Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There is some talk these days of reform in Land Acquisition Act. I fully agree that what suited colonal rulers does not suit a more eqitable society. I am however against going 180 degrees from the present position. Before I go into this question, let us lay down some facts.

1. The Society is supreme.
2. Governments are structures created by the society for regulating some aspects of its functions. Let us not mistake the part to be the whole - the servant to be the master - the government to be the society.
3. The society can not and should not delegate all its responsibilities to the government especially to one that is capable of transmitting only 15 to 17 paise out of a rupee spent for the purpose intended ( as per the admission of no less than a person than a former Prime Minister. )
4. One peculiar Indian structure - the N.G.O. has fared no better. In fact, it has fostered what I call crony parasitism on the same lines as crony capitalism.
5. Forms of governance - Monarchy, Dictatorship (whether benevolent or otherwise), Socialism, Communism, Democracy, Plutocracy and so on are again created by the society to fulfill its needs at a given time and given circumstances. No form of governance is sacrosanct. If it does not fulfill the needs of the society, it gets changed, however slow the change may be. We just have to look at history of the past centuries of the various countries of the world to realize this.
6. There is no panacea for all our ills such as poverty, ill health, illiteracy and so on for all of India which is a multi - religious, muti - linguistic, multi - ethnic society. Different paths, different methods are required for eradicating these ills. What is true for Gujarat or Maharastra or Panjab is not true for the south or for that matter the east. Some principles followed by Mahatma Gandhi are however relevant even today.
7. We need to accept that the maturity level of the Indian society is not uniformly distributed. This is much more disturbing than the inequitable distribution of wealth or incomes. You can not for example, equate Kerala with say parts of India which kill their own offsprings for the crime of being the unwanted gender or for the crime of marrying a person not in consonance with parental idiosyncracies. One can imagine what can happen if the principle of grass roots democracy is unifdrmly applied throughout India right now.
8.Perhaps if Mahatma Gandhi had his way, he would have preferred Indians to become self - reliant and independent economically, socially, educationally, healthwise and so on before becoming politically independent but the overwhelming majority of the then existing lower rung leadership was too impatient.
9. Consequently, politics of service to the society was replaced by the politics of power over the society. Both the crony capitalism and the crony parasitism are the products of this phenomenon.

All those wanting to give 26% of profits of enterprises to the project affected people are only wanting to create a new class of zamindars - a new class of parasites. No doubt, those uprooted have to be rehabilitated, each according to his/her potential but they should not be withdrawn from productive workforce. A part of the profits must be kept aside - it could be even more than 26% - for the purpose. It must however have a time limit - till such time as rehabilitation is complete. We have not yet eradicated the old zamindari completely. Let us not create a new set of parasites. Uneducated masses with a steady unearned income and idleness could lead to evils such as drinking, gambling, womanising and so on - all at the expense of their womenfolk. I appreciate the good intentions of the proponents of the idea of profit sharing but they must not create new problems. I have given up on the political parties with their votebank politics to carry out social reforms. Those whom I would have thought as being capable of doing so appear to be muddle headed, if I may use this rather strong term. We all need to concentrate on removing social evils while simultaneously striving for economic self - sufficiency of the masses. Subsidies are the worst drugs - worst narcotics devised by our politicians to keep the poor perprtually poor and thus under their control. They can then keep on shedding crocodile tears over them while quaffing whiskey. Monarchy bred zamindari as a bulwark - a second line of defence. Our modern day rulers want to create a similar institution by withdrawing a sizeable population from the workforce. This will have long term baneful repurcussions. Same goes for our misguided intellectuals. They are adopting the agitational path in stead of going over to the villages and helping the masses to become self - reliant. Both the masses and the intelligentia are behaving like children. One hopes to please the Sarkar Mai - Baap while the other wants to coerce the Mai - Baap by throwing tantrums and creating a ruckus. All those who wish to better the lot of the dispossesed, had better become proactive, engage themselves in rehabilitation activities, train the victims in alternative trades and professions, taking help from a fund created for the purpose. The hand of the victims certainly needs to be held till they become self - sufficient. Mahatma and not Mao is our ideal.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Swati was about 3 years old, wheat complexioned,chubby and short. She was a neighbour's daughter in the Bhilai Steel Plant's township. What distinguished her from other children in the neighbourhood was the fact that she had a Russian boy friend called Sasha who was also of her age.

Swati and Sasha were inseparables. Swati spoke no language other than Gujarati and Sasha likewise could speak only Russian. This did not pose any barriers between them. They understood each other very well. In course of time, Sasha picked up a few words of Gujarati and Swati, a few of Russian. At Sasha's, both sat on the dining table for their repasts of Borsch soup or Kalabassa from ceramic tableware. At Swati's they squatted on wooden boards ( Patlas ) on the floor and feasted on Dudhpak or Dhokla from stainless steel plates.

Both were banished from time to time from their homes for such harmless acts as Sassabhai's ( his pet name at Swati's place ) presenting crabs to Swati's vegetarian mother as a token of affection or Swatka's ( her pet name at Sasha's place ) eating noisily, making slurping sounds, at Sasha's mother's table to show her appreciation of the food that she was devouring. At such times, my bachelor household provided them with a safe haven. Here, they could frolic, sing, dance or upset things without any demur on anyone's part. I was their Kaka and Dyadya Gujarati and Russian words for uncle.

All good things have to end sooner or later. So they felt when they learnt that I was to marry. They had seen my fiancee's photograph on my bedside table, so when she came as a bride to my house, she was grudgingly accepted. Luckily, my wife, unlike their mothers, had more time on her hands. She could therefore put up with their ways. On their part, they gladly ran errands for her. All went smoothly for some time.

Then, my mother came down to see how her son was coping with married life. For a week, Swati restrained herself. But then it was too much. One day, she cornered the old lady.
" Do you eat here everyday " ? she enquired.
" Yes " said my mother, somewhat amused.
" Do you bathe here also " ? was the next.
" Yes, why " ?
" You even sleep here " ?
" Yes, Of course !
"Well, when are you leaving " ? This with Swati's hands on her tiny but determined waist.

My mother was struck far too dumb at being told by a rank outsider that she was unwelcome in her own son's house. She could not readily muster a suitable rejoinder. Pressing her advantage further, Swati added,
" This is MY Kaka's house "
"Ha, MARA dyadyanun " ( yes, my uncle's ) supported Sasha in his best Russo - Gujarati tongue.

In the evening, on my return home, my mother mentioned about this tete - a - tete to me.
" Did you object to Swati's dancing on the dining table with metallic plates and spoons for musical accompaniment " ? I asked.
" Yes ", said mother.
" Did you refuse entry to Sasha when he was wearing snails for earrings " ? I probed further.
" Yes, Of course ", indignantly replied my mother.
" Well then, what else do you expect " ?

Comprehension descended on my mother like a ton of bricks. And she smiled. Needless to add that thereafter my mother became " Dadi " for Swati and " Babushka " for Sasha just as my wife had earlier become " Kaki " and "Tyotya ".

How old have I grown ? For, to-day I have on my hand, an invitation card for Swati's marriage. No, not to Sasha, you romantic fools !


During our last visit to Vadodara, our home town, we were received at the railway station by my younger brother and his little three year old son Anand. While his father rode his scooter on the way back home, Anand preferred to accompany his somewhat older cousins in the taxi that we took.

When we were passing by the impressive building of the Science faculty of the M.S. University of Baroda with its distinctive metallic dome, my sons looked at it with some amount of interest.
" That is my Papa's school ", calmly explained Anand.

Soon we passed by the even more impressive big - domed building of the Arts faculty. My sons' pupils got even more dilated on seeing this spectacle.
" This is my mummy's school " even more calmly asserted Anand.

This exhibition of his cousin's Papa's and Mummy's schools seemed to chafe little Ashesh, just a year older than Anand. Not long however.
" There goes my Papa's school " triumphantly shouted Ashesh.

Having been busy in my own thoughts about the expected reunion with the family. I had, thus far, not paid much attention to the childrens' patter. Since the faculty of Engineering was nowhere nearby, I shook off my thoughts to look in the direction of Ashesh's pointed finger.

Going ahead of our taxi was an oil tank truck with INDIANOIL, my employer's name blazoned across its rear ! To little boys, noise making moving objects are more impressive than static buildings, however beautiful their facade.


During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, our three year old son Santosh's vocabulary was enriched by warlike words. Guns, Tanks, Bombs, Fighters were words constantly playing on his lips. Soon after the war, he heard that the Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had died.
" Who shot him " was the question he shot at his mother. A little shocked, the mother somewhat testily replied that he was not shot by anyone.
"Then, how did he die " ? was the next one. Before his mother gave an even more shocked response to this second baffler, I thought I would butt in. A child psychologist that I considered myself to be, I was anxious that my son should be explained this thing about death in the logic and language of a child.
" Well, you see darling, Shastriji fell very much sick and that is why he died ", was the explanation given by me.
" But I did not die when I fell very much sick " was his argument apparently referring to his measles.
" But then, Shastriji was very old whereas you are very young " was my childlike reinforcement of the earlier explanation, Absence of any further discourse on the subject gave me the satisfaction of having used my child psychology successfully.

Six months later, we went to see our parents who were anxious to see their grandson. Mother was down with influenza so she called him to her bedside. He was immediately interested in the grandma much to the latter's delight.
" So you are grandma " ! he broke the ice.
" Well yes, I am your grandma " proudly countered my mother.
" Aren't you sick " ? my son went on.
" Yes dear, I am very much sick, that is why I could not come to the sta.....
" Oh! that's alright " interupted the little one.
" But tell me, are you old " ?
"Yes, my dear ! I am very old " piteously replied the granny.
" Well, well ! getting a little excited, the little devil spoke out triumphantly, " Then, you are going to die " !

My mother was struck dumb but her glare was eloquent. It showed unmistakably the contempt that she had for this new fangled thing called child psychology that I had been proudly parading about !

Post script:- My mother died eventually at the age of 95 years at Santosh's house in New Delhi of nothing but old age.


With no daughter who could help their mother, we had taken to encouraging our sons, aged six and eight, to do some household chores during their holidays. This would prepare them for the coming days of their married life. Who knows whether servants would exist twenty years hence ? In all probabikity, their wives would be working for a living and would dearly appreciate husbands adept in helping around the house.

Having learnt how to make tea, we left them to experiment on making boiled eggs for breakfast as a first step in cooking. After a few almost raw or highly boiled, cracked eggs which spilled their contents into the boiling water, they learnt how to boil eggs properly. I was a bit curious to know how they learnt this.

" It's easy " ! said six year old Ashesh, " When the eggs start fighting, they are no longer raw " !
"Yes, but how do you know whether they are hard - boiled " ? I questioned, a bit amused at his imaginative expression.
" That's easy too " ! interposed eight year old Santosh, eager to show his power of observation. "When my egg breaks the head of Ashesh's egg, his egg is over - boiled but my egg is just hard - boiled. "
" Well, but if you want half - boiled eggs " ? I probed.
" Oh that ! gloomily said tiny Ashesh, " That's when you switch off the gas before you have really enjoyed the egg fighting " !

So now, I know why they never eat half - boiled eggs or for that matter, their eggs are never over - boiled. They neither want to miss the fun of the egg fight nordo they want either one's egg to lose !

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Being the first grandchild in both her paternal as well as maternal households, little Dipti at two and a half years, was a bit spoiled. Her mother, a strict disciplinarian, found it tough to manage her in the face of all the spoiling done by the rest of the extended family. The child, used to all the indulgence from the rest of us, found this act of disciplining rather repugnant. In a sort of retaliatory tactic, she had learnt when and how to irritate the parent.

Once, she wanted to wash her hands in the dish that she had partaken her lunch from. The mother forbade it. "Why", asked Dipti. "Well, it is simply not done. You should go to the washing place for that", sternly replied the parent.
"Alright, if I can't wash my hands in the plate, can I pee in it "?
This did it. The mother boiled with rage, gave her a lecture on sanitation and finally asked,
" How could you think of such a thing? Don't you get better thoughts"?
" Tell me, Mummy, what is a thought "? This simply stumped the mother. She had no ready answer. In exasperation, she did what parents are apt to do on such occasions. She punished Dipti.

As a bystander, I was myself puzzled by this question. I could find a precise definition of the word " Thought " in the oxford dictionary but how could I explain it to a two and a half year old? The nearest that I have come to is this. " Say, you are sitting, doing nothing and in your head, some 'Yum-Yum' is going on. It is called a thought ". However, by the time, I came to this solution, I also came to realize that a child at that age acts by instinct alone. No 'yum-yum' ever goes on in their head. Action being thoughts tightly wound like a spring, the stage of thinking has already been passed by a child. It can not think just as a brilliant school boy can not act like a backward boy in the class.

It would take some unwinding or dis-education for the child to be able to comprehend even the explanation of the word " Thought " that is given by me. At thirty, now Dipti should have been diseducated enough to understand all that I have written. May be, it would give a clue to some of the actions of her own daughters.

Post script:- At sixty, now, as a grandmother herself, she would perhaps understand some of her own mother's compulsions in acting like she did !


Nirav, my nephew was then about three years old. At a family gathering of both his paternal and maternal sides, he was the youngest. Naturally, everybody fussed over him.
We were talking about his impending entry into a kindergarten. He wanted to know why he should go to a school when he was perfectly happy at home. All of us told him in our various ways, the advantages of education. We also told him what he could become after a stint in education. By way of illustration, all his uncles and aunts told him what each one of them had become by pursuing education. We also explained to him what it meant to become a doctor, an engineer,a teacher and so on. After listening to the rest of us, he turned to his favourite - his grandfather, who said that he was a retired man.

Now, we wanted to know what Nirav would like to become. Once again, each one of us vied with each other in praising his or her profession in the hope that he would choose that profession. Standing in the middle, he scrutinized each one of us by turns, while the object of his scrutiny was keen with anticipation. Nirav did not however, did not choose any of the professions listed / recommended much to our cumulative surprize.

Before the next unspoken question on our lips could materialize, he walked upto his grandfather, sat in his lap and gravely said, "After school, I am going to retire". He had chosen the ultimate destination of all the professions !


Thanks to Amy, I am in the grandparents' generation. Till now, I was made to feel like a grand father on account of the confidence reposed in me and friendship proferred to me on an equal footing by children of friends and neighbours. I am one in reality now on account of the arrival of this American citizen. Amy is my grandniece. I have dandled her mother on my feet and now it is her turn. She was born in the U.S.A. where her parents werte residing. Grandfathership was till now a state of mind. Now it is almost a state of fact.

She is a typical female. Tell her to come to you and she will run miles away. Tell her you are busy and that you should not be disturbed ; she will pester you with kisses. Being a typical female, she is always fond of males. Her daddy is her ideal. My sons being called Mama ( maternal uncle ), though less important, are immensely proud at achieving this distinction at so young an age. How can I blame them when I am myself so vain about being called Dada Mama ( Grand Uncle ). We are all as proud of Amy as if we had won the Nobel Prize.

Amy has become Ami ( Indianization of an American name ) on arrival in India. Ami means nectar and that is what she is to us. The other day, her third birthday was being celebrated. We were invited to her residence. I was the last arrival. After wishing her a happy birthday, I picked her up. Hugging her closely to my prickly beard, I asked for a kiss. "Not here", she objected. "People might be watching". I took her to a corner and kissed her. Little did I know that she, a typical female was testing my masculine ardour. I hoped that I was adequate.

The answer came as soon as I put her down. She burst into verse, mouthing a popular Hindi film song, eyes dancing along with the rest of her body,
" Ek main aur ek tu
dono milay is tarah
aur jo tan-man main
ho raha hai..........
( One you and one me, the two of us met thus. And what is happening to the body,soul........ )

And then with a sudden accelerated pace but coming to prose from verse,
"Yeh to hona hi tha" ( Well, it had to happen ! )

Friday, September 17, 2010


As far as naughtiness is concerned, Prerak is a class by himself. This 10 year old nephew of mine (nearly 50 years in A.D. 2010) has a way of measuring, on first acquaintance, the mettle of people, that would be the envy of the most experienced psychologist. When he was admitted to a new school, his father explained the characteristics of the boy to the headmaster so that the latter is not caught unawares.

For want of time, he could not repeat this to Prerak's class teacher. In the evening, my brother-in-law went to pick up Prerak and also to make up for the morning omission. He spoke to the teacher about Prerak's pranks. The experienced teacher told my brother-in-law not to worry as he had handled all kinds of children. "By the way", the teacher said as the B-I-L was taking leave, "Please do give him some pocket money. Prerak had to borrow one rupee from me for his recess time snack"

"Well, I am sorry to inform you that he has already measured you", said the B-I-L. "Prerak", he continued, "already had two rupees with him and his demand from you was just to see how you would react". The teacher dismissed this interpretation as coming from an overfond father. All the same, he made a mental note of dealing strictly with his new ward. For a month he did so and congratulated himself on having the situation under control till.........

One day, a prank was played in the class and the teacher could not apprehend the culprit. Nobody would admit its authorship. He therefore, punished the entire class to remain inside the classroom in an upright position on the bench - a punishment known in the school parlance as "stand-up-on the bench".

The teacher left the class in the recess for the teachers' common room where he was relating his strict handling of the pupils over a cup of tea. Just when he had got on to the subject of how he would have handled the Naxalites if he were a college teacher in Kolkata, at the very moment, one of his colleagues noticed a boy from the former's class loitering in the lobby. He promptly brought to the notice of the C.T.. The latter was hugely annoyed as only a disobeyed primary school teacher can be and rushed out. He caught the culprit by the scruff of his neck.

"What brings you out?" he demanded. "Why, Sir, we took the punishment that you ordered in place of remaining in the class and we were allowed to go", replied the shaken student. "What rot", exclaimed the C.T. "I never gave any alternative punishment and who is this person who allowed you all to go out?"

"Prerak, Sir! after you went out, he went towards the teachers' common room. On return, he informed us that he had pleaded our case to you. Out of the kindness of your heart, you had agreed to let us go provided we took another punishment. We agreed and he made us to form a queue. He stood at the door with a foot-rule in hand. As each of us passed him, palm held out in front, he gave one blow of the foot-rule excepting for Santosh who is not well today", the boy explained at length rather breathlessly.

The C.T., prior to consulting a doctor for a threatened attack of apoplexy, looked for Prerak, only to be informed that he had left the school to escort the sick Santosh to his home. He was already by then well on the way to the latter's home. Needless to add that Prerak had 'stomachache' for the next two days, a period in his reckoning, by which, things would cool down a bit !

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The truth behind this adage was brought home to me one day some years ago. Ashesh, our son, was then about 2 years old and as naughty as naughty can be. His mother who was busy in the kitchen, suddenly noticed lack of any noise. A mother of three children, she knew what silence meant. She immediately looked for Ashesh. He was found playing with a knife which he had quietly removed from the kitchen !

She asked him to return it. He did not respond. She asked again, the tone changing from request to order. He ignored the peremptory note in her voice. Next, she offered him a toffee in exchange for the knife. The barter deal also did not seem to interest him. Reason and bribe having failed, she decided to resort to direct action. She grabbed the knife. He tightened his hold on the prized possession.She pulled. Her action found an equal reaction from him. Afraid that he might cut his fingers, she let go of the knife. Now, thought Ashesh, was the first opportunity for him to take an initiative in the matter. With the skill of an escaping convict, he ran.

The mother might have lacked foresight but not alertness. She chased him. Even practised escapees, sometimes get themselves into a corner when pursued by fleet-footed cops. So did Ashesh. He had the initiative and he had lost it. With the aplomb of a politician defeated at the polls, he decided to bide his time. To make himself comfortable, he even sat down in the corner that he had backed himself into. His mother towered over him. It was now for her to take the initiative, but she could not think of the next step.


Now, lack of resourcefulness is apt to result in anger. However, being angry with Ashesh was like getting angry with a block of frozen steel. In such situations, mothers have to find some other targets for venting out their strong feelings. Fathers usually fill the bill. Especially, if they are comfortably ensconced in a sofa with a newspaper in one hand and a cigarette in the other, watching the mothers grappling with recalcitrant children and on top of it, wearing an amused grin. I was in the position so described and I got the full blast of the light brigade.

I got up. I told her that she had used "Saam", "Daam" and "Dand" ( convincing. incentive and punishment methods respectively ) but these had been found to be inadequate. I told her that in such a case, "Bhed" ( trickery ) has to be used as advised by the great sage Kautilya in his welknown treatise "Arthashastra " dealing with statecraft. The look of disdain on her face told me that she was not much impressed with Kautilya. She even expected some action from me, not advice. So there was no alternative but to extinguish the cigarette, throw the newspaper aside with a flourish and get going. I did so.

I first explained to her my strategy which was based on child psychology. I had only to divert the child from his adamant posture of not returning the knife by converting the issue into a kind of game. She was even less impressed by my strategy than by Kautilya. So I had to show her that we Desais came in all sizes.


I swept her aside as I approached Ashesh. He seemed to take my entry on the stage with some amusement, judging by the the smile on his face. This, I said to myself, was a hopeful sign; so I made my first move. I covered my eyes with my hands. He followed suit. I uncovered my eyes. He dittoed. Even my wife now seemed impressed. Only, she averted her eyes when I gazed at her, possibly to avoid giving me the applause rightfully due to me. Not discouraged, I pressed my advantage further. I proposed to Ashesh that I would close my eyes and he could place the knife in my outstretched hand. This way, he could avoid the inconvenience of holding the knife while covering his eyes. Besides, there would be no loss of face on his part, since my eyes would be closed. He nodded agreement to this proposal. My wife did not even now applaud me but I could perceive a distinct thaw in her mien. I covered my eyes with one hand and outstretched the other. Ashesh however had one stipulation. He wanted to be sure that I could not see at all. To reassure him on this score, I pressed my hand tightly on my eyes and honestly closed my eyes.

A couple of seconds passed. No knife still. Instead I heard a peal of laughter from my wife. I decided to investigate this sudden otburst of mirth during a serious proceeding and opened my eyes. In answer to my questioning look, my wife, still convulsed with laughter, merely pointed to the the gate. I turned my gaze as directed and beheld our offspring executing a neat getaway through the gate, knife still in hand. He had, you see, made good of the opportunity !

Sunday, September 12, 2010


" Don't I look like a bu-o-i ", chirped a musical voice from a seat in a row ahead of me in the chair car of the Mumbai-New Delhi de luxe train. The voice belonged to a chestnut coloured shaggy mane. I was yet to know that I was going to meet Ninad's counterpart, a girl with a high FQ. Ninad, if you remember, is the little man with a high MQ.

" What are you? " I asked the voice. " I am a ga-al, of course " said the mane as it turned towards me to reveal a buck-toothed, freckle-faced little girl apparently of the white race with a charming gap in her front teeth. " I am wearing a boy's dress, but I am a girl " she confided in me. Love was instantaneous, simultaneous and mutual. Julie is a 7 year old girl. Pardon me, darling, for revealing your age but uncles will be uncles. We got to talking, me leaning on the back of her seat and she with her body half twisted towards me. During the course of the conversation, she got down from her chair and straddled herself on my lap as if it was the most natural thing to do.

" I have an uncle whose name is Rameshbhai " she told me. " Well, then, I too am your uncle, for that happens to be my name too " I responded effusively. I was rewarded by a hug whose feminity has not yet eluded me. " How come, you have an Indian for an uncle? " " Because my daddy is an Indian. I am an American, though " she said and sneezed. " Na Zdorovye " spoke simultaneously Julie and her mother. Surprises after surprises! " That's Russian, literally meaning - to health -" I exclaimed. " O..o..h my grampa is a Russian.. you know !" she giggled. She too was surprised that I understood the Russian language.

To pass the time of the day, I taught her a card game. That attracted two other Delhi girls of her age to join us. Fond as I am of all children, I was unable to avoid making a blatant show of my partiality for Julie. The other girls only helped to accentuate by comparison Julie's FQ. I must explain what I mean by FQ for those of you who have not yet made the acquaintance of my friend, Ninad, the chap as I said earlier with a high MQ.

FQ is short for feminity quotient. It is the ratio of the feminine attributes in a particular specimen divided by all the feminine attributes possible in an all-female female. I have yet to devise tests to determine this quotient. So, for the time being, you have to go by my instinct, which in any case, is more trustworthy.

As we tired of the card games, she recited Gujarati and English nursery rhymes to me, the former taught to her by her Gujarati father. Next, we played a game called " Simon says ", a game that I knew by the name "Gandhiji says" in my childhood, then the guessing game, the Antakshari and countless other childrens' games. I discovered that the childrens' games are universal and timeless. Whether the children are Indians, Americans, Russians or Japanese, whether of my generation or of Julie's, they play almost the same games. I had entered the railway train in one of those inexpressibly depressed moods. Books, journals, ogling the lovely ladies sitting around me, my mother's comforting presence by my side, my imagination, my thoughts, the chanting of the Gita - nothing had been able to divert my mind earlier as Julie's particular feminity did now. I even found myself playing "Hide andSeek " with the children in a coach full of adults. That was the extent of my loss of inhibitions. Thanks to Julie, I had temporarily regressed to my child ego state.

A dream like sixteen hours passed and New Delhi neared. I was breakfasting in the dining car when Julie sought me out. Holding out half a portion of chickoo, my share of the fruit, she said "Good Bye, Uncle " My heart wrenched. I too did likewise keeping a brave front as she left.

I do not know if I would ever meet Julie again. So long, darling. I know you would not grow up to be a women's libber. It is men who would have to try to liberate themselves from you and similar other specimens of your sex. Jailors do not start liberation movements, you know !

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Ninad is a 3 year old kid. A very cool customer, he is. Cucumbers take lessons from him as far as coolness is concerned. He is the son of a junior colleague and a neighbour as well. Nothing ruffles him.Punishment has no meaning and enticements flow off like water on a duck's back. Fooling him for any length of time is equally futile. He is his own master. I am fond of children and generally, children reciprocate my feelings for them. Ninad however was unapproachable and posed a challenge to me.

What attracted me to him was his rather high MQ. I should explain what I mean by MQ. You have perhaps heard of the concept of NARA and NARAYANA as enunciated in the epic Mahabharata. Arjuna was portrayed as NARA and Krishna as NARAYANA. Arjuna was supposed to be masculinity personified, being cast in a heroic mould. Wherever he went, he not only vanquished men in battle; he also conquered women's hearts and won himself a wife or two! He had all the masculine traits that a person could possibly have. Krishna, on the other hand, was the friend, philosopher and guide. A ladies' man, Krishna was more of a NARAYANA than of a NARA. People instictively looked up to him for advice and were never disappointed.

Now, every person has some male and some female traits in him / her. Very few persons are all male - males or all female - females. MQ is the masculinity quotient and FQ is the feminity quotient. This quotient is defined as the ratio of the number of masculine or feminine traits in a person divided by the total of all the masculine or feminine traits that are possible in an all male - man or an all female - woman.

Coming back to our story, Ninad with his high MQ, has his father as his ideal. He has no place in his life for the feminine gender. His mother is for him a weak boy who cooks for the family and whom he could order around. If to him, it appears that his mother did not behave as a boy should, she was a " ganda ladka " ( a naughty boy ). Any attempt on the mother's part to discipline him would bring him post haste to our office in whatever state of dress or undress, he would happen to be. He would complain to his father about his "Aai" ( mother ) being a "ganda ladka", describing in detail, her crime of the moment. Having done his duty, he would march into my cabin and perch himself on my lap. His favourite activity was to fiddle with the paperweights and the telephone instrument. At 36, I was promoted by him to the grandpa's status perhaps because his father took his orders from me. Thus I earned his respect.

Like all grandchildren, he took me to be his equal. He shared his thoughts and his toys with me - a thing that he rarely did with other children. We were living in a township still under construction that I was in charge of. Trucks, jeeps and earthmoving machinery were constantly at work. Ninad had a great fascination for noise making moving objects. Trucks, jeeps, bull dozers, helicopters were his weakness. Drivers of all these machines were special people on whose good side, he always endeavoured to be, bending as much as was possible for him in the process. He always managed to get a ride on the bulldozer, the kindly operator allowing him to fiddle with the control levers.

Once, as the bulldozer with the familiar operator, hove into view, his eyes attained a wistful look. An idea struck him. Said he to me : " Hey there! How about a ride on the bulldozer? If you like, I can ask Naqui Ahmed, the operator to give you one! " The words were simple but the idea was eloquent. I have never felt more flattered in my life. Ninad had accepted me as his best friend and as a proof, he had offered to share even his pettest machine with me!


I met 2 year old Shailav in the suburban locale of a moffusil town. He looks like a well adjusted little chimpanzee. In any case, who has heard of a schizophrenic chimp? Shailav is extremely popular in the neighbourhood. Each one of his neighbours calls him by a different form of endearment as if to establish an exclusive relationship with him. When he passes by, anyone in sight, can not resist stopping and exchanging pleasantries with him. An exchange with Shailav seems to lift the gloom off the face of his interlocutor. Age groups do not bother him. He is equally at ease with children, the young and the aged. The fair sex is however one of his weaknesses.

Shailav has an aged neighbour. As it happens in every neighbourhood, this old man is the one who detests children. According to him, they spoil his garden, clutter up his walkway with dirt and make a lot of noise outside his compound. Even when they are playing silently, they appear to him to be planning some devilish scheme to torment him. He therefore jealously guards his property, shooing off any child coming within even a mile of his domain.

One day, while the old man was attending to his fence, Shailav walked up to him, looked into his eyes and said " Grandpa " in his usual calm and dispassionate manner. Before the old man could react one way or the other, Shailav had completely forgotten him and had got busy with some other activity. For want of any other excuse, the old man had been calling him a pampered brat. However, this incident set him to thinking. At least, he is different. He has never vandalised my garden. Never picked any fruits. What if he is pampered?

Then on, Shailav got one more person to smile at. What is more, the old man smiled back. The news of this transformation of the old man spread like a wild fire in the neighbourhood. Just then, one day, Shailav was not to be found. His anxious mother, scoured the entire neighbourhood, checking out each of his numerous haunts. He was nowhere. Everybody gathered outside his house speculating on where he could possibly be. After what seemed like eternity, Shailav emerged from an unexpected place - the old man's house, mouth properly splattered with chocolate, hands and pockets bulging with toffees. To the various cries of exclamation and querries, he had very little to respond to. He merely pointed to the place of his recent habitat and said " Grandpa ". In that one word, he was telling the children of the locality that there was always a way of dealing with any grown up. To the adults, he was saying, look, the old miser is, after all, not that bad. The old man is now ready for grandfathership!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


A town planner removes slums to create a township. The result is found to be wanting and slums perhaps of a different kind – but slums all the same are allowed to develop to fulfill the needs of the society. In communism, uniformity is sought and finally diversity has to be created to fulfill the needs of the society. One great need is however satisfied in both the cases. It is the need of the man to first commit follies and then to make amends after realizing the effect and understanding the lacunae. Also the need for power and livelihood for the protagonists of the people who commit follies and people who make amends, is also satisfied.

Communism is an ant’s philosophy. The majority are worker ants who plod on, uncomplainingly and in a coordinated manner as decided by the powers that be. Monarchy is a lion’s philosophy. Here, the king does not bother so long as his needs are fulfilled. There is no questioning of the lions’ decision. Democratic socialism is a philosophy of animals in jungle who wish to have some justice while retaining their hierarchical identities. Vegetative philosophy believes in allowing nature to take its own course – a sort of laissez faire policy. In the end, however, all philosophy is foolish. It is the KALAKRAMA – The cyclical nature of nature that brings up one or the other philosophy to the fore so as to suit the requirement of prevailing circumstances. Nature does this to make each soul to realize that each one is right at a particular time in the universal chronology. Each species seeks NIRVANA or salvation through extinction. None achieves it really. It has to come up again and again in another form, another guise. NIRVANA or salvation has been an age old dream of philosophers. It will be achieved when life, that is both energy and matter are completely destroyed and there is no chance for any regeneration. Will this ever happen? I don’t know and as matter of fact I don’t care.

A wise man in an assembly of fools is a fool and a fool in the assembly of wise men is a sage. Actually, neither the wise man is wise nor is the fool, a fool. It is the time, the circumstances and the environment that determine wisdom. In the ultimate, wisdom like all other things is relative. There is no absolute wisdom. Search for it can be abandoned. Instinct alone is wisdom. It leads you into the life. It also leads you to your death. The proper thing to do at any given time is as the hippies would say, “Do your thing man!”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


12th April 1961

I was smoking a cigarette ( called papirossi ) in a corridor in GIPROKOKS office, Kharkov, USSR. Time around 11 AM. Local time. My boss comes running, grasps my hand and makes me run along with him all of a sudden. To my anxious enquiries, he only replies, “Wait”.

Visions of the building being on fire or an imminent ICBM attack of the “imperialists” and so on quickly appear before my eyes, one after the other, only to be discarded when I am taken not to some fire escape ladder or to a bombproof shelter but only to my own workplace.

A radio is on. Everybody is excited in the office and to my anxious enquiry, the chorus of replies is, “Listen”. I do so. As seconds tick by, the well modulated vice of the famous Russian announcer Yuri Levin ( USSR’s Melville De Mello ) who had announced all important news on the radio for over a couple of decades, comes on once more.

“Pyerviy pilot-cosmonot Yuri Alexevich Gagarin litaet……………”

Despite my having picked up sufficient Russian language by then to understand the meaning of this announcement and my nodding in reply to his question whether I understood, my boss, in his excitement, could not help in translating to me in his smattering of English, “First man in space, ……….Gagarin”.

I am excited too, catching the infection quickly. I am proud that I am a human being- a contemporary of the first man in space, even if not his countryman. All work had stopped despite the customary office discipline, so great was the intoxication caused by the news. For the first time, a rule is broken. Someone brings a bottle of champagne ( called Sovietskovo shampanya ) and everybody vies with the next man in proposing toasts to Gagarin. People drink probably for the first time in a work place during working hours. The big boss, instead of fuming, joins in.

Slowly, however discipline reasserts itself without anyone’s prodding. People go back to their work but only leave their pens and pencils when the radio announcement is repeated and replenished with further information about Gagarin and his flight.

People are flocking in the streets, parks, restaurants and other public places. The conversation is all about Gagarin. Even the young men for once shun their favourite topic – girls. They are all agog with stories about a man instead – the first one in space. The girls are sorry that Gagarin is already married. The older people can not help reminiscing about the revolution, the Civil War, the purges, the World War and all the bad days gone by. They are glad to have survived the stark days and to see this glorious day as a sort of unexpected bonus.

A couple of days later, the grapevine passes the news. Gagarin’s reception in Moscow is being televised live. The whole office rushes to the common room, where a large size TV set is on. Once again discipline is forgotten.

The TV shows millions and millions of Musovites and people from surrounding places at the airport and on roads leading to it. All important party and government officials are there. The Central Committee, the entire presidium and the President himself are present. In the foreground is a short stocky man prancing about like an excited child.

The plane lands. Everybody watches with baited breath. The door opens. A fraction of a second of animated suspense passes and the hero alights. Guns boom in salute. Clapping is tumultuous and the noise created by the people competes with that of the guns.

The stout man suddenly comes to attention. So do the President, the Presidium and the Central committee. Everybody salutes. Gagarin comes forward with firm steps, his face emotionless and salutes in return. The stout man who is none other than Nikita Sergevitch Khruschev, First Secretary of the party and Prime Minister of USSR is no longer able to contain himself. He hurries forward but is stopped by the delivery of the report by Gagarin delivered in a firm tone:

“ I have fulfilled the duty given to me by the party and the Government by orbiting once round the earth….All equipment worked satisfactorily…I thank the party and the Government for the opportunity given to me to serve the nation”.

Khruschev runs, embraces Gagarin and kisses him on both lips in the Russian fashion. Like a proud father, he introduces Gagarin to his colleagues or rather his colleagues to Gagarin. Gagarin’s wife and parents are getting impatient in the meantime. Khrushchev notices, cuts short the introductions and escorts Gagarin to his family. The reunion is touching.

“What’s all this going on”? questions a shrill voice from the door of the common room. With a shock, the viewers come back to senses, as if waking up from a dream. It is a lady clerk from the personnel department. She has come to enforce discipline. She switches off the TV and the crowd begins to disintegrate, making faces at the intruder in a good humoured fashion. A tall man is trying to hide himself. The lady however espies him.

“You! Are you not ashamed? You are the Chief Engineer and you wasting time like this! Devil only knows what this world is coming to!, shouted the old lady. The crowd roars with laughter at the Chief Engineer's discomfiture but soon rallies to his defence, And “You! Yourself! How is it that you found time to shout only when the TV show was about to be over”?

For once, the grim old woman permits herself a smile. A guilty one! Even in a strictly regimented society, common sense prevailed on an uncommon occasion.