Monday, November 12, 2007

HIBISCUS - A PHOTO ESSAY

Hibiscus, or rosemallow, is a large genus of about 200–220 species of flowering plants, native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. The genus includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, and woody shrubs and small trees.

The leaves are alternate, simple, and ovate, often with a toothed or lobed margin.

The flowers are large, conspicuous, trumpet-shaped, with five or more petals, ranging from white to pink, red, purple or yellow, and from 4-15 cm broad.


Many species are grown for their showy flowers or used as landscape shrubs.

One species of Hibiscus, known as Kenaf is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle, is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas and jams (especially in the Caribbean).

In Latin America, the drink is known as jamaica (drink) and is quite popular. It is made from calyces of the roselle plant.

In Egypt and Sudan, roselle petals make a tea named after the plant, karkade.

The Hibiscus is used as an offering to Goddess Kali and Lord Ganesha in Hindu worship.

Hibiscus, especially white hibiscus is considered to have medicinal properties in the Indian traditional system of medicine, Ayurveda.

The natives of southern India use the Red hibiscus for hair care purposes.

The red flower and leaves, extracts of which can be applied on hair to tackle hair-fall and dandruff on the scalp, is used to make hair protective oils. A simple application involves soaking the leaves and flowers in water and using a wet grinder to make a thick paste, and used as a natural shampoo.

Dried hibiscus is edible, and is often a delicacy in Mexico.

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national flower of Malaysia.

The ma‘o hau hele is the state flower of Hawai‘i.

The Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea.

The Native Hibiscus is a national emblem of the Stolen Generation of indigenous peoples in Australia. Its colour denotes compassion and spiritual healing.

Source: Wikipedia

Flowers: The Greenhouse Nursery, Mannagudda, Mangalore

Photos: Lionel Aranha

Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature

- Gerard De Nerval (French Poet, Essayist & Transalator)

Friday, October 19, 2007

BEFORE I SAY GOODBYE.......

A friend, in passing, asked me what I would like to do before I die.
That got me thinking. What is it that I would like to do before I leave this world?

I have always wanted to author a book. After several false starts, I am still pondering my next move; and the priority improves every time the Booker Prize is announced.

I want to get a PhD. Some of my friends are amused and want to know why? If you are into teaching and do not possess a PhD, no matter what, the PHD wallahs consider you a pariah!

I want to see the world; not all of it but some of my favorites. I want to visit Egypt & experience the pyramids, travel to South America and see the ruins of Macha Picchu – to mention a few. I want to travel on the Orient Express; closer home I want to travel on the Darjeeling Toy Train & the Palace on Wheels!

I want to do a 2-day cruise in the Arabian Sea – just of the coastline of Mangalore. (Love to watch what Mangalore looks like from the sea)

This may sound crazy, but I want to meet God and over a cup of tea ask him a few pointed questions. (Let me put it this way – I want to put God in a spot of bother) Equally important for me to meet the Devil too and grill him!

Speaking of tea meetings, I would like to meet the Pope, Bill Gates, Osama Bin Laden, Amitabh Bachchan, Oprah Winfrey & Jerry Seinfeld and speak to them – length of time, not more than 20 minutes!

I would like to make the world a better place to live in. (Can I get rid of the evil politicians? Poverty? Corruption?) I want people to show more compassion. I want to improve the quality of education. I want to touch lives. I want to make a difference.

I want to anchor my own show on Television a la Oprah Winfrey.

I have always tried to make people laugh. I want to continue to do that.

I want to own a small place up in the mountains – a sort of a retreat, to which I can retire when things get out of hand.

I want to make plenty of money and then give it all away. Coffins do not have linings to stuff your money into!

Sounds far fetched? I like exercising my Grey Cells …..

Now that you have read it, get back to whatever you were doing…….

And don’t forget to make your own list!

We live only once!

‘…..And when my work shall be done in this world, O King of kings, alone and speechless shall I stand before thee face to face.’

- Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, September 24, 2007

THE VIGILANTE!

(The silent crossing over of Democracy to Mobocracy)

On the evening of January 11th 2005, my bus from Manipal to Mangalore met with a minor accident. Though the bus drivers’ on this road are maniacs, this time around, the driver of the bus in which I was traveling was innocent. It was a funny accident. The bus in front had stopped to pick a passenger - a seasoned fisherwoman. Since its rear warning lights weren’t functioning, the driver of my bus noticed it too late. He braked; but the weight of the bus took it forward and we nudged the bus in front. The seasoned fisherwoman who was taking all precautions to make a grand, albeit slow, entry from the rear door was knocked down. She was petrified and started bawling so loudly that it brought a huge crowd of locals. The passengers of our bus melted in the crowd. I espied the conductor; the pint-sized guy was boarding a bus and scooting. He made a strange gesture to me as he left; more like the manner in which the umpire at the recently introduced 20:20 cricket matches announces a Free Hit!

I was left with the driver. There was one other passenger, an engineering student, who opted to stay back. The youth among the crowd began manhandling the driver. While one caught him by the collar another tried to slap him; the young student and me jumped into the fray and pulled away the driver from the youth. On the background, I could still here the wailing fisherwoman. That was when I blew my top! I shouted at the youth to first help the lady and then come back to sort out the issue. The youth were now confused but one among them, a mean looking guy, was drawling that there was nothing wrong with the lady but the driver need to be taught a lesson. Absurd!

Somehow, we managed to extricate the driver. A flash of a crisp one hundred note to the lady helped her on her feet. She was bruised; we managed to get her on an auto and to the local primary health center. The driver we whisked to the police station. The mean looking guy accompanied us. But at the police station he refused to file any complaint. He simply told me that all he wanted was beat the driver up! He did not believe in any law! I was being introduced to the new league of Indian Justice! The new plainclothes superheroes! The Vigilante! They hunt in packs and do not wait for court trials! Sometimes the mere apian bite of the new breed of ‘sting’ news reporters galvanizes them into action!

Vigilantes have been around for a while now. Even in the days of yore, people who stepped on the wrong side of law were paraded in the streets, either seating backwards on Asses or dragged behind carts. Their faces would have been blackened and the public would stone them or spit on them; publicly shaming them for their alleged offence. This behaviour had the tacit approval of the king. One could say that the comic book heroes Batman, Spiderman & Superman are also vigilantes. They act in the interest of the larger good of the society. Perhaps today’s vigilante feels that they are acting, in the same manner, to protect mankind by fighting for truth and justice.

Many of you would have grimaced when you saw on TV the footage of a man being tied to a motorcycle and dragged on a kaccha road after being brutally beaten by a mob. His offence was that he had stolen a chain from a lady. I am of the opinion that the presence of the TV cameras spurred our plainclothes super heroes to try this crude form of punishment. It was also the TV cameras that captured the rather well rehearsed storming of an apartment by the ‘Bai’ brigade in Mumbai. Once gain it was the TV cameras that beamed us pictures of the molestation of an innocent teacher on the bases of wild allegations.

Today, there seems to be a nexus between the media and the vigilante. One requires the other to enhance their respective cause; the media for better ratings and the vigilante for a two-minute claim to fame.

Is there is a silent crossing over of Democracy to Mobocracy?

"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine" - Thomas Jefferson

It looks like Mobocracy is here to stay in our cities. “With people from rural areas migrating to larger towns and cities, the mob culture comes naturally as an add-on” is the comment we hear often. Even men of law fear a mob. From a group of ordinary people going about their daily chores they suddenly transform into a faceless force on a rampage.

One curious twist to the cause of the vigilantes – why is it that they do not target the rich and the powerful, the crooked politician, the corrupt government babus & the so-called God men? Is there a fear factor lurking within them? Is that the reason for bashing up a hapless accused?

One wonders….

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

THE CREATION OF THE TEACHER

The Good Lord was creating teachers.

It was His sixth day of ‘overtime’ and He knew that this was a tremendous responsibility as teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children.

An angel appeared to Him and said, “You are taking a long time to figure this one out.”

“Yes,” said the Lord, “but have you read the ‘specs’ on this order?”

  • Must stand above all students, yet be on their level;
  • Must be able to do 1001 things not connected with the subject being taught;
  • Must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time;
  • Must have more time for others than for herself/himself;
  • Must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, jealous colleagues, problematic children, and worried parents;
  • Must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive;
  • Must have 6 pair of hands.


“Six pair of hands,” said the angel, “that's impossible”

“Well,” said the Lord, “it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!”

The angel looked incredulous, “Three pairs of eyes...on a standard model?”

The Lord nodded His head,

“One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as.Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher's head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known.The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she 'acts out' in order to reflect, ‘I understand and I still believe in you’, without so much as saying a word to the child.”

“Lord,” said the angel, “this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow.”

“I can't,” said the Lord, “for I have come very close to creating something much like myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick.... teaches a class of children that do not want to learn....has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own.....understands the struggles of those who have difficulty....never takes the students for granted...”

The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating.
“It is too soft-hearted,” said the angel.

“Yes,” said the Lord, “but also tough, You cannot imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary.”

“Can this teacher think?” asked the angel.

“Not only think,” said the Lord, “but reason and compromise.”

The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher's cheek.

“Well, Lord,” said the angel, “your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You cannot imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher.”

The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher's cheek. It shone and glistened in the light.

“It is not a leak,” He said, “It is a tear.”

“A tear? What is that?” asked the angel, “What is a tear for?”

The Lord replied with great thought,

“It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task.

It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time fitting in and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents.

It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves.

It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class.”

“My,” said the angel,

“ The tear thing is a great idea...You are a genius!!”

The Lord looked somber,

“I didn't put it there.”

Author Unknown

“Awaken pupil's curiosity.

It is enough to open minds, do not overload them.

Put there just a spark.”

- Anatole France (adapted)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

INDIA AT 60


What is it to be 60 years old? Imagine you were 60 years old you would have been flooded with greetings which would be on the following lines:

  • Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

  • Age is a high price to pay for maturity.

And the gifts that you could possibly get would include among other things – a 60th coffee mug and a walking stick.

Being 60 years is considered auspicious by many; there would a thanksgiving service at the local temple or church and a party would be arranged, were you will be reminded of all the things that you did for the last 60 years via a toast. (And or a power point presentation if you have tech savvy children or nieces/nephews) Rest assured only the good qualities and incidents will be mentioned, the goof ups will only remain in memory.

But when a country turns 60 it tends to be different. I am of the opinion that a country is a sum total of the people that reside in it. Hence, along with lavish praise some criticism, of us, is in order.

Sixty years on, we have an independent judiciary (I refer to the Supreme Court) before which no one is too high, a thriving economy, and an uninhibited blog-sphere where one can agitate for any cause whatsoever, a vibrant media and most importantly India has been a role model for multi-cultural democracy. (Though our elections resemble a carnival and we have an increasingly boisterous parliament). Today, the world looks at India as a super power. Every move that India makes is watched keenly. My friends in the academia world keep telling me that amidst all the squalor, things are looking up! India is rising!

In my earlier post, I had written:

  • India has an affluent middle class that has grown in just a few years.
  • We have more millionaires today than ever before.
  • We also have more poor people than ever before.
  • We have more street children & more missing young girls than ever before.
  • We have more rogues, ruffians, riff-raff and dons than ever before.
  • Eradicated diseases like Tuberculosis and Malaria are returning with a vengeance.
  • We do not have a single city with enough drinking water.
  • We do not have a single clean city; all our cities have garbage removal and disposal problems.
  • Our politicians no longer even pretend respect for the public.
  • The numbers of criminals who are MLAs have increased.

Well, one can add many more points. But I would like to concentrate on just two:

  • We are becoming increasingly intolerant.
  • We are becoming increasingly fundamentalist.

In India we declare that a teacher can be punished for calling a student stupid; but we allow fundamentalists, who declare that they will behead or kill an author, go scot-free. What gives? Where are we heading?

This, to my mind, is a serious lacuna.

It disturbs me. Religion and politics make sound bedfellows. But they also drive the sane to despair. Will we be able to break the nexus and rise above? What will it be when India turns 75?

Spare a thought.



“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.......

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”


– Rabindranath Tagore







Tuesday, August 07, 2007

FAREWELL.......


NITESH AGARWAL
1983 - 2007



NEHA SINGH
1984 - 2007

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die

Last year at around this time, I was teaching a course in Financial Accounting for PGP I at the Indian Institute of Management, Indore. Among my students were Nitesh Agarwal and Neha Singh. Fondly, I referred to Nitesh as 'bitcom' and to Neha as ''lil one'. Nitesh was a vibrant youngster with boundless energy while Neha was prim and proper and a stickler for neatness. I had continued my association with Neha through an occasional call or a chat on the net.

It was with dismay and a deep sense of regret that I received the news of their passing away on Saturday, 4th August 2007. Two young lives were taken away from us. I could not believe it. One of their classmates sent me a scrap, which said "Bit com and 'lil one are no more...." and when another called on my cell to convey the news, it sank in. A tragic incident had snuffed out their lives.

They were both happy people and no one can take that from them. They saw the world as it was and were content to approach it with a practical mind.

They were both too young to have left this world. We may ponder and ask, why? Feeling helpless we cry out; "Why God? Why?" Even as I write this post, my mind cries out the same refrain.

Death comes like a thief, unannounced. Death takes away people whom we love. Perhaps this is the way God works - in mysterious ways. Perhaps there is a need for a Nitesh and a Neha in heaven where they will be happy. Perhaps God has some other plans for them?

As I grope for answers I get this message – This is not a time to grieve their deaths but it is our time to celebrate their life. Don't ever forget these two young people. I don't think they ever wanted people to cry. They would have wanted everyone to be happy. So, at this moment when we have laid our friends to rest, let's all think back and remember how Nitesh and Neha touched our lives. All the memories we have shared with them will forever be cherished and remembered. Nitesh and Neha will forever live in my heart… In our hearts. This is not the moment to shed tears but we should be thankful that we were given a chance to have known these two wonderful people.

For just over a year that we knew them, we reveled in their company. Happiness & laughter has flowed in their presence. Let not grief and tears wash away those sweet memories. There is no doubt in my mind that Nitesh and Neha are watching down on us from heaven right now.

Nitesh and Neha will forever be missed but I know in the right time, I will meet them again. We will all meet Nitesh and Neha again and then there will be happiness and laughter once again.

Adios, sweet friends, till we meet in paradise!

My thoughts go to the parents of Nitesh and Neha. Words alone cannot give them comfort for their loss is immense. I can only convey to them that our thoughts are with them in this hour of terrible tragedy. I can’t help but remember this wonderful poem, entitled ‘Ascension’ by Colleen Corah Hitchcock

And if I go,
while you're still here...
Know that I live on,
vibrating to a different measure
--behind a thin veil you cannot see through.
You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait for the time when we can soar together again,
--both aware of each other.
Until then, live your life to its fullest.
And when you need me,
Just whisper my name in your heart,
...I will be there.

Memories:



Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, let perpetual light shine upon them and may they rest in peace, Amen.

Photo courtesy: Shalin Shah & Manas, IIM Indore

Monday, August 06, 2007

BONNIE, A DOG, A LADY


BONITA
1996 - 2007

It was a pleasant day in November 1996; my wife was on the phone. She sounded excited. Her parents had just brought home a pup. Would I like to come over and see her? I left the office a little early and headed to see the pup.

There she was, a bundle of fur, cuddled in my wife’s arms, peering cautiously at me. She was of the German shepherd – Alsatian breed. I reached out and scratched her head and ears. She licked my hand. The rapport was instant. I christened her Bonita; which in later days was modified to Bonnie.

She was a constant companion to my wife’s parents who reveled in her company. She was an extension of the family; present at all family get together and meetings. I was her masseur. She loved her head being massaged and scratched. It was one of the rituals that she did not miss. My reward was a warm lick on my hand.

Dogs can teach you a lot. And so it was with Bonnie. She taught us:

  • When loved ones come home, Always run to greet them.
  • When it's in your best interests, practice obedience.
  • Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
  • Take naps and stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm
  • Be loyal
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under some shade.
  • When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk
  • No matter how often you're scolded don't buy into the guilt thing and pout …. run right back and make friends.

Then in the November of 2006, tragedy struck. Ten years to the day that she had invaded our world, my father-in-law succumbed to a massive heart attack. He collapsed in the garden right in front of Bonnie. From that day onwards she wasn’t her self. We could sense that she was grieving. Age too was catching up with her. Her movements had slowed down and her liver was acting up. Frequently she would be listless. The vet wasn’t too optimistic and her condition slowly but surely deteriorated. Patiently but knowingly she bore the anxious ministrations of my mother-in-law. Finally, on Saturday, July 28th, she could not stand up anymore. Her condition worsened through the day. She knew that her time had come, to leave those she loved. She made her last heroic efforts at trying to stand up, once when my wife entered the gate around noon and once more when I entered a few hours later. It was as if she was waiting to say her last goodbye. Around 5.15p.m. that same evening with my mother-in-law and wife beside her, with one last sigh, she was gone.

She is buried in a corner of the garden under the shade of a tree, which constantly blooms and sheds little pink flowers.

She must be in a happier place as I write this post.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

LAGE RAHO JUSTICE KODE

By now, Mr. Sanjay Dutt, a convict, must be settling down to life in prison; at the same time his battery of Lawyers must be machinating to get him released. An appeal to the Supreme Court would be on the cards.

The verdict pronounced by the Judge of the special court evoked mixed reactions. There were some who said that Mr. Dutt deserved it and there were some who were upset with the verdict. That Mr. Dutt was a film actor of reasonable repute, threw different hues on the case.

Mr. Sanjay Dutt, has made history of a different kind. Born to illustrious parents, much was expected of him. After all, his mother, Nargis, was a popular actress of the Hindi Cinema and his father, the stoic Sunil, was firstly an actor and then a politician. Pressure was surely on Sanjay to perform and perform he did. His initial foray into the film world wasn’t a great success. That, in a way, might have led him to be lost in a haze of drugs and alcohol. The loss of his mother when he was 22 years old must have added to his woes. He was lost. And so at 34 an immature Sanjay got involved with an AK 56 automatic rifle and a pistol, which was to be his nemesis.

In later years he was lucky to don good roles; especially as Munna Bhai. He touched a chord in the heart of the cinema crazy Indian and thereby earned some amount of sympathy from the population. Also, he always maintained that he repented the offence committed. God may forgive; but law punishes and protects – and that is what is important. The law of the land prevails. Law isn’t flexible. Law doesn’t consider your occupation, your social status & your popularity. The fact that crores of rupees are hedged on the acting prowess of Sanjay is lost on Law. It considers all of us as equals and that is the way it should be. Had it been anybody else, instead of Sanjay Dutt, then too the law would have treated him or her in a like manner.

Mind you, if Sanjay was tried in 1993-94 and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 6 years; people would have accepted the verdict. The verdict has come 14 years later. Some of the supporters of Sanjay may have been tiny tots or adolescents in 1993 and would not have been aware of the gravity of the offence that Sanjay committed. Their support stems from the fact that he is their star.

People’s memory being short, Sanjay will be forgotten in a while. He will be released; I make it, in 4 years from now. If the Supreme Court intervenes and releases him, then he would be incarcerated for just a few months.

There is a lesson to be learnt here by every citizen of this country. The Law is supreme. Nobody can be above the law. Sadly, dispensers of justice have forgotten this adage especially when it comes to dealing with our political masters. Dispensers of justice have succumbed to pressure and avarice. It is commendable that the Judge of the designated court has reminded us that nobody is above the law.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

OBSERVATIONS......

For those of you who know me well, saying that I am observant, would be an understatement. And so it was; my antenna was up early this morning as I waited to board a flight at the Bangalore Airport.

I find observing people and the goings on around me more interesting than burying oneself in the free newspapers that are ever present in the airport.

I zeroed in on an old man who was tearing parts of a newspaper. He looked around furtively and continued with his task. Peopled around him, muddled in their own world, did not seem to notice this rather strange behaviour. He finished with one newspaper and commenced with the next. When he found something that interested him, he glanced furtively around and tore that bit. Intrigued I strolled over to where he was sitting. What was he tearing? Imagine my surprise when I noticed that he was tearing sudoku & crossword puzzles from the newspapers and putting them into his pocket. He caught my eye and flushed!

My roving eye took in the youngster listening to his Ipod. The beatified look on his face, the half smile and the nodding of his head indicated that he was listening to his current anthem. A pretty young girl passed him by; there was an exchange of glances. A slow smile formed on his face but it froze as the girl walked on by expressionless.

Somewhere behind me a middle aged lady was taking instructions on her mobile phone as to how to switch it off on the flight. Without looking behind, I was able to make out that she was a novice on using the phone as well as talking on it. Heads were turning as she let loose a torrent of words in a loud nasal twang. She hollered that she could not hear the person on the other end. So natural; when the voice on the other side fades, we tend to raise our own voice.

A family of four was lost. They were probably infrequent fliers. The patriarch was looking for the toilet but was embarrassed to ask anybody around him. He asked his wife and children to be on the look out for one. Just then their flight was announced. There was panic. The patriarch rushed to the nearest airline personnel and with his digit finger raised asked the directions to the toilet. He was directed towards it; and his entourage joined in escorting him to his pit stop.

Disinterested voices announced the arrival and departures of flights. Ground staff went about their task in robotic fashion. People of all shades and hues passed through the boarding gates; some bored others excited. Physically challenged individuals were hauled along in wheel chairs. Babies cried as if in protest. Then it was my turn to board my flight. One glance at the queue and I had my next victim. But was I being watched?

Friday, June 29, 2007

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD

‘I sit and talk to God; and He laughs at my plans’

- From the lyrics of the song ‘Feel’ by Robbie Williams

The conversation veered to worry. “Why do people worry?” I asked. There was silence. It was usual; a loud silence followed by a frenetic pace of transfer of ideas. It usually reminded me of the modem.

The wind howled heralding the beginning of another bout of rain. The tall coconut trees swayed as if intoxicated. Leaves and debris stirred to life by the wind danced with no particular rhythm. The angry dark clouds were moving fast to drop their load of water onto Mother Earth. All were having a swell time; except man. He worried.

I sipped from the cup. The aroma of tea and its warmth stoked an ember within. Sighing I reached for keypad. It was time to record the conversation.

Why do people worry?

The transfer of ideas was now taking place. The pace was fast and furious.

People worry because:

  1. They live in the past and place their hope in the future.
  2. They do not see the funny side of life – some of them never!
  3. They never keep themselves busy – instead they worry!
  4. They fail to examine the record – according to the law of averages; what are the chances that the event one is worried about will occur?
  5. They do not do the very best that they can.
  6. They count their troubles – not their blessings!
  7. They do not forget themselves by becoming interested in others.

The rain fell at a steady pace forming rivulets on the road below. The wind was at it again. It howled. There was a deep rumble of thunder. The conversation had ended. A loud silence followed.

Friday, June 22, 2007

“IT’S GREAT TO SHOW PROMISE; IT”S TRAGIC NOT TO FULLFILL IT”

This morning, as I was walking in a busy part of the city, a classmate, from my school days, accosted me. He looked drawn. His eyes looked tired. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, he asked me if I could find him a job. He was working as a salesman in a cloth shop for a paltry salary & wanted a change. Could I help him? At that point of time I was taken aback. As a student in school, he had shown great promise. He was good at studies, above average in sports and good at dramatics. He had some amount of talent in him. What had brought him to this state?
I promised him help; but I was skeptical. Who would want a 42 year old whose resume showed that he was a salesman in a cloth shop? We bid goodbye and I made by way to my office. I pondered on his plight, made a few phone calls but as expected there were no encouraging replies.
As I write this post, I wonder why this person who showed promise could not fulfill it. One reason some people fall short of their promise is that developing talent is hard work. Talent is useless if it is not wedded to craftsmanship that demands incessant practice and all that it involves: endless repetition, constant self-criticism – and exasperation when performance falls short.
I have always wondered why many of us never become real professionals. The professional in any field must have a kind of contract with himself. The terms of the contract read that he must be absolutely honest with himself. I had come across the following passage in a book I read long ago: Many of us never become real professionals because we think that the pursuit of excellence necessarily includes reaching the topmost rung – and then give up because we can’t reach it.
I am of the opinion that there are various degrees of excellence. The danger does not lie in failing to reach absolute perfection. It lies in giving up the chase.
Ask a lot of yourself, and you may be very pleasantly surprised at how much you receive!

Friday, June 01, 2007

END OF A ROMANCE

On May 29th 2007, I received an email, which was on expected lines; my services were not being sought for the academic year 2007-08 at TAPMI. Thus ended a 6-year romance with an institution that, of late, has been floundering. In the last few months it has received two jolts, the first one being the AICTE notification that the approved seats have been scaled down from 140 to 100 and the second one being the withdrawal of Hostel facilities by its provider. These jolts can plunge any institute into chaos. The signs were there; the entire reputed faculty with whom I had rubbed shoulders at TAPMI have resigned and moved on. Today, as TAPMI enters its silver jubilee year, it is a pale shadow of its old self. It had sanctioned student strength of 100 when it had faculty strength of a mere 6 way back in the nineties; today it has a faculty strength of 25 and its approved strength has been scaled down to 100 students. What went wrong? An ex-colleague called me last night & the conversation veered to the survival of an institution that has given fillip to some great minds. I was optimistic. An institution outlives its students and its faculty, I said. But my friend wasn’t convinced. The competition, he said, has overtaken TAPMI. I sincerely hope TAPMI bounces back, when in June 2008 it is supposed to move to its own swank premises; at least for the sake of its Alumni & its present students. I have my fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, I am enjoying a break. The past four years have been hectic; and for the first time in a long while I am actually having some free time. I have not seen the inside of an airplane for a very long time and the last train journey was on April 15th. Of course, it is too good to last. Come July and I will be packing my bags and moving on……

Memories….


P.S. June 2008 has come and gone. The new campus is taking shape; though it may take some more time to complete. On June 30th 2008 Dr. D. Nagabrahmam retired from service after being at the helm of affairs at TAPMI for the last 15 years. This signals a new beginning at TAPMI in its silver jubilee year. Here is wishing the Institute, its alumni, faculty, staff and students the very best in the year to come.
On 22nd July 2010, I renewed my romance with TAPMI. I am back to teaching PGP I after a hiatus of 3 years. The new campus is neat & classrooms are truly state of the art. Above all, it felt good to be back among some of my old friends!



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

IDES OF MAY


The month of May is extremely important in the calendar of a visiting faculty. I have just finished with all the corrections; papers have been returned and grades have been submitted. Now I twiddle my thumbs waiting for the payments to arrive. This is also the month of glorious uncertainties. I do not know where and what I will be teaching for the next academic year. If the institutes that I visited in the last year get to appoint a permanent faculty in my area, then you have to move on. That’s what makes my position pretty vulnerable. Things become clear only towards the end of the month.

Dwelling on the topic of answer papers, there are two aspects that have always drawn my attention:

1. When in doubt, bullshit!

2. Write illegibly, nobody will try reading the drivel!

So it is with some students. Possibly it is the ‘University Syndrome’ that afflicts them. The answers have no connection with the question asked; but since some energy and time is expended the student expects some marks! Then there are some on whom the adage ‘Handwriting speaks of character’, is lost. The scrawl is illegible. With great difficulty one has to wade through the drivel. I haven’t been able to say for sure whether it is done with an ulterior purpose. Mind you, these very same students can write neatly if they want to. I am looking forward to reading a love note in their hand or a letter written to their father asking for more money to spend!

May is also the warmest month of the year if you are living on the west coast of India. It gets very warm and humid; and as the humidity increases it rains to the accompaniment of thunder, lightning and gales. But the next day it tends to be even warmer. Then we have the unscheduled power cuts. The electricity supply tends to be so erratic that a few expletives, in praise of the nerds at the helm of affairs in the electricity department, do escape my lips. And then there are the water shortages. Mangalore was without water for the first 2 days of May.

Then there are the mangoes; the saving grace in an otherwise scorching month.

They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and taste. Got to go now; nice sweet mangoes beckon. Until next time; take care and be good!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

LAW IS A ASS?

The defendant, in Breunig v. American Family Insurance Co., 45 Wisc. 2d 536, 173 N.W.2d 619 (1979), testified that the reason why she struck the plaintiff's truck with her automobile was simply because she knew that God was driving her car, and more importantly, she knew that if she accelerated into the truck, she would be able to fly because Batman is able to fly.

This woman was obviously psychotic. I mean come on, everyone knows Batman can't fly!

Before you wonder as to where I am heading; ponder on the judicial proceedings in this country. I am beginning to feel despondent. You can be driven to becoming "psychotic" particularly if you are a victim.

Take for example the recent hit and run case involving a certain Allister Pereira, you can also follow this link: www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070009486 and read the cold facts of an earlier hit and run case that was loaded with miscarriage of justice.

"In law, the accused has a million ways to escape. But the victim is consigned to the gallows"

"There is a place in our courts for the judge, the accused, the lawyers and witnesses. But there is no seat for the victim though his/her plight remains central to the case."

—Former solicitor general K.T.S. Tulsi

Our legal system favours the accused and not the victim. To enumerate:

  • The victim and his/her family are not involved in court proceedings, except when summoned as witnesses. (It should be pointed out that this has been the system prevalent in other countries too, but there it is for the victim’s protection.)
  • The victim is represented by the public prosecutor engaged by the state. The accused can hire lawyers of his/her choice. (Elsewhere public prosecutor’s post is a coveted one and he/she is held accountable. In India there is no accountability of a public prosecutor. He/she gets time-bound promotions not linked to performance)
  • The victim or his family cannot file an appeal against an unfair verdict. That is the state’s prerogative. The victim’s side can only file a revision petition on grounds of procedural oversight. (This is why the media and the public joined hands in the recent review of the Jessica Lal & Priyadarshini Mattoo cases.)
  • Rights of the accused, including right to silence, is detailed in law. It is, however, silent about the victim’s rights.
  • The accused has the right to know the evidence framed by the prosecution. The victim has no access to information from the defence side.
  • If the accused is influential, he/she can tamper with evidence, compromise investigators, even judges. (It is now a known fact that judges in India are corrupt. There is no procedure under law to censure the judge, though his judgement can be questioned in an appeal, and subsequently censured)
A sitting high court judge has put it rather bluntly: "More than just being helpful to the accused, the system really works for the rich accused." Add to this a less than transparent police, and you have a situation where the guilty in what are apparently open-and-shut cases walk away scot-free.

The criminal system in India is in shambles. Accused are walking free, there is poor collection of evidence and there are innumerable instances of miscarriage of justice – all examples of a deep-rooted malaise in our criminal system. Recent studies show that the conviction rate in Indian courts is one per cent. The accused manage to get away in 99 percent cases.

Does make me wonder – Law is a Ass? … Or perhaps is itself a victim?

Friday, April 13, 2007

HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN AMONG YOU, LET HIM THROW THE FIRST STONE

N R Narayana Murthy sparked off a protest for allegedly disrespecting the national anthem; Sachin Tendulkar cutting a tricolour cake has set off another outcry. Is the outrage justified or are we simply protesting too much?
I present below some of the reactions that I found in the newspapers:

“I think we certainly do make a hue and cry about certain issues because we’re overly sensitive about them. And that’s because our priorities are misplaced. We don’t give a damn about global warming, but we make a big noise about something like Sachin Tendulkar cutting a tricolour cake. We’re only bothered about things that are displayed and in our opinion, must be revered. We don’t look at the bigger picture.” MAHESH DATTANI, Theatreperson

“I don’t think we Indians are sensitive at all; it’s the media that makes them out to be that way. In a nation with a hundred crore population, when just a hundred of them protest about an inconsequential matter, why does the media have to make it such a big deal? Are all these silly issues of national consequence? By reporting such petty issues, the media is blowing the issue out of proportion and drawing more attention to them than necessary. There are hundreds of protests being staged around the nation and not all of them do it out of concern. It’s more for mileage than addressing the issue.” GIRISH KASARAVALLI, Filmmaker

“I think as a people we are getting a bit too touchy and intolerant for the wrong reasons. Both Narayana Murthy and Sachin Tendulkar have done exceptionally well representing the country and there’s no need for them to prove anything to anyone. Casting aspersions on a well-known person and raising protests is the easiest way for people to get their three seconds of fame and that’s why most do it. Having said that, I must add that there seems to be some underlying anger in people that they flare up at the smallest of issues.”CHAITANYA HEGDE, Mediaperson

What is my take on this subject?

In the case of N. R. Narayana Murthy, I am of the opinion that he chose a wrong word. He speakes the English language fluently and I am surprised that he used a word like "embarrassment". He should have said that it is "difficult" for them to sing it, perhaps then there would have been no controversy. It is also a fact that a successful person has a fair share of jealous detractors. Mr. Murthy, from what he has accomplished, and by the manner in which he has accomplished it will certainly have more than a fair share. I have a feeling that were we to really delve into it, we might unearth a somewhat different reason for the rather rabid attack on him.

Sachin is a falling hero; and so anything to hasten his fall would be lapped up by the media and then the public. Perhaps if he had cut the same cake after having scored a string of centuries, the scribes would not have bothered about the colour of the cake. His cutting a tri-colour cake would have been put down to an aberration. By the way, no mention is made of the plight of the Indian High Commissioner in whose official residence the cake was cut.

And what about the Karntaka Politicians who wanted Mr. Murthy jailed?

They are greatly disturbed by the "insult" rendered to the National Anthem by Mr. Murthy, but are unfazed by the long queues for water, by the sight of little children helping their mothers collect muddy water from little streams - water not fit to wash your hands in let alone drink, by the severe shortage of electricity, by the disappearing forests in the ghats and by a thousand other problems for which they are paid a salary out of our taxes to solve or at least alleviate.

A story in the Bible runs thus:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken
in adultery. Having set her in the midst, they told Jesus,
"Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. Now
in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such. What then do you say about her?" They said this testing him, that they might have
something to accuse him of.

But Jesus stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to
them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her." Again he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.

They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience,
went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle.
Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, "Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?"

She said, "No one, Lord."

Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more."

Can there be greater patriots than Mr. Narayana Murthy & Mr. Sachin Tendulkar? Few men can do much more for India than they have done. Can they be judged by whether or not one sings the National Anthem or the other cuts a tri-colour cake?

And can there be a greater traitor than a corrupt khadi wearing politican signing the National Anthem with gusto?

Friday, April 06, 2007

WASSUP?

Cricket

The best comment that I heard on the Indian Cricket Saga:
“Aren’t we trying to make a scapegoat out of Chappell for our non-performing players? If it was any other nation than India then these non-performing players would have been kicked out a long back. In a cricket crazy nation of billion people can we not find another team of performing players?”
I’m not a cricket crazy fan. But having watched the huffing and puffing of our Non Performing ‘Assets’, I have to conclude that these guys, the BCCI included, do not possess any strategy – save the strategy of making money. When I started putting my heart and soul into teaching 17 years ago, a person was beginning to give his heart and soul for Indian cricket. Mind you both of us weren’t doing it for free. I raked in the moolah just as the other person did; albeit he in crores, I a few lakhs. Aspersions have been cast on his commitment and his continuance. I haven’t had that misfortune. I have matured gracefully, and god willing, have many years to go before I decide to retire. Sachin is on his way out. His shelf life is up! The problem is that, he hasn’t realised it. Hence his ravings and rantings to an eager press; while his ‘bete-noir’ – the coach, maintains a dignified silence (Leaks to the press do not qualify for comments!) Wassup?

Inflation

The government is baffled at the way the inflation has been creeping upwards. So drastic measures have been lined up. The CRR rate, a useful weapon in beleaguered times, has been used to suck money from the market. The latest hike sucked in a whopping Rs. 15,500 crores from the market. The spectators called foul and went and bashed up the sensex. There was a ‘Monday Massacre’. Wealth evaporated. A 1% cess has been levied on home loans; so as to discourage people from borrowing and investing in land. The price of land has been sizzling. Look at a II tier city like Mangalore. Good apartments are being sold at Rs.1,850 per square feet, whereas 18 months ago, the rate was just Rs. 1,200 per square feet.
With land prices zooming, farmers have decided to convert their agricultural lands into commercial properties and are selling them at astronomical prices. The new owners are filling these marshy lands thereby destroying the ecology. Hillocks are being flattened and the mud is used to fill fields and ponds. These fields and ponds were crucial for raising ground water levels. Today, they are gone and the ground water table recedes further. Wassup?

A natural swamp being filled up.

The disappearing greenery

Mangalore Warming

Huge climate changes are taking place in Mangalore. Temperatures are up by at least 2 degrees and the humidity is up by 10%. People sweat it out as the Mangalore Electricity Supply Company, MESCOM for short, messes your day with unscheduled power cuts. Water is in short supply. People crane their necks skywards searching for rain bearing clouds. The Nethravathi River which supplies water to Mangalore city is all but dry. The water level in its vented dam may last until May 10th. After that…..?

The Nethravathi River

Don’t you see a pattern? Don’t you see the lack of planning? Be it cricket, inflation or climate changes, we aren’t planning. We seem to be blinded by money and greed for more money.