Validating Love And Other Misconceptions.


Validating Love And Other Misconceptions.

Ever since the concept of Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated solely to love, started gaining prominence in our conservative society there has been a lot of hue and cry made over love. There have been anti-love groups, the so called Romeo squads roaming around the cities trying to catch people who are making love to each other in public spaces and in quid pro quo, the mushrooming  pro-love groups who have been trying to reclaim the public spaces for private acts, in this case kissing in public to cock-a-snook at the guardians of public morality who feel threatened by these lewd acts in public to which children might get accidentally exposed and heaven forbid, grow up believing that snogging in public is not anathema in our day to day life. Much as I sympathize with those who have no immediate access to a private space to conduct private business (I wouldn’t call the marina beach entirely private, although it does offer some space) I am forced to agree with the guardians of our morality and say “get a room guys” for some things are just too icky to be done in public- wet slobbering kisses hidden under dupattas for instance.

Which brings me to the primary point of this post- who was the bright spark who decided that love has to be celebrated with kissing? I would understand if valentine’s day was a day declared as a kissing day and then people celebrated it by kissing each other (and random strangers, if permitted) in public like they supposedly do in Central Park, New York (disclaimer: the farthest I have been to is Nanganallur, so I don’t actually have any evidence they do this in New York, just hearsay from click bait news sites). But for a day dedicated to celebrating love, why do you have to validate love by making kissing as a proof of concept? This and other misconceptions on love are what I am going to discuss in my next few thousand words, so if you are already feeling bored, go take a nap and come back for the climax.

In my humble opinion (there- I said it, even though I believe that my opinion is anything but humble) the crux of this entire problem lies in equating love with marriage.  With marriage and its attendant burdens like chastity, fidelity, honesty etc. Love, independent love, is fettered with chains by insisting on it being directed solely with the purpose of gaining or retaining a mate. No longer does our society permit us to love inanimate things (say a Bugatti Veyron) or cross-species love (your favorite pet dog) or even love for nature- when you are captivated by a beautiful sunset and just can’t turn away from the glorious sight of the sun sinking slowly into the sea. But no, those are not claimed as love nowadays, love means solely between man and woman geared towards marriage or sex.

So let me reiterate my point again –love is different, marriage is different and sex is different. There is absolutely no natural link between these three- each can exist quite well independently. Unfortunately our brains have been so brain washed by society that pure love should end in a wedding that the very definition of love has been split into “pure love” and “impure love”. The one which ends up in shackling two people together in lifelong matrimony is exclusively called pure love while others are termed illegal love. You are supposed to fall in love only once in your lifetime. You are supposed to end up marrying the person you fell in love with. And once when you are in love with someone, you are forbidden to fall in or out of love with anyone else, even accidentally. All these restrictions and rules have been framed to make sure that “love stays pure”. Any deviation from these set rules is immediately classified as crime against society.

All this constant moral harassment by society has made large swathes of our population believe that this is indeed love. Love means writing love letters, sending smiley’s on instant messengers, talking nonsense for hours together, hugging each other, kissing each other, having sex with each other and finally marrying each other. That’s the be-all and end-all of love. And this design includes a happy ending- a love marriage.  All the above related activities- hugging, kissing, sex are considered the perks of love and hence more and more people believe that this is what love is all about. And that’s why they frown on any deviation from the set template –like loving more than one person at the same time or loving one person while having sex with another person etc. all of which are labeled as not pure love. Those who believe in such drivel -that kissing or sex is equal to love will never ever realize what love is all about.

True love, false love, pure love, impure love, legal love, illegal love- so many labels for what is just a simple emotion- an expression of happiness that someone else brings into our lives. In fact, you don’t even need the presence of anyone else to experience love- just your thoughts and memories will suffice- a smile on your face when you can recall that beautiful stranger you bumped into yesterday at the supermarket is also love if you broaden the definition of love. Its love when your dog rushes up to lick your face when you come home at the end of the day. Its love even when you express your love to someone else and they turn you down flat- that single second of suspense when your heart soars high in anticipation- that too is love.  Love is just that- an emotion. Don’t make it into something it is not. Don’t hang too many things on it. Don’t make it mandatory to end up in a wedding for it to be love. Just let it be as it is and leave it to two people to decide how they want it to be.

Finally I would ask you to look up into the sky and tell me what you see- some will see the long dark night sky with its infinite darkness. Some will see the stars twinkling bright- scattered here and there. And some will see the full moon – dominating the dark. Love is like that- for some it’s the darkness, for someone else it’s the stars and for the lucky few it’s the bright silvery moon. Judge not what each person sees- it’s their space so just leave them be. Thanks for a patient reading- that’s if you got up to this point.

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


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

kali-kalam

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


   bleak-house

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.

 

It Runs In The Family


It Runs In The Family

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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”

Zen And The Art Of Suturing Life….


Zen And The Art Of Suturing Life….

Advanced-Suturing-

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.

 

Bhoomi Madha With A Big Heart- Short Fiction.


Bhoomi Madha With A Big Heart.

bhoomi matha

The minister was coming out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple when he noticed a group of devotees clustered around a mantap near the entrance of the temple. Out of curiosity he hurried over to join the throng and to see what it was all about. In front of the mantap sat a beatifically smiling man in his 50’s clad in the saffron robes of a mendicant and he was preaching to a congregation of a few devotees. The minister paused to listen for a few minutes as the swamiji, as he automatically called him in his mind, started speaking again “how many of you sleep well at night? How many fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed and sleep dreamlessly all night? How many of you have a full appetite and eat when you are hungry?” He paused as few seconds and looked meaningfully at the listening devotees .

The minister felt as if someone had given him a knock on his head. He had just now prayed to god about his various ailments which included long and troubled insomniac nights and multiple ulcers which prevented him from enjoying all the power and perks of his office for which he had sacrificed so much and done so many crimes which still gave him a troubled  conscience even after so many years. He felt like this swami was gods way of answering his prayers, so he walked up to the mantap and gesturing his ever present security to stay back, well back sat at the back of the crowd to listen to the discourse.

“The only way  forward” continued the swami “is to reduce your expectations, your greed for more and more. However much you have you always yearn for more. At what point will you stop? Will you feel that you have had enough? Is there no end to your wants?” he paused again and seemed to be staring meaningfully at the minister seated right at the back of the crowd “unless you voluntarily decide in your minds that you have plenty you will never heal yourself” and he rasied his voice “and goddess lakshmi only loves someone who exudes satisfaction. She flees the unworty miser who grasps for more and more. So go home and reorder your life according to your needs and not your wants. Om shanti, shanti, shanti hi”.

As the crowd dispersed slowly the miniser approached the swamiji with folded hands “swamiji, i am blessed to have heard your dsicourse today, every single word you said reverberates within my heart. I want to do something for you, please allow this penitent to offer something”. The swami smiled enigmatically at the minister and said “ son, i am a beggar living on the good wishes of the gods and the alms of the devout. What could i wish for? I dont need anything. If my advice has helped you, then go in peace my son. I am through with this world, i desire nothing”. The minister who had built up his entire political life on patronage and doles to his faithful adherents wasn’t so easily swayed “ nothing swamiji? You are the first person who has said nothing even when the state home minister has asked you directly about wht you want. Its a novel experience for me to be refused like this. Its usually i who do the refusing.  I think my karma is preventing you from accepting anything from my hands. Do re-consider and allow this sinner to gain a little punya”.

The mendicant scratched his beard and got up abruptly to  walk forward and he beckoned the minister to follow him. As they went to one of the gates of the temple, the swamiji pointed out his hand towards the river which flowed beside the temple, specifically broad expanse of the riverbank  with its gleaming white sands “ i have been meaning to construct a small ashram on this peaceful river bank so i can perform my meditations as close to this peaceful river as possible. And besides the crowd for my sermons grow bigger day by day and its becoming harder to accommodate them all in the same small mantap i sleep in. I have petitioned the district collector about this previously when he came to the temple but he just accepts my petitions with a smile and does nothing with them. Maybe you can?”. The minister felt elated, “atlast”, he thought “there is something i can do to show my power”. The fact that he had been refused when offering to help had been a great shock to his system. He turned around and beckoned to the collector who had been part of the discreet group following the minister and the swamiji from a distance.

The collector came running forward “What is this i hear? That you refused to allot the swamiji this riverbank to construct an ashram? Every month some fellow or other comes with your recommendation letter and i allot him prime residential and commercial plots inside the capital city from the government quota freely, but you cannot find it in your heart to give up even a river bank for this holy man? Is this your administration?” he thundered at the collector who quaked visibly. “sir, no sir, i will sign the file as soon as i reach the office sir” he murmured.  The minister continued “See that you do. And no more troubling this holy man. If  i hear anything like that” he left the rest unsaid. After taking the holy man’s blessing the minister went back to his car and returned to the capital to take up governance again.

Although he meant to return to the temple town pretty soon to check up on the holy man again, events in his political life caught up with him and he coudnt afford to take the time off to go on a pilgrimage till more than an year had passed away. Atlast one day with the assembly not in session and nothing else to do, he decided to go see the swamiji again, to see how the ashram was coming on. When he reached the temple he eagerly looked around for the swami but he was nowhere to be found, so he hurried up to the eastern gate to look down on the river.  To his considerable shock he found the river bank desecrated, dug up to great depths, the river itself narrowed down to a thin trickle and everywhere signs of great destruction to the once pristine riverbank. He immediately got into his car and headed straight for the collectors office.

Once seated opposite the collector he asked “What happened to the swamijis ashram? What did you greedy bastards do?”. The collector who had had a pretty satisfying day till then, quaked at the minister’s wrath “We? We did nothing but follow your orders sir, we gave the man permission to build on the riverbank by granting him a patta and environmental clearance and everything. Soon lorry after lorry came down to cart away the clear river sand and when asked about it by the locals the swami had said they were clearing the foundations to build a grand riverside ashram. As the sand lorries started doing ten trips a day, some of the locals tried to complain, but the fraud swami threatened them with your name saying he was close to the minister and sent them to me as reference. I had to to tell them that you had instructed us government officials to leave him alone, so there was no way we could take any action against him. After removing all the usable sand from the river bed, the swami disappeared overnight” the collector concluded.

The minister sat there like a stone and reflected on the swami’s sermon a year back on the nature of greed and its effects on men. Nothing changes, thought the minster, everyone wants to loot the government money, be it a politician or the public. The bhoomi madha who gives to everyone again and again, no questions asked is the public money and goddess lakshmi is the public treasury. “And to think i was fooled by a greater fraud than me” he mused with a bitter frown.

P.S. Disclaimer- this story is not referenced to and in no one way about living persons or swamijis who conducted any meets in any river beds in recent memory. This is purely a work of fiction.

The Suicide Point – A Short Story


The Suicide Point

Kodaikanal_Suicide_Point

The Inspector was in a deep slumber at his desk when he was woken up by the Head Constable with a shake of his shoulder “Sir, wake up. We have another golden goose come in” which must have been their code word for something of importance as the Inspector Of Police came suddenly awake and alert and nodded to the head constable to bring in the goose to be plucked. The two persons who hurried in next were both young, twenty something males who were weeping but trying hard to show they were not. “Sir, sir” said one of them who had stepped forward, “our father has fallen off the cliff into the bushes below, you have to help us find him”. The head constable hurriedly put in his own version of their story “Their father has jumped off suicide point sir”. At this the other guy, who looked to be the younger one interrupted angrily “no, no, he didn’t jump, he slipped and fell as he was posing for a photo”.

The inspector who had heard the same story a dozen times in his life raised a hand to cut him off in full flow “Stop, do you expect me to believe that any man would be able to slip and fall off that dangerous place despite all the warning boards we have put up and the fence surrounding it? Dont lie to a policeman” he threatened the brothers. The elder who seemed to be more in control of his feelings said in a plaintive voice “Sir but that’s exactly how it happened, even we didn’t see clearly how our father climbed over the fence and got to the edge to peer down there. When he called us to take his picture he was already there and waving at us. In a fraction of a second he disappeared over the edge and we think his foot must have slipped or something otherwise we could have saved him.”

The head constable said then “They have already wasted so much time trying to find the old man on their own, they should have come straight to us instead of wasting time”. The inspector looked sharply at the two brothers and asked “what time did this happen? “ The elder brother replied “Around noon today sir ” and he stood there staring guilty at the inspector who replied “And its going on three pm now, you look like educated people, how can you behave like this? Don’t you know you have to report any crime like this immediately to the police?”.

The younger and angrier brother replied “Sir this is not a crime, this was an accident. We know the rules too. But have a heart. Our father had fallen over, we were mad and distraught and didn’t know what to do. Coming to the police station to give a complaint was the last thing on our minds then”. The inspector looked sharply at him and asked “Then why have you come now ? For what?”. The kid looked boldly back at him and said “For your help in recovering our father’s, father’s” he couldn’t complete his sentence. “Body?” asked the inspector with a cruel grin “of course you will come to the police for help when no one else is there, otherwise what are we for?” he continued “Now hear this , we are overburdened with crimes already,the investigation of which takes precedence over anything else, you yourself say this was an accident, so thats it, go give a statement to the head constable that your father fell in an accident and take a FIR copy with you when you leave” he turned back to contemplate the calendar behind him marked with dates for court appearances.

“But, but” the elder faltered in front of him “aren’t you going to help us search for him sir? Search for” he swallowed and said “my fathers body?”. The inspector turned back with a look of genuine amusement in his face “what do you think we are mountaineering experts like they show in movies? Do you know how dangerous it is, that place whee you father fell? No policeman is going to risk his life searching for a corpse there” and he paused to look meaningfully “BUT,  there are people who can help you, certain of the guides there will go down to bring up your father’s corpse but it will cost you money, as its very risky they charge a lot, talk to the head constable there, he will guide you”. The elder brother said then “money is no problem inspector we just want our father” and suddenly the younger one erupted “wait a minute, isn’t it your duty to find our fathers body? Why should we employ someone else and what guarantee is there that they will find him for us after taking our money?”

The inspector almost got up out of his chair with anger “guarantee, how dare you ask for a guarantee here, you whelp” he screamed and raised a hand as if to hit the kid when suddenly the head constable loomed in front of him, intervening with his anger and driving away the two brothers to the other side of the room “sir let me talk to them and explain things” he cajoled the inspector into relaxing and moved away to the other corner of the room with the two bereaved offspring of the dead man. After what seemed a long time but was little more than ten minutes the head constable came back to the inspector and said “I have talked to the boys and the deal is finalized”.

The inspector grumbled “and how much are they willing to pay” the head constable gave a sly grin before he said “Five Lakh Rupees for their fathers body”. This time the inspector did get up out of his chair almost involuntarily “FIVE LAKHS? damn, how did they agree to that amount? And they have no idea that the tribals who do the actual finding charge no more than twenty or thirty thousand rupees depending on how deep they go?”. The head Constable preened himself “no sir they are just kids and they have no idea about the value of money. The elder has already given me fifty thousand rupees which he carries about as loose change in his pockets. He was ready to bring around the rest tomorrow but the younger one insisted, he is pretty annoying by the way, that the balance will be paid only after we show them their fathers body which should be no trouble at all. And then we are in luck- almost four and a half lakhs to divide between ourselves”. The inspector looked thoughtful “OK. This seems to be our lucky day. Get their statement, write a damn FIR that it was an accident and get rid of them immediately. Go  call up that fellow Irulan and his team, to go down the suicide point immediately before these two idiots realize they have been duped”.

But the best laid plans can go awry too and that’s what happened with the inspectors plan. Two days later, Irulan a well muscled tribal whose profession was retrieving dead bodies at the suicide point stood before the inspector wringing his hands “We searched everywhere Yeajaman, but we couldn’t find the old gentleman whose photo was shown to us. He must have fallen even deeper into the Devil’s pit area and not one of us will willingly go into there”. The inspector and the head constable both looked at each other sadly, they could feel the rest of the money slipping away through their fingers. As they hesitated over their next course of action it was Irulan himself who suggested a solution to their dilemma “unless, if you agree sir we can bring up some other unclaimed body fully smashed and claim its their fathers dead body. No one can say how damaged a body will be after failing from such a height and you can convince them and give a death certificate that its so.”

With no other option to lay their hands on the balance amount the inspector immediately agreed to Irulan’s plan and it all went as smoothly as he said it would. Even the younger brother whom they suspected will make a scene quietly accepted that it was their father’s body and after paying the rest of the finders reward the two brothers went away with the death certificate and the corpse, to cremate it. And thats the end of it all thought the inspector as he went onto buy a new maruti swift with his share of the dead body money. But fate had a different story to show.

A few months later the inspector got a sealed envelope which he opened, read thoroughly twice and then whistled before beckoning the head constable near to him “Those two bastard swindled us. Look,” he said and showed him a photo  of a fifty something man coming out of a bank “Do you remember those two brothers who came to us with five lakhs to find their father’s body. Seems that the old man had swindled five hundred crores from the banks before convenient falling off the cliff in an accident. The bank which had sealed his lockers in anticipation of his bankruptcy petition had finally relaxed their careful watch after seeing his death certificate and two days ago the same guy had walked in and emptied his lockers of all the cash. Now the bank has sent us a photograph from the surveillance camera asking us if this is the same dead body we recovered? And how a dead guy came back to life in the banks vault?”.

The inspector and the head constable looked at each other with crestfallen faces “And of course we have to reply that it was the same corpse that we recovered form the suicide point. We cant be changing our story now after all this time especially after insisting to the boys that it was indeed their fathers body we found. We would be accused of falsifying our own records and we will lose our jobs. We are screwed both ways unless we stick to our original story till the end”. The head constable looked sadly at the inspector “To think that we let those frauds get away with just five lakhs from that five hundred crores” And the inspector said more irritably “To think we were both fooled by two young kids pretending to cry over a still healthy father. What idiots we were”.