Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wife is your Handicap

Dear AKR,

It is the time of the year when wedding bells are ringing incessantly and despite much planning one cannot attend all of them. Anyway attending Babu’s daughters wedding and meeting all those old pals of yore was fantastic. There is great joy in making personal contacts with old friends Vinoo & Ratna,Peethu, Khalid,Ravi,Babu Harris, Norry, Balabhaskar, Suren, Sidney Shoeb,Seyadu,Rahim,Nadar,Nandan, Shasi(tailor),etalii The wedding made it possible to meet the fraternity together; one cannot but sense a huge emotion collectively rising out. It was heartening to note that the old camaraderie still exists after all these years; it fills ones heart with cheer. There was a sense of belonging within the group as we rarely get an opportunity to be at the same time and place together since we split in the early seventies. Those days we had no resources or money but had plenty of fun and laughs. There were times when we really wondered how we will get through life. Each ones life is a saga of overcoming big challenges, low moments, worst mistakes and harboring hopes of a better future to unfold. Most of us have used our tenacity and creativity to turn defeat into victory, and known astonishing highs and lowest moments in our personal lives. The turning point was our attitude to conquer obstacles and succeed in the face of tough odds and deal with our own personal challenges, failures and weaknesses. In the process we were also drawn
to the fairer sex and dreamt of love, marriage and joyous living. However we were destined never to unite with our first loves, and the pain has left its traces on our hearts and brain. (The pain, behind the gain). Nevertheless for some time in our mundane lives, we continued to dream of each other, and thoughts of “It might have been” It took a lot of dynamism, resourcefulness and presence of mind to sail on in life, never troubled by the feeling of “ what could have been”
Change Clubs.
PAR for the (inter) course

As they say old Golfers don’t die they lose their balls, so too with Tiger Woods when he drove into a fire hydrant and tree, a case of missing the woods for the tree as he couldn’t decide between a Wood and an Iron I guess. Poor chap give him a break he was honing his skills by chasing off course birdies. Grubbs the cocktail waitress was up for grabs anyway. (Pun intended) I guess in your case your wife was your handicap for the last 25 years and you haven’t moved your club. As for me I am still swinging my club though the birds have flown.

Ringing in 2010 the Terrace Party

Enter the new millennium, 2009 is just a memory like the nineties, eighties, seventies time ceases to exist. The past seems like a kaleidoscopic blur, a page of landscape portraiture seen from a train’s window, a smudge of high mountains, lush paddy fields and greenery. The smoke from the steam locomotive paints an ethereal picture out of reach like a X’mas bauble.
The tingle of glasses brings me back to the party, the hot chicks in short dresses, Gucci knock off hand bags, imitation leather high heels and real breasts, one should notice and fondle details, no symptom of ‘lactose intolerance’ in me. Let me head for the bar and fortify myself with a stiff drink, part of addiction is that you need the substance so bad during parties that when they try to take it away from you , you want to die… People are already dancing on the floor, couples glance significantly into the eyes of each other, the ridiculous flirtation between men and women like ‘cognac’ after dinner. The invitees were an eclectic multiracial crowd, mostly airline cabin crew, BPO, and IT industry, a crop of young men and women who will inherit and save our dying planet in the near distant future. The Christian group, with a mild grudge against the Hindu majority were dressed for church (midnight mass) suit, tie, sweaters and booted, the women in sequined dresses, over scented with the glacial ‘come hither’ looks trying to propound the reverse “axe effect” I stood out like a sore thumb in my khakis and sandals. I slowly gravitated towards a noisy pseudo- intellectual Bengali group with the possibility of an emotional connect: leveraging the common passions of leftist leanings, feudal set up/ inheritance, river songs and mutual love of sea food, subjects which are very sentimental yet difficult to articulate. The common tapestry of aristocracy, blue blood, history, genetic superiority stretches this continuity. As an Aristocratic Nair with a matrilineal and cross cultural heritage I was fortunate to be assimilated yet felt strangely alienated. Due to my nomadic childhood and broad minded parents, all traditions, cultures as well as ‘belonging’ had become equally questionable to me. Unknowingly the group continued their shallow party conversation, analyzing the rising cost of apartments, difficulty in sourcing household help, the latest blackberry curve, I phones gaming gizmos, cricket, cars and associated traffic snarls; the conversation gets more profound when they try to establish distant family connections to Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray, though I cant fathom why Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is not included in this ‘relative profiling’. It’s time to relieve my weak bladder, I go hunting for the urinal (oops cloak room).
When I returned the music had reached the right crescendo and the gyrating crowd had spilled into the open, their bodies and faces buzzed with glee, exhilaration, a jubilant awareness of being alive. With the alcohol dissolving in their bloodstream the inhibitions suddenly crumble and the real personae rushes in to their frames to sway to the rhythm of the Samba.
The spread on the buffet table tingles your olfactory senses, Sushi, Chinese, Pasta, Pizza, succulent barbecued chicken legs, no sign of roast Turkey though I spotted pork chops at the far end. As a dyed in the wool Mallu, my roots are in the digestive tract; Kerala food like Appam with stew, puttu, mussel fried, neighmeen, are simple flavorsome, unfussy with spice and I yearn for this soul food. Yet most party animals have this obsessive eating disorder (OED) a tendency or craving to eat substances with exotic names like caviar, sushi, Manchurian other than normal food, a symptom which occurs during pregnancy or childhood.
The clock strikes twelve and the crowd cheers, hug and kiss each other, a self evident and pre-fabricated symbolism which attaches itself to this Zenith, as the thought occurs to all, that they have made it so far, to a point where they can see horizontal, amidst the explosion of crackers the old earth reveals itself newly. Everyone is staring at their teeny LCD screens with haute nerd intensity, keying in hot text messages in the flat spectral non hour time zone, awash in limbic tides. Satiated with food and wine my neurons stir fitfully to complement a tumescence that is emanating in my groins, flashing an inappropriate reptilian demand.
Unfortunately there comes with old age and wanton life style stiffness in the wrong veins, caused by hardened deposits causing an inelasticity of physical muscle, sinew and mental fiber. Despite the lack of serotonin a strong urge for a physical linkage to a fellow mammal of the opposite sex arises. Turgidity will take forever as my thinning blood is strained from the upper torso to the loins to make a rumble in the jocks. This is more crippling than the heart attack.
The revelers return to the lowly drawing room talk asserting themselves with an acquired knowledge from the flat televisual series repeated daily by the pedestrian soaps. The news and mimetic pictures on TV, divides them metaphysically and forever from the real external world. Today’s viewer ship is dumb, and the truth is apt to make them uncomfortable, the same way that in real life true pleasure is usually a by product of hard work and discomfort. Life is a mirror which goes ‘fast’ like a watch sometimes. I will have to reset my brain. Welcome to 2010.


I have been working for more than thirty years and now on the verge of retirement I realize that I will have to continue working for another 3 decades to get the type of salaries that are offered to new MBA aspirants fresh out of “B” schools.

I vaguely remember during my college days some bright students- escape by way of scholarships or some tough cramming into the IIT to get into a technical position or like some others who by some decisive self interested act pass the IAS as then their prospects in the marriage market soars and comments like’” he is getting a four figure salary” which meant Rs.1000/ a month. A cab from the airport to town would cost more than that, my salary in 1972 was a princely sum of Rs. 350/, a long way off from the magic four figure/digits, and many years later when it became 8 digits we were delighted. Now I wince on discovering the disconcerting pay packets that are bandied around. I can’t remember how many zeros constitute these new CTC (cost to company) emoluments that are handed out liberally to management graduates and software professionals these days. Even the petro dollar Gulf countries cannot match these astronomical salaries. What recession, what downturn are we talking about?

Two years in a “B” school and it’s a dream world out there big cars, concepts, merger and acquisition deals, dinners and a huge wad of money at the end of the month, not to mention the ESOP’s that are distributed like confetti. Were we all Saps in our mid thirties? Trying to survive as a whole and independent executive with dislocations and painful separations from family and friends.. I had to eat my guts out to meet the annual targets, no time for sabbaticals, or partying with my old gang, just business cocktails and dinners adding pounds in the middle and pre-mature ageing. No gym, no workouts, no juice or salad bars, just a woeful scowl that signifies serious business intent.

There are a lot of old timers like me, still hard at work trying to save enough moolah at the end of their tenure to buy a decent apartment in Bombay. Our blood, sweat and tears have slowly vaporized in many outfits as we now await the “axe effect” I wish we had venture capitalists in those days then we could have sold our start ups and surfed the net all day long. Now we have to think twice before even entering a Starbucks for a meal.

Sometimes I envy Shyam a bright and avid boy who grew up in rural town but found the globalization unsettling and was forced to live off paychecks from his parents. He lived a tremendous and tragic life, battling the curse of alcohol for most of his short life. His hauntingly wonderful and tragically limited life has spawned a generation of similar stereotypes from the baby boomers generation, who have become a template for many Keralites who do not believe in a white or blue collar jobs nor employment during their lifetime and neither migrated to the red brigade so prevalent in Gods own country. The landscapes of our youth, with its old fashioned manners and mores of lifetime employment are gone and we cannot sit in judgment of the new world order where everything is outsourced to a third party. So it is the journey that matters, not the rewards or destination. Life itself is the path and goal we must tread carefully lest our carbon footprints pollute this order.


Frenetic as it was at 560032, fleetingly encountering you and Beena was like walking down better memory lanes “streets of early sorrows” sans the angst. The few hours I spent were a magical time albeit fleeting (in time) and I was sent hurtling back in time to the halcyon days of the 60’s. Meeting you perked me up as never before, it was like the wind in my sails, as we soul mates transcend space and time. It was a throwback to a different era, to the bleak dysfunctional large families from the perennially poor state of Kerala. North Malabar was a mythical place ruled by tyrannical uncles and strict parents/elders.: extended families with too many kids in the backyard. In those days there was a sense of wonder and adventure to all our activities. All of us had this primal fire in our bellies which has waned over the years. Post modern era’s trappings and ever moving clock, all conniving against us in this “urbane madness’. So this week my joys quadrupled, as I got a letter from another long lost kindred soul, Bunny AKA (Col AK Mohan) summoning memories of our old gang and how we rode roughshod over the Geeks and stern teachers, like R.H.(Robin Hood) and his merry men in days of yore. Downing the good stuff ‘’elixir of life” it was nice to reminisce about our school days. What better way to recreate the past then retrieve old memories and enter the world of nostalgia.

There are no more “merry men’’ left in Calicut and north Malabar is just a shadow of the “rain forest’’ it was before and the few brave men left are almost on the brink of serendipity albeit with a touch of winsome detachment. Now in Kerala it’s a strange juxtaposition of newly acquired gulf wealth and the affluence of the I.T /Software professional working class angst that we merge so dexterously from the memory of the 70’s to the new contemporary existence, hence this inter-play between two generations. The new 10 buck gizmos, trinkets of shining luster like cell phones, I-pods, blackberry’s and laptops which are the new gods of consumerism that give a soporific lull to our senses, in the global communications with their shallow information and ever expanding technology. Everyone is now trained to become a commodity, a Pilot, an M.B.A. I.T Pro with a saleable value before he can locate his path or life, the ends of these hopeless wanderings, in terms of purpose and place under the sun eludes us.

All of us forsook our sinecure living to fulfill our dreams, for us success was a by product of hard work and struggle. The new youth have been usurped by machines, computers, internet, mobile telephony, plastic money and automobiles seduced by the new economy and consumer culture on the superficial electronic highway.

Times whizzed past so quickly, and having consumed copious amounts of alcohol and eaten so much, I had to declare my belly as excess baggage on the flight back to Bombay and the only smoking seat left is in the cockpit, so imagine my plight.
Life is a funny tapestry! Let me sign off with a million thanks for the wonderful time and company. Be at peace for you are no longer in the race! Watch the sunset and recall all your signature moments.
For everything else there is MasterCard

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beware of the Ides of March

Night Longer than the Day
Mumbai 5/3/2008 Shivarathri

Dear AKR,

Congratulation, you have really retired from life, (or tired of life). A stoic silence greets all those friends who knew you. Now you can relax, watch T.V (Asia net) read news papers from end to end, eat (can’t drink I guess) or can you??? Is it retirement or resignation from life itself, or are you trying to debate the meaning of life on this planet. Finding out the real purpose or ponder over all those questions of your (non) accomplishments & what you wanted from the core of your heart? Now that you have moved into a new box (oops Flat) devoid of sun & bereft of air, perhaps some plastic trees in the balcony, which you don’t have to water any more. No tap water but you are in the ground floor, watching all passerby (s) and reliving your chaotic life. Dude what’s up??? No more waking up smelling of alcohol (C2 H05), have you lost the plot??.

This is how Hollywood film stars feel when they come out of Rehab! Do you look like hell, do you need hell??? I guess you are severely happy to have lost all sense of reality, all sense of progress, all sense of man made responsibilities, all sense …………. period… so be it.

“The wise will not judge, the foolish will be judged” When I read about the evils of drinking and smoking, I gave up reading! More power to you, Anambu Mani Ramdoss, Surgeon General & their ilk carrying on the good work of converting everyone to old fruit bags SAM & his tribe on the increase

As ever


P. S Smoking is a dying art.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Date: 08.04.2010
Place: Mumbai

I was deeply moved by the support and sympathy that poured in after the demise of my mother. It is a moment that now seems frozen in time, reinforcing the eternity of time scales and the fleeting nature of human existence.

She was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth yet what set her apart was her compassionate nature and heart of gold. Even in her school days, she would bring over her school friends, the underprivileged and impoverished for lunch at the sprawling ancestral “Rose Bungalow” in Payyanur. This was the richest period in her life; her happy and idyllic childhood was shattered by the death of her mother at the very tender age of nine; could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Thereafter she traveled with her father Sanjeev Menon, a senior Police officer all over Kerala wherever he was posted. Later when her father re-married she was sent to a hostel and in later years stayed with her cousins to resonate with anyone who has felt compelled to compromise their heritage, family and her…loneliness. After college she got married and set sail with her husband to the emerald isle of Ceylon where she started a new chapter of her life bringing up her brood with love and longing amidst the migrant melancholy of the situation…the immigrant experience.
Ceylon was very dear to all of us; we were well cared for and lived a happy life till we returned to India when ethnic riots tore the island. Then the real misery began contradictory terrains of poverty and wealth. Dad’s penchant for horse racing increased when he worked in various parts of the country, mostly where race-courses were situated. He led a roving shiftless life, working but never too long... she could not fall back on her ancestral property and landholdings as it was scarred by an act of treachery and dishonour, thereby depriving mom of her rightful share in her time of need. We began to live the life of vagabonds in rented houses, despite the lineage of landlords, continuous poverty dogged our footsteps in those days. It was Mom’s steely sense of determination that helped all of us to survive the hardships. She educated all of us and gave us direction and a new impetus with affection and love. With her around we had no fear of the future I feel sad for her as in those years she did not ever spend money on herself. Snatched from a shuttered life of extravagance and privilege, she had to live life like a commoner in her adult years. She always had a wistful faraway look when she remembered her childhood and past blue blooded days of glory. The years went by the children were settled, but she continued her work of charity to uplift the underprivileged. With the onset of her twilight years she wanted to stay all alone, quietly in Calicut amidst the sounds of birds chirping in the garden, a happy but lonely house, a terminal one. Here she reached a state of perfect equilibrium, yet the parting of her soul sent me into a benumbed reverie, an indescribable sense of loss and sorrow. At Varrakal beach where her mortal remains were immersed, amongst the waves receding ever so mysteriously into the depths of the ocean, the past trembled like a huge body of water crashing into the beachhead. Suddenly out of nowhere, a rainbow appeared bursting with radiance and colour on that rainy day. A celestial homage as she made her peace with the Neptunian forces, eternally out of our reach. The earth seemed like a dead planet, as we broke the ancestral membrane which had kept us suspended above the void, the umbilical cord was severed in all its finality. Later in an obscure corner of a remote galaxy, drenched in the surreal light of dawn, in the age old temple of Tiruvanaaya, by the side of the eternal river, the priests chanted slokas carrying the legacy of tradition and belief: a quest to explore ourselves—our roots and connections with what lies beyond. Somewhere else in the far eastern hemisphere of our planet, the symphony between two celestial bodies had begun,* culminating in a total eclipse, as darkness enveloped all our lives. Nothing can arrest that pain, sorrow and loss which heralded the end of an era!