Saturday, December 13, 2008

One day's lesson

Starts from scratch
Goes round and round
Building ribs to strengthen
Wires smooth as silk
As strong as steel.

Watching the work
Tear it down, I did
In gay abandon
Unsuitability of the craft
In a place as this.

He starts again
With all enthusiasm
Working away nonstop
His home so big
So slender so tender.

No hunger no pain
Tiredness he speaks of not
No complaints of rework
Better than before
Works untired works unbent.

Amazement is the emotion
Wondering how it is possible
Little brains they say
For one so small
So tender so fragile.

Wonder at the perseverance
Being so insignificant
Builds homes amazing
Stronger and bigger
Time and again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mirage called Life

Oh how happy she is
Mirth and laughter abound
Not a care in the world
No attachments, no strings
No worries, no tensions.

Wish I could be like that
Where tears are unknown
Where fears do not lurk
Where worries touch not
Nor tensions wash the shores.

Then look beneath the facade
Beyond the smiles, obvious
Beyond the words, carefree
Behind the curtains, rich
Behind the veil, beautiful.

Understand that beings all kind
Have got the same ration
May be a few kilos more, a few less
Some in past, present, some in future
But ration there is.

The mastery lies in
What you wish to show
What you want to be seen
What you wish to portray
What is the image you desire
The mirage that is built.

Friday, November 28, 2008

India hurt

News unfolded
On TV and paper
Blood splashed
Bullets sprayed
Grenades exploded
Terror unleashed.

Wondered who
Could fathom something
As gory as this.
Wondered who
Could plan crudely
Death such as this.

Wondered how
Human beings as these
Were born as such.
Wondered what
Neurons collided
Creating thoughts thus.

Time we rise
As one nation, Indian
As one race, Human
With one religion, Love
In one language, Compassion.

Will we ?
Time we did.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hazy regions, confusing and crazy.

Two and a half years after leaving CIT, I got a chance to be part of organizing a conference. Of course, the role has changed - from being on the committee to being a volunteer. So, back it was to the college days. But then, it was a melange. Polymorphism in computer science. Having been a faculty since 1999, the last two years I have tried to undo the 'faculty' in me. I have been successful to a large extent. But it has been difficult, I should say. And I know I am not 100 % successful.

The last four days of TENCON was a test in itself. A test of where I stood. Sometimes, I got into student mode, and sometimes into staff mode. Student mode in the sense, I was happy running around doing things. But then, when required to get things done, I think in many places I put my foot down like a staff would. This due to the fact that I am used to organizing events year after year with students. Having done it over half a dozen times every year, the job was to get students to do the basics and then improvise. We used to meet everyday and discuss things, thereby disseminating information. We did brainstorm wherever required. There were times when I learnt things from my students. I remember our late night dinners after a long days work. So, the borders merged, the areas hazed. I played two roles in the last four days. And it felt crazy.

Getting people to work here is difficult. Of course, the staff student relationship is the same as in any other place. But, there are other things that are different. And as part of that, I did have backlashes too. Like when someone raised their hand at me. All I could do was stare him down. It would have been different if I was in staff mode.

At the end of the day, I am left confused as to what I am and what I have made myself. I know that next year, when I get back to CIT, I will have to shed this student garb and get into the robe of a staff again. Not that the robe of a staff is heavy or harsh. But, I learnt that the two roles are different, the views different, the understanding different. I got a chance to view things from the other side again. Something I have not had the chance in the last 10 years. That is something this Ph.D. has given me.

Another thing is that I understood why polymorphism is so complicated a subject. And someone successful at it, is talented. What do you say ?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Golden Sieve

A golden sieve
I received one night
By chance I'd say
For a brief period of time.

Gathered all the priced gems
Added the smaller ones too
Putting it to use
Went swish, swish, swish.

At the end of it
Was surprised to see
Among the many leftovers
One of the most priced gems.

With sorrow I picked
To find it cracked
The most priced gem
Alas was nothing worth.

Wonder of wonders
The less priced ones
Were lying on the floor
Sparkling in all splendour.

Just to realize
Life's teaching
The folly in picking
Adding to the pain.

I lay battered
Bruised and cut
Heart broken for sure
Unbelieving still my eyes.

I know I will rise
Stronger and wise
For life's lessons
Are strong and right.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is it Fair ?

The Railway Reservation System in Hyderabad has a separate queue for ladies - a system that has been done away with in Tamil Nadu. In addition, this is applicable to tatkal tickets too. Having gone today morning to book tickets, I stood straightaway at the general queue only to find later that the ladies queue applies for tatkal too. And a single counter caters to both queues.

Is this system fair ? The people before me came between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. I reached at 6:05 and was fifth in the queue. Still, as I had stood in the ladies queue, I get to be first. I take precedence over three other people over the same counter. A tatkal ticket is more a matter of luck and time. At 8:00 counters across India click for anywhere between 10 - 30 tickets allotted for tatkal. Every minute lost and every additional person ahead of you translates to a seat lost. In such a scenario, is this system fair with reference to issue of tatkal tickets.

My girlfriends may protest, so will other women. Still, is this system fair ? My answer is a no. I believe that ladies should not be given preference in the tatkal scheme directly or indirectly. It is just that it is not fair, it is unjust. Of course, people will say, that those men can bring their women along and make them stand first. But here, we speak about equal opportunity. Does this sytem give equal opportunity to men and women ? I personally do not think so.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'll miss you

Nine years ago
She came home
This teeny weeny person
With shining black hair
Scared and innocent
Weaned away from her mom
To our little world.

Our eyes glued
Our ears tuned
To her every need
To her every cry
For she slept in our laps
Our arms, her pillows
Our world revolving around her.

She grew up soon
To a beautiful lady
Her hair shining black as ever
Her looks mesmerizing
Her gait steady
Her understanding deep
Loving us more than ever.

She was always there smiling
First thing in the morning
Happy for every evening
Comforting us in need
Sharing our joys
By just being and
Demanding very little in return.

Today, she has gone
Leaving me bereft
In more ways than one
Reminding me
Of unconditional love
Of timeless memories
Of giving
Of time lost
Of time wasted
Of time unspent
Of the unsurety in life.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Luxury malls - when our own countrymen starve

"Luxury mall showcases wealth gap in India" reads the headline - which is actually a little soft if you read the contents.

We all know of malls and boutiques that charge a fortune for the simplest of things which can be got at less than half that price elsewhere. As a country we got used to it. But this is vulgarity of the highest form - that too from a land which has as examples Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. The Emporio mall will have an entrance fee of $5 for its gold-plated ceilings, exotic fountains and the variety of designer labels on sale.

Isn't the scenario very familiar - sounds so to me. I hope for you who is reading this, Gandhiji's picture comes to mind. Of him getting thrown out of the train despite having a first class ticket - just because of his colour. Here it will be because an individual does not have enough money. What the englishmen did then, today we do to our own countrymen. Anger is not because it is a luxury mall - there are innumerable malls, but none of them charge the common man for entry. This one does so and thus, segregates:the basis, haves Vs havenots. I feel, this is the beginning of a division that is to come.

Where are we as a people headed to ? Why did our fore-fathers fight that battle with just non-violence as their weapon ? They must all be turning in their graves today so see how denigrated as a people we have become. They must be thinking of the lives and effort wasted when they look down on the poor hapless Indian begging for a meal a day. But then I think they still have a large heart - they would just wish that someday we would realize what we are upto, that we would understand and live for the ideals that they laid down their lives for.

Why do we ape the west so much - why can't we look inwards, at our own culture which teaches us that flashing wealth is a cheap act. Of course, all of us need clothes and sometimes costly ones too. But then, isn't there a limit - a personal limit that we need to set given the land in which we live ? I will be asked, "Who are you to decide the limits ?" and given lectures on freedom. We have weavers in AP dying because they are unable to repay Rs.50,000/- incurred as debt, the amount that a rich person would probably splurge on a designer pen or a designer handkerchief.
Similar is the condition of farmers in Vidarba, Maharashtra and Kalahandi in Orissa. Not to speak about tribals and farmers displaced from their land due to dams and innumberable SEZs built and being built to suit the needs of the city monsters(I know, it is a strong word, but doesn't it suit us ?). I personally think that it is distasteful for an Indian to wear Armani or a Dolce and Gabbana when that money could feed his fellowmen who are dying - and especially not in this manner with malls that segregate. What is needed is that we start wearing homemade clothes as much as possible, as a matter of pride and benefit.

The other day I read about an actress bragging about her collection of accessories and
on how she got accustomed to designer labels quite early in life. That was her take on her achievement and upbringing. I love Angelina Jolie and Diana for that - of course, they wear designer clothes, but their work is spoken about more than their clothes. Here, why should the rich bother ? Many of them think and know that India and its government works for them, to suit their needs. That their wealth will only multiply. Remember the story of Snow White and the wicked queen. Probably the rich live in such a world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Someone decided to wakeup

This is a continuum of "Music everywhere - or is it just noise?" about music being played, loud in public. Now, the EU has decided to get the music lovers to turn down the volume of MP3 players. To the extent that, Apple was forced to pull out its iPod player from store shelves in France and upgrade software to limit sound to 100 decibels. Sounds good and hope others will follow.

For more, read:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Random thinking

I am trying to take my eyes of the computer screen. They hurt and have started watering with the browsing and reading. Still, I am not getting anywhere - still more confused. Hoping that at the end of the confusion tunnel, I will find a little bit of enlightenment.

In the meanwhile, I am watching an insect crawling around my feet. Watching the teeny-weeny insect, I get questions which I am unable to ask and get answers. The crawly inhabits the same world as ours - but is she aware that this world is so big. How big is her world then - this lab or this dept or is it this university ? Has she travelled a lot ? Do I look like a dinosaur to her ? What does she eat ? Does she drink water ? If yes, there is none in this lab ? So, what does she do ? On her way to somewhere she comes across a bigger crawly and takes a diversion. Is she avoiding the other crawly or is she running away in fear ? I know, I know - I will be called many a thing for such thoughts - crazy, childish, immature, stupid thoughts; some will say that I am wasting time, that I am not doing the important things in life, that I am not focussed and that I need to grow up. Yet, this is what I am thinking as of now and I have no qualms about telling it aloud.

I remember the days, as kids we used to chase dragon flies in the vacant land at home. I have forgotten what it feels like to know these other inhabitants of the world. For that matter I have forgotten what it feels like to have green grass under my feet - I use shoes/slippers all the time 24hrs/day. Must find time to walk in the park. I have not stepped into sand and built castles in a long long time - must find time to go to a beach. So detached, so far away from earth. And from those simple pleasures of childhood.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tutor Ward Meetings(TWMs)

At the pooja in the department, there were around ten students in total. This reminded me of the pooja at CIT. Ofcourse, many students went home. But then, those who were there actively participated in the fun. Pooja was fun. Time when staff used to prepare sundal and pongal from home voluntarily. And when students used to get the labs decorated. When we got together, staff and students.

I believe this camaraderie was due to the relationships forged in the college. Most staffs believed in knowing and understanding their students. The tutor ward meetings conducted on a weekly basis helped a lot and is one thing CIT, Coimbatore stands out for. I loved it for it helped me go beyond the syllabus, to push limits, both for myself and my students. The focus was on knowing your students, understanding them, their positives, enabling them to build on it, being there if they wanted a ear to listen - just being there. It involved organizing and motivating students to conduct activities ranging from aptitude tests, GDs, skits, role playing, etc. Peer appreciation as has been proved, is the best motivating factor for students. They learnt their positives and found ways to improve. We, the staff, were the silent spectators, getting into it, when required. This helped us understand and bond with them, and all this did not happen overnight. It came through a lot of effort and time - a tutor is assigned for a class's entire duration(2/3/4/5 years dependent on the course). But in the end there is satisfaction. Satisfaction of seeing that spark, that smile when they do something well. I believe that every institution must follow this example set by CIT. Yes, many a time, results cannot be seen immediately. It comes later on, years after students have passed out. But, it is worth it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pooja at Trento

One year has passed - it is not simply they say, time flies but memories remain. Last pooja was at Trento. We had two poojas, one at Borino, and another at Villazano(famously called, Villazanzoo). For two days, all of us got together in the evening for prayer and dinner. It was a day I thanked the innumerable festivals that we have and the way we celebrate it. For, it is occasions like these that get us together when we are far away. Occasions that made us link to our motherland, our roots, with each other. Not to forget the food - Sreejith's sambhar, Divya's sweet, Minhaz's vegetable biryani, Vinay and co's pakoda, Naren's cabbage. And Vitali for his zeal to experiment with Indian food. We had fun. The innumerable photos with each one posing standing next to the diyas till they got the perfect picture.

This pooja is in Hyderabad, at the department unlike last year. So different - makes me want to go home to old times when as a family we had fun. With leave hard to come by, I have to again make do with the department pooja unlike last year. Hoping the guys there at Trento are having fun this year too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bagchi's Go Kiss the World

Bagchi's book is one I think, all of us can relate to. We can relate to the parent child relationships and the fun he had (especially the bear incident). For that matter, I remember of my dad's story. He was dared by his friends to sleep one night in the graveyard, which he did. The next morning, his grandfather ran after him and lashed him with the 'mattal'(part of the coconut leaf). He thought he had done a brave act, whereas his grandfather who was his guardian (his father having passed away when he was pretty young), thought otherwise. He still loves speaking about that story of his, and we asking for a repeat, despite hearing it a thousand times.

Yesterday's blog and a part of Bagchi's lines are very much related. How displacement is good. About learning new cultures and trusting total strangers. That is very true. I realize that Trento was our experience. And it felt good that someone felt the same way we did.

Thanks Bagchi for the good book.

How much time will it take ?

Arun and I visited Italy(Roma, Firenze, Pisa, Modena, Milano, Venezia and Trento) and France(Paris) last December. Yesterday, during the course of our conversation we remembered the people who made our stay in these places, memorable.

I waited in Roma station for Arun to arrive. It was past the time and I was still standing in front of McDonalds, our meeting point, having already walked the entire length of the station twice to check the McDonalds outside. Starting to get worried, I tried to call him up from the pay phone(I had decided not to use a cell phone for the six months I was in Trento) beside McDonalds. After wasting three euros, I understood it was futile to try using the machine without understanding it. I turned around to find an Indian couple standing in front of McDonalds. Walking up to them, I asked them if they knew how to operate the pay phone telling them that I had already tried thrice. Their answer was a blunt 'No' and they turned their face off. I felt like I was slapped. With tears stinging my eyes, I walked the three steps to my original place and waited there. After a few minutes, I tried the pay phone again. An italian came up to me and said that the pay phone was not working properly and that it was no use trying. I realized that he had been sitting there all the time and I had not noticed him at all, but he had noticed me. Another ten minutes and I saw Arun walk up to me and I flew into his arms. He could not understand why I was so emotional. I told him how I had been trying to reach him and pointed to him the Indians, my own countrymen, who actually shooed me off. That was how, our holiday started.

Next experience was Modena where the ticket clerk booked us on separate trains. No amount of explanation in english could get to him the point that we were husband and wife and wanted to travel together, as he knew only italian. It was then that a guy standing in the queue walked up to him and told him that we are together and questioned the ticket clerk as to how he could book the two of us in different trains. He got the whole thing sorted out for us. All we could say, was Grazie.

At Milano, we had walked a long distance trying to reach the Duomo. We ran out of time, and had to turn back. W didn't want to take a chance in missing the train to Bergamo Airport. So, we asked a gentleman walking in the same direction for confirmation of the route. Looking at our rather unsure faces, he told us to just follow him. At one point he pointed ahead showing us the train stazione and bid us adieu. Again, all we could say was, Grazie.

The next stop was Paris. We landed at 1:00 a.m. in the city and were lost. We found our way to the Metro station. After finding the way to the platform as directed, we asked a gentleman standing nearby about our destination and the train we had to take. He told us that he was headed in the same direction. He got down half way but in the meanwhile asked us where we were from. When he realized we were indians, he and his wife started talking about how they loved India. As a doctor, he has come to attend conferences in India and in the process visited a few places. Again, we were grateful to have met the two of them, at 1:00. Merci, Grazie.

We reached our destination, but the map showing us the way to the hotel was too vague. After trying the three roads leading from the stazione, we came to the conclusion that we would have to pick a random road and try our luck. At this point, (at 2:00 a.m.) we found two ladies sitting and talking in the car. We asked them for the way. They told us that they were not sure and try the straight road we were standing on. After 15 minutes of walking and reaching nowhere, we decided to make a U-turn and head backwards. We tried a different road, looking for the signs marked in the map but to no avail. 45 minutes and we had reached nowhere. At this point, we found that the two ladies were still there. We knocked again and told them that we didn't know what to do. At this point, one of the ladies asked us the hotel name, called up someone and asked for directions. Then, she asked us to get into the car and that she will take us there. We were very apprehensive. On seeing a kids chair at the back seat, we put our fears behind us . The two women, talking all the time over the phone asking for directions, dropped us right in front of the hotel. They saved us on that cold December night. All we had to tell them was, Merci, Grazie Mille.

Walking down the Champ d'Elysees, we wanted to take a picture of ourselves in what is supposed to be one of the most romantic places in the world. The walk is really great. We looked for someone who could take our photo. On finding a gentleman, walking fast towards us, we decided that he may help. I asked him if he could click one snap of ours. I then told him that I hoped I had not stopped or disturbed him. And he said, "Yes, I am busy, but then, how much time will a snap take ?" He won our respect and admiration at the same moment. And all this in just one minute and he went on his way. Again, only a simple Merci, Grazie.

Next was Venezia. Venezia with its winding roads and canals can be a real maze. We had one hour to reach the stazione from the place where we were shopping. After walking half an hour, we realized that we were taking the wrong route and had somehow got mixed up. We asked a venetian walking ahead of us if he was headed to the stazione. We told him how we had exactly half an hour to make it there. Again, he took us all the way to the stazione, and standing on the other side of the canal(bridge) bid us goodbye. All we had to say was, Grazie.

Again midnight, on the 1st January, 2008, on our way back to the hotel, we missed the bus stop. Arun asked a gentleman for directions. Understanding the we had come a long way, he offered us to drop us at the hotel. For this he had to take a slight deviation from his route, which he happily did for our sake.

We have met other people too in the course of our travel. The owner of Hotel Duilio at Firenze, Vincenza, who was the perfect host one could expect. Then, there were some bartenders who were not very friendly. At the Louvre, there was a young lady from the far east, telling Arun to move off when he was posing for a photo, as she wanted a photo of her compatriot standing in the same location, exactly at the same point of time. And the chinese restaurant, where we as vegetarians were looked down upon, as we could only pick one item from the menu.

But of all these, we would love to remember the kind Italians from Firenze, Milano, Venezia and the Parisians. Thankyou, Merci and Grazie are words that are not enough on occasions like these. We are ever indebted to the two ladies for their help at 3:00 a.m. at night. For not looking at color, race, language, nationality....... For the understanding. For the compassion they showed. It made us believe about the good in this world. That there was hope for us to co-exist. This is what we learnt in this new year, 2008. And thanks to the Parisian for the lesson on the Champ d'Elysees - one both of us will never forget. We will remember them not by their names, but by their actions. They are etched in our memories forever.

(This is only about our travel in the last week of Dec, 2007 and first week of Jan, 2008. In the course of my stay in Italy, I met some very wonderful people who will remain friends forever - for they gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to laugh, to be happy, to be crazy - unlimited).

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I wondered whether I should be going for the Onam celebrations because of the 'Where do I belong factor ?' Decided, that belonging is relative - go to a place and there will be atleast one small way in which you belong to that place and environment. I did belong there - the music and the thiruvathira kali are my favourites. I can't pinpoint what exactly lures me to Kerala - Guruvayoorapan, the temples with the sopana sangeetham, the chendamelam and the panchavadyam, the elephants at Punnathoor Kota or the beauty(in nature, art & architecture).

Yesterday, I was twice lucky. One, the evening starting with the cultural event and ending with the sadhya was great. And second, I met an old student of mine. No, the student is not old. She must be 24. Old student because of the old days. Days when I was not a student and she not an IT professional, like now. It was a second of confusion and exhuberance together. Confusion because for one second for I couldn't place her in the new settings and exhuberance because I was happy and overjoyed to meet a student of mine doing well. There was not much time to talk and ask about her life and work. But then, those few minutes turned me nostalgic - of the days when it was fun (not that I am having less fun now). Fun teaching and being young, by being with the young. Hers was a class I found totally different from the batches before. They were kids - all of them. Some scared, some trying to behave like adults, some still the pranksters they always must have been(wonder how their school teachers managed them). They were not smart in the ways of the world - they were pretty much raw. Times when a teacher realizes the immense responsibility in their hands - of guiding and moulding them to be the best, in what they want to achieve. This kid has grown and still not changed. She talks the same way, mannerisms are the same. But then, what did I expect - to see a totally different person ?

Meeting students is joy - joy in learning about their success, joy in seeing them happy, joy in seeing them proud of what they have achieved, joy in listening to their ideas of the future. That is the reward of being in the profession. Definitely it is joy(surprise too) when they tell you that they are married and have kids. That is one point when as a teacher, I realize that the kids have really grown up and I, a little more old. But then, even that is momentary. Get back to college, and you feel like you are 18..........

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Fate, they call it,
Some say destiny,
Others bad luck,
Some call it random.

But isn't it strange,
That it comes along,
When least expected,
And jolts you out of the blue.

It tears you apart
Doesn't give you time
Not even to bid good bye
And then hides away
To strike again some other day.

Monday, was one such day
For you were lost
To family and friends
With no news, no notice.

But we will not let him win
For we will remember
For your attitude
For the never ending enthusiasm
To life
To fun
To learning
To talking
To enjoying what you did.

(In memory of Srikanth, my student who passed away last week).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Whither went the day ?

Many a time, many a day, when light meets dark, when it is time for the birds to go home, I wonder, whither went the day. Sometimes, it went off searching the net, sometimes browsing, sometimes reading just one paper, sometimes, a few pages in a text book, sometimes sulking about how it is not enough......... whither went the day?

Questions arise: Did I do enough for the day ? Could I have done more ? Did I concentrate enough ? Or, did I throw away time ? But, whither went the day ? And then sets in remorse. Remorse for not having done enough which ends the day!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Music everywhere - or is it just noise ?

The advancement of cell phones from mere talking devices to multimedia gadgets offering FMs, capacity to store music and video is being called technological advancement. Maybe true. But, of late I have come to detest it a lot. Get into a long distance bus and there you have co-passengers playing music aloud - some hindi, some english and some in their own mother tongues. Walk down a road, and you will come across atleast one in ten people playing music loud from their cell phones. The canteen has similar situations. Or then, there are people in the hostel (neighbours) who keep loud music at six in the morning or late into night or anytime in the day - sometimes there are two or three people playing different music at the same time, not to forget about them singing along and others who sing by themselves too. So, sometimes it is chaos. No, it cannot be compared to the fish market - for in the fish market one finds energy and rythm in all that din. One finds smiles and satisfaction in a sale.

People play music of their choice with least respect for their fellow beings. They do not give a thought about whether others will like the same kind of music. Speak to them about it and they call it freedom. Is this freedom? Then, what about your co-passengers right to silence. Two lines come to mind in this regard. One, 'Freedom without values and discipline is useless' and two 'My space stops where another's begins'.

There are only two ways out of this quagmire. One, for cell phone users to become responsible. Two, for cell phone companies to remove the option of speakers for music and videos. Hope one of the two will make it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Trishanku's heaven"

Yesterday was Onam. I put on a little of the kalabham from Guruvayoor Temple on my forhead, it being a festival day. My friend wondered aloud how come I was behaving like a malayalee suddenly. Then came the second instance. There was a freshers party for students from Tamil Nadu and my friends were going for it. On being told that as I was not a tamilian, or rather that I was so non-tamilian, I may not have been invited, put me a little off. Yes, even though I am not a tamilian by birth, I am more of a tamilian by place I have lived, thought and values. To be told that I am not a tamilian somehow felt strange. And then, both of these incidences happened on the same day. So, that got me thinking. Where do I belong ?

Even though I was born in Kerala, I have lived my entire life in Tamil Nadu. Kerala has been vacation trips during school days, usually, a month long and then later, just a few days. Being a malayalee, Onam, Vishu and Thiruvathira are the only festivals as malayalees we celebrate at home. Pongal, Deepavali, Vinayagar Chathurthi and Pooja are festivals we celebrate due to the legacy we got out of living in Tamil Nadu. We have I believe, in the process, imbibed the best of both cultures, malayali and tamil. Yet yesterday, that remark got me thinking - actually a little hurt. Do I look so unlike a malayali. Of course, I do not flaunt my being a malayali. I speak in English most of the time, a little in malayalam, tamil and hindi too. I do not walk around with wet hair(I have very little hair unlike most malayali's) and yes, do not look much like a malayali too. Neither do I look totally tamilian. I have never given much thought to these issues personally. Yes, we did have instances when our neighbours wondered why as outsiders we were interested in the uplift of the neighbourhood or when we commented on state policy. We used to tell these people that we are more tamilians than most tamilians, for it is tamil soil that we feel close with.

So, where am I? Where do I belong ? I am totally confused ? Is there a need to belong to some community, culture or language to be part of something ? Or is it only by birth that one becomes something ? For that matter, is it necessary at all that I should belong somewhere ? Why should I choose left or right ? Why can't I just be, happy in the knowledge that I am both, one by birth and another by time.

Yesterday, I felt like Trishanku who neither belongs in the heavens nor on earth. But then, Trishanku lives in his own heaven. So, there was the answer. My heaven needs no one to tell me to choose. My heaven has enough place for all things I choose to be, because I like the best. Where they come from do not matter. For, I am richer by it rather than poorer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wanted: a plumber for Antarctica

The job opportunity sounded great - actually wow. Just that I am not a plumber. Of course I do know to change a tap and a washer but nothing beyond that. What interested me is this:

"Duties include mechanical and electrical upkeep, repair and support to scientists studying penguins, seals and albatrosses".

Now, that is what makes the job interesting. Of course, Antartica is cold, far away from home and is extreme: but then, that is the point. There is a mix of everything in the job - technical ability, mystery, challenge and lots of nature.

Wish the next time I see,

Wanted a Test Engineer for Antarctica.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

'Bihar is destined to die. Nobody counts us' -Contd/-

The Prime Minister has on Sept. 3rd, 2008 called for contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

'Bihar is destined to die. Nobody counts us'

62-year-old Dinesh Kumar Mishra says, "Bihar is destined to die. Nobody counts us."

How true ? When Tamil Nadu was hit by a Tsunami, people from across the country contributed. Same with Latur. Not with Bihar. Why ? Is it because floods happens every year, or is it because it does not have a strong word like Tsunami and earthquake attached to it. Neither the state nor the central government is asking for contribution from the public towards the cause. Not even the media. Does it not feel strange ? It does to me.

Yeh kahan aagaye hum

A journey started
Not so long ago
To take a new step
To find a new path.

Landing in the environs
Alien to me new
Friends none
Made home in time.

Half the time over
Wonder where it went
Did I while away
Or did it pass working.

Half way in time
End not anywhere near
More confused
Than clear.

Is this research
Is this usual
Is this the path
Know not I.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is there The Banyan or Udavum Karangal in Hyderabad ?

Yesterday afternoon, on my way back from Begumpet, I saw an old woman sleeping in the MMTS station platform. I didn't give much thought to it as in our land it is common to find poor people sleeping on the roads and platforms. After a few minutes, I was shocked to see that the lady's leg had a wound with flies swarming on it. It was a 3' X 2' cut, where the skin had peeled off exposing raw flesh. The thought of maggots filling the wound and eating into her was unbearable. I walked up to the lady and asked her if she was getting the wound treated. She answered in what I thought was Telugu as Hindi is known to me. I asked for help from the people around me and told them to talk to her. They asked her if she was getting treated and that if she required help to get herself treated, we would do so. Her answer was not in Telugu too. Anyways, we gave her some money, hoping that it would help her treat herself, and get her some food too.

Later, people said that she may be of instable mind. That was worse, as she would not be able to help herself. As we were talking, she got up and with blood oozing out of the wound walked away. Other people told me that my giving money was a waste. That the wound was a clean cut(which it was), and may have been inflicted by gangs who used it as a way of making people caught in their gangs earn money. Which meant, the wound would never ever be let to heal. The train came and I had to leave. But, does my responsibility end there ? Did I do enough for a fellow human being ? The lady and her wound cease to leave my mind.

In Chennai, The Banyan and Udavum Karangal are organizations whom we can turn to in such situations. We can call them up and ask for help when we find destitute people, especially women. I am ignorant about any such organizations in Hyderabad. Having lived here in Hyderabad for two years now, I have not given much thought about finding more about the city. Leading a cocooned life in the University, I live away from reality, away from the truth. I have made the university home, and rarely move outside its protective walls. Yesterday I came face to face again with the world I live in, and, it was a reminder of the responsibilities I have as a citizen, as a fellow human being, of being aware.

[Browsing the internet, I fail to find similar organizations. If anyone knows about similar organizations in Hyderabad, please do write].

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rediscovering ourselves

My niece Deeksha, is now 1 year and three months old. She is fun to be with and teaches us a lot in her own innocent ways. One important lesson she taught us was the joy of learning, of feeling. Every new thing she found, every new colour she saw, be it in our clothes, paper, toys, she used her little fingers (the forefinger especially) to touch and feel it. She would touch it gently first, and then with more confidence. It intrigued us sisters as to what she was trying to do. Sadna, my youngest sister, even went to the extent of closing her eyes and doing the same, just to know what it felt like, to decipher what Deeksha was feeling. That is when we realized that Deeksha was learning - nature's way.

This world is new to her and she is learning about this new home, with its varied colors, sounds, smells and artifacts. Sights are new, sounds are new, and the feel is new. So, besides noticing things, she was trying to feel them. Nature has its own lessons we realized.

We were surprised that as grown ups we still do the same, but yet don't do it. We do it when picking clothes, when buying vegetables, groceries and the like. Missing is the intrigue, the fun, the inquisitiveness and the fascination. We do the same things but without a thought, mechanically. Then, there are other things that we did as kids but forget to do as adults. Like noticing the world around us, questioning things we do not know about, listening to the birds call... In the mechanized life that we live today, we have forgotten those lessons, those little joys.

As they say, kids sometimes are teachers in their own right. Deeksha is for us.

(She has progressed in her lessons - nowadays, she is trying to feel things with her legs, and falls in the process, loosing her balance.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Call of Nature

Today, and for some time now, I feel claustrophobic. I feel like I am confined to boxes - a box called my workspace, a box called my room, a box called the gym, boxes and boxes, everywhere. Most of the time, I find concrete as my roof, living though in a jungle. With the past weeks rain soaking the walls, the lab has a mushy stink, to ward of which the four fans run through the day. The air that engulfs me is this air. And I want to break free.

I hardly have much time when the sky is the roof. Where the wind makes me feel light. I feel out of touch with nature - with the world around me. I am back to the feeling of wanting to go into a jungle and walk around, smelling the fresh air, looking at every plant and tree, watching out for the wild animals. I feel like moving away from this concrete world.

The University is not all concrete. Spread over 1500 acres, it is a jungle. And this jungle calls - asking me to explore her, interact with her, and get to know her. The Buffalo lake and Peacock lake comes to mind. Surrounded by greenery, one just has to sit on the banks and watch the changing scenery. From clear blue to yellow, to orange, to pink as evening sets. Nothing more needed to brighten the day, ignite thoughts, to sparkle.

Many a time I wonder why we can't have workspaces in the open, where nature becomes a sub-subject along with the main, just by being part of it, with it.

Time to go, to break free!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Messy Stories

I saw her, the kitten (she is 4-5 months old) clean herself after the rain, today. It reminded me of one of her adventures [on June 21, 2008], I was not fortunate to be part off, in her still young life. Still, we were all part of it indirectly and the following story was related by my friends.

I walked to the dining hall one morning and on the menu was Idli and Vada, one of my favourite breakfast's. Missing was the chutney, that is usually served. On asking for the chutney, the guy at the serving counter immediately replied that, “the sambhar has been made very well today”. The reply got me wondering as something was amuck. Then, I found chutney splashed a little on the wall and a trail of chutney on the floor as I walked to the dining hall. Still wondering at what this mystery was all about, I looked up to see my friends, Joya and Lavanya, laughing at me, for they knew exactly what was on my mind.

Then came the story [as related to me]. On entering the mess in the morning, Joya found a dirty puppy walking in front of her. She was wondering how a puppy could be so dirty and was trying to figure what it was that the puppy had on her fur. She couldn't see properly as she had worn neither her contacts nor her glasses. A cat came up and started licking this ugly puppy, to which the puppy said “Meow”. To her surprise, she realized that it was a kitten after all and that the watery thing sticking on to her coat was chutney. The chutney served along with the Idli and Vada. At the same time, Lavanya saw the kitten too. It then dawned on them that the kitten must have fallen into the chutney that was on the table for us to savour........... lick !!! lick !!! Ooph!!!! Thankfully for all of us, they were there, at the right place and the right time.

Anyway, this was when the kitten was two months old and still learning about her new world. Today, she has grown up and is one beautiful girly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good Old Days

Last evening was an evening of going back in time. I remembered the old days, college days. It was the time I used to pick my books and switch on the radio. Tuning to AIR's Vividh Bharati, I would have the best of worlds. Music and my books, computers and literature. Starting with Jawanon Ke Liye it would continue till closing time. Studying would continue beyond AIR's closing time, but the tempo and the mood was set thanks to Vividh Bharati.

Call me old-fashioned, but there was something romantic about the whole affair, which is missing today. This despite having a collection of songs playable on the latest music system. So, what is missing ? Probably it is the unexpected - unexpected list of songs, unexpected play on the mood. Maybe, it was also the minimal amount of distraction in the absence of visual communication. I am not able to place it, but yesterday, I was able to move back in time and recapture those moments. With Amitav Ghosh's 'Dancing in Burma At Large in Cambodia', I was transformed to a different age, a different time. The time with music and books.

Thanks Vividh Bharati.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Boys get preference

The news about the BBC documentary brought to mind the national award winning movie, 'Karuthamma', in Tamil by Bharathiraja. A movie with a strong message, it served as an introduction and a reminder to one of the social evils existent in our country. Karuthamma is a story of female infanticide prevalent in many parts of Tamil Nadu. It shows how the female child is unwanted and killed just after being born, the reasons being, poverty, the cost of bringing up a child and the high demands of dowry. For me who had only heard about it, and read of cases in the newspaper, the movie served as a reminder, of how fortunate I was. It was also a pointer to the ills of the society of which we are all part of.

Preferential treatment of boys is something most of us are familiar with or have been touched by, in various forms. If not from within the family, then we hear it from relatives and friends of the family, or from the society we live in. Also, it can be heard and felt in various ways. It starts from the pride and joy the family has when a boy is born and continues in the form of preferential treatment they get throughout their life compared with their female counterparts, in the choice of toys, food, education, life-partner.

It has to be accepted that female infanticide is rampant today, with science aiding it of course. This is not going to change unless education is seen as a means of empowerment. As a means to be self-reliant. As one of the tools that aid a person to take decisions with the convictions it requires - especially in a society like ours where a girl does not have much of say in her own life. And made compulsory, especially for the girl child.

In the many interactions with students, as a teacher and today as a colleague, there is one disturbing fact that I have come across. When asked what they intend to do after their degree, many girls say that they are taking a degree as it will help get them married well. This has been told to them which they repeat without giving a thought. Today, in India, (along with the IT boom), many bride-grooms like their prospective brides to be educated and well-versed in English as jobs take them across countries and across socio-economic levels. Hence, parents of the brides look at their daughter getting a degree as a means to find better son-in-laws too. The sad part, I feel, is that the purpose of education gets lost. It is not spoken about as a means to make oneself knowledgeable, confident and self-reliant.

This is not to say that every girl with a degree must work or that education gets wasted if one is a home maker. No. The question is, “Isn't the goal wrong ?”. Such education, will it aid the cause of women's empowerment in our country, except in statistics ? How is it going to get translated to the next generation ?

I would love to believe Arun's words. That each generation will take one more step. That the same goal will not be applied to the child. That change will happen, slow and sure.

Fortunate I was, Blessed I am,

To be born, Where I was,

At that time,

To parents, Strong,

Who waivered not,

Who battled long,

To get for me,

What they thought,

Is my due,

Is my birthright,

To Live, Armed,

With education.

For birth is random,

With no choice,

And things may have been different,

In another place.

Another time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sitting here on this bench
Looking at the mountains far off
I miss my land.
The mountains look the same
Same with the sky
Still, there is is something missing.
Missing is the essence
The smell of spices
The scent of the rain
The cackle of people
The familiarity of language.

Missing is the feeling
That this is home
That this is my land
That this is where I belong.

[Written in October, 2007 at IRST, Trento, Italy]

As I wait
For the flight to take off
To take me home
I know
That I will miss
Alberto's Smile
Chiara's BOH
Cu's Andiamo
Komminist's I am God
Leonardo's Random Theory
Mirko's We Germans
Matteo's Shrug
Nauman's Dozing off
Surafel's Seven Generations.

I know
I will miss
The jokes, the mirth, the laughter
The internet fights
The tropos
The craziness
The randomness.

I know
I will miss
The land
The passion
The pasta
The pizza
The ciao's.

I know
I will miss
A lot of things
But most of all
I will miss
Being with you
My Friends.

[Written on 27th February, 2008 at the airport when leaving, Trento, Italy]

You taught me
To be passionate
About life
About food
About beauty
About style
About language.
Grazie mille Trento.

[Written on 27th February, 2008 on the way back from, Trento, Italy]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Arts or Science ? Economics or Literature ?

Over lunch with friends, I was surprised to hear that students still look down on certain areas of study like translation studies, comparative literature and the like. That too, kids of the computer age (by kids, I mean just out of school) who have been educated in good schools, well-conversant in atleast three languages and are so confident about themselves. The usual rhetoric that we are used to is Science Vs Arts. Therfore, it came as a surprise that within the wide gamut of arts itself there is this comparison of which stream is better.

Today, where we can excel in any field that we choose to be, a question like "What would you do with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature?" to me, either shows ignorance or arrogance. I would like to think of it as the former. Still, Attitude is something ?? . An attitude of belittling someone who thinks and does something different from you is worrying. Why don't we as students of the internet age see different vocations in a totally different light - why not look at what is good and different about it and try to learn from it ?

Does the stream we pick always have to be glamorous ? Or does it have to give a fat pay package ? Or should it always sound difficult and out of reach ? Why can't we pick a stream because we love it or are passionate about it ? There are so many examples of people who have made it a success in streams once untouched, who have left their glamourous or high paid jobs to make a difference, for themselves and their brethren; who followed their heart, to do something they loved and had the passion for.

Einstein said, "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another tiger reserve under threat

Today's Hindu reports " Tigers in reserve under threat". The tunnel excavation of the Srisailam project is leading to movement of tigers from their natural habitat. The report speaks about underground vibrations disturbing animal life. It also speaks about roads being laid in the core area without permission as well as dumping of debris into the reservoir. Lessons from this project have to be taken into consideration for work to be taken up in the Mudumalai Sanctuary for the Neutrino project. Hope this serves as a wake up call to all concerned.

Cocktail !!

Little work,
Splash of research,
Few friends,
Better half,
Close family,
Makes a cocktail..
Called Life!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Science ??

"Tiger or Science ? An ambitious scientific project is scheduled to come up in the heart of tiger territory in the Mudumalai Sanctuary", read the article in The Hindu dated June 29th, 2008.Link

The report says: A top level scientific project, the India-based Neutrino Observatory, is scheduled to be built in Singara, in the Mudumalai Sanctuary. That is, in the home of the tiger, the leopard and the elephant, as also the gray langur, the bonnet macaque, the gaur, the sambhar deer, the chital, the Indian giant squirel, the birds, the reptiles and the innumerable other species of flora and fauna that inhabit it. Described as Abdul Kalam's dream, the plan is to build an undeground observatory. The project needs 1 lakh tons of iron initially, 35,000 tons of cement, steel, copper aluminium and other building materials which need to be brought from Mysore in 20 ton trucks. Also, new roads through the forest will have to be built. Scientists assure that environmental damage would be contained. Conservationists who questioned the location of the project in the tiger reserve were told that it was to be built on patta land.

Some scientists involved in the project have given replies to the above article.

Mudumalai Sanctuary, lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hillas and is on the Tamil Nadu - Karnataka - Kerala border. The increased traffic on the Ooty to Mysore road has already taken it toll. Animals have become the victims of speeding trucks, buses, jeeps and cars as the road falls in the path to the waterholes.

While this looks like one of those hi-funda projects that will be spoken about as on par with the best in the world, help in scientific advancement and the like, it is not clear how the people concerned came up with the location and the rationality behind it.

First of all, what is the objective - build something or destroy something ? and at what cost. It is well known the forest area in India is fast dwindling and man-animal conflicts are increasing every day. At this rate, is it a rational to play with the forests that exist today. Also, forests such as the one where the Mudumalai sanctuary takes centuries to build. Are we capable of bringing one back with all the flora and fauna, in case of damage? If so, what is the guarantee ? They say damage will be minimal - How much is minimal and negligible - can you give data ? Is not there other land available in India where this project can be situated without causing damage to the environment ? The question is not again about what people of the place want or do not want - it is a question about preserving our forests, about thinking and planning for the future. A short-sighted decision may be disastrous for all concerned.

A search on related websites does not give any report on environmental impact that is expected and the measures that will be taken to contain it. Nor does it have any pointers to other such projects implemented in the past and the environmental impact thereof.

So, will it be science or the tiger at Mudumalai, the home of the tiger ?

To read more:

All views in this forum and any opinions, statements, views or other information expressed are personal and solely mine.