KALI KALAM- When Kali Plays Havoc -A Short Play.

KALI KALAM- When Kali Plays Havoc -A Short Play.


Act 1- At A Betrothal Function

Act 1- Scene 1

Mr.Ramanujam’s house- 7Pm in the evening. There are lots of guests seated about and loud conversations going on between them.

Mr.Kumar : I say Mr. Ramanujam this engagement function you have arranged today was even grander than what we expected. All we were looking for was a simple ceremony for a small group of relatives.

Mr.Ramanujam: Oh don’t say like that Kumar sir, or should I call you sambandhi sir now that the engagement is over? Anyway we are all pleased to have such an alliance like yours for our daughter and we just coudnt help not informing all our relatives of our good fortune. Otherwise they might not even talk to us in the future.

(Loud chorus of voices saying; yes, yes, that’s true, we wouldn’t have, this is the right thing)

Mr.Kumar: Well let me not be the reason for such a rift among close relatives. We are simple people Mr.Ramanujam and we believe that simple ceremonies are better when it comes to important things like the future of our children together rather than being ostentatious and inviting envy. That’s the only reason why I asked you to arrange a small betrothal ceremony at your house rather than hold it in some fancy hotel in a gaudy way.

Mr.Ramanujam: I appreciate that sentiment wholeheartedly sambandhi sir. You have proved yourself a genuine person by even refusing any dowry or any other expectations. The least we could do from the girls’ side is to celebrate this marriage in a way it will never be forgotten by our families. Our children definitely deserve that for agreeing to an arranged marriage in this day and age when everywhere we look young people are doing all sorts of low hand things in the name relationships- love, living together and all that sort of trash. I don’t know where this world is going to end up if such things persist in the name of modernity- kali kalam, kali kalam.

Mr.Kumar: Very true sambandhi. Very true. That is why the city was almost drowned in the floods last year. Even Lord Varuna couldn’t bear the things these modern day girls are doing in the name of feminism, women’s rights etc. I wonder how the parents of these girls are able to face their neighbors. In our days the entire locality would have boycotted the family if a girl had behaved like they do now. But let’s leave that aside. We are fortunate to have found such a girl like yours and such a family like yours in this day and age- a pure unspoilt, fully traditional girl who listens to her parents and marries their choice. We are truly blessed to have such a girl come to us as a daughter-in-law. We should visit Tirumala soon and offer our worship to Lord Venkateswara for bringing our two families together like this- as soon as we print the first invitation to lay at the lords’ lotus feet. What say you sambandhi?

Mr.Ramanujam: Very good sambandhi, very good, all credit to the Good Lord Of The Seven Hills who helped bring our two families closer. But one small request from our side.

Mr.Kumar (still in a jolly mood): Of course sambandhi. Do you even need to ask like this? What is it?

Mr.Ramanujam: It’s just that ….ummmph…now that the engagement is over…my daughter feels that woudnt it be better to have the wedding after a few months gap? Just to let the young people get to know each other better? Rather than rushing into it?

(The first sounds of jarring disquiet appear on the faces of both happy parties)

Mr.Kumar: but, but how long can we postpone the wedding after the engagement? Won’t people talk? It doesn’t seem proper for traditional families like us to keep pushing off the wedding date. Besides what need is there for the two to get to know each other at this late stage? Didn’t they already talk when we came to see the girl last week?

Mr.Ramanujam: But that was only for a few minutes, my daughter feels. She wants to get to know your sons likes and dislikes better to enable her to be a better wife to your son from day one. That’s the only reason she wants a little time between the betrothal and the wedding.

Mr.Kumar:  : Oh we are a traditional family but we are not such a strict family like that. Your daughter need not worry about something like that. Let her take her own time to adjust to our family –we won’t mind. Besides she has got the rest of her life to learn about our sons likes and dislikes hasn’t she? Why should we postpone the wedding for such a trivial reason?.

Mr.Ramanujam: I am truly truly sorry to say this Sambandhi. But my daughter insists that we hold the wedding after at least six months. That would help her get prepared for the wedding in the proper frame of mind and to know your son better.

Mr.Kumar: hmmmph…I say Mr.Ramanujam, it would have been better to have told us this condition of your daughters before the engagement ceremony got over. Now we are left with no choice but to fall in with you.

Mr.Ramanujam: But nothing’s changed sambandhi, nothing changes, just that we need some more time to conduct the wedding in a grand manner. We are still very happy to have an alliance with such a traditional family like yours and such a wel respected one too.

Mr.Kumar: I don’t know Mr. Ramanujam we somehow feel this is the wrong decision on your part. We should guide our children when they make mistakes and not encourage them. Look at my son here- he will tie the mangalasutra whenever wherever I direct him to. Girls should not be allowed their whims and fancies and to dictate terms like this when it comes to auspicious events like weddings. But what to do at this late stage. We are helpless. Come – all of you (to his assembled friends and relatives) it’s time to leave, we have intruded on their hospitality too much.

(And as the grooms family leaves in a huff- the varied crowd behind – especially the two old grandmothers on either side murmur softly: bad decision, bad decision, nothing good is going to come out of this, postponing the wedding to a girls whims, we never got to know each other before we married aren’t we still living together?….(the noise fades slowly in the background.)

Act 2 –Later That Night.

ACT 2- Scene 1 – at Mr. Kumars house.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar- I think this is a blessing in disguise appa. This gives us time to study the girl too. In fact we can wait and see whether she really resigns her job as she promised to do when we went to see her. I really don’t think an Ad Agency is a decent place for a decent lady to work. But as her father said it was just a hobby for time pass she was working I let it go. Let me use this time to get to know her well and we can take a final call later.

ACT 2- Scene 2 – at Mr. Ramanujans house

Mr.Ramanujans Daughter –The Bride Arundathi Ramanujam : Thank god that you stood by your word daddy. I was afraid you might give in easily. Now that we have postponed the marriage let me talk to that boy and then see if he really is like what he said he was during the girl seeing ceremony. Lets keep the marriage as late as we can- that gives me more time to decide once and for all whether he will fit me or not.

(Again we hear the voices in the background – The Respective Grandmothers murmuring: dont know where this is going to end up but we suspect something bad. Dear God please put some sense into these people and make them fix the marriage immediately.)

Act 3 – Six Months Later.

ACT 3 – Scene 1 – At Mr. Kumars House.

Mr.Kumar – I cant believe it. Never thought they would do this. To ask us to postpone the marriage at this late stage when everything is ready, all our relatives invited and all the invitations mailed. It would be better to stop it once and for all then to keep postponing it to satisfy their whims and fancies.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar: i told you so dad, right from the beginning. I always knew that the excuse that girl used – to want to get to know me- was a complete pretext to do something like this. I suspect she planned this right from the beginning. Thats why she asked for time. Now that she has got what she planned for, she wants to keep us permanently on hold till she finsihes her project in the USA and comes back next year. Or if something goes wrong there she can hurry back here and pretend nothing ever happened. Do they take us for fools? To keep waiting eternally for that girl? As if there are no ther girls around?

Mr.Kumar : Yes, yes, they must think we are fools to wait around for another year for that girl to come back from her project. Let me talk to Mr.Ramanujam one last time and we will decide once and for all.

Mr.Kumars Son – The Bridegroom Ashwin Kumar:  Yes dad, talk to him and tell me what you decide. As if there are no other girls around willing to marry me. You tell me dad and i will get a dozen girls willing to marry me tomorrow. In fact there is one girl who works on my team, who is of our own caste but different gothra, everything. Mum has already seen her and likes her. You just tell me what those people say and we will decide once and  for all.

ACT 3 – Scene 2 – at Mr. Ramanujans house

Mr.Ramanujam: But what will our people say at our calling off the wedding at this late stage? Why coudnt you have told us earlier?

Mr.Ramanujans Daughter –The Bride Arundathi Ramanujam:  But i did tell you daddy and you woudnt hear me. You are always listening to that old foggy- grandmother who keeps predicting dire things if i dont marry immediately. I told you this was my ambition- to go on atleast one project abroad. When every dog and donkey in my company can go on an offsite project why cant i?  Let me finish the project and come back and marry someone. In fact i can even find good people from our caste their itself. So many of our people are working there and they will all be broad-minded too. In fact even in my team which is going with me there are so many saadhu paiyans who wont cross a line i draw instead of arguing with me like the maapillai you fixed for me. Good riddance to him and his family. Let him marry a village girl who stays home and cooks for him.

Mr.Ramanujam:  I cant take it that lightly. I am worried about what people will talk about us? You would have gone to America but we have to answer everyone from the apartment watchman to the vegetable seller as to why the wedding was stopped at this late stage.

 Mr.Ramanujans daughter –the bride Arundathi Ramanujam:  Oh Daddy, you can always lay the blame on that boy. Tell everyone that we found out his character was bad and he had connections with his female co-workers. That way we can keep the moral high ground and no one will blame us. They will beleive anything of boys nowadays.

(Again we hear the voices in the background – the respective grandmothers murmuring: this is what we warned against when we told to hold the wedding immediately after the engagement. Listen to us- listen to our voice of experience- we knew something like this will happen when two people are not definitely committed to each other but are left free to explore other options. Unless there is a sense of finality which the thali around the throat brings and people have that sense that their life is finished once and for all with the wedding- they will always think about other people. But once married they would have adjusted to anything, anyhow and probably lived and celebrated their Shastibhoorthi- the 60th wedding together. All kali kalam, kali kalam- who listens to old and wise people nowadays? Its all youngsters choices and family tragedies – and full regards to Kali.)

– The End-



What the Dickens


Having recently watched the entire season 1 of Dickensian, the TV series from BBC1, which over the course of twenty half hourly episodes spans the entire spectrum of Charles dickens books giving a prelude to each and every one of dickens immortal characters and their motivations for behaving as they do in the books, I embarked on the next logical step for every diehard dickens fan. To re-read the entire oeuvre, every single one of dickens books again. And not only that but this time I wanted to do it in the proper chronological order in which they were written/published by the author -from his first book Sketches by Boz which he published under a pseudonym to his last and uncompleted novel- Mystery of Edwin Drood halfway through writing which Charles dickens died suddenly. I decided to make a proper job of it and have spent the last one month finishing up the dickens collection and here are a few stray thoughts on re-reading dickens after a lapse of so many years.

To begin with (to my surprise) I found that some of my old favourites like pickwick papers and nickolas nickelby though favourites still, are no longer capable of gripping my attention like a few others which I once deemed to be too morbid or morose in the past. The antics of the pickwickians and the incorrigible sam weller still raises a few laughs when I re-read the books but now the entire gang seem like one of the old familial  whatsaap groups you drop in from time to time just to check who’s still in there but otherwise leave well alone despite the notifications. The ones which I enjoyed now include bleak house, great expectations, oliver twist and mystery of Edwin drood.

Bleak house which as the name suggests is every bit as bleak a story can be, absolutely captivated me when I re-read it this past month. The fictitious legal story of jarndyce vs jarndyce, the great case of the chancery courts has very eerie similarity to what we see and read every day in Indian courts and justice system. The way that cases are postponed indefinitely till the parties to the case conveniently die off and the court costs swallow up the entire property, the way the lawyers on both sides collude to keep dragging the case till the unfortunate litigants are forced to regret to their graves the day they stepped into court expecting justice in a mistaken belief of the majesty of law and fair play – everything seems to have been written just for Indian courts and legal system.

 The book “bleak house” left me wondering if our Indian judiciary is right now where the British courts where 300 years ago- an uncaring, money squeezing enterprise capable of driving everyone- both litigants and witnesses to despair with the never ending process of offering justice. In a span of nearly two centuries after the book was first published the British seem to have improved their justice system to such an extent that British law has turned into a more responsible version of itself now. But although we Indians inherited that same legal code and the same system of judiciary we did not, to our eternal misfortune, inherit the same system of accountability for the processes of law which the British have instilled in their justice system. I guess it will take another 300 more years (at least?) till Indian courts become accountable to the common public and cases will be decided when the litigants are still alive to hear the news of the judgments. Till then every day you can see another travesty of a jarndyce vs jarndyce in Indian law.

The next book I really loved this time was great expectations which when I was younger I never really appreciated to the extent I do now. Although the book is filled with despicable characters none of whom can claim the least amount of sympathy from us the readers, the book is a very fine example of the folly of people who are always maneuvering to gain the smallest bit of advantage in their personal lives by often missing the big picture entirely in their micro management. If we look around ourselves we can see a lot of typical characters from great expectations in real life every single day. All those ass kissers, boot lickers, revengeful persons who spend all their life plotting to gains some minuscule bit of advantage over someone else- every single character in great expectations sounds true to life and sitting just beside you in the next cubicle at work. And now that I am older and wiser and been through enough heartbreaks I can appreciate miss Havisham’s character more clearly although I cannot countenance any sympathy for her because in my view she deserves what she got for being who she is- a haughty, imperious egoistic feminist who falls for the worst possible fraud. Great expectations is the definitive lesson to every single girl who friend zones nice guys for not agreeing with their feminazi views. If any man wholeheartedly agrees with the femi-nazis there is no doubt he is a compeyson in the making who kisses ass just to screw her out of her money later on. Nice guys don’t always win is the take home message from great expectations.

The other book I liked when I reread it this time around were the mystery of Edwin drood- dickens only attempt at writing a detective novel and the only one which he left unfinished, which in a way is the perfect ending for the book. For although we can suspect every one and the uncle character is steadfastly built up to be the evil villain the book reflects the real life conundrum that sometimes perfect crimes can never be exposed and villains do get away with them. In my view as a lifelong dickens fan I believe that Edwin drood should be left well alone as it is without being finished by someone else as is often proposed by amateur dickens societies. The mystery of Edwin drood should remain a mystery till the end as maybe dickens planned?

I also could look on and sympathize a whole lot with dickens complex characters who require a certain maturity to understand them. I can now confidently say that I understand better ralph nickelby’s (the evil uncle from Nicholas nickelby) motivations perfectly well. Here was a man, a self made man who had worked hard to get where he was suddenly in the twilight of his life thrust upon with fawning relatives left behind by a man careless enough to have children but with no thought to provide for them except to believe his rich brother (the brother who started life at the same footing as him) would provide for just because he doesn’t have a family to call his own and all his money has to go somewhere and where else except to the wastrel brothers brood of kids who grow up thinking themselves entitled to it. No wonder ralph nickelby is bitter at his dead brother and his groping relatives.

Similar is the case with Fagin. Here was a man who took in runaways and wastrels and street kids and gave them a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. In return he made use of them to rob rich people of frivolities life pocket handkerchiefs. is he such a villain then? When the entire society has turned a blind eye to homeless kids and strays who live on the streets, this man takes them in and makes us of them. Just like the government does in its workhouses. I don’t see that Fagin is such a great villain as he is made out in the later adaptations on TV and film. Remember if he was such a bad man who harassed his kid the dodger for one, a genuine badass himself, wouldn’t have stuck around and defended Fagin as he did for so long. There is equal parts good and bad in characters like Fagin. It takes a long time and many re-readings to understand his point of view. And there lies dickens genius. To make you look at old familiar characters in a new light every time you re-read the same book.

I hope I haven’t been boring you with this doctoral dissertation level analysis of dickens novels. If you too are a fan of dickens or even if you have just read one or two of his novels write in to me in the comments section and we wil have a ball discussing our views.


On How I Got Old And Got Religion

On How I Got Old And Got Religion


On my good days i am an agnostic and on my bad days i am an atheist.  Which simply means that most days i am too busy to think much about god and his various malfeasances on my life. Its on those rare days when i have absolutely nothing to do- like days when i am on Sunday duty (on 24 hours duty from Sunday morning to Monday morning) or on jail duty (when i sit inside the prison hospital all day/all alone, waiting to treat the occasional prisoner with a real illness) that i get to think about my lot in life and the role belief in divinity plays in it. Such deep and uninterrupted thinking mostly makes me uncomfortable- as a man of science the more i think about it logically, the more the inherent pattern of the universe reveals itself as orderly evolution and not dependant on the whims and fancies of any single divine entity. Ok, to stop beating around the bush- science and all my scientific temper tell me a creator is not needed as the universe can exist by itself famously and we need look for no further mysterious entities to explain the order and beauty all around us. But and this is a slowly evolving but, except in those rare periods when i allow my brain to over-rule my gut, mostly my gut makes me automatically genuflect to every little roadside deity that i pass by on my commute as in a “What if? Anyway, its not gonna hurt is it? Showing a little respect on the off-chance that god really exists?”

And i find i am doing it more and more nowadays, worshipping god- whom i don’t believe in half the time, reading and researching books about hinduism – the religion i was born in and publicly defending hinduism against various assaults by other unbelievers and intensely religious people of other religions. Which last point is the crux of this post {there, there, i finally got around to it after beating so long around the bush}. Anyway our religion is mostly what we are born with- at least in India. If you are born a hindu , 99% of the time you die a hindu. Its the very rare person who converts into a different religion and not because of any lack of effort from the votaries of other religions.  Its because hinduism is the easiest of religions to follow- it has no single god you need to worship, it has no fixed set of timings or days you need to worship- you can pray as little or as much as you want. You can go for years together without thinking about god and suddenly get religious and start worshipping every calendar or wall poster with a goddess picture on it. There are no strict rules or rituals to follow (if you disregard the brahmin priests who keep trying to thrust their version of an aryanised/sanskritized form of hinduism on others) and you can worship whichever way you want and whichever deity you want. Freedom to worship or freedom not to worship- both are the essence of hinduism. That kind of incredible choice you don’t get in other religions.

Most hindus i know are atheists except on feast days when they adopt religiosity mainly for the sweets served as part of the celebrations. I was like that too- until i recently became fed up of all the proselytizing going on around me trying to convert me. I belong to the hindu religion so i have every right to question the questionable practices of hinduism- like the barbaric practice of sacrificing animals to gods, or the pseudo-sanctity of the priestly class who insist that they alone are eligible to approach the sanctum sanctorum inside temples or otherwise the deity will get polluted and things like those. I can and will raise my voice loudly against such insane acts and self serving beliefs in the name of rote rituals which merely serve to alienate the majority of hindus away from hinduism. But that doesn’t mean i will convert away from hinduism into christianity. No sir, no way. There is no chance of it- when it comes to being stubborn and digging my legs in immovably- a donkey can pick up pointers from me.

Just because i criticize hinduism doesn’t mean i am ripe to be converted into a christian. And i observe that every single time i criticise hinduism or raise my voice against whatever is wrong in hinduism immediately i am flooded with dozens of messages from well meaning christian friends wanting me to understand the superiority of christianity and trying to save me from my sin of being born a hindu. I got nothing against jesus christ, but when a man is questioning the very basis of religion does it make sense to try and preach to him the superiority of our own religion in contrast to his inferior one? Why the average christian is so desperate to convert others is something i fail to understand. Does the conversion of one pour soul- me- an out and out sinner going to make any difference to the kingdom of christ? Does jesus wants me so bad? If so wouldn’t he appear to me directly like he did to saul? To try and save me from any further sins? Or better yet, why didn’t he make me be born directly into a christian family so i could have been a christian from birth? Instead of taking this roundabout way to salvage my soul by converting me in this ripe old age when i already have one foot in the grave.

Whenever i publicly and loudly criticise those charlatans who are giving hinduism a bad name- people like jaggi and sri sri my christian friends immediately join in the chorus to talk about these false priests as the very idiom of the devil but when i also raise the names of dinakaran or sadhu solomon or mohan lazarus they clam up and go defensive. Why? For a fraud is a fraud in all religions. And those who use the name of god to make a fast buck must be called out regardless of whatever religion they profess. Why this double standard is what i fail to get.

Anyhow all this preaching to the wrong choir has at least got me thinking about religion and god and hinduism. I am reading more books on hinduism and trying to learn more stuff to understand why it is the way it is. My understanding of hinduism and religion in general is expanding the more people try aggressively to convert me.  I am trying to read up on all the different streams of hindu thought –advaita/dvaita and all those hard to understand stuff i used to skip during my younger days. I am trying to understand the paths of saints who suddenly discovered god and turned religious. In the recent few months i have turned more religious than i ever was in my younger days- thus perfectly embodying the old adage “you get religion as you grow older”.

And i think i will stay an hindu for the rest of my life- not the rabid hindu fundamentalist type of hindu- but a more gentler philosophical type of hindu- someone who gets that religion is just a different pathway to morality. Something i wish that all my proselytizing friends who wish to convert me will also understand and which will make them better persons in their own religions. Jai Hind.

It Runs In The Family

It Runs In The Family


Padmanabhan, better known as Enfield Padmanabhan for he had once owned an enfield bike servicing station was one of the premier automotive parts dealers in the city. But that was in the beginning of his career n the auto parts industry when he landed in Chennai from Kumbakonam with wife and baby daughter in tow. Nowadays, regardless of the manufacturer or company, Indian or foreign, four wheeler or two wheeler, Mr. Padmanabhan invariably had a dealership for that particular vehicle. After twenty years of doing business he was now the retail king of the automobile industry- all brands under the same roof. Sometimes his peers in the automotive industry whispered between themselves that no one had a better grasp on the overall view of how the industry was faring than Padmanabhan. And not only locally, for every month or so Padmanabhan would fly off abroad visiting automotive fairs worldwide to try and grasp the arising and future trends in the transportation field to get in on the ground floor of any new innovation. For all that Padmanabhan didn’t have a large family -just the wife and daughter he came to Chennai with all those years ago, to set up an independent business.

If you thought that only Mr. Enfield Padmanabhan was the go-getter of their family you are far off the mark, for his wife Sudha was as equally ambitious as her husband but her chosen sphere of expressing her talent was  on their daughter Tara.  Ever since Tara was born Sudha had completely devoted all her energies to making Tara as accomplished a person as can ever be. She lived, breathed and dreamt all the time about how her daughter could be molded into being the person that Sudha had always wanted to be. From the time she woke up in the morning till the time she went to bed, every segment of Tara’s life was strictly regulated- French class, tennis class, college, music class, dance class everything had its proper time and place in her daily life. She had no free hour left to divert her mind into useless thoughts which might lead her astray from her mothers ambitious plan for her future. She was dropped at college in the mornings and picked up at college at the stroke of the bell by Munusamy their most trusted family driver from the same village as Padmanabhan. She never went anywhere, including her friends houses, without Sudha or Munusamy accompanying her. Her friends were all vetted by Sudha who often weeded out the undesirables and independent thinkers among them.

 In short Tara led a robotic life under constant supervision being told what to do and how to do it, all the time. The only time she had rebelled, or leastwise had tried to rebel was when she qualified for a merit seat in a government medical college but her mother Sudha had put her foot down and refused to allow her to join medicine. Sudha had been most insistent that her daughter not join any professional course but only some women’s only arts college for a bachelor of arts degree in some social sciences subject. While Tara screamed, cried and went on a hunger strike for almost ten days to be allowed to join medicine. In the end she gave into her mothers unreasonable demands and joined an arts college for a bachelor of arts degree in geography. No one ever asked Tara and she never offered any explanation for why geography.

Padmanabhan was relieved that the rebellion was finally at an end. He had left the whole management of the household to this wife and he was loath to interfere and supersede her authority in the vain fear that it would mean more involvement at home with lesser time devoted to expanding his business. Husband and wife were very happy when their daughter finally fell in-line and listened to them as she had done all her life. The only thing which puzzled Padmanabhan about the whole affair was why his wife was dead-set against medicine and refused to allow her daughter to step inside a medical college. Poor man he did not know that back in those days, before they were both married his wife Sudha had been a medical college student studying in a co-educational institution in the big city far away from their native place.There, she had fallen in love with a bus conductor named Altaf who had looked like a younger version of the then reigning filmy heartthrob, Superstar Rajesh Khanna and who worked as the conductor of the city bus which she took regularly to and fro from college to her hostel. Convinced that Sama Sastrigal her strict and orthodox father would not agree to the inter religious marriage, she had eloped with Altaf to Bombay as he had told her he had rich relatives there who had promised to get him a Gulf job. They were married at a roadside temple as soon as they had landed in Bombay and then they spent their honeymoon in a seedy lodge in Matunga.

At the end of ten days of a blissful life, Sudha had woke up one morning to find herself  surrounded by a group of rough looking men who bundled her off in a tempo van after paying Altaf quite a large sum for those days. The next few days were still a hazy memory for Sudha as the last thing she remembered was Altaf standing there and waving goodbye to her as the van carried her away to Bombay’s premier red-light district. Her next few months were spent on her back with legs raised in the air, earning for her keep by servicing up-to twenty men a night and more. Until a kind customer from their native place Kumbakonam who had visited the brothel out of loneliness and was delighted to find a  young tamil speaking girl to service him, had listened to Sudha’s pleadings and agreed to inform Sama Sastry of his missing daughters plight which he promptly did by sending a postcard to Sastry with a few brief details.

Sastrigal took the next train from Kumbakonam to Bombay and spending all his provident fund bought back his daughter from the brothel owner and took her straight back home discontinuing her medical studies abruptly. Within the next few months he had identified a relative boy from a near but poor family, called Spare Parts Padmanabhan who went around in a fish cart buying broken down scrap from garbage dealers to sell to local mechanics. Padmanabhan despite his ambitions was a failure at business and had loans all around the city with his lenders threatening to break his limbs one by one if he didn’t start repaying soon. In that kind of critical financial circumstance Sastri’s offer of settling all his debts if he married his daughter came like a godsend to padmanabhan. Although he had heard a few stories, common rumours around kumbakonam about Sastris daughter who had done something bad in the big city the offer of having all his lenders paid off and the chance for a fresh start in life prompted padmanabhan to close his ears to everything and marry sudha.

With the money that Sudha’s father gave him as dowry Padmanabhan paid off all his debts and wound up his failed business honourably without declaring bankruptcy and finally decided to leave behind kumbakonam to move to chennai to make a fresh start in life and business. And that’s how Spare parts Padma turned into the honourable Mr.Enfield Padmanabhan the owner of a string of automobile workshops all over the country.  Despite achieving success beyond even his wildest imagination in business, when it came to the home front the fact that his wife was not only better educated than him, but was the source of all his early seed money for the business was the reason that he left all the decisions of the household in her capable hands and never interfered in anything, including the welfare of his daughter. That and the fact that he couldn’t in good conscience accept even in his innermost guilty thoughts that his daughter, a healthy full sized infant, was born just six months into their marriage.

To get back to our story it was the day of Tara’s convocation ceremony when she would receive her graduate degree in the university senate hall from the state governor in his role as the vice chancellor of the university. The household was all up and in earnest from the morning. For although forced to study something she did not like, tara had nevertheless passed out with distinction and had achieved a university first and hence later this evening she would be getting her merit certificate and gold medal from the hands of the vice chancellor himself. By early afternoon sudha was all dressed up and ready, in her excitement she kept running up to daughter Tara’s room with multiple reminders of how she should dress, how she should walk , how she should greet the vice chancellor and turn to look at the audience as she received her certificate and gold medal, to better enable the professional photographer and videographer Sudha had hired to memorialize the proud moment. She also kept calling Padmanabhan throughout the day, often talking to his secretary to make sure that the great man was reminded to leave office early enough to reach the convocation hall in time to watch their only daughter receive her degree certificate, in fact the only one in their family to ever graduate with a degree. Padmanabhan promised to be there in time, even if he had to leave the entire office in lurch.

By seven PM tara was sitting there in the front row of the auditorium along with the best outgoing students of her batch who were supposed to be called early to the stage before the mass of the graduating students got their regular degree certificates. She had been primped, primed and dressed to kill by her mother and as she sat there she slowly used her hanky to wipe away all the extra makeup her mother had painted on her face. She knew that her mother and father sitting at the back of the hall in the seating reserved for parents and relatives would not notice anything’s amiss. As soon as there was a hububb in the hall and the audience got to its feet as the chief guest entered, Tara slowly slipped out of her seat and moved into the side aisle. She whispered to ther college mate sitting in the last row, “i really, really have to go pee, give me a missed call when the speech gets over” and she used the side door of the hall to leave towards the toilets.

But instead of entering the ladies toilet she kept walking straight on to the end of the corridor where there was a side entrance which looked unused. She let herself outside the hall paused to look back once at the hall where her parents sat inside all oblivious and then with a bit of a spring in her steps she walked straight to the carpark where her driver munusamy was lounging in the  front seat of the car. She got in beside him boldly, which was a first for her as they had always been careful not to let sudha suspect anything. She laid her head with a sigh on Munusamy’s shoulder as he started the car and drove off in the direction of the railway station.

Tara gave a little laugh as she said “i thought that evening would never come, the way the day dragged so slowly. Have you got the tickets for the journey ?” Munusamy patted his pocket as he said “Two tickets on the mumbai express in different names. Tomorrow we would be near mumbai by this time and day after tomorrow we would be married there and start our family.” Tara replied without looking at him “Don’t worry, money should not be a problem, i wore all my jewels to the function like you said. My mom was very happy to see me wear them all”. Munusamy looked down at the head resting on his shoulder and thought with a glint in his eye “so this is the golden goose, you can pluck it till it gives and then sell it to make a tidy profit, lucky me”.  And the car went steadily on in the night bearing daughter to the same fate as mother.

P.S. If you are puzzled by the title and ask me what runs in the family? The answer would be “Stupidity”

One, For Team Humanity

One, For Team Humanity

(Credit: Written for a Blog prompt- WHAT DIVINITY MEANS TO YOU- given by my blogger friend Mahesh Lakshman.)


The man who had committed suicide so recently, had left his clothes in a neat bundle by the riverside. I stood there looking down at those neatly folded clothes and coudnt help admiring how much effort he had gone to get the creases in those clothes right, when he knew, most probably, that he never was going to wear them again, ever.  He had taken his time to strip down to his bare essentials before wading down into the river, a fast flowing mountain stream, with loads of happy shrieking tourists just minutes away from the spot, bathing in the waterfalls which gave them the same pleasure with its speed and flow that had dragged this man away to his death. Joy and death near to each other, you just cant beat that combination any given day.

The clothes looked too neat to be disturbed which made me hesitate to bend down and search for the suicide note in their midst, but i soon realised that it was useless to do so. A man this neat, would probably have left his suicide note in plain view to avoid anyone disturbing his clothes after his death. I looked around and there was no note. In fact though there were riverine pebbles lying all around, there was no large stone nearby capable of holding down a suicide paper from the stiff breeze and other stray wanderers, which i realised was what he would have done if i had read him right in death.

And till now there seemed no obvious reason why the man had done what he had done. I squatted on my haunches to have a deep think about it. Why? Why? Why?  Could it be the Brexit? I mean, no one had seriously expected the Brits of all people to have the gumption to leave the loony tunes club of united europe ruled by that megalomaniac merkel of germany. But the brits had dared to do that and the rest of the pusillanimous financial world had punished them for their rare courage by taking out their anger on the pound. Had this man messed up all his money on foreign exchange trades hoping to make a quick buck betting against the euro?

Or was it the fact that hillary clinton had won the democratic nomination which had driven him to this desperate step? The fact that the american economy drives the world and this time the americans had a real chance to vote for an outsider like ole’ bernie sanders to clean up the stinking augean stables but the same old vested interests had thrown their money bags behind reckless hillary to buy her the chance to do more of the same they had been doing all these years? Could that kind of sheer futility at real change have driven him to this?

Or maybe it was something closer home? What if he had been an older man? An old helpless pensioner who had worked in the government field for 30 plus years? Slaved in some low-level desk job and retired with a small pension only to be told that the modi government was now privatizing pension and throwing the peoples pension fund into the indian stock market, yes that same bottomless pit which has swallowed up all of the public money thrown into it all these years, just to please the party’s financial bankers, those crony capitalists, who had financed the modi governments electoral victory?

The fact that his meagre pension, the only incentive of a government servant for the low pay and long hours had just been thrown into the stock market might have rushed off this man to suicide earlier than the other crores of pensioners who are waiting for the bland official announcement someday which  will say that the sensex had tanked and the saving of all those old people( invested in the stock market by the government) had disappeared overnight (into the pockets of those ambanis and adanis) and they would have to beg in the streets on the morrow.  That must be the reason why this man had died.

No, on further reflection, it couldn’t be, for this man had a bright green cardigan folded neatly. I couldn’t imagine any old retiree wearing this kind of snazzy wear to his death. For the man must have known this morning, somehow i was dead sure of this, that he was dressing to die today. He wouldn’t have chosen this bright garment if he had been an old depressed man. On the other hand which man would dress so brightly for his death? Why had he died? What made him do it? Just walk into the river so calmly knowing he would die?

For thats the irony of life isnt it? We never know when we are born and when we die- two events absolutely beyond our control. But this man was one the few, the very few, brave men, who not only knew when he was going to die but also choose the how. Not all of us are that lucky to choose the day and time to die. Most of use just die on the streets of our cities as we  do our daily commute to work thinking all the time about meeting targets and satisfying our superiors enough to stay employed for another month with absolutely no clue that we need not worry about the long term if you happen to live in india for the odds are you wont live long enough to see the long term.

Caught up in the hassles of everyday survival , when survival every day itself is a hassle, we don’t take the time to think about our deaths far less plan for it- the odd life insurance policy doesn’t count here. But this man done that – he had chosen to die, he had beaten fate to the punch. Or had he? Was it his destiny? To die here? To die now? All alone in this river? Had god got his revenge afterall? A pointless death to follow a meaningless life?

Just to make random people  read about your death in the mornings newspaper and use it to make a point to others of their acquaintances “see that’s life, you never how know god will end it, so always stay good so you can meet him with a clean conscience?”. So excuse me, this man died to make this point? That god is omnipotent? That god can snuff your life in a minute? Just to make sure that others toe his line about being goody-two shoes all the time? What kind of god uses punishment of one as a lesson to others? To make sure that everyone else falls in line?

Oh wait, you are going to say that god did not take this mans life but he did it himself? Ok lets follow this analogy a bit furhter and agree that this man made his own choice in death. But lets start at the beginning did this man have a choice in when he was born, where he was and especially to who he was born? As human beings we always always praise our parents for giving us love and affection and for being the best parents ever? But are we really lucky in who our parents were? What if our life could have have been infinitely easier if we had a different set of circumstances in our births?

Being born in a different country say being born an american citizen would have been so much easier for those who so crave the f-1 visas that they would rather marry for a visa than for love? Say being born rich, filthy rich, like sid mallya for instance, would have made a difference to someone who pulls fully loaded hand carts for a living instead of screwing young girls for fun while dad swindles entire nations to afford that lifestyle? Or being born to rich parents, parents rich enoigh to save you from the police when your car runs over someone by bribing everyone in sight instead of being arrested by the police and locked away for six years without a trial just because you were flying a kite in the street and a police constable didnt like your face?

And you still think that god played fair in your birth? What if this man had none of these advantages of birth? What if he had been born an orphan brought up without education had no steady work all his life and never went to sleep a single day with a full belly. And will you still blame him if he choose to die? And will you still say your god is fair? And its all fate? Dont talk to me of a benevolent god- for all i know, god created man on one his hangover days just to have some fun watching the poor creatures flop around trying to get by in life.  Most human lives are filled with misery from birth to death and its a wonder that more such miserable creatures do not break and take their own lives.

Oh, so you are going to say that misfortune builds character? Oh really, You want to go there? What was character ever done to make the life of a man, any man easier? If you take a look around its the amoral men who are all ruling us from top to bottom. They have their way with everything because they are gods favored lot, his lucky offspring.  And the most immoral of creatures, the very definition of absolute evil are the ones who parade around boldly as religious gurus and priests- those who interpret gods dictates to everyone else- to the foolish masses looking for some meaning in their meaningless daily lives. If that isn’t a joke god plays on us, i don’t know what else is.

So lets get back to this man, this anonymous braveheart who chose to end it all his own way instead of keeping on struggling through a meaningless life just because someone, some law full of crap, prohibits the taking of life. If a person has no right to take his own life- the only one thing he is born with and absolutely owns and if even that right is taken away by the law and the state and god then what is left as the lot of humanity? Is man born to live and die a slave? To live life to the dictates of everyone else except self? Can man never exceed his existence and aspire for something more? The right to his own life?

The more i thought about it the more i felt that this man had done nothing wrong, in fact he had merely exercised his own privilege to end his misery. However he had died, it would be no use to bring the knowledge of his death to the authorities, now that he was gone. So i turned and left the riverbank , but not before taking those folded clothes, bundling them and hurling them far down the river, to make sure that no one ever found out that the man had died or how. That was the least i could do in that mans fight against an uncaring god –one man against divinity. Chalk score one to humanity and score zero to god.

P.S. if this post makes even one of you to question your beliefs in a benign divinity i feel that my job as a writer is done. Lets leave alone all invisible entities both good and bad and stick to just humanity.

Disclaimer : Written for a Blog prompt- what divinity means to you- given by my blogger friend mahesh lakshman.

Mis-Steps…My Boringly Long Journey In Trying To Learn New Things For The Wrong Reasons.

Mis-Steps…My Boringly Long Journey In Trying To Learn New Things For The Wrong Reasons.


[Post dedicated to fellow blogger Megha who gave me this blog prompt and made me write about long suppressed memories…so dear readers, both praises and curses (the most probable when you get to the end of this post) go to her account].

My very first memories of attending dance class (classical dance)- the earliest scars on my still tender psyche, one might term them- were when I was around 7 or 8 when a dance teacher, called colloquially as a natuvannar used to come home to teach dance to my sister and I was press-ganged into joining the class because my sister insisted on having company. My mother who was a big fan of actor kamalhasan in those day, was under the mistaken impression that an early start to my dance career would endow me with enough skills to reprise the salangai oli kamalhasan role in later life. Although unsuspectingly forced into learning the classical dance form bharatnatyam, I nevertheless stuck on with it for almost two and some years learning to not only pretend-dance to jathis and varanams but also giving rise to talk at home (to my absolute horror and nightmares) of an individual arangetram soon enough. But of course like all good things which come to and end, we moved houses away from the locality and with that all talk of my continuing my classical dance career were dropped from the family round-table discussion. After all these years the abiding memories I have of learning bharatanatyam are the sharp and painful taps on the toes by the jathi-kattiay (two sticks played on a wooden board) which the nattuvanar used to beat time to keep with the rhythm of my dance movements. The rest are lost to memory.

After a long period of staying away from dance, I finally had to return to dance school during my college undergraduate days as I wanted to escape college by attending any and every cultural programs hosted by other colleges. The easiest way to do this was to join the dance troupe, stand in the last line and just wave my hands and stamp my feet. Or so I thought. But the humiliation of being trounced again and again in successive cultural s and the deep seated feeling that I was making a foll of myself in font of crowds of screaming girls (almost all of them more good looking than the girls at my college) made me opt to learn western dance forms this time on. I went and enrolled in the neighborhood dance school signing on for hip-hop classes which were the in-thing during those years. For those not in the know this was in the middle 2000’s when western dance or any dance at all had not yet taken off in everyday popularity like they did later on due to manada mayilada and all those TV dance programs with fat price purses. Those learning western dance in those days ( I specifically exclude Tamil film dance as done by Kala master and troupe which I will talk about later on) were a sort of elite bunch segregated into different schools. I joined swingers run by prasanna master and very soon I was be-bopping like there was no tomorrow. And as a sidelight we ( I include myself only marginally in this broad we as it was mostly my dance school mates) often used to get into fights with a neighboring dance school boys- the famous JB troupe- John Brittos class. If you have seen any of jackie chans old kung fu movies you will have a fair idea of the dance school rivalries and consequent street fighting between students of different schools. Worse, I had a couple of close friends who had opted to join JB but as I was a swingers boy we had no option but to meet on the battlefield to defend our dance schools reputations. Of course both prassana master and britto master must have known what we boys were up to from time to time but they preferred to turn a blind eye to our youthful spirits. I suppose I showed a little bit of talent in hip hop for I was invited to join a professional troupe of hip hop artistes and even went on a few shows with them. But again studies called and I had to abandon hip hop to sit and study for my undergraduate degree.

After finishing college, and getting into a reasonably well paying job the dancing bug again bit me and this time I opted to learn a dance form which suited my age- Latin- salsa, meringue, bachata, cha-cha and all those smooth moves. In those days the only school which taught these dances was the academy of modern dance at cathedral road run by kokila ma’am (who to my constant surprise every time I run into her somewhere- still looks exactly the same as she did when I was a young kid learning from her)- a bit of a long commute for me right across the city. But hey when you want to learn from the best distance is just a minor irritant right? Besides the primary attraction of learning these were they weren’t done in a group but as couples only moves. I thought it would be a good way to meet some single girls and start dating them in addition to dancing and I did do double duty- which experiences I will share later on but let me finish about the dance first. The thing about Latin dances are that you not only have to move gracefully and smooth (with a lot of hip thrusts) but also need to constantly make sure that you are in sync with your partners timings as otherwise both of you will end up looking clumsy and foolish and staring at different directions for the same movement. So a prime requisite for any Latin dance is a partner who moves with the same rhythm as you do. And in this I was tremendously lucky. More by luck than by design , as we were constantly switching partners and trying to find the right one to suit us, I happened to run into a girl who was pissed off by being rejected by another accomplished dancer who had judged her as not good enough to partner him. She wanted to prove a point to him and luckily our rhythms coincided and we hit it off as a pair. Pretty soon we were inseparable on the dance floor as we could both fluidly move as one without a single misstep. It was all hunky dory and going well until I made a mistake (typically) by enmeshing my personal and dance lives together my dating my dance partner. Suffice to say that it was a complete disaster and prompted my disappearing from the dance class to save myself from a irritating and persistent stalker who was immature enough not to take a no for a no. Lips sealed.

So after all these years whenever I see a dance competition on TV or hear a bit of peppy music automatically my knees start wriggling by themselves but thats the extent of my let loose and dance like nobody is watching feeling. I always rein myself in, smile wryly at myself and get on with everyday life. Those days are far behind me now and I can only look back fondly on them in my dotage.

p.s. I did try out Kala master’s kalanjali natya school once- to try and learn our local tamil filmi style dubbakanthu style of dancing- I lasted exactly one week there (although I had paid one months fees in advance) – before I realised that my taste in dancing didn’t run into kuthu and savu molam ishtlye. I have never repeated that experiment again.

Zen And The Art Of Suturing Life….

Zen And The Art Of Suturing Life….


I spend a lot of my time suturing, a fact of my working life which i accept gracefully. The reason i say this is, most surgeons when they reach my age or level of experience hand over the suture needle to their assistants and leave the operation theatre to attend a case elsewhere. They consider their job done as soon as the last tissue has been cut and the bleeding stopped. But as someone who does cosmetic surgeries for a living I prefer to do my own suturing- not only because I believe l that I can do a better job than a newbie assistant- better in this instance being a stronger suture with less scarring, but also because as a conscientious surgeon it is my job to stay with my patient till the patient recovers completely.  And also because i love suturing- something which i have realized quite late in my life. Now the reason why i love to do surgical suturing- cause you wouldn’t catch me dead trying to darn my worn socks at home, is that the act of suturing, the kind of repetitive motion it involves gives us time for food for thought and teaches a lot of lessons. If you would also like to hear what my sutures tell me, do read on

  • The Straight Path Is Not Always The Best : For those who haven’t seen a suture needle- its shaped like a semi-circle. Unlike a regular needle where you go directly across the tear, with a suture needle you go in on one side, you go deep in following the path of the needle as it leads and come out on the other side. The circular shape guides you automatically in its path from one side to the other. Just like when you fret you are going nowhere with your life but going deeper and deeper into shit and ergo, you emerge out into the glorious sunshine just where you want to be, because life has taken you in the path of least resistance to where you belong. Of course it feel like you are lost when you were halfway down and you might start panicking but trust me if there is one thing the suture needle teaches you, its that what goes down curves up and comes back out, you just have to keep pushing it in with belief. Its that blind belief in a buried needle which you cannot see passing through the deep flesh but coming out at just the right spot at just the right time which leaves you with a sense of all’s well with the world if only you have enough faith to trust in yourself.

suture curve

  • Probing Bleeding Wounds Is A No-No: Whenever we suture we always, always leave a margin of healthy tissue between the cut edges- never ever we suture near the edge because, face it, its already traumatized tissue, why the heck would you wound it further by pushing a needle inside the bleeding wound margin? Similarly in life, sometimes you just have to step back a bit, bite your words and let things progress to a stage where its healthy enough to start bringing things together. Never try to join up or heal already traumatized wounds without giving sufficient time for them to stop bleeding on their own. Only healthy wounds can be sutured. Torn wounds? They will tear further if you use force, even if its from the best intentions.
  • Persistence Pays- The number of sutures matters. It isn’t enough to put a single suture in and say the wounds are sufficiently close together, let it heal by itself now. No way. It doesn’t work that way at all. There are umpteen number of times when even a best placed suture would unravel. There is strength in numbers – so suture and sutire and suture again till you feel there is enough strength in the sutures-collectively- to hold the two separated wounds together- however much the two wounds wish to pull away and maintain a distance between them. Persistence matters when it comes to healing rifts. The first attempt might not always be successful or enough- you have to stick with it till it holds together.

suture knot


  • Holding On Too Tight Vs Giving Enough Space- when you suture you have to pull the knot just right, too tight and you are going to strangulate the wounded tissue making it difficult to heal, too loose and they are going to stay apart and never have that close intimate touch required to join together, but just right and the two become one as if they were never apart. Which is a very apt description for giving space in relationships i think. Trying to hold on too tight to someone is the best way to make sure that they get repelled, a fact which is lost on too many people in relationships starting from parents, friends to spouses, everyone making the same mistake of trying to be too close without giving enough space for individuality.
  • A Time To Hold And A Time To Cut – The last and most important lesson suturing teaches you is when to let go. Some suure require to be cut off at 5 days, some at 7 days, the wisdom lying in knowing when to cut them off once they are no more relevant and to prevent further damage. A lot of times we hang into relationships merely because we are afraid to cut loose, even when we know its served its time afraid that cutting off might make it worse. Suturing teaches you to be brave and cut it off and face consequences. A mere thread is not going to hold anything indefinitely if the underlying wound has not healed properly and its better to cut it off cleanly and start afresh.