Friday, June 19, 2009

All that glitterati is not gold

The lives of the rich and famous appear regularly on page 3 of the Times of India. Society high-fliers, corporate czars, movie and television stars are splashed all over the page in their designer outfits, bracelets, rings branded sunglasses and bags. The media captures this insane activity of these wealthy individuals, who suffering from a deep sense of insecurity, try to access that inaccessible pedestal of success, bordering on oblivion, under the delusion that this represents star status. Amidst this high decibel cacophony of calendar and product launches, my mind drifts back to another era.

Forty years ago it was easy to spot the “upper crust “of society, the affluent had a touch of class, their countenance radiating raw power, serenity and wisdom. They knew how to enjoy the good life to its full potential. Luxury life style though synonymous with opulence was far removed from the gaudiness that is prevalent today. True they held on to the traditional trappings of luxuries, the colonial mansions, the fast cars, race horses, paintings, sculpture, yachts, country villa’s with wine cellars and a bevy of trophy mistresses in every city. Yet theirs was not a wanton indulgence fuelled by a reckless desire to flaunt their possessions, rather it was a quest for heritage, perfection, for intrinsic quality, history, and a sense of sublime fulfillment.

The old aristocracy had years of breeding genetically hardwired and instilled in their social structure. They would move in hallowed circles and only be seen in the old Burra sahib clubs, where waiters were addressed as “stewards” or “boys” and if they dared to dine in a hotel it had to have tradition, class, and elegance like the Ritz Carlton or nearer home The Taj. Their mansions had baroque furniture and deep pile carpets; crockery was Dresden china, a pinewood fireplace, exotic out of season flowers and fruits, walls adorned with paintings from old masters, sculptures, teak wood study and a retinue of servants oops sorry retainers.

Weddings and banquets were tastefully carried off in a pageant like fashion with the hushed muted clinking of ice in glasses, where a 20 year old scotch whiskey from a cut glass decanter melts the ice, or pink gin in bohemian glasses are held cloyingly by ladies amidst swaying crystal chandeliers and the men in tweeds, carry cigarette tins, use Ronson lighters to light up the filter tipped navy cut cigarettes, and the heady elixir of smoke, perfume and raw power wafts in the air in a scintillating and stimulating experience and the enchanting memory of the evenings follows you into slumber.

Time marches on and today when you observe the “novae rich” revv up their style quotient, cavorting in garish coloured sequined dresses, Armani jackets flaunting garish jewellery, imitation crocodile leather shoes, gulping vodka, tequila shots or swigging beer from cans you can’t help the déjà vu creeping in. How times have changed can be seen by observing the page 3 circus act, where they desperately throw money around to purchase their 5 minutes of fame. The penchant for glitter, ostentation, to outshine the competition in every possible gaudy manner is rephrensible. Sophistication and etiquette seem to have been sent back stage as all sorts of events, inaugurations and product launches are used by this new breed in race to hog the limelight and garner eyeballs on TV and print media, a Teutonic shift in values dramatically portrayed by the “ time poor” lifestyles of the wealthy brat pack..

The old aristocracy had elegance, breeding, grace, style and all the time in the world to follow their hearts, whether it was golf, polo, bridge or the pursuit of arts and philanthropy.
They would demand more than outward beauty from the luxury products were more selective and would never buy flashy jewellery, furniture or penthouses. They would seek outstanding craftsmanship, innovative design and form, contemporary functionality and top grade materials were sought to create life style accessories that re-inforced their image. They always used to inherit their mansions, jewellery and furniture and if ever required, would be specifically designed and custom made to their esoteric tastes right down to the monogrammed crest or insignia.
There was something special and elusive, you cannot define class or breeding nor buy it; it’s a combination of various subtle and intangible things with blue blood coursing through their veins. Corpulence was a sign of success and they were not squeamish about sex and children as opposed to the dinks. They had heritage, a certain pedigree, a sense of history and always sought out a product for its aspirational value, assurance of quality, like the Belgium mirrors, sheer magic of couture like designer furniture, the Buick, Cadillac or Alfa Romeo for its character and sound engineering, even the grand clocks that adorned the hall had to have precision mechanisms even though they were masterpieces of horology, buying a product as a status symbol would be a dreadful gaffe.
Now luxury means different things LCD TV, home theatre, salad shooters, dishwashers, cell phones, Blackberry, and branded clothes are flaunted in your face to show that the “poor little rich boy” has arrived. Old mansions have given way to glass and concrete skyscrapers, all have a BMW or Mercedes that look like clones, yet one can discern the emptiness despair and sterility in their lives, as they blindly follow the herd with the lethal comforts of convenience and luxury that money can buy.
The formerly affluent scions of old wealth cannot venture into this brave new world and maybe the old money is tired, that’s why it cannot measure up with the new rich to quadruple their wealth with a new found vigor or zeal for a temporary high, their mindset cannot be changed and will slowly disappear like their degree of legitimacy to this title, prime real estate and blue chip stocks. So the new rich and famous will carry out the reckless pursuit of fame and class, adding, Jacuzzis, penthouses, and by sporting Yves St Laurent, Polo, Armani, and Diesel he assumes the language of the sartorically dumb. It also reveals the huge insecurity and personality sadly subsumed by the label/brand of the manufacturer, as his status is relegated to a moving animated display, advertising the marketed image of the company .As they say success depends on being able to anticipate change, priorities will change, there’s a green environment and conservation movement out there gathering momentum. As my hairline and bank balance begin to recede, let me indulge in a little luxury – for me it means sitting by a fireside with a few friends sipping the amber stuff, enjoying the banter and solitude of the night, a few pieces of roast pork or shavings of white truffle on a simple dish of pasta. As I dip my Mont Blanc pen in nostalgia my minimalistic taste has a different take on luxury – it means simply turning off the cell phone, leaving e-mails unanswered and savoring my scotch whiskey.

Crying in the rain

Crying in the rain

India is mostly a sun burnt country, a land of sweeping plains of ragged mountain ranges, sun kissed beaches, a land of droughts and flooding rains….. Normally the gentle drumbeats of rain announces the onset of the monsoons, however for the past two years, tranquil introductions of the rains have been replaced by towering mountains of clouds which empties itself rapidly on an unsuspecting town, inundating and swallowing large districts in its wake.

The monsoon is a double edged scythe bringing life sustenance and also a share of death and destruction. The rain bearing seasonal winds that sweep into the country riding the crest of the tropical oceans, egged on by El Nino will always remain life’s critical uncertainty

REVERSE GEAR 26/11/05 (Hard rain):
Like a storm on the horizon ominous dark clouds descended on the town, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour enveloped the city. The clouds bunched like a horde of vampire bats led by Dracula leapt down, creating a fog as thick as cheese spread was only spilt intermittently by zigzag flashes of lightning accompanied by the crackle (cackle) of thunder. The gushing water mauled the whole city, destroyed buildings, dwellings, cars and mankind. Bridges and vehicles were swept away by the floods which formed a new river of devastation on the streets. People, branches, trees, plastic bags, shoes, dogs, and cars were floating like buoys and all life came to a stand still……

The only thing that moved was the surging flood waters, which rushed through the town, shops and stalls, where people had haggled for wares, were all now five feet under water. Windows smashed by the weight of the rain. Dead bodies of drowned humans, dogs, buffaloes, along with flotsam moved like a slow tableau.

That night went on forever… like an interminable hell, whose waters washed away the sins of a decadent city. In the dawn lights, the city seemed serene and relaxed like awakening from the alcoholic stupor the day after!! Before I even completed this page….that memory too has become ancient. During the long drive home as the rain beats a tattoo on my windscreen, I shudder to think what would have happened if the rains had not ceased. This is the uncertainty in the storm called “life”.

Vinay Kumar.K.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Diwali in recessionary times

It’s the time of the year when lamps are lit and festive cheer hangs in the air. However this year there are dark clouds and the silver lining is not to be seen. I do not play the stock markets and had worked hard to make some money. Last year I got a call from a financial planner, a bright and pretty lady attached to mutual fund. She told me they were monitoring my F.D. account and it’s stupid to let it earn 7% when inflation is galloping at 11% & showed me a presentation replete with charts that showed historical growth of their mutual funds and derivatives. So I parked a large chunk of money thinking I was smart. The first ½ yearly statements showed the same return as my bank, when I asked the girl she said wait for the annualized return & also spelt out some financial jargon. Then the sub-prime bubble burst and my final statement showed that my fund had lost 35% the planner called and said that equity markets are having a re-adjustment wait for the long haul, how long? Will I live that long? Last week the stock markets crashed and my portfolio was reduced to some loose change. This was worse than a divorce for I lost half my nett worth but still have my wife! Is this a tragedy or comedy? There are many diyas flickering in Diwali but the light is one I guess.
I have come to terms with my loss, so many things have gone wrong in my life, contentment lies in the small things, meeting old friends, relatives, eating, drinking, helping and of course writing letters.
Convictions of money, fame were not mine but thrust on me by family and relatives as a philosophical fare in my youth. All of this money, love, happiness can be snatched away without warning.

Exit File:---
Well I guess I must now tighten my belt, hoard soap and tooth paste from the hotels, visit all friends during mealtimes accept every wedding and birthday invitation and be on time with family in tow, wear the same shirt for 2 days with a towel/ hanky tucked rakishly between collar and sweaty neck, use the left over soap suds in the washing machine to wash the dishes/ cutlery, cultivate all army personnel for free booze and shopping at canteen stores (No more malls) borrow newspapers send e-mail greetings from the office computer etc et cetera..

The hard times I went through in youth will stand me in good stead, I can live on water without food, drink gingeberry essence/tarra topped up with Poola (sweat potatoes) as a staple diet, thanks to Ramdoss large unsmoked cigarette stubs are strewn all over public places. I was a mess in my sub prime days. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. The only thing left is a chequered life, an aging mother, a nagging wife, fag end career, 2 highly strung children and an interesting childhood!

As ever

An exchange of letters

Dear Babu,
Your missive lying innocuously in my mail box along with all my bills was an eye opener. I had reconciled to the E-mail, SMS, and other disembodied forms of modern communications, a letter was a really a big surprise that too by penny post. The Lakkidi envelope stirred in me waves of nostalgia that was palpable along with sense of deja-vu that took me back to my college days in Wynad, as Lakkidi was the fornicating pit stop en-route to Calicut, and I for a moment relived my past.
All mothers have been cornerstones of our very existence and their humility has been an integral part of our youth. They encouraged us and the impact will always be meaningful and enduring. Sunil has coped with his loss with the empathy of all those connected to him, and some of them had to bear a loss in some form or other.
I came to Bombay as a lonely immigrant in an alien land/state and took advantage of what life offered me. As a youth I too had a dream, to be the big boss of the Company, and I used to gaze wistfully into the large cabin of the CEO sitting beside a large window with 2 telephones one red colored on his desk and a personal lady assistant, a stunning girl like an air-hostess. They lived the good life, large apartments, clubs, parties, and vacations at exotic locales. So I worked my arse off wanting to occupy that corner office one day. Time flies, years go by, the sands of time have killed most of my friends and some jerks too along the way. Now I am in the corner office, the view is not so good (different outfit down-market address) the red phone has been replaced by the blackberry and the laptop both technological marvels that I have yet to master. The money has increased and so has inflation and my expenses, most of it goes maintaining a family and containing my Diabetes, BP and post angina treatment, life is boring and empty. Portfolio shrinks, I sit and drink alone, most of my peers/colleagues/friends are retired, or been terminated. As for me I am the guy who gets things done and where the buck stops. My hair is gone, my teeth are fallen, not enough testosterone to examine the goods behind the
Secretary’s, pink slip that’s showing. I have forgotten to leave the past behind brought most of it with me. Sam had guile but see where it has led him….none of his friends want to meet him,& there is nothing literally in his life that they covet, not his wife,flat, NGO job with Hawaiian trips, or car which takes him years to get from 0 to 60. Our easy access to plastic money is about to dry up and with it our ability to fake living the good life. As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems, everyone has to undergo suffering, so don’t lose hope, overcome the hurdles, romance your female students! Writing is a great stress buster, do it more often. Yes Arthur is the lucky one, lived life to the lees, ate, drank and died (RIP) whatever happened to the rest of his merry men?? Guess I must be thankful I have had an interesting childhood. Regards to your squaw.
As ever

Postcards from the past 2


A thousand pardons for the delay in mailing you the photos. Being computer illiterate I have to depend on the kids to fit the USB cord, download on to the computer, burn a CD and then give it for printing, wasn’t computers meant to simplify things??? Summer vacations are also not the same anymore, earlier we used to come down to our home towns, sporting tight Jeans, Lacoste T-shirts and pointed shoes, spend a leisurely month carousing the land and gorging on home made food, Nowadays it is a packed and pre-programmed schedule, squeezing in visits to 12 houses of relatives, 8/10 friends is like”mission impossible” and one has to be go to rehab- to recover from the overdose of relatives and small talk.

As I drove down to Quilandy in the wild hush of a lazy afternoon, it brought back lingering memories of a bygone era, the scenic landscape rolling by in slow motion with swaying palms and the unobtrusive Elathur River flowing silently represented an idyllic existence. As the surreal rays of the setting sun reflected off my windshield, a tinge of sadness crept over me as I departed from this pristine village. There is an inherent elegiac quality in that passage, a road much traversed in my youth many years ago. I was not the studious type, in fact I was a negative role model, with a laundry list of character defects, smoking, drinking, flirting/ womanizing, street brawls and many other transgressions, which were all well publicized.

Time flowed in a linear direction and life was about landing a big job and money people talked about money all the time. Serendipity was stronger than my will in shaping my destiny. A defiant climber by default, I had to rise from a nondescript town in Kerala to grab opportunities from the cruel world to increase inter- generational mobility. I was no stranger to tough times; my parents also struggled to find a place under the sun. I have had a chequered career and background a triangulation of 3 cultures, Ceylon, Kerala and finally Bombay with brief stints in many lands/ states. The intense emotion I felt while leaving Ceylon, the brief and early years in Calicut before departing for Bombay was the end of a phase in my life.

Leaving Calicut had a lot of positive impact on my life and career, yet it was accompanied by a sense of sorrow. The climb back to credibility was slow but steady as I focused on my work and career to shed the skin of notoriety and quirky ass passions of cocktail parties, making passes at attractive females, and shrug off the label of an alcoholic, nee-r do well, by finally seeking anchorage in marriage and domesticity. Immigration to another land/state always implies leaving behind something. I have two separate lives, what I left behind in my youth, and the new life I have built in Bombay.

Life has been a grand journey, time passes, life happens, children grow up, colleagues forget you and favors bestowed on them, careers come to an end, but life goes on. Time consumes everything, & I watch each year slide past like pearls slipping through my fingers into the sea. We can never control what happens in the external world, so sit back and enjoy each minute of the present, even if it brings unexpected challenges.

Postcards from the past 2


A thousand pardons for the delay in mailing you the photos. Being computer illiterate I have to depend on the kids to fit the USB cord, download on to the computer, burn a CD and then give it for printing, wasn’t computers meant to simplify things??? Summer vacations are also not the same anymore, earlier we used to come down to our home towns, sporting tight Jeans, Lacoste T-shirts and pointed shoes, spend a leisurely month carousing the land and gorging on home made food, Nowadays it is a packed and pre-programmed schedule, squeezing in visits to 12 houses of relatives, 8/10 friends is like”mission impossible” and one has to be go to rehab- to recover from the overdose of relatives and small talk.

As I drove down to Quilandy in the wild hush of a lazy afternoon, it brought back lingering memories of a bygone era, the scenic landscape rolling by in slow motion with swaying palms and the unobtrusive Elathur River flowing silently represented an idyllic existence. As the surreal rays of the setting sun reflected off my windshield, a tinge of sadness crept over me as I departed from this pristine village. There is an inherent elegiac quality in that passage, a road much traversed in my youth many years ago. I was not the studious type, in fact I was a negative role model, with a laundry list of character defects, smoking, drinking, flirting/ womanizing, street brawls and many other transgressions, which were all well publicized.

Time flowed in a linear direction and life was about landing a big job and money people talked about money all the time. Serendipity was stronger than my will in shaping my destiny. A defiant climber by default, I had to rise from a nondescript town in Kerala to grab opportunities from the cruel world to increase inter- generational mobility. I was no stranger to tough times; my parents also struggled to find a place under the sun. I have had a chequered career and background a triangulation of 3 cultures, Ceylon, Kerala and finally Bombay with brief stints in many lands/ states. The intense emotion I felt while leaving Ceylon, the brief and early years in Calicut before departing for Bombay was the end of a phase in my life.

Leaving Calicut had a lot of positive impact on my life and career, yet it was accompanied by a sense of sorrow. The climb back to credibility was slow but steady as I focused on my work and career to shed the skin of notoriety and quirky ass passions of cocktail parties, making passes at attractive females, and shrug off the label of an alcoholic, nee-r do well, by finally seeking anchorage in marriage and domesticity. Immigration to another land/state always implies leaving behind something. I have two separate lives, what I left behind in my youth, and the new life I have built in Bombay.

Life has been a grand journey, time passes, life happens, children grow up, colleagues forget you and favors bestowed on them, careers come to an end, but life goes on. Time consumes everything, & I watch each year slide past like pearls slipping through my fingers into the sea. We can never control what happens in the external world, so sit back and enjoy each minute of the present, even if it brings unexpected challenges.


One more year slides past as I sit in the still of the night, a time when ideas, impressions, memories and dreams from unknown sources come visiting. I am saddened to read that over 40,000 civilians of Indian origin have been killed in Ceylon.
This time when I visited Ceylon, I sensed the feeling of repression and the underlying cruelty of the civil war/strife that has ravaged this isle. My earlier resentment with my dad for bringing us back to India slowly receded like waves when the comprehension of the grim situation set in my mind. I still recall the early 60’s when ethnic violence first broke out in Colombo, how amidst the violence and death threats, Dad took a different route to work each day, he was worried that the scars of the ear piercing would give him away as an Indian.
In my early years when I visited India on our annual sabbaticals, I suddenly discovered a horde of uncles, aunts and cousins and the emotional experience
overwhelmed, my homesickness for Ceylon. My nascent relationship with the emerald isle was finally broken when we re-located to India, now it’s a place that I can visit but never domicile. Back in India my adolescent years were spent with Mom and her relatives and despite the cultural differences, I began to imbibe the plurality and Sanskritic culture of the rural towns. Growing up and surrounded by people with strong religious beliefs I just like my absentee father, was irreligious, though conforming to the cultural Hindu mould. In many ways I was told that I resembled my father, I had his mannerisms, aristocratic nose, cavalier attitude and in later years inherited his smokers cough.
During my formative years the security of moms family masked my fathers absence, and thus the real lessons of life were learnt, not with my dad at my side encouraging me or commiserating my failures, but by walking alone and discovering my strengths, skills and abilities on my own. I learnt not only to survive this cruel world, but also to succeed in some good measure. While mom and others who knew that everything in my life was uncertain thought my success, was an accident and not design!
When you live closely with pain, grief and moments of joy, you get a valuable insight into life, living and the world around you. I also learnt not to keep scores (emotional accounts/kadamas) and not bother about recognition or reward, but quietly follow my heart. Initially I too thought I was lucky, but now I get the sinking feeling that all along Dad knew that I would fashion my life the way I wanted it to be.

None of will live forever, so let us enjoy the journey, who cares if we have arrived or not, the destination is not important.

Postcards from the past


So finally you have decided to hang up your gloves. Congratulations, you have retired-- time to kick back, relax and rethink philosophy. Time to pursue more philanthropic and altruistic pursuits. Now you have many choices before you, enjoy life to its fullest, relax, watch TV, read the newspapers from start to end, chat with friends, eat and drink what and when you want, window shop, visit London and other places. Earlier I too was looking forward to my retirement, after 36 years of working non-stop, but then the nest egg I salted away has become a pigeon egg. So when the kids grow up and move away, it will be difficult to even maintain an empty nest. The temporary collapse of the economic system and inflation means the end to my dreams of a well earned lazy retirement. I won’t find it hard to meet expenses; they are everywhere, ha ha. So it seems like I cant even retire & will have to keep on working to keep the wolves from the door. The only time I felt free, unshackled and close to Nirvana was when I had the heart attack/ Angina, it temporarily robbed my brain of functions and debtors in a silent euphoria! It’s a pity, because now all those exotic locales and countries I wanted to see are not possible with oil prices shooting up, I will now have to read about them from travel brochures or the internet.
Even driving around the country side by car is not possible as it costs$100 to fill up my Toyota SUV (sports utility vehicle) at this rate the next generation will have to walk 11 miles to school like my father used to in the 1930’s. It will be difficult to visit friends and relatives, of course the youngsters will communicate by cell phone, sms, and email & one can also indulge in chats with face book. By the time my 2 super brats Natasha & Farishta complete their education I will be strapped for cash and credit card debt will be irrepayable. The only function of economic forecasting was to make weather forecasts look respectable, so it looks like its all downhill from here. I wish I had like Arun gone to the Gulf or got on to the job elevator early in life, and then I would have been at the top of the fiduciary rankings. But I wasted my salad days falling in love with Malu when I was seventeen in the summer of ‘67, she was attractive and a much older women, but left me to marry Gopalkrishnan. Wrong time, wrong place I guess, lecturers were the most sought out bachelors in those days. Though I forgot all I learnt in college, the yellow lecture notes and black boards full of algorithms never helped me even in later life, not in the real world. So I can only dip my pen in nostalgia and ponder about those long forgotten stories and the romance of a bygone era. I too am tired…… and scared to think what I will do when I am retired, I am not there yet. When in youth as a student I wanted a job, then as a professional I wanted to rise to the top and earn more money, then marriage, later busy with career and raising my children and providing for them, now retirement. My children have already divorced me on the grounds of being computer illiterate and technically challenged about I phones, and after retirement my wife and in laws will treat me like some boring but necessary home appliance (washing machine).But I will have the greatest luxury in the world, the luxury of time to think and occasionally do what I want to do.
What was the real purpose of my life???

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wife Support System

CIRCA 1994
Wife Support System

They say that the more one travels, the less one knows! This must be really true of all Airline crew, as they log up all those miles, they seem to know less and less!!

That’s why I always wanted to retire at 40 years; I thought I would be O.K. with my P.F., superannuation and motley shares. My wife could continue to work as my in-laws too would be no more. But it looks as if it is not going to happen. Bandish never knew what it was when she asked me to leave Hyderabad and my friends (less numerous than the early years)

She was quite busy with her flying schedule Mardiwala, reporting sick, children, parents and local gossip to bother about my shift or career. She was only keen all along to persuade me to give up drinking and wear skin tight trousers which would reveal one’s religion. Anyway now with the role reversal I’ve got to remind her to bring home the Bacon & cod-roe, while I handle two wayward brats.

The fact that I finally came to Bombay on a full time house job, was a shock to everyone. My dog died in protest and the kids too numb from the shock of too much attention! As for my in-laws in later years ever since the Honeymoon was over, treated me like some boring but necessary home appliance (fridge or washing machine).

I must say I have coped well!! I have mastered the controls of the T.V remote & know by heart the programmes on each channel. I profess my knowledge & IQ levels have shot up to enlighten me while watching “Filmi chakker, Kasauti zindagi Ka, Zee T.V Soon I will overtake Jyotsna & others in close up Antakshari.

The pressure of looking after two super brats is very high and if not for the fact that I have had experience in high pressure marketing jobs, I would have failed miserably. Imagine starting the day by trying to coax one child to eat Kellog’s rice crispies drowned in hot milk, the battle ends with the cripies ground into the carpet and the milk poured down the window sill for the benefit of the insect life down below. Children want food, but not on their plates, they want food which is not on the menu, like strareddy beddy and pizza! The eldest complaints that it is too veggie and the youngest doesn’t want meat. The ½ hour intervals between chewing did not help, finally my colour turned to red wine trying to request them to do a chomp chomp act. After this getting them to bed is like trying to close a large sales deal, one has to cajole, sell, give free gifts, promises before getting them to clamper onto bed. My hair is turning yellow, more due to the children’s piddle (Dokle Moothla) than to dyed colour transition.

Now I know why my bachelor friends are having a hearty laugh as I carry my babies to the toilet they are carrying some babes in some exotic massage parlors.

After mastering the art of remote switching, watching, the phantasmal flickering images, filtering out meandering thoughts, reflect a diffused illusion of being in the real world without having to deal with it. Knowing the price of vegetables, when to expect MILIND for lunch and savour the grapevine gossip. The goat occasionally provides that extra entertainment provided I listen to his incredible stories.

My old friends don’t call on me anymore and most of them drank too much anyway. My wife has got a brand new coperty, though it’s a mystery as to who is to benefit from it. Slowly my libido is also going the same way as my friends, lifestyle and money, (Menon pause) trying to match the perfect timing for sex! Finally I will have to contend with one of those inflatable dolls brought from the flea market of course! Only hope that it doesn’t have too many punctures or headaches!

I remain philosophical thanks to alcohol, while my in-laws and outlaws dub me as a drunkard. I have already started peering into the bottom of my old monk bottle like a crystal gazer to see if the future is clearer in 1995. No business ventures, as the Menon’s in their pioneering efforts had neither the aptitude nor inclination for big business.

I always admired the Libyan who swapped his wife for a reefer (Marijuana), when he was charged under Islamic law and pronounced to be flogged, he admitted that he would rather be “stoned” than take back his wife!

As my nest egg dwindles, I might as well leave, before I am put on a permanent wife support system. Well in another fortnight one more year will have gone by and the question will be “who is Kaputty”? I think pretty soon I will look for a silly 9-5 job to get away from all this. MAMA come soon, papa wants to work again.



The largest democracy in the World, sounds great, India; where everyone aspires to be a politician. It is the best job in the world to govern a docile serpentine queue of 1 billion plus people. Truly a delightful job in this rain soaked, draught ridden, cyclone prone country to govern these bovine people who will tolerate anything in the name of democracy, unlike the Americans who demand facilities or the Italians, who if a law is absurd ignore it, or the Brits who conscientiously rise up baying for the blood of perpetrators of injustice.

Imagine after 50 years of independence our politicians have managed to eradicate the last vestiges of basic essential services like health care, electricity, education, drinking water & every state coffer resembles mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

The irony is despite all these festering wounds on the effete citizens each state tries to rub in salt to these wounds by exercising more taxes for already non existent infrastructure.

Take Maharashtra for example they now levy a lifetime vehicle road tax when the only roads are pieces of stones tied together by garbage plastic ribbons. They charge toll for over bridges that are half completed and have been causing traffic snarls for the last 3 years. P. U. C. certificates when actually half the population is slowly being poisoned by carbon monoxide (or is that part of the family planning or population control ministry). When the traffic department runs short of money they just ban tinted glasses or out of state vehicles, the revenue and graft generated by this gives a respite for a year or so before they decide on some other form of ban or tax to torture the harried motorists. The traffic lights that were put up at a great cost to the tax payer are put off by the traffic constable so that he too can contribute his mite to the long traffic jam.

Slum dwellers who are the biggest vote banks are encouraged to encroach on private and public
Property including railways, steal, water and electricity so that in a few years each state will be equal in having power crisis’s, and spread rampant diseases that destroy Lacs of people.

Memories arose, was it the last decade, in another life when our forefathers struggled and sacrificed their lives. I think of this sacred land of the EAST, MOTHER INDIA like a PROMETHEAN HUNT our race is in peril, our sons our calling for help & life goes on like some absorbing tragedy, in which only fools & madmen rush out to take part in the action while the silly middle class sits back to watch KAUN BANEGA CROREPATI.

A Buddhist comparison, as cold as the conclusion of a metaphysical syllogism, a compassion not only for men but for all life which struggles, cries, weeps, hopes & dies not perceiving that everything is a phantasmagoria of nothingness.



Digital Life

Many decades ago I used to walk to the post office to make a trunk call; now 5 different telephones invade my privacy 24/7. Email, fax, sms, and its ilk have reduced communications to zero, while the increasing speed of connectivity and like nuclear energy, it may do something to us, Homo sapiens, consume us! The speed of jet travel has, eliminated the distinction between geography, philosophy and time…. packing the wrong things for survival, let alone enjoy life. Yes it’s a far cry when you consider, the stone age, ice age, space age, and now the digital age, globalization and technology have changed us in ways we never thought was possible. For those of us who belong to the baby boomers generation, its been one large roller coaster ride & can emphatically state “been there, done that” with pride yet despite all this break through in science and technology, now when I am about to retire, relax and pursue more self awakening matters, I still miss the good old days when humans were not replaced by robots.

Now when I want to communicate desperately or during a crisis, despite having multiple telephones, I find the cell phone lines are jammed there is an intermittent crackle from land line and the Tata WLL has been disconnected because I accidentally paid my bills twice, one by auto-debit card and the other by cheque. Earlier I always hankered for my own phone, then when I had 3 they became intruders in my own home. To avoid calls I had to connect one to my fax machine, the other was permanently connected to an answering machine, so that after a beep callers can leave a message, while my teenage daughter ensured that the third phone was perennially engaged.

When I try my cell phone a cheery female Vodafone recorded voice answers, all lines to this numbers are busy, please try later. So now I can’t even call the dark haired beauty that ruined my life and tell her how thankful I was that she left me, because it spurred me on to phenomenal success in my career & later life.

Sometimes I would like to ponder and dream of the phenomenal progress since the wood stoked fires of my home town were replaced with piped gas, its a far cry, but this gets stifled when you read everywhere that the world is about to end, since it has run out of food oil, water, resources and credit. The economy is disintegrating so rapidly that soon we will have to resort to burning cow dung cakes to keep our home fires burning.
I always admired those foreign banks Grindlays, Citibank, Standard Chartered and their pin striped personnel with black ties, looked so efficient; till I started banking with them and their automated systems. Now the problems to access your own account began to manifest themselves in insurmountable ways. When you call them on telephone on the first ring they don’t answer, on the second try a woman’s antiseptic voice answers informing you that you are in queue and put on hold while the music keeps ticking from 1 minute to bleed your phone bills dry for 30 minutes every time; suddenly another recording of a female in her menopause phase sputters instructions; Press 1for English 2) for Hindi 3)for… then sequentially repeated 1)for savings a/c 2)for current 3) for credit card 4)for ATM 5) for new products etc. In between the music continues to wrack your nerves. Finally you are requested to punch in your account number, ATM no, password, Tpin no, if you miss or wrongly enter any one of these then the whole rigmarole starts all over again. At last a human “live” voice answers you and asks” how may I help you’? by now I wanted to strangle her. When I explain my problem, she transfers my call to a man in debt management, who in turn transfers me to someone in accounts, who refers me to another person in customer relations, who now wants my date of birth, mother’s maiden name, Tpin no, and password all over again. I haven’t dealt with so many alpha numerical numbers since my school algebra days and by now I had forgotten who I was and why I had called. I have aged a 100 years in the space of this mere call and my craven supplication can only be understood by old fogies.
So it became clear to me that the only way to get out of this mess was to send a communication, so I opened the computer as I had stored all my details in a secret XL folder/file. But when I tried to access them I found that my hard disc had crashed and deleted all my records forever Tpin password and all. Now I have to apply for a fresh set of records till then my own funds are blocked .Don’t lose hope technology will come to your rescue, the good news is that now you can have fingerprint recognition technology (like the old thumb impression) recycled in its new avatar to protect your Tpin no, and retina scanning to replace passwords.

Amongst all this technology jargon my plea was like a voice in the wilderness. If you ask me I personally think the Crazy IT personnel should be deleted forever from my life. Technology doesn’t make life simpler in fact it complicates and convolts it further and makes you cry! If this is what the digital age is all about, then I would prefer the old teller banking, penny post, and plain old telephones (Pots) anyday. Life was relaxed and stress free in the old days when there was no such thinh as the wireless world, information superhighway, e-banking, or internet and one could stop to smell the flowers.

This is not a blog but a blot on our lives.

Vinay Kumar


If there is such a thing as an ideal death, it was the way my mother-in-law passed away in her sleep at night never to see another dawn. After years of illness and trauma she has finally found happiness. It has left a profound impact on her children and my eldest child who was very close to her, all of them would love to see her again.

As I watched the flames flickering in the crematorium, it brought back vividly images of another funeral, of my father who passed away many years ago. As an eldest child I had a very close relationship with my parents even though in later years the younger siblings found more favour. Like an unquiet ghost his handsome photo still haunts me, conjuring up images of more care free days of my youth when T. V. Mobile, internet and email were not there to invade your privacy. A sense of remorse rushed through me as in later years I was indifferent towards him. As the flames leapt higher and higher, the smoke reminded me that my mother-in-law was waving goodbye to civilization.

Standing so close to her, one gets an unbelievable sense of our own permanence. You become conscious of mortality like you have never been before. Knowing that you don’t have forever to put things right and do all the things you want to, makes you wake up. At the funeral some mourners got into an argument over the rites and rituals, I guess it is really a conduit for their own grief and pain.

I spent a lot of time in Jesuit schools and attended many funerals. I was really impressed by the beauty of their carved caskets and always had a secret desire to be buried.

Even though I was born into a Hindu family, my wide circle of friends of different caste, creed and religions and travails abroad had imbibed in me elements of Islam and Christianity in good measure. However, the thought of lying in a cold coffin and returning to earth and becoming part of the soil is now not that attractive.

As I cross fifty years on this planet my present feeling is that my ashes should be scattered in the foaming sea near Tellicherry near my ancestral Tharavad where fish small and large sharks swim in harmony. I have spent many hours by the beach in Quilandy in profound thought and in awe of the sea, so I think this will be an appropriate resting place. My relatives and friends are spread all over the globe, but if our spirits live on, as everyone wants to believe, then they will all be able to traverse the ocean to come to my resting place. Instead of the Pujari chanting slokas which no one understands I would like some violinists to play Tchaikosky’s Winter Reveries, while my pyre is lit by the beach.

Having lived a full life I would like my 13th day “wake” to be held in the ‘Colonade bar’ at the Secunderabad Club. There should be plenty of whisky – and other alcoholic beverages the perfect drink for such occasions- and lots of jollity. I dare not imagine the stories escapades & jokes friends and family will swap about me, but I certainly think it should be a happy occasion.

I do believe funerals help the bereaved achieve a certain solemn sense of peace. Death is as impossible to ignore as life and I don’t think about it in a negative way. I firmly believe in the life force rather than the death force.

I would rather relish and look forward to every day rather than waste precious time contemplating death. I can always meet the loved ones I have lost if there is afterlife.

The images of my beautiful mother-in-law and handsome face of my father flash before me to capture the quintessential era in which they lived.

It is as if people who have passed away, are all in some large continuum of the spirit, and it will take more than death to drive away their memories. Nothing stays the same.

Herd Nerd Intensity

I have over the years become inured to shocks droughts and farmers committing suicide, floods and people drowning and now the annual SSLC/CAT results are a season for suicides. Teenagers senselessly torture themselves on the alter of their parents expectations. These ambitious parents want their children to excel at every subject, and that too at an age when they should be involved in childhood activities. My mind drifts into my own childhood of mornings spent in playing basketball, of lazy summer afternoons spent on tree tops playing ‘Tarzan’ or Cops ‘N’ Robbers or plucking mangoes from the neighbours garden, drinking or rather sucking plastic tubes which were called pepsi in those days, Cricket in the evenings and cycling and forming gangs.

The last place you would be likely to find me at school/college was in a stuffy classroom/lecture hall elbow to elbow with sweaty students scribbling away furiously while the teacher tried to cram us with information of dubious quality. I am shocked to see today’s children and teenagers lugging tons of text books, running between classes and tutorials like athletes in a relay team which eats up their childhood and when they grow up they cannot handle real life. The Irony is that it is educated parents who are trying to make their little ones into rocket scientists.

I had spent many years perfecting the art of bunking classes or getting thrown out of the lecture hall along with my friends. As we graduated from cycling we discovered that there was something unresistingly attractive about those lissome lasses. Crushes, heart breaks and liasions were the next lessons we learnt in the school of life. Motorbikes, beer and pretty girls were a deadly cocktail and I have run over a few cyclists in my day.

Of the serious front bench students a few were okay, most were perfect shit, a confederacy of dunces who would end up in a employee type career, a cubicle in some large organization.

Today the coaching classes are an industry unto themselves with condensed-crash courses for budding scientists, engineers with their own bogus technological language and they will cost a fortune. IIT and IIM’s are not a success passport just a lifelong employee in a Corporation. A recent study shows that 40% of those leading men from the Forbes List 400 don’t even have a degree. Excelling in life is different from scoring 90% in exams and excelling in class, these class toppers come croppers and can’t cope with the real world. We have to realize that each person is unique in his own way.

Either way ten minutes of heavy petting with Rekha is better than any coaching class or unique degree.

For most people education is a means to an end i.e they think education is over when they get a degree or MBA and land job with an MNC or large Corporate and work to earn money. In the quest for money they work hard hours, earn more, pay more taxes and even more for the mortgages on car, flat and other loans, thereby creating wealth for the banks and employer, while he becomes more insecure and life passes by. Only very few realize that education is required to seek new frontiers and opportunities and that learning will continue long after the degree and the essence is to enjoy one life without being a slave.

Often it matters less what one studies in college but more what one acquires in life and how to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

Passing The Baton

Dateline: Mumbai
CIRCA January 29, 2003
Year of the Lord 2003

Dear Natasha,

Today you will be crossing the age from teenybopper, to the first phase of adulthood. I am writing this letter, as it is very difficult to explain in words or verbalize my line of thinking. As I reflect my thoughts go back to more than three decades, to an enchanting distant island called Ceylon (SERENDIP) where my own adolescence began. However due to my father’s incorrigible ways, passion for horse racing, my mom’s land holdings in Kerala and the dawn of the L.T.T.E movement we had to return to India. In Kerala specifically in Tellicherry and Payyannur, where my parents belonged to a powerful landed “THARAVAD” (ANCESTRAL HOUSE). I was a mute witness to the steady decline of the family fortune. One by one we lost all our properties, and the once vast paddy fields were lost by a governments draconian legislation and we were left with a few decrepit buildings which were all mired in litigation.

It was a very confusing time, with no family fortune to fall back upon, my parents struggling amidst the rough and tumble of life, concerned with our fortune and not wanting to express their anxiety and disturb our emotional well being. I was lucky to have parents who rose above the commonplace and allowed us to choose our paths, they did their best to chart a course and show us the path; we got lost along the way. They were the most progressive minded parents in that era.

I was a misguided rebel, although my parents and certain people had a profound impact on my life, apart from literature and creative thinking. My adolescent life in the late sixties was a roller coaster ride, yet I had the resilience to take the good and bad in my stride.

It was Bombay that altered my cosmic destiny. It was a different city in an another era very different and a sea change from the palm trees, the sea and bucolic life of Malabar. Gateway of India, Marine Drive, The TAJ, Queens Necklace, Oberoi and Band Stand Bandra were eye openers for me. I spent some of my happiest years in Bombay. As you turn 18 my old Bombay has given way to the present Mumbai which is a different planet, with a changed character landmarks, and names, only remnants and ghosts of the old city remain. Nothing remains the same, today even the old values have changed. We have to go with the flow, change is the essence of life.


On your Birthday I fondly remember your childhood, how on Sundays in Bombay you and I would drive down to a quaint restaurant in Juhu and I used to have a beer & you also used to partake with a small wineglass much to the amusement of the bearers. Later in Secunderabad, at the break of dawn, you would stand down in your resplendent uniform for the school “SUICIDE VAN” to take you to Nobel School in Banjara Hills & I would peek from the Balcony and go back to sleep. Then on weekends you would accompany me to the Secunderabad club, where you were the cynosure of all eyes.

Anyway the purpose of this letter is not to bore you with an old Fogy’s nostalgic memories of years gone by, but to instill in you the courage to face the storm of the coming years. As an adult you now need no advice but permit me to state a few home truths that were percolated over many years and if you remember will help you weather the storm without us.

We cannot leave you a large inheritance or a family business, the only inheritance we can endow you and FARISHTA are an International outlook, an atmosphere where you can openly voice your thoughts, a lot of independence, (sometimes too much I think) and a willingness to educate you for any higher course you desire wherever you choose .

I realize you will have ideas and thoughts quite different from mine. As long as you have the courage and conviction of your ideas, (and the inevitable responsibility of facing its consequences good or bad) . I will learn to accept your ideas, even if I don’t agree with them. After all these years spent together, educating you, allowing you to have an independent mind, and letting you have the freedom was precisely for your self development. So that you should think, plan your voyage ahead in the vast ocean of life.

As an imperfect father, I have tried to do what is best, and not left you with debit notes, you owe me nothing, no obligation, no need to even explain. You are intelligent, clever, creative even though not hardworking. If you don’t use all these assets in life and have a proper purpose and reach your goal, I will have failed my duty as a father.

My life is over, yours is about to begin. I have lived life to the lees, a card sketch would state.

The last of the Kappana’s / blue blood gentry / globe trotter / amateur rallyist / poet / writer / international lover / marketeer / useless husband / last of the creative spenders – Kappana Vinay Kumar-

So let me try to convey the changing thoughts of my soul and transmit to you the distilled wisdom of the sages collated over the years. You have to leap above the ordinary, meat potatoes, money, disco, cars you can always have enough of the pedestrian stuff. Plan your life carefully, purposefully, proceed positively and pursue persistently. There are two types of growth, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal growth is what everyone knows and aspires for, money, fame, bungalow and cars, but this is not fulfilling. The second type of growth which one must develop along with this is vertical, in the heart, kindness and compassion to all creatures, giving back to society and planet, this is real growth valuable and fulfilling.

There are two things to aim for in life. The first is to get what you want, the second is to enjoy it when you get it. Only the wisest of mankind achieves the second. Fate is what we make, you have the power to alter your cosmic configuration, so don’t compromise and settle for less, don’t give up your dreams and try to make adjustments in an imperfect world. Life is a celebration and each day should be savored as an ode to fulfillment first 25 years learning next 25 years earning last 25 years returning.

If we are dependent on outside things and people for our happiness, we will never be happy. Happiness really exists within. We live in a beautiful world, but we still continue to live in our own created small ponds of misery. Life is actually a journey in the quest of discovering oneself and the world around us, acquire humility, and admire the gifts bestowed on you and all of us.

Mental setbacks are harder to cope with than the physical, because it makes people ineffective. They operate on the ‘I can’t’ rather than I can. Don’t lose your confidence, our minds our very powerful nothing is impossible once we set our minds to it.

You don’t always get what you want in life, therefore learn to like what you get, as they say in that song “ take the weather with you”.

Interestingly if we really examine ourselves, we are often blessed with what we want, however, we don’t recognize it, when we get it, and even worse, we cannot bring ourselves to enjoy it. We don’t realize that life can actually give us what we want. Only the wise can discern the ‘moment’ when they can relax and savor the richness of the moment, the foolish amateur thinks of the consequences and the moment is gone forever.

As a creative person, it is my belief that whatever money I leave as a legacy will not last, but my advice and writing will live on in your souls, something concrete to propel you in your life. If at least 30% I succeed it would be a real achievement.

I never followed rituals or worshipped god. But I have tried to read the Rig Vedas and practiced purity of mind and tried to imbibe the belief of not harboring self-harming, negative and self-damaging emotions like resentment, hostility, anger and jealousy. I have been compassionate and helped as many people as possible. Life you inherit is the chemistry of nature and death is not the end of life.

For the living death is certain and for the dead birth is certain.

I am lost in today’s world of e-Mails, SMS, VOIP & watch a whole new generation admiring their shiny cell phones, palm pilots, digital diaries, a lot of gizmos but no mind of their own.

I feel like I am from an alien planet and as such find it difficult to relate sometimes. I think its time to carve my epitaph on the headstone and it should read

Here lies the last of the Kappana’s
No thriving business, No Mercedes Car
No bungalow, No WAP Cellphone
Cannot SMS, No computer skills
No EXCUSE for living.

Vinay Kumar

Laid to rest

Born 1952 RIP 20?

Doesn’t it look quaint? Perhaps I can rise from the tombstone and say “ MERE PAAS MA HAI” In comic Hindi film relief.

You will never know how much we love you, please love your sister and children even more. So let me end wishing you a happy journey in the adulthood of your life.

- PAPA -

Remains of my life!

After four decades in the executive freeway and with a few pit stops, I decided to slow down and put my personal life in order. I decided to make a ‘will’ but when I took stock of my possessions I realized that my meager savings would not be worth the stamp paper the ’will’ was typed on. Nevertheless I decided to clear all the stuff from my cupboard and get rid of the “clutter” that was surrounding my life (according to my wife). So all the stuff in the bureau, socks, underwear, sepia tinted photographs, pens, pendants, brackets, letter, appointment letters, project reports, certificates, books my poems all would have to be piled into the SUV and dumped into the creek.

The voyage into my personal space was an eye opener. I came across my old Rolodex and card folder; I just couldn’t dump it without checking it out. Leafing through it dawned on me that many of these people were no more and others had moved on in life and I no longer needed them. Pondering over the names and trade brought a lump into my throat. Some were close friends once upon a time, other colleagues and some others will ………. I just can’t remember perhaps a bout of “wanton amnesia”, and the recollections coated with a tinge of sadness. Just imagine at one point of time they used to run in my mindscape on a daily/ weekly basis?! Now, despite the long relationships I have to dump these business cards. The fanciful images of my early years in the executive rat race, the middle years heading a Region, the later years as a Business head, the interactions with the jargon driven trainees from B- school, with their heads full of formulae theories and strategy. All this and my own rise to the top of the company now appeared to be just a figment. My checkered cross – disciplinary career, now seemed like a” winners curse”, loosing out on life with not much moolah to show at the end and by winning the rat race one still remained a rat. Hence my diffidence to throw these cards, they were the hard copy evidence of my hectic activity on this planet earth.

A sense of history and a connection to the past, yet one must let go of the things dear to us. Here goes Telerich Electronics, an old T.V dealer, V.P.Luthra my old Managing Director of Televista, Patel printers from Ahmadabad, Harshad Bhatt Sheetal Shah the TV cabinet maker, Ating Utomo, Lee Swen-ha of Grundig Indonesia, , Rajiv Chawla was a Sub –editor for Dalal Street journal that figured before our I.P.O Homi Patel, Boman Mirza of S.R.Batliboi, Albert Kirmaier, my brief venture into Bio-medical electronics, should have checked my own heart with that ECG we made & saved a lot of money on my 2 stents and angioplasty. Vitesse, the car dealership in Bombay who sold me the Maruti 800CC, I was very happy about it’s latest technology, pick up and Japanese lineage, compared to the Ambassadors & Fiat’s on which I used to sputter along with incessant visits to my mechanic Narsimha Rao, Oh the new car smell Arriverdici … Kappana. Then there was Colin from the Ad Agency who replaced Mike Khanna as M.D of H.T.A. won’t remember me now.

Like the mile post’s on the highway Parekh, Pran, of Horlicks , Col Rai, M. D. of Uptron, Ravi Gupta, of Trikaya , Pareek, Sharma, Ursula Walzowich, Mukherjee, Atanu Ghosh, , T.V Mohan, r, Raizada Raychem, Gurmeet Singh, Michael Wong, Josef Soos, of Ericsson a genial bearded giant, Ah here’s Katy the beautiful girl from the travel agency-she was a stunner tall lanky, older than me, had some fun with her, later I emotionally strayed from her, then she married some dork and migrated to USA, pretty bouncy knockers, tit for tat I guess then there was Dinaz another Parsi babe, with whom I had a frolicking time, was a wee bit of a nympho though, kept coming back, can’t discard her name, can I??

I am still at ‘D’ and pretty tired of this game, hey who the hell is Drew Barrymore? Some white trash consultant I guess, Then comes the defence forces Cdr Divakaran and his petite wife, Commodore Kuruvilla lots of other Army, Navy, Air force guys, Wing Cdr. Gupte (college of combat Mhow) Saldana became Air chief of the Air force
Capt Srinivas Vishubhatla who was trained in the N.D.A to oversee ratings stripping the lawns edge straight no little grass allowed to grow over, then after his commission stand at attention in preparation for guard duty, fastidiously dressed in starched khaki tunic like a cloth store mannequin (Dummy) The army reduced his life to an insane rote, complicated without being complex, a kind of obsessive drill that turned his average mind into the brain of a duck. The army post is made so that the deprivation to leave is terrible and finally in exasperation he left with a honorable discharge, (no not his clap symptom) euphemistically called pre mature retirement (not ejaculation) used his ‘duck brain’ in the software industry where he swiftly rose to the position of Director Marketing.

An address book is a collection of life experiences, so one should not burn it, unless you are opening the window to a new life or one is ready for the final balance sheet of life and death. Till then it’s a trial balance of my standing in this planet what say. Everything changes, so empty your life.

Nawab's And Nizams

I first came to HYDERABAD 2 ½ decades ago to set up the branch office of Televista electronics for the advent of T.V. It was a wonderful change from Bombay a whole new city with wonderful mughal architecture and an old world charm. The MUKARRAM JAI had bequeathed some beautiful and glorious buildings and traditions. The FALUKNAMA palace, the Golconda Fort, now in a dilapidated condition and the magnificent Charminar. The serene tank bund that dissected the two cities HYDERABAD and Secunderabad through the centre.

The streets and markets bustle with life and old world NAWABI charm. The mosques and mausoleums are always crowded. And then the wonderful old city – almost half a million people squeezed into a square mile of congested tenements and shops, carries the city’s soul. I can still taste the wafting aroma of SHAIRON KE KABAB, the Roomali Roti’s and Briyani.

Hyderabad was the same for centuries but now cyber land is ringing in changes though historical memory will continue and the walled city an ageless invisible presence channeling people and traffic into narrow lanes where rickshaws, horse carriages, (tanga) Bikes and auto’s compete with each other. The dancing girls (MUJRAH’S) are another art form that is dying out with the advent of disco’s and pubs.

Life essentially seeks out balance; in the habit of treading one sorrow for one joy one cancels the other!

I have managed to attain a sort of “EQUIPOISE” i.e. the precise moment in the ocean when a wave neither falls nor rises.

In my waltz with fate I found my toes stepped on and the melancholy music reverberates in my soul.

I do not know why it should be this way; but I am so sad; all old memories will not leave my heart.

In this life, there is no mercy, therein hangs a tale of exquisite friendship, immense sacrifices and dangerous desires!


It is the time of the year when the heavens come crashing down and rain king
Henderson holds sway over valley and dale. Amidst such thunderstorms as children we used to scramble through dense undergrowth, over slippery slopes and rocks to escape the boring routine of studies. Images of being perpetually damp and soaked along the winding roads which irresistibly invite you to capture some of the atmosphere of those times. All those bitter sweet memories hidden in the depths of our minds come alive like tadpoles in a pond.

The monsoon season is a magical time with the green shrubbery sprouting all over; I dream of acres and acres of lush green paddy fields, where “Sufi” music and rain songs seemed as mystical and wild as rock and roll. Our joys were great as they were simple as the patter of the rains, getting all mucky and clogged the student life and carefree days; sending the younger siblings and friends across for cigarettes, the irresistible failure to win over all those beautiful girls. The joy in discovering that love interests are harbored within and the detailed study of the ample curves of the maidens in their soggy clothes were exciting and stimulating. I wish all those lovely lasses were still village girls and not grown up into wives or mature women.

The exhilarating experience of hopes that wanted to soar on wings, the sad separation from a loved one, fascination for the sweetheart from the macho student days and such thoughts meandered through my mind. All of us have followed this well trodden path, which can also be a career wrecker as the amour of mild flirting intensifies into several clandestine trysts. One’s dominant emotions in the flush of youth reinforced by the monsoon magic will remain dormant and submerged by the vicissitudes of later adult life.

The monsoon is a double edged scythe bringing life sustenance and also a share of death and destruction. The rain bearing seasonal winds that sweep into the country riding the crest of the tropical oceans, egged on by El Nino will always remain life’s critical uncertainty

As I am lulled to sleep by the sound of the incessant raindrops against the tiled roof, the brewing storm in my mind evokes a voluptuous sensation tinged with sorrow; and I try to recapture the affections of the woman I loved and lost. The heady scent, of the wet earth, stones and grass, lash out forlornly like a woman’s smile that is fading with time, along with images of friends and the good times. With dusk setting in the storm gathers and I peer across a sea of rain, with a drink in my hand to warm my cockles, I sense that life is passing me by like the flitting fireflies. Perhaps nostalgic rain drops fall on the other side of my heart!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Return to Serendip


As the plane circled over Katunayake airport, I was overcome with a magical feeling of anticipation that one never fully understands, a deep indefinable yearning for this lost paradise. To think I was returning to this teardrop isle in the Indian Ocean after 44 years — which had created a chasm between us, a slow and tender wave of nostalgia arose in me with a trace of sorrow. The intrinsic moment of truth would arrive on touch down.

Forty four years is a long time, when the world order was changing at a furious pace, and as time flowed in a linear direction, there was a sense of separation going away to a distant land that evokes a powerful feeling of melancholy that is real. As the Toyota SUV carrying us crept towards Galle face hotel, amidst the incessant monsoon drizzle, memories began to flood through me as inexorably as the surging tide, & gentle waves caressing the galle face green. Fragments of events, places and my own childhood images of people, streets and times interweave themselves across my mind. By the rays of the setting sun and the twilight of my life I peered hard through the window trying to reach out for posterity the glimpses of past history and parts of my early life.

Yes it was a journey or shadow run that began symbolically in Negomlo in 1952 amongst the lush environs of Ave Maria Convent as I was cast adrift ever so slowly on the painful solitary journey called life!

The next day I embarked on my voyage of rediscovering Ceylon and to close the gap of separation and distance between us. As we traveled to Kandy and Nuwareliya through the magical road the lush greenery and neatly thatched houses, en route to the elephant orphanage at H…………. was a sight for sore eyes. The many waterfalls created an enchanting vista of the scenic landscape with the silver water cascading serenely into the valleys was soothing. Suddenly the topography changed and we came across acres and acres of neatly laid out carpets of green tea estates en route to our hotel. The St Andrews hotel was a one hundred and twenty three year old property in pristine condition, reeking of tradition and history, handed down by the Tudors. One could almost visualize and imagine the Englishmen and women sipping high tea with scones, cakes and egg benedict in the lazy afternoons. The gorgeous country houses, miles of unending tea plantations and temperature hovering at 14 Celsius was the perfect back drop for having a sun-downer sitting by the fireplace or by the window taking in the majestic sweep of the verdant countryside. During the return drive, whizzing by the towns Nuwareliya, Kandy, Gampolla…. etc amidst the picturesque countryside, the towns sped like a kaleidoscopic blur of farmlands, fields, plantations kissed by the setting sun. As we engaged the winding macadam roads in the gentle hush of the lazy afternoon, I began to grow younger in my mind and I vividly remembered a bygone era another time bringing in slow motion wistful memories of my youth. An indigo sky, the gaunt palm trees, and the river ( Mahaweli) gently flowing, that no one notices its silent unobtrusive course, with a rustling murmur that sheds a few muddy tears for the deep simmering ethnic conflict that has encapsulated this island of paradise for two decades.


The circadian rhythm and semiotics of V.T. Station and Crawford marketplace are stilled by the staccato sounds of gunfire. Crowds are running helter skelter for cover, police jeeps and ambulances flit by aimlessly, their flashing lights ignoring the plaintive pleas and demands for help and succor. It started as a typical day for me and all others who commuted to work, gulped endless cups of tea and then packed up to return home, only on that day many did not come home but disintegrated, there one minute and an instant later were gone forever. The Islamist group’s 26/11 attack in Mumbai was not a random terror attack, but an act of war, part of a deliberate high risk campaign, carried out with military precision in response to India’s burgeoning economic prosperity, simmering issues like Kashmir, ties with Israel, strident Hinduvta overtones of political parties. Like a movie plot out of Oceans 12 these young terrorists came by boat and cast a net of fear over the city. The world is shattered with splinters of war and terrorism starting from the killing of Israeli athletes in Munich Olympics to the thrilling hostage saga at Entebbe it is now appearing regularly as milestones 9/11 Mumbai bomb blasts and now 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai etc.

Terrorism though prevalent in the old days has transformed itself into a new lethal product in keeping with our times. It is no longer confined to groups like Al-Queda, Hamas, Taliban, , and LTTE but has metamorphosed into several brands with religious, state, and Country overtones devoted to fight for what they believe is a holy crusade, a sort of Nihilistic enemy ready to sacrifice their lives in suicide missions for the cause! Terrorism happens when intolerance reaches epic proportions; the war inside the mind is more dangerous because it rages like a blazing fire spreading flames of hatred that may never be doused, as it is fanned by religious fanaticism; an aimless absurdity where young boys are indoctrinated into a crusade of sorts & made to sacrifice their lives in a mockery of martyrdom. More people have been killed by religion than wars / pestilence…….. This make us go back to the core of all religious beliefs where the doctrine of AHIMSA or non violence is propagated and everyone is taught not to cause hurt or take life & that killing is not right, the central principle of all faiths is to be kind and love mankind, yet this terrorism/ Jihad in the name of religion is an irony and takes us back to the dark ages. In this era of prosperity what lessons do these attacks teach us we do not know, will never know the reason except that death comes to all those who are born.

We are all aware that the only constant of history is change, yet this violent and visceral changeover along with the cataclysmically changing face of terror around the world has left the older generation gasping with fear. The old system has collapsed imploded, with E-commerce E-business and now Web- terror entering their lives leaving an insufficient “present’ and a bleak future to tread on for all citizens and netizens. India’s apathetic population has been jolted & is now fed up of this mis-governance and lackadaisical attitude. They don’t expect the Govt to be infallible, but the least they want is some sort of accountability. The pent up grief, rage, terror and passions have given vent to a public outcry causing the administration to tremble.

The violent spinning of terror scenarios in a vicious circle of hate, Babri Masjid, Godhra, Ceylon, World Trade Centre, Mumbai bomb blasts, and now the Taj / Oberoi 26/11 are etched in the collective mindscapes. The greatest irony of it all is that at a time when the whole world has switched to “unleaded fuel”, the bodies of the victims lay strewn all over riddled with “lead” so much care for the environment, while human life has no value.

We have been inured by so much of violence in our daily life that we can by now butter our toast while reading about gruesome murders, rape, train accidents, earthquakes, bomb blasts, tsunami’s and terrorist attacks. And ever since the huge massively pedestrian TV and Video have invaded our homes it seems you can’t turn it on without seeing some horrible and macabre tale of violence. Terrorism is the new reality show in town, depicting a negative externality where the action of a few terrorists can cause harm to a whole country. We can no longer take a train, bus or shop, eat-out, nor watch a movie without fear. The channel reporters feed off these shows quizzing the families of victims and then remorselessly switching across to Politicians, Actors, and other Prima Donnas who contrive to retch out profound sound bytes about how this is a great tragedy and steps should be taken to prevent a recurrence and passing the buck till the cameras stop rolling. As usual empty rhetoric will be slowly replaced by the new opportunity this calamity bestows on the ossified administrative state machinery and other vulture organizations. Pretty soon security, surveillance will be the new buzzwords / flavor of the year with risk and disaster management software and courses taking centre stage of every meeting, discussion and seminar.

The naiveté of the public who seem to think that candlelit marches & protests will improve things or change the rot in the system is wishful thinking…. This stirring will eventually die out like a flickering candle and crumble when recessionary pressures of everyday life takes its toll on their emotions. The only way they can prevent a wanton amnesia, will be to tattoo the details and dates on the bodies of all the politicians and bureaucrats in true Ghajini-esque style as a grotesque memento to all those brave martyrs who laid down their lives in the skirmish and whose brave actions were never captured on camera or celluloid.

As I watched the smoke billowing from the dome of the Taj, silhouetting the spires of the south Bombay skyline, accentuating the age old culture of the city, hotel, and the length of its history, I realized that the days of boozy, carefree dinners and gleeful chatter in five star restaurants are over. One could visualize the crimson sky through the blood splattered wind shields and spectacles …………the destruction and desolation of the opulent landscape....