Saturday, January 9, 2010

We are Mortgaged Souls

Today’s morning was disheartening and contrite. Watching that visual footage on NDTV brought deep sense of outrage and infamy. It was mortifying, to tell the least.

The video visual of a police inspector bleeding to death and wailing for help while two state ministers and an entourage watched nonchalantly was enough to permananently and effectively lose faith in the human race to which we belong. There were passers by who were absolutely indifferent. And fellow police men were exhibiting muted and eunuch like posture. There was a police man who was throwing water at the dying sub inspector maintaining a distance as if the victim wase a human bomb or a contagiously ill  person.

The district collector who accompanied the ministers was keeping a safe distance and directing some assistance to come their way. Much invaluable time was lost due to the insensitivity of all those human beings. And the unfortunate man was bleeding to death. There were enough motor vehicles in the convoy and not one person wanted to rescue the victim and rush for medical care.

Such are the values of the society of which we all are part of. Such is the insensitivity of our heart. Do we have one? We are soulless because we have mortgaged our souls for personal and only personal gains. What does not touch our dermis does not matter to us.

One should not blame the ministers alone for being onlookers and not directing immediate assistance to the victim. Because they were only elected by the system which is equally culpable as they are, to wiz past in luxury vehicles and be involved in all that negates the core principles on which the constitution was framed. They are part of us. The society they are part of has degraded and is now filled with filth. And when it is so, it is in fact not a wee bit surprising that such indifference and insensitivity becomes a way of life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Officer and a gentleman

Back in 19775-77 the Mahatma Gandhi College Thiruvananthapuram (M.G.College) used to disperse for the day at 3.20 pm in the afternoon. We would most often skip the last session and entrench ourselves in the murukkan and juice kada of this fat guy (I can scarce remember his name). I remember him claiming that he donned the role of Swami Vivekananda in the malayalam movie Devi Kanyakumari.This shop was in the Muttada road and it was there right in front, when you take the sharp U bend reaching Paruthipapara junction from MarIvanios.

While we sat at the shop listening to his stories of the tinsel mallu filmdom , this chap used to cycle past us at precisely 3.40. He used to race down from MarIvanios and take the bend. He always knew that more than often he will be howled at. We used to yell “… two three, hey pattalam………”. I felt he took that in his stride. Sometimes he used to whiz past in NCC uniform on his bicycle eyes closed and readying for our shout. I remember him often responding to our howling and hooting with timid smile.

Two years on I and he were in the same class in MarIvanios. And we were to spend the next three years into graduation together.

We used to frequent Public Library after college hours. For me a visit to the Library was also an excuse to stay out as long as possible. But he was back home at the stroke of 6.30 and cycle all the way back home to Ambalammukku. He had strict regime going on at home and was not permitted to be out after 7 in the evening. We used to meet in evenings on weekends and holidays and he was pissed off staying with us at our vantage point opposite the Secretariat. He would pull me with him the length of the road from East fort to the Museum junction. And he used to not to walk like somnambulating like some us loved, but march like a fauji( in fact he dreamt being an army officer).

He had only one targeted aim and that was to enter the Indian Military Academy. He did that in style and I remember the afternoon in Thiruvananthapuram central railway station where I was along with another friend to see him off on the Madras mail en route to New Delhi for the selection interview of the SSB. A thoroughly genial fellow with quite a few discerning idiosyncrasies, who smiled timidly at us while we howled and hooted at him when he cycled down the M.G college road. But he has an antonymic side too. He was wait- listed for the travel to Madras and there was this ticket conductor who looked like a classical mallu film villain- tall and hugely built deep set mush and apparently tipsy on alcohol. This guy refused travel for our aspiring fauji. He pleaded with the guy and tried in earnest to convince him to let him travel as like even a stowaway. The conductor got increasingly angry and adamant. He if I remember forced my friend’s baggage out. The train was almost departing. And it was looking increasingly unlikely that he can journey to Madras and connect the train to New Delhi. He missing the interview of his life was likely. He burst out as if he would probably do now if confronted by a grave necessity to do the ultimate to protect his brigade. We were certain that a bad fist cuff was to ensue with the conductor. And the conductor grew absolutely violent and intimidating and swore that he will make sure that the matter will be taken up by the railway police and criminal complaint will be filed for unruly behavior etc. We were afraid that any police involvement will ensure him missing out the journey and may be the SSB interview. Those days the story used to go around that the SSB sleuths had men shadowing the candidates traveling for the selection and such incidence can be viewed as serious character lapse and result in elimination from selection. I do not remember if it was the good samaritan policemen or if it was some strange change of attitude of the conductor that he eventually let him board the train as it started moving out of the platform.

The afternoon was quite difficult for us as well, but was relieved to see him wave at us from the door of the moving train.

Later in life when he was selected into the IMA as gentleman cadet and after his commissioning as second lieutenant our relationship continued, through post and personally on his vacationing. It is his dedicated attitude that he visits his friends without fail when ever he is back on vacation.

If the cantankerous Ticket conductor had refused journey that day in 1980 India would have surely missed out on a truly sincere and dedicated soldier today!

He volunteered and opted for infantry and in the Gorkha regiment. An army officer who is not enamoured by the position and power he has. A person who still continues to be a teetotaler and a strict vegetarian, but religiously serves me when at his house, beautiful whiskies he gets from his army supply; a fantastic officer who was rightly awarded the Presidents seva medal;  perhaps also hand picked by the Army on absolute merit to head the Indian contingent in Botswana and assist them put up a defense staff college in Gabbone; an officer who was tormented and disheartened that he could not join the IPK to Sri Lanka when a irritable medical conditon intervened ; a foot soldier who braved the night patrolling and in the terrorist ruled Punjab; a gentleman and an officer who refuses to let his orderly do domestic chores for his wife (in fact he respects his orderly as an individual); a discerning reader and a man who excels in gaining knowledge and meticulous details of every thing;

I cherish the day he took me with him to the house of Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw in Connoor. I could meet a valiant veteran and a truly dedicated officer (both from the same Gorkha regiment) engaging in conversation. And I felt it was father son like! General Manekshaw considered him a close soldier to heart and special.

I felt immensely happy and proud that I could have a friend who unlike me is dedicated, hard working, sticks to core values, a man of good knowledge and above all honest and excellent officer who has become now a Brigadier in his on right.

I tell Ara and Radhu that my luck is  having friends who are better persons than I am on the bench scale.

A small Riposte

When I posted the piece "Spirit Rekindled", I was expressing bond with certain events, and experiences in creations of art how ever insignificant or otherwise, which may have helped me kindle the past.

I was not labouring to exercise marketing strategy for God of Small things (in fact the novel has ample novelty and candid substance to sell itself). What invoked a sense of bonhomie with GSM were certain events and experiences the characters in the novel go through and how I could identify with similar experiences in my life and from the same times I grew up like Arundati Roy. So goes with the movie “neelathamara”. For those of us in the genre of AR, it is easy to identify and notice the social set up of the times we grew up like the author herself.

As for Ashok’s opinion that Ms Roy derided the Malayalee psyche to win accolades- well  I disagree, however I do  respect ones right to keep one’s side of the story.

Now since the topic has been thrown into play I prefer to express my opinion on GSM and Arunadathi Roy's writing as well. And beware this is a view of a lay mind.
I fully agree on the points made by Kpj and Balan.
Malaylees have an extraordinary quality of hypocrisy and trivalisation of anything and everything different. Mallus have made hypocrisy a State virtue. Arundati Roy had the guts, daring, and uncanny literal acumen to be candid about such abhorring mallu trait.. If you can remember, D.H.Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” was written in the 1920’s but could be published in virtuous England only in the later part the last century. And in India as well the book remained off the shelves. I remember buying a smuggled edition in New Delhi in 1982.Why was the novel banned from publication? Because D.H Lawrence was stunning and upfront enough to portray a every intimate relationship between an aristocratic woman and commoner in a non-confirming and explicit language. I recollect reading somewhere that hypocrisy is absent in social groups who practice nudity!!!

Arunadati Roy is not a story teller in the mould of Marquez or Hemmingway. And in GSM she translated her experiences and life in Mallu land with deftness and audacious use of language.
Leaving that apart if one has to see the persona of AR I would suggest to read the book “Shape of the Beast” – an interview N., Ram had with her. I m certain it will be difficult to find a person like her who is incisive, not superficial nor trivial. And her knowledge of the subject she writes or speaks is sans rivals. She has the fearless quality of speaking her mind without succumbing to the double standards and fake mindset of the society in general and mallus in particular.. Her articulating of social writing and speech is not a penance for penning GSM, on the contrary I feel a timid woman such as her can confront the trivilisation and social concept of good, bad, money, power, want, need and greed in this world only with a razor edged pen, language and irrefutable substance.

Remember we mallus adept in wearing snow white “mund” but there ends the virginity of our pallor...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

"What a wonderful World"

I’m an insipid useless hand at computer, and things to do with modern technology. I haven’t deciphered most of the features of my previous mobile hand set. The one I have now though it can help me into the vanity class is still mostly a stranger to me.

I have been trying for many days now to upload an audio song on to my blog. But stupid antediluvian that I’m, failed all the while!!

The song I wanted to upload was Louis Armstrong’s “what awonderful world”. I do wonder why I like the song. What Armstrong sang about this world has not even an iota of truth. –if you bench mark what happens all around us. But then why hold such a song to my bosom? Because I feel the song has utopian value. It is like having a shot of pot or may be heroin. It is refreshingly intoxicating. It has the serenity and tells of what could have been .And listening to him sing “what a wonderful world” brings the  urge to live through the disgust I feel looking around. But then perhaps Armstrong saw the wonder of the world and the beauty in little things and happiness in seeing them, which I may have failed to notice. But then isn’t beauty relative?

All said and done if a piece of artistry can transport you on a magic carpet to a lost or unseen paradise it is this piece from Louis Armstrong. A never withering classic!! A dose of the song each morning and bed time can make the difference one can never fathom. And can change the world too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The fable of Mallan & Mathevan

An interesting discussion came up at home the other day.

Incidentally I will be traveling to Cochin on the 2 nd of January for a get- together of our 1980 Graduation class alumni. The discussion was prompted when I informed about my travel and the get- together. This in fact will be the second time we meet after the grand reunion the alumni had with family after 26 years, in 2007.
Aravind began the discussion with expression of some envy that I always found myself much lucky in having friends and being able to reminisce with them. He and Radhu also mentioned the reunion of the 1975 Model High School X Class, I attended in 2005 in Thiruvananthapuram .The children suggested that it will be great fun and pleasure when old friends meet after a long period. I differed and expressed my disagreement with their thinking  though not in entirety.

There was quite a bit of exhilaration during the run up to both the reunion. But I was quite on target in anticipating that it will be fleeting, and it turned out to be so. The school batch got together after 30 years and the college folks after 26. There was curiosity and some excitement because one was to meet persons after long long time; and the curiosity was,it was difficult to anticipate individual appearances and positions in life.
I told Aravi and Radhu that bosom friendships are always a few and they stand the test and ravages of time and incidences. And that as they are also aware, I have, may be one or two close knit friends from my school days and the other few whom I gathered later in life are friends in all sense of the word. I opined that the word “friend” must not be defiled by loosely using it as a noun, a verb and as an adjective as well.

Just to mention an anecdote in this context, a few months ago I was in a business dinner and there were also present a couple of “friends “of mine (who in fact became related to me some years ago). And there these alumni meetings came up. One of the two “friends”(sic) of mine mentioned about my wide circle of friends. I interjected that I do not have a circle of friends but a few whose relationship I will take with me to Timbuktu.. . I mentioned  the old allegory from the Malayalam text book of standard II. The story of Mallan & Mathevan. And I said when many are like Mallan who scamper up to the safety of the tree in the forest when confronted by a huge bear leaving his friend Mathevan in the lurch and certain mortal  danger, the choice of friends will be limited to those whom one can call bosom friends and no number of getting-together of school and college mates can help much in altering the equation.

Am certain I conveyed my point to them, there.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Chris has been trying for sometime (in fact more wishing than trying) to shed her extra pounds, and has been running from one gym to another.

She has now concluded with a new fitness center to ensure that she lose 15 kgs in 6 months.And lured by their sales talk she even paid ten thousand Rupees towards my membership. Since then she has been virtually  pecking and pestering me  to go with her to the gym every morning at 5 .

Though my body clock wakes me up at 5 am every day (even if I have had a few extra whiskies the night before), I do not intend to oblige her and leave home for two and half hours every morning.

The reason is not laziness or the lack of will to stay fit. I do go around inside my, let me call it my little farm, for about forty five minutes from 6.30 every morning engaging in brisk walking and jogging. And that fairly keeps the system ticking for the drinks in the evening. The reason why I do not want to leave home in the morning are the wonderful sights I see in that forty five minutes of walk.. The  flock of peacocks, the manias and the crow pheasants, whot feast on the Chickoos, and the parrots that relishes the Guava and the corn. The turkey that sometimes mistakes the pea-hen for its mate and the excited flight of the pea-hen to safety. The pair of barn owls who nest on the roof of the house but watch me from the gulmohar tree turning their neck at 365 degrees. The Ducks that swims in the Lilly pond and the little chicken who run after every little flying insect. The whiff of cool air and the gradual break of sunlight through the morning sky. And my walk takes me through various thoughts which am sure cannot happen if I miss the mornings at home and join Chris to the gym and start the day mechanically amongst the fitness machines.I rather stay like this .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spirit Rekindled

“It didn't matter that the story had begun, because Kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don't deceive you with thrills and trick endings."
- The God of Small Things

Seeing a movie and reading a literary creation with which you identify from your experience or events of the past is a pleasurable thing.
The two such instances were , my happening to see the new version of the movie “Neelathamar” and reading the book “God of Small Things”.
The Producer and Director of the movie and Ms Arundathi Roy the author of the book must be reminded of ones gratification.
Nelthamara brought back naughty memories of achievements and disillusionments of the teen and the youth, whilst God of Small things reminded one of even certain specific days of the past and smell of the air.
It is often a refreshing feel to revisit the good times of the past. Though sometimes memories can be stoic as well!
I do not want to flaunt or curb the experience and experiments which I or any of my friends could identify with that of the hero in the movie Neeltahamara.That must always be a pleasure or disappointment to be kept in confines and only to be unleashed in the midst of bosom friends. But still am sure not many were able to suppress the reviving memories while the song “anuraga
vi lochithanayi” was played out with some nostalgic visual treats, ha ha hm !!
And when Suresh confessed in some interview that he saw the old version of Neelthamara a dozen times and more, I for one was not unsure of the reasons that kept him running back to the movie hall then.
As for the God of Small things, the days when the anti Communist procession and the blaring of specific film songs is so identifiable, in the book as well as in real life in the 60’s.The escapades in the theater ( Kottayam Annanad theater) vividly described by Arundathi Roy will am sure tickle many. Am sure my friend B would like to add upon this.
And many of us could still feel the air of places similar to “Ayemenem” where we may have spent the days during summer school closure. There was much in the God of Small things and in Neelathamara that rekindles as they are both from the same genre as I’m and many are.