Archive for May, 2010

The good old days…

“From the day one I saw you…” An apt and timely film song was on the air… some of us were deeply immersed in that song. There were those who took it as a disturbance to their conversations… Or shall we call it “the scandal session”? Most of them were in their sixties and seventies and their conversations revolved around love marriages, or the more problematic inter-caste marriages.

The occasion was, of course, a Wedding reception. It was not an arranged marriage as such, but absolutely free from any problems from both sides. Most of the elders who had gathered there at the invitation of the bride or groom were critical of the present generation and their habit of falling in love with girls or boys who were not of the same casts. “In the good old days, the youngsters strictly abided by certain social codes. There were no love marriages” one of the elders would say. “Yes, Yes… Look at their dresses… horrible…”

They talked as if there were no love marriages or inter-caste marriages. I was almost tempted to say, “Just look back, oldies…”

By a remarkable coincidence, I happened to read a short story, a couple of days after this marriage. The author, a Malayalam novelist, was born in 1904 and the story I read was written in 1930s, it was about a love affair between two college students. From the description of the behavior of the students of that college, it was clear that the students of yore were no better (or worse) than the ones we see these days. Then why this Fuss?

Gone are those days…

“Friends, Comrades; this is the first time I am visiting this beautiful little town. We felt as if the almighty had appeared before us in response to our continuous prayers. Minutes before he began his speech, we had welcomed him with a loud “Pandit Nehru Ki Jai” slogan. This happened in the late 50s when I was a student, and the hero standing on the dais before a huge gathering was the very same Nehru whose immortal lines “Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny…” was still fresh in my mind. A few years later at the same venue, there was a huge crowd. A lean tall white-clad man in his 60s stormed his way on to the stage and greeted us by waving his hands…”Ladies and Gentlemen… It’s almost midnight now… and you are all assembled here, not to have a darshan of me…. It shows the political spirit in you… If you vote for Muslim league, you are voting for Pakistan… if you are voting for the communists, you are voting for China…” He was no other than V.K. Krishna Menon who was the defense minister in Nehru’s cabinet.

Namaste….if you give up English, you giving up a little physics, a little chemistry, a little mathematics… Yeah, he too was lean and white-clad… Rajaji, as he was fondly called, the first governor general of India.

Another person whom I admired was the late EMS, though he was the leader of the communist party of India. He was witty but stammered while he spoke… “That CH is a Scholar. He quotes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and of course, Koran but does not know when to quote what. Anyway, don’t vote for him”

Gone are those days. Politics has become less interesting, may be because there are umpteen political parties whose leaders are more concerned about regional, linguistic or communal issues.

The cup that cheers!

It is always over a cup of coffee, right from the word ‘go’…. That is, when you get up in the morning. When you are racking your brain for an apt word or an idea, the Coffee does the trick. When you have an unexpected guest at an odd hour, and you are stuck up with the usual, “What a pleasant surprise!” or “After a long time” or “How are you… I am fine”, You would say, “Wait a minute”, and go to the Kitchen and will be back with Coffee and cookies for all and your conversation gets a ‘Kick-start’ over a cup of coffee.

          But coffee is not in the good books of the health-conscious people mainly because, according to them, it kills one’s appetite, though therein lies its magic. For the very same reason, it could be recommended for the retired People!

          Here is an interesting event when a clever cook saved a person from an embarrassing situation on a wedding day… (His daughter was getting married). This gentleman was very calculative. He expected nearly 200 people to participate in the wedding feast and there was enough for another twenty invitees. All went off very well till 1pm and he heaved a sigh of relief; but to his chagrin, a ‘bus full’ of people arrived at that time (the invitees who were not taken into account by this gentlemen). On seeing that he was upset because the food available at that moment would be just sufficient for ten persons, the clever cook consoled him: “I can manage sir, we have enough milk and coffee powder. First, we will serve strong and tasty coffee to all of them before taking them to the dinner hall.” The gentleman was not all that sure about this suggestion but he received the ‘battalion’ with folded hands while they apologized for the delay. The formalities over, they were given coffee. “Delicious, Delicious” they said while sipping the coffee. The moment they finished the coffee, the cook took them to the dinner hall. The appetite-killer had done the trick and the available food was more than sufficient.

Help yourself – No formalities!

In a crowded street where there was no footpath as such, a lean, young chap of medium height was looking at every person who came across him. He seemed to be desperately in need of some help or looking for some one who went missing! At last he spotted the right person. He was a middle-aged person who was walking fast. The young man approached him and said, “Sir, Sir, Can I have your pen for a while?” The elderly chap took out a pen from his pocket rather reluctantly. The young man wasted no time. He almost snatched it and ran away. The elderly Person shouted “Hey, you stop there” but that strange fellow had already merged into the crowd. None in the crowd seemed to be in a helping mood, for they thought it was his head ache. (I too was watching the fun!). The elderly person just cursed that chap and moved on. Incidentally, I happened to see that elderly person near a petty shop where I had gone to buy certain routine items. He came there to buy a pen. The shop keeper asked him, “What happened to the one you bought a little while ago?” “One chap snatched it away…” Just when he was narrating the incident, the very same young chap came running and put the borrowed pen in the elderly man’s Pocket and moved on without saying “Sorry” or “Thanks”. Then he turned back and said, “Been to the Post office”.

All is well that ends well

“Come on guys… Eat your fill”, said Suren, taking out a tenner from his pocket. Humming an obscene song, Karun led us to our favourite coffee stall. “Boy, it is not a toddy shop… mind you”, I told him. “Do you want me to sing Bajagovindam?”, Karun retorted.

On seeing us, the waiter brought coffee and some cheap snacks as usual but Suren bluntly told him “We don’t want any of these” and ordered for some expensive items. The Waiter smiled sarcastically and took away the snacks and brought the items ordered by us. While eating, Karun asked, “How did you manage to get a tenner from that guy?”. “Eat while you eat,” I said. But Suren obliged, “When that chap kept on talking about his good old days when they used to play hide and seek instead of cricket or football, I touched upon his sentiments… and it worked. Then of course, he expected us to buy cricket bats and pads from his shop.”

Once in a while I go back in time and recall certain incidents like the one narrated above. It is well over four decades since it happened. We had just returned from our college in the evening bus. It was 4.30 pm and the three of us – me, Suren and Karun had to walk a mile or so from where we got down to reach our homes but we used to visit our favourite restaurant (mentioned above) to have a cup of coffee and some snacks. On that particular evening, our pockets were almost empty and when we were a little disappointed, Suren came out with an idea, “If either of you can spare 2 annas, I can find a way”. Fortunately, I had a two-anna coin with me and I gave it to him. Suren ran to the nearby bookshop and bought a notebook. He wrote the following words: “Dear sir/madam, we have great pleasure in informing you that we have organized a committee with a view to starting a cricket club in our area under the name ‘Rising star’. We have a small play ground but we have to buy bats, balls and other materials. We shall be grateful if you could contribute to our endeavour”. Suren got our signatures and ran to a near by shop which sold sports materials, asking us to wait in front of the restaurant. In ten minutes or so, suren appeared before us and yelled “Come on guys, eat your fill”.

Gift of the gab!

Viswan was not a close friend of mine but I used to visit his house very often during summer vacation, simply because there was enough space in their backyard to play cricket and badminton. There were several boys and a couple of good looking girls in that house. They invited a selected few like us to play cricket in their back yard. One evening, Viswan’s father called me aside and said, “Aren’t you a graduate?” “Yes”, I said, not knowing what he was upto.

“It is very difficult to get any government jobs these days, especially for we people… I mean, the forward castes”, he said. “Any job is Ok for me… But…” I replied.

“How about a medical rep’s job?”, he asked. “I am not a science graduate…”, I hesitated. “If you are interested, I can recommend you for a post… of course it is not a reputed company… Tonight I’ll be leaving for Bombay. I’ll be back after a fortnight.”

It was a job meant for Chemistry graduates in those days and I was not very enthusiastic about it. But still there was a ray of hope. I broached this subject when Regunath visited my house, the next morning. Inspite of his penchant for practical jokes and all that, he was a highly successful medical representative. “Reghu, Viswan’s dad says he would recommend me for a medical rep’s job, if I am interested.” “He is an influential chap. If you get that job, it will be a good breakthrough for you,” assured Reghunath.

“Meanwhile, could you teach me the ABCD of this job?”, I asked.

“Yeah, just come along with me to a few medical shops and doctors”, he assured.

He had to cover a vast area including our native town and incidentally, on that day he was scheduled to visit doctors and medical shops in our area and he asked me to accompany him on that very day.

“Hurry up… first, we are going to Mani’s restaurant and from there to Pavithran’s medical shop,” he said.

So, we were on the move and as usual, he was jovial and played his pranks with innocent folks. In between, he gave me some lessons on marketing: “gift of the gab; that is vital for a medical rep.” he advised.

“But what about the quality of the medicine and various complexes like B-Complex, C-Complex etc?”, I asked. He burst into laughter and said “Just wait and see… Here we are…”. Yeah, we were in front of Pavithran’s. “Follow me”, he said rather jokingly, as he entered the shop. An elderly man was sitting at the cash counter. My friend wished him in typical Indian style and said, “Sir, there is something divine about this store. In fact, I was not thinking of medicine while visiting here… Last time when I came here, you explained to me the meaning of Adwaida… Tatwamasi… Now I understand what exactly is Tatwamasi.”

Meanwhile, I was eagerly waiting for some medical terms, but the elderly man gave him a long list of Medicines and pills (a huge order for my friend’s company). And said, “Just go through the latest on this subject (Adwaida) by swami Anandanda.”

“Sure, Sure, I’ll buy it”, replied my friend.

As we were about to take leave of the elderly man, I congratulated my friend, though I did not gain anything from this visit. He just whispered “Just look at the corner shelf”

“Three tonics?” I asked.

“Yes, there are nearly twenty of them, sold by me 4 years ago when I was in Nelson’s & Co” he said.

“So, that is the trick of the trade?”, I asked. “It’s all gift of the gab”, he said as we moved on to the next shop.

Give something and get something!

Regunath was one of our family friends and a frequent visitor to our house. Known for his Pranks and cruel jokes, he was intelligent too. One morning he called at our house and said, “Get me a pen… Quick”. “What’s the matter?” I asked him while giving him a pen; but he simply rolled his eyes and opened an envelope with care and took out the paper and went through the contents quickly and scribbled something at the button and put the letter inside the cover and pasted. My first impression was that he was sending a job application to some firm. Though he was working for a reputed company as a medical representative, he used to send applications to other firms for a similar post.

The words he scribbled at the bottom of the letter confused me a bit. “If you need any monetary help, please don’t hesitate.”

“Wow, that’s wonderful. You don’t usually write to your relatives. May be it is meant for one of your college mates”, I said.

“Me, of all people?… On my way to the post office, that venkiti asked me whether I was on my way to the Post office and When I nodded my head, he asked me to post this letter if I don’t mind. I obliged him but I must have some fun. So, I thought I must add a few lines. That’s all.

“Boy Borde… Angel Borde…”

There were no trains or buses between 2pm and 4pm to our town from our college which was nearly 3 miles away from the town, and since I had skipped the afternoon classes, I had to walk all the way. But, at that moment, it was not the long distance which bothered me because an exciting cricket match between India and West Indies was in progress. Oh, I forgot to tell you that it is over forty years now since this thriller took place. There were no TVs and even radios were few and far between, literally. This small cricket-crazy town, the little known Thalasseri had the reputation of being the first town in India to have cricket club (Mumbai and other cities followed suit). Here, even girls were crazy about the game and sat glued to a radio whenever there was a match.

I was walking fast, not because I was in a hurry to reach home but to be somewhere near “Valiya veedu”  (BIG HOUSE)  near the bridge where they had a radio which gave a full-throated running commentary. When, at last, I reached there, I hid behind the gate so that I won’t be seen by those girls in the BIG HOUSE, though I could hear one of them shouting, “Don’t fear, Angel Borde is Still there”. She was right. I heaved a sigh of relief when the following words from the radio reached my ears, “In comes, Hall… Oh Lord, it is a bumper… Borde, off the backfoot… all the way for four! No question of an innings defeat now.” India was on the verge of an innings defeat; all the top order batsmen were back in the pavilion but Borde carried on. Now the question was not whether India would save the match or not but would Borde get his 2nd hundred (Century in each innings).

He was in his 70s and going great guns, though Hall & Co were at their ferocious best. When it was time for tea break for the players, I left that spot and moved fast so that I would reach the popular ‘Kamala Restaurant’ where I can listen to the running commentary over a cup of tea. The moment I reached there, I could hear, “Borde on 96… Hall on the move… It’s a four… Boy Borde… Angel Borde… Oh Lord, he is given out… It was a sure four but he stepped on the wicket, after completing the shot…”

“Shit”, I whispered and came out of the restaurant but kept on saying “Boy Borde, Angel Borde! ”