I was at my wit’s end after 36 hours of “quality” time with an adolescent niece, desperately needing something to calm my nerves. People close to me pointed out that I was over –reacting as this was only “normal” behaviour among difficult children these days. So I thought I will document a few findings for others who may be walking unprepared into such an experience:
• “Sorry” is the most offensive word in the English language and must never be used with an adult under any circumstances.
• Adolescent speak is a totally alien language which adults will never master. It comprises of a set of words mostly monosyllabic . Words such as "please" are unnecessary and preferably avoided. Responses are usually simple and to the point never mind that they sound completely rude to untrained adult ears.
• Time is very precious – theirs. So you better make your sentences short. If you still decide to speak for more than one minute, they exercise the option to switch off their attention.
• Never,yes this is serious: NEVER get into the advise mode. But if you must , then be prepared to receive a pseudo-sympathetic look that says" Oh yes, I understand;it is that damned PMS again!"
• Adolescent-think is a process for which no manual has ever been written. It is a coin with just one side – their side. It is supposed to be completely logical, rational and totally correct at all times – perfectly clear from their side and completely invisible from your side.
• Exposure to them for extended periods can be traumatic in the least and dangerous if your nerves are fragile! ( pretty obvious, isn’t it?)
There is something poetic about small things that happen spontaneusly and many times for no reason at all.
Yesterday amboj and I were having a small chat at the junction where we had to turn into our roads after our evening walk. Two kids of the construction workers, aged 2 and 4 were on their way somewhere. The little one had just a shirt on, he was almost covered in construction dirt , no slippers and in his hand he had a long piece of woven green cocnut leaves that looked like a narrow mat – one of those little things for the amusement of kids that these earthy people are so resourceful to make.
Amboj and I stood about two feet apart from each other – a space that adults learn to respect as belonging temporarily to the individuals that created it.But for these kids from their height of one and half and two and half feet, it was just space enough for them to pass through. Those pair of legs and the space in between were all discrete without any connection.We were amused to see them between us and suddenly the little one stepped on amboj’s foot. He was either attracted by the yellow lines on her new black sandals or he thought it was an insect to be crushed or he was attracted to the lovely whiteness of her feet or there was no reason at all. And then he walked on as if nothing had happened – no consciousness at all of having done anything strange.A spontaneous translation of his feeling into immediate action untarnished by social , historic or economic thought conditioning.
It took a full 15 seconds for us to grasp what happened and then we both burst into laughter.
That second had the spontaneity of a little child that suddenly plants a kiss on a mother’s cheek or an unexpected wave that washes your feet and quickly runs away.
Piece by siddhartha in today:
(why is it in my blog? because I adore cricket? Not really! Because I am fond of Kumble? Not at all!! It is here because siddhartha is my son!!!)
The clinical colossus

It is no surprise that Anil Kumble excelled in Machine Drawing. Every mechanical engineer will tell you that it is a subject that requires immaculate attention to detail – accurate measurements are crucial – and enormous amounts of patience, as most exercises require you to repeat similar procedures several times. It has varying effects on students – some develop an interest by virtue of their diligence while others create a mental block that seriously hampers their thought process. The ones who excel are those who view it as a simple method of illustrating a three-dimensional machine in different perspectives.

Kumble mastered it. More importantly, he swapped the drafter, an instrument critical in Machine Drawing, for the cricket ball and performed a similar function, all the way till wicket No. 434. He operated in millimeters and experimented in very narrow tolerance limits. Ironically, the reason he was different was because he didn't try different things.

For the generation who took to cricket in the early 1990s, Kumble was the most likely bowling hero. Kapil Dev was gone and Javagal Srinath hadn't arrived. We hardly saw an Indian fast bowler running in at full tilt and intimidating batsmen. But Kumble came close. He destroyed rather then beguiled. He cussed when he was taken for runs, and glared at batsmen who went after him. He pushed them back with a series of balls that were short of a good length before unleashing the yorker that uprooted their stumps. In many ways he was our Curtly Ambrose.

Thanks to Kumble, we hardly ever saw India lose a Test at home, let alone a series. If the strong Indian batting line-up was one axis of the Ajit Wadekar-Mohammad Azharuddin days, Kumble was the other. England were devoured, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe dismissed. Australia and South Africa, who battled for supremacy through the '90s, were made to flounder. And when Pakistan had a chance of a series win, Kumble gobbled them all up in one spell. India's invincibility at home wasn't because of the pitches they played on. It was because of a man who knew precisely how to bowl on them.

In many ways, he has been India's most valuable player for the last 15 years, yet never filled stadiums like Virender Sehwag, nor fired the teenage imagination like Irfan Pathan. With an extreme sense of professionalism he carried out a job of winning matches for India – the count of which we have long forgotten.

But if one moment stands out, it's that afternoon in Antigua two years back. With a broken jaw and his face all plastered he got Brian Lara out and gave India a sniff of victory. It wasn't a statement he was making. It was a job and he was doing it despite the acute pain. Wally Grout, the great Australian wicketkeeper, once remarked, "Whenever I saw Ken Barrington coming to the wicket I thought a Union Jack was trailing behind him." Both on the field and off it, Kumble evokes similar emotions.

Amid all this he remained unassuming and, just like he had done with his clutch-pencil at RV College of Engineering, let his work speak for itself. You may miss his name if you take a peek into the college yearbooks of the late '80s. If you take a closer look at the section celebrating sporting achievements, you will come across the name K Anil almost everywhere. It is symbolic of his career - inconspicuous, almost hidden off the field, while being a colossal presence on it.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Cricinfo.(

-opening your eyes in the middle of the night and be startled to find moonlight flooding your room
- finding the first bud on your flowering bush
- first drops of rain on your face
-holding a puppy in your hand while it licks all over your face.
-sitting at home on a wintry afternoon listening to old film melodies, with a dog contentedly curled at your foot
- mails from friends
- gurgling laughter of infants
- silence
-sitting on a rock with a book wetting your feet in the flowing river.
- pulling down the contents of your shelf and sitting among the memories.
- smell of antique furniture
-sleeping on crisp sheets and pillow cases smelling of surf excel and sun
- watching a little girl say: "Mimi, aapka chehla mele liye lucky hai"
- Seasonal / corporate gifts such as table-clocks cum calculator cum what not, table lamps, torch lights, pens, sandal wood show pieces, brass artefacts
- sandalwood garlands
- comments about whether you have lost or gained weight
- indifference of friends
- harsh and angry words and unsmiling faces

Things people give you anyway and you have no idea what to do with afterwards!
You realise you are ancient
- when you refer to "Gandhi" in a conversation and someone asks you "which one?"
- when you wear a saree and some one asks, " what is the occasion?"
- when you have friends who do not have e-mail addresses.

All three happened to me last week!

There is sudden spurt in construction activity around my house.
In the plot opposite my house, I watch 4 men weild their iron crowbars all day digging the depths required for the foundation. When the power goes off some afternoons and I feel irritated and stand near the window hoping for some air, I watch them still digging in the hot sun, their bodies melting in sweat and their limbs struggling with the heaviness of the iron implement against the hardened earth.They take turns to rest every once in a while. Their women collect the dug up earth and heap it in one corner, while a child or two wrapped in rags sleeps in a corner and is moved places as the sun moves direction. I think of the effect of this activity on their lungs, heart,skin and whatever else.It all seems so inhuman and I feel there should be a ban on making men do such jobs. It is just not right.

Today in the neighbouring plot, a fancy machine has come to do the same job -it looks like a dinosaur motorised and on tyres. In one day the diggingwill be done for the same sized plot and the earth trucked away to some other location. One man sits on the dinomotor and pulls at various levers and steers the machine in different directions, which digs the earth with its claws , and then scoops up the earth in loads and drops them in a truck which is then driven away to dump it. It is a delight to watch the machine work so efficiently except for the terrible noise of the engine. Now this is right!

As I stand there watching, I see the men and women from the opposite plot watch the machine too. And in their looks I see despair, anger and fear of future.
I do not know what is right any more.
Victor navorski embarks on a short trip to New York to fulfill a promise to his dead father. While he is in his flight, there is a bloody coup in his country Krakozhia. On landing at the JFK airport, he is told that he cannot get a visa to enter New York because the new government in his country is not recognised by the U.S.Government. All flights to his country have been suspended until further notice. In 24 hours, he has become a person with no country, no rights , no priveleges - actually a non- person. Thats where Speilberg's "Terminal"begins and then we have a delightful movie which tells you of the victory of the individual over the system and good over bad etc.. I hear this is based on a real individual's story and he is still there roaming the terminal of an international airport. A person who became nobody because of no fault of his.

My friend's mother who is from Lahore and moved to India during the partition told me stories of lots of people who lost their possessions, friends and family in one stroke when officials drew a line right in the middle of their property and told them that what was on the other side of the line was a different country from that moment onward.

My friend built her house in Jaffna putting into it all her dreams and hopes and all their life's savings. Exactly one day after the house was completed, she had to move to another city because of civil war. And this was fifteen year ago - she has not been able to go back to that house ( or where it stood) yet!

Scary, how everything that you have always taken for granted can be taken away in the flash of an eye! Perhaps Life is after all a transit terminal as Shankara says in his Bhaja Govindam:
Maa Kuru Dhana Jana Yauvana Garvam
Harathi nimeshath Kaalaha sarvam
Maya Mayamidam akhilam hithva
Brahmapadam tvam Pravisha Vidithva.
Bhaja Govindam, Bhaja Govindam!

( Don"t stay in the cosy comfort basedon proud thoughts such as : " I am rich, I have so many relatives and I am young". Time can snatch them all away in one instant! Remember that this world is nothing but an illusion and attain the state of Brahman.)

I realised that I have not blogged in a while. It is one of those times of pseudo nirvana when you do not have the urge to say anything and actually "know" that it does not make a difference to the world if you did not utter another single word for the rest of your life.

But I came across some delightful expressions in the past week:

Phebe in "friends" referring to a "superlative - addict" boy friend breaking into ecstasy at the most mundane things:
"He is like santa claus on Prozac in disneyland."

Tom Robbins in "Skinny legs and all":

"Babylon was riding tall under its powerful leader nebuchadnezzar. My, oh my, they don't make names like that anymore. Ronald, Gary, Jimmy, just plain Bill: these modern mediocre monikers aren't fit to shine the shoes of Nebuchadnezzar. John is a label. Nebuchadnezzar is a poem. A monument. A swarm of killer bees let loose in the halls of the alphabet."

Lynne Truss - "Eats, shoots and Leaves"

"As with other paired bracketing devices( such as parenthesis, dashes and quotation marks), there is actual mental cruelty involved, incidentally, in opening up a pair of commas and then neglecting to deliver the closing one. The reader hears the first shoe drop and then strains in agony to hear the second. In dramatic terms, it is like putting a gun on the mantelpiece in Act 1 and then having the heroine drown herself quietly offstage in the bath during the interval. It's just not cricket. Take the example, " the highland Terrier is the cutest, and perhaps the best of all dog species." Sensitive people trained to listen for the second comma (after "best") find themselves quite stranded by that kind of thing. They feel cheated and giddy. In very bad cases, they fall over. "
(Lynne Truss - "Eats, shoots and Leaves")

Boy, if only I could say something like that!!!!

It is a great learning process for me to observe and listen to the young people who come to the French course I take at the Alliance Francaise. The oldest of them is about 26 and the youngest is 12 ( seems so far back in the past for me).
Last week the teacher announced a mid-course test, the questions started from the group.
For how many marks?
What is the pattern?
What is the break-up between written and oral?
Will the test be only on Unite 8,9 and 10 or would concepts from previous lessons be included?

Neither the teacher ( who is closer to my age and from The Rishi Valley school) nor I understood the relevance or need for any of these questions. This is a foundation course in language where you either knew the concept or you did not. And the concepts from one lesson flow into the other - how does one use past tense if one didnt know how to make a sentence in the present tense?
As for marks the only relevant question according to me would have been, what is the mark required to pass? Does it matter whether one gets 70 or 100 as long as 50 lets you go to the next level?

I guess this has a lot to do with their experience with the educational system - so much premium has been placed on the marks that even the study of a language is not excluded from it.The students are careful to frame the sentences on a known pattern and re-use previously used sentences rather than try out new words or new sentence structures, so you are sure not to lose marks! Does n't this kill the whole joy of learning a language which is to learn the rules and the million deliteful exceptions and experiment with them and create your own style of expression? A paper in Language affords a kind of freedom and possibility for creative expression that is not possible in a science or a Math paper. Why should we bind ourselves in a chain of marks - and when this is not even a course that decides your career?

Wasnt it Shaw who said that he never let his schooling interfere with education! May be it is time our educational system stopped interfering with the joy of learning at least the languages.
The other day there was a traffic jam in the centre of town because of a few hundred people in a peaceful protest march ( Of course there were policemen walking along side to ensure it was peaceful.) I could not see what this was about as it was tough to read the banners while trying to manage to steer my car through the human and vehicular traffic. This brought back memories of processions in calcutta where I lived 25 years ago for a brief 8 moth period - people marching for causes like liberation of the oppressed in kampuchea, protesting violence in yugoslovia or somewhere in latin America. It seemed amusing to my inexperienced mind at that time that a few hundred people marching in calcutta hoping to be heard by governments in far off lands.
Now 25 years later I realise that silence in the face of crime is tantamount to participation in the crime. We live in a time which will be remembered by posterity - if there is one, for we seem to be hell bent on wiping out human race in the next few years- for inhuman crimes in the name of God. In this age of networked terrorist operations , we have to break our silence and voice our protest any time there is a terrorist activity or crime against humanity anywhere in the world. After observing the customary three minutes silence for the innocent victims, let us scream - on the roads, through any channels available for us and express our disapproval. Let us do it in the remote corners of India for the babies and innocent victims in Russia and America and Spain and Iraq as much as in Kashmir and Gujarat. Let us not stop screaming until the violence stops. Let us not say it is happening in "far away" places. In today's world nothing is faraway - it takes minutes for anything to reach your door step.
Let us break our silence. That is the only way we can save this earth for posterity.

We shall have to repent in this generation, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How often and easily we use the word “hate” in our daily lives – we say we “hate” math, bittergourd, dogs, Bangalore traffic or the next door neighbour. We just use it as a substitute for “extreme dislike” which is the impotent version of “hate”. Hate is as intense as “EVIL” or the DEVIL himself. It is an emotion that most of us are not even capable of imagining to understand. Hatred is more difficult to sustain than love, or at least needs very strong motivation to sustain. Hatred goes with an unceasing desire to seek revenge and requires focused energy and sustained anger. It does not let you rest until you have seen the offender suffer as much. More often than not, it requires a lot of time too. The retribution is not instant – it comes too late to be meaningful. So you seethe with anger, spend sleepless nights, and move on with that sole motive to the exclusion of everything else.This pain of keeping the anger alive in the quest for revenge makes the avenger unhappy and bitter and in the end you are still not happy because by inflicting the worst punishment on the offender you still cannot make it all ok. You are just participating in a cycle of anger, hatred and revenge. That is the futility of hatred and revenge. The success of organisations in the business of hatred stems from their ability to elevate personal grievances of individuals to the level of a grander "cause" - religion,race, nationality, caste, class to provide a "motivation"for sustaining the anger and hatred. Then the futility of revenge at personal level seems to get compensated by the delusion of being soldiers for a greater cause.
I set out to complete one simple task this morning - surrender the telephone instrument for the connection which I had already surrendered 2 days ago. Yeah, you have to give it back to them when you give up your connection, so dont trash it even if it is broken or doesnt work - of course it doesn't work, the telephone company gave it to you remember?
Well, the instrument is to be returned at a different office and not at the office that accepts the request for the termination of service. The job assigned to me was to take the instrument to the telephone office on 15th cross . Sounded easy as I had passed this office on my way to the bank ever so often. It had a board which said BESCOM which had a vague ring of telecom and I was pretty sure that it was the telephone office - it smelt of a government office, dirty and ancient and a lot of workers dressed in Khaki were seen around the place - this must be it! But when I queued at the information counter, i was slightly uncomfortable to notice electricity bills in the hands of those before me. Now are they not supposed to go to the K.E.B. office.?Why are they in the telephones office? Something was surely wrong, unless they paid electricity bills in the telephones office these days? In any case i decided to confirm and asked the person next to me whether it was the telephones office. He gave me a long hard look to check if I was blind, or if I was someone from "Candid Camera" or Mad TV . When he had confirmed that I was just a batty middle aged woman, he said" electricity office - Bangalore Electricity supply company!" So Bescom had nothing to do with telecom! Now that BESCOM was NOT the telephones office I wondered what Bangalore telphone company might be called - Batcom, Btel- I had no idea!! It used to be called BT just like the electricity office used to be called K.E.B. - and then one day when I wasn't paying attention they changed the names!! So i asked my neighbour in the queue where the telephone office was and he told me it was down the same road and helpfully added that it was called BSNL! That was when I looked at the telephone bill in my hand and saw of course it was called B.S.N.L!
And so I went to the office and was asked where the directories were - I said I was only asked to surrender the equipment and the lady told me "Equipment means telephone equipment and the directories". Very useful information but given a little too late.
I asked them when I could return and the girl said" oh, you come.we will be here." When I went back with the directories at 1:55, I was told it was lunch time between 2 and 3 and I had come at the wrong time. (Yet another lesson . Telephones offices have lunch between 2 and 3 and it starts by 1:50)
Anyway finally i was given a recepit for the "equipment" received and told to go to yet another office for the account settlement.
After so much of learning, I need some rest and so this will have to wait till Monday. I am sure it will be as exciting!
7:30 a.m everyday:They are outside my gate - a young mother with a beautiful kid in her arms and another slightly older, sleepy boy attending kindergarten. They wait there for the school bus that stops outside my house. Over the past week, a secret rapport has developed between me and the kid unnoticed by others - I wave to him and he smiles shyly. Earlier he would bury his face in his mother's shoulders and then slowly look up to see if I am gone. Now he knows I am a friend. There is trust and speechless bonding - as he stretches a tiny finger and points out things to me that I would not have observed myself - a blackbird on the electric wire, a squirrel running on the wall, rain water dripping from the palm fronds or a huge milliped slowly crossing the space between two trees. Following his little fingers, I see some miracle everyday. And another wonderful thing I see is how the child is totally in the moment - he smiles at these and you can see that he is one with what he observes and his whole being is happy. He looks at the bird as if it is the only black bird in the world and the only one he will ever see. His face lights up and the day feels brighter for me.

”Former Miss India Nafisa Joseph dead”
When I saw the headlines in the television news this morning I remembered the beautiful girl I had seen in “The Wearhouse” on commercial street 4 years ago. She was autographing tee shirts all of that day there for her fans who had queued up. When the sales assistant asked me if I wanted the tee shirt I had purchased to be autographed, she looked up and I saw a very pretty face and flawless skin. I remembered feeling a little jealous that nature had showered so much of her bounty on one person. Later I had seen her anchoring many television shows and admired the way she carried herself with so much confidence and her ability to articulate so well. She was not just a pretty face. She spoke sensibly and well and deserved every bit of her success. She had so much going for her and so much she could have done if she had decided to. Judging by the number of youngsters who had queued up for her autograph, she was obviously some kind of a role model to the younger generation – she could have worked for a cause is only she had channelised her gifts in that direction.
I have read that people resort to suicide if they perceive one of the following:
No hope for the future.
No hope that things will ever change.
No hope that about ever being well or stable.
No hope about their ability to meet their goals in life
No hope that the pain will ever stop.
No hope about being able to change it.

This was a woman who was anchoring the celebrations on Star TV for Simi Garewal’s completion of 100 episodes of her show “Rendezvous”. There she was among the who’s who of Indian business and society carrying all of her 25 years with total comfort and ease among the ambanis and the bachchans.
Are we increasingly learning better social skills and the ability to deal with others while we are unable to cope with our own selves? Are we becoming too soft that we would rather opt out of tough situations than stand up to them and face them bravely? Is it too tough to ask for help, are there only fair weather friends?


From "If" by Rudyard Kipling:

 If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" 
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
 With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
 And-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!

There is a television quiz program for school children called “India’s Child Genius”. The children who qualify to participate in the program are extremely bright and clever, good in academics (They invariably introduce themselves as “ I always top in my class”) and seem to have an extraordinary memory for facts and figures and obviously have a very high Intelligence quotient.
But is this what genius is all about? This is the etymology of the word:
genius - 1390, from L. genius "guardian deity or spirit which watches over each person from birth; spirit, incarnation, wit, talent," from root of gignere "beget, produce" (see kin), from PIE base *gen- "produce." Meaning "person of natural intelligence or talent" first recorded 1649.

All these children obviously have a natural gift for learning but still genius seems inappropriate to define them. It seems to me that a true genius would never be able to qualify for one of these competitions because if a child is able to conform to the demands of a structured educational system and these type of competitions , his genius would have been numbed  if he was born with one. That explains why a mathematical genius like Srinivasan Ramanujam actually failed in their school (of course not in math but in English and History and all other sciences!) R.K.Narayan failed twice in his university entrance examination. Einstein failed the qualifying examination for Engineering studies!!
Genius cannot be acquired, taught, developed, practiced. You have to born with it. An advertisement for Apple Computers defines genius best:
“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

So it may actually be good news for kids who did not qualify for these programs - they may not know who invented the telescope or what the parliament of Russia is called but may actually have genius for something else. Parents, please do yourselves and the world a  favour - stop pushing them to be "like" others and help bring out the best in them! No television program or competition or examination has yet been designed to discover a genius!!


While comparing Carnatic music with Hindustani or Western Classical, I have always wondered about the importance attached to the lyrics by using specific compositions generally known to lovers of music. It seemed so much of a limiting factor, and sometimes even a distraction from enjoying the beauty of the raga being rendered. On the contrary, a Hindustani rendition seemed to have unlimited space available for the singer to scale up and down, in and through, exploring a raga completely,pushing to the fullest limits of the singer's creativity.
I realised the value of lyrics suddenly the other day when I heard Lalgudi jayaraman playing a famous song by Subramanya Bharathi - "Theerada Vilayaatu Pillai". The song is about the uncontrollable prankster ( theerada vilayattu pillai) Kannan ( another name for Lord Krishna) and goes on to talk about his naughty tricks on his playmates. Jayaraman's violin told the story with the frustration of a Gopi who was so fed up of the incessant tricks - it complained but not out of anger but with the indulgence of one who could not help loving the naughty rascal; it narrated the tales half smiling and half annoyed at the little one's audacity. And in the tale of Krishna bringing fruits to the gopi to eat and then snatching it away while she is settling down to enjoy it, one could actually hear the fruit being slapped out of the girl's hand - it was such magic. The experience was so total - a lovely story,a nice poem and music that brought it all to life. My knowledge of the song and the words created this special rapport between me and the music which would have been lost on someone who just related to the music and didnt know the words of the song.
Perhaps this is the reason why lyrics still have such importance in Carnatic music - to reach out to a larger audience, to create the mood and a rapport between the singer and the listener. And that also explains why so many South Indians can relate to carnatic music so easily.Otherwise it would have remained too elitist and exclusive.
No way an angel, but it's Charlize all the way
(Review of film "Monster" by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan)

There are a few characters who plead to be brushed
aside. And if you have watched her previous films,
Charlize Theron’s roles would perfectly fit the bill.
Her presence is in all her previous movies was just
that – a presence - and was easily replaceable.
Whether it was doing cartwheels on the beach and
leading a chic lifestyle in ‘Sweet November’ – apart
from devoting one month to each of her boyfriends – or
a sweet goody-two-shoes in ‘Cider House Rules’ or even
a paranoid wife in Devil’s Advocate – whose sole
purpose is to get a supernatural vision – we hardly
bother. So it’s no wonder that the recurring theme
when the Oscar nominations were announced was,
‘Charlize who’.

And then we realize Charlize why, when we see
‘Monster’. No goody maneuvers here as she crisply
slips into the character of Aileen Wuornos, a
prostitute who killed seven of her clients, was
famously branded as ‘America’s first female serial
killer’ and was convicted in Florida in 2002.
Ironically, the witness who gives the evidence against
her is her lesbian lover, Selby Wall (Christina
Ricci), and for whose love Aileen was willing to go to
any extent.

A miserable childhood riddled with fantasies of
stardom; of true love and a fretting for the ideal
guy. All this result in Aileen turning into a
hitchhiking hooker - a deeply frustrated one – and
takes her to point where she has just five dollars and
seriously contemplating suicide. That’s when she meets
Selby, in a gay bar.

It’s ironic that Aileen, who has fantasized about men
all her life, would ultimately find her ideal partner
in Selby, an ideal example of muddled adolescence. At
the same time Aileen has a terrible experience –
ending in murder - with a man who acts like a john but
actually tries to rape and kill her. Completely
shaken, Aileen wants to lead a respectable life and
give up the ways of the street once and for all. But
after some humiliating interview experiences and
Selby’s constant nagging for a fun and party life, she
is left with no choice.

Back to the ways of the street, but this time of blood
and gore. As a paranoid response to the rape-attempt,
she unleashes her anger on her clients. She takes
their money, traps them semi-naked – pretty much a
point of no return – and then shoots them with
cold-blooded venom. With that money, and her client’s
car on most occasions, she keeps Selby happy as they
swing through clubs and bars of Florida. The tough act
of oscillating from a psychotic killer to a loving
girlfriend within such a short period of time is
executed without the viewer even noticing. And
Charlize pulls it off with a fantastic swagger -
pushing her hair back with machismo, puffing a
cigarette with eyes askance, and spewing profanity at
one and all.

The most disappointing aspect about the movie is how
Ricci (Selby) dampens the intensity with her inept
performance. There are occasions when Aileen is
desperately traumatized, when Selby chooses to contort
her face into a apparently confused state and utters
some powerful statements insipidly. In this case,
Selby will probably be the character being brushed
aside by many.

Inevitably, Aileen gets caught, when she is looking
for some change to make a phone call, and gets her due
from the jury. But the enduring moment is when she is
captured outside a bar, surrounded by cops and she
wails out, ‘I just want to call my girl’.

The phenomenal face-change that Toni G has given
Charlize and her ability to sustain the intensity
lives on once the movie is done. There are shades of
Hilary Swank, winner of the best actress award in 2000
for her role as a cross-dressing teenager in ‘Boys
Don’t Cry’. Swank’s performace was described by the
New York Times as “a bleak slice of American life that
leaves a bitter aftertaste”. Charlize's deliverence
isn’t too far behind.
Yesterday, there was a message on the answering machine from someone called Manjiri. Normally I would have ignored any call from strangers . Must be one more person selling me credit cards or home loans – but Manjri? The name was too classy to be associated with someone who would call you at odd hours and pester you to take a loan. Though everyone says almost reflexively that oft abused statement, “what is in a name?” and feel good like they invented the phrase, names do carry their value at least for me. I find it impossible to be rude to people with names as sensitive as Charulatha, Chitralekha,Kalpana and Madhulika.
It is the same when it comes to ordering drinks. I invariably end up ordering something with a name like Green eye opener, Pink sunrise, Blue Sky, Electric lemonade or frozen passion without caring to see what it might contain.While you cannot force me to have even a drop of grasshopper or screwdriver - no, not even with a gun pressed to my temple!
And when it comes to desserts and sweets, while I am indifferent to the laddoos and Mysorepaks and Jalebis , it is entirely impossible when you offer me something with a name like champakali or abor khabo or rum n raisin,death by chocolate or wild n reckless.
Very highly creative minds must be working at naming these for the likes of dumb me. But there is a down side to this too. Names such as this tend to set the expectation level very high and can put off the customer if they do not live up to it. For example I would be more disappointed with a Manjiri selling loans or slimming capsules than if it were a Geetha or a Sudha.I would feel very cheated with Manjiri for not living up to her name.
My aunt tells me that I am not alone in this - she asked her son, my cousin, to buy snakegourd from the vegetable market. He refused to ask for something with a name as slimy as snake gourd. She tried persuading him with its Tamil name " Pudalangai". No go!! equally bad or may be worse! He saw her disappointment and tried to meet her halfway. May be it had abetter name in Hindi? She said "Chichinda." That was the final straw! she never got to eat her favorite pudalangai as long as he did the shopping!!!
Looks like this runs in the family!
Life is so strange – sometimes total strangers leave a mark in your memory forever.
Like the song that floated from the window of a house in a street where you went just once for something.
Or the warm smile of an old lady after you helped her cross the road
Or a scene outside a house where you had stopped the car during a traffic jam – a father and daughter sharing a joke or a little girl with a dog .
There is something intense and captivating in that moment that your memory just captures it like a photograph. You never knew these people but they have touched some part of you.

Today Julie Tisdale, a complete stranger , whom I shall never meet, came into my life for a few moments.I shared a whiff of a special moment from her life through a thank you note that she wrote which found its way into my hands after many years.
I had picked up “Still Life with Woodpecker” at a used book store yesterday. This morning as I turned over to page 39 this card fell from the page. I should have thrown the card away and proceeded to read but somehow it had the fascination of a clue in a treasure hunt. So I tossed the book aside and read the card in stead:
A tiny elegant personalized card used for thank you notes or short private notes, the top flap announced the sender’s name in a stylish font:
Mr.& Mrs William E.Tisdale, jr.
Inside was a handwritten note:
Dear Kar-Kar,
You guys are the greatest ! What a perfect gift you chose in the T.V. In fact, it really was my favorite. The shower was so much fun; I couldn't have asked for a funner evening. Thanks for everything.
P.S. Bill loves the T.V. too. So, now he can cook & I can watch Knots on the big one!

This note gave me the thrill of a cryptic clue in a treasure hunt. I tried to see what clues lay in the letter about the person who wrote it and the background of the note.
There was a shower where Karkarand company had gifted a T.V to Julie, currently Mrs Tinsdale Jr..- More likely a bridal shower .
Julie is English or American? “favorite” and “funner” are certainly American and then the reference to Knots – most certainly American!
Knots Landing, television's second longest running drama (after Gunsmoke), ran from 1979 to 1993 on CBS television. Produced by Lorimar (owned by Time/Warner) the 14 seasons focused on the lives and loves of neighbors who lived in a southern California cul-de-sac.
So Kar- Kar used the thank you note as a bookmark, which found its way into the used book store along with the book.
Kar-Kar, very thoughtful of you! Btw,how did you like the book?
Julie, I hope you still love the television as much. Which soap do you watch now that Knots is over?
Bill, how is the cooking coming along?

This is much like watching one episode of a long running soap – you don’t know what happened before and will never know what happened afterward.
This tiny card and the 4 lines told a story better than some of our 2 and half hour movies.
Recently I read the biography of a living legend in Indian Music – an icon whose name is pronounced with a near reverence by one and all. She is held in esteem not only for her lovely voice and her contribution to music but also for her personality. There is an aura almost spiritual about her. She never seemed to even know the magnitude of her success. For her, singing was just something she did naturally from her soul like the lark and the cuckoo – she did not do it for money or fame.
She was born into a caste which did not have much acceptance in society – they were called the “entertainment class” but her marriage, her dedication to her work, her personality and her way of life raised her completely above her birth and totally “Sanskritised” her that no one cares to mention anything disparaging about the class she came from. She is celebrated and loved for what she is – the person, the singer, one of the rare gems of India, yes, a Bharat Ratna..
As a twenty year old, she too had a great love; a handsome and brilliant young man who was another musical phenomenon of her time. She thought there would be no purpose in her life if she did not marry him.
But fate had other plans and she married another man who was deeply in love with her. This man polished her, drew the career path for her, steered its course to the last detail, found the powerful backing for show casing her music in the right arenas and managed the publicity and literally created her brand equity. She just knew how to sing and sing from her heart and he did the rest. Without him, her biographer says, she “ might just have been a face in the crowd, a great voice among several great voices. With him she became the “queen of music, a title bestowed upon her by Jawaharlal Nehru.
But in the end was she happy? Would she have been happier had she married the man she was so much in love with? Hypothetical questions for which one will never know the answers including herself. Who knows what might have been?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the woman in her might have been fulfilled and contented if she had followed the course of her love but the singer would have had a brilliant few years and then become a footnote in musical history. Voices like that are not created by God to be lost in a crowd . She deserves every bit of all the adulations, accolades and adoration that she has enjoyed all her life, sharing space with presidents and princes. We should be grateful that she chose the path she did for what she gave to the world and what the world gave back to her.
What might have brought her more happiness than the contentment of having served Man and God well during one’s limited life and be recognized for one’s worth during one’s lifetime?
There is something to be said about going to school again as an adult. I realised that it brings out some of the nice things in us which we forget as we grow old:
You do not hesitate to admit that you don't know something.
You make mistakes but still keep trying.
You can laugh at yourself with others easily without any hurt.
You prefer to keep things simple.
you are not afraid of failing.

Simple principles but so tough to apply in our day to day life - wonder why?
I have always been fascinated by the picture of the two headed bird on the BMTC buses. The two heads look away from one another and its body seems to be made of gold. It is called the Ghanda Bherunda and it is a mythical two headed bird which was the symbol of the Mysore kingdom and now used by the BMTC in its logo. Not much is known of this bird except that Vishnu in the form of Lakshminarasimha has a shrine where he is worshipped in this form in the Pancha Narasimha ksetram in Andhra Pradesh. It is believed that Lord Vishnu took this form during his Narasimha avatar .
Hindu mythology and folklore has its own share of such interesting birds and animals,
Some of which are very poetic:
Chakora, a Himalayan partridge, the lover of the moon, is said to feed on the rays of the moon.
Chakravaha is a variety of duck. Legend has it that pairs of these birds are souls of two lovers, who are supposed to sleep apart at night endlessly calling to one another:
“chakava,,may I come” and “ No. Chakavi!”
The Chataka bird is supposed to be a type of swallow that drinks only drops of rain as they fall from the clouds and nothing else!
Hamsa, the swan immortalized by Ravivarma in his famous painting Hamsa Damayanthi, was supposed to be a celestial bird that separated water from milk!

But some of the undocumented mythical creatures of my childhood have continued to fascinate me. These were used by the elders in the house to bring disobedient children under control.
One was a man called Poochandi – his name was typically brought out to make children eat, go to bed early or when they refused to do something. My image of poochandi has been one who had matted hair, brownish, with an unkempt beard, red eyes and dressed in rags. Since he was only used to scare children, he was probably some kind of a cannibal who delighted on young human meat! Of course each family had a personalised version of poochandi depending on what they thought was scary enough!!
Needless to say that generations of children in tamil households have heard of him but he has never been seen!
Actually he has been a very convenient invention to make life easy for parents with troublesome children - wonder if he still comes in handy to the parents of today.

Two other creatures that have haunted my imagination from childhood are the vedalam and the pisasu – the former is supposed to dwell on drumstick trees while the latter preferred tamarind trees. They were usually supposed to be active during noon time and after dark! Well these were of both sexes and were disembodied spirits . Only their voices were supposed to be heard. They were usually looking to get into the bodies of bad children!
I have spent many afternoons under the drumstick tree in my house clandestinely looking for this Vedalam character but never had any luck!!
Perhaps he was so lonely that he went out socializing with the pisasu in the tamarind tree in the neighbourhood – who knows!
Today we learnt numbers in French class which just made me say in an obelix style “ The Gauls are crazy!”
It all starts innocently until you reach fifteen as each number has a distinct name. Then they begin to be called ten and six, ten and seven and so on. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty and sixty also mercifully have their own names but the range of numbers between them still get called as twenty and one to nine, thirty and one to nine and so on - just like english you say and begin to relax thinking you have it all figured. And then comes the big blow! Seventy has no name – so the numbers 70 to 79 get called as sixty and ten to sixty and nineteen and just while you are about to say sixty and twenty for eighty you hear a new name for eighty – four times twenty! And so the madness goes on until 99 which is described as four times twenty and ten plus nine! And then hundred gets its own name – Cent!
Imagine a child of 4 looking at a number like 78 and figuring it out as sixty and ten plus eight - phew!

Hey ...but to come to think of it, 60 plus 15 sounds younger than 75 and four twenties does sound smaller than eighty - may be that is why they use these!!!!
There is a certain kick that one gets out of doing things outside the sphere of ones normal roles at every stage in life. Normally we have an urge to fast forward a little to the future and try out the things that are a little beyond reach or forbidden. There is a fantasy about the freedom and happiness of adult life. We spend our childhood and adoloscence in such a hurry to get to this promised land. Then we actually reach there and realise there is no such rainbow there and what is worse, you know that the remaining years of your life will all be the same and there is nothing that you want to hurry into. And you wish you had lived your a life a little more slowly enjoying all those earlier phases. Tough to rewind and replay.So when I saw an opportunity to go back and be a student again, I decided to give it a shot and enrolled for a beginner’s course in French with alliance francais.
The classes started on Wednesday morning at Jyothi Nivas College. It felt strange to walk into a class room and sit on one of those benches twenty four years after passing out of college – but there was a comforting familiarity about the ambience – same type of benches, the platform for the lecturer and the large black board. Thank God, some things in life do not change! It is a different kind of experience to be learning from the alphabets onwards at this age, sitting along with kids who are less than half your age and where the teacher hesitates every time she has to address you because she doesn’t know whether to use your name or stick to the safe “madam”. Some of the girls charmingly call me “aunty” while the male students take the safe route by addressing me “excuse me!”
I look around and see the kids earnestly struggling with the pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar as much as I do but I seem to be getting a little more out of the whole experience than any of them. They are learning only the language but I am learning much more by just being with these young kids and observing them.

“ ‘WHY?’ is one question that stays forever
in all the pleasure and pain of humanity
What remains is the question”
These words are from one of my favorite songs from a Tamil movie called “Apoorva Ragam”.
Down the ages, philosophers have pondered on the why of our existence and given us many theories. The why quest has been the spark for all our breakthroughs in science and technology. I completely agree that we would not be where we are today if men had not been asking Why.
One of the interesting and irritating phases with children is the “why phase”. For a while it is fun when they “why?” everything and you feel superior having all the answers. Then one day when you have explained a “why” at length to the minutest detail and are about to feel proud of yourself, you are thrown off balance with another “why?” That is when you save your face with a nonsense poem like:
because the sky is so high
and the bee married the butterfly
in the month of july!

I thought I had heard the last of the whys when my son started looking up the encyclopaedia first and googling later.
The whys started attacking me from unexpected quarters.
First it was the spate of “friendly” salesmen from Eureka Forbes. When I tried to cut them off by saying I do not need a vacuum cleaner, they challenged me with a mean “why?” What followed usually was a long defence from me on why I did not need a vacuum cleaner, or for that matter any convenience gadget because owning them resulted in a lot of dependence on the vagaries of power supply as well as chasing the vendor company for after sale support. This went on regularly until one day it dawned on me that I could actually lie and tell them that I already have a vacuum cleaner.

Then came the endless telephone calls from marketing executives of credit card agencies who demanded that I explain “why” I do not feel the need for a credit card. I think I was getting older by then to face the onslaught. Result: I have 3 credit cards now.

The latest is “Why” I do not own a cell phone. When people I meet ask for my cell phone number and tell them I do not own one, their first reaction is that probably I am lying and that I do not fell close enough to share the number with them. When they are convinced otherwise, they look at me like I am a dinosaur. And then they start lecturing me on why I should have a cell phone – how their lives have changed since they started using one! Which is when i start pondering
"why,lord, why me?"

Wonder whether the poet had been harrassed in a similar fashion which inspired him to write those immortal lines:
(Theirs) " not to reason why..(theirs) but to do and die"
I was in Chennai last week end and we went to visit Chelli mami. My sister and I walked into her house unannounced and were welcomed with a warm smile that touches your heart and tells you that your visit is genuinely appreciated. Within 10 minutes we had been persuaded to eat (mami always seems to have extra food) and the drumstick Sambar and potato curry combination was perhaps the best meal I had in years now. I was reminded of the many times I had eaten in her house as a young girl and wondered how she managed to get the recipes perfect every time – it always smelled and tasted the same. When we left after half hour, she had packed a large bottle of tender mango pickles for us to take home. And all I remember of the time we were there is that we were laughing all the time – again like old times.
Mami is not one of those wealthy old ladies living a life of leisure. In all her 72 years of life there has never been a day when she has not had to worry about something or other and money has always been scarce. Having lost her parents as a child, she was brought up by a widowed childless aunt who worked as a cook to bring up the orphaned kids – mami and her siblings. After completing school, she worked as an elementary school teacher in a Sarada Vidyalaya school and was the bread winner for her family as the man she married was a very kind man but never made any money. Both mama and mami had a very large heart and were always helping their poorer relatives even though they had 2 daughters and a son to take care of. It was always amazing to see how they managed to do all this on mami’s meager salary as a school teacher. I have never known her to be insecure or worry about anything. There is nothing petty about her house – her heart is so generous that she gives away everything. It is impossible for you to leave her house without eating something – at least a cup of coffee. She has always lived in very small apartments but they seem to have a way of expanding to hold any number of people who choose to walk in, so much like her heart. She has so little money but in the final analysis, she is always the “giver”. And she gives you the things that you cannot buy anywhere for money – genuine affection, traditional simple food and lots of laughter. When you leave her house your heart is always light and stomach is always full.
Life has been pretty one sided in giving her more than a fair share of misfortunes but mami has never stopped laughing. And she never complains.I was happy to see that her children have inherited her ability to laugh. There was always laughter in their house and it continues to this day – they know how to laugh back at life whatever life may throw at them. She has taught them something they don’t teach you anywhere else and so tough to master.

Would you say that an overall score of 54% is too bad - bad enough to be expelled from a school? This is exactly what a school has said to the child of a friend. In the 9th standard she has scored 54% and the school wants her out because they do not want any child scoring less than 60% to appear for the board exams. Reason: It will affect the reputation of the school if they do not have a 100% first class result in the board exams.
Now whose fault is it if the child did not score first class marks so far? Is it not as much a comment on the abilities of the teachers at the school if they could not motivate the child to do better in the nine years the child was there? If a school chooses the brightest of children and gets first class results, why do we need a school?
In any case who decides these grades anyway? Is there room in the world only for human beings who can score 60% and above? Is the system so fool proof as to label children’s capabilities ? And for god’s sake, this is just school leaving certificate not a specialization degree. Do they realize the blow this has given to an adoloscent’s self confidence?
And the pity is no one cares. There is a long queue outside the principal’s office for application forms to admit children into the school.
If it is any consolation, we are not alone in this. There is a very illuminating article on this written by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991. It is called the
“Six-Lesson Schoolteacher” (You can read the whole article at

Here are some excerpts:
Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to school teaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:
The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch.
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld, by authority, without appeal.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study.
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged. A monthly report, impressive in its precision, is sent into students' homes to spread approval or to mark exactly -- down to a single percentage point -- how dissatisfied with their children parents should be. Although some people might be surprised how little time or reflection goes into making up these records, the cumulative weight of the objective- seeming documents establishes a profile of defect which compels a child to arrive at a certain decisions about himself and his future based on the casual judgment of strangers.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched.

Self-evaluation -- the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet -- is never a factor in these things. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents, but must rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for "basic skills" practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I've just taught you
Institutional schoolteachers are destructive to children's development. Nobody survives the Six-Lesson Curriculum unscathed, not even the instructors. The method is deeply and profoundly anti-educational. No tinkering will fix it. In one of the great ironies of human affairs, the massive rethinking that schools require would cost so much less than we are spending now that it is not likely to happen. First and foremost, the business I am in is a jobs project and a contract-letting agency. We cannot afford to save money, not even to help children.
At the pass we've come to historically, and after 26 years of teaching, I must conclude that one of the only alternatives on the horizon for most families is to teach their own children at home. Small, de- institutionalized schools are another. Some form of free-market system for public schooling is the likeliest place to look for answers. But the near impossibility of these things for the shattered families of the poor, and for too many on the fringes of the economic middle class, foretell that the disaster of Six-Lesson Schools is likely to continue.
…the lessons of school prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and their families, to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance, self-reliance, courage, dignity and love -- and, of course, lessons in service to others, which are among the key lessons of home life.
Thirty years ago these things could still be learned in the time left after school. But television has eaten most of that time, and a combination of television and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no time left to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to do it in.
A future is rushing down upon our culture which will insist that all of us learn the wisdom of non-material experience; this future will demand, as the price of survival, that we follow a pace of natural life economical in material cost. These lessons cannot be learned in schools as they are. School is like starting life with a 12-year jail sentence in which bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.
Speaking of a South Indian actor who is perhaps the most talented actor in India today, a lady said that her admiration for him came down several notches after she read about his extra marital affairs and that he had no respect for marriage as an institution. So…??? I did not understand what the personal life of this actor had to do with his brilliant acting genius and why he fell in her esteem.
Is it important for actors, writers, poets and singers to have a private life that is impeccable or at least “acceptable” to the society they live in for their talent to be recognized?
Is it not enough for them to be terrific in their job and have a private life of their choice however “immoral” it might be?
Does the charm in the writing of a Gide or a Wilde diminish because they were homosexual? Does the voice of a great singer sound less melodious if he is a misogynist?
Would Shakespeare’s works fall in value if we learnt about the skeletons in his cupboard?
Why are the prejudices and peeves of these professionals a matter of concern to the audience except in as much as they are part of their work?

Is this the result of the “Page three” and “pin up” culture that takes the private life of these people to the drawing rooms of people and makes them into “role models” for ordinary people and elevates them to the level of heroes? Then it builds the pressure on the “famous” to live a life that is expected of them by their fans and “followers”.
Why cant actors, musicians and writers just be treated like others with a special talent for their job and be appreciated as such for that skill and then be allowed to live their private lives the way they want? I understand the need to know about their private personalities if one were to marry them, work in partnership with them or entrust them with any responsibility that affected their lives (or the nation say, by electing them to a public office.) But why do we need to know about their prejudices and personality disorders just to go and watch their performance in a movie or a concert or read a book written by them?
And who is responsible for this? The “fans” who place these personalities on a pedestal, the press which thrives on fishing out juicy and gory details of the private lives of these people or the stars themselves who like to live out their life in public?

Is it all because there are no 'real" heroes anymore that people are desperately seeking to fill the void with these imaginary ones?
How would you like to live a life without feeling any pain?
Recently I read a news item about a five year old American child who was born with a genetic defect called "Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy Type-5. She does not feel any pain. Reason?
Her doctors say "Little tiny nerve fibers, the smallest of the nerve fibers, that are supposed to record pain, send that signal to the brain, so you can interpret what it is. Those fibers are not working," It is so rare her doctors don't know of another person with it in this country. Research done for her parents turned up a dozen known cases in the world.
Seems like a blessing? Hear this:
The poor child does not get the signal of pain from her body when she is hurt or when something is wrong with her body and so she cannot be treated until someone else notices it. Sometimes treatment can be started after what is ailing her has reached an advanced stage which often makes the treatment complicated and prolonged!
Although pain seems like a negative feeling, it is s signal from the body to the brain. It protects us, saves us by letting us know that all is not well.
Thank you God, for letting me “feel” pain.
I presume most people driving a vehicle have been punished for a minor traffic violation – conscious or inadvertent- at some point or other. It was certainly inadvertent when I lost my way on miller’s road yesterday and spotting a group of traffic policemen, decided to ask them the way hardly realizing I was turning into a one way street to go and meet them. Walking into the arms of Law as it were with outstretched arms to be cuffed! “You should have seen the sign board” I was told and further “where are your seat belts?” – So the fine was 600!
I explained that I had just removed the belt when I had got out to ask for directions before turning and the fine still stood at 300! Very gently but firmly and with a smile as a bonus, I was told that there was no getting away without a fine for entering a one way street even if it was to meet the policemen! And very politely and helpfully they gave me the directions for my way back with the receipt for the fine collected.
So I paid but felt very ashamed and angry. They were not rude and the amount was not huge but it hurt – it hurt to be considered an offender, to be punished with a fine! A youngster told me that he and his friends routinely pay fines for jumping red lights and driving on one way streets and that it was no big deal! “Happens all the time!” I was told.
I don’t know what it was about the values that were given to us by our parents and teachers that makes us squirm even about small deviations like this and we are unable to “Chill” when these happen.
I wonder what we have missed passing on to the younger generation that they can hit people sleeping on the footpath while driving under the influence of alcohol and still plead “not guilty” based on some loophole in the law.
You may say I am talking extremes here, but you get my drift I am sure…
Did you hear the president's speech to the nation on the eve of Republic day? It was a touching moment when he made the youth of the nation take a ten point oath. It was endearing as well as moving to watch him read out every single point of the oath and to hear the children repeat after him. One saw an eminent Indian, who in sheer frustration with the grown ups, was appealing to the children and youth to 'please" lead the country into a "heaven of freedom"( as Tagore had dreamed., which still remains a distant dream - perhaps more distant than when he wrote it.) Simple to practice, asking the priveleged ones to care for the less priveleged and ensure their rights, and be human . Time someone gave these thoughts to the children even if the parents are too busy trying to be "successful" in this world. and "pushing" their children on the same course. He encouraged them to fight corruption wherever they found it, even if it is in their own parents! At the end of it, he asked them, with his trademark smile and such child like earnestness " will you all do this?" and when they said" yes, sir!" he added, "good children!" It was all straight from the heart-pure,honest, simple - enough to bring tears!

Another moving moment came after the speech when they braodcast the national anthem sung in bits by eminent singers from all over the country, each in his/ her distinctive style - carnatic, Hindusthani, folk and film - men, women,young and old; but it was all in perfect harmony and nothing seemed out of place. One voice - the voice of India!
Why does this feeling come only while hearing this song or while saluting the national flag and saying "jai Hind!'. After this we go back to being a Tamilian and Bengali and Punjabi and Gujarati - what is wrong with us?

The ten point oath for children

• I will pursue my education or the work with dedication and I will excel in it
• From now onwards, I will teach at least 10 persons to read and write among those who cannot read and write
• I will plant at least 10 saplings and shall ensure their growth through constant care
• I will visit rural and urban areas and permanently wean away at least 5 persons from addiction and gambling
• I will constantly endeavour to remove the pain of my suffering brethren
• I will not support any religious, caste or language differentiation
• I will be honest and endeavour to make a corruption-free society
• I will work for becoming an enlightened citizen and make my family righteous
• I will always be a friend of the mentally and physically challenged and work hard to make them feel normal, like the rest of us
• I will proudly celebrate the success of my country and my people.
A few months back, when I slowed the car at a speed breaker, a boy of about 12 banged on my car window. He was crying. He pointed to a woman who was sitting on the footpath and said she had a heart problem and had to be rushed to the hospital immediately and he needed money for the bus. The woman had a long robe that covered her head and body and she looked like she would faint any moment. So I gave the boy a hundred rupees and told him to take her by auto to the hospital immediately. The boy didn’t even have the time to thank me and ran away immediately.
As I drove on, I felt pangs of conscience at my feeble attempt to assuage my conscience with a hundred rupees and leaving a young boy, still a child, to manage the crisis by himself. I wondered if she would survive the trip to the hospital, if they had eaten anything, if the hospital would admit them without money. I nagged myself to no end until I could bear it no more and turned back resolving to take them to the hospital myself if I found them at the bus stop. They were gone and all I could do was pray that everything turned out well.
When I came home, I was still troubled and narrated the whole story to my son, feeling awful about myself. But my son laughed and said, “oh,this is a standard trick. You find them all over the place.”
I felt cheated and angry. I felt that I had “wasted” my sympathy and emotions on people who would stoop so low for money. Then I calmed down and wondered what compulsion must have driven them to resort to such tricks –obviously they were hungry and needed money; they had no way of finding gainful employment. May be there was no bread winner in the house, may be there were younger children in the house, hungry. What else could they do?
Now, every time someone approaches me (and they often do, may be it is something about my face) with a tearful story, I give the money and go on with my life without agonizing over if I should have done more or less. I am willing to take the risk of being a victim of a trick than lose sleep over having turned away from some one who might have actually genuinely needed it.
I have heard that our ancestors used to wait for at least one needy person that they could feed each day before having their meal. Perhaps it is a good idea for us to revive the custom, even though india is supposed to be "shining" and on the way to becoming a "super power"!
These snow white birds in the mornings - with their exquisite long necks and yellow beaks, slender legs and measured steps
Pacing the empty plots with an air of a strict school teacher on inspection- i even look for hands folded behind their back, perhaps under those carefull arranged wings.
Nothing seems to escape their sharp gaze and there is air of complete confidence and superiority - slow deliberate movements, total grace , complete control.
They dont lose their poise even when they pick up a worm - bt they do it with the daintiness of a charming society lady picking up the hors'oeuvre , an air of refined taste and resume their strut. They ride on a buffalo's back with the air of a princess on an Arabian steed.
Is this what is known as "attitude" - yes, it seems it is not important what you do as long as you do it with a perfect attitude!!
On monday, one opened the eyes to a misty morning and chill wind and today before 6, there were crimson wisps of cloud on a clear blue sky. It was a pleasure to open the window and let the fresh breeze in.
Spring is already here – an early guest this year but very welcome. Time for letting everything in after three months of staying away from the natural feel of the earth, wind and water to keep the chill out. Time to turn the soil (and the self?) to let the heat out and get rid of the cracks on the surface and get soaked in the wetness and breathe fresh air. Time to be reborn- emerge from hibernation and get back to work on sprouting leaves and buds, and then the flowering and and fruition yet again. Time to seek and absorb fresh energy that the air will soon be so full of. Time for outdoors and indulgence of the senses on the fresh smells, sounds and colours. A time for rejoicing and rebirth.