Sunday, July 15, 2007


It is generally at about 10 that mom comes over to my room and starts talking. Mostly it will be a monologue about hundreds of things, which for me, will be more like daily News. My part of the conversation, whilst I am engrossed either in a novel or internet, will mostly be a one-word, seemingly disinterested interjection of ‘How?’, ‘When?’, ‘Then?’, ‘Why?’ and the likes, which is why, she wishes she had a daughter who would have reciprocated with a vibrant volubility! A wish which has now turned into a crave. A crave for daughter-in-law. Well, a painful topic! So lets stop at that!

Anyway, it was on one such occasion that mom came and told about how common it has become in Bangalore these days to see guys and gals being cozy in public. Coochie-cooing openly has become order of the day. Although, pretty common in US, I must admit it still came as a mild shock for me to see the cupid passions for display at hometown. It has been on such a rise that a new law has come into force in co-ed schools to stop boys and girls from holding hands!

While it is a mild shock for me, a Bangalorean for 24 years, I can imagine how it would feel for the 60 plus. From an era in which the girls never saw the guy before marriage to an era when a girl openly asks to be kissed on a busy pavement by a guy whom surely she will not marry, its been one huge sea of a change.

The reason why I used ‘girls’ above as a point of reference is because the mothers generally tend to target them. As my mom said, it’s upto the girl to uphold her dignity and honour. Guys are anyhow branded with a ‘Rowdy’ and ‘Eve-teaser’ image which wont be erased for ages. So, a guy is ‘expected’ to sin. Blaming ‘him’ is useless, for ‘he’ shall always be worthless.

I was mute all through my mom’s tirade of the current generation, until she had her say and went to sleep. However, it set me thinking. She was talking about a common phenomenon, which is quite popularly now called as PDA, acronym for Public Display of Affection. I am neither in favour of it nor against it (which is how I tend to be in most cases, by the way!)

Affection, or a token of love, is something that is actually construed on positive lines. I mean, its good to see two people holding hands, as compared to them in the middle of a verbal abuse. Its good to see two people hugging one another than to see them physically fighting. Why else would people term ‘happy ending’ to a movie if the hero and the hero-ine get together after a three hour epic?! So, PDA should be ideally construed as a positive development and a growth towards betterment of the society.

On the same lines, just for instance, there are hundreds of men defecating on the roads and answering the nature’s call at free will over the compounds of the general public, caring none to the nearby walking pedestrians. Why is it that no one ever speaks badly of such a scene? Urinating is public is clearly something that has to be construed on negative lines, something which a kid’s eyes have to be shielded from lest he takes it for granted and starts imitating the dastardly act. And yet, life goes on, without anyone complaining about the actual scene, but silently cursing that the Government offers far less urinals for the universally-short-bladdered-man.

So, is the case with people spitting, throwing banana peels, wastages, etc, openly on the road or pavement, be it due to the lack of dustbins or, simply due to laziness, even in the presence of dustbins. Blame it on the way we have been brought up, on the civilization, on the education. Blame, adjust, and ignore. Which is what is happening to PDA too, but the whole point is, the hue and cry is misplaced on something which is actually positive but not on the innumerous things which are being carried out negatively in public.

As a parting thought, I shall reproduce below an edited version from The Times of India, Valentines Day edition of 1999, on ‘Touching’, although not directly related to PDA:

Though in a society like ours where an overt expression of affection in terms of physical closeness is often frowned upon, a loving touch is crucial for our well-being. Touch, say, behavioural scientists, often acts as an anti-depressant or relaxant. Researchers have found out that physical touch increases the body’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is said to promote feelings of affection and care-taking behavior. Synthetic oxytocin is in fact used to treat depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior. And so, holding each other, hugging, petting, snuggling, stroking is all good for your relationships, heart and health. Experts agree that the benefits of opening our hearts go beyond curing our bodies of disease. It’s the first step towards healing our lives.

Which is what the hugely successful film Munna Bhai MBBS tried to convey partly in its cliché Jaadu-ki-Chappi. An afterthought. Here is a fictitious article that I had written on a similar context in December 2003. It was an article inspired by an ambulance scene in the famous movie Run, Lola, Run.

Time to change...

The car broke down.
The Kinetic Honda doesn’t start.

The cellphone is not getting charged.
The watch strap went for a toss.

The TV screen is showing only red.
The washing machine is not working properly.

As one person told me,
One has to live, and one has to live well.’

That’s when I decided.
Its time for a new Me.

I got brochures for a new car. (Enough of buying used cars)
I will get a new two-wheeler. (Pre-conditions to be satisfied)

I got a new cellphone (which isn’t really my type, yet I like it)
New strap, but not yet a new watch. (Its too dear to me!)

TV is sent for repair. (Family didn’t approve for a new one, although I was ready!)
Washing machine is being replaced. (Damn salesman never came over the weekend)

Perhaps, not yet,
But I feel like George Costanza of Seinfeld.

When doing things the way one has been doing all one’s life doesn’t seem to be working, then, its time to be the exact opposite of what one actually is.
I haven’t yet been able to transform myself into the exact opposite of what I have been, but changes are on its way.

Athithi Satkara

I disembarked from the Kinetic and looked at the house. It seemed remarkable. Spacious front patio with a swing. The twisting granite steps at the left front corner to the first floor gave the overall house a good look. I went up the stairs, wondering what lay ahead.

There was more spacious patio on the first floor too and then a big main door. I went near the door which was open. My attendance was noticed and there was a shuffle of feet. The Father was on cordless phone, gave a quick nod, indicating I was welcome. The living room was exquisite. Clean and tidy all around, it was decorated suitably well and was very pleasing. The Mother asked me to take a seat on the couch in the living room, and she would join soon. She was just finishing her breakfast. She was kind enough to ask if I had had my breakfast, which I replied in affirmative. The Father went out to the front balcony to finish the call. I then sat on the couch, in awe.

Awe is an inadequate word. Stunned, was much more like it. Staggering, too. The reason lie just beside me. The entire wall beside the couch was made into a show-case consisting of innumerous, awards, medallions, certificates of excellence and recognition and unbelievable achievement. On top of the whole show-case was a medium-sized, beautifully smiling picture of the person to whom it all belonged. Till date, I had just heard of extraordinarily talented people, at the most, had met them, but had never envisoned how their house would be! Such an impressive collection of medals and certificates, on top of the equally innumerous monetary awards, would make any parent proud. If one has to live, one should live like this, I felt.

The Mother joined me a few minutes later and I came out of the reverie. She was a pleasant looking woman with a pair of eyes that seemed remarkably young and vibrant and soothing, all at the same time. We spoke briefly on the purpose of my visit.

Just then the Father joined us. To be on ‘same page’, I felt it adequate to introduce myself, with a little bit of my academic background and my subsequent professional life (both in India and US), and how I ended up coming to their house. This took a good ten minutes.

Back to the topic, the Mother gave a brief response of the question that I had raised. She seemed acutely intelligent and was very precise and clear-cut in her thought process. With clinical precision, she laid out the step-by-step process that was involved and the juxtaposing red-tape. Apart from that, there were the different avenues that were open with their share of crests and troughs. For every question of mine, she had a reassuring and fulfilling answer. She invited questions with an open and welcoming attitude coupled with a pleasant countenance which made it all the more easy.

The Father too gave important bits of information at necessary intervals and the various ‘How-to-go-about’s which only an experienced person can delve in details. Being in such a great position professionally, he was remarkably soft-spoken and charming. On a more personal note, the first word that comes to me when I think about him is ‘Geniality.’ He was affability personified and put in a good measure of humour as and when required.

What struck me most was the way each of them complimented one another. There was clearly immense respect between them and they were mentally on the same frequency. While a joke from the Mother invoked a hearty laughter in the Father, a serious line of thought from the Father was vehemently consented by the Mother. While the Mother was explaining in detail about the intricacies and how life to the forefathers was far easier compared to current policies, the Father brought me a cup of coffee. The ability to reverse roles as and when required without the slightest ado nor communication is something which I hadnt seen often in families. They were both so down-to-earth and it was such an ease to be with the two and strike a conversation!

Without my knowing, the time had jumped by an hour! After a couple of digressing topics, like on the medals on show-case (which wasn’t so hard to digest, now that I knew the caliber of the Family!), and their owner, and about my own future and professional life, the conversation seemed to have come to a logical end.

It isn’t always that one feels so much at ease in a strange house. I only felt it once before when I had gone to a junior’s house. The hospitality extended in that house affected me for days together (the how-can-anyone-be-so-good? feeling) and I am sure it’s the same case with the hospitality extended today in this house.

I felt thoroughly satisfied in visiting and most of my questions were answered. Although the situation didn’t seem to be in my favour, at least now I knew lots of stuff that I heretofore never even thought existed.

As I departed, I informed what a nice time I had had and termed it ‘Enchanting and enthralling.’ It was even inspiring and exhilirating, but I swallowed the adjectives. I begged the Mother to involve me in any grand enterprise she ever ventured into. We exchanged numbers and, with a gratifying smile, I bid adieu to both of them. Although it took me some time on the Kinetic to get the bearings, the Father waited on the front balcony to wave me a goodbye. I have always felt, that that final wave of goodbye, waiting till the guest truly goes out of sight, firmly belongs to a supreme class of etiquette in treating a guest (Athithi satkara). It is an exquisite gesture on the part of the host.

We don’t generally mean it when we say ‘It was a pleasure meeting you,’ but this time, I really felt it was indeed a true pleasure. Wow! What a family!!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A simple conversation

I was waiting for my turn at the ante-room. Sir was teaching Violin for a small boy in the classroom. His mother was sitting beside him and assisting him. His younger sister, a small kid, sauntered out of the room and came and sat beside me on the couch. Her eyes darted here and there, looking at nothing and at everything at the same time. Caring to the none, she jumped and frolicked on the couch's hand rest. Her skirt went all over her. She moved her hands limply as if it was some hanging thing!

"What is your name?" I asked her.
"Shwetha," she said with a smile. Then, her face clouded as if it was an incorrect answer. Rather, incomplete, for she said again, "My name is Shwetha R. S." Initials were an essential part of the name!

To continue the conversation, I asked her "Which class are you in?"
Without a moment's hesitation, she answered, "Kamala Garden School."
I realised my question was in the wrong order. I guess everyone asks name first, school and then class. She was just rolling out the answers as if she had the answers ready for a leaked question paper!

Nevertheless, I continued, "Which school do you go to?"
This time, she understood the question, and answered, "Kamala Garden School" as if it was the first time she was answering me.

Then I asked again, "Which class are you in?"

I ran out of questions. So I became silent and focussed on listening to violin class going on. Its always a pleasure to listen when a music class is going on.

With nothing to do, Shwetha ran out of the ante-room out of the door, meddled with some things and came back to the ante-room. Roamed around the length of the room, went to the corners, stared at all the photos, squinted, made faces, and came back to sit beside me.

"You are not learning Violin like your brother?" I asked.
"No." An instant reply.
"Why?" I asked.
Without a thought, she replied, "I donno."

Fair enough, but I wanted to pursue the conversation and ask about her interests. So, I asked "So, what do you like?"
The response was again instantaneous: "Lollipop."
It was such an innocent answer! Of course, what else would kids of such age like?!

"What is your age?" I asked.
"4," she replied. And for the first time, asked me a question, "What is your age?"
It was something that I wasn't asked very often. For, most people with whom I hang out already know my age. It took a moment for me to recollect my age. "27," I replied.
She made an expression of exclamation as if it was an improbable age! She gaped open at me! I merely smiled back!

After some time, she asked, "What is your name?"
"Harsha," I replied.

She again went off somewhere. She was so full of energy and vitality, bouncing about, here and there! Joyously playing, with no shred of worry! Where do they get all that energy from?! It was a pure pleasure to see!

She came back to the couch and asked me: "Where is your mommy?" It was such a simple yet profound question. At age 4, you cant go roaming about without Mommy being within eye sight!
Yet, I replied, "My Mommy is at home." She received the response with equanimity.

We both sat silent for some time, listening to the music wafting through to us. Then, a mosquito came towards her. She waved her hands, threatening to hit it. She was smiling, as if mosquito was an automatic plaything sent to her from heaven!
"What is that?" I asked her.
"That is solle," she replied, solle being the Kannada translation to mosquito. Obviously she wasnt aware of the 'mosquito' word. I laughed at her innocence and taught her the 'Mosquito' word.

The music stopped from the classroom. It was my turn next. I turned to Shwetha, said 'Bye', which she returned, and headed to the classroom.

Simple, though, our conversation was, it was so refreshing!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


To continue from where I had left off…..

The sign-board near the wash-basin of my India office’s restroom, further states the following information about water:

1. If the entire water in this world is put in a gallon jug, freshwater available for use is just one tablespoon.
2. 10000 children under the age of 5 in Third World countries die due to illness contracted by impure water.
3. Most people in this world have to walk 3 hours to fetch water.
4. By 2025, 52 countries (making up 2/3 of the population) will suffer from water shortages.
5. About 6800 gallons of water is required to grow a food for family of four.
6. Freshwater animals are disappearing 5 times faster than land animals.

The world is imminently progressing towards devastation. An environmental banner put it succinctly: ‘Ice melting is now a hot topic!’ Its like the fizz building up within the soda bottle. The cap might burst open any time.

The Shiv-Ling natural ice-sculpture at Amarnath has completely melted. The Mount Everest height has decreased. The ice glaciers in South and North Pole are melting. Many river basins in India have dried out. Winters now no longer need sweaters. The Sea water is increasing. Rain has become erratic.

Birds have vanished. There was a time, when we used to enjoy the sparrows pecking at food in our porches but for the current generation, sparrows are as good as extinct.

A part of the Ozone layer over the Arctic has vanished. If the hole increases over civilization, it’s a dual disaster. Not only will the Sun’s rays penetrate directly (causing God-knows how many skin diseases) but also the richness of Oxygen which is usually found during early mornings generated by Ozone can no longer be used as a healing or refreshing agent by the morning walkers and joggers.

Many healing procedures are based out on simple breathing techniques like Yoga. The pure oxygen wafting through the blood veins can cure innumerous diseases if concentrated. But, the clean pure air is being polluted heavily making even breathing a laborious task.

Almost everything we use today generates heat. The electrical applicances like refrigerator, television, microwave, the automobiles like cars, trucks, trains, aeroplanes, the computers at offices and even the laptop which I am using currently!

Bangalore Corporation cut 68 trees on Sunday to widen the road. Trees which give us clean air replaced by vehicles which pollute the air. Chinese Government approves making an asphalted (imagine the heat!) road to Mount Everest’s Base Camp for the runner to carry the Olympic torch. Dubai, Singapore and many other countries create man-made islands to create more land space and attract tourists. If land is made out of water, water level will surely increase and coupled with ice glaciers melting, port cities will soon be submerged.

Rain water is not harvested. Solar energy usage is not mandated. Hundreds of advertisement hoardings have flashy lights all night when hardly anyone sees them. Man is carelessly wasting natural resources. The other day I saw a big corporate hunk running the tap on while he lathered his face with soap for full 5 minutes. I am sure, for people of his class, its tough to turn the tap off while brushing. A day will come when we wouldn’t even have water to brush our teeth or soap our faces, although we might haughtily state: ‘Tell me how much it costs. I will pay for it.’ Money is something invented by Man. But Water is not.

Just as I sign off, I can hear the water over-flowing from an overhead tank. I know water will keep over-flowing till tomorrow morning when the owner gets up and realize the folly. What he does not realize is that its almost equivalent to having killed a human being for depriving him of potable water. For me, it’s a criminal offence to have wasted pure water.

Focus now is just on money. A folly of not switching the pump off leading to over-flow in overhead tank is, for today, just a matter of couple of hundred rupees extra in the water bill. A grossly polluting emission-untested vehicle, upon being caught, has to cough up – a curious expression! – a few hundred rupees, which almost anyone can afford these days, caring none to the world. The point is its not about money. Its about Environment and natural resources. Its almost equivalent to committing murder, and upon being caught by the cops, pay off a couple of grand, and move on.

After all, if man disturbs ecosystem, a time will surely come when the ecosystem disturbs man. We are just converting Earth into a hellhole where soon we ourselves are bound to suffer.

Plazas are opening where Oxygen is provided for enhanced breathing as if its an innovation. Mineral water bottles are manufactured as if something great is being done to mankind. A decade or two ago, there was pure Oxygen everywhere and water was as pure as it gets. This is so true of what Masanobu Fukuoka said in his One-Straw Revolution:

Human beings with their tamperings do something wrong, leave the damage unrepaired and when the adverse results accumulate, work with all their might to correct them. When the corrective actions appear to be successful, they come to view these measures as splendid accomplishment.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


A sign near the wash-basin of the rest room in the US office where I worked:

Many diseases can be prevented by washing hands thoroughly. Keep your hands under the water and sing yourself a ‘Happy Birthday’ song and do not withdraw your hands until the song is completed!

A sign near the wash-basin of the rest room in the India office where I am working:

Use natural resources sparingly. Conserve water.