrected and elaborated in red color. In the hopeless belief that the effort will be useful to the child who will read it. Shouting and sweating in the heat in class rooms, yet concentrating and making the children concentrate
Yet coming back the next day to relive the experience. Deriving immense satisfaction and selfless joy, seeing a whole class graduate to the next one. But only momentarily Then turning around to prepare to usher in the new set of boys and girls.

Such selfless devotion. And expecting nothing in return. Not from the student, not from the institution. The only reward in the form of a smile and a sense of immense satisfaction , on seeing their pupils growing up, moving from School and College, making a success out of their careers, and settling down.

I thank each one of them in my heart, as I return from my walk. For shaping me up into what I am today. And I promise myself to thank them in person when I meet them next. And to call up Mrs. Davis who wants to talk to me....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sept 15

Landed in Luxemburg at 1000. Endless queues at Passport control and baggage claim are the not very different from back home. What is refreshing is the pleasant weather, the clean air, and the lush green surroundings.
The train journey to Paris provides a breadthtaking view. Endless expanse of greenery, neatly cut plots of farmers' lands, almost geometrically done. Healthy cattle grazing. And all this rushes past me at 300 kms an hour which is the speed of the TGV train. We arrive in Paris at 5.30 in the evening, and quickly settle in, in our Hotel rooms, and relax first time in 19 hours....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday September 14, 1130 pm

The 'D' day has arrived. Time to leave home and travel across 'seven seas' to distant lands. In search of prospective business.
I wait at the airport to board the flight. The airport is an ordeal. Meanwhile I wish my sons the best for the exam tomorrow. And to my wife. And all near and dear ones - friends near and far. The World has shrunk, and we are just a call away. I rest with that thought...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 13, 2320 hrs

Its happened again.

Five bomb blasts in various corners of Delhi. About 20 dead till last reports came in. More than a 100 injured. Blood shed, panic, desperation, frustation and despair. Innocent people gone, some lives lost at the prime of their youth.

The news spread across the Globe like fire. Indians overseas anxious to know about the welfare of their near and dear ones. Freinds advising each other not to venture out. Who knows - your colony market might also be a target.

And amongst all this, the Government machinery sleeps. Despite a clear warning from Gujarat, that after the Agmedabad blasts, Delhi is the next target. That everything has been organised. Final plans frozen. Only instructions from the high command awaited.

There are intelligence agencies - no intelligence. No clue. No semblance of damage control measures. 

Life is cheap in India. Amongst a 100 crores Indians, a few lives lost - doesn't matter. Nature's way of population control?

Life goes on.
 


Saturday 13th September



As soon as I wake up let  myself get occupied with the time cosuming task helping my sons with their preparations for the examination on Monday. Science it is. A subject, which on the face is intimidating. But as you dwell deep, most fascinating. When I assume the role of a teacher and go through the very fundamental principles of Physics, I get more and more involved...

I am gripped by a sense of growing anxiety as I embark upon a 10 day long tour, first to Europe, and then on return to IIM Ahmedabad for a training program. 

The thought of absence from home has never been so distracting in the past, as it is, this time. Leaving the boys to fend for their own during the exams? The burden on Mani's head, with the driver's sudden disappearance, for an inexplicable reason?  And when  she too travels later during the week, how do the boys manage?

I try to push the distractions out of my mind by delving deeper into the wonders of 'time and motion' and the simple pendulum. And seek inspiration and solace in my faith  in the Unseen, Universal Force.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sea face

I would give my right hand to stay by the sea. I say so, because I have had the good fortune to have lived by the sea face some years ago.

It was at Worli, that I set up home. It was a  spacious two bed room flat, right on top of Worli Hill, less than fifty meters from the Arabian Sea. On the third floor, we had an unobstructed view of the vast expanse of water.  Each moment that I stayed in the house, I marvelled at the idea in the mind of the person who designed the house.

Every window in the house, that of the kitchen, bedrooms and even the bathrooms, faced the sea. And then there was a huge balcony.

In the evenings, I would take my wife and my toddler son right up to the sea face, to go through an experience.

As far one could stretch one’s vision, there seemed to be an endless expanse of water under a huge open sky. The gentle churning of the water, with only periodic gains and lows in the intensity, would provide a soothing sound, and a certain kind of calmness and serenity would prevail for as far as one could see.

The setting sun would contribute its own bit to this experience, leaving its last fading light to reflect on the surface of the sea which would then appear to be covered with silver.

Far away a few ships would be anchored. One could make out the form because of the innumerable small but bright lights on them. These would set sail from the Mumbai port, veer around the Cuffe Parade, and turn right to begin their voyage in a Northerly direction. But just before proceeding full steam ahead, they would stop and anchor once again briefly. As if, for the crew to set sight on the distant Mumbai coastline, and keep that vision  marked in their minds for the long, lonely and arduous journey ahead.

As darkness fell, you could also see small dim lights bobbing up and down on the water surface. And you could guess that fishermen had begun their day’s work, when the rest of the World had returned home.

What couldn't be seen but only felt was the cool, pure sea breeze blowing steadily into the mainland. Nature’s most unique and noble deed for mankind. Inviting all the dirt and pollution unto its fold, in a most forgiving manner, day after day, and replacing it with cool, pure air for all. And  thereby granting human beings a big favour.

A spectacle that I would experience any number of times at any time of the day or evening, and never tire of it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mr. Raj Thackeray - you are at it again!


 You and your team - The 'Maharashtra Navnirman Sena' seem to pursue you vision of a new ‘re-built’  home State with a missionary zeal.

 And what is your vision of the new State?

 Your new Maharashtra will –forget welcoming, not even tolerate a non- Marathi.

Doesn’t matter that in the years of its history, Maharashtra has only gained and prospered thanks to the millions of ‘outsiders’ who landed in Mumbai and other parts of the State and due to sheet dint of hard work, made success stories out of their enterprise. Yes they came to pursue their dreams, and realized them. But they gave to the State in equal measure. They were industrialists, film makers, actors, corporations.  It is by no small measure due to them that Mumbai today is regarded as  the financial and industrial capital of India, and Bollywood is the largest film industry in the World.

 

Your new Maharashtra loaths anyone who speaks in any language except Marathi. In a new found machoism, you and your missionaries will not spare anyone who violates this norm. Or should we call it the law? And that includes the Bachchans. And you will not tolerate his wife speaking in the National language in a public function, in Maharashtra. For this you will punish Amitabh Bachchan by banning all his movies in Maharashtra.

 

In fact your new Maharashtra will not tolerate any form of communication that is not in Marathi. Bill boards, retail store signages, movie posters – anything that is in Hindi or English is a strict no-no. Does your list include news papers also?

 

Whether you possess even a basic understanding of the term ‘democracy’ which was taught when you were in School, or, in the process of constructing a new State you also want to change its basic political fibre and that of India, can be debated.

 But one thing is clear. In the newly built Maharasthra, you are the law.  And you will expect all Mumbaikars and non-Marathi residents of Maharashtra to cow down in front of the terror that you and your self proclaimed law makers create.

The age old law and order and administrative machinery will sit on the fence and watch will great admiration, the crafting of a new State by the most loving son of its soil.

 And the continued feverish zeal and with your sense of patriotism, your ‘nav nirman’ of the State will be finally completed. This new State will be a fort. Very well fortified. No one and nothing will dare come near it. No one will be allowed to go outside. No trade, no industry no employment no nothing.

 And the day will dawn when the people of Maharashtra will gather to forever remember your invaluable contribution to the State.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Tribute to my Grandmother

My grandmother was born sometime in the beginning of the 20th century. Like most of her generation, she did not know of her exact date of birth.


From my earliest memories of her, till the time she passed away, I remember her as a short very frail woman, not more than 5 ft tall, and very thin. The outward appearance was however deceptive. For I have not known many people at least amongst my own family, who had a personality close to hers.


My grandmother had studied up to Class X, an accomplishment of sorts in her day and age.

The formal education however was a small indicator of her level of literacy and general awareness. She read the daily English newspaper from the front page to the last, and updated herself on the latest happenings around the World. She had an excellent grasp of all current affairs, politics, India’s relations with her neighbours, friendly and otherwise and so on. This, she managed mostly by reading on her own, and very rarely, she sought help and clarification from my parents, on some issue unresolved in her mind.

I remember clearly, numerous occasions, when she would very intelligently debate and discuss India’s relations with China, the daily happenings and progress during the India – Pakistan wars and other events, not only with my parents, but with many of my father’s friends and colleagues who would visit our house. This was a matter of great pride for me, as a child, because I did not see any other grandmother around in the neighbourhood appear to be so well read.


My grandmother’s written communication skills were exemplary. Not so much in content, but in form. Her hand writing in both languages was nothing short of a calligraphers work. Some samples mainly in the form of old letters are still preserved by my cousins, and every now and then, when we look at those, we cannot help but marvel at her handwriting skills.


Our ancestral home was in Dehra Dun, which belonged to her. But for most of the time she stayed with us in Delhi to look after my younger brother and me. With my mother working full time, it was my Dadi who took her place at home during the day. And for some time she would visit my Uncle and stay with them.

One such trip to Doon seemed to be unusually long. My father then took us to Doon to show to us what was going on. My grandmother had decided to have the old ancestral house demolished and construct a modern larger house in its place. Instead of handing down this project and the responsibility to her sons, she chose to manage it herself. One memory permanently etched in my mind is that of my grandmother perched on top of a step ladder which she had climbed to supervise and approve the quality of construction on the roof top. She was around 70 years old then.

Like all elderly people my grandmother spent a major part of her mornings offering her prayers to God. For this, she had a beautifully decorated ‘Mandir’ in one corner of her room. Every day, after we left for school and my parents for work, she would sit in front of her ‘mandir’ and complete her daily routine of prayers which lasted about two hours or more.

My grandmother’s mission in life was to make sure all her grandchildren study and perform well, and finally chalk out a successful career path. For this she started working on me (and one of my elder cousins) very early. She ensured that most of my time at home was spent in studying. And if enough of the school curriculum was covered, it would be hours and many, many pages of handwriting practise. The rigorous work schedule was too much for me, and I remember usually ending up crying in utter frustration. But that did not deter her. It was largely due to her efforts that I managed to secure among the top three positions in every class in school.

Similarly, she seemed to be after my cousin’s blood, but from the day he cleared the entrance examination for admission in an engineering college, she switched off completely, now comfortable with the belief that his career was secure.

When I was in class 10 she was more nervous and worried about the board exam than anyone else, least of all me. The ICSE exams came and went. My grandmother was not satisfied as usual, and was convinced that I would make third division.


My grandmother had a chronic bronchitis condition for many years. This worsened one particular year. She knew she did not have very long to live. But one of the worldly aspirations she had to fulfil was to see her granddaughter getting married. Despite her failing health and a very weak constitution, she made sure she attended all functions, customs and rituals before and up to the marriage. This took a further toll on her health.

One afternoon, in March 1977, she passed away at our home. Quietly, and without a fuss. This was ten days before the ICSE results were declared. She didn’t live to see that my marks were far better than she said I’d score. I am sure in her heart she knew I’d do well..

A shade over 30 years have flown by. Writing about her is my way of paying my tributes to the one person who brought us up cared for us and inculcated in us, the right value systems at a young age. For this, I shall forever be indebted to her.