Archive for December, 2010

A suspense thriller!

The hero is a gang leader. Good-looking but made to look like a ruffian. Good hearted but short tempered. He picks up a quarrel with every Tom, Dick and Harry, but people liked him because he raises his voice against injustice, unmindful of the consequences. He ekes out a living by doing odd jobs.

The heroine is a charming teenager, a final year student in a prestigious college. Not very studious, she leads a happy-go-lucky life. She is the much pampered daughter of a rich arrogant man.

A tailor-made occasion presented itself when the heroine was on a shopping spree on the eve of Deepavali. It was a crowded day and an opportunity for the petty thieves to carry out their jobs without much effort. Our heroine was one of the victims that evening. Her handbag was snatched away by one of the rowdies. Our hero appeared from nowhere and chased the robber and without much effort got back the bag and handed it over to that lady. “You have to be careful madam. These guys roam the streets on a day like this”, the hero advised her but , to his surprise and anger, she said, “I know you guys…..don’t act smart”. His response was equally strong, “shut-up, you bitch…your dad is a filthy robber”.

Then, they became closer and closer and, in due course, full-fledged lovers, spending their spare time in parks and beaches.

You are getting ready for the climax, expecting the papa’s girl’s elopement with the hero who has dozens of friends well equipped to face any threat from papa’s henchmen.

On you march, get set; the climax is on the screen. The hero is all set for the final show but the heroine has not appeared as yet, though secret arrangements had been made for her to reach the spot on time. We heave a sigh of relief when the taxi cab arranged by them reaches the spot, late by ten minutes. But, instead of the heroine, it was the girl’s father who got down from the car. What surprised everybody was the fact that he was all smiles when he opened the rear door of the car. The ones who got down were the hero’s father and mother, followed by the heroine herself.

Everything went off well. After the function, the girl’s father said in a hushed voice, “Thank god, it is a bonanza to me…..I could manage with a few thousands, instead of the anticipated 15 to 20 lakh rupees”. [He was rich and arrogant but a miser too!]

Thus far and no further

Everything comes to a standstill. Roads are blocked. The trains are held up.  The oft repeated TV footage clearly shows the destructive tendencies of the agitators—some of them are seen removing nuts and bolts of the railway tracks so that the train service would not resume even if the agitations are called off. The party in power gets nervous and succumbs to pressure. The leader of the demonstrators makes it clear that there was no question of any discussion at a place convenient to the government but it should be at the very spot where agitators are ‘relaxing’!

The above said agitation [or rather ‘pressure tactics’,] as you might have guessed, is for the inclusion of one of the umpteen castes in the never-ending reservation list. Since caste is a sensitive issue, nobody has the guts to oppose it, though it is crystal clear that the necessity for caste-based reservations does not exist and it is time to switch over to income-based reservation [if it is absolutely necessary]. Since there are poor and rich in every caste, there being no social barriers.

When the politicians let you down…

A popular leader of one of the main opposition parties embarks on an indefinite hunger strike to draw attention of the ruling party to the plight of the farmers or weavers. Right now, we are not in a position to know whether he has succeeded in helping the farmers or the weavers  overcome their problems but he has managed to capture the attention of the media. Elsewhere in the country, the sky rocketing price of onion is causing great concern. And, on top of this, the ruling party has to get ready to face yet another problem—the inevitable hike in the prices of diesel, petrol and cooking gas.

Indians are quite used to these problems but what is so vexing is the stereo-typed reactions of the opposition parties and the ad-hoc policies of the parties in power. Every party changes its tactic depending on where it is placed at a given period.

It is easy to organize strikes or protest rallies against price rise or seasonal fluctuations in food production. Naturally, the opposition chooses the easy one which does not require them to make an earnest attempt to clear the way for some immediate relief. The party in power, too, waits till things snowballs into a crisis. We cannot expect much from the politicians, for theirs is a different ballgame. The only consolation is that we have some smart IAS officers here and there who set an example, especially when they are posted as district collectors. They have their own plans to overcome seasonal problems, as long as politicians do not interfere with their plans!

A common strategy please

Politicians in India, specially those belonging to the fast-dwindling national parties have to handle with care certain sensitive issues which could trigger violence and weaken the country. A slip of the tongue or an unwise statement to gain political mileage often create a wedge between castes or religions. Those politicians rake up old and forgotten events with a view to embarrassing their opponents but what they are doing in the name of weakening their political rivals is exposing the country’s weaker parts to other countries which are not so friendly with us.

On the one hand, these parties especially the ones who are at the helm of affairs talk about various steps initiated by them to make the country economically stronger or to lift the poor and downtrodden to better conditions. And on the other hand, they inadvertently encourage the political and communal extremists to carry on their nefarious works without fear or favour.

These politicians must realize that the media and the scandal mongers are alert enough to pounce on them at any time and push them into deep trouble. The need of the hour is to treat the extremists as common enemies so that all the major political parties would sink their differences at least on this issue. Last but not the least, an element of secrecy is absolutely necessary when they deal with the extremists.

The one and only Sachin

I dedicate this to Sachin Tendulkar. Right now, I am not bothered about the fate of the first test against South Africa or other details pertaining to this match. I could watch only the highlights of this match and when the news reader said that Sachin was on his way to his 50th century in 5-day matches, I became nervous and switched off the TV for a while but when I switched on, I could see Sachin lifting his bat; simultaneously I could also see a broad smile on the news reader’s face. Yeah, Sachin has reached the much-awaited mile stone….His half-century of centuries! ,incidentally at the centurion ground.  Nearly 15 years ago, an expert predicted, “at this rate, Tendulkar would score 82 centuries [ODI + 5 day matches] which seemed fantastic prediction. But Sachin’s contribution far outweighed this prediction, for he is on the verge of 100 centuries. Hats off to Sachin.

A ‘noble’ gesture indeed!

It was one of those intercity trains and that too from the starting point. Plenty of seats would be available but what bothered Reghu was the queue at the ticket counter. There were some 10-15 people ahead of him and just five minutes left for the departure of this train. He was on his week-end travel to his native town and if he missed this train, he would have to wait till next week but more than that it would be a great disappointment for Geetha, his girlfriend. Time was ticking away and he was about to abandon the journey when a good looking lady patted him on his shoulder and gave him a ticket to his native town, saying, “I saw you at the fag end of the queue and thought of buying one for you”. Before he could express his surprise and gratitude, she moved fast towards the ladies compartment. “I’ll collect the money next week”, she shouted while boarding the train. He too hurried his way to the nearest compartment and got into it, seconds before the train moved.

While Reghu was carried away by the ‘noble’ gesture of a lady who was neither his friend nor his colleague, the lady was deriving some sadistic pleasure from what Reghu considered a ‘noble gesture’. She was, of course, not a total stranger, for he used to see her at this station every weekend. This lady, on the other hand, knew something about Reghu and his love affair with Geetha and extracted some pleasure by playing a practical joke on her. On that day, she saw Geetha at the Ladies’ waiting room and knew for sure that she had come all the way to this town to spring a pleasant surprise on Reghu who was totally unaware of her visit. The lady thought that if Reghu missed the train, Geetha would succeed in making Reghu too happy and become closer to him. There was no harm in it but she was more concerned about her own sadistic pleasure!

Make hay while the sun shines!

Days are shorter or longer in certain seasons, maybe, by an hour or so. It is His highness, the sun who decides when it should be shorter and when it should be longer.  Whether it is longer or shorter, it does not cause any inconvenience in a country like India, except on rainy days. At the most, the power consumption could be slightly less or more, depending on the length of days!

But in Vancouver, Canada [there may be other places as well], the nature abides by this rule strictly and sincerely. The sun, here, is a late comer during winter. At 8.00 AM His Highness appears at the distant horizon and sends a flash of light, not powerful enough to send darkness bag and baggage. By 4.00 AM, it is what they call bright and sunny but don’t be carried away; you will soon be reminded of the immortal line: “The sunset and the evening sky!”

Anyway, you cannot accuse His Highness of any partiality. Come summer, His Highness plays a long innings in Vancouver commencing from 4.30 AM to 9.00 PM!

How’s it?

A bolt from the blue!

A long whistle… and the passenger train was on the move. Jayaram boarded the train at the eleventh hour but, to his relief, the compartment was not crowded. He occupied a window seat so that the one-hour journey won’t be monotonous. Anyway, the rural areas would come into view only after twenty minutes or so. Meanwhile, he decided to go through the day’s newspaper. Just the headlines… Nationwide strike in protest against price hike. Allegations against a central minister and so on. Enough is enough, he thought and opened page 4 where regional news items appear. Again just headlines but when he was about to close the daily, his eyes rested on a particular news and there was a broad smile on his face and some excitement. He put the paper in his hand bag and looked around, as if he was looking for somebody.

Last week when he travelled by the same passenger train, he carried a book with him and repeatedly read certain passages underlined by him. He was unable to concentrate because a talkative old man was chatting with some youngsters who looked like some budding politicians, “you people have no principle. Most of you are blissfully ignorant of the principles of your own party. Do you know how communism took roots in your state?” Without waiting for an answer, he continued: “when the landlords were behaving like dictators, some youngsters who had some basic knowledge of French revolution or Russian revolution, rose in revolt and…” the old man was waxing eloquent. Jayaram who saw him as a nuisance, listened to him and noted certain points. He was, in fact, on his way to participate in a prestigious essay competition. An annual affair, this competition was for the senior students of the state. To his disappointment, none of the topics mentioned in the competition paper was his favorites. He read it once again and heaved a sigh of relief… One of the topics was about the birth of political parties in India in the first decade after independence. He did have some starting problems but once he got over it, his fingers were struggling to keep pace with the flow of ideas.

***************

Time seemed to be galloping, when Jayaram’s mind was preoccupied with his previous journey. The train would reach the station in a few minutes. He took out the day’s newspaper and read the regional news item once again to make sure that the winner is none other than himself. “The year’s prize for essay writing goes to Jayaram.” When he got down there was none in the compartment but he said loudly “Thank you old man”!

An underestimation

Far away and long ago. Wuthering heights. Oliver twist. Swamy and friends. Twelfth night. For whom the bell tolls. All old and worn out books, lying scattered in a wooden box. There were some old magazines as well. I must buy a couple of them, not because I was eager to read all these books. The owner of this ‘box shop’ was looking at me now and then hoping that I will buy at least one of them. While leafing through some of them, I chanced upon “An anthology of English poems”, when I picked it up, an envelope dropped from it. It was addressed to one Gokuldas…  A familiar name, I thought. Could he be the friend of my roommate in the early seventies? I wondered. I bought that book just for the sake of that letter. It was signed by one Sumitra… again a familiar name. The letter was very brief: “Dear Gokul, this is my own book… not from the library. Read these poems and you’ll get to know more about the art of writing poems”.

It is more than 25 years since I vacated that room. I have only a dim recollection of those days. My roommate was working as an electrician in a public sector company and Gokuldas used to visit him quite often. He was working as an assistant in a pawn-broker’s shop. During his visits, he used to tell me about certain books and what more, he was never tired of telling me about Sumitra with whom he used to discuss books and literature. The act was he was a school dropout and this Sumitra was an Assistant Professor in Arts and Science College. And, I responded with “um, oh, really…” but now I realize my folly. My judgment was wrong. He was indeed a classmate of Sumitra and they studied in a reputed English medium school—

Now he must be in his eighties. I see him occasionally when he visits the temple. The next time I come across him, I must tell him about that letter and may be about my own folly!

Indian parliament… Certain ominous cracks

Ever since the recent revelation of a mega scandal in India, the air has been thick with charges, counter charges, debates involving politicians, journalists and all and sundry. Some leading opposition parties have been pressurizing the central government to come out with all details including the steps initiated to bring to book the guilty.

And, as everyone knows, parliament is the right forum for those concerned to express their views on any such issue but, disruption of the proceedings in the parliament has become the main job of the members. Gone are the days when the members irrespective of the parties they belonged to had the patience to lend their ears to the views of each and every member.

One wonders why the politicians who are so eloquent when they chat with the media people are so aggressive and unruly when they are in the parliament house. By doing so they are in fact exposing themselves… their ignorance, intolerance and the limitations of their own parties. If they are loyal to the people who vote them to power or if they are concerned about the reputation of their nation, they won’t be behaving in such an irresponsible way. If this trend continues, the people will be tempted to boycott elections.