Monday, March 29, 2010

"Matahari"








This is the story that has to be retold.
So I will try to lay bare the monologue that was passed to me .Which means this short piece will be in third person and that in itself might leave most of the foretold story not repeated here, and may even invite your imagination and inferences.


He began, “The cruelest thing one can do to her is to portray her as a perfection of virtue”.
To me the statement was quite familiar to a extract in some book I read long ago. But I let him continue.” In her childhood the grains of deceit, and selfishness were sown. In fact she was born with the diabolic gene. And circumstances, penchant and craving for all that were sybarite beckoned her to the distant city. Though she, to get purchase over her low middle income parents purportedly devised a story that they bought with some whimper and beamon.That she has endeavored on the journey to shoulder responsibilities for them. In fact the stark reality was that she was not content with the Spartan and archaic life in that tiny village”.  

I wondered loudly if those were not the times when women were not let out of home without a proper escort. “True” he said, “Kiran Bedi had not passed out of the University and was not a cop yet. But to equate her to the extraordinary persona of that lady Kiran Bedi would be blasphemous”.
He continued” she was restless and ambitious. And from very early in her life in the metropolis she migrated to, she learned that if she can be pliable she can conquer the world .She did spent many of her early days in the metropolis with meager subsistence food. But she learned fast. And evolved fast into a creature that would dwarf Lady Macbeath and Matahari put together”.

“She excels in falsehood, and is person par excellence in the art of debauchery. Even if it is her kin she is ruthlessly excellent in decimating anything that and anybody who can say nay to her. She has the charm and suave countenance that will snow under any person who has not felt her witch craft.”

Your soliloquy about this creature reminds me of the song ‘devil woman’, I interrupted.

“She had and still has an uncanny way with men” he continued.. And like ‘may- flies ‘to a beacon they flocked to her. She could move with ease from placements to placements. And sooner than she imagined she could make her parents nitwits and pliable to her whims. She noticed with passion and impudence that money talks and also can silence with macabre slight.

But did she try to carve a life for her, a life perhaps which she can take refuge to when age catches up, or as it is said in her faith ,’when the day of reckoning’ come? I enquired.

 “Well she did try and almost succeeded, but….! But she could never be content or satisfied neither physically nor materially.And it is said that goes to this day.She had this fascinating but chilling and goulash acumen to foresee, she trusted no one! The ‘may –flies’ swarm in plenty and she handled them with deftness and finesse .Her wedlock to one such proved to be shorter than the average in Hollywood. .He parted, it is alleged because he wouldn’t father an obnoxious. Nevertheless she exulted in a bigger catch. That was no may- fly, it was a big fish that fell to her wiles. But the big fish had different ideas and it was no fish, but a shark. And eventually after a few years it weaned her away with ease and vehemence. She bitterly began to learn that her wiles and trappings were losing its sting”.

What about her parents and siblings back home in the village? I asked.
“Well” he continued, “she did throw tit-bits at them. And since she wielded the power of wealth she made, lips were sewn together and there was no sort of dissenting voices. She would give away as long as she can silence the other and as long as she knows for certain that some body can be bought. And also that she can use the taker as her door mat. She built about her an air of sacrifice and forsake. She perpetuated seemingly though the shadow of renunciation. But  many who were awed by her debonair and skills saw that she extracts a far too highly disproportionate pound of flesh in return, and that destroys lives. She carefully cultivated the charm of the faithful and the fearing. The society was led to believe so. It is also said that in spite of their conservative God fearing, background, her parents conveniently chose not to disapprove of her doings, though they were not dunderhead enough to not see through the mirage.



“This gives quite a picture which is difficult; for me to fathom. And with origins from a family with leanings on tradition this diabolic character is hard to masticate”, .I expressed my sickness about the short story so far. .“So then are we reaching the end of the Greek play”? I added.

“The drama has not run its full course yet. And I’m not a clairvoyant to look at the crystal globe and tell without an iota of uncertainty what would be in store to the end. But there is something I would like to add. She will not let others enjoy the goodness of life if destiny denies her them. She has in various ways of artifice routed the lives of almost all her siblings. They do not have the peace and contentment which she could not have .But some of them are too clever to be doleful about that. Money can buy what character cannot! .She diabolically acts spoiler. And with subterfuge she tries to hold on to her matriarchy.”

This brief gives me a creepy feeling, the kind of feel I got after reading the Bram Stalker or the ‘Magician’ of Somerset Maugham. But then if destiny refused her something, she perhaps in her most solitary moments would rue, it must be only because of her deeds. As they say “chickens will come to roost”. I said. I do not believe in providential justice of retribution but yet I wished it played its natural part in her life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In Praise of "C"


There are certain times in ones life, and that certain times, often at times revisit to our helplessness, consternation and awe. And those certain times sometimes stays as the pleasurable fun moments of ones life even if one is a little peeved.

There are quite a few of such times. The  first such a time was way back in 1988 and was during the honey moon times I guess. We were living in Cochin. And one day I and C went to the Tandoor restaurant off the Woodland hotel for dinner. Those days that was one of the few respectable eateries in Errnakulam and affordable too. As places like Sea Lord, Pandal and the Malabar were out of financial bounds. It was also an occasion to shadow impress my spouse and also an occasion to showcase that I have a pretty and beautiful wife .ha!!!The restaurant was full with people. I was sitting opposite C and sported an air. Subconsciously and furtively watching if people around were noticing us. And to my glee indeed they were!! The steward took down our order of dishes and placed the array of tanginess and sauce on our table. And C began to investigate the sauce. She poured the tomato sauce on to her plate. And when she poured the solution came out in full, and began to almost overflow along the bottle I expected her to casually wipe the sauce of the bottle edge, but to my utter panic she started consuming it off the bottle edge. And she began relishing the sauce all on her fingers. I could see the people around wide eyed. How I wished I buried myself down under!

Many years later we were traveling on the Tea Garden from Coiambatore to Ernakulam. The train was leaving at almost midnight and I was longing for a berth to sleep. I was allotted the top most berth and folded up immediately. The last thing I noticed before I fell asleep was C engaged in animated discussion with a middle aged well dressed man .Some time later I was shaken awake by C. She was leaning on the berth and whispering to me to come down that the guy is a minister. Fantasies flashed through my mind and saw myself becoming a minister’s chum, sure that will do a lot good to my business. I hurried down shook hands with the gentleman and sat opposite. C said that the gentleman wanted to visit our factory. I nodded in acceptance. He stretched across to me his business card. I accepted that in glee. And there it was imprinted on the glossy surface, “Brother Paul Arokyaraj,”
                                                 Minister of The Lord

I almost jumped out of the running train but scampered back to the top berth without a word.

This friend of mine took fancy to star gazing. He, prompted by his new found interest joined some astronomy society and began his quest to know and study the night sky. Honestly at times his monologues  on stars, constellations
 and signs was an unavoidable bore. Unavoidable because he was a nice person.C was impressed with his lectures.I guess she picked up a bit of knowledge from this guy. And she was quite indulgent in impressing me about the things she learned about the twilight skies. One night we were sitting outside in the verandah of our home. The
 sky was well lit with stars. She suddenly jumped up  pointing her fingers at the southern skies. 'There the Southern Cross',
 in all its glamour. I gazed at the spot she was pointing and asked her how I can identify the constellation She said “come on even a child can figure out   , dey a mukkonam kandille, that is the Southern Cross”. Since that day I decreed that this astronomer friend must not utter a word about stars when he is with us..( she meant didn't you see that triangle that's the southern Cross).


A couple of years ago we made a private trip to the USA. I was always fascinated with the Yellow Stone and the Canyon. So the journey was a fulfillment too. The journey was financially well thought out. I got the tickets from my airline miles. And the time being the days when the US was plummeting into recession we could get a good overall bargain in hotels food etc. My friend’s sister who lives and works in a tour operating company in the US arranged and booked our stay and inland travel. She got us an amazing resort hotel inside the Yellow Stone Park called “The Snow King”. The hotel was on a hillock overlooking the town of Jackson. It was exciting, the touch down of the aircraft deftly flying between the Rocky Mountains and taking a veering position for landing. The drive from the airport through the Elk refuge into the typical cow boyish town of Jackson. We checked into the hotel and the concierge told us that we have reservation for a King- Queen suite. We checked into the room. The room was wonderful. C literally jumped in and ran to the huge window which had thick curtains drawn across. She pulled back the curtains and called out to me in awe and wonder... I was in the bathroom. She yelled ‘dey come on and have a look at the Alps, how fantastic they look”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Later C told me that her subject was Economics and not Geography Ha!!!!

The previous month R was home for a while before her ISCE exams. Her mother promised her that she will teach her Math and History. She is quite sticky with Math. Perhaps she took after me. Math was always my Waterloo.
And Ara too! Math is his nemesis. We were at the dinner table and I mentioned my pathetic performance in Math in school. But I opined that if a mental block or aversion takes over early then Math as a subject will be ones grave yard. C interjected. She said well for me as well Math was a big impossible labor.  I have been given zero in the exam in school. But I always wondered how could that ever have happened? After all it is so easy to score marks in Math. I did remember writing 1 +1 = 1. , and they gave me zero for that. How could that be??
The children yelled and howled. Ara put his arms around his mother and implored ‘Amma please do not teach R Math. She will learn by herself”
C still did not understand the yelling, catcalls and howling.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Krsihna & Radha

Holier than thou folks and peddlers of morality were livid at the Supreme Courts observations on men women relationship premarital .And I have the misfortune to know some of the ilk at close quarter. So since quite some time I chose to not interact in anyway with  such folks as they eat, drink and breathe hypocrisy. And as it is said in Doctor Zivago "your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike. Our nervous system isn't just fiction, it's part of our physical body, and it can't be forever violated with impunity." In fact proximity to such people can have the same effect on us too, don’t you agree?

The Supreme Court of India’s observation on “living together” has disconcerted many moralist and pedagogues of Indian culture, tradition and values.
Fatwa against premarital sex and cohabitation cannot be inflicted or imposed on individuals. And a society that value fundamental right and personal freedom to lead life as suited to ones thoughts and feelings will not hinder. If one does not appreciate cohabitation and premarital sex one is free to do so as the person who sees nothing malevolent in the opposite. The moralist and puritans who raise their brows and are outraged by the Courts observation must remember the quote “morality is best practiced in a nudist society”.
And though the analogy of Krishna and Radha is a romantic myth, the life of Dhrupadhi cohabitating with five men is definitely not the point that was ever raised by actress Kushboo or the Supreme Court to decry the contention against premarital sex and cohabitation
If the values the moralist hold for support is the essence of Indian culture and lore then there are ample instances in the Hindu mythology where Gods and Godesess have repeatedly engaged in sex outside wedlock. We have parthenogenesis in Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism where Gods and warrior men were born outside wedlock. And followers of those religions worship such men as Gods and messengers of Gods .This is not an argument in favour of such acts of promiscuity or liberality. But the right of two adults. Man and woman to cohabit without the sanctity and approval of the institution called wedlock or have physical relationship, is basic fundamental right and no personal predilection prompted by any thoughts , be it culture , heritage or morality should be allowed to infringe.

Purist who cries foul and term the Court’s observations as outlandish has a point
Though. redefining morality may put the mind and thoughts of the young in jeopardy and they may incubate erroneous ideas about cohabitation outside the nuptial fence. It can also be argued that the institution of the family will be at peril. And social upheaval and disorientation in due course of time will be quite bad.

I agree absolutely about the value and life family can provide to the young and the adult alike. And the corner stone and bulwark against bewildered and lost child hood is the comparative protection one gets in the cocoon that is family.

But the question is, if my son or daughter opt to not accept the legal sanctity of marriage and decides to cohabit with their companion, partner or spouse – what should be my reaction? I do not want to discuss the other part of the contention i.e. premarital sex. Because that may be best left to the individual. And I do not have any volition to dictate, instruct , coerce or debate an adult son or daughter to abstain from physical relationships . Ones private life need not be of upheaval to the society.
The lighter side of the subject in discussion is a brief statement of my childhood friend who lives with his family in the USA. He apparently told his daughter and son that he definitely will hold no prejudice and objection to their marrying or living with somebody be it a black, an arab, a hispanic or Chinese, be it a muslim, a jew, or an agnostic as long as the member is of the opposite sex! You can laugh it away as an apt discourse in the American world.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman

Simons Town off Cape Town in South Africa is the base of the South African Navy. The navy has its presence in this tiny sea port with a natural bay, since the early days of the Dutch colonisation of the country. I did see half a dozen naval vessels berthed in the harbor. It is a fishing town as well.


The town is busier than the Wellington Island in Cochin (the only naval town-ship I have been too in India). Simons Town is idyllic and perhaps life style a bit laid back. In any case South Africa has not much contingencies or events to engage its navy. Hence the sea men too are at ease.

Back in 1930's in Simons Town lived Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman. The name did sound strange to me when I heard of it and unforgettable too. Well, before he was commissioned into the South African Navy, Just Nuisance could be found  moving around the town and was very fascinated with the naval folks and. He was often found with the naval officers and sea mates loved him. He saw off at the wharf, sailors embarking to battle in the Second World War. He had this strange routine of traveling from Simons Town to Cape Town and back by train. This was unfailingly followed by him every day. If he missed one train he patiently waited for the next. But to the outrage of the Afrikaners he would only travel first class. Remember those were the times of segregation based on colour, and all coloured and natives were bete noire. The whites had no qualms in throwing coloured folks and natives from even moving trains. The incident at Pietermaritzburg train station back in the late 1800’s involving an Indian barrister Mohandas Gandhi and the criticism it evoked later did not deter the Afrikaners from boorishness. But, with Just Nuisance they could not have their way, they were helpless. He insistently traveled back and forth every day, by first class and ticket less. The whites were apparently outraged and annoyed but had to put up with his rebellious behavior which was in a way Gandhian “disobedience”.



The Mayor of Simons Town and the citizens got together at the town hall to brain storm this curious case of Just Nuisance. They concluded that they dispose him by putting a bullet through his brain. This was when the Navy intervened and offered to adopt Just Nuisance. In fact the name “Just Nuisance” was given later during his adoption ceremony. So the day dawned when the bloke was formally adopted by the Navy .He was christened Just Nuisance and since a sur name was necessary he was named Just Nuisance Able Seaman. He was commissioned into the navy. So one day in late the 1930's the South African (then British) navy became the first sea faring military to commission the first canine into service. Lieutenant Just Nuisance became the first dog to be commissioned into the navy and he became entitled to a fat salary. The salary was used by the navy to pay for his daily first class train journey to Cape Town. Being Lieutenant Just Nuisance had access to the officers’ bar at the naval barracks. The odd side of his was he had a weakness for alcohol and spirits. With Just Nuisance having nothing much to do apart from his daily train journeys, he spent rest of the time in the bar. Often he was found tipsy. One day he was involved in an accident with a motor car which created thrombosis. Also his predilection for excessive alcohol found him later with intestinal and liver ailments and died six years after his commission.
The Navy gave him a touching farewell service and was laid to rest in a specially built tomb up in the mountains where they have a cemetery for naval officers.

A few years ago when the South African Navy celebrated its Golden jubilee dignitaries from the visiting countries motored up the mountain road to the cemetery and paid respects at the grave of Lieutenant Just Nuisance Able Seaman. They laid wreath made out of proteas on his resting place.


‘Every Dog has its day “!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Durban & the Scum

I’m in every sense of the word not a salesman or an extrovert (neither an introvert). My selling acumen and abilities are Spartan or limited. Neither do I have the temperament to gate crash into a new bunch of people. Quite bad at developing acquaintances! Acquaintances are limited and friends can be counted on the fingers. And hence I prefer to travel alone and as far as possible avoid new people with whom I might have  to, let me say share a room, have food, or even move around. But then business demands and certain situations are not of  help. And I have to acquaint with personalities I met just a while ago. More often I ‘m afraid that my avoiding such company might be construed as haughtiness and hubris.
And consciously, I, on this trip to South Africa made my hotel reservations and even a few spare time and spare day tour of the country on my own and  by myself. No intrusions and I need not have to keep up with people I may not be fascinated to be with for long and in private.
But again I was mentally prepared to having to accept strange companies on this tour as work and situations would make it unavoidable.
That evening in Durban after the fair time, guys from the part of Tamilnad I now live decided to go out together for dinner and a drive through the city. I faintly pointed out that I may not be able to join them as I had an early morning flight to catch the next day. But the guys went to the extent of even suggesting that I reschedule the travel. I preferred to go along with them rather than rebook my flight. However I reminded them that I will have to be dropped back at my hotel by 10.30 in the night.
We travelled by car through the beautiful city , transfixing on me  its glamour by night while the car moved through the , the beautifully sprinkled lights of the city , the harbour below and of the many ships waiting in the ocean yonder to sail in was simply a beautiful reel of film being screened for me exclusively. My co- passengers were involved in animated gesticulating discussion on everything they can think of. And were commenting as experts in every realm of life. I soon was thirsting for a drink and sorely missed the bottle of Teachers Whisky in my hotel room. We were soon moving through the suburbs and then the guys decided that we go to a shopping mall which was quite huge. I sensed that they were in no mood to eat food. And had to tag on behind them like a lonely canine.
Finally after an hour of drudgery and trudging through the Mall they decided to go to a restaurant for dinner. I love food and zealously single out the restaurant that serves the flavour of the place I’m in. But these guys all wanted to flock to a Tamil restaurant and were talking loud about rasam, sambar and ravadosas. Goodness for once how I wished that those cuisine were never invented! No one asked my preference. I just wanted to get over and be back in the hotel. Mercifully the restaurant we went to serve alcohol and I tried to forget a forgetful evening with a few large Jack Daniels. Those guys were adept in talking loud and sounded very unpleasant .They did not generally care for the people around and the public place they were in. There was shall I say expert opinion on Green house gases and the ozone depletion. Soon the dinner was done and I insisted I be dropped back. And so we journeyed back and they were also eager to see me away as they planned a late night in some Casino.
On the way back at some point the discussion touched upon Durban and Mahatma Gandhi alighting on Durban shores more than a century ago. Somebody said that Gandhi went to South Africa to study law. Yet another fellow said that Gandhi was creating problems for the Indians in South Africa. Still another historian commented that Gandhi was parochial and only promoted Guajarati businessmen in South Africa and he was vilifying Tamil migrants. And to top it all one guy said that Gandhi was an arsehole and a scum. By then though my patience reached its nadir the car braked in front of my hotel. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dark in the Dark Continent

When I was little every journey to the farthest place on earth – then to me it was Ambalapuzha, and anticipating the day I would be taken aboard the KSRTC Fast Passenger or Express to Allapuzha was an exhilarating feel. Any journey outside home in Thiruvananthapuram was eagerly looked forward to and anticipated with unbearable impatience. And closer it moved to the day or hour of return back to the kind of boarding life back home in TVM which was detested with melancholy and self pity and the inevitable could not be staved off.
Years later it was absolute elation when chance came to move to New Delhi with a job on hand. And the feeling of “Born Free” stayed put at every opportunity to be away from home in TVM.
Further still many more years  later, the first opportunity of almost a month of travel and living in a foreign land outside India was a dream come true. And that too to a land so well painted on film in the movie “Puppet on a Chain”. Schipol ,the windmills and the canals that were amply seen in many shots in that movie beckoned me.
But then I noticed while away many times since that there was often a lonely feel and solitude that was quite dishevelling at times. The similar feeling stayed often to disturb and sometimes disorient the work I travelled for. The feeling that I was far away from home and the country I was born and lived all my life. Though no patriotic fanaticism or fervour may be subscribed to this statement
And I feel the same now, only into my second day of a three week journey to South Africa. True it is a country I have never been before and the myths, legends and stories of life, living and the dead that I perhaps gathered  about the continent and the country through my staggered reading of these past years should in all way make me awe and wondering in anticipation the journey and the days I will be here. But that is not so.
The longing to be back home is pestering. Could it be because of the age, being alone here, or the perennial problems that confronts my livelihood back home?
Just can’t tell, But the fact is that age perhaps has mellowed the urge to be alone. But is that a comfortable sign? One has to be alone one day whatever one may want to the contrary.