Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Little SECRETS

A hardworking and intelligent young girl made some useful and practical suggestions for cost-cuts in her employer-company.  She was rewarded by her employer with an award for her suggestions which saved a lot of money for the organization.  She wanted to share this happy news personally with her friends.  She called her closest friend, a friend since childhood, and told her first.  The friend was also very happy and congratulated her profusely.  After telling her friend, the girl sat for her lunch thinking that she would call other friends one by one after lunch.  Before she reached for her dessert, calls started coming from her other friends congratulating her.  Though surprised, she acknowledged their greetings and asked one of them how they came to know of the award.  She was told that it was placed on one of the social web sites by her closest friend.  The social web site, responsible for bringing millions of friends together, broke this one long friendship for ever.  This girl may never talk to her childhood friend again, in her life.

This was no big secret.  After all it was going to become public knowledge in a short time.  Many people in her Organization already knew it.  She was herself going to tell her friends one by one.  It was indeed a good news and worth celebrating with champagne.  There was never a mystery cover on the news.  There was no bad intention on the part of the girl who put it on the social site.  Only that she denied the true owner of the pleasure and privilege of communicating the happy news herself.  What if the same thing happens in case of something that should really be kept a secret?  A secret, as they say, should go to the grave with him or her?

Bhartruhari defines six qualities of a true friend:

पापान्निवारयति योजयते हिताय, गुह्यं निगूहयति गुणान् प्रकटीकरोति |
आपद्गतञ्च न जहाति ददाति काले सन्मित्र लक्षणमिदं प्रवदन्ति सन्तः ||

Paapaannivarayi yojayate hitaaya, guhyam niguhayati gunaan prakatikaroti
aapdgatancha najahati dadati kaale sanmitralakshanamidam pravadanti santaha

"A true friend is one who prevents you from committing sins (bad actions).  He plans for your welfare (and executes those action plans). He keeps your secrets as secrets.  He spreads your virtues.  He does not desert you in times of trouble.  He also gives (money and resources) in times of need.  The wise say these are the six qualities of a good friend"

There are innumerable stories about keeping secrets and betraying by leaking a secret.  It is very easy to break news.  Very difficult to hold them back and allowing the concerned person to announce at the proper place and time.  It is always better to find out from the true owner of the news whether it is in order to tell others before going on a announcement spree ourselves.  If it is a secret, to be kept as a secret, it should be kept that way even if we get stomach ache.  Some say holding any secret makes their stomach ache and hence they have to perforce deliver it.  Deliver it even if it is some one's baby, to get out of that stomach ache!

There was a film by name "Samayada Gombe" in Kannada, meaning "A puppet (in the hands of) Time".  Same movie may have been produced in other languages as well.  The film made in 1984 is regarded as one of the finest movies made with Dr Raj Kumar in the lead role.  The story revolves around a brother and sister.  A young boy injures his kid sister involuntarily while playing with her.  When the sister becomes unconscious and blood oozes out from the wound on her forehead, the brother runs away from her fearing she is dead.  He becomes a driver and several years later is employed by his own sister and brother-in-law.  He identifies his sister through a childhood song (as it happens in many movies) and the wound mark on her forehead.  The couple treat him as a family member and their daughter loves him dearly.  When the child is lost, the driver brother brings her back at the risk of his own life.  The sister leaves with her husband and daughter for a far away place.  Even when they leave him for ever, he never tells her he is her brother.  When his girl friend asks him why he is not telling the sister even now, he says philosophically,  "What she was destined she got it, what I was destined I got.  I never gave her a brother's love when she was young.  Why should I tell her now?  Let her be happy. That is all I want".  The secret remains with him and his girl friend.  The film could have become a fine comedy(?) if the secret was revealed.  But the film would have been something different.

"Samayada Gombe" was an example of a secret that was kept as a secret.  But there is an excellent example of the opposite.  The secret of Karna's birth in Mahabharata.  The tone and tenor of its disclosure is well explained in many versions of the epic.  But the one that stands for ever in memory is what "Kumara Vyasa" portrays in his "Bharata Kathamanjari" or Kannada Bharata.  After Duryodhana refuses to settle the dispute amicably and insists on war, Krishna meets Karna and invites him to join on a ride in his chariot.  Karna respected Krishna as a person and was also afraid of him as a master strategist.  He reluctantly joins in the ride but tells Krishna that he is too inferior to join Krishna for a ride.  Krishna tells him that for him Karna is just like his elder brother Balarama, for he is actually the eldest son of Kunti and, therefore, entitled to become the King and rule the entire Kingdom.  Krishna even offers to ensure that he will be flanked by the 100 Kourava brothers on one side and the five Pandavas on the other.  Karna refuses the offer and decides to stay with Duryodhana, but promises not kill his four brothers excluding Arjuna.  Karna laments: "ಜನನವನರುಹಿ ಕೊಂದನು" (Jananavanaruhi Kondanu), he killed me by revealing my birth secret.  The secret was disclosed at the wrong place and at the wrong time for Karna, but at the right time and right place for the Pandavas.

The General who never fought the war had killed one of the most trusted warrior of the highest order in the opposition camp, even before the war had started.  And not by use of any weapon, but by just disclosing a secret at the crucial moment!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Alert young brains

Human brain has fascinated all those who have studied it; be it men of medicine, psychologists or philosophers.  Research in this field is throwing up more information on the development of brain in children.  Scientists say that a three year old baby's brain would have formed about 1000 trillion connections, which is twice as many as adults have!  It is said that baby's brain is super dense and for the first ten years of development, the number of connections formed is much more than in adults.  After the age of ten, in a process called "Pruning", child's brain gets rid of extra connections and gradually the connections shrink to half the original count.  It is for this reason that young children are capable of learning complex rules of grammar and understand their mother tongue very fast and with little exposure.  It was possibly for these reasons that the practice of evening oral lessons were imparted to children some decades ago.  Children were encouraged to play outdoor games till sunset.  Immediately after sunset children were called in, asked to freshen up and start the oral lessons and recitations under the guidance of an elder person in the family.  In fact, we were taught Amarasimha's "Naamalinganushasana", popularly known as "Amarakosha".  It was nothing but learning an entire dictionary by heart. What was learnt at a tender age was useful throughout one's life.

Amarakosha was recited by almost every child five or six decades ago.  There were even more wonder kids.  Many families in Pune were teaching the young kids to recite entire text of some important works.  Pundit Athalekar of Pune is said to have had trained his young daughter, in the 1960s, to recite Panini's "Ashtadhyayi" and "Bhagavadgita". One person who had seen this personally has recorded that given a sutra she could  immediately give its number.  Given a number, she could give the rule.  Given a word, she would recite all the sutras containing that word.  She was only eight or nine years old and did not understand the meaning of the rules at that time.  But what was learnt at that age would have been understood and assimilated later on in life.  There is also a claim that three year old twins recited entire Ashtaadhyayi!  There are many child progidies who excelled in music like Ravikiran of Gottuvadyam and U Srinivas of Mandolin fame.

We all come across young kids who have remarkable clarity in their thinking and fantastic communication abilities.  Some thirty five years ago I had been to Hubli with two of my friends.  We were invited by one of our friend and colleague there to his house.  We had probably spent some ten minutes in their house when his four year old daughter called me and took me to the backyard of the house.  She showed me a creeper and asked me what it was.  It was a cucumber creeper with several cucumbers, big and small, some of them ready for harvesting.  As I was enjoying the fine spectacle of the plant with so many cucumbers she tugged my hand and said, "Hey mama (uncle), don't be fooled by the fine cucumbers. Do not think of eating them.  They are all very bitter!".  Later that day we were served lunch with a dish made of cucumber.  She was sitting on the opposite side and I just looked at her.  She smiled and said, "Mama, you can eat this cucumber.  Don't worry, it is not from that plant.  These cucumbers have been brought from the market".  The way she connected the two and communicated has left a lasting mark in my memory. She was just four year old.

Another experience I had was with a child of four years again.  This girl had started going to LKG (Lower kindergarten) and after two weeks in the school had started liking her school.  She was enthusiastically explaining about her school when somebody asked her, "Will they admit me in your school?  I want to join your school".  She was not prepared for this question.  She thought for a moment and then confidently said, "Yes, they will admit you when you become small like me".  She had probably heard elders telling her that she would be entitled to certain things when she grows up.  Just as she gets certain things when she gets older, admission in her school should be possible when older people grow small!

The latest instance is one in which I was not personally present, but told to me by a young mother about her son who is not yet four years old.  She was driving her car with her son and mother-in-law.  As she was negotiating a turn in busy traffic, the boy said "Mom, there is some smell here".  She was surprised and told him that the smell may be outside on the road.  A minute later he again told her "Mom, the smell is increasing".  She was concentrating on traffic and a minute later she also felt there was some burning smell.  When she checked carefully she found that the smell was coming from the Air Conditioner in the car and now the smoke was coming thick and fast.  She parked the car on the side and got out of the car with all the documents and important stuff in the car.  Mother-in-law had also got out of the car with the boy.  Just as they got out of the car, the car caught fire and there were flames on the front seat and dashboard.  The boy immediately told his mother, "Oh, there is a fire in the car.  Call 101 and ask the Fire Brigade to come".  There were some construction workers nearby and they put out the fire by throwing water brought in pots used at the construction site.  He had a question for his mother, "Why are they bringing water in the pots?  Where is the hose? They have to use hose for directing the water".  A couple of policemen arrived on the scene in a few minutes.  He had one more question now.  "They do not look like fire fighters.  They look like police. Are not they?".  It seems the children were taken to a Fire Station by the school teacher some time back.  He had put into practice whatever he had learnt during that visit here, and more importantly, without panicking and showing remarkable presence of mind.

Scientists say that the first few years of a child go by very quickly and advise parents to touch, talk, read, smile, sing, count and play with the child as it helps in the child's development.  May be it helps adults even more, by making them learn much more with the additional incentive of unlimited joy of watching their children grow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Easy walk to Vidyarthi Bhavan

Bangalore’s “Vidyarthi Bhavan” is known for its Masala Dose.  Located in the busy Gandhi Bazar circle in Basavanagudi area, the restaurant is home for its famous Dose for the last seven decades.  Started in the year 1943, it will celebrate 70th anniversary next year.  The walk to Vidyarthi Bhavan is now easy.

Gandhi Bazar main road from Tagore circle to Ramakrishna square is a very busy road with two way traffic.  It is one of the few roads in Bangalore still left with two ways traffic as most of the roads have become one way streets.  The long line at the starting point for city bus routes 39 and 41 at the western end of the road is already history.  City buses are allowed on this road only from South East to North West.  The road stretch from Tagore circle to the Gandhi Bazar circle was difficult to walk, with several vegetable and fruit shops occupying the entire foot path and spilling over to the main road itself.  Add to it the freedom in our country to park anywhere one likes and the additional freedom to stop, get in and get out of vehicles as and when one likes and wherever one pleases.  It is said that there were more than 300 shops in this stretch, and in any case it was over a hundred shops and sub-shops selling everything from vegetables, fruits, flowers, banana trunks to banana leaves.  Despite the struggle to move from one end of the road to the other, purchasers for festive occasions thronged these shops and they will miss the mad rush henceforth.  It had become an accepted way of life and people moved around crisscrossing between the shops.  Shop owners never bothered about the inconvenience to the public and the problems of the pedestrians.  Bangalore Municipal Corporation authorities have vacated all these shops on the midnight of Monday, 23rd January.  Civic authorities claim that the shop owners were given oral notice a month back and they did not respond.  They say there is no need for a written notice to remove illegal encroachments.

In true democratic style, this midnight action has divided public opinion.  Some welcome the action as it will remove congestion on this stretch of the road. Some others feel that the action of the authorities was high-handed.  There are claims of fruits and vegetables having been taken away ruining the lives of the footpath merchants.  There is also a demand for compensating them.  Even those who were cursing the encroachment till yesterday are now supporting the protests against the eviction and demolition.  The argument against the demolition of structures is that such shops should exist in a middle class locality and it is for the benefit of the common man.  Some prominent personalities have already come out in support of the shopkeepers.  If the shops return after a few days as a result of a compromise formula, we need not be surprised.

My first visit to Vidyarthi Bhavan was fifty years ago, and I remember crossing the road holding my father’s finger.  One of my uncles had a shop on the nearby D V G Road.  My father visited him in the shop and later took me to this place for Idli Sambar and Dosa.  Being a place introduced by revered father, I have been a regular visitor to this place for fifty years now.  A tennis ball cricket match in the nearby National College grounds played between teams with G R Visvanath and B S Chandrasekhar among others was incomplete without a visit to VB.  A regular cricket enthusiast used to come to see these matches like us and he used to sing many Cricket songs describing the rivalry between visiting teams and Indian team.  When all requests and persuasions failed to make him sing, offer of a Dose at VB would bring him around to sing those songs.  VB was and still is housed in a tiled building.  The old room at the back of the kitchen used to have three benches on which family members could squeeze in as per their own capacities to shrink and accommodate each other or another dose fan.  Three to seven persons would sit on the four feet bench.  There used to be a big grinder on one side for making the dough and a smaller one for chutney on the other side.  Sacks of baked potato used to be behind us ready for peeling.  The mild or occasionally strong smell of chillies fried for sambar powder would add to the atmosphere. Unlike the main hall, there were no tables in this room and one had to hold the plate in the left hand and eat with the right.  Of course, lefthanders could use the hand in the reverse order and there was no objection.  Square shaped newspaper pieces were given for wiping the extra butter on the fingers after eating the dose.

Things have now changed and the place has been renovated with the old room being made a part of the hall.  Aqua Guard filter water is served now and the visiting NRIs prefer mineral water which is supplied at a cost.  Paper napkins have been introduced in place of newspaper pieces.  Quality of dose and other items have, however, been maintained with increase in cost as per the demand of times and is an index of the spiraling inflation.  A Dose is available for less than forty rupees today.  People complain of heavy rush and long waiting before they get a place to sit and enjoy their breakfast.  It is mainly because they visit after 9 AM on a holiday.  The best time to visit Vidyarthi Bhavan is between 7.30 AM and 8.30 AM.  There are no crowds at this hour and one can finish a sumptuous breakfast within fifteen minutes. Otherwise there would be a long wait and persons standing all round you staring at you and your plate and waiting for you to finish and get up.  Their disappointment when you order a second dose, which rarely happens, can be actually felt for it would further lengthen their wait.  I have seen a waiting list being maintained and people asked to wait outside the hall on a few occasions.  One can enjoy the beautiful pictures of Mount Kailash and Manasa Sarovara during the wait and also see pencil pictures of many prominent personalities adorning the walls. Photos of Kannada filmland’s most popular actor Dr. Rajkumar and past Chief Ministers of Karnataka, S M Krishna and B S Yediyurappa enjoying the Dose are also displayed on the walls.

One can start with Idli-Vada sambar as an appetizer and then wait for the dosa to come. Idli-Vada is served in a plate with enough sambar to cover them, unlike the miserly small cups of sambar you get elsewhere.  The idli-vada sambar here remind of the ones we get in Ratna Cafe on Triplicane High Road and Krishna Lunch Home near Armenian street in Chennai.  If the dose is delayed due to rush, you can always have poori-saagu and continue to wait for the dosa.  A hot cup of excellent coffee rounds off the breakfast.  If the visit is in the afternoon, you have the choice of a Rava Vada followed by Dosa and coffee.  Dosa is available in two variants, potato and onion filling being the default option and saagu filling being on request. Sagu dose is available only in the mornings.  Vidyarthi Bhavan Dose is criticised by some that it has more butter than batter.  Some unfortunate persons come here and eat something else and skip dose for fear of calories.  It is an irony that those who should really worry about their calories enjoy their dose while those worrying about their weight keep worrying even without eating it.  One can always walk down to the nearby beautiful Bugle Rock Gardens for a walk to burn the calories.  Lal Bagh is also only a kilometre away.

Bangalore has been a home for some of the best Masala Dose over the years.  Central Tiffin Rooms in Malleswaram, popularly known as CTR, Udupi Krishna Bhavan (UKB) in Balepet, Malabar Lodge, also in Balepet just a stone's throw away from UKB are also known for this item.  Mavalli Tiffin Room (MTR) near Lalbagh main gate has been a leader in Dose dispensation and also many other well known items including sweets and excellent coffee served in silver tumblers.  Each one of these have its own fan base claiming their favorite as the best.  I have been rather impartial and visit all of them depending on convenience.  But still I have admit VB is the favorite.

Some two decades ago, there was a hot discussion in Karnataka Legislature Assembly.  Tempers rose high and the atmosphere was full of tension.  Suddenly, somebody said something about hot Dose.  Discussion digressed to Masale Dose and there was a lengthy exchange on the best dose in Bangalore.  Leader of the opposition said that a outlet in Chickpet area, a small house, was the best place to eat dose in Bangalore.  Leader of the house and Leader of the opposition agreed to visit that place and decide on the merits.  The hot atmosphere had suddenly cooled down and dose had brought the ruling party and opposition together!

Better visit now when the walk to VB is easier than sometime later when the walk becomes difficult, if and when the shops return with a vengeance.  Remember, Friday is a holiday for VB.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Entire Life is a WASTE

We were visiting Vancouver, BC, Canada on 25th September 2011 and enjoying the scenery standing in front of downtown Canada Place.  A few minutes before 6 PM we heard some noise in the corner and went there to see the revelry.  Luxury liner "Diamond Princess" was ready for departure on a cruise to Alaska.  The huge luxury cruise ship was decorated with buntings and balloons and as she set on her journey at 6 PM sharp, we also joined the waving friends and relatives of the cruise going passengers.  The huge ship leaving the dock and majestically moving towards the sea was a wonderful sight.  Cruises to Alaska are available from Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA, USA.  Some times one can get a last minute seat on the cruise to Alaska for 500 US dollars and cabins with better facilities are available depending on the capacity to pay.  These liners are floating cities and the facilities they have astound us.

Mid January 2012 was a sad period for cruise industry.  When I was watching News on the flight from Frankfurt to Bangalore, the visuals of a sinking cruise liner were being shown.  Italian Cruise Liner "Costa Concordia" was on a cruise in the waters of Tyrrhenian Sea just off Tuscan island of Giglio and hit a rock tearing a 160 feet long hole in her hull.  The ship owned and operated by Costa Cruises was named as "Costa Concordia" to signify the name of the company by the word Costa and "CONCORDIA" meaning the wish for "continuing harmony, unity and peace between European nations".  When it capsized, the ship was carrying 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew members.  Of the 4,252 persons on board, 4,221 were saved, including some Indians who arrived here after a week.  16 persons were dead and their bodies were recovered with another 16 reported missing.  An estimated 2,380 tons of fuel was still left in the storage tankers of the ship which is posing a great challenge in safe removal to avoid an oil spill in the Italian coast. 

The ship "Costa Concordia" was a six year old ship and cost 450 million Euro (about 2,850 Crore rupees).  The 17-deck ship had 1500 cabins, 505 private balconies, 4 swimming pools, a spa, 13 bars excluding coffee and chocolate bars, 3-level theater, a discotheque and a casino!  There were 5 restaurants with two of them were reservation only dining, meaning even in the middle of the sea and with limited passengers on board you have to reserve a seat for dining there.  But that is all history now and one has to go under the sea to see the ruins of these amenities.  Preliminary estimates have declared that it is a "Total Loss" in insurance language, meaning that the ship is gone for ever and cannot sail again.  There were complaints of life boats not being accessible or opening and the crew members not knowing what to do in the crisis situation.  Rescued passengers who arrived in India informed that they swam to the shore in zero degree Celsius freezing water.  Some of the dead were believed to have died due to inability to survive the freezing cold in the sea water.  Some might have died due to not knowing swimming as well.

When I heard of this tragedy, the first name that came to my mind was of Mihir Sen.  I was still a school boy when Mihir Sen was swimming in the seas and making news.  There was no Television in those days and Radio also was a luxury.  I was following his exploits by reading the newspapers and would wait for the arrival of the newspaper in our town municipality office library reading room every morning.  Mihir Sen went to England for a bar-at-law examination but the English Channel attracted him to swimming. He set many records for swimming in the seas and was the first Indian to swim across the English Channel in 1958. He covered the distance in 14 hours and 45 minutes and was awarded  "Padmashri" for this achievement in 1959.  Mihir Sen was not content with this and his love for swimming took him literally across seven seas.  In 1966, he swam in seven seas across five continents including  Palk Strait, Straits of Gibraltar, Straits of Dardanelles, Bosporus and panama Canal.  He swam despite the treacherous sharks in the Pakl Strait, between India and Sri Lanka. This achievement got him the "Padma Bushan" in 1967.

I had written a blog titled "Why poverty in words?' sometime back. (Click here to read "Why poverty in Words?")  A similar story comes to my mind now.  A Pundit had to cross a full flowing river to go to the other side and got into a boat.  The Pundit was very proud of his knowledge and would tease anyone less knowledgeable and he had plenty of them.  Once in the boat he asked the boatman, "Do you know Ramayana?'.  The boatman said he did not know.  Pundit said, "A quarter of your life life is a waste. Do you know Mahabharata?".  The boatman said he did not know.  Pundit said, "Half of your life is wasted.  Do you at least know Bhagavata?".  Boatman said he did not know that too.  Pundit enjoyed this and told the boatman, "Three fourth of your life has become a waste".  The boatman felt very sad that he did know anything and his life was wasted in ferrying people across the river whereas the pundit had so much of knowledge.  The boat had reached the middle of the river and the pundit wanted to ask one more question.  In the meanwhile there was a sudden flash flood in the river and the boat started sinking.  Despite his best efforts the boatman could not control the boat.  The boatman now asked the Pundit, "Do you know swimming?".  Pundit said he did not know.  "Your entire life is a waste" said the boatman, jumped into the flood waters and swam to safety.  The Pundit with all his knowledge was swallowed by the swirling waters.

Those aboard Costa Concordia and knew swimming escaped to safety.  Those who did not know swimming died taking all their knowledge and wealth with them.  It is advisable to teach swimming, cycling and driving etc. to children when they are young.  Remember the cyclists in the film "Great Escape".  Who knows when these skills can save their lives in future!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

RED marks on a BLUE body

A walk in a Bangalore park is different from a walk in any other part of the world. I missed it for six months and the day after my return to Bangalore, was back in the nearby park for the usual morning walk. Bangalore is now full of parks, many of them quite small, and there is at least one for every locality. Most of the parks are well maintained and have trails for walking and jogging. There are laughing clubs, exercise clubs, pranayama clubs and women’s clubs. People have become more health conscious and walking in the park is the easiest of methods to keep fit, whatever fitness may mean. Increased traffic on the roads does not permit a walk on them and hence parks are preferred for morning walks. Parks are also a nice place to meet one’s buddies and old friends. If you keep your ears open and mouth shut, you can find out what is cooking for breakfast in at least half a dozen houses in the locality. In one corner you can hear a Mother-in-law telling her friends how she put her Daughter-in-law in her place while on the other corner you can learn how a Daughter-in-law had her own way despite the strict instructions of her Mother-in-law. Tuition schedules of the kids and tour plans of husbands are also agenda items for discussion. Everybody owns the park and they can make use of it the way they like, subject to some reasonable restrictions. There is piped music in some of them and good lighting in every park. With the music of the park caretaker’s choice and mild breeze to go with it, the cement benches provide good harbor for relaxation as well as discussion about politics and sports. You can hear a number of experts giving their unsolicited advice on how things should be handled and how the whole world can be improved, if you listen to and implement only their suggestions.

For most people, morning is reserved for the Gods.  Start the day with a prayer or listen to some devotional music and get on with the day’s work, if there is any. Those in service and younger lot have their days earmarked for work, but there is no such restriction for the tired and retired ones. For the retired ones this is the time for compensating for having ignored the God due to paucity of time when they were busy with their work and earning for livelihood. They can devote extra time and even full time now and make up for the earlier deficit so that they can stand up with confidence before the Lord when the hearing takes place in the next world.  The time reserved for the Lord or Lords, for many have many Gods to attend to each day, is also spent in many different ways.  Some people reserve a day of the week for each God so that there is no conflict among the Gods and each God is assured of his turn and can wait without anxiety.  Some believe in visiting temples and some parks also have their own temples with a committee to work for the Lord’s development.  Some others believe in listening to some devotional songs while walking and jogging.  This provides for best of both worlds; good health on the earth and a good log of time spent for the Lord which is extremely useful when one enters the next world.  It is always better to have some insurance for the next world, what with all the sins we commit most of the times knowingly and sometimes unknowingly.  Some have their mobiles or players wired with ear plugs so that the devotion is exclusively for them.  There are a few who believe in sharing the prayer with others, irrespective of whether others need it or not.  They go with full volume on their devices so that even if some God is deaf, he can hear the prayer and will be constrained to acknowledge later on during the hearing in the next world. There was one such gentleman and his music player was blaring out the most popular Suprabhatam (morning song)…..

कमलाकुचचूचककुन्कुमतो नियतारुनितातुलनीलतनो
कमलायत लोचन लोकपते विजयीभव वेन्कतशैलपते

Kamalaa kucha choochuka kunkumato niyataarunita tulaneela tanoo……..!
Kamalaayata lochana lokapate Vijayeebhava Venkatashailapate….

The supreme Lord, Mahavishnu or his incarnations including Balaji of Tirupati, is believed to have a Blue body.  Not any other Blue like Dark Blue or Navy Blue, but blue of the cloud.  Of course, clouds too have their own different colours; those with little water are white, those with high water level are often black.  Mahakavi Bhasa describes Ghatotkaja in his “Madhyma Vyayoga" as "सजलजलदगात्रः" (Sajala jalada gaatraha…),  the one having a body with the colour of a cloud with maximum water content, meaning black.  But the Lord has the pleasing blue of the cloud and hence called "नीलमेघष्याम" (Neela Meghashyama), the one with that specific blue colour which is  mild and yet pleasing to the eye.  Bhasa also makes another subtle difference – the Lord is “Kamalaayata lochana or Kamalanayana”; the one with lotus eyes.  But Ghatotkaja is “Padmapatrayatakshaha”-  the one with  Lotusleaf eyes.  The lord is just being woken up after a comfortable night and his blue body is embellished with red dots!  The red dots that were made by the pressing of her bosom against the lord’s chest when he embraced his consort Kamala tightly (or were it the other way around?).

In the orthodox way of the morning puja, the devotee gets ready after his bath and morning  rituals and stands at the door of the “Pooja Room” and makes a request to Mother Lakshmi:

रमादेवी नमस्तुभ्यं स्वभर्तासहशायिनि, मुञ्च बहुलता पाशात् स्वमिनम् भक्तवत्सलं 

“Ramadevi namastubhyam swabhartasahashaayini, Muncha bahulatapashat swaminam Bhaktavatsalam”

Mother Lakshmi, the one sleeping with your husband, I salute you. Please release the Lord from the bondage of your delicate arms (so that I can proceed with my worship of the Lord). Then he proceeds to say "Uttishtothista Govinda Uttishta Garudadhwaja….." and awaken the Lord.  Awaken a Lord who never sleeps and does  not require any sleep!  It is only proper; it is her right to hold her husband in her arms for as long as she likes.  Unless she releases the Lord, there is no pooja.

My chain of thought was broken when the music system in the park suddenly came to life and started the relaying of devotional songs allover the park.  There was nothing wrong with it; earlier a single person was sharing his own system with the whole park but now it was the common system for common use.  The only problem was with the song.  The first song was

ತೂಗಿರೇ ರಾಯರ ತೂಗಿರೇ ಗುರುಗಳ ತೂಗಿರೇ ಯತಿಕುಲ ತಿಲಕಾರ 
ತೂಗಿರೇ ಯೋಗೀಂದ್ರ ಕರಕಮಲ ಪೂಜ್ಯರ ತೂಗಿರೇ ಗುರು ರಾಘವೇಂದ್ರರ

Toogire Raayara toogire Gurugala toogire yatikula tilakaara
Toogire yogeendra karakamala poojyara toogire Guru Raghavendrara

This is a lullaby sung at the end of the day, around 8 PM in the night in the Mutts. This was being played at 7 AM!  May be the person playing the system was on night shift and it was the time for him to go to bed after night long work.  Or it was the right time for the song in Chicago.

Here I was, on a morning walk, stuck between a devotee awakening the Lord with Red Dots on a Blue Body on the one side and another devotee putting Guruji to sleep on the other!

Friday, January 20, 2012

To retire or not to RETIRE?

One of India’s finest opening batsmen, Vijay Merchant, announced his retirement from Test Cricket in Bombay.  When he arrived in Bangalore airport on the next day, press reporters asked him why he retired when he could have continued to play for some more time.  Vijay Merchant replied, “It is better to retire when you ask why? than Why Not?”.  Recently Ian Chappell advised older players to “jump before they are pushed”.  Some players were lucky to have announced their retirement, played well in their last match and faded into the background in all glory.  Some others announced their retirement and stuck to it despite failure in the last match.  Bradman’s dismissal for Zero in his last innings is one such example.  With an average of 99.96 he was not tempted to continue playing with the carrot of a century in averages dangling before him.  Who knows he might have achieved it if he had played a few more matches.  Or he could have even ended with a lower average with each passing match like a gambler in Las Vegas, after a bumper win, keeps losing until he realises it is very late.  He was fortunate to have lived in an era sans computers and statisticians churning out all nonsensical figures and thus deny enjoyment of the game itself.

Purists say that there are three vital components for a perfect shot; timing, power and placement.  In the course of an innings a batsman gets all the three together in his shots many times in some innings, sometimes in some other innings and sometimes he is gone even before he gets the three together even once. When he gets all the three together many times and quite often, we say he is in good form and he gets a big score and it is his day.  When he gets them together sometimes, well, he gets along.  Many times two of them desert him and he may stay on the pitch due to sheer grit or due to dame luck smiling on him repeatedly.   There are days when he gets an exceptionally good ball early in the innings or a fielder takes a blinding catch and the best of his life.  Or his dear colleague at the other end runs him out or the pitch plays a dirty trick!  Sometimes even the crooked finger of the Umpire may go up wrongly.  With age catching up, reflexes slow down and sighting the ball becomes difficult and the tiring legs do not allow the luxury of a quick single to get to the other end and relax.  Judgement is another important dimension; whether to hit a ball or leave it, whether to make an attacking stroke or to defend, front foot or back foot, all along the ground or lofted shot.  On his day everything falls into place; timing, power, placement and judgement as well.  On some days everything goes awry and the mightiest of players looks very ordinary; sometimes even pathetic.  Getting out on such days will be a boon then and not a curse.

As in the course of an innings, announcement of retirement also involves three components, timing, place for the last match and judgement.  Power is not required here but some may cling on to the power they wield to postpone the retirement.  Timing and judgement may appear the same but it is not so.  Judgement is to decide when to retire and timing is for the announcement part.  Few players have the luxury of actually retiring. The best example is of Dr Roy parks of Australia.  His test career lasted all of one ball.  He took guard while his wife watched in the stands.  She dropped her knitting ball and bent down to pick it up. Before she lifted her head he was out, first ball and never played test cricket thereafter! (Click here to read the blog about him titled  "Was he a failure?")   There are many other players who are one or two match wonders.  Wonders because we wonder why they were selected at all in the first place or we are left wondering why such fine players repeatedly failed at the highest level.  There are many players who are retired even before they settled down.  There are other unfortunate ones who spent many years waiting for recall and when they finally announced their retirement eyebrows were raised as to why at all they are announcing their retirement.

The burning issue of retirement of three of our finest cricketers is to be examined in this background.  Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are under relentless attack during the past two weeks.  Sachin Tendulkar is not under such severe attack as he is being attacked on another front, the one of not scoring his hundredth century.  Statisticians are not prepared to accept his insuring the house for 100 crore rupees as the 100th century.  Wasim Akram has today gone to the extent of saying that these players have disgraced the sub-continent!  There appears to be no statement made by him in the past stating that these players are the pride of the sub-continent.  How have they disgraced the sub-continent then?  Did they involve themselves in match fixing or spot fixing?  Did they show dissent when they were given out? Did they break furniture or TV in the dressing room?  Were they involved in a drunken brawl in a night club?  Or did they sledge their opponents?  Tendulkar and Dravid have been the most gentlemanly figures the game has ever seen.  Their work ethics and behaviour on and off the field are exemplary lessons to budding cricketers.  Can batting failures in three matches be an ample justification for such sweeping remarks?  This only shows that active players should retire because they can say anything and get away after retirement as they are accountable to none!

Did they really fail and deserve to be condemned?  Tendulkar is playing sublime cricket and even in this series his shot making is breath taking. Agreed, he is short of his own high standards but he still better than others.  Rahul Dravid was the best batsman last year, which is only three weeks ago.  The selectors even found it fit to recall him to play one day cricket to his own utter surprise. It did provide him an opportunity to retire from limited overs cricket. And against which standards their failure is measured? Batsmen all over the world are failing to score runs in the last six months.  South Africa had its own failures.  Australia lost in South Africa and even at home against New Zealand.  England which is number one team miserably lost to Pakistan yesterday.  Ricky Ponting and Michael hussy were under attack till last week.  Runs are at a premium nowadays and it is the season of the bowlers.

These players would have retired by now had the younger players measured up to their standards and pressed their claims strongly.  The selectors found them fit to play.  It is not the players fault.  Retirement is the players’ choice and not selecting them is the selector’s privilege. Let the prophets of doom wait for a few days. They may get the answers even before they raise the questions.

The lessons of retirement in Cricket or Sports is also applicable to life.  Some unfortunate ones are dead before they are born and some live for only a few days or months.  Some declare premature retirement by resorting to suicide. Some await retirement after due preparation and some others try to postpone it though they are destined to fail..  Many more believe in the judgement of the selector or creator, leave it to him and wait for his call! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

LADY Macduff and Anna HAZARE

The movement against “Corruption” and fight for a strong Lokpal bill often reminds me of Lady Macduff and her Son.  When he wrote Macbeth, William Shakespeare did not know about this movement or several other such movements, in various parts of the world over the years.  For those who have not read or seen the play “Macbeth”,  I recall the exchange between Lady Macduff and her Son.  It is in Act IV, Scene II, in Macduff’s castle in Fife, a part of Scotland.  Macduff has gone away to England to seek help to come back and fight Macbeth.  Macbeth has been assured by the three witches that “Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him”. Macbeth is secure in the feeling that this could never happen.  Just like Hiranyakashipu was safe until Narasimha appeared.

Lady Macduff, her Son and Ross enter the stage and there is some discussion about the events unfolding then, between Lady Macduff and Ross.  Lady Macduff says,  “When our actions do not, our fears make us traitors”.  Ross replies: “But cruel are the times when we are traitors, And we do not know ourselves”.   She bids farewell to her pretty cousin and exits.  The few lines exchanged between the lady and her son are worth recalling:

LM: Sirrah, Your father is dead. And what will you do now? How will you live?
Son: As birds do, mother.
LM: What, with worms and flies?
Son: With what I get, I mean; and so do they.
LM: How will you do for a father?
Son: Nay, How will you do for a husband?
LM: Why, I can buy me twenty at the market.
Son: Then you’ll buy'em to sell again.
LM: Thou speak’st with all they wit, and yet,  I’faith, with  wit enough for thee.
Son: Was my father a traitor, Mother?
LM: Ay, that he was.
Son: What is a traitor?
LM: Why, one that swears and lies.
Son: And be all traitors that do so.
LM : Everyone that does so is a traitor and must be hanged.
Son: And must they all be hanged that swear and lie.
LM: Everyone.
Son: Who must hang them?
LM: Why, the honest men.
Son: Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are liars and swearers  enough to beat the honest men and hand them up.

At the end of the scene the Son is stabbed to death by Macbeth’s men and Lady Macbeth runs for her life. It is made known in the next scene that everyone of Macduff’s people – Wife, children, servants, all that could be found were brutally butchered.

Macduff’s  young son was wise enough to know that the traitors outnumbered the honest men and would hang them well before the honest move a step.  This applies equally to the corrupt.


Anna Hazare started the movement against corruption.  It naturally attracted wide support from the general public and within a short time became a mass movement.  A mass movement requires many volunteers and at least some middle level leaders to act as the link between the main protagonist and the masses as he cannot be seen everywhere.  Some noted personalities with some track record of social service and leading reformist movements at a much smaller scale joined the movement and became its public face.  Along with such people many shady characters also publicly expressed support to the movement.  Today everything is a source for marketing and making money.  Dozens of round the clock media channels need something to telecast and this movement gave them an excellent opportunity.  There was endless debate and every single person with some standing or sitting was invited to the media rooms for their reactions and opinions.  Marketing wizards seized the initiative and came up with “I am Anna Hazare” caps.  Umpteen forums for support of movement against corruption were launched.  Baba Ramdev episode gave its own twist and turns to the saga. What should have been a very serious and organised movement became mired in controversies and lost direction.

Every single political party declared their intention to fight corruption and support Lokpal Bill, but did their best to do just the opposite.  A government which was swept off its feet by the unprecedented public support promised everything.  Simultaneously a two pronged strategy was adapted to dilute the movement.  “Shoot the Messenger” was the first.  Old cases or issues of middle level leaders were reopened and given wide publicity.  Anna Hazare himself was attacked by some quarters.  Dissent was sown within Team Anna and fissures in the ambitious team ensured killing the movement from inside.   The second level attack was to bring in the question of supremacy of the Parliament.  Whether people are supreme or a Parliament which is the creation of these very people was superior, was endlessly debated.  The vital fact that the “Supreme Parliament” was not doing anything for decades which gave birth to this movement was successfully pushed to the background.  Promises of a strong Lokpal Bill enactment were made to Anna Hazare  and his breaking fast was ensured.  With the onset of winter the movement was certain to be frozen, which is what finally happened.  Shifting of fast scene from Delhi to Mumbai successfully ensured that the heat at the seat of power was withdrawn well before the onset of the cold weather.

Some people egged on Anna Hazare not to break fast and continue fast till the bill was enacted.  They were right; he was on fast and not them!  Quota and reservation in the composition of Lokpal was the final nail in the coffin for the movement. Every sensible person knows the fate of bills when these parameters are brought in.  With half the electorate in the country being women, we know the fate of “Women’s Reservation Bill”.  Lokpal bill was nothing more special to get special treatment. Bill was passed in Lok Sabha without statutory status.  What happened in the Rajya Sabha baffled everybody except the “Supreme Parliament”.

Gandhi led the "Freedom movement".  Then came the “Socialist movement” led by Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Narendra Dev.  We also had the “Nav Nirman Movement” led by Jaya Prakash Narayan and Acharya Krupalani.  All of them had many followers and one shudders to think what the followers later did and are doing to the country.  The “Supreme Parliament” even paid its debt to Jaya Prakash Narayan by passing a condolence resolution on his death, even before he actually died!  Citizens wonder about the fate of fight against corruption while the corrupt are relaxing and celebrating.  Will Narasimha appear at all?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became a Mahatma not because he did not make any mistakes in his life, but because he had the courage of his convictions to own them and atone for them.  If the first stone is to be cast by those who have never sinned, then none can throw the first stone.  Leaders of the movement ought to show that courage and atone for the weaknesses they have, if any, and pursue the movement.  And be reasonable in their approach and also appear to be reasonable.  Or else any slightest deviation will provide an opportunity for the establishment to swallow the movement;  lock, stock and barrel. Past failures do not deter the determined; they only have lessons for posterity.