Sunday, December 6, 2009

30 AND COUNTING


Last October, 11th to be precise, I turned 30. If I may add a small tidbit for your information, somebody called AB a.k.a Amitabh Bachan also celebrated his 66th birthday. Ironically he is playing a 12 year old kid in reel life while I am now old enough to play dad to a 4month boy in real life ! 


My good friend for the last 5 years rues whenever we roam malls or see college kids that he feels grandfatherly! Not so long ago we were in the same league- fooling around, giggling at bald and grey heads, laughing at permanently pregnant men.. but what goes around comes around, does'nt it? A couple of days before a school girl in my apartment bumped into me and guess what she said? 


                               "Hi UNCLE" (grrrrrrrrrr...)


What could be every man's greatest fear? Failure of a venture, Job loss, Proposing love to a girl, found wanting in bed, .. But my guess is AGE. Time waits for none. Its an unforgiving master that takes no quarter and gives none. 




I feel that my entire life on this planet like a blip. From a precocious school kid to an awkward teenager, to a cocky twenty-something to a uncertain but hopeful thirty year old father, phew! it's been a lightning fast ride.




Who better than the Bard of Avon to put things 
in perspective so beautifully!



On this world stage we play our seven stages dutifully and before coming within a mile of understanding the meaning of life, we are kids again. 


Nevertheless I do feel that 30 could very well be the beginning of a balanced, measured phase of life. Its the age at which many guys get promoted to being  a husband and a father (Could'nt resist a pun on Peter's principle: Every guy gets promoted to his level of incompetence). A couple of extra packs in the abdomen, freshers reporting to you at the office (Hearing their "Sir","Excuse me", oh what a high..), new found fiscal prudence, envy on seeing young star-struck lovers, the little wisps of grey at the temples, trustworthy looks from young girls : "Cmon yaar, Kalyanam agi kutti potta kesu, no probs" (Ah, they should know better!)). All these, I take, are symptoms that one is finally growing up.





This may very well herald the birth of a new, improved version of oneself. The marital bond kickstarts the growth process while the birth of one's offspring is the catalyst. Sacrifice, patience and prudence, hitherto distant concepts start making sense. The excitement and challenge of raising a young family, increasing ambitions at the work place, tender shoots of social responsibility, a desire to something meaningful to the society.. um, the thirties does not seem that dull.


Lets see, if I have it in me to finally become a little responsible.
Bring it on, I am waiting.









Monday, September 21, 2009

CHILD IS THE FATHER OF MAN

Many a times I fell like Peter Pan, a boy who never grew up. I still watch Tom and Jerry, laugh at stupid jokes, dread to sleep alone after a horror movie, love Mathu and Cheenu , read Tinkle (remember Suppandi),throw tantrums and never am quite sure of myself. But yet on Aug 10,2009 I grew up or had to grow up. I became a father!

Akshath Chandra was born on a bright sunny August day at 9.15am, a week before the scheduled date. As usual I had been procrastinating the date for at the least trying to be responsible till the date of his birth but he jolted me by arriving a week early. Veteran fathers describe the moment with various terms : “Emotional”, “Divine”, “Unbelievable”, “Beautiful”, “Trance” or er.. “I have no words to describe it”. But strangely I felt none of the above, just a plain “it’s happened” feeling and broke the news amidst the con-call we were having in our office. It did take some time to sink in and then I must admit being a little overwhelmed. The feeling can be best described as one with a mix of happiness, anxiety, elation, fear, pride and failure (oh no! one more in the world like me!). To be frank I was expecting a daughter who would be beautiful, more confident and world-wise than I could ever aspire to be. Alas, strange are the ways of the Divine Will!

Here again, why should your son resemble you (God forbid!) and follow your aspirations for him? I believe the fundamental misstep parents make in raising a child is to bombard him or her with their goals, the ones they could never achieve or never made an effort to reach out. Khalil Gibran put it beautifully for any aspiring parent in “The Prophet”:


“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”


Well said Khalilji but you never had any kids as far as I know. But a common man often loves his kids too much thinking a well-trodden path is best for their happiness stalling the baby steps towards a road less taken. A recent ‘Puthukavithai’ in Ananda Vikatan brought out the mental violence we unwittingly inflict on children succinctly,
                                                         குறை ஓவியம்
                                                       யாரோ ஒருவரது
                                                       அதட்டலால்தான்
                                                       குழந்தையின் கிறுக்கல்கள்
                                                       கிறுக்கல்களாகவே  
                                                       நின்றுவிடுகின்றன

We nip the bud of creativity thinking it might wean them towards a bohemian life making them unfit for the ‘Real’ world. Money always looms large and clouds our thinking of the child’s future. In our times even free-thinking has become a rich man’s plaything. Should a middle-class man’s child forever be confined by a decent paying job, decent looking house, decent looking partner and decent death? Everything decent, nothing he/she aspires for?

These were the thoughts that ran through me waiting in the hospital counting the seconds to catch a glimpse of my son. Will I ever be a good father? Only guiding and mentoring never interfering or domineering, admitting things I do not have a clue about, always remembering the way I was at the same age, giving him the financial backup I received from my father ….. I do not know how I am going to accomplish even 0.001% of this. My parents have set the bar so high, giving me the best of everything. Will I make them proud atleast this time? Again answers are very hard. For that I will have to grow up, finally!
தம்மின் தம்மக்கள் அறிவுடைமை
said Thiruvalluvar. Hope he puts my achievements to shame quickly. That should’nt be tough!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

North Vs South

This topic sprang to my mind because of two global events. One hopeful and another quite the opposite.

Thousand of miles away the great American election jamboree came to a historical if not totally unexpected end with Barack Obama becoming the first American President of African-American ancestry. Just when everyone had started losing faith in the economy and foreign policy of the world’s sole “Superpower”, Americans rose as a nation and voted for the man who vowed to put the nation back on track, packing off the dumb cowboy from the Oval Office. (It’s a great tragedy that no such leader is in sight for Mera Bharath Mahan but if Winter comes will spring be far behind!!).

While the Americans decided to pull down the cotton curtain (a term denoting denial of rights to Blacks) and bridge the race divide…..

A few hundred miles across the Indian Ocean the Srilankan Army decided to do a Hitler in the tear drop island (Perhaps nature knew that the emerald island would be drenched in tears). The Final Solution as imagined by the government thirsty for Tamil blood has seen millions of Tamils flee their already ruined homes and with nowhere to run, either fight in the ranks of the LTTE or die by jumping into the ocean. A whole new example for people caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The great North-South divide seems to be prevalent almost everywhere on earth irrespective of the nation’s size, geography, race or population. A nation as big as USA or one as small as Srilanka can be victims of this parochial mentality. The basal “US Vs THEM” thinking has been the root cause for every single conflict the poor little planet has been seeing and bleeding from. The Northern states of America that wholeheartedly supported the abolition of slavery and acceptance of equality of African-Americans had to fight a long and bloody Civil War with their slavery mongering Southern counterparts to realize the American dream. Even today in the final election tally, Northern, Eastern and Western states have formed the bulwark of Obama’s win.

A similar fight for survival and self-determination is raging in the lush green island’s northern parts. A tiny minority that alternately ruled and slaved in the land is fighting what seems to be a final battle. And the root cause, one of the usual suspects –Race!. Ever since the Bandaranayake clan announced the Sinhalese only policy, violence against the Tamil community started rising and reached its crescendo during the 1983 Venni Prison riots. The Tamil race had ruled the island either directly or directly during the reign of the Cholas and then started inhabiting the island as slave workers in the tea plantations of the British. Through sheer hard work and enterprise the Tamils formed a vibrant and peaceful community in the north, north-east and west of Srilanka apart from a sizable presence in Colombo, the capital. They played a key role in the Srilankan economy and cultural life. But the ugly face of race started rearing during the early 1970’s and the ethnic strife morphed into a brutal civil war in the 1980s.

Today the entire northern region is raging with air-raids and bombing. Not even women and children are spared. International aid-organisations have been banned from entering the area. The southern and central Sinhalese hawks see this as the final countdown to ending the reign of LTTE in the north. While I firmly agree with the international community that the LTTE should be brought to justice for the brutal slaying of Shri. Rajiv Gandhi, it neither gives the Srilankan army the right to kill innocent Tamils nor guarantee the silence of the Indian government.

It’s a tragedy of Himalayan proportions that the tiny nation lacks a statesman on either side who can unite the nation in peace and rid the parochial tendencies. The Americans have shown that if people unite under a just and fair leader US and THEM can become WE and OURS. Let us unite under the banner of Humanity! Lest we forget, Only the dead have known the end of war.

Monday, June 2, 2008

SCHOOL DAYS-HAKUNA MATATA!!

May has gone. The sweltering heat is slowly abating (Chennai is an exemption), the rains are coming in fits and starts (again, SingaraChennai is exempt), stock markets hope to shed a tepid summer of trading looking for the horned harbinger, M/s M.Singh P.Chidambaram & Madam Sonia await the rains as anxiously as an embattled Indian farmer to escape the ‘inflation’ trap, trains are bursting to capacity and kids are getting anxious looking at the calendar –fine, June is here!

It’s now more than a decade since I passed out of school yet the memories keep flooding back with the arrival of June. The crisp feel of a new uniform, the sweet smell of a virgin notebook, curious glances at the pictures in the history text, anxiety at the growing size of the books (Kid1: Dei, Science book 180 pakkamanda, Kid2: appa book cricket vilayada nalla irukkum), background check on the new class teacher (that’s how I ended up in Market Research), joy at the newfound status as a bigger boy and an indescribable excitement about the days ahead.

Growing up in a township all my school life remains my most cherished memory. Life-long friendships, fierce competition, devilishly clever pranks, great laughs, quiet truths, bloody fights, emotional unions and wonderful learning without ever losing the essential fun in the process. It is my firm belief that the age from 5 to 12 moulds a child’s character. The mind is relatively uncorrupted and resembles a sponge rather than a rock which it becomes later(atleast for some boys like me). The genesis of great men lies in the environment, friendships and philosophies they encountered in this period. Mahatma Gandhi & Harischandra’s story, Arjun & Dhrona’s tutelage, Kamal Hassan & his mother’s advice to be the best even if one were to clean toilets are a few that instantly spring to mind. The green-eyed monster is still asleep; girls are nothing but playthings albeit with longer hair and funny dress; stealing mangoes, gooseberries etc without getting caught feels better than winning gold medals and your kid brother/sister is nothing more than a punching bag. Life is simple and fun.

The age from 13 to 17 could very well be the most awkward and most decisive phase is shaping the future course of life for any boy or girl. The sudden awareness of one’s sexuality and growing changes in both the physical and emotional being can be quite jarring for all and daunting for many. It’s the beginning of the end of the age of innocence. As always girls outshine boys in this department too. Their physical and emotional maturity is quicker and can prove threatening to boys. One fine day in June 1993 I found many of female friends whom I had known since kindergarten suddenly look very different in their attire and behaviour. Gone was the buck toothed grin, bony pats and the quick temper. Strangely they hardly retaliated to my banter about their funny dress and hair which would have resulted in assault & battery the year before. Boys as always scratch their heads, stare emptily and drink the milk given by mom wondering what has become of their life. Slowly they too start developing funny symptoms of sexual dimorphism and begin to understand (slow…….ly) the reality. Now, envy is up in all its glory, sharing notes and helping your nearest academic rival becomes taboo, fear of a thing called future looms large, harmless giggles from girls carry a million imaginary meanings and comics are replaced by romantic novels. The first acid test comes in the form of 10th or shall we say SSLC (makes it sound more important). Then on life takes a singular course –score more than 90% select MPC with computer science or biology or commerce  slog for a year in +2  jump into the BE, MBBS, Bcom bandwagon  do an MBA/MS/MTech  IT job, marriage, kids and death. In a nutshell cease to live, learn to survive!

Probably the only time in life I remained true to myself was my childhood i.e. upto 13 years old, when the world seemed a better place. And I fondly remember my last day in school. After a nice farewell party couple of my friends and me went around the school –smelling the trees, caressing the benches we sat as kids, savouring the moments we had in the auditorium, reliving every ounce of our 14 year school life. At the end of the journey there wasn’t a single dry eye! Many summers have come and gone. But still the boy in me yearns for those wonderful days of June, the harbinger of hope and unbridled excitement! I will carry it to the day I meet my maker!!

N.B.
Those who are still trying to figure out the meaning of Hakuna Matata –watch The Lion King

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

From Boy to Man

Jan 27, 2008 changed my life forever. From an absolutely carefree bachelor life I stepped into the tough, unforgiving life of a married man. What cruel tricks life plays on an unsuspecting young, naïve boy (!!). Getting a house for rent, applying for a ration card, getting a cooking gas connection, buying furniture and home appliances, setting up a wardrobe.. bed, phone, computer, utensils, knives, provisions.. phew! the list is endless.

Getting a decent house in Chennai, Good Heavens! Let not such a suffering befall even my worst enemy. Greed is all pervasive, though it would be unfair to malign house-owners riding the wave of a “booming economy”. Crooked brokers, caste-clinging owners (if you ever thought India would become a casteless society, forget it) and above all ridiculous ads in media.

1. “IT Professionals preferred” - Meaning rents will be revised every 3 months
according to dollar fluctuations, onsite opportunities and quarterly company
results (House-owners are too net savvy nowadays).

2. “24 hours water supply” –Yes and you have a bonus offer too. The color changes
every hour and comes with added minerals and salt/pepper for taste, wow!!

3. “Vegetarians preferred” –Strictly for Brahmins with an IT tag. BTW I goofed by
asking whether eggs and milk belong to the vegetarian category and got thrown
out.

Saravana Stores became my second home so much so that the boys started asking me “innaku enna sir”. Rumor has it that home appliances stores in T Nagar employed goons with a sketch of mine to be given special treatment (c’mon how many times can you enquire about the prices alone without even buying a bulb).

But this has been a great eye-opener for me as a person. Respecting the opinions and tastes of your better-half (hi hi, often I just shake my head like a jackass and go by her choice), making friends and influencing people (God bless Dale Carnegie), patience and above all applying every ounce of my management skills (not that I have gallons of it). For soon-to-be-hooked-bridegrooms, a piece of advice from a recent entrant –Patience pays and managing a home gives you insights that a thousand management books can’t ! Be prepared for the ride of your life!!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A NEW BEGINNING

An update after a loooooooooong time. Reasons for delay -"Busy with work" (Never), "Half-hearted attempts" (Occasionally), "Lack of ideas" (could be), "Procrastination" (bingo!). But all's well that end's well. Some interesting things have happened in my life (at last). So let me begin this update with a bang!.

They say misfortune never comes alone. But seems fortune too follows the similar path.

1.Finally I got a gal. The engagement happened with much fanfare at a small but
cosy Mandapam on Nov 11,2007. The marriage has been scheduled on Jan 27,2008 at
Trichy. Invitation shall reach your homes, inbox etc by Dec end. Thus ends the
illustrious tenure of India's most eligible bachelor of the 21st century
(seri,seri, please stop the applause. Let me continue). Pics uploaded to my orkut
profile. BTW her name is Shreevidhya.

Its always a pleasure seeing relatives, friends and well-wishers take part in an important event in your life and wish you the very best. I was touched and humbled by the response. Moments like these make life meaningful. The function shall remain etched in my memory forever!

2. Also found a new employer. Joined Data Patterns, a defence and aerospace
electonics player based in Chennai as Senior Research Analyst (boy doesn't that
sound pompous). A highly respected albeit little known company, whose name will
spread to every corner of the globe because of a new acquisition they made
recently ( hi hi, you know what). Left Fenner after four and half years of
service bidding farewell to an organisation which gave me so much. (About that in
my next blog update)


3. Started doing certain things after a long time. Practicing mridangam, refreshing
!!) my woefully inadequate electronics knowledge, kids in the new company are
too good. Kinda catching up.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

CINEMA PAITHIAM-TAMILS ,MOVIES AND POLITICS

Tamils, I believe are genetically susceptible to movies. Be it deifying cinema heroes, putting them in a stratosphere (pedestal sounds too ordinary), trusting them with governing a state just because they solved long-standing problems with a magic wand in movies, Tamils are incomparable. A generally sober and conservative race inexplicably becomes hyper just on the mention of their favourite movie star(s)’ name.I do not think anywhere else in the world you would have

a. Walls covered with movie posters instead of paint
b. Film star cut-outs dowsed with milk, honey, ghee, panchamirtham etc
c. Vijaya T.Rajendar dancing (breaking set floors) and Dhanush fighting
(breaking..er..forget it)
d. Rajini looking fairer than Princess Diana
e. Sarees, churdidhars, dishes named after actresses (My personal favourite – Kushboo Idli, Manthra Poori !!)

And Last but not the Least

f. GAPTAIN VIJAYKANTH’S breathtaking contributions to the world of stunt
choreography –A bulletproof vest reinforced with Pithalai Thambalam that
can reflect bullets back to the villain, a patented kick, a twirl of the
moustache that can send bad guys flying (On viewing, I guess Bruce Lee
would have said “Enna kodumai sir ithu” in Chinese)

But, let me confess upfront that I am an avid movie buff and am a real sucker for world cinema. I vividly remember my childhood movie experiences when we lived in an industrial township. A nicely planned layout with sectors of garden encircled houses, tree-lined lanes, a nice club and a wonderful open-air theater. It was a perfect place for childhood and movies. I could smell a movie playing in a theater, VCR, 16mm screen, even DD (!!) from a mile like an ant sneaking on anything sweet. It was a fascinating world to me: dashing heroes, funny cartoon characters, Coca Cola & Fanta - things that were uncommon in India in the 1980s (a relative fooled me saying you only got them and not water in US taps), mythological fables and so on. It was a magic key to my imagination-CLICK and I was no more a puny 6 year old but a superman, CLICK I was in a American suburban home with Tom and Jerry, CLICK and I was in Mt.Kailash enjoying heavenly bliss helped with generous servings of dry ice induced smoke. It was a perfect escape- the dreary barrenness of school to the sunny warmth of a movie screen.

“Jungle Book” (1968 version) started my life-long love for animated movies, “Thiruvilayadal” gave me a peek into Mt.Kailash and mythology, “Kappalottiya Tamilan”and “Gandhi” made a 4th generation Indian realize the sacrifice made by our ancestors, “Schindler’s List” made me, an Indian and a Hindu shed tears for 6 million Jews murdered 50 years ago, “City lights” showed me the power of silence, “Nayagan “disturbed when I was 8 and still does.

Still movies, essentially seen in several parts of the world as a media or an entertainment option has somehow grabbed a rarified space in the Tamil minds. Having seen 3 chief ministers in the past 40 years and one in the making (Yes, that Gaptain!!) have a filmi background one cannot be faulted for saying that in Tamilnadu top movie stars are default candidates for politics. After Kamaraj,the last non-filmi chief minister,TN has seen 4 chief ministers (Kindly discount O.Pannerselvam, bless his soul!!) all linked to the Tamil tinsel world. According to pundits there has seen a progressive decline in the quality and ethics of public administration post-Kamaraj. Whether it is due to the gradual decline in the national scene (Indira Gandhi era and after), changing demography, charisma overshadowing ability or general decline in public morality is open to debate. But as on date, Tamil Nadu is still swayed by the charismatic and illusory world of cinema. With Amma reduced to blaming her partymen, Thata spending 90% of his time brokering peace between his sons, one Superstar still playing mangatha, one Supremestar jumping back and forth between Amma and Thata and the middle class staying away from politics (it’s dirtly, you know) the field is now open for the one and only GAPTAIN!!

Tailpiece:

Watch the wonderful scene from the movie “KADHAL” (2004) in which a ‘great looking’ guy meets quack Asst.Director for a chance to become a hero.