Saturday, September 24, 2011

The One Eyed Tiger

                          The audacious straight drive.

My first introduction to this game was when I was in the fourth standard at the convent. The neighborhood friend of mine who was doing his 6 th standard in the then famous school in the town revealed one evening a new game. A strange game in which you hold a stick with broad blade and was called bat (the makeshift bat was the coconut palm leaf stem). And another fellow throws a tennis ball from his hand held high and involves a bit of twist, turn and dancing motion. The fellow with the “bat” swings it violently and sends the ball to distant corners, more often to the compound of the neighbor. He does this to avoid the ball hitting three thin bamboo sticks behind him. He hits the ball and runs to the far end as if his life was depending on his reaching there as quick as he can. Then some arithmetic was involved and bingo, after exchanging swinging of bat and throwing the ball the winner is declared. Again based on some weird arithmetic calculations. A subject that was my bête noire.

I was not at all fascinated with the introduction to this new game. And was angry with my friend more because I could not figure out the strange acts and then math that is vital part of playing that game. I could not imagine and understand the raison d'être in involving math in fun and while at play. Ridiculous!

One year down the line I was sent to the very same school my friend was in. I was into the middle school and in the 5 th standard. New environs, bigger boys, no girls, strange angry words exchanged when boys fought, and menacing looking men as teachers. And most of all the strange game of three sticks a bat, ball, excited players and onlookers. The game was seen played in a many groups at the same time on all the play grounds, strips and corners. My first hand initiation into cricket. A fascination that stayed in me for the next many years as an avid player and follower of the game. Until belligerent opposition and disapproval from home muffled out that life from me.

Fascination metamorphosed into obsession and in a short while I began to play and listen to the running commentary on AIR, read avidly the Sports page in The Hindu. Often I cornered clandestinely a few paise from home to by sports magazines, Sport & Pastimes” and the “Sports Week’. My father used to buy the "Illustrated Weekly" regularly and those days it was “the news magazine”. And they brought out great articles on cricket and with beautiful colour photos of action. The little breaks in school and any available daylight time, I was playing the game.

And then India won the first ever test match and series overseas in New Zealand. Along with that I heard for the first time the name Pataudi. My father was an avid follower of the game and he had with him cricket books and coaching manuals written by Sir Len Hutton, Ted Dexter and so on. He used to listen to the commentary on AIR. And strange indeed, he did not frown upon me following the game.
Later that year sitting in the sidelines of the cricket matches to decide the best House before the annual Day celebrations, I heard of Pataudi who was the school captain. He was a senior in the final class. And strangely except for the darker complexion he was Nawab Pataudi’s look alike- be it appearance, hair-styling, gaze or swagger. And he was a good batsman. He was mobbed by the rest of the school. And because of him being the name sake of the Nawab, he was an icon.

My father in some rare moments of interaction that we ever had, used to tell me about how he and  a few of his colleagues ferried Pataudi from Hyderabad to Madras  once in the Air Force aircraft and then the Test matches that he witnessed Pataudi in action. He also told me why Pataudi was a Tiger. He was not named Tiger Pataudi, he said for his ferocity, (he in fact was a decent man), but for the tenacity and spirit of never say die. It was then I understood that Pataudi lost an eye in a road accident and was handicapped that way. My father told me that he had great difficulty in sighting and he always saw a ball being bowled as two. And because of his impaired vision he had to use his senses to know which was illusion and which was real. No ordinary man can adjust like he did and mock illusion and fate.

There were two means of conveying the period and time in films that had the plot taking place in the 1960’s. One was the signing on theme music of the AIR and the other was the running commentary on a cricket Test match on the AIR. And the commentator can be heard saying animatedly and in excitement that Pataudi has executed another glamorous stroke.
I met the prince at close quarters, that I could almost touch him. That was sometime in the early 1970’s during the three day Hyderabad-Kerala ,Ranji Trophy match at the University stadium in Trivandrum. M.L.Jaisimha was the captain. And there was besides Pataudi, another handsome player, his cousin Abas Ali Baig, Abid Ali and many others.

I must say that I have never met another handsome, charming and captivating person. He was absolutely gold like in pallor and had the elegance of the lineage, education and stature. Unfortunately he was bruised all over his elbows after some fascinating fielding. I do not remember taking his autograph, for I was bewitched and amazed at having got to see the man himself.

There were college girls in plenty shouting, shrieking and howling. They were kept at bay by the police, for they would have shred him. He was, at that time already married to Sharmila Tagore. The gossip went around that a boisterous college lass who was obsessed with him, gate crashed into the Mascot hotel where the team stayed. And she pleaded that she wanted to sleep with Pataudi. Pataudi was irritated by the lass and her tantrums that he closed himself in his room and got her evicted from the hotel. The grape vine has it that another player Mumtazr Hussain dated her during the duration of the match.

“No, don’t call me sir, call me tiger”. This was Pataudi himself when another player of later years tried to pick up a conversation with him.

In the 1960’s there were a few Indians who provoked ones imagination, they were Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Vikram Sarabhai and the other was Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Crime & Punishment

Premeditating a crime outweighs by great extent the enacting of the crime itself. The actor is a mere instrument, a tool. While I ‘m an accomplice, a co-conspirator and culpable murder, because I have been part of many premeditated murders. Murder most foul!

Kalliappan  an old dying man in the former Central Travancore is one illustration of a man destroyed by remorse and guilt. He finds transient solace in alcohol. And hence he consumes more and more…! He is aged and emaciated. Bidding his time when he will cease to have any days remaining in this world. For he has killed many! And it now dawns more in him, how often there were innocents sent to the gallows by his very hands. This young man now standing at the gallows is innocent. The jailor told him so in no uncertain words and as another instance of egregious application of the law and evidence in court. But his son who accompanied him to the execution takes up the job when he stumbles, does it more out of revulsion and anger for what he feels is his father’s false piety.( the plot of Adoor Gopalakrishan Movie- Nizhal kuthu)

Now wake up, wake up from your blissful, nay forced slumber. It was I and you, the ones who premeditated and did murders most foul. And we continue to clamour for more. More blood that may even put to pale oblivion the insatiable thirst for blood of the merchant of death or even as old timers say of the Goddess Kali.
Mohammed Sadd- al Beshi is far younger and in his mid forties. When he came on television, he looked ordinary and I would pass him on the street without a second glance at his unassuming countenance. In fact the butcher who I remember from my childhood when I used to be sent to the local abattoir, had blood shot eyes, dark complexion massive chest, broad shoulders, prominent cheek bones and muscular biceps. He also sported frightening whiskers. And I can remember him vividly, though it was many years ago, on the whole he generated a fearsome visage.

“Despite the fact that I despise violence against women, I happily undertake my job as it is decreed by the one and only almighty God.” He expresses without batting an eyelid and in a calm voice. He continues, "I must say that women are strong kneed than men. Men cannot stand straight on the execution platform. I have not seen a weak kneed woman in my 400 plus beheadings willed by God.” He had a mocking tone in his voice, derision towards men and their infirmity before the sword he wields and send their head cart wheeling on the dusty sand, with the trunk shuddering spasmodically on the ground. Blood gushing out of the gaping hole in the trunk at the neck where the head was. He is the official executioner of the custodians of Islam, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

These are two faces of men who are by lineage and profession employed to murder, to kill, to enforce execution or capital punishment as called in jurisprudence. These are people from two distinct cultures and our contemporaries.
The first in a society that dares to call itself “democratic and civilised”! The second in a society that is teetering still in medieval barbaric practices. The former presumes that man has to be made aware to think of death penalty when he sets out to murder and hence must be operatively deterrent. The latter quotes the rash and archaic unveiling of eye for an eye from institutions found during a different age. Those laws may have been suitable for a clan of tribal barbarians wandering along the deserts of Arabia , Palestine and Egypt  and are absolutely ill for a generation that claim to be civilised and enlightened .

Now let us leave aside countries like Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic States who have refused to sign the United Nations Declarations of Human Rights, that calls for abolition of death penalty and that everyone has the right to protection from deprivation of life. Capital punishment is still given down in signatory countries like India and the USA for instance. Two nations who clamour for being more democratic and upholding human rights than the other! But are derisive and averse to the watch dog Amnesty.

Death penalty has proved that it is not an effective deterrent against crime. As long as premeditated killings are supported by money and political power crime in various forms and intensity will continue to be perpetrated. To assume that society should dispense with certain elements as they are considered unfit for life is another theory that keeps capital punishment on the statute. A flawed and bedeviled theory from the very society that is responsible for an evolution of a felon. The very society who shuns him like a pariah and incorrigible!  The only difference is that he or she is not banished to a remote island- a penal colony, but left in the lurch emotionally and socially, branded as a curse, a scourge to mankind and the very society in which he was born, born not by his volition! And in some cases exterminated!

If a felony is penalised by elimination of the felon, by what law and philosophy is the very murder what we call penalty not a more heinous crime? It is the whole society, the mob against a solitary individual who is branded as unfit to live. The rarest of rare cases as the Supreme Court of India observed   is a contradiction and a unenlightened observation. It means that in rare and strange cases the society can indulge in crime, in mobocracy.

The lust for blood is mans twin .A very dangerous trait that only man has and exercise against his own. I was a pro death penalty criminal all these years. But life has finally given me a realisation that smothering out a life in the name of penalty, as an individual perpetrator or as the silent acqusiser are both the same. And no law can redress or reverse both as the former is a crime and the later uncivilised and barbaric.

There is nothing human in the mode of killing or  be it by the individual or the State. Both are lust, lust for blood and vengeance of perverted and heinous minds.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Some people are fortunate to read their own obituary. Well , is  there  something fortunate in getting to read that? It may also turn to  be a painful reminder, a late realization that you are or were a damn fool. How about being present at your memorial service? The white pallor of you, dressed in immaculate  white traditional uniform of the dead? You would come to know what the world- the friends who you loved , the relatives who you thought loved you, the acquaintances who nod while you pass them on the street ,all would subscribe to the requiem.

The eulogy they may read and it may blush your cheeks even though you are dead.
The ones who disparaged you and hounded you to the end of the world while you were alive, or even did the eerie black magic to summon Lucifer and numb your senses, all would in unionism orate in praise  of the magnificent  person you were. You will wonder why your mother , your wife or husband did not notice these  conspicuous qualities  while you were walking around in flesh and blood. And now once you were  interned in the inescapable underground vault the whole world conspire to  bring forth  grand orations about what you were. You may for a moment  pinch your cheek to  know if all is real. But then the dead cannot pinch, they pinch through!

This was what I felt whenever I  have been at the sidelines listening to a few memorial services . After you are gone, you will be eulogised for things that you did not do, and would not have done either. Hallo and saint hood is thrust upon you . And for that to happen, you need not have to be patient and bring forth three miracles like the Vatican insist. You  only just have to pass away. Scoundrel or saint when alive, you will be baptised after death and given a clean chit that you could not have dreamt when alive.
The mother of all jokes  would be a primate throwing tributes to the departed. The closest liaison he must have ever had with  the deceased would be at a  sumptuous meal complimented with exotic spirits, at the home of the departed. But the words and phrases that flow from him in tribute will flatter even Alcapone lying in his grave.

Eulogies have a queer sense. What they really mean one may not understand because it is neigh impossible to enter the mind of the speaker and decipher what he or she  really means  when he says, “I loved him”. By far that is the fact. Exceptions to the rule are not to be forgotten!

Here  are a few tributes to the departed-

-By a husband who excelled in  infidelity  towards  his wife had this to say at the memorial service.”If  tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.”

-By the Bishop who lead the memorial service to a young woman of the laity who was raped and killed. “If we have been pleased with life, we should not be displeased with death, it comes from the hand of the same master.”

-A politician’s requiem  at the funeral of his bête noire. “say not in grief he is no more , but live in thankfulness that he was ( is no more).”

-A friend’s eulogy .”The mystery of his love is greater than the mystery of death.”

How  I wish I could speak at the memorial service of at least a few people I know. Remind them of their lives and more ,which that they thought people pretermitted

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"In His Lost Childhood..."

In the lost childhood, his youth was lost
Cued by fuss and the cortège near.
Who brewed him, baked him and pampered him
And upon him riches like hail stones they lavished.
When the old must tell stories, of men and women of valour.
They nodded in glee his wallows and escapades galore.
 For they cherished it like stories of Camelot.

Wenches, wine and speeding cars – the spirits that enriched him!
 And riches like as for the Romans, but stealthily devoured him
Inheritance vile and the past wretch eclipsed
By riches of gold  those any man will envy.
And they brewed him, baked him and pampered him
In his spoiled childhood, his youth was lost.

Friday, September 16, 2011


This morning while chatting on the NET with a  distant relative, we happened to discuss the hubris that envelopes man and woman when propelled by fate, design or by sheer intrigue on to a pedestal of aura, of wealth, of power. And it is  then the feeling of invincibility and infallibility engulf their psyche and persona, which leads to the belief of their omnipotence and immortality.

It could be the sum of wealth and the power wealth brings with it free; when lives of cognate and the ordinary beings that coexist is seen insignificant and of no consequence. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and irretrievably!

We both agreed about this queer nature that is found only in human beings, beginning from the dawn of man, whether one is a creationist or evolutionist.
Lives are trodden upon and the furtherance of material wealth and power irrevocably become the ambitions that drive them.The Kings of the past and the Neolithic ones of the present in different avatars are all perfect symbols.Even in today's world!

The sonnet crafted by Shelly in the 18 th century and later published as poetry is arguably the most evocative painting of verses about such men and women and what hold in store for them in the twilight of their imperious lives and the fate that will  befall their legacies.
In essence the poem refer to the Pharaoh, Ramsey-II . But it means sensible to all who are born.

This poem below is an outstanding and artistic lament of the end that he never saw and may have never thought of, where all his trappings were of no avail.Legacy in ruins!


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said. Two vast and trunk less legs of stone
Stand in the desert.Near them on the sand,Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stampede on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias,king of kings
Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”
Nothing beside remains Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and the level sands stretch far away.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Should we take birth signs in the Zodiac at its prescribed value, or its alleged influence over our life- capable to propel us and to knock us out? Some say yes and some a stern no and nonsense. Personally I do not care much as the veracity is humbug and the whole matter a mambo jumbo. But I have had a fair experience and knowledge of what some people can do to an unpretentious zodiac sign. There are a few in the particular birth sign who have given me much discomfort and trouble. However one fellow stands out as the enfant terrible of the constellation. And this guy is a Sagittarian. Mercifully I last met him in 1995.

That takes me way back in time to 1982, when I was posted to Cochin after a six months stint in New Delhi. I was raw and just out of college and a push over of sorts in an organisation, irrespective of the position .After all I was a trainee and being inducted over a period of two years. And this guy began all he could from the moment I reached Cochin to   mellow me to his whims. Since this guy, let us call him Mr.S , as S being the first alphabet in his name that denoted holiness. In fact he was the name sake of the Hindu God and his consort in the mythical Ramayana. But in real life an antithesis!

It was after putting up with him that I learned that he had an attitude and that was not his fault, but the result of his limitations and the awareness he has of his limitations and drawback. And such people need a fig leaf to cover that. And he had to have many fig- leaves, but yet there was no limit to my annoyance with his idiosyncrasies. Being my co worker, I had to put up with him.
He was short about 5 feet 3’and that compounded his inferior complex. He was a veteran and came up to an extent from a very low level in the organisation. And his years in the Company saved him continuity on the roll. That tells everything.

Besides the annoyance he was adept in creating, the innuendos and dual games he played on ones back and at work place used to simmer in me and anger was always waiting to erupt .The quality that I detested the most was his servility to senior managers. He stooped miserably low and crawled when he had to bend. It was nauseating.

When we had the review meetings and conferences, which were held in five star hotels in various metropolises, he was at his most ridiculous self. I have seen hotel staffs who man banquets, lunch and other breaks during our meetings laughing and smiling mockingly with amusement at his conduct. The worst was always reserved for the evening cocktails and dinner, when he went clownish over spirits and is a derisive figure of his own self.

I could live with all this personality of his. But the worst of his attributes I loathe was his act of shoe string tying and the sudden vanishing act to the loo. He was not exactly a miser but was artful in living upon others while he ensured safety of his wallet. He used to drink like a fish and eat like a famished Rip Van Winkle. Once during a dinner session when kebabs were served, referring to his clownish conduct someone observed loudly,"arey kebab mein haddi kaissey” (How could there be bone in the kebab)?

The shoe string act was always reserved for the end of evening get together to which he always tagged on like a limpet, even uninvited. But when the check comes for payment, Mr.S’s midget figure does not show above the table. Either he is fumbling with his shoes strings or has vanished in to the wash room, only to resurface after we paid the bill. He then enquires in earnest tone about the damages for the evening and slides like an eel towards his vehicle in the parking lot.

Why do I write this memoir on Mr.’S ? It is because I had a dream and he was having Kebab all by himself, caring not a hoot for me standing near, smacking my lips and drooling uncontrollably.
I felt the pillow damp when I woke up to my senses and could even smell the kebabs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Escape to Dreamland

Raman Menon hailed from a well respected family of upper caste Nairs’ in the erstwhile princely state of Cochin. The aristocracy that  Menon clans among Nairs’ claim is more self acclaimed than bestowed by extra terrestrial largesse or by  former princes. They generally are like the British aristocracy of India with the stiff upper lip and the “Gaulish”, or even flattened nose up in the air. They seem to believe and convey the spirit of pristine Nair heritage and culture.

But Raman Menon seldom cared much for the trappings of the surname .He was an ambitious and fun loving person. He held a respected position in the State bureaucracy, added to his family lineage and its social standing the ground was set to propel him into a much higher orbit. He was young, handsome and with masculine charm.

He married into a family of Menons’ from Plaghat which was in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. The bride was a well educated, sophisticated lass an ‘haute couture’ and alumni of Yale in the USA. But the alliance was perhaps a serious flaw in the course of Raman Menon’s life. The incompatibility of the relationship saw Mr.Menon file for divorce after much acrimony.  And the marriage ended with the bang it made when it began. Mr. Menon was stressed out on the course to the divorce and after. The marriage lasted about a year and it was a year of utmost turmoil.

Not to be lurched out in search of a compatible partner, the Menons’ arranged another bride for the young man – a distant cousin. Raman Menon was married again .But the ghoulish ill luck serenaded with Mr Menon as tragedy as nothing else  can be, the bride died less than six months into the marriage. She died of lymphoma. It was again darkness at noon. Raman Menon was in tatters his life devastated. A rising professional graph twisted like a mangled ladder and Mr.Menon was at loss to pick up the threads yet again. Innuendos did the round, cruel ones too about Mr Menon’s ill-luck and why fate will never give comfort or longevity to the woman who is his consort.

He vanished from the society and from the country. He settled in a foreign land and never came back to the country or the town of his birth and life. He, an agnostic became a theist and joined a Hindu religious outfit.  He spent all his leisure and time outside work at the ashram. He changed his name to Sudhama. He lived frugal and walked about like an ascetic. Unlike the fellow members of the society who saw their liaison with the congregation as a luxury never to be parted with, Raman Menon was hermitic. He ate the insipid food that devotees brought. While he travelled outside, he walked much distance like a nomad, living on the tit bits from compassionate beings. He reminded of the Jain monks on the long road to what they believe is nirvana and salvation. Very rarely did he open up, but that was only to confide that this life at the ashram was his dream and a Calling.

A person who claimed agnostic beliefs, now when tragedy struck him in succession turns into a hermit and ascetic! A person who harboured utopian fantasies and dreams about living! Though the story is real, here the tragic happenings in the man’s life are only a metaphor which we all have to face at different times in our lives. And to less fortunate souls the tempest stays longer. Tragedy need not be per se, but may be dejection, disgust, frustrations, devastations or anything that is good enough to stress us out, persistently. And then it can be the time for woolgathering and hope for bliss and mirth in things we would have loved to indulge! For some it will begin the frantic groping for an escape route. 

There is indeed a life out there, like I mentioned in the post “The Road Not Taken” that beckons but is not mine anymore. When it did matter, when I could have trodden the “road not taken”, I did not. In fact it was more out of conditioning and also unawareness of its pathos. I feel awed and envious about some friends and ordinary men who despite the constraints they face could manage much extraordinary. That they have not taken a cowardly path of an ill clad, unwashed, smelly  absconder who claims abstinence ,but in fact are great escape artists who can put Houdini to his pale shadowy self. .But have within the limitations of  social living, has managed to  visit  a life of the liberated  and  wanderer,  like  birds that  transcend land and sea to migrate, occasional journeys of bliss and mirth! To the dream that is Zion, a travellers Zion.

But alas, man will not see the paradise in hand ,that will aid him with wings to fly towards the fantastic that are his dreams and only if he knows what it is for a paradise to be  lost, shall he see the beacon that always was alight.