Wednesday, August 24, 2011

O Captain! My Captain

Whether we are over-ANNAlyzing or not, the fact remains that this movement is being fueled by the heart. The mind only follows. Either I get that or I don't.
Difficult to argue with an angrily beating heart.
And memories of cowardice.

The editorials, the conversations. Nothing comes close to the one decisive thump that says Bas, bahut ho gaya.

While I discuss, I cogitate, I criticize and I wonder what damage The A Team could potentially do to the constitution, where was I all these years when crores drained out of the system by creamily smiling Fat Cats looted us and robbed the poor in a so called bloodless crime? Impotent, seething and cowed, too small to stand up alone. Whatever the A Team has done and whatever damage they might do, I will stand on my desk and salute this man, his team  and this time for giving us the courage and platform to speak. Even though it was always there.

Over Anna-lyzed?

I'm bombarded by  edits, responses, essays and rebuttals on the Anna phenomenon. And I hardly watch the news, so I am not going down that road either.
Arundhati Roy, hereafter referred to as the Mind of Small Things wrote incisively in her Hindu Article " I'd rather not be Anna" Manu Joseph made a telling point in his new York article on India's Selective Rage over Corruption . Both made me cringe- as both were targeted at the general public, the so called middle class, the Us. While many points rang true, and made my toes curl, overall, I think, who the hell are you ?

Its like these guys, while certainly making cogent points, are contemptuous of the 'voice of the people'. I agree this may not be the way to go , but shall we go into a gigantic huddle, frozen in time and space for the next decade, while they and the govt figure it out? On our behalf?

They ( The People)  don't understand the finer points , they sneer, and while that might be true, it is plain stupidity not to recognize that the rampant, almost institutionalized corruption that The People suffered and chafed under , has brought up a Roaring Tiger that has opened its mouth wide, and said 'Enough'. So what if it isn't following the rules and hasn't read the fine print? Its roaring.

Looks like the govt has to figure out how to ride the Tiger or be devoured by it. Not a happy situation, since we ARE the govt but there it is. Deal with it. It certainly isn't pleasant negotiating in a hostage environment with your back to the wall, but perhaps its only then, one can plumb deepest as to what one can truly give up.

Or give in.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Carrying Hatred

A kindergarten teacher has decided to let her class play a game.

The teacher told each child in the class to bring along a plastic bag containing a few potatoes.

Each potato will be given a name of a person that the child hates, so the number of potatoes that a child will put in his/her plastic bag will depend on the number of people he/she hates.

So when the day came, every child brought some potatoes with the name of the people he/she hated. Some had 2 potatoes; some 3 while some up to 5 potatoes. The teacher then told the children to carry with them the potatoes in the plastic bag wherever they go (even to the toilet) for 1 week.

Days after days passed by, and the children started to complain due to the unpleasant smell let out by the rotten potatoes. Besides, those having 5 potatoes also had to carry heavier bags. After 1 week, the children were relieved because the game had finally ended....

The teacher asked: "How did you feel while carrying the potatoes with you for 1 week?". The children let out their frustrations and started complaining of the trouble that they had to go through having to carry the heavy and smelly potatoes wherever they go.

Then the teacher told them the hidden meaning behind the game. The teacher said: "This is exactly the situation when you carry your hatred for somebody inside your heart. The stench of hatred will contaminate your heart and you will carry it with you wherever you go. If you cannot tolerate the smell of rotten potatoes for just 1 week, can you imagine what is it like to have the stench of hatred in your heart for your lifetime???"

Moral of the story:

Throw away any hatred for anyone from your heart so that you will not carry sins for a lifetime.
Forgiving others is the best attitude to take!
True love is not loving a perfect person
but loving an imperfect person perfectly!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A break in the weather

A break in the weather, originally uploaded by Kevin Day.
A superb photo stream by Kevin Day
" My friend the dead tree"
Both poignant , and full of hope.
It walks through time sof day, seasons, the artists moods, and the cycle of time.
And every time its different.
Teaches us something while I scroll through.

I love the series. Absolutely love it .
Catch the rest of the stream at

Monday, July 05, 2010

Memories in Brine

‘The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked”. ~Tillie Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle

I finished watching Marley and Me on TV a few minutes ago. Apart from the sudden scrabbling for paper tissues towards the end, I was reasonably stoic about this lovely tearjerker. To dog lovers like me, they really should give an advance warning sign (just like they do with PG and A ratings to general viewers) saying ‘Waterworks Just Ahead’.

It’s the last few minutes of the film. John Grogan, the chief protagonist and author sits with Marley, his tempestuous, loving and utterly mad Labrador, as he’s put to sleep, and talks to him about the life they had. Marley has travelled from barmy child-in-chief of the house to an older, wiser brother as Human Child 1, 2 & 3 are born. Time then passes in a happy haze, and the kids are now older. Marley with a loving life and his growing family is now ill, dying. Somewhere in that gentle, murmured conversation, something strikes a chord. ‘Remember when, when you came home for the first time? You were so naughty Marley. Your fear of thunderstorms, your eating up everything in the garage including the wall? There are a lot of memories in there, aren’t there, boy? Maybe you don’t remember all of them -things tend to all run into each other don’t they?’ Marley’s boot-black eyes look at John’s in a moment of complete connection and understanding. Yes, in a full, happy life, memories do tend to ‘run into one other’.

Seeing the whole movie telescope into that few minutes of a flashback between the dying dog and his human made me remember that after a while, things truly tend to run into each other. You try and remember school graduation, or the winning of an award, or the time of pure happiness holding hands, and gazing into a caldera in dreamy Santorini. But in some giant accordion press of time, incidents and anecdotes just tunnel into each other. You don’t remember timelines, exact dates and milestones. But when you do, you catch your breath; you can only remember how it made you feel.

At which point do you turn around and discover with predictably bittersweet sadness, that these are memories, and they clearly belong in your past. At which point do you notice, while you are counting the beads of day in the chain in your hand, that there are likely as many such memories behind you, as there ahead of you, and that most of the happiest ones are, in all likelihood, those from the past. At what time do you discover that infinite just got mutated and boxed, based on the pain in your knees as you ascend stairs n, or the fact that happy yawn and stretch as you awoke in the morning, is replaced by a desire to turn in for another 5 minutes, or get out of bed, feet dragging, duty bound only by a grumpy bladder or a time clock at work.

I always wondered when the ‘now’ would be a future memory and would do everything I could to hold that moment, into something that I would truly, intensely remember. The Good Old Days were in Present Tense. Sometimes I wonder if photographs are our frantic albeit futile need to preserve, freeze and stretch such moments in time. We rarely go back and revisit those photos, although it is clear that most all of them are preserved, however mixed up, in some curdled brine in our minds. We stir it up, and one or the other come up, reluctantly, and not always in great condition. There nevertheless.

There are times I long to catalogue the moments in my head. Pedestrian or otherwise, I wish I could write or record every single thing I’ve experienced. I envy bloggers, diarists, story writers who are able to experience and comment simultaneously. What a filofax to look back on, maybe embrace...

I wouldn’t mind even an old fashioned file with thoughts labelled under Love, Magic, Sad, Food, Life, and School etc. Like Miss Lemon’s much touted perfect filing system in the Poirot series, I too want to be able to docket, file, and cross reference all the wonderful things in my life. I want to be able to slide open that creaky filing cabinet , with a sense of purpose , knowing with certainty that I will find exactly what I want , and where I had kept it last .

In my head , I see that room with the warm lighting , and I see the cabinets on the left, But in the darker , smoky section in the far side of the room, I know my eyes are really quickly scanning to ensure that are enough filing cabinets to hold what is to come.

Sometimes I just don’t know.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


Twilight. Twilight people
There are people who love it, those who come into their own at this time of day.
Not me.

I look outside my French Windows when the sun is still bright. Fading but still light.
I can see the trees, and between the branches and leaves, I see patches of light. That light is very precious to me. Spent, leaking, leaching into another time but its still day.
Daylight means that light is for real, its worked hard and ensured that the world has spun in a particular way .

Now that this view is trapped in a picture window on my left, I keep glancing at it.
 Keep looking at it , as if once I do , the fading, dampening of colour , much like sweat darkly staining a blue shirt , will arrest. And then slowly , mauvely the colour fades out .
I keep watching – the patches become smaller , and the electric light is now reflected on the glass of the windows, and superimposed on darkening , increasingly menacing sky. There is no thunder and lightning , but there might well be, to portend the end of a day, a death of a promise.

The fear of an inexorable cranking forward grows within me  - of something, time , space, whatever.
And an inner small voice is shouting under its breath, as loud as it can, to stop , stop, but no one can hear . It ought not to hear .
It’s the oldest march, and it goes on , and it goes on.
Walks over small ants, elephants, giants and choked screams like this.

Outside the light darkens, and now the incandescent light in the room has won. As the principal source of light, artificial is victorious over natural. Like today, the victory of  modern times.

Its never simple .
Like with all serious, inward moments , the grunge of the everyday intrudes. Outside, there are two blue and white bath towels drying on the balcony railings. An element of the ludicrous   creeping in  justwhen the soul is testing a silent scream, a touch of the circus in the middle of a eulogy.

Life always does that .
Just when its scratching inky stains on paper to communicate portentous tidings to the world, letters start to form, meaning takes shape , someone squishes tomato sauce on a white , white paper.
In the shape of a clown’s smile, twisted.

There are Twilight people. There are people who feel the stretching of nerves, the spreading of arms and adrenaline when the light darkens inexorably outside. I don’t know what it is that does not allow me to celebrate the end of a day.
Is it about hope that falls away , and hope that decays?

And then darkness fell.

Those words always scared me.
Do I therefore love the sunrise and the promise it brings? Do I love the spreading fingers of light?
Yes. Somewhat.

Bu that goods train drones in the distance , chug chug, groan groan, unceasing , inexorable.
It stops for no one, be it light or dark .

Friday, June 11, 2010

Of Men and Memorials

There is a lot of back and forth on the Indira Gandhi Park and the Memorial.

Today there was an eminently sensible , pragmatic and well written perspective by dear friend and columnist V Ravichandar in Bangalore Mirror. Ravi is admirably both able to look at this from a macro perspective as well as the civic viewpoint to look at this dispassionately.

However, on this issue let me categorically admit that I may not have the pristine perspective that Ravi does. As one with a vested interest- I do live close by- let me still tell you what bothers me about this effort. Let me establish a couple of things first One is that I used to be a frequent walker in this close by and beautiful park till lethargy got the better of me .I do want the lovely park to be let alone. Second, that I think that many things that Rajeev Chandrasekhar has done from both his personal and ABIDE persona have been commendable. He is one of the few with a strong leaning towards and representation for, the Armed Forces. More power to his elbow. Third, that I have only the facts as mentioned in the papers, but have neither reached out for not double checked the plans, details on Foundation etc. Maybe there is more there, and I should do so. Fourth, the etiquette on a Memorial of this nature coming up in Military land. Apparently bad form to have it anywhere but civilian land. India Gate at Delhi for example.

NIMBY is an interesting and sobering thought that Ravi gently reminded me about today, tongue in cheek and just a little dryly. NIMBY- Not in My Back Yard, you won’t. So all this is laudable and great, but please not in my backyard. I remember a chat with a senior Traffic Cop who mentioned how frustrating it was that neighborhoods would keep petitioning to shift the Bus Stop opposite their flats or home , a little further down the road. But where would it eventually go? It had to go somewhere. Perhaps opposite mine?

The background is this. With the constant pillage of the city – to widening of roads, to the Metro, all good for us, required, reminiscent of tightening belts, analogies of omelet and breaking eggs; in short every little homily that has set our teeth further on edge, here comes another. And this time it’s optional. I think we are bitter with seeing uprooted trees and a stump where there was green, where there was history. And whatever be the motivation, it cannot bring back the green sap that now dries like old blood in dark dead wood. There is anger of a people who have kept quiet over one more green corpse, bowed their head when we were told this was good for you. There is a cloud of betrayal hanging over our heads for all the history and life we chose not to protect in our city, because they had no voice. There are very few of us who have not felt the pain of standing down, of sitting still. Fanciful or not, this is the background.

And here are my thoughts.

An Army Brat myself I was so moved, when the statue of the Unknown Soldier unexpectedly came up a few months ago at the entrance of the same park. The uniformed, handsome young man stood looking out at grassy parkland shady paths and cool trees, perhaps a tiny reflection of the martyrs heaven that he was in right now. I am not ashamed to state that I stood there a full minute , tears in my eyes, unplugging my iPOD from my ears on that cool morning, looking up at the simple but proud bronze statue, and the engraved plaque mounted on the raised platform with a mixture of love and respect. Wondering on what his dream were. Why my fight was his fight. My body inadvertently snapped to attention, and my throat tightened in thanks for this wonderful gesture towards a thousand soldiers who selflessly laid down their lives over decades. Some names we will never know. I have military friends whose widowed mothers still believe their husbands will return sometime. I know about the Unknown Soldier, but only a little.
It was a moment. We could have stayed with that.

The motivation is excellent. Bangalore will have the first such memorial after Delhi. Laudable . and excellent intentions Who is this Foundation ? Why by a private citizen? That park is a happy lung space in crowded Millers/Palace /Ali Asker Road. This is going to make access stringent, rarified. There is a move to set up a memorial, but no one talked about a Motivatonal Hall of 11000 sft. Really, whom are we motivating? And is this ( mind you we are all getting cynical, and seemingly with good reason) really a Trojan Horse?

Even some military men are embarrassed about this controversy. A memorial yes, but all this encroaching of public lung space? NO. Before we know it, we as private citizens will have no access to this place, and I may bring my Dad’s Service Id card for admission. Exclusion, as always.

And d’you know where that is going to be ? I saw concrete marker stones being laid out. Right in the center of the park, In a bower of ancient, bending, gnarled and blindingly green trees , a quiet and serene spot , that is the park’s cynosure. So much so that walkers like us are not allowed by park attendants to hang out there lest we spoil the grass or something. We walk around the periphery, grateful to partake of such effortless beauty, such casual grace . And in all the 16 acres of space, in the periphery, sides, why was this central space chosen? Why a closed structure? Why here? What ownership will the Foundation have? There are millions of beautiful army spots. There are dozens of Memorial Museums within Army HQs like MEG, ASC etc that clearly have the history and salute our heroes.

I know its not a zero sum game, but before we commemorate their noble deaths, lets focus on their living lives. Let’s focus by not buying them sub standard equipment, boots, planes, tanks and ammo. Give them the material to succeed when they are alive , and attempting to protect our country and us; not a Memorial – so that its more accessible and convenient for us to bring out a hanky to mop up our salty tears when they go to their deaths.

Large edifices can only try but rarely take away public guilt. Putting aside the murder of the Hariyali aur Raasta , which is no quid pro quo for those brave lives, let the politicians instead turn their attention to ensure that not one military life is lost more than necessary. Truly and with their hearts .
The Unknown Soldier would salute you.

That would be a Memorial and a half.
And then let there be memorials galore.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Drifting Forward ..

Drifting forward.
Questioning , endlessly searching, analysing , opening folds for answers.
Wondering if its time already to mourn happiness.
Wondering is the best in life is far far behind you . You will never know.

Its when the glass is almost full, that one can think of holding that moment and other past times back.
A continuum, a train, a speeding turtle.

And time to think .
A time where we curiously cut into our own hearts, just to see how it beats , barely pausing for anesthetic.
Because we dont ever want to be numb.

But we all get there , one day.

One day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Best Things in Life are Free...

There is the loud but muffled sound of fireworks from somewhere outside of my room. I ignore it for as long as I can, and continue to work on my laptop, but later walk over, mildly irritated but curious, to the French windows, and draw the curtains.

Through the clear glass of the windows , and the mosaic of the dark trees that partially cloud my vision, I see the sudden vision of man-made stars - red, green and yellow- explode in dizzying, orchestrated , rainbow slow motion across the dark sky. I am entranced, and I open the windows fully to drink it all in. They fall slowly, dim and fading into the yawning shadows below. The whistling sound of the Skyrockets and Catherine Wheels pop away in a distracted, distant manner, while the marvelous fireworks opera across the sky continues to unfold. As I lean on the balcony railing, pinching myself for being invited at short notice to this unceasing, gracious magic show across my horizon, I am joined by my maid. Equally entranced, we wait breathless, wondering when, if ever, this pageant will stop. And it slowly whittles away, this star parade , it goes lower and lower to the ground, and what felt like a display for the Gods , is now clearly in ant territory.

The best things in life are free, I tell her, translating clumsily into Tamil, straightening up from the balcony. Her eyes linger at the now dark, unsmiling sky outside. She nods quickly, I think she understands. She has dinner to make, so she scurries down towards the aloo-methi on the stove with, perhaps like me, memories of magic and residual sparklers of light fresh in her mind.

Its true isn’t it ? The Beatles might disagree when they sang:
"The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees
Now give me money, (that's what I want) that's what I want."

I think that the joy of health, love, friendship, happiness cannot be purchased by money.
Capturing the ‘moment’ that future memory is made up of, is rarely chargeable.
The snuggle , and warm toes that belong to the extra 2 minutes under the quilt just after the alarm has rung, is difficult to explain , or put value to.
The scent of cool, yet rain warmed earth on an October early morning ranks among my best things, and I don’t remember if I have paid up a ticket for that.
Then there is finding strange animal shapes billowing in the clouds on a still sunny day , and smiling at the rabbit with a crown, or the disintegrating snowman on a train that you see.
And have I counted the recognition of the soaring music of an old and beloved ballad?
Or the sudden illumination of a dark room with an electric light or candle?
Or the joyous heartbreak of a fragrant flower?
The snuffling sigh of your pup as she turns to cuddle deeper into the crook of your arm.
Going to bed with the comforting weight of an unread book tented on your chest, chasing away the worrying thoughts that are a frequent prelude to slumber? ?
The sudden redolence of a steaming cup of tea in the early morning?
Strolling through a roadside art festival, with creativity and colors spilling in exhilarating bursts around you?
What about the ripples on a transparent puddle of needle sharp rain?
The sudden sniff of the aroma of comfort food when you walk into your home – rich and fragrant, redolent with the promise of fulfillment?
And the changing patterns of sun-dappled green in the trees crowding outside your window? The desultory yet wise conversation about life and living with your dad?
The inexplicable but deep connection with yourself that comes as your bare toes connect with green grass?
Re-reading an old classic, and smiling with a satisfied sigh at the predictable happy end?
What about the explosion of vanilla aroma as the oven door opens with a baking brownie inside?
The moon looks down at me in silvery splendor – she belongs to no one.

A giggle with a friend, or the smile of understanding on a shared memory is priceless, and stored away in a happy pocket of the mind. The arm around the shoulder or the warmth of your loved one’s hug brings a sense of completeness – one of the best things that you again don’t have to pay for . Unless your coin is love and affection.

While we might mambo to Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ , I admit I prefer waltzing to Frank Sinatras version:
The moon belongs to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone,
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in spring, the robins that sing,
The moonbeams that shine, they're yours, they're mine.
And love can come to everyone,
The best things in life are free
(First published in Bangalore Mirror)

Friday, July 10, 2009


Said a colleague passing by ‘By the way, you do know that Michael Jackson died this morning, right? ‘

I didn’t know. I am shocked. I spend a few minutes trying to figure out why I suddenly felt so sad. I haven’t heard his songs for ages. It’s the passing of an era I guess. Moreover, MJ seemed ageless, not time bound. The sweet faced young boy, with ‘Don’t Stop Till you Get Enough’, is replaced over time with a strange mutating creature, and his songs are cleverer than his personal life. Michael Jackson moved from music to mime, from a beloved boy rock star to a strange clown-liquid faced person in a time bubble. Bubbles the Chimpanzee, pet Llama, amusement park and all.

I sat up nights watching the iconic Thriller videos when I was a teenager, and the music is still in my head. I watched him with Paul Mc Cartney with the incredibly sweet, teasing duet ‘ The Girl is Mine ‘ as well as the darker ' The Way you Make me Feel’ with its sadistic overtones. And the poignant ballad ‘One Day in Your Life’ which was a favorite of (surprisingly !) my mother’s . ‘We are the World’ was another. In the incredible ‘Black and White’, where one face ironically merged with another, she looked with increasing dismay at the rapidly changing landscape of his color and nose . ‘He is such a handsome boy, why is he doing all this to himself’, she would ask me. I shrugged- his plastic surgery was his vanity and a joke, and I never thought about the fear and fragility that may have motivated him. When was he 50? I recall this ageless wizard when I was in school and college, at work and in growing older. But he was always Peter Pan. In Never never land perhaps, but never a number.

He was a genius, clearly one in a lifetime born, used to fame and the spotlights right from a 5 year old. Clearly meant for spangles, spotlight and then stardust. Who can forget his songs, that signature vocal hiccup, his path breaking entertainment on MTV, those eye-popping dance moves , which went from dazzling and fresh to strangely robotic and cruel , but no less brilliant nevertheless. I remember that incredibly sweet, almost shy, little boy smile and that high falsetto voice, that progressed to the peculiar lip gash smirk and the Michael-I’m-Barbie face. One day he became the sad clown under the circus top, and while other clowns rode their bicycles over him, or pretend-hit him with a paddle, he blinked and cried , but we all still laughed and clapped at his antics.

We owned Michael, and he did us justice. He lived his life in front of our eyes and his world tours and live shows demonstrated his unsurpassed ability to entertain. He became increasingly eccentric as he grew in that glass bubble, and we watched him distantly amused and enchanted at the same time. I admit I wanted Never Never Land too, but I am not sure about either the nose or the time capsule. Increasingly his isolation, wild spending, and later child abuse charges, and clearly eccentric star status lent him the mystery that finally degenerated into the tawdry.
Apparently when the news of his death flashed, the ‘volcanic’ nature of the searches were such that Google was inundated and Twitter and Wikipedia did briefly crash.

This iconic, delusional, flawed yet gifted pop star lived his life in the glare of 80 million eyes. There was nowhere to hide, even in the most painful of times.
The spotlights stripped him naked and shriveled.
He lived, he loved, he fell apart, and pulled himself together, he grew , he shrunk, he performed, and he paled , he sang his heart out , and then he withered .
He tottered, rose, and fell in our gaze.
Many times.

He was a soap opera unto himself , and I wondered if he knew that when he woke up in pain that day in LA , thought about his graying, flawed life, injected himself with Demerol that afternoon, suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Even his death was Reality TV at its best.
His daughter Paris broke down at the Memorial for her Daddy, the best Daddy in the world, and suddenly the kaleidoscope shifted for me. The voyeurism and the TRP’s became real, personal, and a bit too much. I turned off the TV. I had forgotten that he was also a person, and not just an entertainer. I forgot that even if we all felt like we owned him, as he lived his life and times in front of us; he actually belonged to a chosen few. Those who loved him and lived with him. The real Michael , however tortured - Daddy , Brother , Son , Friend .

He moved voluntarily from the music stage on to a mounting board, this brilliant, dazzling butterfly . As one of those gawping 80 million who were captivated by his talent, read his antics with increasing perplexity , poked at his scabs, stood on judgment , and still loved his music, its sad to let go this fragile, fluttering butterfly impaled on a pin.

RIP, Michael.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Down the Drain..

Abhishek’s drowning has become a symbol of all that is indifferent and uncaring in Bangalore. The buck that passes, the shoulders that shrug, the pen that slides over paper, and the defensive voice that says, ‘gothilla saar, its not my responsibility’ . The child was 5 years old. He was walking in the safest place possible – holding his mother’s hand. And then the heavens opened up. The mother who has let go her child’s hand for a minute because she slipped while on slick road in a raging rain , is never going to forgive herself or forget . It was just a second. And she never saw him again.
Can you imagine a child being sucked in to the subterranean hell under the road, in a vortex of powerful eddying waters in a drain, filled with plastic, rats and garbage? One moment, the heavy raindrops are falling on his face, and he is probably huddling closer to his mother. The second moment, he slips and a yawning chasm swallows him up, while water fills up his lungs , and he never sees the dark sky again .
But perhaps Abhishek and his mother took grave risks. They should not have been out, walking on a Bangalore road. Insurance companies will now shift Bangalore as high on the risky cities list. They should have crept indoors in a nuclear shelter the moment that it rained. Instead they did what most others would have done. Like the security guard, and a couple on a scooter who also drowned that week. Drowned while doing the simplest thing in the world. Going- back -home.
So we now must be careful . Not while serving the country on the border , mind you . Or testing new fighter jets. Skydiving . Being a trapeze artist. Being on an oil rig. Being a fire fighter or a policeman.
We have to be afraid all the time. Doing any of these things:
Standing . Sitting. Walking. Getting into a car. Crossing the road. Farming our land . Being in a bus.
Are we going to look surprised and confused , be unprepared every monsoon , every summer , for drowning , electrocution, road accidents? Every time. Every single darn time? Sorry. No can do. Even rats learn by experience. And cockroaches.
This happened because one underpaid employee or unconcerned malcontent decided to leave home early , closed his eyes , yawned , walked past unfinished work, and just didn’t care . Chose not to care. Left early to grab a coffee with friends. Had a cigarette break with colleagues on the chouraha. And did not cover a crater on the road, close a drain , or disable a live wire . Just that once. A human life is too expensive a mistake to say, ‘Regrettable . But its part of the game’. ‘It happens’.
It’s not.
Its manslaughter, plain and simple, and whether it is the department or the person is culpable, let them own up . Its dereliction of duty. If an army person leaves his post during the war, he is tried and court -martialed for desertion. And what happens to our fatcats at the BWSSB or the Bangalore Corporation, or the BEST? I am tired by people telling us to get involved. Could the government be active in doing just what its supposed to do ? If I did their job, I may neither be able to make a living, nor deposit taxes to pay their salaries. The government will sit back happy while citizens like me , a part of the so called community partnership come in on Sundays and cover drains, plant trees, fill up road craters while they find more to criticize and even less to do .
The Government has to do their job, and nothing less. As a citizen, I demand a minimum level of infrastructure , and safety , and nothing less. I am tired of the word ‘the authorities’. ‘The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people’ said Frank Kent. So its time we should get really intolerant. For the authorities, doing a job cannot be that hard. If they are paid a salary, and get a pension, why are they always finding excuses?
And what about us? Its about time we should take some control of our own lives, and demand what Abhisheks mother lost out on . A simple measure of basic provisions. Of safety, security and dignity. And public servants and the authorities better take care of ours as well. That’s what they are paid to. Twice over. Paid over the table, and sometimes under it.
Little Abhishek paid twice over too.
It’s a shame.

Friday, January 02, 2009

God Rest your soul , young Varun

Varun was a few days old when we first saw him. Ela and Bryan’s first born lay in his baby bassinet, at his grandparents house at Rest House Crescent, all crumpled, bright and fair, legs kicking, looking at us with faint interest in his beautiful brown eyes . A lovely baby, even given my bias being his mother Ela’s childhood classmate, friend and therefore by definition, his fond aunt. He was the second baby born in our close knit group, and I recall us bachelor girls crowding around a flushed, tired but proud Ela-Mom in some excitement and wonder. I think we just stopped short of prodding him to check if he was for real. They were great parents Ela, Bryan, and with a phenomenal infrastructure and extended family and grandparents. No wonder Varun flourished and bloomed as he did.

And then he grew. The sisters Veena and then Esha came along, each cuter than the other , beautifully mannered , with that happy heart , confidence and great charm we took for granted in the family . Varun was a great big brother , and his sisters quite obviously adored him. We watched as a tiny lil fellow stood out in sports, elocution and was so popular with his friends and classmates . We just didn’t know how much. I remember meeting him at age 13 at Kadambam on Manipal center for a dosa breakfast where he had come in after a cricket match at school , all sweaty and happy , and he walked right up to us , smiled with that delightful gap toothed smile we remembered so well, and said hello . A teenager typically would cross the road to avoid his parents’ friends ( I completely understood - they are so un-cool ! ) , but there he was ,as well mannered, fun and affectionate as always.

Years pass, we see him on and off. We read about his cricket and sports in the papers, and raise our eyebrows. He’s doing well, our Varun, we say to ourself. The next time we met that I particularly recall was when he had a small cycle accident with his sister and was at Lakeview Hospital with broken leg and abrasions . Eyebrows raised , and wryly smiling in teenage embarrassment , but tolerating with some good humor the ‘ almighty fuss’ that people were making , including his normally matter of fact parents. They are a lovely family, just perfect, and you see their love and easy togetherness in good times over Christmas and birthdays , but it shines through particularly when there is adversity .

The last time I saw him was last Christmas, when I was amazed how much young Varun had grown. There he was at home passing around the cake and eats , and generally being a terrific host in addition with his phenomenal height , great looks and easy manner , this was one handsome boy ( despite the fashionable and horrendous goatee that all teens seem to sport these days ! ) . And a right grown young man. Centered, rooted, matter of fact, and yet such a cool dude. We could talk as grown ups, and I was amazed that the transition had happened , and when my husband Raj and I drove home, marveled at this whole new person we had met , and secretly congratulated Ela and Bryan in our mind for raising such a fine young man. And I knew she would be even more proud of him. He was in Law School at Pune, and Ela -Mom was just starting to worry whether he would be okay away from home. He was.

Until now.
It is so sad to speak about this gorgeous young boy, the collective son of our entire group, in the past tense. Its intolerable cruelty to think a single minute in a car accident changed so many lives. Varun deserved to be spoken in the Present Continuous, in the very least. In fact, he deserved a Future, at the very least. I cannot bear to think that he stands in our minds, frozen in time , 19 going on 20 , and that we will never attend his graduation party , check how his first interview went , his first job, demand a treat from his first salary , congratulate him and the family on his marriage and family , not see him watch his sisters walk down the aisle one day , or be an uncle to their children or organize a slap up party to celebrate his parents golden anniversary . Or see him live to experience and conquer the world as he so obviously meant to do. That’s heartbreaking, it just is.

He would have been twenty years old on Jan 16th this new year , this little crumpled baby I saw nearly two decades ago, in my friends arms . I have no words to share how tragic this loss to the world is. However there is another side that can comfort us . Kahlil Gibran said ‘When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ‘ And its the truth , its our delight that we all weep for now, because its past .

Ela’s worst ticking off to me was entreating me not to ‘fuss’ ( the most scathing word in the vocabulary, I think ). Her children grew up happy and confident with her no fuss, lots of love approach as well as Bryan’s sneaky pampering. ‘‘Priya , no fuss now . No drama queen vibes, if you please".
You will have to excuse me this time , Ela , Bryan. You have your son to mourn and grieve, but we too have a young boy who we treasured , loved and will miss. We feel your pain, and we will fuss this time, with your permission. He deserved fuss, love and so much more.

He deserved life.
And the world at his feet.
Not a mound of earth.

God rest your soul, young Varun .

Happy 2009 and some meanderings

2009 has been a year of much moment. Or perhaps at year end , we feel that because there is a logical beginning and end to much joy, sorrow, graying and achievement. We know some of the highs and lows of the year past. We stood at ineffectual candlelit vigils, or just ached at being emptily, but proudly Indian after the pain of 26/11. We discovered resources and togetherness in a nation. In recent recessionary times, we saw how flat the world was when companies and pillars collapsed, jobs were lost, and prodigal sons returned with empty hands from their promised land. But we still went to the moon, stood proud with nuclear powers, we still remembered it was good to be Indian, and be a citizen of the world.

Perhaps we need to desperately put a retrospective diary to a time span thats whizzed by. And being pretentious and measuring is one of the ways we do that. We need to look at endings before we start a real beginning, dont we? "Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." Andre Gide.

Here is Day One: January 1st 2008 brimming with optimistic resolutions and spring in our step, and as moments start avalanching one to another, we flip pages right up to Day 365 . Here is December 31st 2008 now, while we wearily sit down on the nearest spot, catch our breath , to count both our love, our scabs and our laurels. We want all the stuff we felt, saw, experienced, rejected, to be neatly boxed in, examined one last time, retracing both the joy and un-joy, before its sealed away in a mental attic. It is our natural book keepers mind, looking at the accounts and ledgers and anxiously trying to balance the figures. It doesnt always add up. Its not always neat. And yet we tie the last bow, and put away the books with some regret. Its now some one elses problem. Perhaps the Great Auditor on High.
Nothing wrong with that.

"He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end." Harry Emerson Fosdick . I hope we always remember to choose the fairest, kindest means to our goals.

As we chew the end of the pencil, and inhale the crisp new smell of a fresh notebook, we can gaze at the promising emptiness of the sheets with anticipation of things better, happier, more intense than what we may have known. I wish for good things, and if there must be anything else, I pray the learning from it gives you anchor and lights up your path. I pray for enjoyment of the present, the stuff that future memories will be made of , and treasured . Og Mandino spoke eloquently of the mix of joy and sorrow, of opportunities and learning when he said "I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars."
So , in the new year , I wish you and your loved ones a year of wonderful beginnings , of great joy , of many deep breaths , of many celebratory moments and successes , and of shining light, yet some stars to find.

All the best to you and yours in 2009 ..

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Am watching a TV channel showing the spontaneous coming together of thousands of Indians at Gateway of India. Quiet, thousands of candles, no single organiser. Just a coming together of very sad, grieving, angry people. Sharp minds who took a stance on what they wanted from the new India. When they said Jai Hind, the voices had a different resonance . In my heart too. For the first few times, I feel ownership of our Indian tag.

What do our politicians feel when they see this outpouring of grief, this rejection , disgust , hatred and condemation of their presence . I hope they remember we are Indians - expressing what we feel . And for us, they are Enemy No 1, the one they are trying to get us to hate is jsut slipped to Enemy No 2.

As my husband said just now, I once again feel proud for a second, to be Indian. After the Ultimate Cleanser Raj Thackeray ruthlessly divided us, an external tragedy has now united us. Maybe I am swayed easily , but since its on the good side of the continuum , I want to .

I am glad I am .

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bring out the Muzzles - their bark is worse than their byte.

Our Boys with the Z Security really stooped to conquer.

We all know the politicians' shoe sizes now.
Their foot is so often in the mouth , that we wonder whether we should shift the mike appropriately. Foot in Mouth Disease is alive and well.

Apart from the Patils and the Deshmukh pearls , here are some fresh jewels:

Shri Naqvi , VP at the BJP is appalled that people, who should be going down on their knees to praise the politicians in this glorious times, are saying otherwise. Outraged at the way we are following western tenets, he rants, "They should not say ... "politicians murdabad". Who is instigating these women groups to hold such protests? Why do some lipstick-cladded women, wearing jeans are protesting against the politicians on the streets of Mumbai'. "There is a clear attempt to divide the country and break the trust of people in India's democratic fabrics. That's why such protests against politicians are taking place", he further added (wearing shirt, trousers and a jacket) . Being sadly guilty of a candlelit vigil myself, I am absolved , because I wore neither lipstick nor powder. Oops - does deodorant spray count ? Shri Naqvi, please advise appropriate future dress code and locational preference. We must know. We must .

And Shri Kerala CM Achutanandan , greasy smile intact , but stung by my new hero Mr Unnikrishnan 's feisty response , says " If it were not for Sandeep, not even a dog would have visited that house ' .
Tch tch , Mr CM.
I love dogs , so let me rephrase that insult for the future . "Not even a politician would have visited that house ' . Mind it.

And the conversations are endless. Everytime they open their mouth , we help them buckle their shoes. Your bark is worse than your sound byte, Neta-ji . Muzzle up. It's safer . For you and for me. More for you , I think .

Rest in Terror, Mr Politician . Your time has come.

Stay Out

Major Unnikrishnan's father had reason to throw out the politicians. They came , like vultures, to pick over the carrion. A little late , but there was always a sound byte possibility.That slap on the their face found many echoes. A dignified man in his grief till then , the father finally crumbled - in righteous rage.
Shame on you .
I am not fodder for you. Or media mileage. My loss will not be trivialised.

That's what we all say .
We are not grist to your mill. Don't trivialise what happened.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Clueless in the Capital ..

Heads have started to roll now.
Shivaraj Patil steps down, dapper as ever . He is relieved , in more ways than one.
Who's next ?

The Capital does a quick count in their party of who is expendable, and who will ' understand ' and be a good soldier , and starts damage control from the PR perspective. (Elections around the corner , do not forget . ) Pakistan ministers starts playing a rapid volte face to save-face as they realise implications of what has happened . I love their strong , passionate 'politician' voice. Mr Pratap Rudy says it is too little too late ( yes, I see that he reads the newspapers ) and that the entire cabinet should resign . Hmm. Naturally I can believe that is a completely unbiased comment , not issued in the politicians self serving cant . Right ?

I have a suggestion. We stop paying our taxes , until the government delivers. We are entitled to liberty , free expression under the Democracy. We are also entitled to live free and secure , have food , water , a roof over our head , and medical care . Guess what the government is NOT doing?

So here is the thing . When I go to a hotel , Taj or the Darshini around the corner for a cup of coffee, I pay them, and guess what , they give it to me. Sometimes with fancy napkins , a warm smile , and a great CRM system , or a brusque ' Strong kaapi bekaa? .
But I get that coffee.

However, we are not getting it .
We are not getting roads , systems, security, good equipment, ability to fix a creaking machinery. But what we are getting is the warm politician handshake , and a thanks for our custom. And if we are waiting for the coffee , with our tenner in our hands , and it is just not there , why are we still leaving our money on the table?

Mahatma Gandhi brought in Civil Disobedience .
Lets admit we are a trifle more materialistic as a civil society today , and smart enough to know the one place that will hurt the government .

The first movement we need today is Economic Disobedience.
We want KRAs to be actioned , and deliverables evaluated regularly. We want a monthly assessment ,and we want results and explanations. You work for us , not the other way around .
As individuals and corporates , we pay Advance Tax, Income Tax, Service Tax, VAT , Sales Tax, Fringe Benefit Tax. Far too many taxes . And I have no idea where it goes.

When did you last see it work for you ?
Does this sound fair ?
Does this sound like a plan?
Lets start. Dig in our heels.
Lets tell them, and lets start.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

War on Terror? I just wear my black arm band..

‘It is not burning there’, says a protester to the journalist , pointing to his head .
‘It is burning here.’
Pointing to his heart.

Maybe that is the problem. We are burning in our hearts, while what we should be doing is coldly thinking with our minds, what we collectively should do next. I am sure our netas are polishing their next impassioned speech, working on a well-worded rebuttal on why they were inside, hiding. Lets use the time to plan what we need to do as citizens. We have a larger enemy. The enemy within. Not just terrorists or extremists . But the larger system that has sold us down the river. And laughed all the way to the bank. But not now.
No Sir, you will not be laughing now. Not now. Not ever.

And we sit in front of our TV systems, as the war ends. We are breathing lighter now. But the fact that its over means less than it should. Its not over , and it will take some time , and some results, before it will be. We watch the story of gritty survivors, unusual heroes, and some who have just crumbled in their grief. And I feel for you. But everywhere, and within me , I see anger . And yet I sit in from of my TV set, like all of do almost compulsively , and mourn.

We need to hold people to account. But how ? Get the powers that be to leave ? Should we withdraw from our citizenship , should we secede from our democracy ? You are right , we cannot . So we are still being held at ransom. Our politicians tell us about the number of terrorist attacks that have been foiled , that we didn’t know about . ( I hear the subtext . ‘ You ingrates’ is what he is really saying ) Oh dear, say I , were we supposed to curtsy and thank you for just doing your job? I wish you had told me that before . I should have been more polite , known the rules, and sent you thank you letters. We are formulating answers , says one, with a straight (honest-trust-me- I-am-like-your-brother) face . What do the people want , anyway ? You are right , I have no clue what we want . But I think it’s their blood.

Politician A , a well known, and smooth gasbag at Delhi speaks with ponderous finality on what needs to be done. The barbs from other panelists are beginning to unsettle him, though. Feeling the Hot seat , Mr A ? Strident Ms J comes in on the TV screen squealing like a cut pig, furious with the media for giving the public a platform for expressing their hatred for politicians. She is right , maybe. Ms J , how does it feel to be part of a an endangered species? Do you feel you now need reservations for your kind ? Do you hate the feeling of insecurity ? Of being backed into a corner , back to the wall ? Do you ? Well then, welcome to our world . Or do you want to up your Z class security to 20 additional , hard working, bleary-eyed 24/7 Black Cats ? Think about it . Your neighbors will be SO envious.

Perhaps I am behaving like a reluctant rabble rouser . I am not apologizing just yet. I am normally collaborative, diplomatic, trying to see the common ground . But I talked to my colleagues and friends today with passion and frustration and rage. With a request to not wipe the slate clean, and move on. Robots move on. We are people need to do something . And I tried . I set up a small group to do a peaceful sit-in at the Gandhi Statue at MG Road. We got police permission, which was surprisingly easy. Time slot of 4 pm to 5.30 , no preparation, no need for press, armed with black arm bands, placards and lit candles -and us. (Close to 5 , we had the addition of a political party protest armed with flags, posters and an agenda, so we did not overstay our welcome, and we left ). It was a drop in the ocean, didn’t change anything , depending on how you look at it . It did not take away the pain , and the anger . But as we lit the last candle for those who senselessly lost their lives, and left it on the stone wall at the Gandhi statue, and as the flames sputtered and stayed , I went away a percentage point lighter .

Mr Karkare’s wife restored our dignity and belief by declining an ex gratia compensation of a crore for her husband’s brutal death . His teenage son had a painful yank into adulthood today , as reluctant and lost , he conducted his fathers last rites. I think we did too.

Mr Karkare , Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan , that doorman at Taj, and all the others who turned up for work that fateful day , just like the rest of us did , and died for no reason , we salute you . God bless your soul and your families.
I wear my black arm band for you , and I grieve.
Rest in peace .

Enough is Enough

Enough is ENOUGH
It seems to be a night without end. More so because its being played out in 4 camera angles on every TV channel.
Its Die Hard 4, if it were not so tragic.
From Day 1, all I have been filled with is a seething sense of rage. I sit like many of us with my fists clenched , and no where to go. I can imagine the politicians pouting and preening before the mirror , practicing the perfect sound byte for the cameras. This is not the usual Priya, sanguine and optimistic. Like many of us though, I am filled with helplessness watching tragedy unfold, but also a growing sense that we need to do something about it this time. But what , but what ? But we must .
Lets put our heads together . Not just vote . We need to do more. I refuse to be Collateral Damage .Or let my fellow Indian or overseas guest be Collateral Damage either .
There are people dead , there are people who were minding their business who suffered and died agonizingly. Our brave forces went in and did the clean up for the mess that the system created . They did it with their duty . And what is your duty , Mr Neta. To us ? To your caste ? To your bulging wallet ? But people DIED. I am sure it didn’t stop our politicians chewing on high energy dry fruit , drinking a glass of milk , and ensuring their white clothes were starched and ironed to perfection . So yes- maybe we as the public need our whipping boys, but hey you Neta in the crisp cotton, walk right up . You'll do .
Your sacrificial lambs were the police , the firemen, the RAF , the NSG , the commuters at CST who went in and took what you should have . Responsibility for being an Indian citizen. It does not always come with a bullet in your back, though .. For them , it did.

Who takes responsibility for this ? Lets find you excuses, Mr Neta . Poor ones. For example, do you want Taj and Oberoi Trident, to admit to a security failure? They pay the taxes , dammit , they deserve to be safe, not to ensure security. But they did what the Netas didn’t. Put their neck out , saved people, ensured sanity , and stood their ground. A Taj GM did his job, handling his team , frightened customers, in a burning building at siege. He did his duty with all his heart when his own heart was breaking . While his wife and 2 kids burnt to death in the most agonizing way possible.
And where were you ?
A frightened woman who gave birth at the Camas and Ableless Hospital between explosions , talks about her son coming into a loud world filled with blasts and mayhem, taking his first breath in his new world with not a sound or cry. When he grows up , she whispers , I will tell him he is made of steel.
I close my eyes - that statement just tears me up .
And where were the political might , the systems , the awareness that could have avoided this horrendous, catastrophic situation ? Staying indoors. Come right out , now that it is nearly over , you cowards and useless flotsam. We have no use for you anymore.
I have anger at against the terrorists who tore us apart for the last three days. Helpless knotted rage. But I have even more anger and rage against the politicians, the system and the in-fighting , posturing of this waste of DNA , the politicians, who not only weakened our system , brought us to our knees , but colluded to ensure we stayed there.
Wear the black arm band today .
We have a lot more than the helpless , the dead , the injured and bereft to mourn