Sunday, January 10, 2016

Childhood Musings- "The Seven Tiles"



All that it takes to know what one missed in life is to pause and look back into one’s childhood. The bareness or near loneliness of child hood, without friends, being free to make friends, bring them home go to their homes, fly kites, play football and 7-tiles, cycle along together through narrow alleys, but could only watch from the sidelines with envy, what they  little fellows did. All that you always wanted to do as a child! Later, when one could gather the courage and temerity to venture out in the sly, enjoy and be delighted in the fun filled moments, you do that often not forgetting the severe reprimand and punishment that awaits you back home. Oh, those were miserable times from which those occasional rendezvous, clandestine ventures and rapture of those experiences can be savoured even today.

In childhood days the norm at home, a sort of joint family and which unfortunately was ruled by regressive despots who were often at loggerheads except in the matter that unified them and that was the dictum that ‘friends are dangerous and a child’s duty is to study and mind his lessons not play with friends’. So you can imagine the miserable state of mind and body of a child amongst such dystopic mindset.

Father and maternal grandfather were like the Old Major in the ‘Animal Farm’. There were also women heads that were quite capable of rivaling them in terms of regressive, domineering and annoying mindset. The standing decree that was to be zealously and unquestionably followed was that friends are peril and children shall not make friends, go out to play with any or to their homes, unless otherwise vouched and vetted by the elders. This monstrous state continued till late into my late teens when rebellion was the only recourse. The oft quoted role model was my maternal uncle who was the youngest of my mother’s siblings. This bloke my uncle, while he was kid and even later, in his youth would never let any of his school mates or neighbourhood boys into the perimeter of the house. When some school mates came looking for him, he met them outside the gate to the house and disposed them off there. He made no friends! He would not go out to play. After school, he would bother with his homework and lessons. What estimable quality! My mother and grandmother used to sing paeans of this guy. His story was often mentioned as example of good of good behaviour and grooming; what a child should do. The epilogue is that he is in his late seventies and hasn’t changed much.


Near where we lived, lived a family that had three boys of which two were my age and a little yonder a few more of fellows of my age. I suppose they were economically not in the same class as perhaps we were and ipso facto socially too, perhaps. Moreover these chaps were all going to the local government school of notoriety. It was also true that none of them were excelling in studies and were below average. I could not recall something more that could be added up against befriending those boys or spending some time with them playing innocuous games children play. Most evenings, after school I climbed and perched precariously on the wall to watch their revelry and banter. On few occasions I was attracted to venture out to where the kids were and join them that provoked severe rebuke and censuring at home. I can recall one evening that registered in my mind as ‘the evening of infamy’. I rebelled and was playing cricket with the boys. One of us hit the cricket ball pretty hard and it flew foolishly towards my house and landed on the terrace after bouncing of the terracotta tiles. It was my grandmother and aunt who secured the ball and refused to give it back and ordered that I go back home. Foremost, I was recalcitrant and the cricket ball was a hard nut - stone like and  the game with such nasty thing was dangerous to play. How I wished that the ground beneath my feet caved in and took me within, else would the earth split and took in both my aunt and the old grandma fore ever? It was piquant situation and I was shamed in front of those boys and their folks who were witness to the priggish and gauche of my folks.

There was an exception to the rule. There was a fellow in the neighbourhood with whom I was allowed to befriend; he could come home and I could go to his. But his folks were more churlish and annoying than my folks. They wouldn’t send him nowhere or befriend kids. Once we were given permission to visit the library and unbeknownst to us they send one of his elder cousins to shadow us and report if we were at the library or we took a detour or went elsewhere. I may have been about ten then and that incident still ranks as nonsensical attitude of grown-ups.

Later, in the teens ostensibly going to the British Council Library which was a kilometer away was a ploy to also spend time at the stadium near there and watch folks play. There were times when I would join some chaps to play cricket. However getting back home disheveled and soiled would blow the cover off the library alibi.

The fascination for cricket was rebuked as much as footballs, as both games were seen dangerous. The reason for sentencing football as a grievous sport was amusing and idiotic. One of my maternal uncles who were poles apart from the prudish younger fellow I mentioned before was once hit by a football on the chest while he was watching guys play the game. He ailed from asthma since then for quite some time, it was told. Remember he did not play but was a mere onlooker! Doesn’t that go to show how unsafe the sport is?

I was fourteen or fifteen and I managed about five Rupees stealthily from home and bought a pair of sneakers to attend the cricket coaching every evening at the stadium. An apparently convincing tale of late evening classes in school was the handout alibi. However the lid was blown off somehow, the cricket coaching ended abruptly and the sneakers confiscated.
Going to the movies was severely frowned upon and cinema was considered as of a medium that can debase children. But what I could not gather was what fucking moral corruption can happen if kids indulge in games and spend childhood as children naturally are inclined to- a vital aspect of healthy growing up?

Teens brought with it temerity. Summer vacations were spent in the uninhibited surroundings of Ambalapuzha. Swathes of green paddy fields, rivulets, brooks, backwater, and ponds added fascination to the milieu there, besides the ubiquitous groves with folklore surrounding each and huge mango trees that beckoned kids with their elixir filled succulence. Elder cousins were entrusted with life guard duties of taking care of kids from cities who were not trained to be buoyant in water. Not knowing to swim was often undermining one’s vanity. Local fellows took to water as fishes do while we were confined to the fringes and edges of the water and always under the watchful eyes of the elder cousins who were natives.


I guess I was thirteen or fourteen when the idea dawned upon me, well take swimming lessons and what better way than sneak out to the swimming pool in the city! A few hours in water there cost 50 paisa. Some friends were in cahoots and we used to slip away from school to take to the water. And swim we did, soon to be able to show jump and dive off the spring-board and the raised floors into the water.

Finally when it was time to make the summer trip to the country side, it was uncontrolled excitement , eagerness and joy abound that plowed me down; eagerness to see the faces of those folks there- the cousins gape in wonder about how this city lad swims in water. They just could not believe how I acquired the ability to swim and I dared not tell any.

(Pictures from Google)



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Estrangement


Sometimes it seemed childish, often it was; somewhere, the reluctance to grow up, more unfortunately pettiness and the amour propre -the ‘I’ out shadowing the ‘Us’.

“You know, it seems true it seldom can be fifty-fifty in a marriage”. She said.                                   “It can only be disproportionate, how so ever passionate and liberal one may be. That counts for both man and woman. It could only be sixty-forty or thirty seventy”. She paused, her eyes were brimful with tears but she would never shed, she held them back with amazing grace and painfully. I felt uncomfortable looking into her eyes, miserable that I could not offer much for comfort, except an occasional mutter, “It will be alright soon”.                                                                                        She  said, “Infatuation cannot afflict adults. Can it? But then in one’s teen how adult could one be?  It was falling in love; someone has to first, right? I don’t know if we fell in it the same instant or was I awed by his youthful charm, his enamouring self, candour and spirit that were lively?”
I told her I knew bits and pieces of their romance, the long courtship and then the fairy tale wedding itself. She cast way a promising career for a life with him. She put him on a pedestal. She ignored oblique misgivings passed about him while they were courting.  She decided that she would work very, very hard to keep things aloft if unpleasantness came about in their lives and she did. But she did that through silence. Ignoring and acquiescing often his infractions, his levity and his irresponsibleness, his waywardness and most of all his lack of openness that was always so in matters that concerned her, them and their children. That was very unlike him while they were courting. That was the mistake she did – the silence and wishing away and that has now come to torment her. He sailed along with not much understanding for her and her feelings. He was too preoccupied with his wide circle of friends, his increasing public importance as a young celebrity. To him she and her devotion to him was a fait accompli. It was a fairy tale beginning that did not quite tread the fairytale path as it moved forward in life. But he did not notice and she hoped it will reverse back on fairytale course.

It is hard to be torn between them two, for he is a  good friend and she attracts the respect that a dignified lady would. “Why don’t you talk to him? Make him sit here on the sofa, or at the dining table, have food together, talk over the difficulties, your feelings, apprehensions and loneliness. Make him understand what you folks are missing and there is more to life and family than a bunch of friends and acquaintances?”

“Hmm I have tried that in vain. But when do I get to see him. Off he goes at 9 and might or might not hop in for lunch, if he does he takes a nap and he is gone coming back after his usual revelry with friends at the club. It will be past midnight and I will have slept after staying awake as long as I could with dinner for the two of us on the table. He must think that his wife is at home. When children were growing up, I had enough to bother about and his absence or indifference did not matter much. My hands were full. Now they are gone and I’m left to sit and stare at the empty wall in front.” She said while she deftly touched the corner of her eye and with the tip of her little finger gently wiped the tear that would have dropped down her cheek. The élan and deftness of a danseuse was evident in her eyes and even in her fingers while she did that and when she gestured while speaking. “You would not do what he does. Would you?” She asked softly and enquiringly, she knew the answer.”You will not. Anyone who loves his family, hold it dear will not. I do not matter a wee bit in his scheme of things. I’m just a marionette, dancing , walking, running, sitting and going wherever he wants me to accompany.”

It is difficult to take sides here, though one may. The difficulty is his resentment sound so true while he confesses his mind and at the same time one feels that she is justified while listening to her. He blames it on her for being lazy and disinterested in activities.”Why could not she promote a school for dance?  Her reputation on its own will ensure a decent attendance?”                                         “Yes, precisely the question I asked her.” I said.                                                                             “And what did she say?”                                                                                                           “Nothing. Silence!” I said.                                                                                                                        “Exactly, what I want to tell you. She knows nothing. She just will not heed, listen.” He said.                                                                                                                                                     "But why don’t you discuss matters with her, your finance, your business? You see sharing your burden, your stress and strain of life with your partner makes a lot of difference. It enlivens the bond, the closeness. Man, you look half more than your age."                                                                          “Closeness, my foot, she will not understand all that. I see, you seem to have been carried away by her tale.” He sort of accused me.                                                                                                                “Look man as far as I can see, I do not feel happy about this discord in your midst. The quality time you spend with her is little. I’m certain you do not eat together. It is pretty true that a family that dines together stays together.” These are not little children to be told all this. Grown up folks!

 I tried to make her understand the professional talent that she was wasting. She need not have to sit back and rue what he does and what he does not do, curse her loneliness and the idiosyncrasies he has, (to put it politely). Yes it is true that he cannot draw the line between their lives and what that he is intoxicated about – his friends. To him acquaintances are friends. That sounds dismaying and discomforting. When she narrated about how some idiots, his friends move about with scant regard to her privacy and the privacy of her home, I could only wonder why such an intelligent respected fellow as her husband could be so thoughtless. It was gauche and intrusive of those fellows to be so impertinent, but then why invite people lacking social polish and etiquette to your privacy?             "I do not blame them. I blame my spouse. He ought not to have let them cross the living room. No woman other than I would swallow such graceless, cheeky behaviour even if the person is his bosom friend as he claims. I have been seeing this and bearing this excessive indulgence from the day I stepped into his life as his wife. His spread -out arms to every urchin- friends as he calls them embolden some that they show annoying impudence.”                                                                        “A friend would not be so cheeky.” I said.                                                                                                “Tell me what I should do when he is so indifferent and naïve? Oh it cannot be naiveté, a man of his age? Come-on people grow up. Wouldn’t they?” She was, I noticed quite indignant. Her eyes betrayed streak of disgust, like that swift display of intense emotion in the eyes of a bhrathanatyam danseuse enacting a moment of disgust and distaste.                                                   “It is plain and simple disregard, for his wife. It is as if I do not matter to him. I’m just a piece to showcase and I have been aware and have been so all these years. It is out of my volition because there is nothing I can do.”




Sunday, November 1, 2015

Badi dur se aaye hai pyaar ka.......



Some time ago a bloke observed that my blogs and the words I often use are so strong that they reek with venom. He suggested that by touching on such topics as I do and venting my feelings in the way I do, will corrode my mind. I agree partly. The topics I have blogged have been sometimes negative because they were part of life’s experience and that was also because one cannot be chasing butterflies all the while. That will be negation of a kind. I blog what I muse, what I experience. If expressing strongly on a subject is afflictive, corrosive and retrogressive, well what then is there to individual freedom to be expressive in the first place? There is satisfaction in being candid how so ever intense the unpleasantness that may evoke.

I was thinking in these lines and even the previous post I have on this Blog is the product of anguish resulting in face impudence.  It was then that I was invited to a birthday party and a musical night yesterday. I have been to that musical event (which is a monthly affair) a few times before as invitee. This time around it was at the invitation of a gentleman with whom I chanced to have some time at the club the past week. Though we have met often, nothing beyond a nod of acknowledgement had transpired between us. In course of this chat which was for more than an hour we spoke about few things. We spoke about his deceased brother who was incidentally known to me. The agony he and his mother went through, the marriage (providentially) of the girl who was betrothed to his brother, so on and about life. He has enough wealth to not bother about earning a living and he turned sixty that day.  While we were chatting his wife called him on the mobile and enquired if he would be in time for dinner. He told her to go ahead with her food and that he was with someone who knew his brother. His only child a girl was married and settled elsewhere. He however expressed that he often feels that there is something he his missing. I suggested he travel a bit, even if it is alone.  “Solitude that you get in travel cannot be matched”. I told what I have heard and read travelers say. He was not sure what he might be missing. But he said something is half full.

Before we parted for the night he invited me to the musical event on Saturday and that would also be the occasion for his birthday party. That was how, I went there yesterday as guest. As I mentioned I was at the event a few occasions before as guest of another friend and class mate who is also one of the organisers. The group is called “Reminiscence”. A sizable group of music lovers who are in their mid-thirties and all the way up to people who are retired and septuagenarians too! They get together along with spouses at a local hotel every last weekend Saturday. The three hour programme of songs with live orchestra ends with a decent buffet dinner. Spirit is served along. The songs can be from any Indian language and mostly film songs. Since the members themselves are singers the amateur talent middle aged and old are conspicuous by their presence. So are the golden numbers from as early as of the 1940’s and 1950’s from Hindi, Tamil & Malayalam.

It was heartening to see people in their sixties trod up and sing melodious numbers of Mukesh, Mannadey or T.M Soundarajan and P.Susheela. I was wondering the power music has to bring together people. Nobody seemed to be talking about age or feeling old. The positive air was vivid and everyone seemed to be standing on a plank of avidity. There is a retired pediatrician, septuagenarian who had looked after both my son and daughter. I told him that. He played admirably some old Hindi numbers on his mouth organ, besides a Mannadey number- a duet with an elegant and pretty lady. He was a living proof that all doctors are not boring, dreary dull headed, hot headed folks. Besides, the banter and jokes that were passed along was I felt taking repose.

The eldest in the group was a gentleman in his early eighties. He was attending the session after a couple of months of illness. He said that the first act of his when his doctor approved of him to leave home was to jump into the car and attend the evening’s programme. He sang a few lines in admirably intense and aged voice. "Badi dur se aaye hai pyaar ka tofa laaye hain
 Apana lo ya thukara do, pyaar ka tofa laaye hain
 Badi dur se aaye hai, pyaar ka tofa laaye hain”.

He reminisced about his attending a concert of Muhammed Raffi way back in the seventies in Chicago. When Raffi began the concert with this wonderful ode of love, the audience irrespective of race and that included many Pakistanis too, erupted swaying deliriously in ubiquitous joy. It was rupture he said like a mammoth dam breaking open.  In passing he lamented, “Alas, look how now music is being comparatmentalised and singers banned from singing”.

The power of music is transcendental; it has healing and soothing powers that no parochial ideology can resist. I came back as during the previous times without my noticing a sprint in my step. There are always brighter ways to deal with life in midstream or when you are bowing down into the horizon. That is certain.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Impudence


Few characteristics that are bane and causes of annoyance are impudence, vainglory, disdain- disdain for others and refusal to respect systems- a fussy contrariness, besides some other one can think of. I mention these now because of a spectacle from the recent past. It was enactment of churlishness most annoying. Who says that pedigree, grooming education and public position would erase these egregious qualities? Or do they plague in the course of living? When Euripides said, “impudence is the worst of all human diseases”, he was simply stating a fact. Wasn’t he?

Frailty is not a quality that afflicts only women as the Bard would want us to believe. Men are not impervious or immune to infirmity. And when a woman with the qualities mentioned above also  possess the guile to enamour   and ensnare then frail men melt, faster than a block of ice on a summer afternoon; they forget their social status , professional positions and respect they enjoy , the responsibility  they have and the élan they must display in words and deeds. They simply become living examples of gauche.

And when you react from your position of responsibility against the boorishness of the woman, the frail little men who melt at her mere glance will fret fume and point back at their chest with their index finger and moan that you stabbed them there. For they allege that you hurt them, discredited them when you asked the intruder whom they let in illicitly that she must quit the place where she had no right to be. That is also when she would have realised that her beguiling charm and shenanigans interest only the impotent lot among men and entrap only such men.

Sounds abstract? Perhaps!  But putting it differently would mean telling bluntly.




Saturday, October 10, 2015

Wagha



What should I write? A few years back, blogging was a pastime and one blog every three days was the norm.  There was no dearth of topics and subjects to muse over and pen. Alas, over the past couple of years it has been a downhill journey for blogging. Bloggers who were regular on the blogs with their comments, both critical and endorsing have vanished from blogging.  There were some who took umbrage at one’s comment and posts; they were pathetic- they have vanished too into newer pastures. Perhaps they all were a source of encouragement to blog and their vanishing act has dent the enthusiasm to blog?

It is now vitiated days. One has to be watchful of what one speaks and writes; worse of what one speak out, think or even acknowledge with the “like” in facebook. If in the blogs it was stray idiots who refused to accept difference of opinion or a honest critique and took “holier than thou” airs, now it is the whole society in hordes and the government too who disapprove any disagreement with the established ways.
But has the society changed? I guess no. It has been so. Matters were subsumed. It is only that the catalyst agent came about and dusted up the dormant wiggles that now have grown into Frankenstein proportion.

Intolerance and prejudice have been about. Let me mention an incident which can be an anecdote too. Once a few us were having a good evening over spirits and this guy who was back from a journey was fuming over what he saw at the Wagha border during the ceremonial lowering of the flags and beating retreat. He expressed his distress and annoyance at the ‘vulgar ceremony’ as he put it- when border guards of India and Pakistan glare at each other and shake hands brusquely. He reminisced with great satisfaction a toddler sitting in the lap of her parent on the Pakistan side of the border smile and wave at him- a stark contrast to the ceremonial play of animosity by the guards. He wanted the ceremony to be shelved.  I couldn’t disagree with him about the frivolity of the enmity between the neighbours and the unwarranted ceremony that must be jettisoned. Another friend disagreed with him and laughed away the former’s opinion. He asked what was wrong in a dramatising  the ceremony for a bit of fun and all the onlookers do acknowledge the lighter side of the ceremony. The former was angered and took offence. He could not tolerate a dissonant opinion, a disagreement. He was a changed person then and had a ghostly expression which resembled the want to strangulate the fellow who disagreed with him. That was the last time we all sat together as this bloke’s cussedness keeps him away from people who he knows would question and disagree.

What reminds one more is not the well meaning position he took about the need to put a stop to the obscene ceremony, but the fellow’s intolerant and saturnine side that doesn’t allow him to accept disagreement. Unabashed intolerance! There are many of his kind. And it isn’t the fault of Narendra Modi that they are abound. But it is indeed Mr. Modi’s success that saw such dormant intolerance surface. All that he did was fan the ember. Water and fan seeds of intolerance with religion and jingoism then you get a Kafkaesque concoction.

I would not mind a ban on bovine slaughter and protection of milch beasts in the country as long as they can ensure that the meat is imported for those of us who love it and provided at the current price. Let them ban slaughter of milch animals or cows quoting their scriptures or the directive principles of the constitution. As much as they have the right to detest cow meat or bacon there are many who have the equal right to like them. I only ask my fundamental right be not violated- freedom to eat beef or food I relish. This right is non-negotiable, for what is one man’s food is another man’s poison. Intolerance cannot gain such proportion as to dictate to me what I must think, speak, eat and drink, when to have sex when to abstain; who to wed and who to live with; which God I must supplicate to, deny my right to be distanced from religion similar rubbish; read the book I love and critique, ignore the ones I dislike even if it is  the Vedas, Gita, Koran or the Bible and the persons too for what they stand for, draw the cartoon I like. As long as I do no crime, incite hatred or violence, thieve, rape or murder, defraud, my freedom to live and enjoy life in a way that I see and make my life worth living cannot be eroded by any government, or even God or men who sow divisiveness in the name of God and creed.

Indeed all of us do feel miserable when we face disagreements. But ignoring a person who disagrees with you, treating him as if he were plague and pariah is inherent weakness. It can be accentuated by indoctrination and also dishonesty in what one says and claim to be living for. It’s an offshoot of fear and lack of belief in oneself. If one disagrees why not accept a discussion and put across your reason for disagreement? Why not learn to live with disagreement? It is not possible to convince everybody of one’s ways and opinions. To think and say that I’m unquestionable, my belief is sacrosanct is like the proverbial adage-“after me deluge”. If I keep running from disagreements and differences of opinion then I may be literally running all my life towards Timbuktu or the edges of the world.
 It is the hallmark of the meek.



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Growing up with Chalk & Cheese


Not many would vouch that living about almost two decades with parents can be among the pleasurable experiences. If there happened to be monster breathing down your neck- an overbearing grandparent or a cantankerous, impertinent and bossy aunt or uncle well then it is a certain rendition that can unnerve you even in middle age.

Sometimes if one is fortunate the sternness of a parent may be lessened by the subtle empathy of the other. Absolute misery is it when parents in tandem are dictatorial. Then it is tyrannical! ”Les Misérables”!

The more fortunate ones get to stay in college and school hostels, There getting around with the warden overburdened with a few scores of young fellows is easier than sneaking away on escapades from home. If you are not fortunate then the angst and alienation that shadow you during adolescence and teen are often unnoticed or ignored by parents. Just a few, I guess seem to be on the right side with luck, where parent or one of the parents is always around for comfort. Chalk and cheese they are more often!

An old friend narrated to me recently an interesting episode from her teens. By the way the parents of this person were perhaps ahead of their generation, especially her mother who was an exemplary, woman. Self-assured, confident of herself and her kids, warm and understanding about her children and their friends, articulate in what she expresses and unequivocally blinkered in outlook and judgement. Though, she in her own words told me that she had to pop a couple of valium pills when I told her that I was going to marry a catholic girl. But then that is a different story.

Coming back to the story I mentioned, this young girl was sent to Chennai to study for the Chartered Accountant examination. Those days, back in the early eighties, there were no mobile phones and the trunk or STD dialing boasted by the sole provider of telephone service - the Telegraph department was antediluvian in every respect. Which meant that to get an approval from home for something that you are not sure of will take about a week to be conveyed by post to you in Chennai from say Trivandrum. That required one to cross one’s fingers and do what first comes to the mind.

I guess I moved away from the subject yet again. This young friend was pretty weak in math and she would have ghoulish nightmares even a week before the math examination in school. Now, adding to her misery and utter consternation calculus and trigonometry besides statistics were subjects that she had to digest if she wanted to stand some little chance of qualifying in the Chartered Accountant examination. As luck would have it she was told by someone that there was a teacher who was very good at teaching math and he specialised coaching students planning to give the CA examination. However, the only clue to his whereabouts was that he lived somewhere near the police station in Vadaplaani, then a suburb of Chennai.

The young lady took off in the direction of Vadplani and after an arduous, futile hunt in the sweltering weather for the math teacher she walked into the police station. A lone teenage girl nonchalantly walking into the police station sent the constables scampering hither tither, and curious, some with their door handle whiskers and some with their ubiquitous potbellies preceding them.

Tamil policemen though no symbols of goodness have in them some cultural fallout that Tamilnad have, they sort of respect women unlike the Jat policeman in places like New Delhi.
“Enna amma, enavenam?” (Dear woman what do you want?) Asked one of the policemen. Another asked rather surprised by the cheekiness of the girl to walk in to the police station. “ enna amma unkku konjamkoode bhayam illaya , ondiya police stationulley nuzhayarathukku?” (Dear girl tell me are you not afraid to be here alone?).

She was rather perplexed by these candid queries. She said. “Why must I be frightened? I’m her to know if you gentlemen can direct me to the math master who takes classes for CA students. I’m told that he lives near this police station. By the way I understand that police station is meant to be place of assistance to people, so why must I be frightened of you guys?”  


In no time she was taken to the master’s house in a police vehicle and pleasantly seen off by the constables. Later when the matter was told to her parent’s two distinctly contrasting replies came across by post. The first was from her father. It read,” Dear girl, you did the right thing in going to the police station; when in doubt check with the authorities.” The message from her mother read, “My girl that was the most silliest of things one could do. Never, ever walk into a police station all alone.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pretensions


Most of us will have had the misfortune to live disgusting moments watching folks flaunt their wealth- writing away cheques to the Church, other religious and charitable endowments. Their face mulched with haughtiness, moue and with glee. A certain satisfaction would writ in their face and comforts their mind coming to think that the apparent act of benevolence would cocoon them from nemesis. Further it is the adulation that comes when the act of munificence is publicised. Finally, the thought of the eulogies that would be incessantly read out in memorial services after they are gone! They will enjoy the vainglory even as they lay putrefacient in their graves! The philanthropists!
Philanthropy as practiced often shamelessly is as lascivious as philandering. I just cannot tell between the two, see any difference. Both are indulged in, one to satisfy the ego and the later gagging. And some folks do both.

However some are different and this guy is quite different. He cannot be called a philanthropist, because he doesn’t think that giving is the ultimate act of charity. In fact, he believes that the act of giving must make a substantial change in the life of the receiver. Failing which it is just an empty act like the ostensible statutory reservation that is provided to socially backward people in education and jobs in government.

Going back to his tale of riches from an ordinary middle class existence some twenty five odd years ago one feels envious and at the same time awe. He told me about the specter of future staring without bating its eyes. He was married and the young bride and he were travelling by train from Vizag to Kerala precariously perched on top of their steel trunks that held their belongings inside an overcrowded, smelly second class compartment. The future looked bleak. He was out of job and was not certain if he could collect the small capital that two of his friends suggested he bring so that they could begin a venture. The only source of income was the job his wife had as the teacher in a government owned Engineering college. It was then quite meager, but handy nevertheless and very vital.

From there, in a while life took a turn that he and his wife could not fathom. The business that he began with his partners flourished and exponentially too. Within a few years they spread overseas. A new life with remarkable shift, riches and money flowing in copiously and it continues. It is indeed different in a rich man’s world he would say later.It seemed almost like little Alice falling down the rabbit hole into a wonderland.

Now in the mid fifties he opined that matters like success and money are irrelevant to him. It has been so he says since long. He began practicing the art of giving after him, one day some fifteen years ago asked his wife if she really wanted to keep the job she had. Money was no more a necessity for her to be working. Children were growing and she could probably blend as a home maker. Besides inquisitive and intrusive opinions were passed in the family and among friends about her being employed and they alleged too greedy and self serving that she has little time to care for her family. She told him that she would like to keep the job, not for the money, but because of the passion she has for the profession- for teaching. Then, the very moment he suggested that she foregoes her monthly pay from the university and give it to students who are genuinely in need of financial support. Since that day, he said, it has been fifteen years and she would not touch a nickel from her pay cheque and personally ensured to credit the bank accounts of children who were finding it difficult to pay fees and other cost.

That was just one case of his voluntary promotion of human welfare. He dislikes limelight and as in his own words the left hand  shouldn't be told about what the right gives away.

There is something else besides money that can come to the aid of people. I saw used that well in him intervening as a good Samaritan and counselor when hard times and difficult issues almost plowed down the family of a good friend. Isn’t it so very true that the greatness of a man is not how much of wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and ability to affect those around him positively?


The wads of note one throws into the cash pots in places of worship, the large cheques signed off to prelates, the ostensible charity all which many do are seldom done out of love for the disadvantaged but as insurance against the malice and wretchedness that  in many cases are their associates and as a passport to a nonexistent paradise in the netherworld. But there are a few exceptions, I suppose.