Reading 'The Hindu' for obituary

My English posts usually get only mediocre response from Tamil readers. But all of a sudden it all changed.

Hits and comments increased exponentially.

I am flabbergasted at the response to my two posts on The Hindu. Many retired professors have written to me, agreeing to all the views and emotions that I had expressed. Many elderly people, who have had more than 40 years of association with the paper, have written.

I see that these readers have visited my blog for the first time. They have got the link from their friends and colleagues who have had this deep sense of hurt at the decline and rot of the paper – especially the rot perpetrated by the communist leaning Ram and his cohorts.

I was pleasantly surprised when two emails were from ex-employees of the paper. They had praised the employee related policies of the paper but, with great similarity, expressed displeasure at the editorial policy and the general attitude of the editorial staff, with N.Ram at the helm.

A reader was so genuine in his comment that I had goosebumps. He said,’I read The Hindu nowadays just for the obituary columns to know if anyone known to me has passed away.’ This is a completely true sentiment as it has been a practice in Tambrahm families to let look out for the obit column first. I had an entire story on this in my ‘Monday is not Tuesday‘ collection.

Thank you readers. I am glad that the posts have touched some hearts across the globe.

Yes, The Hindu needs to be saved and the only way, I think, is to bombard the paper with articles refuting their ‘erudite’ articles from left leaning historians and columnists.

Sample this stupidity in yesterday’s paper: Prof.Iran Habib, a well known left-leaning historian, in a so-called scholarly article, states that ‘The concept of Bharat Mata is an European import.’ How far from truth does hatred carry this ‘intellectual’? Poet Bharati has sung in praise of Bharat Mata. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Tagore have praised. Are they European? We give feminine names to rivers since time immemorial. Is that also European? Poet Kamban and Thiruvalluvr have equated land to patient and gentle ladies. Indian culture sees earth as Bhooma Devi, a female consort of Lord Vishnu. So, are Vedas and Puranas European too?

The paper is being molested everyday by these semi-literate, hatred spewing columnists who masquerade as historians.

The time might not be ripe for a crowd funding take over of the paper. But with such increasing write-ups opposing The Hindu’s editorial stand and general opinion articles, The Hindu will have to turn a new leaf. The other option is to suffer reader apathy.

Until then, let us continue our close scrutiny of the paper and its policies. Of course, keep looking out for obituaries in the paper, for there might be nothing else worthwhile.

Earlier articles about The Hindu are here and here.

Freedom at school

I recently met two children – twins – who had recently shifted school. They had moved from an extremely strict school to a relatively free school in Chennai.

I asked them whether they were happy in their new school. Both children jumped in joy and said they were extremely happy in the new school. I asked them the reason.

‘I can keep my hair in any fashion- single braid, double, pony tail, anything.’

‘Don’t you have any other reason?’

‘Yes, one more. Teachers don’t scold like what our earlier school teachers did.’

I think the children hit it on the nail. They need freedom- freedom from fear and the freedom to conduct themselves in a manner they deem fit and be happy.

The older school has stupid rules such as below :

  1. Children shall not bring snacks to school.
  2. Leave letters should be given as computer print outs in a standard template.
  3. Parents cannot ask the teachers any questions.
  4. In PTMs, teacher would pronounce the verdict and the parent has to hear. Parents cannot ask any questions even in the PTMs.
  5. Parent cannot contact the teacher in any manner to inquire about the child.
  6. Children would be expelled if any of the above are not adhered.

These are distilled stupidities camouflaged as rules in the guise of instilling discipline.

I am not going to name the schools. But teachers who read this, please note.

Bladder control and railways

When hardly had I spent 20 minutes, did I need to empty my bladder. I withheld the urge for another 20 minutes. I didn’t want to spoil the morning for the co-waiters in the queue and decided to visit the washroom.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I never knew that I needed to master the art of bladder control to get a ‘tatkal’ ticket at Tambaram railway station.

Here is what happened :

I went to Tambaram railway station at 7:30 AM for the ‘Tatkal’ ticket to be issued at 10:00 AM. With photocopies of all necessary documents in place, I started my waiting marathon of 2:30 hours.

When hardly had I spent 20 minutes, did I need to empty my bladder. I withheld the urge for another 20 minutes. I didn’t want to spoil the morning for the co-waiters in the queue and decided to visit the washroom.

There was none. Yes, there was no washroom. I asked for help. Every person available in the vicinity pointed me in a different direction which resulted in my going round the railway station thrice, disturbing many half naked people in different stages of defecation or urination at different places along the tracks and behind buildings and under bushes.

Unable to contain further, I approached a person who resembled a cleaner in the platform. He said that the existing washroom had been demolished and a new one was under construction. Praising the genius who decided to demolish a current facility before having something in its place, I explored further to get rid of my agony.

I couldn’t contain any further. I decided to open up somewhere behind a lonely bush. Suddenly there emerged a figure in ragged clothes from behind the bush asking me something in a language that I didn’t recognize. I beat a hasty retreat.

After a 30 minute walk around the bushes, ruined buildings and many railway tracks, I came back to the ‘tatkal’ reservation counter, fully loaded and waiting to explode.

Due to divine intervention, nothing untoward happened and the co-waiters in the queue were saved, for I was able to contain myself until I got the ticket.

I saw several elderly women in the queue, waiting for more than 3 hours. How would they relieve themselves ? Why does the railway administration not take the convenience of the passengers into consideration while deciding on demolishing essential facilities ?

Why are the railway department, ministry and board stuck in pre-colonial times that they are totally indifferent to the needs of the passengers ?

What is needed is a washroom in every railway station . Wi-Fi and fancy stuff can wait.

Yours Sincerely,

Amaruvi Devanathan

You could eat Maggie noodles to feel let down and cheated by the multinational Nestle. But all is not lost. I had a fantastic experience in Chennai in the last two days with a small time steel and paint businessman.

I went to Raj Hardware Stores in Chromepet this Monday and bought 14 litres of Asian paint. The clerk charged me Rs 2900 based on the per litre price that he saw in his computer. The staff were very courteous and even asked me to sit – a rarity in Chennai.

I had to visit the same store next day to buy additional paint. Then all hell broke loose. The new clerk was confused when I showed the previous days’ receipt. The price that his computer showed did not match with what he saw in the older bill.

He looked puzzled. He ran to his boss and whispered something. The boss came to his computer and verified the case.

This is what had happened. The previous day’s clerk had quoted a higher rate by mistake. When I had come the next day for the same paint, they discovered the error. And hence rectified the error by returning me the additional charge.

They could have easily kept quiet and I wouldn’t even have known about the issue. But they chose not to hush up and were straight forward.

Finally, the clerk, his boss and another accountant apologized to me for the clerical error.

And that is a lesson for the multi nationals – family run businesses are more ethical than those that flaunt ‘corporate governance’ yet lack everything even remotely connected with governance.

If you live in and around Tambaram, Chromepet areas and are  in need of hardware materials, visit Raj Hardware stores.

Class X to pre- Kg ?

Following conversation took place in Maharishi Vidya Mandir, Chennai during December 2014.

Sir, may I meet the principal ?
The ‘Sir’ in question is the watchman.
No, madam is busy. Cannot meet. Got appointment?
No, just wanted to see if if she is free to speak for 5 mins regarding admission.
See, madam cannot meet anyone without appointment.
I know that. Just 2-3 minutes is sufficient. I am coming from another country and couldn’t fix appointment.
See, if this is for admission, then it is not there.
Sir, may I meet the principal to speak about admission?
You see, madam will say the same thing. She will say ‘ no admission’.
Ok, may I speak to her on the phone?
Yes, you can. Number is on the school arch.
If she can speak on phone, why can’t she meet ?, I ponder.
Trrriinnggg , trrriinnggg. …
Hello, who is this?
Madam, I am Amaruvi, I am from..
Mr.Amar, if it is admission, then it is no.
Madam, my son would have to join +1. Hence..
Mr.Amar, we give admission from pre-kg only.
But my son is completing std X and would need admission for +1.
See, Mr.Amar, we admit only Pre-kg ..
So what do you suggest madam?
As I told you, we admit from pre-kg only..
But it would be too much to ask a class X student to start all over again from pre-kg. I think I would stick to Singapore. Thanks for the enlightenment madam.
Sir, I told you know, madam will say what I say only.

Why R.K.Laxman can't get a govt job ?

‘What is Bharat going to do?’, Ram asked anxiously.

‘He wants to become a comic artist’, I said. ‘What ! Comics ? Why not an engineer?’, he exploded in surprise.

Bharat chipped in, ‘Because I want to write comics. If you want to become engineer, you become one’, he said and jumped off to play with his Lego pieces.

‘Oh no, you need to guide your child,Saar’, said Ram,’he wants to write comics ! How will he earn?’, he asked anxiously.

That is the basic problem. The instinct to safeguard livelihood so that once can eat one’s meal without having to starve. That is the primordial fear in any Tambrahm’s psyche. Tambrahm is an acronym for brahmins who are from the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. The fear of survival, the fear as to from where the next meal would come, has been deeply entrenched in their psyche that this class of people have perfected the art of fearing livelihood.

And that makes them perfectly selfish. Let me continue with the conversation.

‘What is the problem in earning ?’, I asked as if not knowing what he meant.

‘What Saar, you don’t know the issues that we have to face in getting good colleges?’, he said. By ‘good colleges’ he meant good engineering schools run by the Government of India. These schools are rated high in the world and a graduate from one of these schools is bound to get an US visa either to study or work in the US. Most of the technical and software sector workers of Indian origin in the US would have been from many of these schools of excellence.

I tried to feign ignorance. So I said,’ What is the problem in getting into colleges? There are many now-a-days. And I need to see  what the child wants to do in life. Why thrust my opinion on him?’, I asked, for sure knowing that he would explode in explanation.

As expected he exploded.

‘Saar, have you acquired huge wealth ? Have you brought large swathes of land in Bangalore and Chennai that you can sell them to get into a college? How do you encourage your child to become a comic artist ?’. He couldn’t believe what he had heard.

He was mentioning the practice of the NRIs ( Indians that are not resident in India ) who buy land in the metro cities of India in the hope that once they decide to retire, they could sell land holdings to earn a post retirement livelihood. But he mentioned this in the context of planning a career for my kid.

‘Ram, I am not rich. But I don’t think I need to force any career option on the child. Let him choose his path. Any way, it is too early even to discuss about this with him’, I said.

‘So, Saar, please don’t allow him to choose such ridiculous jobs as being a comic artist. Make him an engineer and send him to the US. That is where we, tambrahms need to be in’, he pontificated.

That is the other problem with the tambrahms. If you are not in America, you are neither a Tam nor a Brahm – that is what they think. Therefore even during the first birth day of the child, tambrahm parents start dreaming about an American livelihood and IIT education for the child. Not knowing any of these, the child would be fast asleep in his bassinet.

I continued my talk with Ram. ‘So don’t you like R.K.Laxman’s cartoons ? Have you not enjoyed Madhan’s cartoons in Ananda Vikatan? Are they not brahmins ?’ I thought I had conquered Ram.

‘Saar, Laxman and Madhan are good, no doubt. They are brahmins, no doubt. But Ananda Vikatan and Times of India don’t have job reservation. That is why they got a job there. Suppose the Tamil Nadu government calls for a cartoonists’ position, do you think Madhan and Laxman would have got the job ?’

I had no answer.

But I continued in a different direction.

( to be continued )

IMG_0028.JPG

Why R.K.Laxman can’t get a govt job ?

‘What is Bharat going to do?’, Ram asked anxiously.

‘He wants to become a comic artist’, I said. ‘What ! Comics ? Why not an engineer?’, he exploded in surprise.

Bharat chipped in, ‘Because I want to write comics. If you want to become engineer, you become one’, he said and jumped off to play with his Lego pieces.

‘Oh no, you need to guide your child,Saar’, said Ram,’he wants to write comics ! How will he earn?’, he asked anxiously.

That is the basic problem. The instinct to safeguard livelihood so that once can eat one’s meal without having to starve. That is the primordial fear in any Tambrahm’s psyche. Tambrahm is an acronym for brahmins who are from the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. The fear of survival, the fear as to from where the next meal would come, has been deeply entrenched in their psyche that this class of people have perfected the art of fearing livelihood.

And that makes them perfectly selfish. Let me continue with the conversation.

‘What is the problem in earning ?’, I asked as if not knowing what he meant.

‘What Saar, you don’t know the issues that we have to face in getting good colleges?’, he said. By ‘good colleges’ he meant good engineering schools run by the Government of India. These schools are rated high in the world and a graduate from one of these schools is bound to get an US visa either to study or work in the US. Most of the technical and software sector workers of Indian origin in the US would have been from many of these schools of excellence.

I tried to feign ignorance. So I said,’ What is the problem in getting into colleges? There are many now-a-days. And I need to see  what the child wants to do in life. Why thrust my opinion on him?’, I asked, for sure knowing that he would explode in explanation.

As expected he exploded.

‘Saar, have you acquired huge wealth ? Have you brought large swathes of land in Bangalore and Chennai that you can sell them to get into a college? How do you encourage your child to become a comic artist ?’. He couldn’t believe what he had heard.

He was mentioning the practice of the NRIs ( Indians that are not resident in India ) who buy land in the metro cities of India in the hope that once they decide to retire, they could sell land holdings to earn a post retirement livelihood. But he mentioned this in the context of planning a career for my kid.

‘Ram, I am not rich. But I don’t think I need to force any career option on the child. Let him choose his path. Any way, it is too early even to discuss about this with him’, I said.

‘So, Saar, please don’t allow him to choose such ridiculous jobs as being a comic artist. Make him an engineer and send him to the US. That is where we, tambrahms need to be in’, he pontificated.

That is the other problem with the tambrahms. If you are not in America, you are neither a Tam nor a Brahm – that is what they think. Therefore even during the first birth day of the child, tambrahm parents start dreaming about an American livelihood and IIT education for the child. Not knowing any of these, the child would be fast asleep in his bassinet.

I continued my talk with Ram. ‘So don’t you like R.K.Laxman’s cartoons ? Have you not enjoyed Madhan’s cartoons in Ananda Vikatan? Are they not brahmins ?’ I thought I had conquered Ram.

‘Saar, Laxman and Madhan are good, no doubt. They are brahmins, no doubt. But Ananda Vikatan and Times of India don’t have job reservation. That is why they got a job there. Suppose the Tamil Nadu government calls for a cartoonists’ position, do you think Madhan and Laxman would have got the job ?’

I had no answer.

But I continued in a different direction.

( to be continued )

IMG_0028.JPG

What saar, Hindi class not needed yeah ?

I met Ram after 10 years today in Singapore. We used to work together in Tokyo. The conversation went thus :

‘Saar, is your younger son Bharat Ram studying Hindi at school?’ He studies Tamil as his second language.

‘So, you mean your kid does not know Hindi?’ Yes, he does not know Hindi.

‘Saar, but what will he do when he goes to India?’ He will speak in English.

‘Saar, but Hindi is needed, right ? Employment opportunities..’

I said,’Boss, my son doesn’t plan to work in Delhi as a Hindi Teacher. He doesn’t need to know the language’, trying to cut him short.

‘Saar, but why does he study Tamil ? What is the use?’ he continued.

I was beginning to understand what he was hinting at.

‘So, what do you speak at home?’, I asked him.

‘We converse in English’, he replied. The pride was on his face.

‘So your son knows about Henry David Thoreau’, I asked as a matter of fact.

‘Well, who is this Henry, an English king?’, he asked.

Neither does he know who Thoreau is, nor does he know that Hindi is as alien to a kid as Mandarin is. I tried explaining to him the following :

It doesn’t matter what all your child studies at school as long as the mother tongue is taught at least as the second language. Children cannot think using an alien language, say English. But English is predominantly used everywhere and so most of the schools have English as the medium of instruction. And Singapore excels in that.

However, once the child is proficient in his mother tongue ( Malay, Mandarin, Hindi, what ever ), it is easy for him to acquire any language, be it Indian or foreign. So, please speak to your child in your mother tongue, get him comfortable in that, read him stories and after Primary 5, introduce yet another foreign language as a third language. Hindi could be one of them. He would have no difficulty in learning those additional languages as his basic grammatical constructs, his ability to visualize  and express abstract concepts in a proper cogent manner , ability to understand different sentence patterns etc would have developed adequately and hence he would be able to extend those to other languages that he would encounter later in his life.

I am not sure if he got it in full. But his stupidity was all the more transparent when he continued thus : ( to be continued )

On being stupid

Stupidity is that trait that can manifest itself in various different ways on a person who chooses to be stupid. Well, I don’t mean those who have decided to vote for the Congress party of India, but in general. However this does not absolve one of his or her stupidity if he or she has decided to vote for the Congress party this year.

Coming to the point, stupidity can manifest itself even if you have not decided to vote for the Congress party.

Let us look at some examples.

The moment you touch down in Chennai’s Anna International Airport, you begin to believe that auto-wallahs ( auto is the choicest epithet that is used to hail a contraption that runs on three wheels , in some cases just on two, but can carry ‘N’ number of passengers at any given point in time not including the driver of the contraption who would have opted to to squeezed in between the passengers ) have refined, taking into consideration the fact that the local government in the state of Tamil Nadu has recently ‘strictly’ enforced the metering of distances traveled by the contraption. And you could even be called the most stupid if you also believe that the auto-drivers would charge you according to the meter. Well, for a difference, the meters exist. And they exist. That is all. When the auto driver asks you if you need either the auto to run or the meter to run, you have no choice but to opt for the former and allow yourself to be carried by the three wheel wonder that runs on two wheels at any given point in time.

And once you start cranking your head out of the three-wheeled-wonder, you begin to see that large balloons start smiling at you. Yes, large balloons that, on a closer look, appear to have two eyes, nose and a mouth and before long you realize that those are the more than life sized images of the different leaders that fluster in from large flex sheets all lined along the roads. Oh what a sight ? You begin to wonder how each one of the different leaders have come to welcome you back to Chennai ?

But there is a problem. Some of the balloons err.. faces are not that pleasant. They are in various degrees of anger. Some express great anger and resentment from behind a facade of full grown beards while others express their anger from behind upwardly looking handlebar mustaches. And in some cases these leaders are clad in army fatigues making you wonder if they have just returned from a stint in the services. But no luck there.

Travel further down and you encounter a grand-dad, father, son, grand-son, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter dynastic clan looking down upon you from the differently sized banners, each one appearing to laugh at you. You begin to wonder if they have some trick up their sleeve and are probably waiting in anticipation that you would be getting into some trap willingly. And I have often found out that it does make absolutely no sense to decipher what is written in those banners for they are either a repetition from one banner to another or are some hieroglyphics that need special talent to decipher.

Well, assume that you get past all these and enter into the safe confines of your home in Chennai. Then you are audience to a whole list of extended family including neighbours waiting for you clapping their hands. If you are stupid enough to believe that they are lauding your arrival in Chennai, then I have no reason to converse with you. It is elementary to understand that anybody found clapping his hands either in broad day light or in the pitch of darkness are definitely swatting mosquitoes.

And if you are stupid enough not to recognize the national bird, err.. insect, let the devil possess you. Don’t you know that the local municipal corporations have declared  mosquitoes as the national insect and hence are aiding their breeding by spraying the water bodies with reproductive drugs ? Well, if you don’t know that, then let hell be on you and let you be governed by the Congress for ever.

There is definitely a time in your life when you are in India to visit the electricity offices. There is where you expose your stupidity and actually declare that by paying the bill for the electricity not received. You might ask what is shown in the meter. Don’t you now that the numbers shown in the meters are nothing but the dial in number for the local call-in Television programmes ?

Oh, yes, you certify your stupidity when you hear the parliament debates for, the debaters either shout out each other or shout at each other. Either ways, it doesn’t make any difference. And mind it, you are paying them Rs 3000 Crores every time the parliament in in session by way of allowances for the MPs. Allowances for what ? you might ask. Don’t they need to buy throat soothers once their shouting match is over ?

Now let me conclude for I have to declare my stupidity. Yes, you guessed it right. I am going to watch Rahul speak to an audience of Economists.

Into the frying pan..

It all began at 1:45 AM in the morning when the taxi man pulled in half an hour earlier than he was expected to. Rushing and brushing and barking on the phone and a full thirty minutes later I found myself beside the taxi driver in his taxi.

Not knowing what to expect from the Indigo Airlines flight from Singapore,  kept my fingers crossed. Previous experiences of insane to extremely annoying to the extent of making-me-mad experiences with Tiger Airways, Air India and Kingfisher ( now defunct ), made the wait to board IndiGo prolong and at the same time bring in a sense of equanimity in me – all airlines are the same except for the air hostesses.

But Indigo proved to be different. Yes, the hostesses were covered and neat. And there was not this look of “what-lah?” that one expects from Tiger’s and “Kya Beta ”  from Air India’s . The girls were quick and the counter staff were more than alert at 3:00 AM in the morning.

A cool two hour sojourn of the park  ( read Changi airport. It is more a park, museum, mall and art gallery combined than an airport. It is a park where winged birds come in and go out but only that they are made of steel and carbon composites and oh yes, they carry people along with them ) and a couple of visits to the washroom ( they have this feeback panel on the walls where you could touch and leave your feedback. Of course the touchscreen panels are sanitized regularly – Singapore you see, cleanliness and other things lah ) later, I entered the aircraft.

The demography of the passengers was – Chennai bound Tamil Labourers 70%, Pune bound tourists 10 %, Chennai bound Tamil White Collar types 15 %, bound to some whwere  Singaporean Chinese business men and women 2 % and the rest children of the white collars and Pune-wallahs.

And therefore IndiGo declared that they have stewardesses who could speak English, Hindi and Punjabi. Yes, Punjabi. For the 80% Tamil passengers, one needs to have Punjabi speaking stewardesses.

And then the announcements came that were as good as the Koran Channel soap where the female protagonist screams / laughs / shouts / cooes / cries all of a sudden for no particular reason. And there you have English subtitles. But in a low cost carrier that has descended upon the scene to serve the Tamil Labourer populace with Punjabi stewardesses, you should not expect sub-titles.

Oh yes, they announced in English as well. I found that out when they ended with “Thank You” and of-course in Hindi as they ended with “Dhanyawad”.

Then the flight cruised at various altitudes with different attitudes like “Seat Belt Sign” when no turbulence and no such sign when there was indeed turbulence.

But the hospitality is one that needs to be really appreciated. I was flabbergasted.

Upon take-off the girls offered water, followed by a thirty minute break that was interrupted with more water. I must mention here that there was a great deal of punctuality. Every thirty minutes, they served water. I mean water – the H2O stuff that we know of. People travelling from 1:45 AM until 7:20 AM need water at equal intervals of time – thus spake some anonymous airline philosopher probably in Punjabi.

Suddenly there descended upon the scene the grand old city of Chennai with its water ways and neat allies and planned townships ( that are still being planned ), and then the Kaththippaara Flyover that resembled the ancient Indian sweet ‘jalebi’.

The famous “Fire Station – ISO 2001-2008” insignia welcomed me from the ground. Oh yes the station has ISO certification. Does it have water is a question that I should not have thought about at that time.

And I descended into the frying pan.

My Gods did not abandon me. The flex-board demi-gods that cover the entire human pantheon starting from the “Ammas” and “Aiiyaas” of the world to the “Captains” and “Commanders” of the eternal Tamil army stood guard all along my way from the airport to home.

I know that the City is in safe hands under the protection of these deities as they were when I left the City some years ago.