Thursday, September 27, 2012

Satyam bruuyat, priyam bruuyat

satyam bruyat priyam bruyat na bruyat satyam apriyam
priyam ca nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah

Speak truth in such a way that it should be pleasing to others. Never speak truth, which is unpleasant to others. Never speak untruth, which might be pleasant. This is the path of eternal morality, sanatana dharma.

She lies on the hospital bed, frail, tired, body ravaged by the disease and its treatment. She tries to make small talk, but her eyes speak volumes about her fear and her pain. Her daughter asks me "People tell me that in spite of all this treatment and all this discomfort, the disease might not get cured, it might recur. Is this true?" I am in a fix. I ponder over how to answer that question as two pairs of eyes stare at me expectantly. I want to say something encouraging, so that she doesn't give up fighting; but I hear RV's voice in my head , telling me "They need to know the true picture, we can't give them false hope". I say nonchalantly, "well, true, sometimes the disease doesn't go away and there's a good chance that it might come back, too". Their faces fall, eyes start welling up . I continue speaking, in a hurry to get the words out . "Yet, the doctor says there is a good chance one is cured completely, and we have to take that chance". The despair ebbs a bit and there is a quite desperation in the daughter's voice as she asks me "If it does recur, we just have to take the same treatment again, and it will go away, won't it?" My resolve is shaken, and I take the easy way out . "Yes. Anyway, we will just do as the doctor says; and things should be fine". It might be false hope, but they both look more cheerful and ready to face the hurdles that lie ahead.

I wonder how oncologists do this job daily, of meeting people and telling them the whole truth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Independence day - the day we celebrate our freedom from tyrant British rulers, the day we sing praises of the innumerable known and unknown people who struggled and even, lost their lives for our country. 

A visit to The Cellular Jail at Port Blair shows the inhuman conditions these freedom fighters were subjected to; their diaries bear testimony to their unbreakable spirit in the face of the hardships they underwent. I saw the miniscule cells, the narrow stairs, the damp dark walls - all designed for solitary confinement, so that a man may go crazy inside his own mind. I balked at the instruments of torture, the pictures and the accounts of the sparse food and impossible amounts of work that these men were forced to do. Above all, I read their diaries - pages upon pages filled with their love for the country, a deep belief in their actions, a purpose to their lives - a hope , a dream of a free country ; and I broke down in tears. These men trusted their fellow country men to take care of their motherland as they laid down their lives for its independence. And a fine job we have done of it..........

This Independence day , I wish for

Freedom - from communal and regional riots
Freedom - from miscreants who go under the garb of moral police.
Freedom - from the rampant corruption that is plaguing the country.
Freedom - from inefficient Governance.

The onus is upon us to bring to life the dream that thousands died for . May we have a truly Independent country. Jai Hind.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The calm after the storm

We had welcome rains in Bangalore yesterday - well, welcomed by all but the spectators of the IPL match at Chinnaswamy, I guess ! The showers soaked the parched earth and soothed the fevered minds of people. It rained through the night, as the people slept fitfully to the lullaby of the pitter-patter rain drops.

The morning after, is glorious. The sun shines benevolently, a gentle breeze runs through the trees, the birds chirp, squirrels squeak and run around with renewed enthusiasm. The grass looks greener, the ground is strewn with gulmohar petals, giving a red carpet welcome to the early risers. The entire campus looks as though it has been scrubbed clean for the arrival of some dignitary.

As Robert Browning would say -
THE year 's at the spring,
And day 's at the morn;
Morning 's at seven;
The hill-side 's dew-pearl'd;
The lark 's on the wing;
The snail 's on the thorn;
God 's in His heaven—
All 's right with the world!

P.S. Wonder why the snail is on the thorn - ouch!

Friday, August 26, 2011

True anti-corruption comes from within.

The Middle class - the large sector of India that is eternally trying to be upwardly mobile, who feel like Tantalus that a better standard of living is just lying out of their grasp and keeps trying to attain it; people who faithfully take out LIC policies and invest in retirement schemes. The Middle class who , again if the TOI is to be believed, has turned up in lakhs to support Anna Hazare. These are people who generally bear the brunt of having to interact with corrupt individuals on a daily basis - autowallahs who routinely demand 'meter mele 20', the bus conductor who hands out extra change instead of a ticket and says 'Sari hoytu bidi", the officials at several govt offices who demand a certain amount as though it was the official charge for something and then, calmly pocket it before getting your work done. More than 2G scams, CWG scams, mining scams etc; it is this corruption on a regular basis which affects and impedes the lives of these people intimately, daily.

When Shri Anna Hazare started his protests against corruption, the Middle class joined in with gusto, as this seemed to them to be the one way out of this evil that plagued them regularly. In the TOI, there were several reports and quotes by these people who claimed they had to pay bribes so often.

While this uprising of the Common Man is commendable, there is also something disagreeable about the self-righteous air with which people are condemning corruption. Several of these people, at some stage, would have tried to grease the palm of a traffic policeman and get away with parking in a no-parking area. They would have purchased / sold flats where half the amount would be in black. They would have paid for jewelery and saris in cash to avoid the sales tax that would have to be compulsorily levied upon them had they paid by card. They would have claimed that they are paying rent to their own parents, who live in the same house with them, in order to be able to claim HRA. They would have brought broadband schemes with free night downloads to enable access to pirated movies available online - and then, circulate them among friends as well. They would have searched for freely available illegal pdfs of books they want, rather than buy them off the shelves. Would all of this not classify as corruption - a desire to obtain something for which you do not pay the legal price, or to get something more than that which you are due?

Who is to decide the degree or the severity of the act and decide what is OK and what is not? In Kannada there is a saying - Adike kaddaroo kalla; aane kaddaroo kalla - which means you are a thief - whether you steal a beatel nut or an elephant

When it comes to bribery, the slogan should be "Neither a giver nor a taker be". As a person who grew up in Bangalore, I can safely vouch for the fact that about upto about 15 years ago, the autowallahs would not start driving with the familiar "20 Rs extra madam, vapaas khaali barabeku". It is inherent human greed and desire to get more than what we normally do - thoda aur wish karo!! - but, this would become a well established practice only if majority of the passengers did actually cough up the extra amount on a regular basis. The autowallahs are not going to sit around all day if they do not find anybody paying them extra.

We, as a society, have encouraged corruption and participated in it for years on end.While the lokpal bill might hopefully reduce large magnitude scams; at smaller levels, true anti corruption should come from within. In a society where corruption exists in all walks of a life, it is difficult to get by without it but not impossible. One might have to wait longer to get an honest auto driver, make more trips to your unfriendly neighbourhood govt office, shell out more money for the movie cds and actually, pay the sales tax. Life might not be a bed of roses, but atleast then, you would truly be within your rights to call the politicians corrupt and point fingers at them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To be or not to be...

... pro Anna Hazare - no longer seems to a question for the majority of the people in the country , if the TOI is to be believed.

It is true that corruption has become so widespread in India that, at times, it seems impossible that it shall ever be routed out. It is appreciable that Anna, along with other eminent personalities such as Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal , is trying to curb this social evil.

The govt draft of the lokpal bill is truly one that instals a dummy ombudsman whose hands are tied behind his back. This bill can't be surely accepted. Hence, revision is essential; but, holding the govt to ransom by threatening to fast till the bill was passed in its current version is anti-democratic for sure. Gandhiji did it with the oppressive British regime but here we are using the same weapon against our own elected representatives. It is the "My way or the highway" kind of a stand and such an obstinate outlook is not going to be of any use. When Sri Hazare started the fast, it was called indefinite and was clearly told be different from a fast-unto-death. Even Kiran Bedi clarified in the press that he shall fast only as long as his health permits. So, what is it if not a form of blackmail, if today statements are made saying that the Govt is responsible if anything happens to Anna?

The govt did mess up very badly -first with all the scams; second, with denying Anna and his supporters the right for peaceful protests a la the British Raj. The very number of people coming out to support Team Anna shows that the middle class has had enough with bribery and corruption and looks upon Anna as a messiah who'll save them from this hell. My concern here is that how many people know what exactly they are protesting for apart from the key words "Anna hazare, jan Lok Pal and Anti-corruption". Do they know the pluses and the drawbacks of the govt bill and the Jan lok pal bill?? Do they know both sides of the debate or are they merely caught up in the frenzy? Are they under the misconception that the Jan Lok Pal bill will save them from the routine "20 rs extra , madam" that the auto wallah asks? That it will be a magic wand that will instantly erase corruption from all walks of the society? Have they truly thought about the powers that Team Anna wants the Jan lok pal to be given and whether there could be any backlash of creating such a powerful body? Would it end up being like a second CPAB (of SG) that has right to detain a person without trial?

Also, a large crowd of youth, high on adrenaline is a dangerous weapon. The mob literally is elevating Anna to a God status and seems unwilling to think of him as a normal human being who could also have some flaws. There are schools who are sending students - small children - to witness what is being called the second freedom struggle. Today a person also set himself ablaze at Delhi. Most Anna supporters I know follow the "With us or against us" kind of point of view ; expecting the public to have a binary view. Many are not open to thinking that the Team Anna draft of the Lok Pal bill is just one of the several alternatives , including the one drafted by RTI activist Aruna Roy. If one has problems with the methodology being employed by Anna Hazare, the person is promptly dubbed as a Congress supporter, or a un-patriotic person by fanatic Anna supporters.

Finally, Anna
said "agree to our demands or step down" - and, one might be justified in saying so when the govt has failed them on all fronts. Fine, the govt steps down, what next? There are going to be elections at taxpayers cost - where we only get to choose between Worse and Worst. Will anybody from Team Anna contest the elections and promise to give us a better govt? Given the widespread support the movement has gained in India, and, as Kiran Bedi said "India is Anna and Anna is India", they are sure to win the elections and we might truly get better governance. With BJP messing up at the State level, and Congress screwing up big time at the Centre ; it might not even make sense to go vote in the next elections if we don't have better options!!!

I always feel hypocritical when I bitch about existing govts because, I know, that I would not want to touch politics with a ten-foot long pole. So, while all Anna supporters are busy making a villain out of the Govt, is anybody willing to shoulder the responsibility of trying to please the majority in a country with a population of more than a billion?

[P.S. I am not trying to defame Anna Hazare or his supporters. I am against corruption and would want a good anti-corruption squad. I am just not ok with the deadlines being issued, holding the govt to ransom and the effort to enforce a certain version of the bill without considering the alternatives. Just because I do not support Team Anna and their movement in entirety, I am not a corrupt politician or a person who does not love her country. Just clarifying matters before people start gunning me down for my views!]

Friday, July 29, 2011

The living dead

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all…. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing…. (I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life, as it did my mother’s….)

—Luis Buñuel

We haven't known each other for long, but, ever since your grandson declared that he wanted to marry me, you have welcomed me open armed into your family. You and Aajoba did everything to make me feel welcome and were proud of me and my education like my own grandparents would have been. You did not once tell me to quit my studies and move to Mumbai to live with my husband. Instead, Aajoba kept urging me to work well and achieve higher laurels. You called me your naat-sun even before the wedding and took me with you to Goa, Shiroda and Saawantwadi and fondly introduced me to your home and family. You were thrilled with my rudimentary Marathi and appreciated the fact that I was actually trying to make an effort to communicate with you, instead of laughing at my lapses. You both refused to be bogged down by failing health and made the trip all the way to Bangalore to be there in person for our wedding; and in fact, attended every single bit of it. The days we stayed with you, I would wake up early and have a cup of tea with you and Aajoba, and you would reminisce about the days you worked at the Port, about how your mother gave you mangoes for lunch, about I. Butler and P. Butler who worked at your office! You would urge me to have yet another cup of tea and more biscuits while I chatted with Aajoba and tried my hand at reading the Marathi paper.

Then, aajoba fell ill and your memory started fading. I was bogged down with work and troubles here, and I could not make a trip to meet him in spite of knowing of his poor condition - and he passed away before I could meet him one last time. So, when I heard of your ill health, I wanted to come and meet you, and so I did. I know not what purpose it served. Your illness is of a different kind. You are trapped in your own mind, in a limbo between the real and the imaginary. You stare ahead with unseeing eyes and I cannot fathom what goes on behind those glazed eyes. You did not even realise I was there, though you had asked about me just a couple of days ago. I sat beside you, rubbed your palms and talked to you in my broken Marathi, but you did not respond - not because you were displeased, but because you just weren't there.

They say medical science has made remarkable progress, yet, my friend who is a doc tells me that most medicine is trial and error. Each human is different and hence, will respond differently to medication. Your doctors are trying out every possible thing to bring you back from this state of oblivion, and I hope fervently, that something will just click and you will be back to remembering and recognising us and come back into this world of the living.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mango mela

The summer of 2011 [Vamsee shall smile at this :P] shall be remembered for lot of things - our first summer since Indu left for the US, Gaya3 giving her colloquium, lots of ups and downs at my home, etc etc; but the sweetest memories of this summer will be of the mangoes.

Summer has always been a season of fun and frolic, of lazy afternoons and evenings on the beach, of Kundapur and cousins, of jackfruits and mangoes... Summer is incomplete without mangoes and conversely, the smell and taste of mangoes unfailingly brings the memories of carefree summer holidays. On an impulse, I decided to buy mangoes one day in April, when I went to 6th cross with Gaya3 for some bag shopping. This just marked the beginning of a crazy mango indulgence. My friends and I went berserk, buying and relishing all possible mango varieties available for sale in Bangalore.

We started with the sweet-sour Rasapuri and the nectarine Bangampalli, which for it's flawless skin is also called Benishaan. Amma went on to buy us the sweetest Talappadi I've ever eaten. We then tried the red-skinned Sindhura and the local aapus, Badami. The small and juicy Sakkaregutli were a requested item on the menu. We did not buy any Aalfonso [Haapus] but got to enjoy the tasty ones sent by Aai.

A vendor near 8th cross sold me some huge and pulpy Malagoba which turned out to be delicious! The small lane between the 8th and 9th cross became our regular haunt, with Gaya3, Aswani and I going there often to buy mangoes. The beauty of interaction with the vendors selling fruit on small carts can never be replaced by swanky super markets. We chatted with them, tasted the fruit, laughed at the bees swarming atop the cut fruits, bargained with them and got convinced by them to buy 3 kilos instead of the 1 that we had set out to buy.

By late May, the Mallika [not Sherawat] had arrived in the markets. This mango is a hybrid between Neelam and Dasheri. While it has a beautiful colour and is elongated in shape, it is the embodiment of the Bard's words-

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217

The Mallika tastes wonderful, if eaten at the right stage. If allowed to ripen further, it ferments, leaving an acrid taste in your mouth!

Finding Rumani in the Reliance Fresh at 17th cross, 8th main, was a pleasant surprise. I remember Ajja bringing this mango home when we were young, and with his flair for spicing up tales, he used to call it Rumania, making it sound like the European country! The small almost spherical fruits resemble the tiny ooty apple in their shape and size, and have a distinctive flavour.

Langda was, yet again, a chance find at the fruit shop on 8th main. This green skinned medium sized mango comes in from the northern states and has a very un-mango-like aroma that grows on you!

We thought Neelam and Totapuri would mark the end of this very fruitful [pun fully intended] mango season, par picture abhi baaki tha, mere dost! On a visit to New BEL road with Nissim, I had seen a large roadside mango shop and a couple of days back, on the spur of the moment, Aswani and I decided to visit it .... and returned with 10 kilos of mangoes!! The shop, run by very courteous and helpful people, was selling various varieties of the fruit and coaxed us into buying about 3 kilos each of 3 different varieties!! Here we found two new cultivars - Himayat from Andhra and Dasheri, again from UP, and fell in love with the latter :)

Now with July coming to an end and with constant rains, the mangoes are dwindling. The ones that do come in the market have insects ['friends', as Aswani insists on calling them!] and necessitate extra precaution while eating ! Guess we have a few more days left, of feasting on Neelam and Totapuri, and with that, this season of celebrating the unchallenged supremacy of the King of Fruits would come to an end - and it has truly been a golden period!