Sunday, June 29, 2014

I won't give up .... My turn will come .....

M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, played lead roles in his movies.  As youngsters we had our own movie heroes; Rajkumar in Kannada, N T Rama Rao in Telugu and MGR in Tamil.  Some would argue even in those days that Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Sivaji Ganeshan were better actors.  As happens with all subjective issues, each one is entitled to his or her opinion. But the fact of the matter is that they were all great artistes and devoted their lifetime to acting and movies. High discipline and devotion alone carried them to great heights and that is why they are remembered even today.  Luck probably played its role, but they made dame luck move in their favor by unstinted efforts and hard work. Their films when screened today, after decades of viewing them again and again, still draw full houses.

MGR was the darling of the masses, as an actor and as a person. The characters he played were generally sober, patient and represented the common man. His films always had a villain character played from time to time by various actors like M N Nambiar, M R Radha, P S Veerappan, S A Ashokan and others. The films usually had some fighting scenes in them.  The characters played by MGR would try their best to avoid the fights but the villains would not listen.  The hero is receiving blows, but does not return them initially.  He tries his best not to hurt the villain and end the fight.  But that cannot happen.  He goes on receiving blow after blow.  At some stage the blow is heavy and severe. There is blood on his body, usually in the mouth.  MGR wipes the wounded part and sees blood.  The expression on his face suddenly changes.  The sleeping giant is awakened.  He is now a transformed man. His turn has now arrived.  This is what the entire audience was waiting for.  Now it is MGR and only MGR.  The villain wants to flee from the scene, but there is no escape.  He is beaten black and blue.  The beating continues until the police come and arrest the villain.  The arrival of the police is a big relief to the villain. He is now safe in the lockup or jail and saved from the rampaging hero.  Sighting of blood was the key. That changed the equation.  But, they were only movies........


Perry Mason and his clerk Jackson are sitting in the court.  Perry mason's client, an young girl is present as an accused in a murder case.  Hamilton Burger, the District Attorney and his deputies are piling up evidence and reconstructing the gory scenes of murder.   The jury is evidently impressed by the voluminous and detailed evidence accumulating against the defendant.  While they are engrossed in the proceedings in the court, Jackson is worried and perturbed.  Perry Mason is sitting like a statue; his face granite hard.  Court adjourns for the lunch recess.

Mason and Jackson are now sitting at the lunch table in the restaurant across the court hall.  Dishes are served, but Jackson is not eating anything.  His hands holding the knife and fork are playing with the  items served in the plate.  "What is the matter Jackson?  why are you not eating?" asks Mason.  "The case is gone.  We are licked. The evidence being piled by the prosecution is overwhelming.  How can I eat lunch?", Jackson asks.  "Let them do their job.  Enjoy lunch now.  Let us get back to court.  I won't give up.  My turn will come....", says Mason.  They finish lunch and arrive in the court hall just as the Judge enters and hearing resumes.  Jackson is still worried and Mason's face is granite hard.

Hamilton Burger offers Mason to cross-examine his witnesses.  Mason's turn has indeed come now. He demolishes all key points of the prosecutions and raises many questions.  District Attorney has no answers and seeks an adjournment.  He wants an escape for the day.  There is no escape as Mason opposes tooth and nail.  Case is dismissed and defendant is released from custody.  But, that was only fiction.........

Rafael Nadal arrived in Wimbledon this week as World No.1, but seeded No.2 behind Novak Djokovic.  He had lost to others and Djokovic on clay courts before French Open 2014.  Doubts were raised on his capability to win in Paris for the fifth time in succession and ninth time overall.  Djokovic was looking for a career grand slam by winning at Roland Garros.  World No.1 was also at stake.  If Nadal won, he would continue in that place.  If Djokovic won, he would replace Nadal as No.1. Djokovic had beaten Nadal in their two immediate previous meetings.  Pundits were predicting that Nadal's time is over.  Both reached finals and Djokovic duly won the first set 3-6.  Nadal waited and refused to give up.  He fought on every point and every stroke just like the other did.  There was no scope for sharing the cup. Ultimately Nadal's turn came and he won the next three sets and lifted the Paris cup for the ninth time.

But Wimbledon was different, they said.   It is grass and not clay.  Nadal had lost to Dustin Brown on the Halle grass court in less than one hour in first round itself, only a fortnight before.  Pundits said he has a tough draw and may not last the first week. His first round opponent M Kilzan played so well and won the first set 4-6.  Nadal fought every point and waited for his time.  When his time arrived, he won the next three and moved to second round.  L Rosol was expected to end Nadal's journey at Wimbledon in round 2.  He had done so two years ago. Rosol was unstoppable in the first set.  Nadal fought each point and waited for his time.  When it arrived, he won the next three and reached Round 3.

His opponent in Round 3 was another hard hitting player.  Kukushkin had two distinctions; a player who had a double hip surgery and a rare player coached by his wife, Anastasia.  The royal boxes had many celebrities including Sachin Tenjulkar and his wife Anjali, David Beckham and his mother Sandra, Stewart Broad who had taken a hat-trick (three wickets in three balls) against SriLanka in a cricket test match only last week, Sir Bobby and Lady Charlton, Defending Champion Andy Murray's mother Judy Murray and many other tennis legends.  Kukushkin played power-packed tennis and won the first set in tie-break, despite Nadal coming from behind and forcing the tie-break.  Nadal again fought on each point and waited for his time to arrive. Either his turn arrived on its own or he forced it to arrive,  and then demolished his opponent with the identical score line of 6-1 in each set. He won 18 of the 20 games and every service game of Kukushkin was broken, except one.  the final celebration was muted and low key.

All along there was no change in his 18 mannerisms of keeping the water bottles in identical positions, collecting both towels from ball boys and girls and returning regularly, covering the half-eaten banana with its skin fully, wiping his forehead and ears and the jog to the baseline from his chair.  Coach and uncle Tony Nadal did not smile even when Nadal had two breaks in his kitty.  At the end of the match Nadal was indeed a relieved man.  He warmly clapped when his opponent walked off from the court and  threw his sweat-wet arm bands to the crowd.  On the way out he signed every autograph book, small and big tennis balls, yellow ones and pink ones too, magazine photos and many many caps.  He was modest at the post-match press conference and reasoned that he lost the first set because he did not play well.

This was neither film nor fiction.  This was indeed a glorious chapter from something called real life......

Nadal has lost many times to different rivals; it only shows that he is human.  But he can never be faulted for trying his best and waiting his turn in most difficult situations.  he may exit Wimbledon this year in the next match or even lift the cup. How many majors he can still win is a matter of wide debate.  All these are besides the point.   He is making the same doubting pundits to exclaim how he got those angles and service returns in these three matches!   Others are worried about the number of towels he uses on court and violation of the 20-second rule between the points.  He is concentrating on doing his best.  Of not giving up and waiting for his turn patiently. And when the turn comes, en-cashing it with full force at his command. He has already earned the adjective of being the fittest and most determined athlete around for quite sometime.

Champion of yesteryears and one known for his hot temperament on court, John McEnroe paid the ultimate tribute to Nadal.  He said, " How do you teach will, desire, not to quit in any circumstances? You don't see this often, once every ten years if you are lucky.  Nadal has made other guys better trying to compete with him.  In the definition of "Where there is a will, there is a way", he is the picture you are going to see".

The lesson is "Never give up..........wait.........Your turn will come!"  Of course, one has to work for it with a lot of conviction.  As much conviction as Nadal is showing to us.           

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Forever, yours!

While searching for some old letter in my collection, I stumbled on a sheet of 5 paisa stamps purchased long time ago.  These stamps were purchased probably four decades back when five paisa stamps were regularly used.  In those days, mail was the only easily available communication medium to be in touch with those in distance places.  Keeping a stock of postage stamps and envelopes was a habit for those who had the practice of writing letters regularly. If those five paisa stamps are to be used now, the entire sheet of 100 stamps is to be pasted on an envelope weighing 20 grams. The surface area on both sides of the envelope would not be enough to paste 100 stamps! 

I remember a letter received by my host in USA which had a postage stamp of "Liberty Bell" affixed on the envelope.  That stamp did not have any monetary value or denomination printed on it (Photograph downloaded from internet is given alongside).  Only the words "USA FIRST CLASS FOREVER" were printed on it.  I visited the nearest post office and found that these stamps are presently sold for $ 0.49 (49 cents).   These stamps can be purchased, kept and used forever without worrying what the current postage rates are.  These stamps can be used to mail an envelope weighing one ounce (about 28 grams) regardless of when the stamps were purchased or used, no matter what the price of stamps and rules are in force at the time of use.

The first forever stamp was introduced in USA in April 2007 and went for sale on April 12th.  In 2011, all first class one ounce stamps were made forever stamps with a very few exceptions.  These stamps can be purchased in all Post offices nationwide, online at USPS and also by phone.  They are sold in sheets of 20 stamps.  They can be used for international letters as well, but additional stamps will be required.  These stamps do not show any monetary value or denomination on the face of the stamp.

The practice of using forever stamps is said to have started in 1975.  Forever stamps are in use in many european countries.  It was introduced in UK in 1989. They are in use in Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Russia and scandinavian countries. Canada calls them "Permanent Stamps" with the letter "P" on them, as can be seen in the picture taken from the internet and given here. These stamps can be used for mailing an envelope weighing up to 30 grams. Canada Posts says on its website, these stamps are "Always worth the going rate, no matter when you decide to use them". 

Forever stamps are a good hedge against inflation and rising postal charges and may even be considered as a investment tool too.  "Philately" is defined as "collecting postage stamps or other postal matter as a hobby or investment".  Some stamp collectors have made fortunes through this hobby.  There are stamp valuation services as well as stamp insurance products.  There are exhibitions and competitions involving collection and display of stamps.  Collection of "First Day" postal envelopes used to be a hobby for youngsters and we used to stand in a line at GPO (General Post Office) to buy them on the day of their release, in those days.

When dwelling on the subject of stamps, one can never  forget "CHARADE". Charade means a blatant pretense or deception; a game of riddles.  Charade is a delightful 1963 movie with the fine pair of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the lead.  The movie, directed by Stanley Donen and filmed mostly in Paris, is a suspense thriller and has its dose of romance and comedy as well.  It is a gripping story and the repartee between Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) and Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) is gripping as well as entertaining.  Walter Matthau, James Coburn and George Kennedy provide able support.  This movie is often referred as the "Best Alfred Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made"!

Regina Lampert (Reggie, played by Audrey Hepburn) is not happy with her husband Charles Lampert and wants to divorce him.  When she returns home one day, she finds that the home is cleaned up and everything they had is converted into cash.  He is murdered and the cash is also missing.  It turns out that Charles Lampert was one of the five men that went to deliver $ 250,000 in gold to "French Resistance" during second world war but stole it.  The other three (one is believed to be dead long ago) believe that she knows where the money is and threaten her to give them the money. CIA is also behind her to recover the money. She meets Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) and Joshua keeps changing his names and identity frequently.  Reggie finds an an envelope with no contents in it. Reggie gives the stamps on the empty envelope to a young boy to add to his stamps collection.  The boy trades those stamps with a stamp dealer, for other stamps.  All concerned suddenly realise that the money is actually hidden in the form of rare stamps pasted on the empty envelope! The stamp dealer is an honest one and knows the true worth of the stamps. He admits that he knew there was some mistake and duly returns them.  He says he was glad he had the three most valuable stamps in the world for at least five minutes.  When she finally goes to the US Embassy to return the money, she finds that Peter Joshua is actually the american official chasing the swindled money.  The suspense of the movie revolves on the money hidden in the form of the three stamps pasted on the envelope.

May be, one day these forever stamps without any monetary value denominated on them turnout to be as valuable as those depicted in "Charade".  And some of us end up having them with us and be able to safely en-cash them!                     

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fight together, for separation

History is being made today; history was also made nearly six decades ago.  As Nara Chandrababu Naidu takes oath as the first Chief Minister of residuary Andhra Pradesh (some call it Seemandhra) today (8th June 2014), history made on 1st October 1953 and 1st November 1956 are consigned to old history.  New history is now in the making.  What Potti Sreeramulu would have done today, if he were alive, is left to our imagination.

When we gained independence from British rule, Telugu speaking people were scattered under various political formations; a large part under the then Madras Presidency, some other parts under different regions of South India. There was a demand for formation of "Vishalandhra" so that Telugu culture could be preserved and all Telugu speaking people can come under a single political rule.  Many stalwarts fought to realise this dream.  Potti Sreeramulu was one among them.

"Amarjeevi Potti Sreeramulu", meaning an immortal being, was born at the turn of the last century, on 16th Match 1901 to be precise.  Initially he worked for the Great India Peninsular Railway.  He was influenced by the then ongoing freedom struggle and quit his job to join the movement.  His young wife and new born child died at birth time and he felt free to devote rest of his life in serving others.  He divided his property among his brothers and liberated himself from other bondages.  He became a full-time freedom worker and took part in various satyagrahas (agitations) including Salt Satyagraha and Quit India movement.  He was imprisoned several times during these satyagrahas.  He worked in Gujarat as well as in Andhra (part of the then Madras Presidency) for the welfare of the neglected sections of the society. He fought for the right of entry to temples in places where some sections of the society were barred from entering and succeeded in his efforts.  He was known to be a true socialist and fought for the Khadi movement as well as rights of the oppressed. His life style even made some call him a mad man.  But he was his own man, well and truly. He was called as "Andhra Gandhi" by those who loved him.  It is even said that Mahatma Gandhi once uttered, "If only I have eleven more followers like Potti Sreeramulu, I will win freedom for India in a year".  

Sreeramulu took to a lengthy fast to press for creation of a separate state for the Telugu speaking people with Madras (present Chennai) as capital.  Jawaharlal Nehru promised to consider the demand and he broke his fast. But nothing concrete emerged mainly due to the demand that Madras (Chennai) should become the capital of Andhra.  The famous "JVP Committee", consisting of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhabhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya, rejected the idea of reorganization of states on linguistic lines.  Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramayya (founder of Andhra Bank) was himself an Andhra stalwart) and a senior Congress leader. Upset with this line of thinking, Potti Sreeramulu started a fast unto death for the creation of Vishalandhra on 19th October 1952 and died on fast on 16th December 1952.  His fast for 56 days and the resultant death created a violent movement.  His funeral procession in Madras raised huge protests and seven people were killed in police firing in Anakapalle and Vijayawada.  As a result of the heightened agitation, the state of Andhra Pradesh was formed on 1st October 1953 with Kurnool as capital. Demand for inclusion of Tirupathi in Madras State (present Tamilnadu) ensured that Madras stayed with Madras State while Tirupathi was included in Andhra Pradesh. Another Andhra stalwart "Andhra Kesari" Tanguturi Prakasam became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.  Consequent to unification of all Telugu speaking areas under one state due to reorganization of states on linguistic basis, Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh on 1st November 1956.  Senior Congress leader and another Andhra veteran Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy became the first Chief Minister of the reorganized Andhra Pradesh.  Since then, 1st November became a day of celebration as "A P Formation day."

Potti Sreeramulu's supreme sacrifice has few parallels in history.  The only other comparable fast unto death is that of revolutionary Jatinidra Nath Das in lahore jail during 1929.  Jatin Das started a fast demanding better living conditions for Indian prisoners and under-trials from the British masters.  He fasted for 63 days and ultimately died on 13th September 1929.  These sacrifices are to be seen in the background of the innumerable fast unto death undertaken nowadays and broken at the slightest assurance even from persons who do not have the authority to concede the demands.  There are also instances of a fast started after a heavy breakfast and broken well before lunch time!  As a mark of respect to Potti Sreeramulu, his house in Royapettah High Road in Chennai was being maintained as a monument by the AP government.  It is a travesty of justice that some time back groups fighting for division of the AP state into Telangana, Rayalaseema and costal Andhra took a oath together at this place to "Fight together for separation". Now that Vishalandhra no longer exists, fate of this monument is a big question.  He fasted for 56 days and yet could not see the united Andhra in his lifetime.  The unified Andhra that came into existence after his fast for 56 days and death lasted 56 years; by 2013 Congress Working committee had already decided on bifurcating the state.

The two states Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh have two different formation days now. Telangana was formed on 2nd June 2014 and truncated Andhra Pradesh is being born today.  An instance of a new government of a party with clear majority being sworn after three weeks of declaration of election results is a record in itself.  There will be two celebration and two state songs. There are two governments and two chief Ministers. There will be two cabinets and two systems. There will be many problems of separation and division. Telugu people are again spread under different rules and regulations.

Is there any lesson for the future generations from these events?  There could be many interpretations and explanations for the developments and the climax.  One of them is that edifices built on emotions do not last long.  Human emotions change pretty fast.  Six decades is not too long a period in the history of a state.  New expectations and aspirations have little concerns for history and sentiments.