Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ullaasapoothirikal Kannilaninjavale...

L to R: kannan(outside the stage...looks like he is watchin out for rotten eggs to drop the curtain!), me(don't i look like a dork!), shan(pink shirt, green pants...haha!), kiran(background...enjoyin!), kevin(background...barman all the way!), arun(he looks rite out of a jayan movie), viswan(is that a tanktop shirt???, shinoj(oddly missing in the frame!). Courtesy and Gratitude: Shan for spending his valuable time digging this lousy(but this is the best we have!) snap out!

College wuz all about proving to others that the savages cud do anything under the sun. And Viswan, made it even more tougher for us. Hardly a day wud pass before he came up with a new scheme or adventure...that typical mischievious smile on his face and we were all shouting..."Oh No! for cover"...we dreaded his many whims and a nice afternoon that wud have been spent lazing away in the backbenches irritating teachers and distracting classmates, shooting bullets, playing cat-and-bull, etc had to be sacrificed for a day-out-in-the sun, raising funds(college panavu pirivus were so fun) and begging for support from teachers and classmates, etc. And that wuz when the Arts Festival came up and we were just happy taking part in essay writing, dumb charades, poetry writing, drawing, music, etc when Viswan dropped the bombshell...we had to dance too! Now, we knew he wuz crazy...except for Arun Hari and Anoop the rest of us including Viswan wud have made mammooty strut with pride!

The infuriating thing about Viswan wuz his vulnerablity and compulsiveness when he cant have things his way...and as usual we fell in line. Finally practise was scheduled for next day...
SCENE-I Viswan's house. The song..."Who Let The Dogs Out"...the choreographer, Viswan himself, the dancers...Arun, Shan, Anoop, Kevin, me and Viswan. Kiran and Shinoj didnt even bother to turn up...they must have been laughing at our plight huddled in some a/c bar while we sweated. Viswan showed us a few steps, told us to practise till perfection and when we tried to sync up it wuz a total failure. Kevin and I were miserable...we had two-left foots, Shan and Arun lazy as ever, only Anoop like a diligent pupil lend his ears to Viswan...who finally ended up in tears as we excavated his cricket bat and headed for the medicos ground. SCENE-II My Basement. To distance us from the medicos ground viswan prudently shifts practise here. After a few mins of practise, the villainous cricket bat comes out again and finally we bargain with Viswan that if he let us play a game we wud obey him henceforth. After frantic calls to get Anoop, viswan despondently breaks the news that Anoop fled to mangalore seeing our performace yesterday and for fear of rotten eggs. After the game when we start practise in earnest, Kiran and Shinoj barge in and they ruin everything poking fun at our clumsy steps and mocking our "master". After half an hour of this parody, Shan announces he is tired and need refreshment...again beerings!

SCENE-III The Footloozers - By now Viswan had Arun on his side, and realizing his inability to coach us,he hires The Footloosers, Trivandrum's champion professional dance troupe to coach us. We stared open-mouthed at the steps they asked us to do... we hardly cud manage Viswans stupid moves...within a few minutes they realized our caliber...we wondered if they wud bolt as they huddled in serious thought at a corner...suddenly asked us if we would be interested in doing the 70's Ullasapoothiri song...we jumped at that idea as it wud be a demo-song and we wouldnt have to dance much. I sulked as Kevin and I were told our services werent required anymore...we were left with just 3 dancers now, Arun, Viswan and Shan and except for Arun, Viswan wuz so comic and Shan wuz so slow on the uptake we were sure to flop. But then we started thinking always...we had to make sure of pooling all our talents to make this work...we had come too far to give up...we created a setting of a bar, arun, shan and viswan wud be dancers with arun as the evergreen action-hero of malayalam filmdom, the late Jayan, Kiran and Shinoj were made two smugglers, Kevin wud play a barman serving drinks and I wud do a singer and lip-sync over the mic.

It wuz meant to be comic all the way and we had to win the crowd...we rented 70's garishly colored, multi-pocketed tight shirts, bell bottoms and huge belts, we collected huge-rimmed sun-glasses from the 80's, we redid our hairstyles and got wigs for huge moustaches and sideburns. When the curtain opens, kevin stand behind the bar, as the singer...I would enter the stage when the music started with a guitar, dancing in a wild-70's disco way. I couldnt do it the way they wanted me to but everyone agreed the comic-effect of wht i tried to do wuz great. Then the dancers wud come in, followed by the smugglers, who were told to improvise on the stage, fake having a few drinks, converse briefly, exchange briefcases and at the end our Jayan(Arun) wud shoot them down with two pistols he stuck into his already tight pants!!

And so the big day arrived. The moment the music started, the cheering began thankfully, our adrenalin raced, I made my wild entry into the stage, our dancers were charged...Arun, a superb dancer and great mimic had perfected Jayan's mannerisms to impossibly sublime heights, Viswan and Shan finally got their steps and synced up well on stage though Shan wuz found jumping up and down in agony after the dance as Viswan accidentally kicked him while dancing, our smugglers and barman were perfect, we had won the crowd and they danced and sung with us all the way. Not a single rotten egg or tomato came our way, and at the end of the dance, our classmates, seniors, juniors and the abvp guys who hated our very sight came over to congratulate us. We did have a shock though...a bottle placed on the bar that we planned to celebrate with after the dance and which the barman wuz supposed to only fake in pouring to our smugglers, wuz served out by our "kannilunni" kevin to an overjoyed kiran and shinoj...but it didnt matter anymore as we were still taking in the euphoria of the moment. For one person, however it didnt last long...the Footloozers where hot on Viswans heels to settle their choreography dues for almost a month giving him a hard time...Viswan vowed never to crusade for a cause henceforth...and we heaved a sigh of relief. Well almost, because a month later he had started planning for Dishaa, our inter-collegiate technical fest, which countless batches of seniors broke their backs trying to organize!!!

P.S - I have suddenly started to feel like an old man...all the ribs abt silver jubilees and quarter centuries seems to have gotten to me...i think this post shud serve to remind me of a carefree jabban-of-a-long-time-back and his fun-loving comrade-in-arms who lived life to the fullest...whenever the boring, predictable side of Mr.Kattakayam threatens to engulf me.

Friday, September 23, 2005

25 Years, 25 Blessings...

Sep 23, 1980 - My parents bring me into this world...i have given them such tough times over the years I have at times wondered whether having kids especially boys is worth all the trouble.

May 6, 1983 - The only person who to this day has shared in all my happiness and sorrows comes along...I feel the time running out on what has been a long journey of comic sibling rivalry, acrimonious fights, and of being each others confidante, best friend, philosopher and guide...I wonder how I'll cope when she leaves.

May, 1984 - I walk into the hallowed campus of loyola not knowing even for a second the ways it wud mould my life later on. An article The Wall Comes Tumbling Down written by my classmate Krishnachandran, says it all...from the viewpoint of a senior of ours at school by two years, but who passed out with us, a python, truely signifies the impact the great institution will forever have on me...

May, 1990 - My first academic success...i manage a first class...for the first time I brought my report card home without my knees shivering.

Aug, 1992 - The caning i'll never forget for a lifetime...eager to watch the sunday evening film, "Mimics Parade" on doordarshan...i rush home too impatient to wait for my dad to pick me up after tuition as he flogged almost a 50 times till my grandpa stood between us and bailed me out...i guess i'll realize how much pops worried that day about my missing, only when i have a kid.

May, 1993 - I qualify for the icse section in, i know definitely had a hand in getting me thru as except for english and history i fared poorly in everything else.

Oct, 1993 - I am vice-captain of the school mini-basketball team and selected to the trivandrum district mom refuses to let me go for the camp as i wuz on the verge of flunking my hindsight i think she decided wisely as always, but i gave up the dear sport for almost 3 years in disappointment.

Sep, 1994 - My first and last article to appear on print, got published in The Loyolite, our school magazine. It wuz titled Efficiency, India's Deficiency. Again somewhere down the line I lost the confidence to write for a long long time.

Oct 14, 1994 - Experienced the first death in my maternal grandfather who doted on me more than all his other perakuttis. Sadly the night b4 he wuz felled by a stroke and fell into a coma for 10 days, we quarelled and i have ever since lived to regret that act and with it a realization of never ever leaving an apology, thanks or expressing my affection or appreciation left unsaid for another day. To this day, I believe Appachan and Fr.Pulickal have been steadfast guardian angels, watching over me...every step of the way.

May, 1995 - I am selected best camper at camp india, a summer camp for kids. unfortunately the confidence from that never rubbed off on me in school amidst my super-talented classmates.

Jun, 1996 - In a class of 44, 43 of us pass our 10th with distinction equalling a long-standing school marked the turnaround in my life...never again in life did I worry or cry about academics.

Oct, 1996 - I head out for an iit contact class in cochin with thomman, muthu and ponnan. those were the days these 3 guys were the top rogues in class and i wuz the puny, silent introvert but they graciously took me along. when i returned it wuz like i picked up some of thommans daredevilry and all his high spirits, a slice of muthu's tongue and ponnan and i were deskmates for the rest of school life. Most of what i am today happened in those 3 days spent with these guys and since then i have forever looked up to life, never ever had to look back in regret, look down in shame or look on in silence.

Jun, 1998 - Despite my teachers hounding me and fearing for the worst, i surprise them all with a distinction for isc. the boy who scraped into loyola by the skin of his teeth with a provisional 89th seat in ukg walked out with his head held high and a 16th rank in the 12th. my dad told me that day, except for him everyone else including my mom thought i wud end up a pazham...for me, coming from him that wuz the sweetest praise i ever got.

Sep, 1998 - I write my SAT and get admission into Johns Hopkins and Kansas State Univ but unexpectedly clear my Kerala Entrance and choose home and a Comp Engg seat in SCT over a Mech Engg seat in CET where almost 20 of my ex-classmates had joined. That vacation we all travelled abroad for the first time, to the US and Italy...all I thought the USA wud be over the years swelled up into a great disappointment but somehow I knew I was fated to come back. Italy will stay in mind forever...seeing the saintly Pope John Paul at close quarters and the divine touch of Michelangelo's paintbrush in the Sistine Chapel.

Feb, 1999 - Barely a week after learning to drive an 800, we headed for my cousin's wedding at Kottayam on our uncle's Tata Estate chaffeured by his driver. My parents left for Velankanni, and ammachi, jish and me headed back to tvm but the driver stopped at one of our relatives' bar for a free booze, gets too much to drink and almost got us into two accidents. By then at my wits end and my sis crying about her exam next day and in pouring rain and a bleak night I take over the wheels of the Estate, unsure of the roads to take, abt controlling the huge car and my sheer inexperience, with ammachi praying calmly and not even closing her eyes even for a keep me company, and with a lot of "help" from the driver totally fit and ranting and raving...nobody cud believe the tale we had to tell back home but since that day, for everyone it wuz almost like i cud do no wrong!

Mar, 1999 - Just a month after chastising the driver I take up my first beer and i have never felt more of a hypocrite than at that moment! The 8 guys i identified to let into my heart as friends soon became like brothers to me. I coined the name of our gang, Savages from the first phonetic of each of our names and soon to everyone, classmates, teachers and collegemates we were known under that identity. We shared so much together and achieved so much with our confidence and zest for life was at its zenith in those years.

Nov, 2000 - Every day in college wud have been worth to mark down here as a milestone but for a few seconds i achieved sheer nirvana...on the cricketing field. We were playing the best team in college and I came in at 0/3 and the first three balls i faced wud forever remain etched in memory. I straight-drove the first ball thru the on-side, and the next, again a straight drive thru the off-side and now with men at mid-off and mid-on I again hit a much straighter one beating both these fielders. The sound of my pals lustily cheering me and the opposition clapping sounded so sweet, for a second i felt like sachin...i saw the ball early, my front foot moved in line with the ball, my bat came down with a flourish and the ball hit the sweet spot, my follow-thru and back foot movement wuz wuz unforgettable. But then came the nasty bouncer and I fended it away clumsily to slips and walked back dejected to the same guys who cheered a second earlier, now cursing me under their breath for giving away a fine start. Oh! how I wish nowadays I got a second chance that day.

Oct, 2001 - The time to plan ahead after 3 years of fun and frolic arrived, I distanced myself from friends which made them sad, picked up my Barrons and did a wordlist a day in bus to college and another one on the way back, besides finally paying attention in classes...everyone thought I had gone nuts or wuz tryin to show off...those 45 days were the only time in life I wuz systematic and methodical and the GRE ended up too tame a beast to kill. I still dont know why i never tried to bell the CAT, another road not taken...

Feb, 2002 - The only regret I wuz about to take out of college was my inability to imitate my dad in becoming a student leader. But this incident changed all that...and justified my decision to enjoy those years rather than spend in hatred, colluding and scheming against a bunch of losers. Ever since, I developed a deep distaste for the mallu tendency to politicise issues for scoring brownie points.

Mar, 2002 - I realized the golden years that began in my eleventh all the way thru the eighth sem were well past a tearful farewell to college and classmates who were by then more like brothers and sisters to me.

June, 2002 - Within a months time, trivandrum suddenly became an empty place with most of my school and college mates leaving, made some blunders...I fled India...and instead of seething optimism arrived a dejected, weary soul in america to make my "riches".

Aug, 2002 - MS started, I realized for a change I had to do some things I wasnt used to...studying and that too countless back-to-back nightouts, work for a living and with the little money i made then, having to budget for rent, food, clothes and a little fun...those were the days of living precariously from paycheck to motivation levels have been so low since then...dunno what gives me the strength to plow ahead, but made a few good friends who to this day...I believe would walk an extra mile to bail me out of any difficulty i fell into.

May, 2004 - The proudest moment of my academic life...recieving the Masters' diploma...with my parents brimming with tears of joy and clapping wildly. Two years of toil, sweat and hunger wuz rewarded, but my carefree spirit and working life have forever since found it hard to co-exist.

Oct, 2004 - No job, no money, no friends, piling debt, all hope lost...i sign up with blogger and 40-odd posts later...thru all i have written I have relived my entire life, expounded a lot of my viewpoints on society and politics, made some friends whose writings I could closely relate with...truely another important milestone in life.

May, 2005 - No job for 2 months,then a job, fired in 7 days, and then a dream job in a week's all happened in one my first proper full paycheck after a year of working and 3 failures.

Last 4 months I have made more money than I ever dreamt of, but I am loosing my soul...I havent found the gratification I expected...the ways of my mind are beyond my own comprehension. So many miracles have happened in my life...HIS gifts have largely gone unthanked for...i have always been like a child who gets bored with a new toy after a few days...thats all the soul-searching i wanna do for now. More than 3 years of shani gets over on sep 27th and my shukran starts according to Pops, I wonder what crazy things will happen now...I am weary at looking to the future, thats why the past seemed more apt to write about on this day.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Malluz Day Out!!!

Another unforgettable Onam has gone by. I am still reeling from its hangover and ksheenam...but i knew if this post made it out today it wud inspire me to make the next one even more grand. What made this one special and unforgettable for a long long time to come wuz how it made me feel so proud of our culture and how the homeland binds together such a lively set of youngsters into good friends. A week back our Onam looked set to end in mediocrity and marred by bad planning. Except for watching Pandipada at the indian theater on friday nite and a secret mini-potluck lunch for about 10 of us leaving a lot of our mallu pals itself out...nothing looked like materialising. But then tell me a mallu guy who can keep a secret...each of us unwitingly called up our other buds and word spread and everyone promised to cook something or the other! By friday night there were 25 mallus and 10 others we had to serve lunch too...the worst part wuz we were all amateur cooks in whose hands our great harvest festival and one of the greatest cuisines in the world wuz about to suffer a great humiliation.

Saturday morning began at a feverish pace. Sadly none of us planned to wear our mundu's coz of an uncle who got a ticket a few days back for indecent exposure when he went shopping after an onam celebration! We still didnt have vazhayila(banana leaves)...until my sis eavesdropping as always on me...let it out casually that she saw vazhayilas and the Food4Less where she went shopping yesterday...she saved my skin yet again as i had declared in imprudent bravado that i wud get the vazhayila without knowing from where. Rajay cooked sambhar, Giby made pulisseri, mathew and subhash cooked the toughest of the lot - aviyal, rohit made ari paayasam, abraham pappadam, philip cabbage thorran, abhiram parippu curry, reji made rice, sujith cooked pachadi and the other sujith's wife simi and my sis made two versions of payar thorran. I had volunteered to make my "special" chicken fry(dont ask me why chicken...the guys here have become such carnivores...that they cant sacrifice it for even a day...moreover that wuz the only thing i wuz confident of making after close to 9 months of inactivity on the cooking front!!).

Well this is the closest i will ever get to a cooking here's how i make my chicken...take it off the freezer...microwave it for 5 mins to thaw it...then apply a paste of tumeric, ginger and garlic to make it loose its smell...leave it out for a few more mins...then microwave it again for 5 mins(thats basically to cut down on time i need to cook it!)...then i pour in a few spoons of chilli powder and a few smaller spoons of coriander powder("sorry sorry...readymade chicken masala is for gals"...i told my astonished sis...who wuz already crying abt the hours of relief work it wud take to get her kitchen back into shape...the poor thing wuz already eating her words for remarking my chicken wud end up like mohanlal's in boeing boeing!), by then my 5 huge onions were being sauted, into which i pour in some more ginger and garlic, and after that my chicken cut into small peices goes...initially it will look like i am goin to make a curry as all this useless water starts coming out from my chicken...the gameplan then is to get it to evaporate...meanwhile i throw in 5 sliced tomatoes(more for the color!), curry leaves, salt, cilantro leaves and lime drops) and after 2 hours of burning my fingers, desperately stirring my chicken, scraping my frying pans bottoms and cursing the curry for not drying up its all ready to eat.

The feeling you get on seeing the vaazhayila's set and each of the side dishes neatly stacked on them is an out-of-the-world one...and with most of the people who i could call friends in LA also around me I knew this wuz the onam i'd cherish the most in life. My sis remarked that I wudnt have survived so long in america if it wuz not for all these nice mallu guys at USC. My mind ran back a year...when I wuz so lonely and depressed and had to beg my kashmiri roomate to take me to the kerala restaurant in san diego to have my onasadhya and his words of praise and thanks for giving him a feel of kerala cuisine. I havent hogged so much in ages...our boys had reserved their best for the most important occasion of all...we served rice in three rounds like at a hindu wedding...with the parippu curry poured in the first, sambhar in the second round and pulisseri in the third and to round it off a most delicious paayasam too! I wonder where I'll be next year...wonder where most of these guys still in school will be working...but so long as I am here...I know I will press these guys to make every Onam henceforth the most memorable event of the year...maybe we'll have an athapoo and a few skits too! Some of us stayed back to round off the night with scotch...listening to folk songs from films and albums...even dancing to a few of them...then settled down and talked fondly for over an hour of the day's happenings and went to sleep wherever we cud find space...worrying if the guy sprawled next to us wud unleash his "sword" in the middle of the night!

Much Belated Happy Onam to all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

War of the Worlds!!!

Yesterday at 12:40 PM I experienced my first power-cut in the US. Except for computers powering off it didnt sound like a big deal at first....but then a colleague came running saying the majority of Los Angeles was hit. Everyones mind wuz on the same topic...the day before's message from Al Qaeda that they wud hit LA and Melbourne. I wuz starving from having skipped breakfast and dinner the night before. To my dismay I found the elevators wouldnt work...came back to the office and decided to drink water to stave off the chickens in my tummy. That didnt work either. So began the climb down 24 the half-way mark my limbs had joined my stomach in crying...but i wuz amazed by 40 and 50 year olds actually taking the steps up to get on with their work! At the lobby I had a real surprise..almost 500 odd people sprawled all around! Most were just back from lunch I presume and waiting for the power to be back and the elevators to start working!

I passed by them and walked over to the street...the traffic lights wouldnt work... it wasnt chaos yet...i really admired the people for that...its an unwritten rule here that the first cars at the crossroads get to go in whichever directions they want when the traffic lights are out...but I knew some people had violated that as sirens were wailing all around and LAPD cops hurrying to clear up traffic delays. I struggled on further ahead...I had almost 10 eateries to choose from in the I passed by each wuz met with a "Closed" sign...the reason wuz their cash drawers were automatic. Thought of calling a friend in the downtown area to find out how he wuz doing...the phone networks were jammed!!!

I seated myself at one of the outdoor tables of a restaurant...dang, i couldnt even get a chocolate to eat...well as you all must have guessed by now...I badly needed a reason to smile...and, and I thought abt what a power-cut means to Indians...its so much a part of our lives...we are so ready for's for our computers, inverters for our homes, generators for movie theaters...nothing ever comes to a standstill, power-cuts are so much a part of our it felt like a miniaturized version of The War of the Worlds...I even imagined a meeting of head-honchos at Pentagon taking stock of the situation. I walked back to my office, dejected and tired...and on the way saw something that made me smile...who else but desis wud improvise in these situations...the sardarji who owned the gas station wudnt let something as silly as a power-cut affect his wht if his gas pumps wudnt work...he still had a food mart...and in the good old-fashioned way he wuz noting his sales down on a ledger. I grabbed a muffin, an icecream sandwich and a cold coffee from there and headed back...on the way wuz stopped by countless number of people asking where I had procured my "lunch" and I wuz more than happy to send them in the way of the good sardar.

The lounge and lawns were all crowded and I headed to my car...had my lunch inside...there wuz a woman sleeping in the car next to mine and I wuz immediately tempted by this chance to grab an afernoon nap. I had been lazy all day and wuz just hoping for this kind of reprieve and i dozed off immediately. Walk up with a start around 2:40 and the woman in the neighboring car wuz gone...ran all the way back... there wuz none in sight...all the people had disappeared, no more wailing War of the Worlds fancy wuz wuz time to get back to my newly begun war with .Net Windows Forms...

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Highly Inflammable Years...

Just heard some news that got me thinking and as is wont nowadays for me...these thoughts more often than not always ends up finding its way to this blog. 17-20! What a dangerous age that greatest appreciation for my parents and friends is for how admirably they shephered me thru a phase in life were adrenalin surges and reckless actions have marred many a young life. Came to know of a incredibly talented junior from school and a family friend attending one of india's most prestigious colleges dropping out and in drug-rehab now...and of a cousin, the gentlest and soft-spoken of all boys a few years back, totally into weed and other crap and miserably flunking his exams. Both these boys had left their homes to study elsewhere. A majority of cases like these i have heard have come from families with expat parents who become money-order parents to their kids back home who fail to see the struggles undergone to make the money or those with little time for their children.

Though many would disagree with what i said above...most young people tread such a fine line in these years that I firmly believe from my own experience that there is nothing more beautiful than living these years out of home rather than the all-out freedom of a hostel life. I did a lot of crazy things thru school and college...yet would make sure I got home without fail for dinner at the latest...and though i had to encounter a lot of barbs for getting home early from friends it really pleased me that I didnt give my parents a chance to browbeat me...and though it irked and still irks that i had missed out on some late-nite fun dont think anything could surpass dining with my family amidst the lively chatter and my "watered down" retelling of the days activities while we huddled around the dining table. A question I die to ask them, but never will have the guts to do is whether they knew...all I did, all the money I iskified and whether they ever felt I had to be reined in at some point. Between all of our parents' contacts every single move we guys made could have been traced easily in little trivandrum. Yet despite everything I did, to this day my parents never had to speak to me in counsel about drinking, drugs, smoking or sex...i think they were smart enough to know kids are more intelligent than adults may think.

Pop and Mom were the strict kind until i wuz 15...and then they let me loose, little by little...thank god for that bcoz i have seen too many friends run riot if they got a little breathing space from over-restricting parents(viswa, potha...u guys reading this?? I have sulked at never getting a bike, having to travel on rickety ksrtc buses to college...yet they magically soothed me by letting me drive their cars to college once in a while(must admit, it felt really rotten though...nothing beats havin a bike and riding one!), once forever embarassed with the clothes i wore...they loosened their purse strings in that department without even a word from me, lived on measly Rs.15 and 20 allowances a day for food and travel which never made up the numbers for a day of movies, beer and outings...yet i believe they chose to take a blind eye to some of my misdemaneours in budgetting for books, money for excursions, exam fees etc. Nowadays, I laugh so much thinking about all the precautions i took, the lies I said, the worries I shouldered in never letting them feel disappointed in me...all that deception still continues to this day in some lesser form or the other! If i leave out my pals it would be a big has been a matter of pride for me that none of my closest friends from school, college or univ screwed up...we had such awesome peer groups...and for the most part exerted so much nice moral and ethical influences on each other...thank god for them too.

I had a cousin, just 10 days older to me who got killed in a car accident while studying for b.arch at madras...tomorrow wud have been his 25th birthday...when his grieving parents see me, i know they picture how their son would have looked like now...what if these parents had not bought him the car, what if he had not left home to study at that age...would he have had that night-out with doesnt matter anymore but I think all of us, future dads and moms shud give that question a thought. Well, its all about choice and the best education, parents can give their kids, whether it be at home-base or away but fact is at that age we need them a lot more of concerned parenting, and they shudnt be deluded or intimidated by our false projection of maturity, manhood, independence and rebellion. Many many years from now I wonder what sort of a parent I will be...will i be occasionally spying on them, will I deny them all the comforts and freedoms kept away from me...guess it will all depend on the kind of society prevalent then...but I earnestly hope my parents infinte wisdom in rearing us in line with the times will certainly rub off on me then.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Our Constitution, A Case of Diminishing Returns...

Its almost 60 years past Independence...the world as we know it has changed and so has India...we have become servile creatures yet again...not to any foreign power this time but to the political class...the people who have made a profession of serving us have turned the increasingly looks like they are our masters! Any institutuion be it a democracy, monarchy, school, corporation,etc will stagnate if it stays resistant to the changing times. Isnt it time to revamp the whole Constitution??? 58 years back when B.R.Ambedkar and his men set out to draft the Constitution the politicians they saw around them were leaders of the caliber of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Shastri, Abul Kalam, etc...the charter they created was in tune with the times in an India abounding with freedom fighters and men who seethed with optimism and idealism to architect modern India...the rot that set in with the passing of these men has gone unchecked for years and years and the Constitution has been left with too many loopholes to effectively curb these traitors to the Nation and to the Constitution from taking advantage of us. It is not the Constitution that failed us...but we who failed the Constitution. Once a passionate student of Civics in school, the interest got reawakened seeing another democracy evolve, rectify and move ahead with the times.

1977 paved a great opportunity for being called a second freedom struggle, but the anti-emergency protests under a great leader like Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan deteriorated into an effort to supress Indira Gandhi rather than become a correctional force to rectify many of the things wrong with India. Maybe if JP was not at the fag end of his life and had chosen to take reins of the govt instead of a morbid Morarji Desai he would not have lost sight that he had a once-in-a-liftetime chance to reinvent India's democracy. Today many criminals go scot-free with offences, many a time our courts failt to provide justice in time or over-time except for the ones which come with a push from the Law Ministry, the legislature has made a mockery of passing laws with debates in parliament and assembly that reek of politics, the executive tier has become a tool for men seeking power to armtwist corrupt deals, manipulate people in the name of religion and votebanks and the bearaucracy has swollen to become a behemoth lacking guidance and often going wayward like the political masters they serve. Just a casual thought and i felt i had several top-level ideas that could easily give us a better way of government - but like all others this is gonna remain on paper or on this blog until all our politicos suddenly wake up one fine morning and feel its time to reform themselves and our government - highly unlikely, well the other hope is the arrival of a charismatic leader, who draws enough supporters to capture the seat of power at Delhi and puts this idea into practise - highly unlikely again, just as unlikely as another freedom struggle for a new India in a country vying to be a major player in world trade without setting its internal affairs in better order.

The Executive - Do we really need ministers??? We all know its the senior beauraucrats under these ministers coin, draft and spin out all why do we need these men in khadar, who indulge in scandals, whose eyes are entirely on garnering votes and money. I feel a system akin to the US where only one or two elected officials are part of the govt would be an effective solution...we have highly qualified IAS, IPS and IFS officers who should make up the core of the government and execute their ideas and policies without short-sighted, ill-educated politicians hampering them.

The Legislature - So where does this put our MLA's and MP's...they are our representatives in the indian constituion...but why do we they have to run our government...this system has failed miserably! What we need is several house committees say for eg, Home, Finance, Education, etc in which these esteemed men/women would be members and where they deliberate, vote and finalise policies to be implemented...leaving the execution to the higher beauraucracy who are answerable to the House...unlike the parliamentary committees of today which merely perform an advisorial role and have been reduced to puppets! Anti-defection wuz one awesome rule passed...i'd like to see a law come up which prevents parties without a certian percentage of vote be derecognized by the Election Commission...that would certainly put an end to many regional eerkili parties in India! As for the Rajya Sabha imagine populating that house with 250 members like APJ and Manmohan Singh instead of over-the-hill, discredited politicos who dont have the guts to face the people's verdict and one from among whom becomes the esteemed president of that an highly esteemed person like APJ becoming the president doesnt become a once in a 50 year event!

The Judiciary - Though its the third tier of our constitution and the one which protects our democracy, our founding fathers were flippant in their focus on this pillar of our a result we basically inherited a flawed, outdated structure from the British, who had drafted many of the laws or the precursors to them, we have now, to give a semblance of order to a country, they only intended to squeeze financially and not to govern with justice. With independence and a larger number of people having access to courts and the lawlessness which accompanies a free society, in no time the courts filled up, justice had to wait for years, the corrupt got off scot-free, rapists abounded, criminals have thrived...its only recently fast-track courts have opened up...that the judiciary is not free from corruption has been proved by several recent self-contradicting judgements passed in recent times. Its time to rewrite many of our laws...and cut down on gestation more court adjourments beyond a few days...its so frustrating...just when a sentence is laid down, an appeal goes to a higher court, or a stay and its years hence that justice is finally delivered!

The Police - Our policemen badly deserve a facelift. Its high time they are reorganized as a modern, professional force akin to the Indian Army, free of intrusion from politicians. Improper, unscientific training and laws which lack clarity have marred their maturing into community leaders - to protect and serve us, as only tales of their bigotry and misuse of powers reach our ears. LAPD officers, here garner so much awe as they treat us with such respect if caught breaking traffic rules, arrive to help people at any time of the day, work as community leaders and though tales of corruption emerge once in a hardly ever affects the common man.

Reservations - Why cant reservations be based entirely on an economic basis??? How long will parties pit people against each other promising more reservations? And are these seats kept apart for reservation ever filled? The reservation of seats for women at the Panchayat level needs to be broadened to state legislatures and parliament...they certainly will make a difference to a male-infested field .

Bureaucracy - Our bureaucracy is bloated...admitted! Most of the red-tape and corruption that affects common people happens at the lower-levels...computerization can save us a lot of grief as it will keep babus who interface with the masses at a minimum...i wonder why our govt which promotes IT in such a big-way doesnt commission an e-governance ERP package from one of the tech majors! As for the upper tiers of IAS, IPS officers - cut them loose of politicans and we can have some of the best brains in the country unleashed to put to practise all the schemes, policies and measures which they now draft for politicians to take all the credit! To cut the beauraucratic flab disinvest from all PSU's, stop creating new government departments.

Local SelfGovernment - Kerala's much hyped People's Plan Programme was a step in the right direction but the men behind it failed in their planning - the people who got loans to start self-employment invested in perishable goods like chickens and goats, etc who finally ended up as chicken fries and lamb stew and defaulted on their loans landing the govt at the doorstep of bankruptcy. The lessons from this misstep seemed well-learned as new welfare measures like Kudumbashree have become models in constructive development. Ultimately LSG can achieve desired results only if devolution of powers to these bodies is better executed. Talking about Corporations and Municiplaities its high time they synergised their activities better with public departments as fast improvement of urban infrastructure is a must to keep pace with the spurt in IT investment thats going to be witnessed in our cities soon. As I write this the preparation for Kerala's LSG polls are moving ahead in full steam with reams of space taken up by political alliances but not a single column dedicated to the development agenda for the next 5 yrs...I sincerely hope the people ask the candidates if they read their parties' election manifestos when they come seeking votes!

Last post had mention abt a fr.pulickal....he taught me history and civics for three years and for many of us that was when we started looking at polity from a different bad that i didnt capitalise on what would have been a great start for any civil service aspirant...if this was one of the expositions he would makes us deliver in class or his history answer paper, whatever blunders i have written here would have made it to the school notice board for juniors and seniors to laugh at us...i am giving away too much material that would have made a great post about him! I feel a little odd writing abt improving india when i am perched elsewhere...realize there are too many holes in my arguments but it feels nice to casually put on my political thinking cap on occasionally...i know all i wrote is impossible to achieve against a political class so well-entrenched, whose bills to increase their salaries and pensions are passed and women like Gandhi, Netaji, Patel, Nehru and Sarojini Naidu who once served and sacrificed so much for India must surely be born every day in some village or city but they will never make it to the political frontlines...they are ordinary people whose acts of everyday heroism are seen only when a tsunami or an earthquake strike or a city goes under water. Time is due for a constitutional review which happens every 10 or 20 years...but where is the political will to usher in change...havent these men heard our IT czars voice the same words..."better business processes" every interview they give?? The day we can confidently call many more of our politicans statesmen, we'll have an india that can become a model to world nations!

P.S - I apologize for the length...if you have scrolled down this far! Forget all I wrote. Indepedence Day is over...for those like me who almost missed this article let us all belatedly pay tribute to another unknown indian freedom fighter. The Forgotten Spy

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My Seven...before I'm in Heaven???

Seven things you plan to do before you die!!!
- Write a much ever crappy it turns out i know i will have atleast a hundred readers from school, college and the blog world.
- Spend one year of my life entirely in travel...six months through india and the rest thru africa, asia and europe.
- Go back to Loyola and teach something for a year if the good jesuits feel like a Loyolite and a schoolboy again!
- Plant a thousand trees in Kerala
- Become self-employed and work for my own profit.
- Apologize to all the people I hurt or let down, in getting on with my life.
- On my death-bed, be able to look back and smile at all I did and was lucky to experience.

Seven things you can do!!
- In 1998 when on parting ways at Loyola, we promised to reunite at Athens in 2008, 10 years later for a sounded very crazy then...and today even more so as we grapple with working-day realities...i want to make it happen!
- Do a part-time MBA or creative writing courses to wile away my post-work hours.
- Call my parents every day and talk to them for more than my usual few mins...i suck big-time when it comes to phone-chat!
- Next time, my schoolmates call, get the sixteen odd suckers here to meet up at one place(we had planned for next years' mardi gras but with new orleans down in the dumps that plan stands wasted), instead of just talking on the phone!
- Offer atleast a couple of days of my life and company at an orphanage or old-age home, instead of sympathy.
- Visit Fr.Pulickal's grave at Calicut, spent some time there, just him and me and tell the old man how his spirit lives strong in each one of us.
- Offer atleast an hour of my Sundays' to God every week, instead of my wry smile and hope that he wouldnt turn a blind eye when i call out to him in need.

Seven things you can't do!!!
- Behave like an adult to a 5 year old child.
- Speak and act as frank and honest as my words and thoughts.
- Fall in love again without my parents permission.
- Ride out a roller-coaster with my eyes open even for a second.
- Going to a nightclub and partying
- Filling that unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of a distant run
- Too lazy to work-out

Seven things that attract you to the opposite sex!!
- Independence
- Smiles
- Intelligence
- Contentment
- Dignity
- Humor
- Traditional

Seven people you want to take this quiz.
- Arun Hari
- Praveen
- Jithu
- Sushil
- Anoop(atleast now get back!)
- Jofu (u can do much better than just pictures)
- Shan(if u wanna start blogging)

Well, this one post is for Silverine from whose site many of my current blog-pals came visiting. Most of it must have been crazy...but then, thats me...a bundle of contradictions and wild idiosyncrasies!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Idyllic Bliss Revisited...

Its been years since I visited my native villages...Arakulam in Idukki and Kattanam in Alappuzha. In the ignorance of my childhood days I sometimes abhored the summer holidays that had to be spent there instead of the urban fun and frolic I missed out on in Trivandrum. Looking back I am so glad my parents overruled our initial wild protestations and packed us off when school finished...though...once we got into the pastoral grove....we were so hesitant to come i cant even remember a single vacation spent in trivandrum but every holiday spent in these two little but contradicting paradises on earth still remain so vivid, so fresh in memory...even after the passage of 10-20 years.

Arakulam...yet another village in Central Kerala, abounding with rubber trees, roads that got tarred only in the last decade, surrounded by seven hills like Rome, streams that flow through rubber estates, the Periyar in all its grandeur flowing a stone's throw away and of taking a bath in its freezing cold waters, greenery that would make your heart skip a beat, an unearthly silence broken only by the crickets and the lone owl, the fireflies that dance among the rubber trees in the pitch-black darkness of the night, rain that catches you by surprise...starts with a hissing sound somewhere behind you...and as you belatedly realize wht is abt to befall...the desperate retreat to the house as it teases you in mock pursuit and finally beats down so hard on the earth leaving u drenched...and finally the smell of the earth after a rain! And the people...the rubber tappers, skillfully plying their trade before the world awakens and a second round, to come collecting the milk thats oozed out after their early morning scrape. Then the cliched flashy achayanmar on their jeeps gulping in toddy, fresh off the palm at noon...and imfl, fresh off the bar, by evening...and some of the most beautiful women in the state but then beauty never came with brains in this part of the world, a people who can never get fed up with feasting on chicken, duck, rabbit and pork, of chettathees who compulsarily carry a rosary in their hand...i wonder now why there are so many family quarrels in that part of the world though people pray with such fervor. A visiting friend of my dad summed up Idukki in a sentence..."muttinu muttinu kallu shaappum, muttinu muttinu kurishu pallikalum"!

Kattanam, a hamlet in direct contrast to sea-level or lesser, abounding with paddy fields stretching miles and miles looking like a green ocean, part of the rice-bowl of Kerala, Kuttanad, a sleepy little village with an unassuming, almost self-effacing race of people...people who are real sons of the soil as they toil at their hand-in-hand with the laborers they employ...i see my ammachi again...making kanji for the twenty odd farm-hands hired for the harvest season...and its earthy taste when had with the plaavela for a spoon, i remember trying my hand at seperating the grain from the chaff, the cows(and their chanakam in which my mom wud wrap each of my fallen teeth and throw it onto the top of the house for i believe some bird or fairy to come take!), the hens whom we wud displace everyday to see if they had laid eggs, the pond which irrigated the field...near which i wudnt go near coz someone said a python lived there(a mean rumor spread to keep kids away from the water!)...of Sundays, which wuz the big day when everyone decked up in fine clothes for church and the whole village of about 50+ people getting together after church for kochuvarthamanams and visheshams. Kattanam reminded me so much of Pip's village straight out of Great Expectations...and so did many of the people I met there...moreover I wuz born here! The lone similarity between these two places wuz that everyone around wuz related to each other as first, second, third or fourth cousins if not siblings!

Whatever land I would have inherited one day in these two villages have been sold...dont think my parents expected their city-bred kanni-santhanam to write in praise of the simple life in these places...i know for day i will buy back my lands...if i am lucky maybe even spent a few months at a stretch in these places, become friends once again with the relatives i cared not to know or keep in touch with while growing up. Well so much for I am...stuck in one of the most crowded cities in the world...without even a generous sprinkling of greenery for miles and miles...unable to rein in my fanciful thoughts...well, this time the grass is literally and definitely more green on the other side...think i will keep revisiting this post often with the Naalikerathinte Naatil song post playing in the background.