Cab Driver Stories – an introduction

We keep running all the time that we don’t even know we are running or what we are after. But Sudhakar Kasthuri doesn’t do that. He runs, for sure, but stops as he runs and listens to what others have to say and do, especially the hire cab drivers. While travelling long distances on work, he listens to the stories of the cab drivers and thus is born this book, ‘Cab driver stories ‘.

41mzv2zpy7l‘ Cab driver stories’ is such a book that would bring to the fore, the hidden world of cab drivers.

Sudhakar Kasthuri treats us to a repertoire of experiences of the drivers that produce myriad feelings that would leave one wondering ‘How did we miss this, thus far ?’

Sudhakar’s drivers speak multitude of languages ranging from Tamil to Marathi to Punjabi to Hindi and we are treated to drops of worldly wisdom, vendantic thoughts, radical extremist views that have a purpose, thoughts on repression in ordinary households et al.

Two stories that would bring the reader to tears are ‘Amme’ and ‘Lakshmanan’. There is a shortened version of the Gita as well, in the short story, ‘Manjit Singh’.

Sudhakar Kasthuri sparkles in his own right with his unpretentious writing that touches the reader in every story. Another Sujatha in the making, given the unexpected twist at the end of every story – classic definition of a short story.

Originally published in Tamil as ‘Valavan Kathaikal’ ( I had read that then and had derived great pleasure), this is the English translation of that pleasurable treasure. Jayanthi Sankar, a bilingual author herself, has translated into English without losing out on the essence and feel.

A fast read that would make you look at the often accosted common man, the cab driver,  in an entirely different light, from your next taxi ride.

Available in Amazon Kindle here.

Dangling Gandhi – a review

While travelling through an arid region, when you suddenly get under the shade of an improbable mango tree and at that very instant an unexpected cool breeze descends on you from a suddenly appearing ocean, you call that a miracle, a blessing, a fortune. The book , ’Dangling Gandhi’ lands on us, thus.

A non-intrusive and non-preachy book of short stories, ‘Dangling Gandhi’ arrives on the table with such unsuspecting gentleness and refreshing warmth that you begin to feel like a calf let out of captivity. With so much moribund and melancholic literature all around, ‘Dangling Gandhi’ liberates you from the ever present sordidness of thought.

Dangling GandhiThe collection is multi-ethnic, has multi-lingual characters and is a multi-national one – multi-national literally. Author Jayanthi Sankar doesn’t treat the reader as a child that needs constant and repetitive chiding or instruction. She doesn’t tell stories, but shows the events in their kaleidoscopic splendour. 

Among the many stories that adorn this collection, here are some that made me read them again to devour the details in their entirety. 

‘Dangling Gandhi’, the story, is a fine juxtaposition of the different age groups. The means of communication serves as an indicator of the generation gap between the participants in the conversation. The intelligent use of ‘WhatsApp’, the messaging platform, is a pointer to the author’s sense of attention to detail.

The Gandhi icon, used as a metaphor, when dangling, presents the dilemma of the current generation – whether to use the icon or not, while showing, at the same time, that the previous generation too had other icons of the Indian liberation movement. And that is why Gandhi is shown to be dangling. That a character in the story uses Gandhi as an auspicious object, a lucky charm, is slightly reminiscent of the the situation in India where the different political parties have been using Gandhi for their own political purposes – either by way of supporting his policies, or by way of demonising his ideas. Either way, a lucky charm. The character that uses Gandhi icon in the story is Chinese by ethnicity. This also delivers a subtle message that Indians, at present, probably have no use for the icon.

‘Mobile Dictionary’, another story, also uses this intelligent interplay of two different modes of communication ( as in Dangling Gandhi) – verbal and written. While the verbal one happens in Singapore, the written communication happens in India. With no reference to the ‘From’ and ‘To’ in the India part, the plot, while easy to decipher, presents an imaginative way to convey a different line in the story. Ingenuity at its best. 

‘Punkah Wallah’ is a judicious mixture of human kindness and selfishness that occur simultaneously.  

“Read Singapore’ brought in fond memories of the Ang Mo Kio library while presenting the reality of an honestly practical Singapore education system. While the government promotes mother language learning, the takers are few. Nevertheless the effort is noble.

‘Beyond Borders’ presents the contemporary reality of s Singapore bus ride while at the same time projecting the pleasant innocence of a nerdy little boy. A compilation of contrasting human traits. 

’The Peasant Girl’ depicts the often-heard-of employer-maid relationship amidst a soft romance background.

‘Am I a jar’ brings forth the not-so-often spoken about LGBT and queer matters. An eyeopener especially on the specific lingo. 

Most of the stories deliver a sense of history in a non-intrusive manner where history stands a mute testimony to the happenings. Some startling historical aspects, like the Rickshaw Strike in Singapore, are pointers to the paths that countries have trodden in their journeys towards modernity. 

Author Jayanthi Sankar deserves all praise for bringing this veritable read that spans across the South East Asian and Asian landscapes while dwelling on both contemporary and historical matters.  

New age writing with non-interfering history in the background.

Singapore Diary – Book Release

Dear Readers,

‘Singapore Diary’, my 4th book, on an Indian expats’ experiences in Singapore, is set for online release on 7-April, 2020. It is ready for pre-order now. The book is a light read and contains my experiences mostly with the taxi drivers of Singapore from whom I had learnt a lot. It also contains some other aspects that complete the Singapore milieu.

My son drew the cover art when he was 10 years old. He is 14 now.

Do read the Kindle version and provide a review. More importantly, please spread word.

Thanks

Amaruvi.

Dangling Gandhi – Author book reading session

Singaporean author Jayanthi Sankar read a part from her book ‘Dangling Gandhi’ at the Madras Literary Society under the auspices of the Chennai Bloggers Group. A group of 20 readers, some of whom had read the book beforehand, had assembled at the century old hall.

Many reader reviews also took place with interesting perspectives thrown in from different aspects that had appealed to them.

The reader interaction session was bountiful. While the readers had spoken about the stories in the book, I spoke on the author as I had known her for the last 10 years while I was in Singapore. She is one of the few bilingual authors from Singapore who is well-read.

The audience had some Ph.D scholars as well and the interaction was a learning experience for all.

More of such English Literary activities, attended by enthusiastic and well-read readers, would enrich the English Literary Scene in Chennai. For once, there was a literary meet that spoke about human compassion, longing, craft of writing, nuances of translation and the vivid imagery that occurs in the writer’s brain that proves to be the trigger for a story. For once, there was a literary meet that didn’t talk politics or take sides. For once, there was this literary meet that discussed literature, and only literature, in English, in Chennai.

I will post a review of the book in the near future.

My participation in Jayanthi Sankar’s book release function earlier in Singapore Writer’s Festival.

Dangling Gandhi

Note on TN

‘They are Poshlustists. Poshlism is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive..’

This is what Russian writer Vladimir Nobakov had to say about Russians.

Looking at the happenings in TN, statements and behaviour of the ‘protesters’, their ‘leaders’, the shepherds and their willing sheep, I am reminded of Nobokov.

TN is doing its kamikaze-ish spiral thanks to the worthies that masquerade as leaders, the semi-literates that spin gibberish in mainstream media and the gullible students who consume this poison thanks to the lacklustre education they have been administered for far too long.

The same student community has been led astray regarding the Neutrino Observatory programme. Ditto for nuclear programme and other development plans. The intellect vacuum in the student community is so overwhelming that it looks like another 50 years of complete re-eduction needs to be in place to eradicate this lacunae.

The then erudite state is marching triumphantly backwards towards intellectual obliteration.

My late English teacher T.K.Ramanujam (Bahu) would’ve admonished me for the rather longish beating around the bush and would’ve described the above, with brevity, using a single word – decadence.

Bank frauds galore

‘Hello Am I speaking to Amaruvi Devanathan?’

‘Yes, who is this?’

‘Sir, I am calling from SBI. Need to check some details.’

‘Go ahead’

‘Sir, regarding some card detail, I want to check’

‘Yes please’

‘You have an SBI Credit card?’

‘No, I don’t.’

‘So you have a debit card, right?’

‘Oh yes. I do. What do you want to check?’

‘Actually we are issuing a new debit card. Can you tell me your card number?’

‘May I know your name and address?’

‘Raman Mehta, SBI Branch, Gandhi Nagar, Borivalli, Mumbai’

‘Why do you want my card number?’

‘Sir, I told you know. I want to check the number with what I see in the screen’

‘Ok. Here it is: 4765 1729  5456 1117’

‘Sir, only the last 4 digits are matching. Could you say again?’

‘4765 1729  5456 1117’

‘Again not matching. Can you check your card?’

‘See, I told you the number I have. Now, you tell me the number you see on the screen.’

‘No. I can’t do that. Can you check another card that you might have?’

‘No. Could you tell me my account number that you see on the screen?’

No. That is not shown. Only card number is shown. Can you please check another card?’

‘I can do that later. Now you get lost’

I have been a banker with an international bank for more than a decade. I know how scams happen and how to be safe. Hence I played along and continued the conversation. It was an obvious give away when the caller said that the last 4 digits matched. The 16 digit number was a figment of my imagination and I uttered what came to mind.

The scamster called from +91-8193-861369.  Please be cautious in your calls. Never disclose personal and bank details. And never answer calls from number that are not familiar to you. In case of a genuine call, the caller would call again. Hence no worries.

P.S.: I don’t have any account with SBI – State Bank of India.2c912f0200000578-3242466-image-m-3_1442783439052-1

Howdy Modi and Civilisational Energy

Having been a standing witness to the energy, spirit and enthusiasm of Prime Minister Modi’s community outreach event in Singapore, I can understand and explain what is this phenomenon around ‘Howdy Modi’. 

Simply put, it is India waking up from a deep thousand year slumber, roused by yet another Narendra. While the earlier Narendra thundered in Chicago, 125 years ago, the current Narendra sets the places he visits on a thunder and lightning spree.

So, what is this ‘Howdy Modi’? 

India is exuding her soft power, by releasing, on world stage, her pent up civilisational energy that has been compressed and suppressed for at least a 1000 years due to three kinds of invasions – external physical, external intellectual and later, after 1947, internal intellectual. 

For far too long has India been subjected to forced supplication. For far too long has she been told that her forefathers were thieves, their scriptures were a bunch of lies and that their hegemony was worth nothing. For far too long has she been forced to believe that her children were lesser ones, her chastity was suspect and hence, her progeny was illegitimate. 

Now the time has come for her and her children to rubbish the allegations and shatter the shroud of shame to proclaim her virtues and those of her children. And who better than yet another Narendra could stand up to the world to proclaim the mother’s righteousness and give her the rightful place in the comity of nations? 

On every place he visits, PM Narendra Modi leaves an indelible mark of Bharat Matha and the feeling of oneness and vasuda evam kudumbakam. He writes, by his voice, in indelible letters, the eternal message of deep universal wisdom that India, the land of Bharat, stands for.

By every word he speaks, PM Modi enshrines the never-die spirit of the people of India, her traders, her academics, her hard working women, the ancient rishis and the bubbling youth who dare even the celestial bodies.

Presidential speeches, from Kennedy to Trump, have contained references to Kashmir’s problems and the need for negotiation. ( Refer Kennedy’s Inaugural speech in the UN). Now, Kashmir doesn’t figure in the problem list. Future Presidents wouldn’t talk about Kashmir like they wouldn’t talk about, say, Kerala, a state in India.

Then why do some rejoice at the paltry opposition outside the stadium? Why do some still continue to nay-say despite the spontaneous release of the long suppressed civilisational energy?

820596-howdy-modi-reuters

Modi, with palms facing upwards, indicating ‘nothing to hide’ hence genuine posture

The answer is:

This big-bang release of energy is channelized  by a mass leader who epitomises the very energy. Hence, forces and attitudes that have been shaped by 70+ years of entitlement driven liberalism, would find these rather out of place.  

Their conditioned mind, having been continuously fed on a staple hate-oozing academic diet for the last 40 years, would view any other alternate course, that shines with progress, growth, cooperation and inclusion, as alien and hence impossible to be true. It is this mind conditioning that we should aspire to get out of and get ready to acquire an original mind that is immune to media chatter and oft-repeated cliche-driven ideologies. 

And originality of mind comes by only when one sheds the cloak of arrogance acquired due to Macaulayan education of the last 100 years and begins to look inward at who one is, who his forefathers were, what were their qualities and how did they come to be.

Simply put, one needs to embark on a Bharatiya education of trying to know oneself.

Vande Mataram.

When Yuval Noah Harari became a Jew

During a visit today to a doctor, who had a picture of Mary and Jesus on his wall, I noticed Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’ on the desk. 

‘Did you read this book doctor?’ I asked him.

’Still reading.. Have you read this?’ he asked.

‘Yes, and also ‘Home Deus’ and ’21 Lessons…’ by the same author. Terrific books. What do you say?’ I asked.

‘May be. But you know all this is marketing. He says Bill Gates and Obama have read it. Do you think Bill Gates and Obama would have had the time to read this?’

‘Well, doctor, Gates reads many books in a year and recommends too. You could see Youtube videos.’

‘May be, but you know, if the book is so noble, then the author should give the book for free, shouldn’t he?’ he asked.

‘Well, may be. But the book has been traslated into 63 languages’ I said.

‘That is ok. But do you know he is a Jew?’ he said, about the author.

‘How does that matter? He is an atheist and a historian, in any case..’ I countered.

‘Actually, Jews are cunning. That is why the USA doesn’t lay its hands on Israel. Jews in USA ensure that..’ he continued.

I took leave of him, with a sigh.

It is common knowledge that, but for the Old Testament, there wouldn’t have been a New Testament. But for Judaism , Christianity wouldn’t have come into being. But for the Talmud.. the list is endless.

Tamil Nadu’s education & social situation leaves much to be desired. We are creating a people who are fed on hatred, enriched on ignorance and watered by a tremendous supply of fake but dangerous ‘isms’.

Half knowledge is dangerous; Wrong knowledge is disastrous.

Tamil Nadu is heading towards disaster. And I feel sorry for my state.

‘Flashpoint’ – book review

Flashpoint’, a completely unreadable book by J.Sri Raman also doubles as an eminently anti-national one. While going through the ‘Advance Praise’ section, I saw that Prof. Vijay Prashad ( of anti-national articles fame in The Hindu), had praised this book. Hence I began ‘Flashpoint’ with some trepidation and an element of doubt hoping against hopes that this book would be different and enlightening despite the leftists’ praise by Prashad.

I was a fool.

The book seeks to paint India, Pakistan and the US in the same light. It criticises the Nuclear weapon tests, tries to imply that the US was behind Vajpayee’s trip to Pakistan by bus, demonises Gujarat riots and thereby Narendra Mod.. and the list continues.

417ktkp1d8l._sx297_bo1204203200_Having been written in 2004, the book’s criticism of the nation stops there. However there are some important quips, like V.K.Krishna Menon’s advice to the US not to feed Pakistan’s military et al.

The author goes on to say that the Indian Army was hand in glove in the unrest in Kashmir. The author further says that Indian Army sends mercenaries to Pakistan to get trained, makes them come back and then encounters them. Such is the quality of the book.

You could read this to know how the left ecosystem works in tandem with avowed anti-India forces such as Arundati Roy. #bookreview

P.S.: My 14 year old son seems to like this book. Should I be worried?

‘Degree Coffee by the yard’ – a review

‘Degree Coffee by the yard’, a book on Madras, by Nirmala Lakshmanan, great grand daughter of the late Kasturi Ranga Iyengar of The Hindu, is a missed opportunity to portray Chennai. With its rich and varied heritage, Madras aka Chennai presents delectable topics amidst resplendent historical sites.

The book meanders, chugs and pulls along to qualify as a let down and in the process commits injustice to the city of Chennai. The treatment to the history of the city is neither deep nor wide.

The book misses the main aspect of bringing to light the leading lights of the great city. The treasure trove that is Chennai has been given a step-motherly treatment, so to say. The book is available at the Adyar District Library, Chennai.51pmfvlaell._sx354_bo1204203200_