Archive for the ‘Anecdotes’ Category

Kotwal of the Capital – 4

March 2, 2016

Continued…

So it was, that during his Yatra to Rameshwaram, when he halted in Bangalore, Brahmachariji decided to get the huge idol of Hanuman sculpted in Karnataka.

To think is to act… A group of devotees put their minds together and decided that the best place to get the idol made was in Karkala, in Udupi district.

Karkala is a beautiful, green place at the foothills of Western Ghats, next to the Arabian sea. The place is historically famous for its black granite rock bed, which has been the source of some great temple idols across time. The granite rock bed here is said to be a few hundred meters deep. The town, which dates back more than a thousand years, derives its name from “Kari Kallu” which means “Black Rock”, in the local languages.

To quote from Udupi pages  :

Karkala situated about 35 kms. from Udupi, is the headquarters of the Karkala Taluk. About, 52 kms. north-east of Mangalore, is known primarily for the statue of Lord Bahubali (Gomateshwara). The 45-feet tall statue is estimated to weigh 80 tons. Besides its colossal size, the Karkala statue is rendered more striking by its situation on the top of a huge granite rock, 300 feet high, on the verge of a picturesque little lake. This image was erected by a Jain king in 1432, in memory of Bahubali (the first Tirthankara) who renounced the world at his most victorious moment.

Here is a picture of the Gomatheshwara idol. This is the second tallest statue of Gomatheshwara in Karnataka ( the tallest being the one at Shravanabelagola in Hassan district).

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Gomateshwara_Statue,_Karkala.

Karakala town is like a portal to other great religious centers such as Sringeri, Kolluru ( Mookambika), Udupi, Dharmasthala etc. During the times of Portuguese invasion of Goa and the inquisition of Hindus, a section of Gauda Saraswata Brahmanas fled from Goa and came to Karkala, where they were given refuge by the local Jaina King. They Saraswats built a temple for Lord Venkateshwara, which is called Padu-Tirupathi (Western Tirupathi), which  is now one of the main attractions of Karkala.  Right in front of this temple is a temple of Hanuman. Known as Veera Anjaneya temple, this has a unique idol of Hanuman – around 15 feet tall, standing in a warrior pose, one hand on hip, other raised up above the head (as if about slap his opponent), hair flying… It is said that this idol was discovered when the land in Anekere (where there is a lake) in Karkala was being dug…

They say that Tipu Sultan was an ardent devotee of this Lord, and gifted a silver necklace that the Lord wears till this day.

Here is a picture of Veera Anjaneya of Karkala

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Veera-maruthi-karkala.

So, such is the place chosen by Brahmachariji for sourcing his Hanuman, the Kotwal of the country.

From available literature it is not clear if he had darshan of Veera Anjaneya at Karkala, but one would guess that he would have had Darshan, for he spent a lot of time in this small town. With Rama Nama Sankeertana traditionally chanted on special days in the temple, surely Brahamachariji would have been drawn here…

Coming to the year 1983….

After deciding to commence the project, Brahmachariji came with a group of devotees to Karkala. In Karakala, he stayed in Shukateendra Ashrama, a beautiful traditional Ashrama, where around 50-60 students studied traditional Vidya.

The next morning, Brahmachariji visited the quarry and inaugurated the project of sculpting the idol of Hanuman. Sri Radhamadhav Shenoy, the famous architect / sculptor, had agreed to the work of sculpting the idol of Hanuman. He came from a family-line of sthapathi-s (traditional Indian architect / sculptors), and his grandfather had been awarded a recognition by the President of India. He was so happy taking up this assignment of Brahmachariji that he waived all material c osts – (of the massive stone etc), and took only the fee for carving.

That evening Brahmachariji’s group put up a Bhagavata Charita Leela show in the Ashram.  They performed Shiva Leela as well. These were based on the ”Bhagavati Katha” penned by Brahmachariji. Although the play was in Hindi, the local students and people, who were ignorant of the language, enjoyed the show thoroughly. For Bhakti is Bhava after all – and then again, it was being performed in the presence of a Siddha Purusha – Prabhudatta Brahmachari Ji.

Dvivedi ji writes that at night, when Brahmachariji was about to retire, he asked him – “Maharaj ji, where are we going to get the massive resources needed for this project?” To this question, he says, Brahmachariji laughed, and said – “Hanuman Ji will make take care of all his arrangements himself!”

Very soon, the news spread far and wide that Brahmachariji was getting a massive idol of Hanuman made for installing as the Kotwal of the Capital in a temple in New Delhi. So funds started coming in. But would funds alone do for such a project? Surely, without the nod of God, not a blade of grass moves – what then to talk of such a massive undertaking….

Maharaj Ji was perhaps in his eighties then. The project to sculpt the massive 40 feet idol would take a few years. Brahmachariji returned to his Ashram in North India. Every year, he would make a trip to Karkala to inspect the progress. Applying the dust from the feet of the idol on his head, he would pray to Hanuman, again and again, to please come to Delhi soon. He would chat with Hanuman in merriment.  And so it went on… For five years… After which time, the sculpting was more or less done….

Now, coming to Basant Gaon, where the idol was planned to be installed. This was one of the three primary Ashrams of Brahmachariji (the main one being in Jhusi, Allahabad, and the other one in Brindavan). Up until the 1960-s or later, the area of Basant Gaon was open lands… A dry, arid, rocky sort of area – there was a village here – which was peopled largely by people of Jamadagni Gotra. It is said that the place where the current temple of Hanuman is situated, was originally a pond. The locals remember that in the 1940s there was a massive feud between some peoples in this area, resulting in the death of several people in this vicinity. Again in the early 70s, there was some local feud, which was, thankfully, not as deadly as the one in the 40-s. Suffice to say, that this area has seen strife. For whatever reason, Hanuman-ji decided to come to this place, and ever since then, the place has not only become one of peace – it is today, perhaps, one of the most expensive, prime areas, of New Delhi City…. Vasant Vihar…

Lets go back to year 1989….

The idol of Hanuman had been sculpted and was ready for transportation from Karkala…

The great Hanumat Yatra was to begin….

** To be continued **

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Kolam very different….

March 8, 2012

Dr Gift Siromoney, in the website http://www.cmi.ac.in/gift/Kolam.htm says “Kolam is a traditional Indian folk art widely used to decorate the thresholds and courtyards in front of houses. In South Indian villages, the courtyard in front of each house is decorated every morning by drawing traditional designs called kolam. The decoration of the floor with kolam designs is carried out by young women who deftly draw with pinches of flour held between the thumb and the first finger and letting the powder fall in a continuous line by moving the hand in desired directions. On festive occasions, the kolam designs are more elaborate and complicated.”

Early morning, most homes in chennai, the lady of the house would draw a kolam (rangoli) with rice flour…Geometric designs, ranging from simple to simply fantastic… It is considered auspicious, a sign that indicates welcome…. Also serves as food for ants… Which is a part of Bhuta-Yajna, obligatory duty of Hindus, to feed God’s creatures….

Morning of today, March 8th, as I stepped out to pick up the newspaper, I saw a new kolam outside my gate.  A kolam in text…

*

Today is a festival day, Holi… Was the new kolam for Holi?  But we do not celebrate Holi in Chennai, so what was this…

I opened the gate to have a look… And a nice surprise…

A Saree shop had chosen to draw a kolam, celebrating Women’s day.. and advertise themselves in the process… Innovative marketing! Kolam is considered auspicious, and as such one would not react negatively to this Saree shop advertisement because of that. Secondly, it brought a nice smile when one saw it….

Took a couple of photos….

Manusmrti says:

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवता: !
यत्रेतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफला: क्रिया: !! मनु:

(Where women are revered, there the Gods happily stay! Where they are not respected, there all works are fraught with failure!)

Happy Women’s Day! Happy Holi!

Flow of time

December 30, 2011

Long time no post…

So here goes…

A few days ago, a nice old gentleman who resided in my neighborhood, passed away. He was 95 (yes, ninety five). I have not personally been close to him, but we knew of each other, and were comfortable in affording each other space in our perceptible world. In other words, although we exchanged few words, we did nod sometimes when we passed each other, and our mind’s waves registered no dissonance.

When I got the information that he had passed on, I visited his house to pay my last respects to him, and convey my condolence to his family. There I spoke to his daughter. She told me that the man had lived a beautiful life. No illness worth recording. Did not suffer from Blood Pressure or Diabetes etc. No regimen of tablets. Did Yoga every day. Was always active, reading, writing. Went for his walks. He ate well till the end. Had a full meal the previous night. Had coffee that morning. She saw him sitting on his bed, checking his pulse, and asked him about it. And he told her he just felt like checking…. And even as he said these words, he gasped once or twice and then his breath stopped. His back leaned on the wall behind the bed. He passed away just like that. Conscious till the last moment. Sitting.  The kind of end that even Sanyasi-s pray for.

Ah yes, there is goodness in the world still.

Read on Twitter today about a good person, one of India’s great architects. About his retiring from service. The tweet read: “Man who changed the way of life in #Delhi, Metro Man Sreedharan, switches tracks, retires tomorrow ~ Legend of India

We owe much to this good man. Lets wish him well in his retired life. I remember seeing an interview of his on TV some years ago, where he mentioned that he looked forward to his retired life, and that he would love to spend the time with his Bhagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranama. The North Indian TV anchor, a young lady, had surely no clue what Vishnu Sahasranama was, she pronounced it as Sahastra-nama.  Be that as it may. Best wishes to the good Mr Sridhar for his next Ashrama.

Today I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine, who retired a month ago. He was a banker and an IT man, who worked in Bengaluru. For his retired life, he had purchased a flat in Sri Rangam. I called him today to wish him for the New Year, and asked him how his retired life was. He described his day for me… Here it is..

This is the month of Margazhi.

Morning 7-25 am to 8-45 am, he attends a talk on Tiruppaavai by Velukkudi Krishnan. I guess he gets some good Pongal too as viniyogam. These days the ‘pagal patthu’ festival is on in Sri Ranganatha temple. Ten days leading to Vaikunta Ekadasi. The Utsava idol of the Lord is adorned and taken in different Vahana. Araiyar Sevai is carried out. The celebration starts early morning every day and goes on till 4 pm or so. My friend spends 10 am to Noon there. Afternoon 4 to 5-30 pm, he again attends another talk by Velukkudi, on the glories of Sri Rangam as expressed by Azhwaars and Acharyas. After that he goes for a nice long walk, visits some temples, Kaattu Azhagiya Singar temple being one of them.  Evening 7 pm he goes for a talk by Sri Krishna Premi, who gives a discourse every day from 7 to 9 pm on Sri Ramanuja Caritram…

Thats his current routine.  Some evenings he goes to Sringeri Mutt to join the Vishnu Sahasranama Parayana, or Veda Sukta chanting.

He tells me that he is loving his new life. Everything that he needs is available in the neighborhood. The wholesale flower market is nearby. Quarter Kilo of fresh roses costs just ten rupees. And a lotus flower costs just eight annas.

His father, now in his eighties, is handing over the family Siva puja to him. He plans taking that over after Pongal.

Talking of the morning Tiruppaavai function, he tells me that hundreds of people attend the talk. And ever so many of them come in Pancakacam and Uttariyam, walking barefoot. They walk barefoot out of reverence for the land trodden by the great Azhwars. Such is the holiness of Sri Rangam.

Kaveri flows nearby. Tyagaraja music utsava is starting in a few days.

Life is good.

Holistic Cosmos: An Oorani tale

April 13, 2011

ஊருணி நீர்நிறைந் தற்றே உலகவாம்
பேரறி வாளன் திரு.                   (Thirukkural, 215)

The wealth that wise and kind do make,
Is like water that fills a lake.

(Translated by Kaviyogi Shuddhananda Bharati)

**

Yesterday, I had occasion to meet a very respected business leader in Chennai, who shared  with me, a page from the story of his life.

This must have been forty years ago, or so, and he was a young industrialist, having taken over the reins from his father, and others. He came from a Chettiar family and his immediate forefathers had operated in Burma. They had chosen to do so because, during the British rule, business families from North India were stifled by the British from transacting business overseas, and so many had shifted south, undercut the local businessmen, forcing a number of them to relocate, some to Burma. And Burma was good business, as British banks worked for just a few hours a day. And so our Chettiars used to sleep during those few hours, and rise and do money-lending business the rest of the long day. And they reached out to places where British banks did not care to reach. Every day, the interest rates would be decided and relayed from George Town in Madras, and business was good in Burma.

But this story is not about Burma.

It is about deep south Tamil Nadu, a district called Ramanathapuram, famous for its dry heat and water shortage. Our young industrialist’s (lets call him “S”) family had shifted back to India, after independence, to their native place, a village in Ramanathapuram. “S” was young, well educated, and had just returned from a seven week stint at Harvard Univ.

He was also the leader of his village Pancayat. And one day, when he arrived at his Pancayat office, he found a whole lot of villagers waiting for him. They were Dhobis (washermen) and had come to him with a petition. The local village had three Oorani-s (water bodies, tanks) for human use. One Oorani was for ‘drinking water’. One was for bathing. And one was for washing clothes. And that time, the area was suffering from drought. The tank for washing clothes was stone dry. The Dhobis came, offered their respects to him, and conveyed their problem. They had no water to carry out their work. “S” conveyed his helplessness, ‘how could he make water appear’. The Dhobis did not take no for an answer, and so “S” went and met the local government authorities. They threw up their hands and said, that “water was not in their jurisdiction” and “S” should go to the Government department dealing with water supply. That department was in Karaikudi or somewhere, not anywhere near. And so the matter rested, unresolved.

(But it irked. For in the village, the different communitites lived together in harmony. No one charged money for services. Grains etc was bartered for work. During weddings in S’s family, all the local dhobis, hairdressers, carpenters, etc would come and camp with them, rendering their services to one and all, and all their needs, from food onwards, were taken care of, just like family. The village was a self-reliant unit. A concept that Gandhi understood. A concept that has been bid good bye by Nehruvian economists and leaders of independent India)

Coming back to our story, that evening, “S” went to his home in the village, an ancestral house. His family had always been the big landowners of that village. When “S” reached home, he was surprised to find a much bigger group of people waiting for him at home. The Dhobis were there in full force and had brought their wives, children. And seeing “S”, they prostrated on the ground before him, Saashtaangam.

“S” was stunned. The Dhobis said “Yeshamaan, you must do something for us. There is no water. We cannot carry out our daily work. We have no one else to go to” etc….

“S” again expressed his helplessness, and said “Listen, you already met me at the Pancayat office, and I have told you, I don’t know what I can do”. The Dhobis said, “There, you were a Pancayat leader. Here, at home, you are your father’s son. And our yeshamaan. If you dont do something for us, where will we go” etc. “S” again expressed his helplessness and somehow persuaded them to leave.

All this time, his family’s business accountant (or some elder who was working with the family and was also a sort of mentor) summoned “S”, saying “Vaadaa…” (Come here, you) in a tone, which “S” had never heard him use. “S” went to him, somewhat nonplussed. The mentor was upset and conveyed so to “S”. He scolded him and said, “Here, these people have come to you to express their helplessness, taking refuge in you, and you have sent them off with some words?”…

“S” was bewildered, and asked his mentor, “indeed what else could i do?”.

His mentor told him, that the same incident had happened forty years earlier, when S’s grandfather lived here. That too had been a year of bad drought and the Dhobis of the village had come to S’s grandfather, with a ‘save us’ petition. “And you know what your grandfather did? He heard them through, and then gave orders that from that day onwards, meals were to be provided once a day for all of these people. But it was not for free. The Dhobis were to desilt and clean up the village temple tank, which was lying dry. And only if they worked on that every day, would they be given their meal”. The villagers were happy and accepted.

Now, “S”, decided to follow his grandfather’s example. He called the Dhobis and told them just the same thing, and they too happily agreed. They toiled every day and cleaned the tank, and had their daily food provided for.

One day, they finished the cleaning work. It was a hot day, the sun was high and the temperature was upwards of 40 degrees C. They came, bowed to “S” and conveyed that they had finished the work, and requested him to come and inspect. As per local tradition, they took pieces of upper-cloth, wetted them with water, and laid them down on the ground, all along the half a mile path to the temple tank. It was a hot day, and so wetting the cloth had to be done in relay, and “S” walked on the clothes, barefoot, to the temple tank.

No sooner “S” reached the temple, there was a thunderclap. The skies opened up. It poured and poured.

“S” said: “Here I was. I had just returned from seven weeks at Harward, to my village in Tamil Nadu. And experiencing the wisdom of our ancients”.

“I cried” he said. “Standing in the rain, I just wept. I cried in joy, in humility. What else could I do?”

Owl!

February 20, 2009

In this mail era of “forwards” and photoshop-fixes, once in a rare while, one comes across some simple and interesting real-stuff that happened to real-people you know…

Like this one…

Ranga, my friend who is a pilot, sent this mail today…

****

Hi,

This morning our watchman came running asking for my Santro Car keys saying ” there is a Kottaan under your car wheels “. Later on I came to know that Kottaan in Tamil means Owl. I went down to inspect and I was surprised to see a white bodied owl with brown and fawn coloured wings perched on top of rear wheel of the car and the bay above it.

On research I found out that it was a Barn owl . I called the forest department to take over the bird, but no one turned up.

I believe it is a bad omen to have an owl resting even in your back yard, let alone staying in the house premises. An owl hoot in a house sounds death knell for one of its occupants! So petrified residents of the flats shooed the poor bird out of the compound & tied one of its legs to a rope.

I could not see the plight of the bird…set it free in the bushes off Adyar river…near Gandhinagar.

Arrey Owley….as a Hyderabadi would say!

Ranga

PS. My daughter wanted to adopt it saying Chow chweat… and named it ‘Hedwig’ after the Harry Potter famed owl.

*****

owl1

***

owl2

******

My response to Ranga:

Arrey ulloo-key-pattey,

This is beautiful!

Owl in Indian tradition btw is a good omen! It is the vehicle of Mahalakshmi – and so dear Ranga, you are going to get a whole lot of money! Owl is also a symbol of wisdom – and so your corner teeth are going to come out after all!

And not least, owl is a good night flier. And so maybe it is giving you a challenge! Or giving you an offer – “Come join me! And become a ‘fly by night’ operator!

Cheers

The theatre of Mahatma

October 2, 2008

October 2, 2008

Mahatma Gandhi’s 140th birth anniversary.

Yesterday, the great theatre artiste Poornam Vishwanathan passed away in Chennai. He was 87. Morning today, I went across to his home at Kotturpuram to pay my respects. There lay the body, in the glass case, looking ever so peaceful, almost smiling, like a theatre person in quiet joy after the curtains are down, at the end of a successful play. His chest adorned by a beautiful garland that had been sent specially by the Swamiji from Sri Ramakrishna Mission Universal temple – the flowers having adorned the holy idol of the Sri Ramakrishna, whose humble devotee was our ‘fullness’ of theatre – Sri Poornam.

After paying my respects, I went across to Marina beach – to pay my respects to the one was born today, 140 years ago – the great Mahatma. They used to build a little stage around the statue, and have wooden steps etc, so one could go right up, garland the Mahatma – one and all could do that. Since last year they have dispensed with that. Perhaps the political leaders go to a different statue of the Mahatma. The statue at Marina still draws a lot of people, and there stood the Mahatma, in simple festive decor. Some folks were relaxing under a tent put up nearby. An elderly Gandhian stood near the statue. There was even a White couple from overseas who walked up, paid their respects, and the lady posed in front of the statue for a picture.

 

I walked across to the other side, and took another picture. You can spot the statue of the great actor Sivaji Ganesan on the back, right-side of the picture, with the tree in the background. The ‘Lions’ national emblem of India, is on a pillar on the left of the picture.

 

***

On this day, the anniversary of the birth of the Mahatma, Sri Poornam Vishwanathan’s mortal remains will be consigned to the fire. I wondered whether Sri Poornam Vishwanathan had a connection with the Mahatma. And in my first search-results screen, I came across a wonderful interview of Sri Poornam Vishwanathan carried by rediff. You can read that here.  

Here’s some information that I have extracted from that interview.

When India attained independence in 1947, Sri Poornam Vishwanathan was posted in Delhi. He was a newsreader with All India Radio, and stayed in Lodhi Colony. During those days, he used to go to his office via Birla house, which needed him to make a small detour, so that he could have darshan of the Mahatma. He has attended many prayer meetings of Gandhiji. He has read out his speeches, translated in Tamil, in All India Radio.

About Gandhiji, he says, “”When I first saw Gandhiji, I was pleasantly surprised to see that his skin was like the skin of a child. Soft and beautiful. There were no wrinkles on his skin or hands even though he was very old.”

When asked by the interviewer whether he had ever touched Gandhiji’s hands, he replied, “”Oh, no. I only touched his feet.”

And Poornam Vishwanathan got his great prize, when at 5:30 a.m, the morning of August 15, 1947, it was he, who read out the first news in All India Radio, the first external broadcast from a Free India. “”All India Radio, seythikal vasippathu Poornam Viswanathan…India is a free country…”.. After completing the news-reading, he cried in joy…

ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते . पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ..

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

The Artful Dodger

September 5, 2008

My college classmate Joe is a head full of pictures. He can draw, sculpt, design, think outside the box… Kind of person who keeps the class egroup provoked with invitations to think (which is not inviting to many), stoke purpose of life kind of discussions… Were he a cloud, he would have rained in color… Here’s a recent mail of his… just a lil story… a pickle of pictures… enjoy

***Begin-Joe-story

I just recalled an event in school this morning. Wonder if I had written about this before. Age being what it is, one can’t be too sure!

Sebastian PA was  the most talented ‘Dodger’ I have ever seen. He could dodge anything from a ball thrown at him while playing ‘kings’,to  people lunging at him to ‘SAT’ him or arms shot out to him to take the basket ball away from him. He was as flexible & as unpredictable as water drops on a yam leaf. In a flash he would outwit even a quickest amongst us and slime off much leaving us fuming in fury and humiliation.  But before he hit the basket ball scene seriously ( to being a Madras university player eventually ) he was someone who didn’t give a #@*^^#  to being in a basket ball game or playing it. In fact most teams would not take him as he was forever faking throws, making fools of attackers and laughing devilishly to go past them effortlessly. Those days he was more interested in just that than in netting the ball. Eventually he was taken in by WA John and soon he was playing seriously ( or was he? i am sure he still was devilishly laughing at all of us inside!!).

The incident I am to describe took place before his transformation into a star basket ball player. We were in the 9th or so and a Kabaddi match was on under the watchful eyes of WAJ. It was an unbalanced team with weaklings like me, Sebstian, Patrick, Wilfred Pinto and so on against the likes of Izam, Arthur James, Harikesh, Aslam, Chandramohan and other muscular entities of our time.  We would get picked up like praying mantises by Aslam and gang, as we went in praying ‘kabaddi,kabaddi..please don’t break my haddi-haddi… kabaddi kabaddi”.  And when one of them would stroll in mumbling the same mantra (without the prayer of course) no one would dare grab a leg or torso for fear of losing a tooth and ending up in their court as he strolled back ! Eventually everyone in our team got out except for ….Sebastian PA.

So there it was people – a scene to behold as a shaky and visibly worried Sebastian alone Vs the muscle unnis of the school waiting to tear him apart like chicken in a KFC factory ! Every one was laughing at the chances this skinny lad had against the collective might of half a ton of Bournvita bred muscles. I was laughing too as he stood at the line before entry into their side of the court. But something inside me told me things are not going to be as predicted – not with Sebastian! I must admit that WA John did tell him “Go in!! Be brave “.

I remember seeing fear in Sebastian’s eyes as he stood there waiting to go in like a fly into the Venus fly trap. And then he made his move! As you all know, he had to reach a line drawn inside the court before he can get back for it to be a genuine attempt. He seemed to have decided to run straight in, get caught as safely as possible and end the agony of anticipated certain death. But the ‘Dodger’ in him took over I think. For what happened was simply stunning! He went like a rocket without a stabilizing tail fin. He just wove in & out between the arms reaching out to grab him as he held his hands on his head protecting it, crouching, ducking and evading instinctively as he went straight in to this maze of clutching arms and muscled fingers ready to clasp on. Everyone made contact with him in their attempt to grab him once at least but each one of them lost their grip on this Dodger of Jwalagiri. And before anyone knew it, he was out from their midst having zigzagged in & out of that zone beyond the line and was back in our court!

There was disbelief at first. Then there was this roar of celebrations from us skinnies that drowned the usual protests from the muscle brigade. But WA John would have none of the protestors! He declared all of them out except for Devadas or Eugene i think… We were all in and i remember Wilfred and his brother Patrick catching their lone little member as he came in. We won!!

And thus ends the legend of Sebastian PA against the Muscle Unnis.

Moral of the story: Even if your chances at something are as bad as the formation of life in the primordial soup, take heart in this story! Be brave & go in.

The 25th of June

June 26, 2008

All channels are talking of June 25, 1983… The day when India won the Prudential cup – the cricket world cup. And my class e-group had a lot of fun talking about “where were you on that day?”…

And then someone asked, about the same date, in a different year:

“How many of us remember June 25th 1975? And what were you doing then?”…

One of my class fellows, NR, of Kerala, guessed right, when he replied “Emergency?”

Yes, that was the day when the Indira Gandhi Government declared a state of Emergency in India.

Civil liberties were suspended, opposition leaders jailed, press freedom suspended, judicial freedom curtailed…

And heres what Joseph remembers of that day… I quote from his mail…

“emergency i wont forget !

I just about did not make it into RECT ( you lucky devils !) was in the tail-ender batch in August – not enough marks obviously !

i was visiting my school one day in July and had hung around till 7:00 pm with some pals. my close pals had all left by then to BITS, JIPMER, etc. I had applied only to RECT & a hurried one to REC Calicut. i was sh*7$ng in my pants ( damn that silly mistake from over-confidence – old problem , still with me – for maths in CBSE that knocked off 10 marks in a really simple question !!)

As i waited for a bus back it was getting dark. Then i heard this rumble of an overloaded old jeep spewing smoke trundling up the steep road as police men in helmets stood up at the back & were also packed into it. I was grinning at the sight sitting on a culvert, as it passed me. I also had this CBSE smirk for all local offices & machinery.

I guess it must have pissed off the Sub Inspector coz the jeep that passed me stopped about 20 meters away and the athletic police men in helmets & really heavy boots that went KATAK, KATAK, PACHAK, KATAK ran towards me shouting ” come here u dog!’

I was in shock as 3 of them grabbed me, bend my hand behind me and push me to the ground, pulled me up, pushed me to the jeep and shoved me in !

inside a sub inspector turned around bored and asked me what are you doing here?

F*&$ man – i had not even started shaving and the F-&^%$-R thought i was some criminal??

i cud not speak in malayalam well then as the Refinery school did not have a great malloo crowd and neither were we taught malayalam . So i spoke in english and that saved me !! The SI then had to respond in English to save his face in front of his goons. I was surprised that i was showing that i was pissed though i was scared & intimidated like hell with these KATAK KATAK KATAK boots of these cops.

I asked him – what did i do? why are you doing this to me? i just went to my school!

He asked what school ? I explained. Then he said -‘ look its Emergency- do u understand? dont hang around here on the roads after 6:00. OK? Now go home !!’

They then almost chucked me out of the jeep and puttered on as the guys standing at the back glared at me & i back !

So – how will i forget the Emergency , 1975 and RECT & you F-&^#@-S ?!!

KATAK, PACHAK, KATAK, PACHAK

enna?

NR

**

So, where were you on June 25th?

Zen and the art of buying a car – 5

March 4, 2008

The final run for me was between Toyota Corolla and Honda City.

Both are good cars.

The traffic of my mind went somewhat like this:

Compared to a City, Corolla is 10 cms or so wider in the back seat. Can seat three comfortably. Has more power. Seems a better brand promise. It also has better road clearance than City. City, when loaded, sometimes scrapes the top of taller speed-breakers.

But City gives better mileage. Is more compact, and therefore more suitable for metro traffic. 

And given the price range I was looking for, the comparison was between the upper end, fully loaded Honda City versus the Entry Model, not so loaded Toyota Corolla. And in terms of interiors, the City scored better in this model comparison. And in terms of exterior styling, Corolla, to my mind, is not all that cool. Price of City was less by 20% or more. And I remembered Krishna81’s advise about a cap on the budget.

And so, although my heart was for a Toyota, my head finally voted for the Honda City, and my heart followed as well.

Phew! That was close!

And now came the financing part.

Used-car Krishna wanted to broker a deal with a hotshot multinational bank. Whereas my local Indian public sector bank was also calling me. Overseas bank was giving a better rate, and would come to my place with all paper work needed. But the PSU Bank seemed friendlier, and promised to clear the application in three days flat. Overseas bank in question is not a stranger to using strong arm tactics…So I decided to try the PSU.

Enter PSU Krishna.

“Welcome Sir! We will clear your loan in two days, Sir. You just come for fifteen minutes, Sir. All will be ready. No complications Sir! No Post-dated cheques and all. All very simple”…Service with a smile.

And when I called for that promised service – “Sir! Tomorrow our new premises being inaugurated. GM is coming. You are also welcome Sir! Customer first! But I will be fully busy. You can come later sir?”

And when I landed there, nothing was ready. But with a bit of pushing and patience, things moved. Except that they requested me to go to a stationery shop to buy Form 20, 21, 29, 30 etc, two copies each. So I did that. Finally paper work was done from my side.

“Loan cheque will be ready tomorrow evening, Sir.”.

And so I called them next evening. Things hadn’t moved. No fault of theirs.

“Sir! This computer Sir! New core banking system inaugurated two weeks ago! No proper training at all Sir! They came two years ago and gave training for one day only! And system has come two years later! Our staff has also changed! Manual system means I would have given you a cheque in fifteen minutes. Now, sir, with core banking, it is taking some time. We are on it. I will ensure that you have the cheque before EOD today, rest assured” said PSU Krishna.

Come EOD, I called him…”We are on the job, Sir. System bottlenecks. We are progressing, step by step…step by step…We will do it”.

And then I said, I will come personally and wait in the bank.

“Please, no sir! How will it help, Sir? System is like traffic jam. How can your coming help, Sir? I only will feel more embarrassed. Pukka, by tomorrow, it will be done Sir…”

And  true to the word, by tomorrow, it was done! Hurrah!

And so, Chalti ka naam gaadi! Thank you, Krishna81!

Zen and the art of buying a car – 4

February 28, 2008

When people ask me what I do, I usually tell them that I am a software engineer at heart. And then there is usually a moment of timelessness, as we respectively see who blinks first.  I am sure that this predicament is not mine alone, and that I have a whole tribe of my own out there, who too must be struggling to convey what exactly they do – how they add value to the world that they are robbing.  🙂

And then sometime ago, I attended a software engineering conference, where a very respected software engineer, several years my senior in the field, and a million times more accomplished, famous and wealthier, had this to say – “When people ask me what I do for a living, I have now got a proper reply. Here it is. I tell them – ‘My grandfather was a horse-thief, my father was a used-car dealer, and I, am a software engineer.’ ”

So, coming back to my car chronicle, I had this old car to sell, and new car to buy.

Enter – Used-car dealer Krishna!

For the sake of brevity, lets call him Used-car Krishna! Here was a pure, unadulterated Krishna!

He purred like as if he had nothing but my highest interest in his heart. He would take care of the whole thing. Sell the old car. Show me a range of new cars. Get me the best prices. Arrange any finance I need. And also fill my refrigerator up, as a freebie. All at no extra cost. Their dealership had been serving the society for more than five decades now. And this used-car Krishna who was now my trusted-advisor was a second or third generation person from that family of Used-car  Krishnas!

Krishna asked me how many kilometers my current car has done. 60 K, said I. He then examined the papers of my current car, his face taking on the look of Don Bradman facing a ball, and deciding how best to hit it for a six. He then put on his most trust-inspiring expression and gave me four options, one straight, and three crooked. We could go for the straight option of course, except that I would not get as good a  price. I would be foregoing some 20 or 30K. I chose to go straight. And then he was so quick on the kill that he was willing to sign a cheque straightaway, which made me wonder if I had been made a lemon.

And then he smoothly switched gears, and got onto discussing how he could help with arranging finance for my new car purchase. He sang such a melodious number! I came away thinking that I could be getting a fascinating deal where I had to pay just 6 % interest.

And before I could say Henry-Ford, Used-car Krishna had landed in my house in the evening. He brought along some snake-oil salesmen from a new car dealer, and two new cars (one purposely made to look dull compared to the other, higher priced option). He also brought along a finance man, who he said would meet me next day, with all paper work done, and a few signatures from me on the cross marks on the forms, well the loan would be done, and the new car could be mine!

But being a software engineer, I am trained to do V & V – verification and validation. And so I went to my Accountant Krishna and asked him about financing options, and told him the deal offered by Used-car Krishna.

Accountant Krishna had recently purchased a new car himself and so was fresh with battle wounds. About the deal offered by Used-car Krishna, he lifted an eyebrow and hid a smirk, and asked me a few questions on the detailed terms, for which I had no answers. He wanted to know how the loan offering was structured. Interest on diminishing balance or not, cut off to the day or month, how the repayment EMI was accounted for, how  the loading of principal and interest was divided over time, whether there was a penalty for pre-closure etc.  Seeing me bewildered, he gave me a small lecture on hidden costs in such deals.

And then he told me about the discounts that could be expected. He advised me that I should break up the transaction completely, so that I did not let the banker, the Used-car dealer, the new car dealer, the insurer, and the accessories suppliers, to gang up as one front. I should deal with each separately, look them in the eye, and get a better deal from each of them, individually.

And to think that I had been thinking that this was a simple straight-through-processing type done deal. Ho hum!

                                         – To be continued –