Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Historian

I have been quite good with the subject of history. And marks in school have been commendable. My mother as well studied history in college. And I’m still surprised by her memory of various dates and years that are special in history. You ask her the year of the battle of Plassey she has it in a second. Ask her the second battle of Pannipat she has it again in a trot. This was until a few years ago. I have not tested her faculty recently.
One of the best books on history that I read with the appetite of devouring a wonderfully crafted novel was Professor A.Sreedhara Menon’s “Kerala History”. The book was in Malayalam and I bought it a few decades ago from the Current Book house in Thiruvannathapuram, and I m now  trying to recall from the reading then.
It was easy reading and one’s interest was kept alive through the reading. The inquisitiveness was teased throughout the book. Compare this to Romilla Thaper's books. I recently bought  “Early India” and still have not covered much. Let me confess that I have no historical erudition to criticise or belittle Romila Thaper, and I m not indulging in that either.
The dawn of Christianity in Kerala, the Christians of Cannon who were given authority to settle in north of Cochin...... Professor Sreedhara Menon threw ample light into all those facets of early Kerala.
He details elsewhere in the book as to why and how households of Tamil Brahmins in Kerala and Tamilnad posses much gold in the form ancient jewellery . He attributed this to the fear of Moughal invasion of South India (Tamilnad). And as temples where then repositories of valuable metals and stones, the Brahmin priests where authorised to move the wealth from temples into their homes. Because the first place of attack and plunder by any marauding Muslim army were temples as they possessed much of the wealth of the kingdom. But the feared Moughal invasion did not take place, and the booty stayed with the Brahmin households.
History is written by the victor and only when a person with strong head, will, gut and spine who refuses to be pliable takes up to noting history like the late Professor Sreedhara Menon that people with academic interest and those of us impassioned about the past can relish history as a subject of research, fact finding and knowledge. Men with ideological leanings cannot truthfully document and judge history. They owe allegiance and have sold their conscience to the theory and ideology they profess. And in the process they wear blinkers and cannot be impartial judges, they can only be, as Professor Sreedhara Menon said ‘lawyers who collect materials to suit their theories’. And that is not history but a story.
It is typical of the communist psyche that the then communist government in Kerala declined to accept Professor Sreedhara Menon's  book on freedom movement in Kerala because he refused to know tow the official version. If Kerala history where to be written by a communist it is anybody’s   guess that it will be painted red, as it was done to the Punnapara uprising.
If history of Post Independence India has to be subjectively, and truthfully written for posterity it has to be by the likes of Professor Sreedhara Menon. Lest it will be history through the myopic and icteric eyes of a Congress man, a Hindu fanatic or a Red comrade.

Lady Macbeth

These days with the proliferation of media in the form of television and print, news are not reported or analysed. The veracity and truthfulness is not looked into. And news is created, sensationalised and reported. The result, we have no way of judging or concluding what is news ipso facto and what is nonsense and imagination  purveyed as news. This is where news is paid for. Paid news as we all can see is false hood, and untruth packaged as genuine and thrust upon the gullible public. The discerning still sieves through and throws the rubbish into the trash. Whereas the big majority are fooled in no uncertain terms, for which in fact we ourselves are to be blamed. The reason for this state is the general public is hungry and craving for sensation and sleaze. We see and get what we look for!
With reference to this state of our news media, a fascinating incident was mentioned by a person. This is nothing to do with politics, corruption by politicians and men holding public offices. But it tells the sordid saga and innuendos inside a business house and comical too. The end is risible to a great extent. You could laugh your guts out!
We have heard well about the feuding inside conglomerates like Reliance and manipulations in Satyam. We have seen dirty family linen washed in public when the internecine dislike of Mrs Indira Gandhi for her youngest daughter in law came out to the fore.
The amusing story told to me goes like this. Lady Macbeth (euphemism is true to the character), is the member of a business house by wedlock. True to the characteristics attributed to daughters in law she ,(in this case in cahoots with her spouse) plants a paid news in a not very obscure vernacular daily, with the intent to usurp  other members and founding people of the business unit. The write up with a surly photograph of herself eulogised her from beginning to end. Though she came from fringe back grounds and was eking out living consigned to some nondescript job in Government, the article impressed without gumption her courage in jettisoning the cosiness and comfort of a lucrative, respectable and safe job to confront the vagaries and uncertainties of business life. It went on to laud her far sightedness and vision, entrepreneurial acumen, and hard smart work that turned an enterprise of low beginnings into a behemoth it is now. The irony I m told is that people who mattered in the evolution and sustenance of the enterprise were not mentioned even in passing. The gratitude and acknowledgement that they deserved was not accounted in any remote way. It was a petty and cruel joke with deeper insidious dimension.And in fact she was a dispensable and non contributing factor to the success of the enterprise.
She would have  like Lady Macbeth called upon the evil spirits "stop up th' access and passage to remorse in order to be relentless".
As expected the paid matter got a fair coverage and where it did not reach she ensured that the clipping was circulated. And then came the somersault- the denial and expression of surprise and squarely blaming the reporter for misrepresenting and contriving. The purpose of the paid news was done. She could send the message across as to who the boss is. It was a successful coup-de-tat after all! There were no ripples, but smooth slide into control of all she surveys. There where mocking and hushed jokes on the news and the woman, in the corridors of the enterprise. People who have known her and her self where amused and where cautiously derisive.
Every place of power has a retinue of self-seekers. And she has quite a crowd of such. And they were nurtured and sycophancy well preserved.

The final shot was from poetic justice, and people in jest said that, they now believe in the heavenly power. And it happened after a few days of the paid news coming out. Lady Macbeth, our  heroine set off on a foreign jaunt.  She was given a conspicuous farewell and bon voyage by her palanquin bearers.
She was slated to fly out of the country from Chennai. And with great pomp and air of having arrogated she walked to the emigration counter. Where the sky fell shattering on her virtually! She was stopped by the officers and turned back as she did not have a valid travel VISA. The derisive talk of the town is the queen who longed to be the queen did not know the basics. It is now widely presumed that she has gone into incognito, and may not resurface until her predetermined date of coming back from her foreign tour, and that she may need a while to nurse her bruised ego back to its former state.
It is also supposed that the people who felt grievously ignored and hurt by her are drinking wine in private to toast the fall.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Curse of the Serpents

I have known revulsion, abhorrence, plain fear and awe when I watch on National Geographic and other TV channels, men like Steve Irwin , Romulus Whitaker and Austin Stevens  handle and fondle serpents as  toddlers  would do to   toys. The thought of the very prospect of seeing them live naturally would send shivers up my spine and my heart palpitate. I see them often at night by the head light of my car when I drive back home. Wriggling fast across the road (the drive from where I work to my house is through a lonely stretch of road with undergrowth on either side).I often see them run over and lying mutilated on the road. Even the sight of their mauled and mangled sinews life less on the road would send shivers though I m well cocooned in my car. One late evening coming back home I stopped the car and opened the gate. I bend down to pull of the latch and I virtually froze as there down a few inches from my outstretched palm was a colourful coil, moving slowly when disturbed by the light of the car and the movement of the gate. It was a Russell ’s viper, common around the place I live. I stood frozen in fear and for it to move away .And it took a while, as  Vipers are tortoise like when it comes to moving about, though they being ambush predators  strike very swiftly.
I can vividly recollect the utter repulsion I felt, nausea as well, after watching the movie ‘SSSssss snake’.
So is my fear of snakes, and determination to keep as far away from one if I notice one around, is unbound.
A couple of months ago I, C and R went to the Mannarasala temple after exhortation from a few people of piety. The abode of the Snake gods and goddesses! That was my first ever experience of the temple dedicated to serpents. Eerie was the feeling. My fear of snakes that developed from nascent days added to the eeriness. And I bore with me stories and legends of lore about the temple and its serpent gods that were spun for me by my grandmothers from the time I was little. I left the temple hoping that I invoked the serpent Gods to my well being.
A few days ago a friend who considers everything supernatural to be determining the odds for and against him sent to us a septuagenarian gentleman. I feel now that he was aptly named ‘Naga Sabapathy’ He visited the place we live and went around the house and the outside in a sort of deep observation. After a few minutes he sat down and began to talk. He made some statements from my personal history and also C’s. He spoke about a sacred grove near the place I lived when I was little. He asked if we ever killed a serpent (he referred to the Cobra) a few years ago at the place we now lived. We answered in the negative and told him we have not seen one yet around here. He then went on to say it could be somebody who must have done, but the damage of the act might touch us in many ways.We are afflicted by 'sarpa dosham'( curse of the serpents).
Ara was keenly watching him and the discussion. Later that evening when we were sitting together he had these few questions directed at me.
The gentleman was only referring and gesticulating about snakes with hood, is it that in his encyclopaedia of the genesis of serpents other species of snakes do not matter or doesn’t exist. It is well known that there are many other species of snakes that are more venomous and dangerous than the cobra. Then why is this consternation about the poor cobra alone?
And what reason is it that if someone, we are not aware of or known to us killed a serpent some time in the past and the malediction befall us?
I wonder if I must direct this incertitude to the gentleman if he returns.

Monday, July 19, 2010


It is very difficult to observe the twinkle in the eyes. The gleam is come and gone at fraction of a split second. Certainly there must have been instances when all of us have had the twinkle in the eyes. The twinkle is not in relation to euphoria,it dose not persist, but it is the subtle acknowledgement of satisfaction and happiness. And also soulful appreciation, of this, words cannot express. It does not stay as sparkle in the eye for minutes. The heart takes over the spark. And the eyes are as usual thereafter. It gleams in the eyes like the water bubble that surfaces for a brief second and then transforms into gentle waves that acknowledges the reason for the sparkle.

I once read an article of Nithya Chaithanya Yethi in the Kalakaumudhi . Therein he dwelled on the expression of affection. He says in the West expressions are physically dominant. It is kiss on the cheeks, on the lips, a warm and close hug etc etc. Be it to your mother, girlfriend, sister, wife or acquaintance! This he also acknowledges is frowned upon in India. We do not express animated love and affection with our limbs and facial contractions. Be it in public or private.. To emphasis the point he mentioned an instance where the deep love and affection for his sister and for her to him was conveyed through the twinkle in the eyes of their both. This was when he landed back in India after a long sojourn in foreign lands and his sister was at the airport to receive him. He said there was no hug, no pat, no hand shake no kisses. The subtle affection was in their eyes and each could notice it and be enlivened.

The other night Ara was going back to Chennai and it was about the time he was leaving the house. I was speaking to my friend Balan and told him that Ara was leaving. I called Ara and told him there was a phone call and asked him to speak. He was in hurry and expressively did not want to be on phone. He frowned and waved to me that he will take the call some other time. I told him it was Balan maman. And I saw for a moment the flash and sparkle in his eyes- “the twinkle” He ran up to me and took the phone.
(I cannot recall if I ever gleamed when my father’s friends wanted to speak to me).

Apart from all that it is amazing what a pair of eyes can convey and I wonder if there is any other organ that can spark and tell a thousand stories of happiness at a shot.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

E= mc2

Time flies fast. And if you measure the speed close enough,you will notice that it speeds at a velocity faster than that of light. That makes the movement of light akin to that of a tortoise. And I did an Albert Einstein to formulate a theory which in short states   H =ta2. In fact it is not exactly as physics states E = mc2. .
I will try to explain with pure physics. It is when we are oblivious of the present in relation to the speed with which time speeds that we get a massive reality shock relative to the time that elapsed, and the relativity of the time that elapsed squares up with awe and  to arrive at the sum Happiness. Did you get any clue? No!
Let me go back to the basis of my theory. As mentioned earlier time flies faster than light and also in relation to our perception. Oh my foot still more of physics.
H =ta2  . H  denotes happiness. Which is the sum of the time that have elapsed and squared with wonder.  Abracadabra!
I was trying to explain relatively happy domestic incidents with some masala of physics .And I must confess that  I  miserably fared in all my Physics exams in school.
The other day R was back for a weekend recess from school. After ten years in angrazi ke samanne ki boarding  school  she had found new vigour and enjoyment in the school in the heartland of mallu speaking country. She amusingly related special words, references and salutations she picked from the teachers and mates. ‘Pullikaran’ being a very laughable reference! She noted that she had to laugh her guts out when the reference was very commonly used to refer to another – ‘pullikari’ as well. Then a slightly rough word kundham.! And the usage ‘enthoruu kundahama’ has now very much become part of her Malayalam natter.
‘Ennathina’ and ‘oh enna paryana’ has now eclipsed more detailed usage which we use at home. Not to forget "ennathina" and "ennachyanna". And to add to all the new Malayalam chatter it was absolutely amusing when she would call C ’kochama’, because she calls her teachers ‘kochamma’. She has come down far way from ‘Miss and Madam’.
I told her in jest that very soon she would have forgotten the Malayalam she used to blether and by the time she would have done her XII she would be much used to the comfort of “chattayum  mundum”.
That brought us to the topic of her having to wear sari for the Onnam festivities in the school. She already has bought a lovely traditional Kerala sari and paraphernalia. She draped that for me and C. And the result was =ta2 .
And it was then I thought of the formula H =ta2  .H being happiness which is the sum of the time that went by whizzing, squared with awe. It was indeed truly a wonderful sensation to see that even before we could fathom the time that elapsed the little girl born on July 3 , 1993 now looks an young woman in the typical Kerala garb. Time waits for no one and dose not revisit  for us to savor the little moments that went by like whiff of pleasant air 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


An article appeared in the Hindu dated July 5,2010 on  Muslim identity in multi cultural society. It dwelled on the outcome of a poll amongst a cross section of the British society. I guess the outcome of a similar exercise here in India would not be any different. The basis of the poll was how the rest of the society outside Islam view their Muslim brethren in the present over cast and stormy times of religious strife and terrorism,

A pertinent point  was mentioned in the article,   ‘It is a bit like the Americans who never tire of moaning how everyone is against them but seldom pause to ask’, “why”?.
I personally am strongly against Islam phobia and oppose any move to single out Muslims as purveyors of ill.
But the statement mentioned in the article is valid, and the opinion poll is matter of fact. The Muslims must introspect on the subject. When Muslims, extremists or otherwise term people of other faith,” non believers”, the fact is that they are being prejudiced. We do not see or hear a Christian, Hindu or a Buddhist describe followers of other faith as heretics, non believers and infidels. Such adjectives and labels are palpably used in the Muslim world against followers of other religion. Does this not starkly point to a dogmatic and constricted outlook towards the society that is not Islamic? When such sentiments are rampant then how does Muslims expect the rest of the world to react besides being sceptic and suspicious?

And, is it not a fact that in the present world, terror and extremism are practised by followers of Islam? This is vivid if one goes by the number of terror activities that have taken place over the past many years and identify who the perpetrators where. If apathy and discrimination towards Muslims are the reasons that Islamic world showcase as the root cause and genesis of extremism and violent acts, then they must also take note that injustice is inflicted on the weak and meek sections everywhere and, not just on Muslims. That has been the ill that befell human race right from the times of the cave men. Billy Joe summed it famously, “we didn’t start the fire, it’s been burning since the world’s been turning’’. The colour of blood and suffering are the same all over. They must learn to see people of all faith as their brethren and not just the ones who swear by the holy Koran. They have to open their eyes wide, have a broader mind and deeper conscience and only then can the Muslim world genuinely and rightfully feel outraged when injustice is committed be it anywhere ,and upon any one in this world. And not just when only on Muslims! They have to be universally inclusive. And for that they need education and not outlandish, bizarre and dangerous dogmas camouflaged as religious diktats at madrasas.
It really doesn’t matter what the Prophet preached. But it is hard to believe that a messenger of peace and harmony would have given a caveat to invoke violence and mayhem upon people of other faith and opinions. Muslims will be judged by what they are and not by what is attributed to the Prophet .When frenzied Muslim mob indulge in death dance and in violence at a perceived innuendo or against an innocent caricature, alleging blasphemy, it is Islam which will be derided. They must solemnly think for a moment whether their faith and Islam is so fragile and brittle that it will be endangered by some stray opinion or suggestions.
I was astonished when I put down after reading the book”lajja” by Tasleema Nasreen. I found the book quite ordinary and more of a documentary in print .It merely stated in prose form the tribulations of a Hindu family in Bangladesh in the immediate aftermath of the Babari Masjid demolition. The style of writing was neither captivating nor the descriptions. It did not anywhere through the book blaspheme Islam or its followers. If a documentary was done on similar lines on Gujarat the essence will be only very similar and not unparallel. But yet Muslims all over the sub continent woke up furious and damned the writer.

Muslims in Britain, the US , the European mainland and in India enjoy without an iota of doubt a far more freedom, respectability and the fruits of democracy than in any country that are founded on Islamic code and faith.
The Muslim society must after these years of violent upheavals introspect why the world as they perceive watch them with suspicion or are against them. Like the Americans it is time to look in their own backyard.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Super Salesman

This is the story about a sales man, a Super salesman!

Into a department store in the English country side, one late summer day, walked in a salesman. In fact he was not a salesman yet. He was prospecting for the position. The young guy managed to get to the General Manager of the store and put forth his resume and his case. All that he could tell the general manager from a persuasive point was that he is a sales man and he would appreciate the sales job in the store. Though the credentials where vague and rather plain the General manager decided to have a call on the apprentice sales man and conclude on his judgement of the fellow for the job. The general manager walked into the floor of the store and saw at a distance the young lad selling a fishing rod to a customer. The young fellow was elucidating about the fishing rod and smartly convinced the prospective client about its quality and value. He concluded the sale. Then he continued and offered the customer a choice of buying a can of superior quality fishing worms. The sale was done too. The young fellow was in no mood to let the client go. He suggested that the week end might be a bit cold and nippy as it being the fag end of autumn and would be perfect if he could keep a mackintosh, which would be handy while he fishes by the stream in the woods. It did not take long to convince the customer about the comfort and quality the mackintosh can offer. The sale was done too. The young sales apprentice continued,"Sir we have some fascinating new books to choose and you can read them in comfort while you fish and wait for the bait to do its job. I strongly recommend you buy one and enjoy the week end fishing".The customer was enlivened and he chose and bought a book as well.

The General manager who was keenly observing the sales was awed and went to the sales man and tapped him appreciatively on his back. “Well done young fellow! But let me ask you how the heck you managed to sell all these assortments to a guy who came in here to buy a fishing rod”.
The apprentice sales man politely said, “Sir he did not come in here to buy a fishing rod! In fact he came here to buy a pack of sanitary napkins for his wife and I suggested that he go fishing this week end”.