Posted in Extras

May your rich life spill over into your writing pages…

I do not know about others, but I make sure I don’t read other bloggers so that my ideas stay fresh and original and do not get influenced even inadvertently by their thinking ways. In other words, I do not want to mimic anyone or borrow words.

I started blogging amateurish during my Malaysian days. I didn’t know what it was and I could perhaps be one of India’s earliest bloggers who knows! India Times had a blogging portal in 1999 and it was then that my blogging journey began. My first reader was a young Pakistani. We met in an online chat room and I gave him the link to read me up. For me this was a life changing experience. I was interacting with someone who was from an enemy terrain, who was opposite sex (even if he was younger) and i was letting someone read my thoughts! First it was overwhelming but I trusted my first reader because I found him extremely decent. In fact I adopted him as my younger bro!

I blogged mostly what came to my mind then, consisting a series of new posts and my brief comments on them, nothing more. Blogging space used to limited in those days. Hardly a page was allowed for each post. Plus, my writing was still like a school composition.

Through this Paki friend of mine (with whom I quarreled over Kashmir (!)) I got interest in their media. It is here that I discovered my blogging Guru (!) so to speak of. My interest in blogging grew in leap and bounds because, I found someone writing from his heart. I also found that the blogger who stroked my interest in writing was arrogant to the core, rogue, rascal of first order and rowdy but highly intelligent and versatile. Beneath the veneer, I suspected a kind soul, a big heart. I thought I liked his style. He is the only blogger or columnist I read up regular until today. He has such a profound influence on my thought process. I guess I inherited even my rambling style from him!!! For years I read his blog posts based on his personal experiences and life that gave his words a legitimate touch. A rebel in everyway, first I was intimidated but gradually I came to appreciate his way of life and ideals. Coming from a terrorist country under military command, I was aware, he had to stick to boundaries. Nevertheless, I found his sarcastic and satirical pieces a very intelligent representation of his deepest thoughts and dismays. In last few years, the columnist has evolved into a researcher and author, but if you ask me, I like his past avatar the best over this his present sobered down self. That was what inspired me even if he was a lot repetitive in those days. I picked up my books based on his recommendations. There was a hitch: how do you tell anyone your mind guru was a Pakistani!! My husband noticed me reading him and said, I must log out! I tried telling my friends about him and they said, he must be a spy! Simply nobody liked the fact that I read a Pakistani journalist-author! Most were scared and the rest thought very lowly of the country. This is the first time I am writing about him openly in my blog. What a fine taste in everything, what a sense of humour, what a well camouflaged aching for the way things turned out, that was masked in satire and sarcasm. You can be an author/columnist/blogger, in short a journalist, easily in India. But to be one like him in his country needs utmost courage. I drew my own courage to write on sensitive subjects from my Maanaseega Guru. I have read his first book as well. Rambling as usual nevertheless, I loved it. I am touched by his life experiences that have molded him into the kind of guy he is today. I like his brand of music. Sense of dressing everything. Deepest respects and admiration here for my Guru, from a middle-age housewife from India whose thought process he has influenced. Charming. Of course, now he is watered down version of how he used to be. Currently my guru writes a lot on international media and on international news having well read the foreign publications and journals and research works, but in my memory are his cricket stories, jail protests, college days, campus politics etc. His India stories piqued my interest as well and mostly my comments to him were kind of like, ‘bast**d’ or ‘rascal’!

(My guru may have no idea he is my inspiration. May not even be aware of my existence in the first place).

After dwelling on my ideal blogger/columnist’s pieces for over ten years, I decided that I had to be honest like him in my writing and it is okay to draw from my life experiences. After all I have no secret to hide and I am nobody important. It is fine if I disclose certain personal things because they lend my blog an element of authenticity. Also in very different ways from his, my life is also conditioned by unique experiences. I thought these can be told without harm to a limited audience. I decided that I would never invite audience to my blog. Whoever comes here is an accidental visitor. Most return!

Today I find some of my friends blogging. They are excellent nostalgic bloggers/writers and I hope and wish they drink from the fountain of life too before they set out on their intended course.

Ahead lies this journey, a very interesting one full of vivid scenes and encounters that can be felt only by the mind. I am following such a road and I am enjoying this walk with my co-travelers. My life I feel is rich because of their intelligent and interesting company.

Most of us here are keyboard warriors quite like some armchair intellectuals out there. But the rewards we reap by way of hearty contentment is immense. You feel a sense of purpose. You feel a fulfillment.

At least this is my personal experience. Grateful to all who make this adventure of mine worthwhile.

No, absolutely no idea of going professional or public. Happy as I am. Amateurish. Appreciative of the handful select audience.

Posted in Food For Soul

நான் அறிந்த தெய்வம்

Inspired to write this:

அன்பற்ற ஆசாரம் பழுது

நேயமற்ற நோம்பிலும் நேர்த்தி குன்று

மனிதம் இல்லா மந்திரம் வீண்

வாய்மையில்லா வேதமும் விரயம்

ஆர்வமற்ற கலை அப்பழுக்கு

உயிரற்ற ஓவியம் விலை போகா

இனிமையில் சொல்லும் சுடும்

இசைவில்லா முயர்வு தோல்வியே

நம்பிக்கையற்ற நெறி தவறும்

உருக்கமற்ற கதையும் கவராது

கனவில்லா துயில்வும் சுகமில்லை

ரசனையற்ற மனமும் வெறுமை

பொருளில்லா புத்தகம் பலனில்லை

மணம் இல்லா மலர் சூடுவதற்கில்லை

மக்கள் இல்லா செல்வம் மங்கும்

பேணுதல் இல்லா உறவு கெடும்

ஆக்கமில்லா செயலும் செல்லாக்காசு

 பிடிப்பில்லா வாழ்வு பாழ்

நோக்கமில்லா மார்கம் தடுமாற்றம்

தூய்மையற்ற அகமும் விளங்காது

சமத்துவம் இல்லா சமூகம் அவலமே

சமநீதி இல்லாத சமயம் அயோக்கியம்

மானுடமற்ற மதம் மூர்க்கம்

ஆறறிவு கேட்ட மனிதன் ஜடம்

உன்னதமில்லா எதுவும் உயர்வன்று

ஒளியற்ற ஆலையம் கேடு

சீரற்ற வழி செம்மை இல்லை

பகுத்தறிவற்றாரை கடவும் கடந்து போகும்

Posted in Economic

One Size Fits Not All: Standardization/Regulation Hick-ups In India.

In colourful vibrant India, everything has to shine a different shade. Every kinder garten kid must flutter like a butterfly in a different pinafore than the kid from a second or third neighbourhood school.

The range of secondary school education boards we boast of: Respective State boards, CBSE, ICSE, NIOS… and of course the latest IB (even though if you follow IB syllabus you will have to necessarily go for graduation to a foreign university as Indian universities do not recognize IB school certification). Not to leave out the rural municipal schools/urban corporation schools which may adopt state board stream… Where is a uniform platform to contend.

You would never know whether private buses ferry industrial workers to factories or kids to schools unless you read the nameboard, because school buses ply in all colours from yellow and blue to pink and green.

How are college campuses. How many tiers. For Tier I we have IITs and IIMs and AIIMS etc. Tier II has NIT etc., Tier III comprises other engineering and medical colleges, and so on… Every tier seems to have a qualifying entrance specific to the their layer. No standardized selection/admit procedure or test.

Hail a black tuktuk (auto rickshaw) in Delhi. In Chennai hail the yellow one and in some states of India watch out for the green ones.

How about sizing in India. Are our brands and sizes compatible. Size XL in one brand can be size L in some brands in the country whether it is a t-shirt or trouser or kurta. You can never take the sizes for granted. Shoe sizes? Shoe size 38 in one brand and size 40 in a different brand and size 8 in a third may be the same fit! And here we have the next level of confusion. UK size or US size or Europe size??? Shoe sizes now measure from 6 to 12 (US sizes). But what is really the standard Indian size for garments or footwear.

Aerial views of geographical locations excite us always when we board a plane. The only country where the aerial view is so mixed-up, confused, hazy and clueless is India’s! I have landed in well planned and organized countries in Europe, Asia and America. I can’t help comparing and concluding that the bird’s eye view of my nation is just a sample of things to come once we land. Co-ordinated town planning and organized development missing in us so that, India is an eyesore when you look down from the skies.

Is our water consumption metered? Water is the scarcest natural resource as we know, even if replenishable. The upper middleclass among us have access to abundant piped water supply, footing a bare minimum bill (by way of a flat water tax and minimum fixed water charges), with the regular unmetered municipal/corporation water filling our basement sumps to the brim, while the lower middle/working class have to run after the water tankers. Notable is the absence of a civic water distribution system that must be in place for the poor and the neediest among us. The rural scene is unmentionably pathetic. Who are we shortchanging here. India could be the only third world nation that does not meter water. Go see the European nations and America my dear countrymen and government. Not even a glass of water is free even in restaurants where it is always free in India wherever you go, especially in restaurants.

What about a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all Indian citizens, the most important of all. Why do we have separate laws governing followers of different faiths. High time everyone is brought under the single umbrella of a uniform statute. Are you hearing me pseudo liberals and leftists. Or are you having your moment of selective amnesia. Dear Indian bhais, do you enjoy special religious laws in the US and in European countries. Can you have four wives as per laws in the west. Whereas in India, I recently chanced upon some real life cases. Legally sanctioned. A muslim man who retired as govt servant left behind four wives. After him his pension was drawn by his first wife, then second, then after her the third and then finally the last who was only 20 when she married the old man. The man’s four wives were drawing more pension for longest number of years than the man’s service record, close to over half a century. In which country on earth is this possible including in middle eastern.

Is there anything in India that is properly standardized, regulated. Anything at all streamlined effectively and hassle-free that you can go about your exercise without a bottleneck.

Conforming to uniform national standards across the board will be a national benchmark. It will be a day of reckoning in Indian history.

Until recently before GST was introduced, even the Sales taxes and Excise duties varied from state to state on crossing border. Now with the imposition of a uniform tariff, long queues in checkposts are eliminated. Some attempt at regularization of revenues, a commendable attempt! Seamless pan India trucking for all-India permit holders. The fuel and time and charges and manpower saved!

Aadhar unique ID and PAN (Personal Assessment Number (for Income Tax)) are like baby steps at standardization/regularization and linking of both may not be a hundred percent foolproof method to prevent loopholes but may go a long way in preventing duplication of accounts and hoarding of black money.

Driving licences and Passports were easiest to standardize and centralize.

Voters IDs have some regional input like the PDS Family cards.

Without standardizing education, some learned so-called pundits talk about reservation. Yes, reservation in India is possible when every kid in India either attends the neighbourhood creamy academy or the municipal school uniformly. When the differences start as early as in kinder garten, there is no way we can suspend reservation quotas in India for the moment. Privileged classes have to make amends to accommodate the under-privileged to usher in some sense of social justice in the country. Reservation is merely a compensatory pay-out.

NEET may be a bold step towards regularization of admit of candidates to our medical universities even if it may pit our rural aspirants in a disadvantageous position.

At a very slow pace, India is going for standardization across the board.

Is standardization/regulation not possible at all in a country like India. Remote chances even if a country seven times as large as India, the United States has managed to achieve sort of an equilibrium, so to say. In India, the differences are culturally rooted and have been in place for centuries. We will have to work harder and with sincerity to weed out the discriminating factors dividing the society.

Only a satisfactorily literate society can realize the objective goals of a flourishing economy. In such an event, standardization is the natural outcome. A free and fair economy is possible when we have level playing ground for everyone in our country.

It takes a strong will on the part of administration/government to enforce laws to standardize our economy notwithstanding criticisms.

Inclusive growth is the only way to grow uniformly and evenly. Over next few years, hopefully we can count on more standardization and regulation-regularization enforcements for bringing in equality and social justice across the spectrum.

Posted in Environment

Lounging Space

As we take our daily walk in the parks of Doha, I am sorely reminded of how I am missing even this small privilege in my hometown Chennai.

Even today if we are to scrutinize the old blueprints/location maps of vintage landholdings/real estate properties of our metropolis, we can find that, there were many, many identified lung spaces situated right in the heart of our good old Madras that could have been converted to parks. We could have had these beautiful landscapes and walking and cycling tracks had not the public places earmarked for community utility landed in private hands during successive corrupt Dravidian regimes. Not even the reserve forest areas have been spared, violating laid down norms. Illegal encroachments get legal sanction with periodic regularization: that is Tamil Nadu.

Today if we see the skyrocketing of real estate prices in Chennai, it is not without a reason. Those middle-class families born and brought up in the city for generations cannot afford to live in the heart of the city thanks to our corrupt politicians. A 3 bhk apartment with car park in city limits costs in crores that most of us cannot afford. Only those old families who owned houses prior to the 1970s in Madras are now proud houseowners in the heart of the city. Of course there is the new rich always who have been able to afford expensive homes. A small percentage of the upwardly mobile can realize their dreams. But by and large, the middle class sections of our society have been pushed to the peripheral suburbs, that Chennai has seen multiple revisions of the Outer Ring Road in last 20 years. The next revision may peg the road at Kanchipuram. Not a joke.

City is sprawling in all three directions no doubt but there is also this sense of hopelessness in the old time Madrasis that they may not ever afford a modest home within the city limits. I have known so many many Mylaporeans who had to settle for properties 40 or 60 km afar as the city became unaffordable to them.

Only the IT guys and the NRIs and business community apart from settu (!) and bhai (!) and (both of whom are notorious for unaccountable money, the second especially for hawala) can ever buy homes now in Chennai. Believe me, had those of us few lucky not inherited anything from our parents, we would be holed up against our will somewhere in Perambakkam or Medavakkam today who knows! Seriously!

Agreed the OMR and ECR and the new business districts of the city. City center is shifting and it is no more our Anna Salai. But if you check the working population in the IT industry, you may find that a vast majority of them are floating population who do not know old Madras like you and me.

Violations in ECR and OMR are rampant, with handing down of ‘wet areas’ to IT parks in silver platter.

What about the landed estates doled out to engineering colleges and medical colleges that mushroomed during MGR and KK period.

Parks have been specifically lost to the denizens denying us a breathing space to unwind, except for our crowded beaches. Even the beaches seem to have lost their charm. How beautiful were once the Santhome beach and the Marina (Gandhi) beach. Santhome was our regular.

With very few parks left from the pre-independence era, we have had one or two even from this minimum taken over for development activities. Glaring examples are the Thiru Vi Ka Park of Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park in Egmore that have turned out to be Metro Rail stations. Initially there was a promise of restoration of green cover although it remained a mystery how a underground metro rail station can be fitted out with a park anywhere. Now there is not a single word to this benefit and covid times have made things worse.

Googled on this and was pleasantly surprised to discover hundreds of parks listed in Chennai Metropolitan city limits! Few do survive against all odds. Wouldn’t want to talk here about the optimally utilized Nageshwara Park in Myalpore or the Panagal Park in T. Nagar. Or the Anna Nagar Tower park. These are the much needed respite to the locals. Memories of going to Nageshwara park with my father and feeding the deer and rabbits there still stays fresh in my memory. Adyar with its concentration of parks can be called the garden of Chennai.

There is one small park even in Harrington road. Most of the surviving parks in Chennai are as small as this one. There are quite a few like this even in Anna Nagar every kilometer. These are hardly parks, still even this small space is smartly utilized for walking and other health purposes by our citizens.

Thiru vi ka park and the corporation ground opposite it used to be hotcakes. Next to them is a swimming pool. They are of immense utility for the residents of the area. With the Thiru vi ka park closed, the corporation ground is seeing excess crowds that it is not able to handle.

The Eco Park in Chetpet and the Semmozhi Poonga in Cathedral road are like small solaces compared to what has been stolen from the general public.

Good that our temples have tanks in front of them. Congested Mylapore has some breathable air thanks to the three temple tanks situated in the thickly populated area. For this reason, even our temples have saved some precious space for our public. This is how now I view our temples now. When I see 100 acre temples like Thiruvannamalai, Tanjore etc., my first thought is, ‘Appa, they can’t plot out this area for real estate!’

To what pitiable condition have the Dravidian governments reduced us public.

There is a lean patch called park even in Haddows road. I realize that even a few mercifully saved square meters of public land is now touted as park by our city corporation.

I wish there are more parks opening up.

How about parks on reclaimed land from sea.

Mumbai is mostly on reclaimed land from sea.

Here in Doha, the Museum park where we go for regular walk is on reclaimed land.

But I understand that what we have is a bay here that has backwaters whereas Chennai has roughest seas. We are a port city.

Project technically may not be feasible.

Besides, this may be one very expensive investment that the government may not prioritize.

How about hanging parks with a walk way.

I am aware, the damage done by successive govts with making a piecemeal of our public places and doling them out to corrupt politicians, cannot be reversed now for practical reasons.

But Chennai can still have some breathing space. If we lack it, we can create one why not.

I am for hanging gardens on over-bridges with lookout platforms, and also for parks on reclaimed lands two hundred percent. If land reclamation is not ideal, we can still go for overhead parks. This is truly my dream and vision for Chennai.

There can be a park all the way from Besant Nagar to Chepauk zigzagging our skyline why not.

There can be a park overhead from Mogappair to Thiruvanmiyur.

When we could do elevated and subterranean metro rail sections at the same time, why cannot overhead parks be feasible in five to ten years. Just a thought. What revenue is our metro rail generating presently. How many years to break even. How many years did it take the MRTS to break even if at all it has managed that! So why not an elevated park crisscrossing our city skies?

Ambitious. Expensive. But NOT frivolous! Instead of promise of freebies for elections, how about our political parties promising something like this for the general public.

Chennai badly needs some decent breathing space. Lung space.

When I cross over a red tarmac road in a park here in Doha during my evening walk, on climbing a manmade incline (imagine a greeny green acre plus park with an artificial mound on flat desert surface, now that’s what I would call patriotism and love for nature), to the other side of the road, I station myself at the summit for a while. My heart longs for this kind of scenic view of my hometown Chennai from such an elegant elevated nature park.

Make such a park pay for itself like toll. Charge robustly or introduce membership. This way initially atleast we can keep off miscreants. Gradually the general public can have access to such parks. Vandalism not be tolerated at any cost. Post security and maintain the park shipshape. After all there is no shortage of manpower in India. Disallow most importantly, liquor in the skywalk park which already exists in my dream!

This is truly my dream project for Chennai.

India sadly lacks visionaries who can think ahead by a hundred or two hundred years. Chennai with the Dravidian muck are a hopeless lot. It may be too much on our part to expect them to come up from something grand and utilitarian like this.

An elevated green park can change the way we live in our city. This can change our lifestyle. This can change our thinking process. Chennai will become even more endearing!

And I realize i am daydreaming. Such a beautiful thought would not even cross a dirty stupid Tamil politician’s mind. My heart sinks.

Posted in Environment

the perfect pH balance.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the acid-alkaline or pH balance in the food we eat and water we drink to simply everything we may consume. Ever since installing a water purifier at home some 15 years ago, I became even more acutely aware of the pH factor that can have a potential effect on human metabolism. Should monsoons fail, we are in for trouble. pH in the ground water we are forced to use gets skewed as the borewell depth falls and bottoms out. There is a limit to which even the RO machines can work.

In an effort to maintain a healthy pH balance, i add a slice of lemon to my jug of water to sip through the day. Of course, from long before pH balance started hogging the headlines, we have been taking antacids to counter acidity. Recently I was reading about home cleansing and facials. It’s said that using lemon too much for exfoliation can have a drastic drying effect because of the heavy alkalinity of the lime which has bleaching properties. The first anti-alkaline advice I have ever come across.

Rainwater has a pH balance of 5.5 and normal water 7 which is neutral. With natural water resources and abundant rainfall, India therefore could be an ideal pH balanced country. This can have a cascading effect on our entire environment including mineral resources and soil. India is an extensively agricultural country perhaps for this reason.

Where the pH balance is highly unfavourable, we may find excessive Sulphate and Chloride deposits making the earth unfit for farming. Typically these are arid desert lands we see with sparse vegetation. Oxygen levels in the air may be below normal.

India hardly sports extremes except for in our Thar desert. Our pH balance may be optimal otherwise. This is why such a diverse eco system is sustainable in our country with a stunning range of native phflora and fauna compared to other parts of the world. India’s wildlife thrives thanks to a healthy pH level.

Back home, I hardly feel my skin go dry although we have the longest summers and no winter. I don’t have to keep slathering moisturizers on my skin every single hour! I remain mostly chemical free except for some Ayurvedic external application for toning apart from regular soak in coldpressed coconut oil before shower. Covid has eliminated even the yearly once or twice salon visits for most of us, for even a basic clean-up. Yet by and large we in India can get along with minimal maintenance and almost nil grooming.

We perspire a lot in India and I feel as if our sweat glands are working overtime! Chennai as we know has the worst humidity. Sultriest. . There is no fluid accumulation or bloating as we sweat it out (not necessarily through physical exertion). Whatever the temperature, we are in the natural setting except for peak summer months when we switch on the aircons. I have come to appreciate a lot these small gifts from nature that I took for granted for years.

In Middle east, how many many tubes of moisturizers do I need to have to procure and stock! Summer means 24 hour nonstop air-conditioners and winter means dryness that comes with the chill. Least exposure to natural light and air as we step out into the open rarely. Skin ages fastest which can be slowed down only with the application of effective moisturizers.

Soil in the deserts is limestone (highly alkaline) which cannot absorb surface water. Sometimes when there is that rare rainfall and the water drains off surface without seepage, I really feel sad for these parched lands. How much ever oil there may be in Middle east, and even if India is a third world country, in my view India is still a blessed nation. In India, it takes a month of monsoons just for the earth to retain water on top. The first few spells are well soaked and you have no idea where the initial downpour disappeared. Understanding now the significance of the water absorbing capacity of our fertile soil, my gratitude for nature is even more pronounced these days.

Not a qualified expert to speak on the subject, I stop forthwith. But I do understand also why every shampoo, every conditioner, every moisturizer, every this, every that you may shop for today has this pH balance marked in constituents. Personally I go for the sulphate free shampoos. Our diets have the pH balance score, our veggies have theirs, our meat portions do… so much so that maintaining the perfect pH balance in our system is the rage!

Alkaline foods are preferred for their anti-cancer benefits. Alkaline rich food is also good for the heart (typically the anti-oxidants such as Omega-3 and green leafy vegetables). The recommended acid-alkaline ratio is 20: 80.

Posted in Food For Soul

Attention Seeking: A Serious Character Flaw

In a world where there is so much of talk-down on negativity and gloom, there is one trait in some of us that may go unnoticed. It is ‘attention seeking’ sneaking in as a domineering streak in those closest to us that most of us grin and bear. Others may disregard such a highhandedness as a personality flaw and move on. Wanting to have the last word in everything, the compelling need to remain under the spotlight, hijacking and steering conversations are a few tell-tale signs that can give away that an attention seeker in our midst.

A very fragile ego, unwillingness to sidestep for others and the strange longing to get into everyone’s good books all at the same time could be the reasons behind a dominant character. A pampered and privileged background cannot be ruled out for the nurture of an attention seeking personality. Characteristically, a noticeable absence in attention seekers is the sense of empathy. Passive aggression is seldom considered a threat and most of us quietly put up with it offering no resistance, not realizing that this is nothing short of bullying.

Some of us don’t give two hoots to attention grabbers. Attention seeking can cause damage to best of relationships in the long run. To those who have had lessons from life, letting others have their small successes comes naturally. Yet when boundaries are breached, there may be grounds for discord. Attention seekers can have their way, because of the complacent company (or cronies) they usually surround themselves with. A sense of amusement may also be reason for some of us to tolerate insolent behaviour.

Maturity is the natural output of a satisfied life. Shying away from attention is a mark of such maturity. It is the string pullers who run the show from behind the scenes in most cases. Being one in the crowd, faceless, nameless is a defence like none other. It is not without a reason it is said that there is safety in numbers. To opt to go unnoticed is an understated elegance, class. To underplay one’s self-importance purposefully is an art very few can master. Lack of urge to prove anything to anyone is a virtue. We retain our identity or perhaps our privacy. The sense of peace lies in coming to terms with reality. We are in contest with no one in life and life is not a race to be won where we have to outwit each other and prove to the rest of the world that we are the best among the pack. It is alright even to be a loser. It is embracing your destiny with grace that is the greatest human virtue.

Class is keeping a low profile. Why should we want audience for everything. It is not our business to steal the thunder from others.

Classism comes not from our clothes and shoes and bags and our automobile, but from the elegant standards we maintain in our life, the way we etch our character. Classism is dignity when we do not lower our standards, when we prescribe the standards.

Waves of fellow humans following our footsteps fast outpace us taking our spot every single minute. Before we may bat our eyelid, we may be gone just like that. We are but a miniscule atom in this universe.

The best of ours will stay with us, come what may. The ones who are with us never leave us. The ones who leave us were never ours.

It is a blessing if some of us need not have to work hard at relationships. It is a gift that some of us need not have to go for it, seek or snatch attention. With a shrug we let go off, conceding defeat to attention seekers, otherwise there may be one hell of a price to pay: the relationship. It can be a sore disappointment discovering the personality flaw of attention seeking in our closest circle.

Posted in Food For Soul

The difference between Lakshmi Teacher and Susheela teacher…

I am blogging this after a conversation with a friend. I am afraid at the cost of repeating myself for an umpteenth time, i will have to dig from my mother’s school now.

My grandma told me the reason my mother decided to teach the hearing and speech impaired middle school girls. Like any teachers’ training aspirant, she had enrolled in a staff training college in Santhome. But one day when her classes were on, in walked Mother Superior. Out of the entire class, she picked my mother and told her, ‘child, anyone can teach normal kids. but it takes a special someone to teach special kids. go to the class teaching special skills and start teaching deaf and dumb (as they would be referred then) girls.’ This changed my mother’s life as she thought she had gotten her calling. She became a teacher on course completion and served over 16 years teaching teen girls who could not speak or hear – until the very last day of her life.

I and my sister grew up literally in this school campus. It is in Gemini. For term holidays and for their school days, sports days etc., we would be there with our mother until the day she passed away. This school also contains a section for the blind. I grew up thinking disability was normal. I never viewed the loss of speech or hearing or eye sight as handicap at all for years. Watching the blind children in sports day competing in Lemon and spoon race etc, and playing with deaf and mute girls in my mother’s class as equals, probably had had an effect on me that sustains me until today. Back then I had no idea, these were my learning days.

Pious Hindu, my mother still took us to chapel in their catholic convent. Like typical hindu girls we touched the feet of Mother superior and other sisters in her school every time we went there. We lit candles in the chapel and we also visited the Santhome cathedral and Besant Nagar church a little before Christmas to avoid crowds. But we never got mixed up still. Our Hindu roots stayed unwavering through all this.

My mother also had been the first Hindu teacher among the school staff. Before her, only catholic nuns were teaching in their missionary school. After my mother, a few more Hindu teachers joined the school. The initial influence of the christian fraternity was there in my mother who was refusing marriage to serve the disabled kids, but my grandparents prevailed and had her married. So naturally I became the first staff kid in their entire school history, and i remained the most celebrated one until my mother’s last.

In the years when my mother was around, for every Diwali she would hire cooks to make hundreds of sweets like laddoo, jelebi etc., at home along with tins of murukku to distribute to her entire school as most of their kids were hostel girls from poorest families who had abandoned them. Some kids had parents in foreign countries or other places in India who would never pay a visit. My mother and one more teacher regularly brought home 4 to 5 girls for Diwali to celebrate the festival with us. She would get for these girls bangles from Mylapore Mada veedhi and also new clothes. The highlight was, taking them for shopping along with her. It is only after my mother left I understood her sensitivity in these matters. She could not bear the idea of young girls holed up in hostel during Diwali so she would seek special permission from Mother Superior to get home those stranded in their dorms with nowhere to go.

The devotion of teachers in my mother’s school was such that, in order to explain a crow to a blind student, one of the staff caged cleverly a crow in their terrace and brought it to school with the beak tied! The blind children had a chance to touch and feel the crow to know what a bird it really could be. I still remember to this day how animated my mother was telling us about this real life class story. It is in this section of the school that Kamal Hasan filmed his ‘Raja Paarvai’ and my mother did get to watch a lot of shooting then. Every evening I would wait for my mom to tell me what happened at the film set.

The blind section as well as the deaf and dumb sections of the school enrolled boys upto class 5 in those days. From middle school, only girls were allowed to continue. My mother was in charge of class 6 to 8. It meant she went with the girls upto class 8 from class 6 teaching all subjects. She remained with these girls for a 3 continuous years before returning to take on a fresh batch at standard 6 again. Each class had a maximum of 10 to 12 girls, with every girl fitted with a mike and a hearing aid. My mother spoke the sign language of the deaf and dumb to them and had yearly staff training for improving teaching methods. Because she remained with the girls for 3 years, she shared an intimate familial bond with her class girls always. For the girls, their teacher who was with them 8 to 3 for all week days became an obsession. After her they refused to learn from another teacher for next 6 months, Special kids are known for their adamancy. It took the school more than half an year to coax my mother’s girls to accept an other teacher in her place.

I cannot forget the mass in memory of my mother in their school chapel when there were over a thousand blind, deaf and dumb children crying their heart out. For the first time I cried for my mother in happiness because I saw how much she was loved by her children. Indeed the entire school had turned up for her last journey including the catholic church, filling streets. They took over her final ritual after the Hindu ceremonies and read from Bible etc. My mother was also a daughter of the church at the same time.

This brings to my memory the girl Rosy who was my mother’s pupil who finished her SSLC. She was an orphan who had lived in the hostel lifelong. School rules required that once a candidate finished school, she must not remain a single day extra in the campus. Church found a boy for Rosy to marry. Only, she needed a place to stay on for a month or more until her wedding date. My mother got Rosy home. I and my sister called her ‘Rosy akka.’ She was with us for over a month and one day her groom came to see her. He sounded pompous and my mother put him right in his place. She was assertive that Rosy was not in any way less than him. There was tension in the air. But then he finally came around. They had a happy marriage and after the wedding the couple did visit us once. What stays in my memory is how my mother was protective about Rosy like a mother hen, defending her and indignant that her girl must be thought inferior to anyone because of her handicap.

I have to mention Lakshmi Periyamma here (that is how we called mother’s colleagues. either periyamma or chithi) who also worked in my mother’s school, who had joined long after her. She lived in our street too. She was widowed immediately after her marriage and she came from an Iyer family. Only daughter to her rich parents, her father had retired from govt service drawing handsome pension by those days standards. They were comfortably off even if Lakshmi Periamma cut a sorry figure. My mother had utmost sympathy for her situation. The family lived in a far spacious house than ours. Financially they were equal or probably better off than us. Never did once this periyamma mix with the kids the way my mother did when she was around. Not a single girl came home. Nor were sweets shared with the kids. Rosy akka could have comfortably stayed with their family instead of ours. We were 6 of us sharing our house and with Rosy we became 7. What prevented Lakshmi periamma from taking Rosi to her home. Caste. I don’t have much respect for my own Mudaliar community, but I can say this one thing about my folks. So long as you don’t go after their sons and daughters they are fine. Generally a bit they are inclined towards charity. Many do put humanity first over religion. This is what I told my friend today. What prevented Lakshmi periamma from putting humanity first over religion was the shastra sampradaya. In spite of being a devout Hindu, what my mother refused to come in between her and humanity was the Dharma which she believed in and practised in real life.

Raised by this woman until my 14th year almost, how could I ever think otherwise.

The difference between Lakshmi teacher and Susheela teacher perhaps is the difference between Shankaracharya and EVR Periyar in my opinion. I don’t believe in a faith that relegates humanity to a secondary position over customs and rituals. It so happens that it is those in the service of God who seem to miss the of essence of Dharma sadly. Dharma is unfortunately in the hands of some narrow-minded sections who interpret Dharma totally wrong. மனித நேயம் இல்லாத ஆச்சாரத்தில் எனக்கு உடன்பாடும் கிடையாது மரியாதையும் கிடையாது.This strong conviction of mine will not make me any less Hindu.

Thanks a zillion my dear mom, wherever you are shining from as a bright star in this universe… It will be 39 years this July since you left me, but there is not a day I don’t think of you or weep for you. You just made your daughter cry. Why did not I hug you more when you were there, why did not I talk to you more. What a fine woman you were. Do you know mother, I don’t see many like you even 4 decades after you left. Which is why I remember you more with each passing day. You taught me empathy, you taught me compassion, you taught me that nothing is more important or sacred over humanity. From your staunch independence as a working woman from 1966 when you married, i gained my own bold and independent streak. In your absence you manifested yourself a lot in me that I am becoming more and more like you every day. Only I am living longer than you.

I remember you giving your new favourite sari to our housemaid Kanniamma a teenager who took an instant liking to it. You did not think twice before wrapping the sari around her the very next moment. You got her married with seer senathai as if she was your own daughter that when you passed away 3 months after her marriage, she and her husband gave their first born your name ‘Susheela.’ They even printed your name in their auto, Ma. I am so proud of you, even so long after you have gone…

Thank you so much for making me the way I am. Your grandson is even a step forward. You are the first person I want to embrace when it will be my time. God took you back soon because you were a Goddess too. You are my guiding spirit, guardian angel. With lots of love, your daughter. How I wish I could cook you a meal for you, get you a sari… My mother who refused to wear silk that came from killing thousands of mulberry worms, except for her wedding day and grihaprevesham…

I am a chip of that old block. Don’t expect me to be any different…

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என் தாய் போகாத கோவிலா பண்ணாத பூஜையா. அவளுக்கு தெரியாத தர்மமா கர்மா வினையா.

The Sai Baba shrine in Mylapore… My mother was probably their first devotee. As a little girl she and my aunt used to go there when it was a thatched hut and had no visitor. Literally nothing. The founder sadhu would bless my mother every single day. She had become his favourite child. My grandma used to say, my mother was a very special atma with a lot of blessings. That is why she left early.

Beloved to her alma mater, that’s my school, my HM Ms. Satyabhama sent my class teacher and my sister’s, to lay wreath on my mom on behalf of my school. An honour like none received.

Someone with refined aesthetic senses, my mother sewed rarely and nurtured a beautiful terrace garden that bloomed with myriad flowers all the year around. In my parents house at a different place, my mother planted dozens of trees some of which live until today (while some were felled). Unique were the ceylon red coconut trees that she planted with her own hands. After her time, we gifted her sewing machine to a poor tailor. A voracious reader of Tamil novels, her precious and possessive collection of sepia tinted bound volumes from the torn pages of Kalki., Kumudham, Anandha vikatan were taken away by friends never to be returned. A hindi film buff, her last muse were Nazia Hassan and Zoheb Hassan and Runa Leila of Bollywood music.

Fondly remembered by our former neighbourhood Mamis who recall my mother getting the first mixer grinder and tv in our street. Saturdays were devoted to grinding kitchen powders and chutneys for all mamis of the street.

There was not a life my mother did not touch in the short span she lived. “There will be none like Susheela’ say the Mamis, the Susheela I never got to know wholly.

Posted in Economic

The Immeasurable Knowledge & Acumen Loss In Covid Times…

As thousands of lives get lost in this horrifying second wave of Corona pandemic, it may probably sound improper if we mention loss of knowledge and knowhow accumulation herewith. .

I am thinking of the higher secondary school students who have never been in the Physics lab, Chemistry lab, Botany lab or Zoology lab. I am talking about Engineering students who have not touched a lathe/machinery or nut-bolt in the Mechanical lab, not held a test tube or conical flask in their hands in the Chemical lab, not been on industrial tours or construction sites, not bisected a frog or reptile. I am concerned of the medical/ dental/ veterinary students who may be missing their autonomy classes vital to mastering physiology, their OP ward hands-on experience that can hone their diagnosis skills, semester examinations and of course the crucial internships that may initiate them as serving physicians in their chosen medical profession… What a tremendous loss to humanity! Can we even quantify this knowledge and expertise loss across India! Very unlucky batches, those that are caught in-between.

Many wonder aloud about school kids studying at home. I have no problem with that as my son had homeschooled under me in Malaysia upto standard two. The only issue may be fitting into classrooms when it is time for the children to go back to schools. The younger ones can adapt very fast to changing scenarios unlike us adults. The one problem I do foresee is the toilet training. This requires disciplining from early years controlling bladder from kinder garten. A second one could be relating to the morning routines and time-keeping/punctuality apart from eating habits, keeping hygiene and grooming neat. But none of this is unmanageable.

There are mentions of severe neck pain and even rare cases of vertigo in young children and teenagers who are learning from home online without attending schools in last 1.5 years. These are the ones glued to their mobile phone and computers for hours with incorrect posture that can injure their spine. This is an area that we must focus on apart from the mental health of the children who are denied their outdoor playing time and extra-curricular activities that may require physical attendance. Vitamin D from direct sunlight which is essential for bone growth is denied to growing kids. Last but not the least is the human touch to holistic education which is absent with the teachers staying home and schools closed. Online classes may hardly replace the classroom teacher parked in front of the blackboard.

Vocational courses have born the brunt of the covid 19 lockdowns that shut practical classes to their students. These include semi-skilled professions like plumbing, electricals, electronics, carpentry, air conditioning etc.

Fortunate are the school and university students in commerce stream who are least affected by the covid 19 effect on their education.

The computer students seem to be faring okay given the conditions after the accounting ones and arts & literature graduates.

Campus interviews have not been happening, and if they do happen fail to materialize into concrete appointments for fresh graduates. Those who wish to pursue higher education are left in the quandary unable to decide as job prospects grow dim. Even if this can be a temporary phase in our lives, covid impact will stay with us for a long time to come.

Medical and engineering aspirants in present times can seriously contemplate taking a break after finishing school until situation gets normal in an year or two. In my personal opinion this will be a better and thoughtful choice over missing valuable classes.

How to make best of the circumstances is what the academic institutions must focus on. Will it be possible to open up science and tech labs to staggered batches of students.

The years 2020 and 2021 need to be written off from the Biodata and CV of all those pursuing higher secondary school education, undergrad and postgrad courses in universities. Employers need to relax their prerequisites such as job experience when it comes to recruitments.

The restless teenagers need to be handled with care. They are at the threshold of their adulthood and they must not be allowed to lose their hope. It is important to engage them fruitfully in alternate activities and keep up their spirits.

Let us cheer our younger generation and not allow them to wither before they bloom. Looking forward to a bright and cheeful future!

Posted in Food For Soul

Silver lining in the cloud…

தங்கத்தை புடம் போட்டால் தான் தங்கம்னு ஊர்ஜிதமாய் சொல்ல முடியும். புடத்தில் இடப்படாமலே நான் தங்கம் நான் தங்கம்னா எப்படி.

There is no way you can define happiness or positivity without seeing extreme tragedy or negativity in life. Anyone who may speak otherwise is like a character in the ‘blind men and the elephant’ story we all grew up listening to. One blind man feels the ear of the elephant and says its like a fan. The one who holds its trunk says its like a snake. The third who touches the elephant’s side says its like a wall. The next one who holds the tail says it is like a rope. The final one who moves his hand over the tusk says the elephant is like a spear. This encapsulates human tendency to measure anything and everything with our own yardstick. The elephant is nothing like the blind men perceive. Happiness and positivity to some are like the blind men’s perceptions.

Perceptions as we see differ from individual to individual. Happiness and Positivity are not subjective by nature. They are more objective in the sense, you can relate to them by context. Confining them to narrow dimensions is neither right nor fair. Like how the elephant is unlike the blind men’s perceptions, happiness and positivity cannot be confined to any individual’s definition.

How can you bring happiness to a kid orphaned in present covid circumstances for instance. You can only hope for him/her to find relative happiness in future. How can you talk positivity to this godforsaken child. He/she may grow up into cautiously optimistic individual at the best.

Negativity to me is lacking love and respect, denying someone their dignity, dashing hopes, being inhospitable, insensitive, lacking empathy and compassion.

I wouldn’t want to go into this subject again. I have done it once. Enabling link here:

Someone who has seen the darkness can appreciate the light at the end of the tunnel better. Unqualified happiness is like a mirage. Unreal and shallow without a depth. Blessed are those who have not been subject to the task of whisking happiness out of vacuum by destiny.

Life experiences may mold some of us into different individuals. There is happiness in doing things by ourselves. For ourselves. For others. There is this sense of gratification in taking home the first paycheck however small it could be if it is our own sweat and blood… This is the moment we reckon our self-worthiness… Someone wanting to share their life with us for what we are – as an atma, as an entity that’s the next peak we can scale. Basking in that special gift that life bestows is unlike any other euphoria we may experience other than mothering our child There is pride in doing things on our own not taking orders from anyone. There is happiness in picking our own groceries and provisions. Cooking our own food, dusting our house with our own hands, even rinsing and pressing clothes can be self-satisfying however menial the chores could be. We are doing something productive and that is by itself a positive feeling . There is this unbeatable sense of euphoria acknowledging that we are self-made. … There is happiness in making a meaningful life, building our beautiful blissful home when the very earth under our foot has been shifting, shaking and spinning. There is this unparalleled sense of gratitude realizing that we have made it in life proving our critics wrong. And then finally comes over this sense of peace like the jewel in the crown, when we don’t have the urge to prove anything to anyone any longer. That we are complete on our own. We don’t wait for anyone’s appraisal or approval. We can live without that applause. We do not want to have that last word in everything. We let others have their small successes…

Positivity is the sheer will to squeeze a lemonade when life hands us down lemons . That is how I arrived here. The easiest way out is to quit. Nobody handed down anything to some of us in silver platter. We have had to beg, borrow, scrounge and swallow self-respect on the way. At the end of the day if we refuse to vent our frustration on third parties and put up a big smile for everyone, then that is what qualifies for true happiness and positivity.

I am therefore I am. I cannot be a hundred percent happy and perfect individual always but I strive to be happy despite what life has done to me. Embers of painful memories remain in the backburner. Not knowing the moment when they will make it to the surface, those of us who have been at the lowest ebb of our lives can never think of happiness without recalling our sadness that seasoned us. We are hopefuls despite the odds.

That rare gift of empathy in some of us is from life experiences. To me this exceptional sense of perception is the one positivity that counts. Happiness is an attitude when we wear it with pride when the scars earned shine like the striped stars…

Posted in Political

ONGC oil rig crash in recent Mumbai rains.

Extremely pained by the recent offshore oil rig crash in Bombay High.

The Ambanis in India seem to be landing the easiest rigs while the govt servants like ONGC get to work the toughest rigs (politics the reason). The ones that crashed in recent Mumbai rains were temporary barges erected with stringent orders to demobilize manpower/labour in case of any emergency at a short notice. Safety is part and parcel of Oil & Gas and also Civil (Industrial/Heavy) Engineering. I am hearing of its importance for last 25 years plus. Everyday is a new day and the safety is of highest order never to be accorded secondary place. There is a full fledged Safety department in all these areas of works and manpower training in safety is also accorded topmost priority. Safety meetings are part of everyday work. Never have I heard of compromise in safety standards in foreign countries. Safety protocol is strictly adhered to to the letter ‘t’. However in India, human life is of inconsequence – with zero value. Sab chaltha hai. Nobody cares. Flouting of safety procedures is routine.

Evacuation/Demobilization of manpower from the crashed oil rigs at Mumbai high was not allegedly carried out in emergency situation (cyclonic storm Touktae). A reported 60 valuable engineers have gone missing from the rigs that collapsed, that breaks our hearts here. Over a hundred more stationed in the oil platforms were rescued in heavy downpour by the Navy. Figure for casualty reported in media is far from accurate. Those who lost their lives must have had a very torturous death. Is this what engineers/government servants deserve in my country. Battered and weakened by corona, such a preventable accident is the last thing that we must have let to have happened.

https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/govt-orders-inquiry-into-ongc-western-offshore-mishap-that-took-22-lives-121051901212_1.html

Dear India and Indian govt when will you guys learn. I am sick of this lethargic/complacent attitude in our masses. Will we ever change!