If I made a movie on the Delhi Elections…

DISCLAIMER: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance, including their names, to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Smoking anything is injurious to health, and I was NOT smoking anything when I thought of this!

The movie begins with the election campaign of AAP and BJP and goes on entertainingly until the result day with intermission at the jubilation of AAP clean sweep and the depression in BJP office.

Second part (Kahani me twist): The wholeKiran Bedi Kejriwal Anna Hazare AFP thing is a plan by Ana, Kejruval and Kiran Bedy after the collapse of the Jantar Mantar movement. AAP was formed by these three people to take on Congress and BJP but Ana and Bedy publically criticized it because they had certain roles to play in the future and they did not want it typecast as the same team.

Congress was an easy target so Kejruval could handle it by himself, but BJP and Moody were a challenge due to their clout. Bedy joined the BJP at the last minute to put them off track and shield them from the realities of the challenge ahead. She consciously made those bloopers to reveal certain inside information (like paying money to candidate etc.) and break their cadre strength. She made a big fool out of herself to ensure that AAP has no potential opposition in this election. Now, that the results are out, Bedy will resign from the party on moral grounds and take all the blame.

Bedi_kejriwal_650_bigstryFinal scene: Kejruval and Bedy meeting Ana and taking his blessings, CUT TO  Kiran Bedy (the former dare devil cop who actually towed the PMO’s car 😉 ) taking oath as the Home Minister in the Delhi cabinet headed by Arvind Kejruval for the next five years as Ana smiles from the first row of guests 😀




Post-credit sequence:



















Image courtesy: DailyMail, NDTV, ABP, GustakhiMaaf.com, Business Standard, Snapdeal

Prof Mani Sundaram

Prof PS Mani Sundaram (PSM), the first Principal of REC Trichy, passed away late last week at the age of 87 and I, like several RECTians/NITTians, experience a significant loss. My voice might appear extremely frail amidst the sorrow of a whole junta of his students who have had the good luck of interacting with him personally. Like in the case with most passing, PSM’s as well pushed me into a trip through the memory lane.


PSM was a phenomenon in NITT even several decades after he retired from the institution, so it was quite an event looked forward to when he was announced to be its chief guest. His presence was a typical Veni Vidi Vici thing. When I learnt The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ‘He holds him with his glittering eye— ‘, never did I realise that I would experience it one day. I distinctly remember my response when someone asked me after that event ‘how is he (PSM)?’. I said ‘Have you seen that shine in Sivaji  Ganesan’s eyes? He’s a man who carries that glint without any lights or camera.’ That sparkle was something I always loved about this man every time I got a chance to meet him, the last being at the Golden Jubilee Celebration inauguration a few months back.

I said he passed away at the age of 87 but whenever he was in NITT, he missed no opportunity to prove through his quick thinking and sharp memory that he was never older than the 18 and 20 year olds around him. I wonder if there was anyone ever who has interacted with him and hasn’t been a victim of his high order wit and jest, which turned him into a perfect showman whenever the occasion demanded of him.  And what’s the best thing – he could distinctly place you even if you have met him only once in the eight long decades! I am envious today when I hear veteran RECTians remembering how he would recall and narrate personal incidents about their college days even until the recent past.

[embedplusvideo height=”400″ width=”620″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1g7KGem” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/X8HTR_ul7XA?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=X8HTR_ul7XA&width=620&height=400&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep5063″ /]


But all these are not what PSM is for me, they are only superficial observations. A deeper impact was created when I met him, heard him and spoke to him the very first time. He instilled in me a strong belief in the importance of having a vision, and the boldness and perseverance that go into achieving it. I shall highlight a few incidents about him that are very close to me.

  1. In a war-stricken India when PSM felt as a young Indian that his service was needed in fighting the Chinese, he wrote to the Prime Minister of India Pt.  Nehru about his willingness to serve in the Indian Army’s infantry wing! (That letter did receive a reply from the Defence Ministry with an offer in the Engineering division, but due to some other turn of events back home PSM did not go to the border). What inspired me here was his willingness to actually go and surrender himself to national service despite being a qualified engineer who could easily recline into being an armchair critic. Also, his boldness in writing to the Prime Minister of the country! Come on, how many of us would do that despite having much more advanced means of communication today? That needs guts and extreme passion.
  2. He was given the task of starting a state-of-art engineering institution in the outskirts of Trichy in the early 1960s (which is what he left the Defence opportunity for). PSM was in his mid 30s then. Many of us will turn 35 in another few years or so, and I know many who are already there. Forget starting an institution as supreme as REC T, many find it difficult to manage our work-life balance! The amount of responsibility that was on him and the brilliance with which he executed it and sustained for the next two decades is immensely inspiring, and challenging!
  3. His genuine interest in his students’ overall development. I have been there in the same NITT several years after PSM left. Here was a man who loved his students and did everything in his rights to make them responsible citizens of this country. He knew them, each and every one, by name and also sometimes their parents! If I were to believe what all I have heard about his administration, he even went to the extent of allowing one cigarette in the mess menu every night (to limit and control the smoking habits in his students!) The transparency he had for the students was very deep and that was naturally reciprocated by his students. Today, the culture is not even imaginable. Teachers who teach us for three years cannot recall our names in the very next year! Deans and Directors were inaccessible VIPs who showed up to give boring monologues on the infrastructure developments in the institute every now and then. Sometimes when I hear alumni talk fondly of PSM, I wonder how life would have been if he had never retired from NITT!
[embedplusvideo height=”400″ width=”620″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1g7JFTD” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/cGTsn4B_1rE?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=cGTsn4B_1rE&width=620&height=400&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3994″ /]

There are several other incidents with him that are both entertaining and inspiring, but to write them all would not be possible.

When I met him last for the Golden Jubilee Celebration inaugurations, PSM looked very weak but the shine in his eyes was more prominent than ever. When he took the stage and started speaking into the mic, there was a surge of reassurance. This man was still at his best, humorously taking everyone in the audience into his fold! We all looked forward to seeing him as the patriarch of our vast family celebrating 50 years in 2014 and also, on a personal level to start a venture and see through its fifty years of glory is no small feat.  But that was not to be.

When we get together next year, this vacuum created by the passing of PSM will be intensely felt. But he has lived a rich life and leaves behind a supreme legacy through his students and others (like me) whom he has inspired to be a go-getter and chase one’s vision. I am not in Chennai today when there is a condolence meeting taking place for his departed soul but I know that like many of his fans across the world, I shall too forever remember this great man who shaped the institution that shaped me.

RIP Prof Mani Sundaram, it pains to think that we won’t get to hear you one more time…


(To read some more tributes for Prof Mani Sundaram, please visit the newly created Facebook fan page – https://www.facebook.com/ProfPSM

Some old photographs of PSM – Photo Link)

[embedplusvideo height=”400″ width=”620″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1g7KXhn” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/Fw4mFN6Jf2M?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=Fw4mFN6Jf2M&width=620&height=400&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7655″ /]

14 Things that I learnt in the last 14 months

It has been 14 months since the last post here. During this time, a constant chain of activities including consulting for a foreign firm about brand establishment in India, helping organize and doing sales for a pioneering event in Kerala, starting up and working with about 10-15 wonderful clients, meeting people, reading up and a few other things kept me occupied.

A roller coaster ride with an exciting series of ups and downs experienced first hand. Here is a list of 14 lessons that I picked up in the course of this journey.

On Leadership and Management
1. To change any system you’ve got to first walk a mile or two in the existing one.
2. As a manager, you would see them as teams or groups or subordinates but to each one of them you are his/her boss. They are two (and too) different things.
3. Creating a healthy organizational culture is very difficult but sustaining it through difficult times is much more difficult.
4. It is good to identify the core value you’re looking to gain from every association and maintain your expectations accordingly, be it monetary, networking and relationship, mentoring etc.

On Sales
5. Sales = Science + Art + lots of Luck + extreme Efforts + Shrewdness
6. ‘Yeh I like it’ has ZERO value. It lies entirely in the next ‘Here’s my money’ line.
7. The money you make out of something and your motivation to do / sign up for it are very closely related.
8. The contract/agreement is an extremely powerful tool you wield. Handle it unwisely and you’re bound to doom.

On Starting Up
9. The best thing about being unemployed is the freedom that you have, to welcome new opportunities that come your way and chase them.
10. To let go of a well settled life and a good paycheck to start up is a challenging decision and it is not something everyone can, or should, make.
11. Entrepreneurship/ Starting up is an over glorified thing especially considering the extremely high ratio of strugglers to successful ones in that breed.
12. Ideas are aplenty but successful businesses out of them are few and far between.
13. Products facilitate services, and service sells.
14. It goes a long way to have an understanding family and a bunch of close friends who discuss ideas and do so with candidness

Aadhaar losing its Aadhaar, and aadar?

Came across this article this morning in Indian Express paper that Aadhaar cards (Unique ID Cards) have been issued in the name of Dhaniya (coriander) and Seb (apple). I remember the ordeal that was to get my finerprints and iris scans taken and attested by the officials. It comes as a surprise how the coriander and apple got through these biometric tests! 😀


Things have changed… A nostalgic sojourn

Before I sat down at my work-desk this morning, I had already made a mental list of things to be completed by the end of the day. It was a long list, and I braced myself for the long day ahead. I switched on my system, and as was customary with me opened my gmail and facebook accounts to check for any updates.

Same set of emails from some of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites in the world. God knows when I subscribe to these! And no matter whatever filter I apply they still continue to dominate my inbox every morning. Sigh! I meticulously checked all of them, and click – Deleted!

I moved to the Facebook tab. ‘This person posted in that group’, ‘that person posted in this group’. Another bunch of spam notifications. I carefully went through them to look for any relevant notification, from friends I have not met for long. Not really any to say. So I went to the home page.

As I was casually browsing through them, I couldn’t help wonder how things have changed in the last 5-6 years for me. I saw the facebook updates of a few old friends and my thought fastened itself unto me for a while as I sat staring at them forgetful of my commitments for the day.  A nostalgic sojourn.

Six years back, I was in one of the grandiose classrooms in the Anna University Chennai, nervously pacing around looking for the sight of at least one familiar face. I was there to appear for the IIT-JEE 2006 exam. For many of those nervous students around me, it was the culmination of two years of their undivided hard work and unworldly existence almost meeting sainthood. The air was filled with our nervousness and there existed a chillness inside that room completely uncharacteristic of Chennai’s weather in April-May.  Some of them were anxiously going through their notes for one last time, not wasting a moment before the all-important exam while several others were meditating with closed eyes and chanting all those good words that they had come across since birth. Some of them were so engrossed in it that I felt that they had begun to radiate an aura of scholarship around them. Phew! I tried hard to concentrate on the piece of paper I was holding. It contained some important formulas that I had written down – my only revision strategy.

After looking around a lot, I finally managed to meet this friend of mine. We were together in IIT classes. (I always believed that I was pushed into it by circumstances around me but this friend, he was very passionate about engineering entrance examination, always working his way through assignments and tests and most importantly raising questions in the class which obviously disturbed the sleeping back-benchers like me. Finding the familiar person in that hall kinda made up for all that he did, such was the direness of my situation. ) He was silently meditating too, with an imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead and a long plain-green shirt with unfolded sleeves, that had become a characteristic feature of his appearance in the two years I had known him.

I went up to him, and waving away all thoughts of disturbing a meditating pseudo-saint, patted on his back with a friendly ‘Hey!’

The goodness and virtuousness that was demanded by the situation perhaps, he was kind enough to not show the displeasure for being interrupted by me. A friendly chat with the regular “You prepared well?” “Ready to go?” Sometimes, I wonder if even soldiers share such empathetic understanding of nervousness before going for a war as we did before an examination, such was the fraternity brought about by academic adversities like these. Anyway, he told me that his mother was waiting outside and I perfunctorily glanced at her (she was also in closed-eye prayers for her son). Very soon, with friendly good wishes, we parted ways to our respective tables as the examiner showed up.

Results of the JEE exam were published, and both of us did not make it! I felt sad for him and several others with us in our IIT class who were genuinely keen on making it into one of those 7 prestigious IITs.  But we moved on and graduated from different colleges. He was enrolled into the same campus of Anna University where we wrote our IIT-JEE test while I was selected at the National Institute of Technology Trichy. Its been two years since we graduated from our respective universities with engineering degrees.

Somewhere down the line, we found each other on facebook. Not that I talk to many of them regularly, I do keep a tab on what my friends have been up to. My work and the commitments it brings with it keep me busy and their’s them.

As I glanced through my feeds today, I saw an update from this friend. It was a photograph of him in a black graduation robe with the same imperfectly made streak of holy ash on his forehead, standing with his proud mother after graduating from a prestigious university in the US.

I was touched. He had pursued and persisted beyond that IIT-JEE exam hall where we last met, and so did his mother. She was there then praying for him and she was here today, basking in the glory of her son’s achievement. Quite a priceless moment, I stood hypnotised by the beauty of it!

Time was frozen, or so I thought. But a shrill sound from my phone brought me back to my senses. It was half past ten. Gosh! And I had a long list of things to be done. But before all those,  I felt that I must blog this moment.

The nostalgic sojourn that it was, the photograph spoke to me of all those wonderful changes that have happened around me in the last few years. I would have loved to put that pic here but it would be a violation of his privacy. The photograph was meant only for his friends, like me, who would be delighted to participate in the happy moments of his life, like this one.

My friend here is only a representative of many of our friends. Friends that we all left behind at some point of time in our journey called life and earnestly long to get back in their company and those hassle-free days of school and college. But we know that things have changed and those are just nostalgic moments from the past worth cherishing till death 🙂


Dedicated to all those wonderful friends I made through my life… Cheers to our bright future and those unforgettable magical days of the past! 🙂



Eight Things To Do With Your Car Now

With another hike in petrol prices (more than 10%!), here are eight things that you can do with your car to save/make money. Of course none of it involves (considerable) use of fuel! 😀

1. Thattukadas/Roadsideeateries

Car Thattukada

Car Thattukada in Trivandrum (www.trivandrumlife.com)

Thattukadas are Kerala’s definition of roadside eating / Street food.

2. Boot fairs/Flea Markets

Car Boot Fair

Car Boot Fair

Boot fairs is selling items from the trunk/boot of your car. I saw a boot fair happening in Kent.

3. Interior Decoration

Car Interior Decor

Car for Interior Decoration


4.  Car Garden

With your car not moving out of your garage here is a nice way to convert your garage into your private garden.

Car Garden

Car Garden (www.apartmenttherapy.com)


5. Extra Bedroom… ‘Non-AC’ of course!

Car Bedroom

Car Bedroom


6. Storeroom

Car Storeroom

Car Storeroom


7. Personal Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym

Car Gym



8. Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Petrol Savings Account

Gone are the days of saving money and gold. Here is a simple trick. Fill your tank to the full capacity and hold on to it until the next fuel price hike (which will be very soon) and then siphon off the petrol and sell it away at the higher price!

In a few months, you could end up with more than 10% returns!

President Bano Foreign Ghoomo Offer

Foreign Travel

A lot of taxpayers money goes into foreign travels of public servants and elected representatives in India

With the oncoming of an era of transparency, the run up to the 13th presidential polls throws some light on what was otherwise dark and spooky corners of the room. The process of getting a new president was historically a close door affair to the common man, more of a mutually agreed understanding between the major political parties to find a ‘harmless’ person among them who would not disturb the government or poke his nose. But things have changed today. Thanks to the widespread reach of media and television, bachcha-bachcha of the country is aware of the candidates, the political preferences and bias, partisian ideologies emerging from various political units etc. So when I was going through some related news articles about some of these candidates, I felt they had a bigger picture to present than what they would put together.

Before we move on to the new presidential candidates, let us for a moment reflect on what I would call the futile presidential tenure of Mrs. Pratibha Patil. It is well known, thanks to media again, that she was herself a compromise candidate for the UPA (after pitching for former minister Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, whose name seems to go around this time too) standing out for her loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family and the UPA’s deep interest in doing something different to bolster its image among the people by nominating India’s first woman President. Multiple demands and ambitions caved the way for Mrs. Patil from Jaipur to Delhi, and the loyalty that powered her to the highest office was also showing no signs of bowing to presidential prudence.

As her tenure is coming to an end, like it always happens in India, Mrs. Patil also came under the scanner for all the wrong reasons. Her palatial post-retirement home in the military area became a serious issue before it was amicably settled before the people of the country.

But what, according to me, is more serious an observation is that she

President's Personal Staff

President Patil is accompanied by her personal staff which includes armed soldiers on these trips

has undertaken thirteen (an ominous number?) foreign trips in her tenure and spent over Rs.200,00,00,000 (just to show the magnitude of that figure) on it! What makes it more alarming and embarassing is that these were family outings, with anywhere from 3 to 11 family members accompanying her on these trips!

While we were still mulling over these numbers (rather, coming out of its shock), here comes another one. Meira Kumar, our soft-spoken speaker, who reminds each one of us of our kindergarten teachers in her inimitable style of aap baith jayie, kripya baith jaiye… aap shaant rahen… emerges as a potential candidate for the post of President. And with such announcement, comes the shocker that I mentioned earlier. Madam Speaker has also made almost 30 ‘official’ foreign trips in her 35 month tenure, and more importantly spent over  Rs.10,00,00,000 on it! According to news revelations, the maximum number of visits she has visited abroad was in Switzerland. (Hmmm…)

Well now that we know how our Madam President has indeed outplayed Madam Speaker in the foreign travel expenses game (Rs. 200,00,00,000 vs Rs. 10,00,00,000) it is quite justified of Ms. Kumar to wish to perform better, from a better (read: more advantageous) position. Good luck to her for that! (and that translates as bad luck to the taxpayer. Sigh! )

We move on to the next person, Mr. P. A. Sangma. Actually, he is a familiar name from my childhood. In those days of GK and quiz competitions, it was indeed important to know him well. However, in retrospect, I can see that he was the speaker for barely 2 years! A congressman, who parted from the party over Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin alongwith Mr. Sharad Pawar to form NCP and subsequently left him to join Ms. Mamta Banerjee over NCP’s reconcilation with Mrs.Gandhi. Impressive, you might feel, as a tall politician sticking to his ideologies and convictions.

When Mr. Pawar returned to be a UPA minister, Mr. Sangma’s daughter (a second time MP) became the youngest Minister of State in the UPA goverment. Oops! I am sure he is now trusting the ‘Foreigner (Italian) Mrs. Gandhi’s’ Hindi skills to understand and appreciate the old saying Subah ka bhoola shaam ko ghar aa jaye to usey bhoola nahin kahte! Never mind, like they say in Tamil ‘arasiyal-la ithellam sahajam appa‘ (These things are common in politics).

But wait, we are not done with Mr. Sangma yet. Recently there were articles that Ex-Speakers were about to be granted post-retirement benefits similiar to that of retired Presidents, Vice-presidents and Prime Ministers. ‘Who’ took the initiative to ‘whom’ about the state of Ex-Speakers? Voila! What a coincidence? Mr. Sangma to Ms. Meira Kumar!

So Mr. Sangma, who abdicated his constituency seat to make a minister out of his daughter and presently functioning in the Meghalaya State Assembly of which his son is the Leader of Opposition, is fighting for the post-retirement benefits of a position he held for less than two years. Not bad, but don’t you see another happy-retirement plan in the making after happily seeing off his children in good positions?

Sad! But we all know what humiliation does the President have to face when he decides to go against the ruling party in favour of his conscience. No?  Please ask Dr. Kalam about the Office of Profit Bill. At this juncture, where do we stand?

President no doubt, like Ms. India and Ms. World, is an ambassadorial position. But an ambassador must be a messenger of the good and bad of the entire country and not just its population explosion or joint-family system! 😛 People look up to the President as the kulapati of this rashtra and it is needless to remind that opulence is certainly not a tolerated trait in this country of aam admis. Again, ask our youth icon NRI MP Dr. Tharoor and his tennis-loving senior Mr. S. M. Krishna for their hotel bills and you know what I mean!

I am not a fan of austerity myself (Hehe!) and believe foreign trips of Presidents are justified, but they MUST achieve the objectives of the country. Treating the highest civilian office in the country as a paid family vacation or post-retirement fun time would be an insult to the people of the country and the hard-earned taxpayer’s money.

Anyways, this attitude of ‘Post pe aao aur phoren foriegn ghoomo‘ (Get a position of responsibility and immediately go on foreign tour)  is certainly not a healthy, morale-boosting one for public offices in our country; And with citizens becoming more powerful (literally) by the day and the goverment weaker, I believe there is something here for the candidates for Indian Presidency to make a note of.


Happy Birthday Dasetta!

Das-etta means ‘Das elder brother’. Now it would seem stupendously stupid of me to call Yesudas who is almost 50 years elder to me elder brother. But that is what Yesudas is to the entire population of Kerala, and that is what he will be for the next generation also! Dasettan.

Padmabhushan Dr.K.J. Yesudas is a phenomenon; one of the best that has ever happened to this small southern state called Kerala. A career spanning 50 years, Dasettan has sung in over 15 languages. Gods and humans alike, wake up and sleep to his songs. His voice was so omnipresent at one point of time in Kerala that almost everyone replicate it with near perfectness! (Thanks to the fact that there was no other singer’s voice that they had heard besides Dasettan!)

To me, he is an inspiration. Not just the music. His dedication, will-power and unending energy that helped him remain the only winner in his field for 50 long years is simply brilliant and barely imitable.

Last but not the least, for many people (which includes me) his voice is that connects us with our culture, our Gods and our history. It is through his voice that we understand His divine aura. God sent… May God give Dasettan a long life…

Happy Birthday Dasetta!

Unarviyam- A Rising Star on the Stage

>“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

-Oscar Wilde

In today’s world where technical developments aggravate audience’s demand for perfection, dramatics is indeed a very risky challenge. Without re-takes, editing from multiple shots, digital effects or mesmerising visual lavishness, it is quite unthinkable of delivering something that appeal to today’s viewers. Not to forget, the enormous amount of time and effort consumed from the time of conceiving the idea to scripting the scenes to making the props to rehearsing to perfection and finally performing on various stages. In spite of all these, there are still ardent fans of the theatre who have pledged to revive this traditional art form, and what’s more important is to make it equally appealing and connecting with the audience as films and music.

It was my pleasure to have attended the first stage performance of one such amateur theatre group calledUnarviyam’ last week. An immensely talented bunch of youngsters who performed an indigenous story of an intelligent thief in their mime play called ‘The Looters Looty’.

For a maiden performance, the actors’ confidence and connect with the audience was definitely commendable. The script was very much Chennai-ish with acts referring to day-to-day life in the city. This along with the fluent ease and casualness with which the main characters in the drama (the part of the play that had dialogues) Vatsan Natarajan who plays Fallu the thief (also the director and script writer of the play) and Prashanth Ramaswamy who plays Tiger the cop (also the head of the production unit of the play) handle their respective roles cleared all airs of reservation one might have for a debutant team. To complement them to near perfection, the mummers who played the respective roles Karthik GJ and Lokeshwaran exhibit a grace of movement and acting unparalleled by even professional artists. Their ability to communicate with the audience without a single word uttered definitely invited a great deal of applause.

The music by Muthukumar Anil was apt, with a distinctive ability to keep the audience excited and at the edge of their seats. The story was about an ‘intelligent’ thief who stole for passion. Though a few of the acts were inspired from popular cop-thief films, most of them were originally thought and adapted to suit the story. The character of Fallu the thief in both the drama and the mime were impeccably executed, always unleashing a flood of laughter in the hall. The script went on to tell us how there were almost ten ways of stealing happening in the society, and why Fallu felt that theft was integral at all strata of the society from politicians to tea-stalls. The policeman Tiger (who reminded me of Asrani from Sholay) also shone well among the audience with his repertoire, although the crowd was keener on pulling his legs with meowing sounds than supporting the character’s rationale.

Although thrilling to the deepest extent, there were some places that stood out amateurish in the execution of the play like the stage not being set before curtains went up and in between scenes, the script falling a bit shallow at times and dragging at a few places here and there. Though theatres have been responsible for creating revolutions in the past, I believe that political anecdotes in an apolitical context do not always add flair to the theme. Dragging the DMK and AIADMK, Anna Hazare, price rise etc. in this play I felt went a bit out of context and didn’t serve any purpose whatsoever in creating an impact or impression.

These minor things apart, I must admit it was a rejuvenating experience. In less than ten minutes since its beginning, the play and its cast were successful in making me shed the idea that I was watching a group’s first on stage performance. Unarviyam, the theatre group is undoubtedly here to stay and if they are able to adapt and improvise with every performance you can definitely look forward to a rising star in the otherwise plain night sky, under the light of whose success I’m sure other aspirants will also be motivated to enter the field and thus elevate theatre arts at par with the established art forms in today’s society.

Good luck Unarviyam!

The Value of Freedom

First appeared in 21 Fools e-magazine

‘The military officer’s is a job which offers you challenge, adventure, excitement, honour, prestige, self respect, wholesome family life, safety and security for the family and to top it all the love, respect and esteem of our great India.’ Brigadier Puneet Rajvardhan Singh cannot forget these words, ever. They are engraved and embossed deep within his self.

From the first time Brig. Singh came across these words, about thirty five years ago, as Puneet-the son of the school master in a remote village in Punjab they have meant more than just another inspiring sentence in the English language. For the twenty one year old in him, they defined his dreams and his strength to fight the uncertainties of life that lay ahead of him. For the seasoned officer in the Indian army looking towards retirement, they mean everything from job satisfaction to life achievement. In essence they present the army man’s life itself.

The history of any country is closely related to its military forces and wars, and in a country as extensive and ancient as ours evolution of the military has been fairly explicit. From the ancient times of Ramayan and Mahabharat to the latest border dispute wars, everything from strategies to the weapons used have changed significantly, but what remain intact is our respect and admiration for these defenders of our borders.

In fact, the corruption and inefficiency of the political systems and politicians post independence has abashed this stratum of the society so much among the countrymen, that today the emotions of ‘freedom’ and ‘patriotism’ are not attributed to these legitimate descendents of our freedom fighters at all. Instead the honour of that remains only with the soldiers of our country.

In his career Brig Singh has seen both the loss of peace and freedom through the lives of the innocent yet affected people living in disputed border villages, as well as the awakening of a whole new nation- Bangladesh to the splendour of independence, but had never appreciated these experiences until that incident occurred in his life.

Then, a Lt.Col commanding a smaller unit, Brig Singh was also an affectionate but strict family man. He brought his children up under the shadow of a strict code of discipline. He was very firm on his lavishly used expression – “A ‘no’ is a NO!” This applied even to his octogenarian father, who was spending the later part of his retired life with his son and family after the demise of his wife. The disciplining of his father was a consequence of the old man’s deteriorating health metrics.

Like many others at his age, Brig Singh’s father was also a store house of bodily imbalances – of insulin, blood pressure, cardiac troubles, cataract etc. The former school teacher’s daily dose of medicines seemed to challenge his food intake, yet the old man still craved for an occasional sweet or spice which his son obstinately denied him. The ritual of the father pleading for some food supplement- be it sugar or salt to his unrelenting son had become so mundane an affair in the household that no one seemed to attach any importance to the elder’s persistent requests, and this made him all the more dejected and despondent over time.

On one of those extremely rare days when there was no one else to oversee him at home, the old man couldn’t resist his temptation to make the most of the opportunity that he had the entire house to his own without even the orderly around to keep a watch. He went into the kitchen, used the chair to get on top of a small plinth and pull out the bottle of pickle from the overhead shelf. Then carefully taking a spoon so as to not leave a traceable mess in the kitchen, he scooped a pickled lime and slurped it instantly, with his twinkling eyes expounding the childlike pleasure and thrill in his heart. After another couple of rounds of the spicy tangy pickle, ensuring that nothing was spilt on the kitchen floor, he placed the bottle back to where it was and replaced the chair to its original position.

But that was not enough. It was after several months that the old man was on his own. How could he allow the freedom to last for such a short period? After the spicy pickle, his heart was then set on the mangoes that the hawkers carried past their house every morning. In spite of his mouth watering at the very smell of it each day, his son had given clear instructions to the hawkers never to stop before their house. So the old man decided to take some time off and go down to the market where he would get some mangoes. He carefully locked the house, and got into an auto rickshaw heading to the marketplace. Once he reached there, he bought two mangoes, quite large in size. The smell was highly alluring. It was then it struck him that he could not carry them home as the smell of the mangoes shall remain in the household and he would be caught. So he started walking back to the house, eating the mangoes on his way one at a time. The extremely sweet mangoes instantly filled his heart with the contentment of having tasted the freedom that he yearned for so long. The juice dripped through his hands spilling quite some yellow on his kurta. But for a man revelling in an ecstasy as his, these yellow marks were the least of concerns. Life was at its best for him at that time, and everything else was behind. “What a bliss! “  , he thought as he walked past those residential compounds completely undisturbed and unnoticed, licking the mango remnants on his hands and smiling of joy at everyone walking by.

Brig Singh who was in his office preparing for a meeting that evening received a call from his neighbour. She informed him that his father had collapsed right outside their house, and that they were in the process of taking him to the military hospital. The military hospital saw Brig Singh face to face with one of those unbearable realities of life- bereavement.

In spite of the macabre gloom in my mind, Brig Singh could not help notice that wide smile on his old man’s face- a smile that seemed to have revisited that face after years. The familiar smile that Brig Singh had long forgotten, though secretly wished for every moment he spent with his father. Then he saw the yellow and red stains all over his father’s kurta and he guessed what could have happened. In his state of senility it was difficult for him to balance a spoonful of pickle or eat a mango clean, but that would not stop him from celebrating the achievement of a long sought freedom.

The value of freedom, Brig Singh learnt from his father, is beyond the mundane considerations of life and death. It is like air trapped in a jar, impatiently looking for the slightest of crevice to gush out into the open. The more you try to restrict it, the greater the urge to break free.  Likewise, it is only when you are denied it that you begin to appreciate the value of freedom, and there is no joy greater than that of achieving this denied freedom so much so that even death seems to be heartily welcomed at that moment.

This lesson learnt from his father played a pivotal role in shaping Brig Singh as a military officer. He has maintained ever since that every soldier must realise the value of freedom and independence, for it is only then that they shall understand and appreciate the value of what he/she is protecting for the motherland and her countless children.

As for Brig Singh to be constantly reminded of and guided by this lesson, his office has two portraits right in front of him. The one on the left has Mahatma Gandhi to symbolise India’s achievement of independence from colonial powers, and then his father’s portrait on the right to constantly remind him of the value of that freedom that as soldiers they were protecting for their countrymen.

The true essence of patriotism lies in appreciation of freedom, and the instilling of this value only can motivate our leaders and followers alike to work collectively towards a stronger nation. The freedom to elect our own rulers, to take our own decisions and solve our problems ourselves, the freedom to voice our opinion on the global stage, the freedom thanks to which foreign military is not forced being upon us, the freedom to not catch a cold when someone on the other half of the globe sneezes, the freedom to stand on our own with heads held high and spirits higher.

Value that freedom, it is precious… and as common as it used to be!