Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Monday, December 18, 2006

the elixir of welcome

was at a tam-bram wedding (tbw) recently.

as soon as i entered, i was greeted plesantly. instantly the welcomer calls out to the man in the uniform to get me 'coffee'.
(for the record, coffee is not what gets made in a jiffy or is black. it has to be filter coffee for it to be real coffee. that will be the version we will use in this post. and forever as well.)

while sipping the elixir of welcome (eofw), i realised what a critical role this innocuous ceremony plays in any tbw. junta may forget the names of the bride and groom, but the quality of the eofw will remain fresh forever. reputations of families get besmirched forever if they screw up the eofw. its sanctity in the schema of marriage ceremonies is unquestionable.

while it may appear trifling and trivial to the lay reader, the true extent can only be understood through direct experience. there is a dedicated eofw crier, whose job is to ensure that the moment any guest is welcomed, he gets handed a steaming cup of eofw. need i argue more.

and it perfectly sets up the next in line of 'top marriage ceremonies', the breakfast. mouth watering. later.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Woh dukh bhi…

Woh dukh bhi kya dukh hai
Jo jeene ki aas na bhujaye

Woh zakhm bhi kya zakhm hai
Jo apni daagh saada ke liye na chode

Woh udaasi bhi kya udaasi hai
Jo har armaan ko na mitaye

Woh tappad bhi kya tappad hai
Jo ungliyoon ki nishaan na chode

Woh gham bhi kya gham hai
Jo zindagi mitane ko na tharsaye

Woh taqleef bhi kya taqleef hai
Jo jeena dushwaar na kare

In sabi badmaashon ke bina
Jeena mein kabhi maaza na aaye

Thursday, August 17, 2006

soul brother

this is a blog on my soul brother-ss.

he came out of the blue, writing to talk to me more about the work i was doing with school reform.

he came in, this slight unassuming 'sanyasi-look' dude.
we spent a good time sharing, more him on his bharatdarshan rather than what he had come for.

realising his abilities, i passed him onto bigger fish for bigger things.

and boy, he scorched us all with his insight and implementation.

we did a superb duet on 2 week experiment 'connneting'. awesome.

he is on his way to a new role at this school.

we will cross paths again. if not physically, certainly up there!!

wishing him all the very best and some trying times too...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


was my birthday recently. got to penning down some lines.

Janam din

Har ek saal, janam din ki rasm
Khushi se manathe, khaathe hai kasm

Chalthe chalthe, beeth gayi jaisi ek sadee
Zindagi se kya hum ho gaye aadee

Kya hai haqeeqat, kya hai fasaanah
Humi se hum kya ho gayen hai begaanah

Phir bhi hai, maan mein ek aarzoo
Jab roz hoti hai, aaine se roo-ba-roo

Saame saaf hai maqsaad, ab lagaoo nishaan
Na mein chanchal, na mein pareshaan

Khuda ki hai likhi, meri farz, meri kismat
Duniya ke saamne, karo karo karo kidmat

Har ek saal, janam din ki rasm
Khushi se manayenge, khayeenge aur kasm

Friday, May 12, 2006

'Auto' analysis of TN election results

It is out now. amma (j jayalalitha) is out and kalaignar (m karunanidhi) is back in. just as was predicted here.

Read here on why amma lost.

Since ’91, the 2 local heavyweights have taken alternate turns at the helm of the tn assembly.

Was on way back home this evening when I struck up this conversation with my auto driver (ad).

ad – did you vote?
csm – yes.
ad – for whom?
csm – lok paritran.
ad – duh?
csm – it is a new youth party...never mind, what about you?
ad – two leaves (aiadmk symbol)
csm – they lost…too bad!
ad – public is heartless and brainless?
csm – really...
ad – amma is such a great leader and has done so much good for the poor and public and see their response!
csm – hmm...kaliagnar has given lot of freebies. may be that worked
ad – let us see how he manages that, wont even give radio sets!
csm – he has the center to fund him, maybe, na
ad – the coalition will come apart in 2 months. they will not be able to last.
csm – you sure. maybe they have some plan.
ad – kalaignar is an old bandicoot, he wants to die in power!
csm – oh ok! (that’s a bit extreme)

such continues the conversation.

Just highlights the reach of politics among the local junta in tn. Through the day, I see small groups huddled in serious election analysis. Have been in mumbai during the elections and have never observed such debates. I think mumbai votes less that 50% in any election…poor by any standard.

So that’s how it all stacked up and this is my last blog on the election.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Open letter to Vijaykanth

Dear Mr Vijaykanth,

Congratulations on your personal victory from Virudhachalam and to your party’s special performance this the 2006 TN assembly elections. Getting 10% of the popular vote on your debut is something special and you should feel proud of this achievement. That it did not translate to seats should not deter you or your supporters. (Link to the party manifesto)

I write this letter with the specific objective of sharing my personal thoughts and unsolicited advice.

1. You did smart by going alone. Real smart.
2. If you want to stay clean and be refreshing, stay that way. Keep away from the other kazhagams (parties) and kootanis (coalitions).
3. You need to chart a unique course for your party to herald a new chapter in state politics. What we have seen time and again from the local parties is lot of junk and little progress.
4. Stay away from casteist and religious divisions of the population. It is a legacy of the british raj and someone needs to stay above partisan games.
5. Use next 5 years to build the cadre base, not just in numbers, but with depth with more focus on the latter. Even 10 strong youth leaders by your side is a good enough start.
6. Ensure that your supporters don’t get into this sycophantic trance and let them have their own self respect and dignity and a clear understanding of the party’s goals and objectives.
7. Be tuned to the grassroots. Make that the mantra of your party and your supporters.
8. Get to focus on basic food, shelter clothing issues in your area. If that is a non-issue, then understand what is the real need and then work towards them. Don’t foist your ideas and philosophies on the public.
9. Work closely with schools. By helping kids in school, you surely will be in the good books of the parents. Usually it is fail-safe strategy.

That’s as much I can pen down. Feel free to discard the above at your convenience!

Wishing you the best. Will keep watching out.

Best regards,

p.s.: - I did not vote for you this year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rural and Urban kids

spent 3 hours at the thattampattu middle school in kanchipuram dist in TN today. it is around 3 hours or so from chennai.
really inner inner village school.

along with a local ngo partner, we have been supporting school improvement projects in coastal TN over the last 1.5 years.

the session was special science summer camp !! yes, no kidding, around 25 std 5-7 kids were in this hot steaming classroom talking and discussing science experiments...unreal mate...they were awesome. talking about air pressure and related topics with ease and understanding.

ok, lunch time break is approaching, a quiz is organised. 3 teams of 8 each. one from each team is called to conduct and explain an exepriement.

am intently watching the class. this girl is out in the middle and is explaining an expt.
entire class, around 24 pairs of eyes are fixed on her, not a single one out of focus. rapt attention even though the girl is somewhat making life difficult for herself. for more than 5 mins, almost the entire class stayed transfixed. i could hardly believe my eyes.

in my poke-nose style i did a KBC style -"lock kar doon" and a WWE linked joke. absolutely no takers !!

i recall an earlier experience over a year ago, when i had done a series of classes in another TN village and felt a similar feeling. kids really pay a helluva lot of attention.

coming to the titled matter, i share this with my local pal. i say, "in my mumbai classroom, in that same scenario, it would have become a riot-police situation" way the mumbai kids would be able to maintain that decorum and patience. he said exactly same about the chennai kids he teaches sometimes (i.e., riot police situation).
so what it is about rural kids that they have a google plus level of incremental discipline compared to urban kids:
1. rural parents are more civilised than those in urban slums
2. rural environments/spcieties are more civilised than in urban slums
3. alcoholism is less
4. less tv - no WWE/cable
5. more outdoor games and exposure
6. closer knit communities in villages than in urban slums.
7. more real teachers in village govt schools than in urban govt school.

now you know why i want to be a village headmaster (a la oliver goldsmith)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

TN Elections

Nice timing this time on my chennai visit. Smack during election time.

I have always waxed eloquent on the right and duty of every citizen to exercise their franchise and how by abstaining, they lose their privilege of fundamental rights !!

My home base being chennai and life around mumbai has made it a bit tough to keep my words over last 2 times TN went to polls (2001-02 assembly and 2004 lok sabha).

I voted for the first time in 1996 when the DMK swept to power after 5 years in the wilderness. I think I also voted for them that time under the oppression of an autocratic style of jayalalitha.

This time the elections have been an interesting playout across the country and especially in TN. Factors include
1. the ageing karunanidhi and the controversial successor battles
2. the mellowing of jayalalitha (she appears less megalomaniacal than before)
3. the tsunami of dec 2004
4. the coalition arrangements - complicated caste and other mathematics
5. captain vijayakanth's entry into the fray
6. the ugly approach to attract votes with mindless freebies (seriously the election commission should take note of this despicable trend)
7. the arrival of the new age party (Lok Paritran) of IIT/IIM/Harvards and what not

historically, since MGR's time, the power has swung back and forth bet the 2. So a safe bet at start without any of the fancy psephology would safely put the money on dmk coming back into power.

But curiously, that did not seem apparent at the early phases as jaya was above in the ratings. Explanations were karunanidhi's obsession with stalin as successor, jaya's impressive work during tsunami and flood relief and rehab, and general overall TN feel good.

As the campaign progressed, the swing was setting in favour of dmk. Attributed to karunanidhi's campaign, the freebies, and a little bit jaya fatigue (also I am told that dayanidhi maran was impressive in his campaign and gave DMK that edge in covering larger swathes of the state with quality orators).

Yesterday, I reached the voting booth at 703 AM. Was 12th in line to vote. Took less than 2 minutes to get it over and done with. Impressed with the management scale of the Election commission.

Am going with the new age politicos. Early stages in their evolution, but still they need the encouragement if they are there for the long haul.

Read the exit poll analysis here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

cooked in chennai

came last night to chennai for a week of intended r & r.

i have to admit that since the mid nineties, i have become increasingly alienated from my hometown. simply put, i missed the c-bomb (commercialisation/construction) that hit it and now i hardly recognise this place.
also in combination my sinking into the 'morass magnet' of mumbai.

my god, it is hot here (nothing compared to what north india is going thro). just sitting doing nothing is tiring enough. sweat is pouring down even in inaction.
running the 7 km in jan 2006 mumbai marathon was less exhausting !!

the state elections are on tomorrow and i will be voting after 10 years. if i had voting rights 10 years ago, am i giving away my age :-) who cares anyway...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

blogger goes nuts - bananas part 2

what in heavens name is going on.

read the last line in the earlier post (the banana one)..."wish it happened again..or not."
it did, in complete opposite fashion.

now rr1 (refer this link for expansion of acronyms) insides are on full frontal display to the world and rb is laughing guts (insides, guts...not pretty) out at the freakish change of power. even rr2 is now ogling at this turn of events, hiding under the safety of his insides being concealed still.

but seriously, why and what and all other interrogatives.
just when sanity seemed to have gotten restored, this hits us in the gut (and insides all over the place, blah blah).

my tech intelligence is veering towards out proxy server as the culprit. let me go investigate.

blogger goes bananas

dunno if this has happened to others, but went berserk today at work.

we operate out of a broadband internet access within our office network.
we have around 3 bloggers at office one who is religious at blogging and other 2 religious at reading other blogs.

after religious blogger blogged, through most part of the day all religious readers in the network were logged onto religious bloggers' site (signed in and not just reading). means religious readers (rr1 and rr2 henceforth) like myself had open access to religious bloggers' (rb henceforth) insides.
gosh, the feeling of power :-)

did temp files and cookies clearances, diddly squat it helped.
did all possible shut downs and restarts, but scope mate. rb's blog was split wide open.

wierd, utterly wierd...rr2 was commenting on the spiritual meaning behind this uncanny occurance...mate, thats wierder.

as it suddenly happened, it suddenly disappered. the dominatrix feeling evaporated...hence able to post this one here.

hope this happens again...or not.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


currently reading herman hesse's classic. was recommended strongly.
strong stuff on atma, happiness, asceticism, ego and what not.
it is a series of stuff that has been going on in my mind since the last few months on the same lines of exploration of the inner recesses of the mind. one thinks as one adds on more and more knowledge and wisdom, the more control one exercises over the mind.
i am seeing that perhaps it works the other way. in many ways the acquisition of knowledge is no less an egoistic pursuit than the pursuit of comfort and wealth. it comes of clearly in the book.
looking into myself at this point, and this is something that has been on my mind since the midnight rendezvous at the airport with nm and ss, i see how much it applies to my current state. coming to think of it, my friend - affly called 'dog' henceforth, has been barking into my head all this while - the relinquishing of material pursuits does not a saint (using it very^google loosely) make.

about time to shake off the cobwebs, wake up and smell the roses.
glad to be able to make the tiny first step towards understanding all this.
many more steps and falterings await me...and i await them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

State of Education

This is my response to an extensive blog written written by Falstaff. Started of as a response to the current mandal gimmicks of arjun singh.

without addressing the foundation issues at primary education level, all this iit-iim talk is just a lot of hogwash.

my sense in whats happening on the ground is as follows:
1. access to private services in primary education is not that much a barrier in india as it is in western nations.
2. this is leading to a tacit movement by many states to encourage small scale schools across the country. i am told that TN is deliberately not hiring teachers to encourage this migration.
3. the way the mumbai restructuring is being planned, in the main city and most suburbs, the population that will finally reside will not access municpal schools. this malaise is across all urban settings. municipal bodies are totally disinterested in running this link from times of india...speaks volumes...

i had this chance to present to a high court appointed committee on the experiences of ngos working in municipal schools and what could they recommend to change the system. turned out to be a total farce. come on people...this is supposed to be a high court appointed committee...if that does not work well, what the hell will...was so ticked off that i let of big time point was...the decay in the system is so apparent that the first time that the output of the municipal schools are tested by an external agency, the results are abysmal (10th std results in municipal secondary schools, when kids move to 5th or 8th in private aided schools, and tests like the link above). second point was...if i do some work and i myself appraise that work, it is inevitable that i will get corrupted. and thats the case with teachers. they are evaluated mostly on the basis of attendance, drop out and exam results which is all administered by them.
have seen it happen in front of eyes. and people who think bihar elections are rigged should check out an exam in a govt school. how then do you expect the kids to be good citizens if their teachers tell them that copying is ok...why the hell will they even try to learn if they know that the answers are going to be told out.

the decay in public society will screech out of control if this generation comes with these values and are exposed to our fabulously upright 4th estate.

Monday, April 03, 2006

the sea and the beach

what is it with water bodies and me? is it because of 21 years in chennai, 1 in cuddalore, 2 in calcutta and the balance 8 in bombay...
geographical proximity to large masses of water has been a reality of my existence.
guess it all came to be during the year in cuddalore (1995-96). gosh, has been more than a decade now. wow.
marisusai nagar, cuddalore - 1 was my address, just 1.5 km from the sea, and what a beach, the best i have ever experienced. Sunday mornings, me in infinite embrace of pure nature.
felt alive and meaningless at same time. the pulsating throb and rhythm of the waves had me hypnotised and i am a lifelong disciple of mother sea.
immersed for years into routine, the nearness let me be casusal in my relationship with mom.
then out of the blue, dec 2004 happened. felt like i was being summoned to appear in front of the grand jury. mom was calling her truant son. in the process tearing many lives asunder.
late night in feb 05, standing on the akkarapettai beach, nagapattinam facing what was a seeting ferocious eruption of waves. cowering in a corner in fear like a little boy who breaks a bottle trying to sneak a candy. an angry mom bearing down on her son's misdemeanour.
through the next months, i paid silent penance to my extended absence, visiting mum's different abodes and avtaars. each one beautiful and comforting in their own way.
mum - how many children you have. how much they all love you (....and fear you also:-)). more than i could ever do. you need to watch your temper here on...
April 2, 2006 in goa, reach to another much vaunted avtaar of mum's. like a parched traveller tumbling towards an oasis.
god almighty, what are you spewing out...yuck, black death, the beach appears like an enormous blue/white saree with a hideous balck embroidery. it is either an oil slick or iron ore floccs. runs across the entire stretch of more than 3 km i walk....walk in rage, an empty rage like a caged tiger, no purpose, dies within me.
i leave silently, carry your memories back home, specks of your golden sand still stuck in my sandals. you left them like micro magnets to get me back. like all mothers do :-)