Sunday, July 30, 2006

To put it indifferently.

Here is an article i had written in my second year at IITM which i had hoped to get published in the hostel magazine for the greater benefit of all. Sadly, the words were never adorned in carbon. I do not wish to carry all these papers to the US and so i upload it here to keep a sort of online database. You may proceed further if you choose.

To put it (in)differently!

The Vedas and Upanishads introduced the concept of 'Atman' or the 'Self' which, in essence, declares that 'only the self exists'. Whatever might have been their intention at that time we have, very conveniently, interpreted it to suit our present principles, so that the ideology now subsists as a pernicious indifference to everything and everyone around us.

Our hostels stand stark testimony to this negligence. Some of us keep the very rooms in which we stay(or not) dirty. This is only a small cluster and most of us, I'm glad, care to keep the rooms spic and span. But the room is cleaned by elegantly pushing the dust out onto the corridor(read dust bin). This inspite of there being a refuse bin every 4 rooms.

The bathrooms are used to dispose of tufts of public(the 'l' is only to avoid crude language and out of concern for the prude) hair. If those aren't enough to clog the drain holes then there are always the soap and shampoo sachets. On the one hand we use showers without any scruples, and on the other, we choose to conserve water by rendering the flush redundant! The stairs are, fortunately, cleaner with just the odd cigarette butt and a juice tartpak or two.

The groundfloor serves as a repository of SAC litter. There is a 'tide' of sachets all around the washing machine making for a bad 'aerial' view. Apparently, the huge dustbin in front of the SAC room is beyond reach or sight of the machine users.

In the mess, in blatant violation of the adage that 'one man's food may be another man's poison', we use the 'same hand' (or just 'hand' in the case of people who savagely use both hands!) to eat food and serve ourselves or pass the food around. The boon of having a freezer for soft drinks is a bane to the mess workers as people callously leave the bottles outside the mess on the floor or, more precariously, on the window ledges. The monkeys then come send them crashing to the floor by deftly pushing them off the ledge.

With the excuse of being localites(or some other equally pathetic excuse) people buy powered vehicles and indulge their laziness to the hilt by parking them as close to the exit as possible - that means on the basketball court! I'm glad the administration has at last implemented the ban on power vehicles not just in word but in deed.

So in every step one takes, starting from within one's room and moving in any direction all the way till the hostel exit and beyond, one witnesses this apalling apathy. If I travel further to cover the entire institute i'm afraid i'll never have enough space to write it all. That one is indifferent to dirt is no excuse to be indifferent to one's surroundings. This is a cry to one and all, not to take responsibility to keep one's surroundings clean, nor even to show concern for the surroundings, but only to overcome this horrifying indifference and do what elementary common sense would dictate. Please! Let's be different, or at least, less indifferent.


This is what i write today. My style of writing might be a little different today but my opinion is still the same. The facts are more or less the same, ie, the negligence still persists, though the specifics of where, how etc might be different. This article was written in passionate fury but today i see it with a certain degree of indifference! I have consoled myself to the fact that things will not change. I have understood that the people are not wholly to blame for this attitude. It has deeper roots like religion, upbringing etc. Not everyone can be expected to question everything they do so that they re-evaluate the prejudices imbibed by them at a young age. So a majority of the people are bound to remain this way for yet a really long time in this country and i have made my peace with this sad state of affairs. If at all you have any regard for what i've said, then, please, try and be more aware of the little things you do and re-evaluate your actions keeping in mind the society at large. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cheque the box.

I went to the bank yesterday with my father to make arrangements for foreign currency. As my dad was sweating away in some queue i happily sauntered around the bank gazing at everything as if seeing a bank for the first time. It was then that i noticed a cheque lying in the compaints box, which was placed right next to the cheque clearance box. The cheque stood as the lone complaint in the box and i was rather surprised that such an inefficient bank must receive so few complaints. In fact, it annoyed me more to think that someone might actually have thrown in the cheque as a form of praise to the bank. Anyways, considering the proximity of the cheque clearance box i decided to inform the security of the accident. He assured me we would put the cheque in the appropriate box right away but took no initiative for some time. It might have been only because he is just another of his kind but i thought there was a more interesting reason. Perhaps he was aware that it was the administration that had put the cheque in there. And why should they have done something like that? Because they might have received a deluge of complaints which read, "Check the complaints box!!"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Since an idea can change the world,

I have an idea for an ad which i wish to sell to some corporate which might find use for it. The ad might look something like this:

A typical middle class family is seated in the drawing room of their apartment having a chatter session at night when there is a black-out in the entire city. Then the attention of this house is drawn to a smart fellow(about my age) who stands up and hollers joyously, 'I have a bright idea', removes the nearest bulb from its socket and plugs it into his ear. The bulb glows brightly(because of the power of his idea)!

Probably some company which encourages thinking could use this.

I also have some advice.

I realised that the reverence for a person, and hence the importance and value attached to everything he does, grows with time, right from birth until old age. And again with every passing year after his death. So i would advice that the next time you read something and wish to remember it for long, assume the author of that piece of writing is long dead. Try it!

Just to avoid some smarty-pants wise-cracking in the comments - "Yes, you may assume that even in my case!"

Saturday, July 08, 2006


There was one particular instance I won’t forget for a long time. There was this stout and really old grey-bearded loon like chappie selling groundnut. Now, I don’t know why but there is some obsession that people in unreserved compartments have to groundnut. So he was doing brisk business. The guy beside me bought 10g packet of salted nuts and paid the Rs. 2 he charged for it. He put some in his mouth and then complained, “The groundnut is bitter.” The old man, perhaps swelling with happiness at the success of his business, retorted, “ I’ve poisoned it. You are going to die now,” and smiled!

Lottery was banned in Kerala for a while but they’ve now resumed the sale of lottery tickets. This is one of the most horrible practices of the otherwise civilized Keralite. In cities like Cochin, there are many roofed shops which sell these tickets and you will always see a few umbrella wielding lower-middle income people lingering about unsure which of those coloured sheets is likely to change their fortune forever. But in towns like Palakkad, every now and again you’d spot a man, sick from heavy drinking the previous night, eyes bleeding red, lingering about a bus-stop or some such place waiting to sell tickets to passers-by. This is a degrading practice both for the seller and the buyer and I really think the practice ought to be banned again.

One of the nice things about Kerala women is that almost all of them apply mascara below the eyes and that enhances the beauty of the eyes. Another is that they let their hair lose displaying its serpentine majesty.

I also realized that education is very important to make people sensible and civilized. Though palakkad is a nice place it is only a town and the people are quite barbaric making the place unsafe, particularly for women.

I’ve got better at wearing my ‘veshti’/ ‘lungi’ and I think I’m going to carry a couple to the United States.

The train journey from Ernakulam to Trivandrum is the most scenic route I’ve ever come across. Apart from miles and miles of paddy fields, and rubber, coconut and banana plantations you can see little forested islands in the sea. It’s a little trip through heaven and its almost as if even the train is aware of this because it hurtles through at tremendous speed as if afraid of trespassing in Mother Nature’s territory and upsetting the harmony.

The years seem to be going by in a frenzy. One feels this way when one sees little kids one saw as toddlers now running about talking, playing and doing things just the way you do. Its almost hard to believe that they’ve grown so much so soon. I guess their growth is more conspicuous because of growth even in the physical aspects. For us, only the mind grows(if at all!).

I also reaffirmed that people of the villages are on an average nicer and more content than the people of the cities. May be we city folks need to rethink our approach to life if our aim too is contentment and happiness.

Pleaser Trip.

I knew my two week vacation was going to flit by in a hurry what with my having to meet and please so many people. My own pleasure would take a back seat. Considering that, I had a really good time.

My paternal grandmum, mum, bro and I left for Ernakulam/Cochin on the 26th. I don’t recollect anything specific from that trip except that the plate of ‘pazham puri’ that I had eagerly bought from the pantry a few minutes after the train started was the first and last I had during the whole trip. My mum and bro got off at Cochin. But I went all the way to Trivandrum to drop my grandmum at a relative’s place.

These relatives of mine are better known to my grandma but are rather unfamiliar people to me so I stayed there for the night and took leave of them early next morning. Since my prime motive in this trip was to observe people to keep myself amused, I dare say, the old couple made a very favourable impression on me. The aunty was a cheerful and friendly sort and the uncle, a former principal of a university and later Director of Secondary Education for the state of Cochin, was a very knowledgeable man, and hence, made a good impression on me. I chose to keep his company until I was to sleep for the night and he seemed a particularly nice self-respecting individual.

The evening in Cochin was spent taking rest from this hectic ordeal of travel for the previous couple of days. The following morning we made a trip to a nearby beach called the cheraai beach(actually, in a place like Kerala every place is ‘nearby’!). This beach is so little known that the whole beach was populated by probably 20 people. The day was windy and the waves were huge so it was fun to look at them. Also, the waves were frothing incredibly and that made for a strange sight. But the fun began when I realized the sand was full of shells and started on a collecting frenzy. Initially I collected off the sand. But I found it troublesome to have to wash them in the waves every time and I started collecting fresh ones as they kept getting washed ashore by the waves. After about an hour and a half of frenetic effort I managed to collect about 100 shells. Then me and bro moved about a bit along the shoreline taking snaps from the most picturesque locations. It began to rain now and we hurried back to the car. I made a quick stop on the way to collect my shells but found they were all gone! A huge wave must have come by and taken them away for I only kept them on one of the rocks not far away from the coastline. Amusing as it may sound, I really learnt what it is like to see the fruit of great effort be destroyed in seconds. A very valuable lesson indeed! Thankfully, my uncle, who had accompanied the two of us, spotted millions of shells piled up along the road that led away from the beach. These huge shell piles are apparently used to make ‘chunaamb’ or ‘choona’ and used to paint the walls. We made a quick stop in the pelting rain, and I jumped out and grabbed two hands-full and jumped back into the car. A compensation of sorts I suppose.

We returned from the beach and had a heavy lunch. After that, it was time to spend time with my 85 year old maternal grandmum. Her plight is pitiable now to say the least. Her list of problems might exhaust a medical dictionary. But the one that makes it sadly funny is that she has a memory problem now and can only remember a few things, and that only at times. One can easily imagine then how random and disconnected her sentences will be. As a consequence she ends up saying hilarious things without her being aware. It is good, however, that she doesn’t know what she is saying and happily laughs along with everyone else if she sees people laughing.

In the evening we went to my cousin’s because she had called us for dinner. She has two kids. One is a budding musician in the 10th standard and the other a wicked prankster in the 4th. Luckily, my cousin, her husband, and my mum went to a temple and left us kids alone. Bro, me and the elder kiddo played cricket inside the house while the little devil was at his pranks and tricks the whole time. I’m sure neither my brother nor I was so clever at that age.

The following day, a Friday, was mostly spent at home keeping my uncle and grandmother company. Early next morning we left for Palakkad.

Palakkad was the best part of our trip because the weather was heavenly. This little town is surrounded by mountains on all sides and is therefore kept very cool. That same evening we went to the Malampuzha dam along with my uncle in Palakkad and his daughter, my cute cousin, who is getting started on her first year of B.Sc. The view of the cloud-covered mountains was breath-taking. Some mountains seemed ready-to-eat, appearing as if having patches of that edible foil used in sweets. This was because of the reflection of light by the rain water on the barren and rocky parts of the mountains. It was also nice to have a bird’s eye view of the place from a cable car, even as we passed right over a crow that was sitting on an electric line! I can’t curse myself enough for forgetting the camera on that occasion. The next day, a Sunday was by far the best part of the trip as I spent time for myself on the terrace of their house. As you lie down on the roof, you get a view of some cloud covered mountains and rising above a dense cover of coconut trees close to the house. My cousin and I spent a better part of the evening talking about this and that, first on the roof and later during a walk through the quiet village neighbourhood. This was the only day when I could wallow in the relaxed feel of the vacation. Monday again we went visiting temples so I don’t have much to say about it. Tuesday was spent at my mum’s elder sister’s house. Nothing particularly memorable there either. Wednesday went by in roaming around Coimbatore. After the pleasant weather of Palakkad it dampened my spirits to be roaming about the streets in the hot weather of that place. That’s about it I guess. I’m not out of things to write but I’m out of patience for the present. There are however some disconnected things I wish to say and these will come in the next post.