24 November, 2007

Technology Helps

In day to day’s life we come across changes in Technologies. Though there had been talks about certain disadvantages of technologies I have been experiencing few advantages for the past few years. Does technology lead to destruction? That is debatable. We can say yes/no. That is not my point here now. I wish to share how it has helped me in the last few days.

After a row of meetings at work, I went to my seat to have my lunch. Casually browsed my emails and saw a mail with a funny mail id. Fearing it to be suspicious I thought for a while. The subject was not as one of those dodgy mails. So I opened it up and was excited, thrilled, etc..etc. It was from nobody than one of my class mate who had studied almost 30 years before in my high school. It was an invitation to few classmates for a meeting in Chennai. Though I could not attend I just responded. We had very few email ids in the group. Then we suggested to have a common group and started a group.

Believe me or not! Within a couple of weeks, we could collect more than 20 email contacts of our classmates who are spread over every corner of this world. The past two weeks had been very busy receiving few phone calls every evening from one of them. One of my class mates was kind enough to sing few favourite hits for everyone at home. He called us from Dubai. Suddenly another friend forwarded the contact of our favourite school teacher. He said that the teacher has an email id and is very receptive to students, though he is retired now (naturally!). Guys started phoning him up as well.

Due to the time difference I could not call him in the week days. I sent him a mail in advance during the weekday and called him on a Saturday. I woke up very early as early as 2.45 a.m. on a Saturday. I called him and just said my name. He recollected every minute detail about me. I was just flabbergasted. We went on and on. We exchanged our wishes. I conveyed my sincere apologies for not able to contact him all these days. He replied, that he was very delighted that at least few of us have recalled after 30 years of school life. He felt a great sense of satisfaction that he could contribute something good for the society and felt very happy that students who studied under him are well placed and leading a good and great life.

He said
Last week was a special week in my retired life for I received a few calls from my students that is 1976-78 batch to whom I was the class teacher in the gallery class. Remembering the teacher at your age of 40 plus and that too after a gap of 30 years is quite unimaginable. I was filled with emotions when I heard the voices followed by their e-mails and it gave me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment for which God has created me. It is really gratifying to note that majority of the students of that gallery class are well placed and well settled in life and they remember their teacher who has contributed a little for their betterment.

I thank all of you for this lovable gesture which I cannot very easily forget. Now I am retired and God has given me a peaceful retired life. I love to meet you all and share the pleasant experiences and moments we had in 1976-78 at Corley. Joys are doubled and sorrows are diminished when shared. If you happen to visit Chennai do call me and feel free to visit me.

My warmest Greetings once again and I would definitely remember you and your family in my daily personal prayer for I know that more things are wrought in prayer than the world dreams of.”

All these days I have been feeling guilty for not having contacted my teachers who had brought me to this stage. But last week I had my greatest satisfaction in my life for conveying thanks to our old teacher. Now, within 2 weeks we could establish contacts with 24 of our old class mates, and the joy brought over exchanging e-mails, calls, news, and photos is unexplainable. Each one of us remembering our childhood acts and even the words, nicknames, fights, jokes and exchanging them when our kids are in our teens is great. The highlight was one of our classmate sent a group photo of our class taken in the year 1973 and there had been flurry of emails amounting to more than 200 within a couple of weeks. We laughed at ourselves for how we looked and how much of hair each of us has lost. We have changed in shape, looks. But while talking about the school days we all are same. Till today none of our old classmate has declined to meet or be in touch with our group when approached. That is the spirit!

Now you know why I appreciate the technology and why I was missing in the blog world for the past few weeks. Hope to get back to blogging and you can see my comments again in your posts. All these were possible just at a click distance.

07 November, 2007

Children and Fear

The freedom of life is to live without fear. Our mind is conditioned from childhood towards fear. When I grew up in India, we feared for everything at school. Some may argue that fear brings discipline in a child. But certainly not!

I remember my school days, when we feared for everything. I read about a nasty incident today. This has happened in Ahmedabad, India. A student came to school late, and the standard punishment was to run 5 times around the school ground. The school kicks off at 7 A.M. and the boy who was late collapsed when he started running. There is a report saying that the boy had congenial heart problem. Still I honestly think that this kind of punishment should not exist. Here in UK, they make the children to undergo detention. If they are late they will be detained half an hour back in the evening or another day. I would not say that it is the best but in no way it harms the child. If such kind of death had happened in a developed country the school authorities will be taken to task. I read the Police is looking for a complaint from the parents, to take action against the school. We should wait and see with what is going to happen. I could only sympathise with the parents for the loss of their lovely child. At the same time, such parents should go against the school authorities, and this should open the eyes of many others who fall in the same group.

The same punishment existed during my school days 30 years before. I hated my PE teacher taking control of latecomers. I would have been late only once or twice in my school life. We were asked to do some physical exertions like holding ears criss-cross by hands and do squats. There was discrimination in those punishments too. But what did they achieve? They made us to be more afraid.

There had been age hold tradition of instilling fear on child’s mind. I remember days when my nieces visited us for holidays and we were in teens. My brother-in-law, who is a Doctor, always insisted that they should not be scared. I got the parenting technique when I was just in my teens and it worked very well. Then, we looked back into our childhood days and realised the importance of bringing a child brave and explaining them the consequence.

Fear causes anxiety in children. Fear deprives them from thinking creatively. The fear of being beaten, punished, makes children to become coward in their life. As a parent of 2 children, I have found it very successful in being positive. Children are bound to do mischief and mistakes. Children need to be children. At the same time, they should know their limits. Punishments should be there. But they should be in such a way; it does not hurt them physically, emotionally and mentally. My nieces were brought up without fear and this has helped them a lot in their life so far.

My aged mother does not agree with my ideas and principles and feels that I am giving too much of liberty to kids. During our childhood we were not allowed to give any explanation and were just asked to follow what was being said. Thanks to creative thinking I could overcome all the fear in myself. At one stage in my life, I have thrown the fear and started realising of being conscious to ourselves.

Children are the best gift to us. They should be handled in a nice and simple manner. Some of the parents compare their children and keep talking about all the negative things of their children to other parents and friends. They should bear in mind the way they behave with their children. It is really funny to hear few parents’ comments. I have seen a lot of parents expecting their child to be a readymade piece with all they wish. They need to realise that children cannot be all-in-one readymade doll. They need to be moulded and it requires lots of patience in bringing up good children.

Fear cannot prevent the negative things. It may be deceptive. It may look like it is producing the best result, but indirectly it harms the personality. It is age old technique. In present world it will not work. Children may pretend to be afraid, but you gain nothing than hatred from them. This may have adverse affect and parents may have to pay a huge penalty for their behaviours.
So those who are dealing with children, please wake up! Teach them right. Tell them the consequences. Please be in detail and try to deal them with patience. It is difficult. They may repeat the same negative behaviour. But teach them gently and do not lose your patience. Keep explaining them straightforward. It will fetch you the result. Please do not spank or terrorise them with punishment and fear. This will not work.

30 October, 2007

A local gentle man

It was a perfect English summer day. I was walking back from work on a fine evening. I love walking not only because it helps me in spending calories, also because I can observe more things that are happening around me. I like observing. I like to watch and look at things in a different way. Sometimes it is a bit scary to walk through tunnels or sub-ways where there is fewer crowds. It is not exaggeration to say that in UK. Many skulls are broken only in the undergrounds by disturbed youths. So though there was this subway near a ring road, I preferred to cross the road on top than using the subway. Just after crossing, I noticed him. Only few people are so impressive, attractive to be looked again. I looked back at him. I stopped and looked seriously at him.

He was very old. He was wearing Torn clothes. He had a long beard and was picking up rubbish on the road. He was to himself. I stopped and asked him whether he was alright and he did not bother about me. He did not look around and was just doing his job. I wondered at him and his clothes. I did not expect someone to be so poorly dressed in UK. I walked few steps and looked back at him. He did not bother about me and sat on the side road pavement and gazed at the traffic on the ring road.

I saw him few times at distance and sometime very close. He had never bothered or cared to look back at anyone. Then there was news about him in the local newspaper. He was called as Fred and lived near the ring road, inside a tent donated by the local council. It seems he has been there for at least 30 years living like that near ring road. I could only wonder how he could withstand the cold temperature and live in such a tent for so many years.

After reading more about him in the local newspaper, I became more interested about him. Once when I was walking closer to the tent, I saw him sweeping the place around his tent. He kept the place around him very clean. He hardly spoke to anyone. I read the news about him to my children. My daughter who is of 6 years old was very much moved and asked me why not bring him home, so that we could offer shelter. I was almost on tears when she told this. My kids wanted to look at the old gentleman and I promised that I shall take them one day to show him.

I cannot fulfil their promise. I knew this yesterday from the local newspaper. Fred had died. This was a great shock to everyone who lives in the town. He was respected by many people who live in this town. Few months before he became a great hit in the internet when someone set up a website for him, and there were thousands of visitors from all over the world who visited his site.

He was offered houses and benefits many times by the local council and he refused them. He did not want to live in a house. It seems he was born in Poland and held as a prisoner during the world war. For more news about him you can read http://www.expressandstar.com/2007/10/30/fred-takes-mystery-to-the-grave/
I admired his life for the way he has lived. It is rare to see someone who had lived in a very simple way in much advanced world. He was a true gentleman, and he was served food daily by the meal on wheels section of the local council. The lady who visited his tent had commented that she saw a shadow sometimes in his tent when she kept the plate and few times she had seen a hand taking the food. She had never heard a word except ‘Thank you’ sometimes. Only last week when someone had asked him whether he needed anything, he showed his torn trousers. He never said anything. But the next day, the person who had asked him got him a new trouser.

Fred I respect you and your feelings! I am not offended that you never said anything to me when I asked you whether you were alright.

You will be always remembered by me and my family Fred!

May your soul rest in peace!

15 October, 2007

Love your Mother Tongue

Few weeks before I happened to meet a friend’s relative who had come from Australia. Probably the local friends thought that I should meet him and arranged a meeting in a local pub. I knew that the person, whom I had not met before, hailed from a small village near Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu and is settled in abroad for lesser years than the number of years he had lived in India. As soon as we met, he started conversing in English with a thick accent. I was already told that he has forgotten ‘Tamil’ and speaks only in English. I do not hate speaking another language. But how could someone forget their mother tongue? During our one hour talk he behaved as if he never knew ‘Tamil’ and replied in English for every other question asked in Tamil. He has moved out of the country only in his late 20’s and he should be in his late 30’s now. How could someone forget a language within 10 or maximum 15 years, and behave strangely whenever we spoke few words in ‘Tamil’. If the children are born in a different country, where their mother tongue is not spoken and if they behave like this it makes sense. We can at least understand that they are not used to it. But I could not tolerate this. Let the mother tongue be any language. I could not believe that someone could forget his mother tongue after few years. I spoke about this, to his relatives, who are my friends and they said he never gets chance to speak in his mother tongue. He is married to a foreigner and the chances of speaking in mother tongue became less. I am not convinced.

I met another family in London. They were originally from Sri Lanka. The parents who are of my age, mostly spoke with me in ‘Tamil’. Their English is unpardonable. I used to wonder how they are unable to speak good English, in spite of living in this country for more than 10 years. At the same time, it was funny to see their daughter who is in University, always spoke to me in English with a thick accent. Her parents talk to her in ‘Tamil’ and introduced me in ‘Tamil’, but she was constantly speaking in English. The reason I am mentioning about this is because, she cannot say that she does not have chance of hearing or speaking ‘Tamil’. She could very well speak at least few words in ‘Tamil’ but she was constantly speaking in English.

The manner is if you are in a group, speak in the most common language, which is understandable for everyone in the group. I maintain this always while I am in a group. If I happen to be with four Indians, out of which 2 are from different state, and one from Tamil Nadu, I still try to speak in English. In case, if the other ‘Tamilian’ does not speak English as fluently and if he tries speaking in ‘Tamil’ with me, I reply to him in Tamil, and then translate it immediately to the other persons in case if they could not understand it. This is just common sense and good manner.

But why don't people understand even this and cause embarrassment to others? A gentle advice to those people is, please avoid doing this. Imagine there are two Russian colleagues along with you and speaking in Russian. Will you not be offended? You may wonder what they are talking, while having you with them. Just put you in others shoes next time and try to speak the most common language which everyone speaks.

Also, I have found that people who live in India, especially Chennai (including my relatives) talking to me and my children only in English when we visit on holidays. Even though we reply back in pure local Tamil, they constantly speak in broken English which is very embarrassing. Why? Should they not understand that we could speak the common language well, and continue conversation in our mother tongue? Last week one of my relative spoke over phone and said none of us in our family have changed. Personally, people need to understand that just because someone lives far away from the home land he will change a lot. People are all the same everywhere in this world. There are people who would love to know about our Mother tongue.

I had a British colleague who always approached me to write in a piece of paper his name, or his wife’s name and children’s name in Tamil and carried back home to show his family. There was an Irish colleague who grabbed my Lunch box if she saw any Potato Curry in it. There are many English colleagues who have always wanted to visit my family for a Vegetarian Curry and Rice. I still remember few years before, one of my team leader sent a mail to everyone in our team (20 of us) asking to vote, for a local English restaurant, or my House food for the Christmas party and I think majority of them who had tasted my home food earlier opted to visit my house for the Vegetarian food. Thanks to few young English girls in my team, who were concerned whether my wife could make food for 20 of us, and later spoke to my Team leader to cancel that option fearing for causing unnecessary stress to my wife. So sweet of them!

So, be whatever you are. It is interesting to know other’s language, culture and food. Please do not feel inferior. After all everyone in this world have to breathe Oxygen, have red blood, and walk with their legs. Let us not feel inferior about ourselves.

Love your language whichever it is!

(N.B- I am not fanatic, but would love people to be what they are. Somebody may ask, why then I am not blogging in Tamil? English suits me because I could reach many who may not understand my mother tongue. I may start one in Tamil which is getting delayed.)

02 October, 2007

Moments in Life

Last weekend while relaxing after a small DIY (Do it Yourself) work, I was sipping my black Tea, and was wondering about few things that happens to everyone in life. We all live and repeat the same kind of work throughout our life. I looked at my Old mom, and my thoughts were on her way of life. She does not travel, hardly comes outside, and lives within the house, and thanks to ‘Satellite’ Channels, she is able watch the young Tamil actor walking to the court for another hearing, Politicians in Tamil Nadu burning effigy along with their supporters, and women in Madras City being fooled by con men posing themselves as jewel polishers. So, I picked up conversation with her and we both were talking of ‘moments of our life’.

There are special moments in each one of our life. They are really great and we cherish over them again and again. It gives so much of pleasure and sadness as well when we think about them. Also the moments would have made us happy and sad. But still they are moments. I read in one of Osho’s (Rajneesh) books that everyone gets a glimpse of their best moments of life, like a fast forward just before they die. I do not know how far it is true. But I try to rewind my life and try to remember the past, and only the best moments come to mind.

The everlasting one was lighting pyre on my father’s dead body while I was just 11. I could not believe it and could not understand at that age. I thought it was not true. But while coming back from the burial ground, smiled at ‘Nedunchezian’ who stopped batting when he saw me walking back home. The next day when I walked back to the burial ground along with relatives, thought it could be a bad dream and my dad may sit and laugh at me. But realised the meaning of life, when I searched for copper coins among the ashes, and my ‘Periappa’ a retired school teacher, was talking about each bones found.

The first time when I went to Sabarimala after sixty days of fasting, and had a ‘Jyothi Darshan’ was a great moment. The same way the first time darshan of ‘Lord Balaji’ at Tirupathi was a great moment. Even last year while I was there, it was an action replay moment.

The first time when I had a darshan of the great saint of the Century “Sri Kanchi Kamakota peetam Chandrasekara Swamigal” else called as “ Periyavar” of Sanakarachariars is still before my eyes. I had felt the same when I had met saints like “Andavar” of Srimad Andavan Ashram, Srirangam. I think I met most of those great saints and poets during a “World Tamils Meet” held in Dasprakash Hotel, Egmore probably 30 years before.

One of my ex-colleague was the nephew of “Kirubananda Variar” and when there was a huge crowd waiting to have a glimpse of him in Mount Road my ex-colleague who spotted me pulled me out of the crowd and took me closer to him and introduced me. He blessed and asked to continue being good to all human beings. That was a great moment to receive blessings from such a great person.

The greatest moment in life was when the auspicious instruments were played, and when I tied ‘Thali’ (Mangalsutra) on my wife’s neck. I cannot explain the feeling. That is a great sense of belonging and to everyone’s surprise I started shedding tears, though wiped it quickly.

The next one was while waiting in the corridors of the maternity ward the whole night and when the nurse carried a baby wrapped in white towel and called my wife’s name. A nurse walking with a baby in a maternity ward became familiar since I had been seeing from the previous evening. So as soon as she called out the name, I rushed to know what it was all about, and she showed the baby and said “Look at your Dad”. I think she must have watched lots of movies. If any of you are bachelor and reading this, believe me, that is a great moment. Oh... dear! The way my son looked at me was marvellous. What a great moment it was! Felt so happy to see him. It is a great feeling and the same feelings repeated after the second arrival. This time my son was there to welcome his sister.

When my younger sister got married we all went to leave her in her in-laws house. After everyone left, I stayed back for few minutes since she wanted me to stay for a while. I too felt that she may feel bored and stayed back. But when I was about to leave, I could not resist tears which rolled on my cheeks. Her in-laws and all the ladies in the house became emotional.

I used to act in stage plays within our staff club with my erstwhile employer. Once we entered into a drama competition and I was given a consolation prize for my acting and received it from Director K.Balachander in Museum Theatre. It was a great moment.

I cannot forget my first day of shooting for a Tele Serial along with famous comedian ‘Vivek’and actor director ‘Ramesh Khanna’. That was a great experience. The whole crew was waiting. They explained my scene and dialogue. It was in ARS Gardens (Ambica & Radha Thottam) in Vadapalani. The scene was behind the bars in a prison. Yes... role was Kamanandha Swamigal. I was standing behind the lock up. This is the famous lock up which comes in every other Tamil movie. Every police station scene is shot there. We had couple of rehearsal and they came up very well. The first time when the director said ‘Light, Camera, Action’.. was a great moment.

Also, I cannot forget Vivek’s presence of mind and sense of humour. He has lots of talent and the best part was he respected every other colleagues. I met plenty of Cine stars during those shootings. It was an eighteen episodes or a bit more than that. My role was for 2 or 3 episodes and one of the episodes the story revolved around my character. As a climax I had to rape Vivek who was dressed as a girl in the serial. Vivek and Ramesh Khanna would call the police and I was arrested. More than the shooting audio dubbing was very challenging. The whole experience could be written in few posts. But the entire experience was memorable. Of course, those were the days when Sun TV was just becoming popular. Relatives and friends all over India called over phone to greet and it was a great moment. Probably if I had continued, who knows I would have been there in each and every serial that is being telecast now. Definitely I would have been in ‘Kolangal’ fighting with Abhi. Probably you would have hated my face. I had to stop acting only because I could not find a role, which suited my family. My Mother wanted me to act in serials like Ramayana and Mahabaratha, and that too roles like Lakshmana. My wife wanted me to act only in Serials where there were no ladies. My son wanted me to act as a ‘Super Man’ and he could not tolerate me being a bad man in the serial and getting arrested by police. I cannot forget my experiences in acting as a similar role of ‘Premananda Swami’.

I cannot forget the Audition test for news reader in Sun TV. It was nice to see myself reading a paragraph of news in plenty of TV’s kept opposite to me. I never heard anything after that.
For anyone, I bet flying across the borders first time would have been a great moment. I felt the same when I stepped out of the flight in France.

Moments involve hearing the news of Passing out exams, Interviews and it goes on and on. There are hundreds like these. How about yours?

21 September, 2007

Young World

Last evening my daughter, who is 5 years old, went for a walk along with my neighbour’s daughters aged 16 and 15, along with their pup. The walk was supposed to be only for few minutes. We had a guest and we were deeply involved in a conversation. After a while, we realised it was getting darker and my daughter had not returned. We hid our anxiety and waited for our guest to leave. After he left, we hurried to our neighbour to know where the girls had gone. Our neighbour said that she would go in search of them and bring them back. Within few minutes they were back. Though there was no reason to be worried (I would not have if it had been 20 years before) but still there are many things that have been happening around to worry about this.

Everyone knew the famous case of Jessica Chapman and Holy wells. The two young girls went for a walk in a place called Soham in England on August 4, 2002 and they disappeared. The entire country was alerted. After few days their dresses were traced and Ian Huntley, a caretaker in their school was arrested. He had lured them with toys or his pet into his house. What happened later was history.

For the past few months a doctor couple who went on holiday to Portugal along with their children complained about Madeline their daughter that she was missing from her bedroom in the hotel where they stayed. The case is still going on and there had been a recent twist in the case. Though Portugal police could not find the child yet, it has been recently believed that the parents would have been part to the whole episode. It is widely believed that the parents would not have done any harm to their kid. The DNA of the child matches with those found in the taxi hired by the couple after they claimed about the girl. The couple have hired the car and were using it after that. It is believed that the couple could have done something to the child (unbelievable) and would have carried the child in the car after announcing that their child was missing. There is lot of speculation on both ends. Whatever let be the end, it is pitiable to hear about the happenings to innocent kids nowadays.

Many years before, while I was travelling in a local electric train between Tambaram and Madras Beach in first class, there were few children who got into the train. I tried to pick up conversation with them, and two boys who looked like brothers were reluctant to even look at me. Just out of inquisitiveness, when I enquired about their school the elder one glanced at his younger and was answering smartly. It took few minutes for me to realise that the elder one was growing suspicious about my questions. Though the younger one was responding to my gestures, I decided to stop my actions and got into reading the newspaper.

Once my relative who came from US brought lots of little toys and was busy in distributing it to unknown children in Madras. One day when he visited us, he asked me to bring in lots of kids home and we requested our Milkman, Dhobi, Gardener and Housemaid to bring their children. He was happily distributing those toys and pencils and tiny little things to those kids and the kids were very happy. He relished the pleasure of seeing those happy faces and said that he had not seen children becoming happy in western countries on being given even a teddy bear of 3 feet high. I agreed with him.

Considering the atmosphere that is prevailing today around the world (including countries like India) is it not safe for kids to be on their own without parental guidance? Is the world becoming a place to be worried for letting children play by themselves? Should they be deprived of certain things which we had in our early life? I have been looked suspicious many times when I wanted to smile at those innocent faces. This is not the same with most of the parents. Few parents do acknowledge when we smile at their cute kids.

Few weeks before, I came across few children sitting opposite to me in a local bus while their Mom was busy finishing off a sandwich. One of the kids was so naughty and was staring at me and just to ease the situation I showed few comic gesture. Suddenly he started showing back few too. It was enjoyable and the Mom suddenly said “Tom... Could you please stop showing faces?”
The child replied “He started it first.” and pointed his finger towards me.

Another day when I got into a bus, a cute little child started looking at my eyes. I was attracted so much of the child’s sharp eyes, I smiled at him. The child smiled back at me and shouted...”Hey... Daddy... Mom... look... Daddy” and showed his finger at me.

The whole bus roared into laughter and the mom replied “He is not your Dad. He is just a man...Keep quiet. Dad has gone to work”.

I removed my eyes from the kid.

I wanted to talk about this incident to my family at dinner. Just before while I was about to start the topic, there was talk about an Old man whom our family had met few days before. My son said “I hate him. Something in me tells that he could be a paedophile...”

I am still laughing over it.

19 September, 2007

Friendship and Promise

Last weekend after taking my family out for shopping, we got into the local bus to return home. As we got into the bus, and were settling down to our seats, we saw two old ladies who asked whether we live in such and such place. One of them kept looking at my teen age son and asked us whether he is our son. I replied ‘Yes’ with a slight hesitation. She said “Oh... he is a lovely lad “. She continued “The other day I was walking with my shopping bags and he came and offered help. I have never come across a teenager offering help in this country so far. I was very glad about it “. As parents we felt very happy. We had moved just few weeks before and our son never told us anything about it. I was very glad about these comments and felt proud of him.

This reminded me of an Old gentle lady next to our house when we moved into a new house, 20 years before. Any part of this world, it is easy to make friendship with Old people and kids. Probably they are the ones who have time and are innocent with their experience and inexperience. We had just moved in and I smiled at this young girl of 5 or 6 years. She invited me to her house and her Grandma was the only one in the house. Her parents had gone to work and her elder sister to school. This Grandma immediately offered me a lemon juice and became a good friend. She started treating me like her grandson and told me that I resemble her grandson as well.

From that day, we became good neighbours and our family became closer to them. I was a bachelor then. The Grandma took me for granted and sought my help during any time when she felt difficult. Years rolled and we became very close. One day she took a promise from me. I could not avoid it. She liked me so much that she wanted me to be one among the four people to carry her dead body to the burial ground when she died. It was difficult to promise, but I promised. Years rolled and I was constantly in touch with them. She became very close to our family. I made it a point to keep enquiring about her health whenever I had to travel out of place. Suddenly one day I received the bad news. She died somewhere and her body was brought in. I could not control tears rolling on my cheek when I had to lift her body. The burial ground was at a quite distance from their house. Many people were taking turns in the other 3 positions. Lot of them offered me to handover to them. I refused. I carried her until the burial ground with a heavy heart. She often talked about this promise whenever she met me. It was personal between both of us. So, though at times I felt a bit difficult while carrying, I continued without resting my shoulders.

While we were returning few of those who came to the graveyard were talking about the weight of the Grandma’s body and how they felt difficult to carry her. Suddenly one pointed out to me and said “This gentleman is so strong. He never allowed anyone of us to exchange or take his position”. I did not want to tell anything to them. I just smiled and said that I was very close to her and just wanted to do it myself.

Even today I feel satisfied that I could satisfy my ‘Grandma’ friend. That was one of the best promise I kept for my friend.

Last week I felt happy, that my son is doing the right job.

18 September, 2007

Radio & TV Quiz shows

In one of his audio blog recently Narayanan Venkitu had mentioned about the funny answers in a TV quiz in US. Sometimes it is shocking to know people who appear in a TV quiz programme do not know even few basics. Few years before there was a programme in a private channel in Tamil and the famous comedian SV Sekar was conducting the Telephone quiz. For a basic and easy question the viewer wanted a clue and SVS said that giving a clue for that question is equivalent to telling the answer. It was so simple and it made me to laugh a lot. I started watching it regularly just for the sense of humour of SVS. Some people used to admit that they were not sound in general knowledge and hand over the phone to a kid in their house. Recently one of my colleagues sent a mail about the way it is answered in few local FM’s and TV programmes here.

Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?
Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.
Theakston: There's a clue in the title.
Contestant: Leicester.

Jeremy Paxman: What is another name for 'cherrypickers' and'cheesemongers'?
Contestant: Homosexuals.
Paxman: No. They're regiments in the British Army who will be very upsetwith you.

Anne Robinson: Oscar Wilde, Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Archer have allwritten books about their experiences in what: prison, or the ConservativeParty?
Contestant: The Conservative Party.

DJ Mark: For 10 Pounds, what is the nationality of the Pope?
Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?

Anne Robinson: In traffic, what 'J' is where two roads meet?
Contestant: Jool carriageway?

Bamber Gascoigne: What was Gandhi's first name?
Contestant: Goosey, goosey?

GWR FM (Bristol)
Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant: I don't know, I wasn't watching it then.

Phil: What's 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two ones with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?

Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
A: Forrest Gump.

Leslie: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er . . .
Leslie: He makes bread .. .
Contestant: Er . . .
Leslie: He makes cakes .. .
Contestant: Kipling Street?

Presenter: In what year was President Kennedy assassinated?
Contestant: Erm .. .
Presenter: Well, let's put it this way - he didn't see 1964.
Contestant: 1965?

Phil Tufnell: How many Olympic Games have been held?
Contestant: Six.
Tufnell: Higher!
Contestant: Five.

Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona.
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any countries in Spain.

RADIO 1 EARLY MORNING SHOWPresenter: How many toes would three people have in total?
Contestant: 23.

Jeff Owen: In which country is Mount Everest?
Contestant (long pause): Er, it's not in Scotland, is it?

Girdler: I'm looking for an island in the Atlantic whose name includes the letter 'e'.
Contestant: Ghana.
Girdler: No, listen. It's an island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Contestant: New Zealand.

Question: What is the world's largest continent?
Contestant: The Pacific

Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth ... er. ..er . . . three?

Eamonn Holmes: There are three states of matter: solid, liquid and what?
Contestant: Jelly.

Steve Penk: What is the name of the French-speaking Canadian state?
Contestant: America? Portugal? Canada? Mexico? Italy? Spain?

Searle: In which European country is Mount Etna?
Caller: Japan.
Searle: I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that,I can let you try again.
Caller: Er . . . Mexico?

Paul Wappat: How long did the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel last?
Contestant (after long pause): Fourteen days.

Jeff Owen: Where did the D-Day landings take place?
Contestant (after pause): Pearl Harbor?

Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Contestant: Holland?
Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet.
Contestant: Iceland? Ireland?
Denham (helpfully): It's a bad line. Did you say Israel?
Contestant: No.

Wood: What 'K' could be described as the Islamic Bible?
Contestant: Er . . .
Wood: It's got two syllables . . . Kor . . .
Contestant: Blimey?
Wood: Ha ha ha ha, no. The past participle of run . . ..
Contestant: (Silence)
Wood: OK, try it another way. Today I run, yesterday I . . .
Contestant: Walked?

Melanie Sykes: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferercan fall asleep at any time?
Contestant: Nostalgic.

Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day. Which jungle-swingingcharacter clad only in a loincloth did he play?
Contestant: Jesus.

17 September, 2007

Art of listening

Every human being is born with talents. Few need to develop skills in which they are lacking. The most important is listening to others. We fail to realise how important listening is. In today’s fast food world people do not have time. At the same time, I honestly believe that if little time is spent in listening to others, most of the problems that exist between humans will vanish. Especially listening with relationship, siblings, friends, and colleagues is an art.

I have lots of friends. In general, I would like to listen and talk as well. There is nothing like having a good company for conversing, especially during travelling or while being at home. Only certain people are very good in talking, and certain people are good at listening. People who are good in one can try to develop the other one which they are not good. There are few who could listen for hours together. It is really interesting to talk something useful to such people. Listening is very essential to excel in any field. Once when I had been in marketing, I had a nice boss who always listened to his colleagues, especially to those who worked under him. After hearing to our talk, he used to pass his views. We felt very happy with him especially when he listened to our grievances. It was immaterial to analyse whether he fulfilled our demands or not, but he showed interest in listening. This earned a lot of respect for him.

Listening helps us to improve other skills automatically. By being a good listener, we are able to analyse the problem. Then we discuss again the issue that is before our hand, and draw few strategies and try to solve the problem. If we are not good listeners, we hardly solve the problems and leave them unattended. People think they waste time in listening to others. Actually, it is the other way which it works. Spending a little more time in listening avoids time being spent unnecessarily in evolving plans those are not required.

I had few junior colleagues who were always hasty in doing things. They always thought that they knew everything from birth. They never wanted to listen to a detailed conversation. I came to know later that they learnt by experience. I wish some of my elder relatives are still alive. One of my relative was very good in general knowledge and English literature. On his own interest he developed his knowledge on Homeopathy and was a Doctor for his village. He had so much of knowledge on lots of subjects; it was great to listen to him. When we visited his village, it was a treat for our ears.

Sometimes, I motivate my children to talk and try to know things from their side. It is a great feeling to listen to children. I have admired them for their innocent way of expressions. During our school days, we had moral studies classes. Storytelling and listening was encouraged. I do not know whether they have this nowadays. It is a great feeling to see the expressions while listening. Most of the religions have preachers. It is also a great art to preach something. As a young boy, I have listened to lots of religious discourses. Since I studied in a Christian school, I have listened to lots of Bible discourses. We had been taken back by many of those preachers. There are few stories which are very fresh in our mind, because of such good lecturers. They had done a very good influence on our lives. Even today indirectly I am influenced by such good speakers. We had heard many Hindu religious discourses in our younger days. Bagavathars like Needamangalam Krishnamurthy Sasthrigal, Jayaram Sastrigal, Yembar Vijayaraghavachariar, Kirubananda Variar, were those few gifted scholars to whom I had listened in my younger days. I cannot forget lectures of Jiddu Krishnamurthy in Adyar. I personally think, my earlier days of listening to such great people has helped me a lot in my life.

Last week my son and I went for a long walk. We met an old couple waiting for a bus. I just picked up conversation. I found lots of medals on the gentleman’s coat. Just out of inquisitiveness I enquired about those medals and we found a great smile on the couple’s faces. He started talking about his experiences in Army. He went in detail about each medal. What a surprise! One of the medals was given to him by Winston Churchill. He was a world war veteran and he was thrilled to talk about his experiences. His wife said that her husband was 85 and she intervened to help him when he ran short of few names. Probably the conversation went on for 10 minutes and we both listened to them with patience. After a while on seeing the gentleman getting exhausted, we thanked him and walked away. My son realised how much we learnt within those ten minutes.

There was a great speaker in Tamil Literature called “Silamboli Su. Chellappan”. I do not know how many of my blog readers would have heard his speeches. I still remember his quotes during one of his speech to youngsters. “Young man, please do not try to become independent before 18. If you could be disciplined until 18, then you can be independent after 18. But if you try to be independent before 18, then you will be forced to be disciplined and dependent after 18”. We were a bunch of youngsters who listened to his speech then. I have seen it practically in my life. I see many of them who were on their own too early in their life without listening to others. We know where they are now.
We do not lose anything by listening. This is another art which is fading now.

06 September, 2007

Art of writing

A child gets fascinated with little things. They have fascination towards moving things, noisy, colourful and so on. The first few months when they are in bed they are attracted towards colours, movements and sound. Once they start sitting, they want to touch and feel. Once they start moving they want to grab, and their mind and hand coordination activities starts. That is really fun. They grab a pen, pencil or chalk and start scribbling on floors. They get quickly attracted towards this art.

From Childhood days, I was attracted towards pencils and chalks. There were days I used to sleep with chalks next to me. I remember having scribbled few drawings on the floor with a piece of chalk I had next to my pillow. WOW! Those wonderful days! Also, it is during childhood we get attracted towards few teachers. I cannot forget my primary school teachers Mr.James and Miss Shyamala (then) who impressed me with their beautiful handwriting. I developed a great interest in writing neatly from them. They repeatedly used to say, that to have a good handwriting you should use pencil a lot and switch over to fountain pens only in senior schools. My headmaster also was strict about it. Even last week when one of my colleague was impressed by my handwriting I just wanted to thank my primary school teachers Mr.James and Miss Shyamala. Probably they must have retired by now. I owe a lot to them. Because of good handwriting, I wanted to write a lot. Even today, I would love to write on a piece of paper what I think before putting it into action. Then as we grew into our teens, we got a sudden interest with our cousins who were living far away and then started writing letters. I still possess few letters written by my cousins during childhood days.

Writing is a great art. Let it be in any form. Just last evening while lying down on my ease chair and enjoying a cool breeze and warm sunshine at the back of my new house, memories rolled over. One of my friends had sent me a forward which was about the old and younger generation. The younger generation boasts about the technology from man landing on moon till the nano technology and blames the old of talking about those days. The old man appreciates for all that are new and asks the youngster what they have left for the future? It was a wonderful piece of forward sent by my friend Gideon from US. True! I pity at this generation. They are missing a plenty of things but from their angle certain things seems to be fine.

Last week I saw couple of youngsters walking with their latest electronic diary/phone/palm top computer or whatever it is and scribbling something with a plastic stick. I could only take a deep breath. Are we going to lose this art of writing? I still hold lots of small pieces of papers scribbled with particulars inside my wallet. Once in a while after reading them I destroy them. I started using digital diary in early 90’s and after losing valid data thrice, threw it away and never rely on them. I still have diaries (not digital though) and write with my hand. I doubt my kids. They are already into the electronic stuff. Anytime it gives a great pleasure, when you receive a handwritten letter or greetings.
But honestly how many of us have the habit of writing nowadays?
Is this art going to die?
Is the skill going to be developed only to excel in their school or University level?
Even at certain levels there are other kind of optional questions which require just a tick. Are they not going to miss the art of writing? Are they not going to miss the joy of seeing grandma or grandpa’s lovely handwriting on a piece of paper? Will writing become a talk of the past? My last hand written letter was few years before. I read somewhere that within another 50 years, those who could write will be rare and they will be looked at amazingly. Will someone discover it after 50 years and start a revolution? We could argue that we save papers and help deforestation and all the green stuff.

I remember one of my relative in the hospital bed who was constantly looking at one of the greeting card and a letter written by his brother from far away land, and the joy it brought him. I am sure that millions across the world will agree to this. Again, this is one of those which we may lose as the years roll by.

(It is a shame that I could only type this on a computer, even for initial draft. Where are we heading?)

17 August, 2007

Sketches during Journeys

For the past weeks I am really blessed and meeting quite interesting people during my journeys. One night I had a British couple sitting opposite to me. I never mind to start the conversation and opened up and found that they were returning after viewing a stage performance in London. They were from a country side and occasionally travel to London to see good stage performances. They were busy reading books and I started sketching. Unless you talk to someone you never know many things about them. It was interesting to know that the Gentleman had been to India through job, and had stayed in places like Bangalore, Cochin for few months. Our journey was quite interesting and we never realised the length of the journey.
Last month few people at my work had given resignation and while going in detail about their new jobs, it was pleasant to know from my present boss, that his new company may send him frequently to Chennai for training. He was very happy about it. Though he had visited once Jaipur for holidays, he was excited to know about Chennai. The great joke of this is on talking detail, he was surprised when I said that ‘Chennai’ and ‘Madras’ are the same. He laughed and said that it was nice talking about it to me, since he had couple of friends in Madras, and was worrying that he has not heard about Chennai. To some extent, some of them are familiar with ‘Mumbai’ and ‘Bombay’. Even during one of our meetings yesterday, there was some reference about ‘Shennai’. I thought it was a different place, by the way pronounced by someone who addressed the meeting. Within few minutes I realised what she was talking about. Will our ‘Manbumigus’ assure us that they will not change the names anymore.
My son picked up the pictures of Marlon Brando and Rowan Atkinson and wanted me to try sketching both of them last week. I have always admired MB’s acting. I have seen most of Tamil Actors imitating Marlon Brando’s favourite action of scratching the centre of head. I have seen Kamal, Radha Ravi, even Anandh Raj in some or other movie. I presume the sketch has come a bit closer. Prakash Raj is another good actor. He does not imitate anyone and has its own style. I think it was a bit tough to draw near his nose.
For long time I was a great fan of Kapil. It was nice to read an interview in one of the National Newspaper recently. I preserved the picture for my train journey and tried my hand with Kapil. He had been such a great all rounder. Kapil you rocked us those days! Somehow I became very nostalgic after having drawn Kapil. Once I reached my destination, the Taxi was waiting to pick me up. I started convesing with the driver and found that he was of Jamaican origin. On knowing that he had knowledge of cricket, we started conversing about famous Jamaican cricketers like Courtney Walsh, Joel Garner and I think of late it is Shivnarain Chanderpaul. We exchanged lots of past glory. I was surprised when he said that he always admired Farookh Engineer, and Bishen Bedi. There were talks about Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes. Believe me or not! We were so engrossed he did not bother to move after dropping me and was still talking about old cricket days at least for few minutes after I got down. The best of that night was when he mentioned about a six hit by Viv Richards off Bob Willis last ball of a match. Viv Richards pretended as if he was walking with the bat under his arms and suddenly hit the ball for a six. Oh..dear.. we both wondered about it, and he parted away after both of us complimenting each other on the past cricket remembrances.
The good and sad news is my family may be joining me for good next week and my weekend journeys may come to an end.

10 August, 2007

That is Life! Isn't it?

I have been going through plenty of hardships this week. It was always my habit to believe people. In 1987, when I went to buy a two wheeler for the first time, which was a ‘Yezdi Classic 2’, innocently asked the mechanic in the showroom to test it well? Many of my friends gave me many tips. One of my friend said that we need to talk as if we knew everything so that we are not fooled. I did not worry too much. I thought honesty will always play an important role. I asked the mechanic to do a good job for me, and told him that I was getting it only on loan, and I cannot afford for any major repair immediately. Until I bought my motorcycle, I did not realise there is a huge expense in the name of petrol. My first experience of giving a hundred rupee note for few litres of petrol is unexplainable. I think it was less than Rs.10/- then. It was hard to believe that the motor vehicle runs on petrol and we need to pay every time you want it. If I think about it today I could only laugh.

Later when I bought a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle, I was more experienced and the financial status was better than before. But honestly believing quality had not faded.

The same did happen when I wanted to buy a piece of land, and I completed the transaction of deciding, buying a piece of land within 3 days and finished buying it. I have always believed what the seller said!

Now, I am in the process of relocating my family and undergoing a great amount of stress in buying a house. In UK, there is not much of a difference between the monthly rent and the monthly repayment towards mortgage. Probably if you could afford to pay another few hundred pounds depending on the value of your mortgage, it all works the same. I thought everyone would be gentle, and behaved according to my instinct. Only yesterday, I came to know 90 percent of them involved in the transaction are trying to play their little game on an innocent person like me. When I was born in this world, I started believing everyone. My parents taught me good, and I still follow it. But why do others keep fooling around. This is really disheartening.

I am not a guy who wants to complicate things. I want to be straightforward and have been glad to meet many straightforward persons in my life. I do not want to tell lies and hide things. I believe in calling a spade a spade and get away from such people. But why do all wrong things happen to only people of good thoughts!

I sought admission for my child in a normal good school and we have been denied. He is in an important year. But I know many people who have lied of their residence, and have given some false addresses and sought admission. They were all given admissions as they wanted. But when I want to give genuinely, my residential address is being doubted. There are inspections and enquiries. Though I have given my original address, the authorities believe it is not compelling for them to consider for some other vague reason. I have appealed against their decision. Why should this again happen for someone who is true?

Is being true something to be punished?

I am failing to understanding the reality. What do I need to teach my kids? Do I need to teach to be true or change according to the world? Can’t I teach the same what my parents taught me. Where is the world heading to? For being true, we are laughed at our back. Someone known to me commented at my back that I am not smart.

Again in my current rented house, we started losing many facilities but still paying the same rent. The electric shower is not working, there are innumerable other problems. The landlord is keeping on saying that she had not met a wonderful tenant like me. I am tolerant and want to adjust believing that she has financial problems. But she owns few more houses and this is her business. Why do people mistake our good thoughts and try to behave silly? Where am I heading to? I am losing strength to fight against such people.

I will be glad if you could share your experiences and thoughts through my comments section.
Am I not seeing the world properly or do I need to be ‘smart’ really?

That is life. Isn’t it?

06 August, 2007

Peyarai Kettaley Athiruthu Illai!!!

Few weekends before, on a Sunday evening, the local train was going very slow. I managed to reach London Liverpool street station and found that it was crowded than normal. I heard that few lines were closed. We had to wait on the Westbound platform for few minutes. I have never waited for a local train more than 2 or 3 minutes. But on that day, I waited for more than 15 minutes. Started getting worried that I may miss my train at London Euston. After getting down at Euston cross literally started running with my baggage, and rushed to my platform. This train again, was overcrowded. Somehow, I managed to get my favourite seat. Only one could sit opposite to me, and a young man with his Laptop arrived there. The train was getting crowded. I felt sorry for a lady who had to stand with her newly born baby in the pram. I offered her my next seat and she declined it. I knew that it could be difficult for her to be seated leaving the baby on the Pram. The train was overcrowded. I was wondering whether to open my sketch book or not. I opened my bag half heartedly. Then I found a Tamil Magazine and started turning the pages. My hands stopped on seeing our Super star photo of the famous Shivaji. Just thought of it and took my drawing kit. A fat old desi came and sat next to me. As I started to sketch the outline, an Old English man was enquiring whether anyone knew the latest score of the Test Match between India and England. When he passed me he stopped looking at the picture of Rajini. The young man opposite to me was often peeping into my sketch note.
Just when I was about to complete the picture I felt great. I found something unusual. I started observing it. The young man gave a last look. I could not hide anymore and openly showed him my drawing. He was stunned. He asked me who it was and said the drawing was fine. Why did everyone who were passing beside stop? Could it be the Charisma. My picture is not great. But the person whom I have drawn is a very interesting person.
If he had not tried, he would have been still employed with KSRTC and blowing his whistle. I appreciate his self confidence. He became the trend setter for many ordinary looking people to approach the Cineworld. I like his style and speed. I have enjoyed his old films. He is a down to earth personality. He has millions of fans and I am sure he will raise the South Indian Film Industry fame.
The heat here has started becoming unbearable and for so many other reasons, I wanted to shave my head. Just to give surprise to my kids, I shaved my head. Just to add humour to my post added the picture here.
Rajini fans, please pardon me if my drawing does not look like your thalaivar! Whatever it is
'Perai Kettaley Athiruthu Illai'.
I request the parents who read my blog not to use my picture to scare your kids for eating their food.

02 August, 2007

Finding Time for everything

As life progresses it is becoming tougher to find time for everything. My memory goes back to Chennai where I had lived my major part of my life. We lived in suburbs and travelling to the City from suburbs like Tambaram itself was very tedious. I have seen ladies combing their hair, arranging the flowers in sequence, and eating their breakfast in Kanchipuram and Chingleput trains. If it was a Friday, we can hear ladies chanting slogas in Ladies compartment. Now the flash back ends. Here in United Kingdom, when I travel, I find most of the ladies concentrating on their make ups and hair do while travelling. It is so nice to see them doing it with their foldable mirrors in their hand bags. Also, there are few who open their sandwich boxes and start having their breakfasts. I was wondering how life and people are all the same, wherever they live.
My wife reminded me of some technician who visited home and was stuck in the kitchen looking at our typical pickles bottle. He raised his eyebrows on seeing the name on the Gongura pickle bottle. I read it once more. It was written as ‘Hibiscus Cannabinus’. I suddenly remembered this during one of my journey and started smiling. I did not bother whether anyone noticed.
During one of the Tram journeys in Manchester, I had a peculiar experience. Trams here, run on rails and stop in the Railway platforms. Suddenly at some point, they get into the town and start running on the roads. It is a great experience. One of these days, I was travelling in Manchester and realised that Old Trafford was on the way. Many times I have seen the station empty or just with one or two passengers. This time, I ensured to have a look at the ground. The cricket ground can be viewed from the Tram for few seconds, when the tram passes the station. If you get down to the station you can see the ground clearly. It was really great to have a glimpse of West Indies – England Test match. Some English bowler was walking towards his bowling end and I could see from the Tram, the crowd roaring and the batsman taking his position.I felt excited. I remember seeing such scenes while passing RKM grounds in TNagar, Marina Grounds in Triplicane. This was totally different. At the Old Trafford station the Tram got filled up. There were few English men near me in traditional hat and formal dresses. I asked them the score and they were equally excited about Panesar’s bowling. I had the same experience when I found 3 old gentlemen in London tubes discussing about Cricket. On that day, there was a friendly match between England and Brazil in the newly built Wembley stadium. These old men were surprised when I enquired them about the match they had witnessed. They were talking about a county match whom they had witnessed between Somerset and someone. When I started talking about Somerset side in those days when Botham and Viv Richards were playing they got excited. They did not expect this from me. They expressed it saying that when people of my age are rushing to Wembley it was surprising that I was not talking about Football and talking about Cricket of their younger days.
Since I spend most of my travelling in drawing and reading newspapers as well, these days it is interesting to get some freaky news. The latest news which was on headlines in the local newspapers was about a Bull with sacred status of a Hindu temple which was slaughtered because it had Bovine TB. It is believed Bovine TB could spread to other cattle in this area. The Bull belonged to a Hindu temple in West Wales and this was the reason for the news to be in headlines. There was a big hue and cry. None of the protesters were of Indian origin and most of them assembled in the Temple were non-Asian ethnicity. My point here is not whether it was right or wrong. While I was studying in school, there was a beef stall which was called as A-1 beef stall. Every day while passing through the beef stall, we used to see hundreds of cattle being brought in Lorries for slaughter. As kids we used to be interested to know what will happen to them. Some of my inquisitive friends used to peep through the coconut leaves thatch to look at those cows. I used to feel pity for them. On reading about this Shambo, I felt for those thousands of cattles, which were slaughtered not because of Bovine TB, but just for the meat.
Could you imagine drinkable water being sold for exorbitant price in a flood area? There were few traders who plunged into timely business of selling drinkable water in a flooded area. This did not happen in Assam or Bangladesh. This happened in UK in certain parts of Gloucestershire county. It was funny to read such thing happening in the western world. One of my colleagues could not reach home because of the breach in the roads and had to stay in a hotel to reach his home on the next day. Certain parts have been very badly affected and water has entered most of the houses and business establishments. All this is happening in summer. It is getting warmer in the winter and floods in summer. Thinking about the disasters it is really scary.
Of all these, the interesting part of last few weeks was a training which I attended. I was sent for training on First Aids by my employer. It was a very useful training for 4 days. The training was conducted by St.John’s Ambulance. Oh... my... what a great training it was. I have gained great confidence now. I can rush towards victims if I am nearby, and do major first aids like resuscitation, and retrieve the heart functioning stuff. There was a test on the last day, and we had live examples (though rubber toys of man size) to be done emergency first aids. I had four victims, one victim was not breathing, one had head injury, one had cut his fingers, and one had broken limb. Now, I am a qualified first aider. If I had known these 15 years before, I would have saved those 5 or 6 lives, which died before my eyes on road accidents and trains.
If possible I shall detail those basic techniques in my future posts.
I shall publish my drawing which brought in surprise from my fellow passengers last week in my next post. It is really exciting! Just wait until then!

25 July, 2007

Sketches so far

It has become a routine nowadays to have my pencil and sketch book in my back pack, just like other essential stuff required for a journey. Every week it is a different experience. I keep some newspapers or magazines with me, to draw few interesting pictures. From the day one I entered UK and all these years I have not seen a paper without headlines about Beckham. He is one of the most popular sportsman in UK. Now that he has joined LA Galaxy in USA he was in the headlines again. This picture tempted me to draw Becks.
On 08 th July, when I looked for newspaper in my bag, I found few Tamil magazines. Poet Vairamuthu's picture in one of those magazines was really tempting me to try my hand.
There were lots of news about the outgoing PM Tony, and incoming Brown. One of the newspaper had published few photographs which showed how Tony is transforming into Brown. It was a very good thought of the photographer. I always admired Tony for his dynamic personality. His speeches are his pluspoints. The whole nation was eagerly waiting for Brown. He is unassumable right now. His face also drew my attention.

On 15 th July, I reached earlier for my train. I did not know what to do. Then I decided to open my sketch book in front of London Euston station. I sat quietly in one of those benches and started drawing the station. People were coming and going. Those two were standing for few minutes and chatting. Also the person on the bench was there for few minutes.

On the same evening while I was travelling the train stopped at Milton Keynes Central for few minutes. It could be hardly 2-3 minutes. I have drawn whatever I could see from my seat. The station was empty and this is how the station looks on a Sunday evening around 7.45 p.m.
I never worry if I do not carry any newspapers or magazines. In UK most of the commuters in public transports have the habit of leaving their newspapers on their seat, after they finish reading. So others who would like to read them can take them. In case, if I do not have any papers to read and draw, I look around to see whether there is any paper around. If not, sometimes I pick up the Virgin magazines and pick up few pictures. One of those is the picture of Yorkshire street with boat on the river and houses on one side. Also, the other man whom I have drawn with beard is from one of those magazines. I think he is an Italian and there was some article about him.
I do not need to say anything about Hillary Clinton. She was there in one of those papers on one day. Her picture was appealing. I enjoyed sketching that too.
Most of the times when people see me spreading my sketch book and pencil kit they become inquisitive. It is nice to see them becoming inquisitive about my activity. Few see from their sides and pretend as if they are not noticing me. But they do try to have a glimpse at my drawing when they move around. Few openly exclaim. Once a Jamaican girl asked me whether I could draw her. I politely said that I am not a great artist and she should not be offended if the picture does not resemble her. She kept quiet. Once two African boys who were sitting opposite were often looking at the pictures, during their conversation. Once when their stations arrived, they had a final look and said it has come out well.
On the whole, I enjoy every time I travel. Last week I met a lady who was very interesting. Only few have conversations during the journey. I pick up conversation easily. This lady, was so good. Though she often said that she was not highly educated, she had immense knowledge about many things. She must be over 60 and was returning back after visiting her daughter. She said that her daughter visits India very often. She was talking about the Indian culture and said that she was very fascinated to hear about it. It seems her daughter likes India so much and keeps visiting very often, through her job. She has few Gujarathi speaking friends and knew a little about India. We had convesation ranging from Indian Culture, Children, Problems in moving places and schools, etc. She said that her husband being a Jew, wishes more love spreads among fellow human beings. She said that inspite of being a Jew he likes Germans. We also had conversation about Gandhi and she said that it is a shame that he was killed by his own religious person. She said that she regards Indian origin people, for the reason they have come from the land where Gandhi was born. I felt really proud about Gandhi.
I am eagerly waiting for this Friday. I don't know who will be sitting next to me. Travelling does give lots of exposure.
I don't care even if the train is empty as long as I have my pencil and sketch book.
Next post you will know what I mean! I have drawn a very interesting personality! Guess who!

13 July, 2007

Man on Wheels

Every one as a child would have dreamt of driving a car. Especially boys have the habit of taking anything in the form of round, and use it as steering and run on the road murmuring "Drrr.......r..........m...............................”. As a child even I have done it. It was a great thrill when I learnt to pedal a cycle. Same way, hours of learning to ride a motor cycle cannot be forgotten. I have also gone on driving classes in India and learned to drive a car which was really exciting. But the traffic rules and driving standards differ from country to country. I knew those were different standard and always wanted to learn it well.

After coming to UK, I did not intend to learn driving and never wanted to drive with a foreign license(Indian). It is illegal to drive and you should have obtained a International Driving Permit before arriving in UK. The vehicles are driven in a much disciplined manner and there are great driving standards maintained in western world. Few of my friends were eager to drive and though they were half baked, they still took the risk of driving. I never wanted to do that, because having not known 100 percent, you put others in risk. This I thought was unfair. Also, I was sick of being on heavy traffics, having been on road for fifteen years in India. I really wanted to peacefully use the common transport and walk, and cycle rather than rushing on the road. In countries like UK since the public transport is easily available, there was no pressure for me to learn driving. Also, my work was just at the end of the road, from my residence. Having lived few years, and the family growing big, we felt the need of a family vehicle and thus I entered into the process of learning to drive. We need to pass a theory test and a Hazard test together. Though the theory test proves your knowledge, the Hazard test is a skill on clicking the mouse. There will be 15 clippings, which comes one by one on clicking the mouse. A camera is being fixed on a car and the recording is done. So, when the clipping starts you will feel like you are driving the car. As you are going from the driver’s seat, there will be few hazards happening, and likely to happen on the road. So, when you are just approaching a hazard, you are supposed to click the mouse. If you could see the hazard at the right moment and click then you get a good score. Very first time I practised it at home, I could not score a pass mark. I tried two or three times and it was a great fun. Then my son got attracted to it and he scored higher marks than me. He did not know any of the traffic rules, but could score more marks. When I asked him tips, he suggested that it has to be treated like a Video game or Computer game. The problem with the hazard test is if you click too many times, you will not get any mark for identifying the hazard and you may have to go to the next clipping. We had to buy several CD’s to practise various kinds of hazard. The funniest part of this test is, even though as a driver, if you identify a hazard like a cyclist crossing a junction from a corner, it has been programmed in such a way, that you get mark only if the car reaches a particular place and you click the mouse. You should not click neither in advance, nor a second late. Being an experienced person, I used to see those hazards well in advance, and never scored mark for that, because of clicking in advance. The final day came and I cleared the Theory exam which is of very good standard. I heard that this Hazard perception test is not in USA. Only after passing your theory test, you will be allowed to take your practical test.

Now you need to learn the next skill. It is not very easy to pass a driving test in UK. I have heard just before the hazard perception test was introduced, most of the truck drivers were asked to take a practise test, and test the software and 70% of them failed. I wish they all should be asked to take a driving test nowadays in UK. I do not know how many of them would pass. The driving standard is very high. Many of my friends who have driven in USA, having come to UK have told me that the roads are very narrow and driving is not as easier as in USA. I do agree. There had been a lot of talk about the way practical driving tests are conducted in UK. I would say you need Good luck to pass your driving test. Even the last minute just before entering the driving test centre, you will be forced to make a mistake by the inexperienced driver ahead. Especially in London, it is so difficult, since there are lot of illegal drivers, and drivers with those international driving permit. Even if you are perfect, I do not know from where they come and cause problem while you take a test. They rush up and scare you when you take a three point turn, or a left corner reverse, and even if you do not make a mistake, they force you to make a mistake. Driving test is a real nightmare. However best you drive you never know. I have had many moments in the past having driven wonderfully during the test and waiting for the result from the Examiner’s mouth. The disappointment grows in large, when they point out some silly mistake. Those mistakes have a benefit of doubt. For example, waiting to let a car pass on the main road could be marked as ‘Undue Hesitation’. Once while I crossed a pedestrian crossing, there was an Old lady chatting with someone else busily and never showed any sign of crossing, but the examiner pressed the brake and said that I should have waited. If I had braked there were possibilities of him saying that I showed undue hesitation? If somebody in UK said that they have passed driving in their first attempt, they were merely lucky. (According to me they should be the luckiest person on the earth!).

OK! Why all this moaning! I was lucky enough just few weeks before to be qualified to drive on the roads of UK.

YES! I passed my driving test in UK (and fit enough to be a driving instructor which I will definitely do in the future). I am happy at last my driving skills are recognised. I owe the credit to all of my instructors who always believed my driving was of great standard, and it was most unfortunate for not having passed before. The excitement is only to know that if I had not done this time, I should have started from the scratch, since my theory pass was getting invalid the next week.

The above picture was sent by one of my colleague on hearing the news! It was captioned as 'Someone got a photo of Bal’s driving test' … LOL...I liked the sense of humour.

03 July, 2007

Last week sketches

Last week was hectic and I did not know what to draw. So thought of reading a book and started reading 'Malgudi Days' . I was very impressed with the cartoon on the cover of the book. Immediately took my pencil and sketch book and tried to copy the same. That is what you see on this page. A lad hitting a ball with his Cricket bat, where the story and drawing were originally by RK brothers. I realised that it is not easy to draw something from someone's drawings. Though I have tried to draw similarly to what I found on the cover, I am sure that I was not perfect. After finishing it within few minutes, thought of drawing someone whom I could see live in the train. I found this gentleman of African Origin a bit attractive to be drawn. He was busy conversing with some friend. I scribbled him before he could realise that I was sketching him.
Anyhow, I was glad that I could finish drawing him too. I had an interesting incident last week while drawing. Let me narrate it in my next post.
If anyone of you had been to the Trade fair exhibitions, that is being held in Island grounds,Chennai (India), you would have seen some art students drawing portraits. I think it was in 1981 or 1982, I acted as a model to be drawn as a portrait. Do you know who drew me? It was nobody than Sabu Cyril. He was a student in Arts College of Madras then. I made a note of this name. I spoke with his teacher and took back the portrait he drew me. I think it should be still there in India in my house. I knew that the artist is going to become very popular. He was calm and quiet. He was so good with his hand. I was glad and excited when he became very popular with his talents in Art direction for movies. Drawing is really a great art!

23 June, 2007

Hidden skill

Cartooning has been my favourite hobby from childhood days. My dad was associated with Stationery and Artist's materials business and used to bring home lots of brushes and different kinds of pencils. I always had a curiosity on using them. Once he gave me few of them and asked to draw. He was very impressed and encouraged. The sad part is he did not live long to encourage me. He had brought home sketches of him drawn by famous artists like Latha ( who used to draw for historical stories in leading Tamil magazine) and Raakee who used to draw cartoons for Thuqlaq cover in those days. I was impressed by it and started showing interest on them. I admired many cartoonists work and if I had to mention Mathan was my favourite. Few friends jointly were involved in making a manuscript magazine in younger days. I was given opportunity to draw cartoons in that magazine. That was a field which I was keen but never had an opportunity to develop further. Once I started blogging, I was inspired a lot by Arvindh's drawings. Due to that I bought few sketch pencils and decided to scribble a few while travelling.
If the above picture resembles George Michael then, I need to agree yes I tried drawing him. If you do not feel so, forget it. It was just a practise after many years. The drawings below are some people whom I came across while travelling. You cannot draw everyone especially cartoons. There are few who will be having certain features which you portrait easily. These two gentlemen are someone who travelled in my compartment and I drew without their knowledge. Glad that I have found a way to spend my time while travelling.

Thank you Arvind! I also need to thank Narayanan Venkitu a fellow blogger and childhood friend who has been encouraging me to sketch. We need motivation at all stages isn't it?
Probably based on your comments I shall produce more for you!

15 June, 2007

Telling Lies - No Papa

It had been quite hectic. During my train journeys I have started meeting nice people. For the last few weekends London was very busy. A week before while returning to London, a huge crowd was rushing to Wembley park to watch a friendly football match between England and Brazil. Last Sunday while I was returning from London, there was a huge crowd rushing to the same venue but for a concert by George Michael. I found few law breaking women smoking in the Tube stations. These kind of little things do upset me. Smoking is going to be banned in England from July 1st. It has been already done in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland.

I was wondering at certain qualities of human being during my journeys. However we all tend to forget the one which we do have – telling lies. I do not believe that there will be someone in this world who had not told a lie in their life. From childhood we are taught not to lie, both at home and at school. I keep telling the same to my kids. It really hurts when we hear someone telling a lie. The kids get confused when parents tell them not to lie, and when they lie. The kids get it indirectly into their mind that they can tell lies.

I think every human being would have told a lie, at some stage. But some keep telling lies as a habit and mess up many things in their life. I read somewhere that you do not need a great memory power to speak truth always. But if you are a liar, you need to have a good memory.

Sometimes it is embarrassing to hear lies, when you know the truth. I think fear is the root cause of lie. Fear of losing something, committing mistake, status, image, prestige, ego, pride, losing money, wealth, leads to telling a lie. The technology today is against those who tell a lie. We cannot tell lie while chatting and with the webcam. For example, few years before a colleague came to visit me. He got a call from another colleague of us. While answering the phone he told in a cool manner that he was shopping. I asked him why he answered so. He said that he may mistake him for being in my house. I could not understand it. I was also working along with them. Within minutes the guy who was on the phone visited my house and the one who told a lie was trapped. You can imagine his face.

I think even today, people are telling lies to get their children married. I knew someone who got married recently. Within few days after his marriage he has found that the girl had some serious sickness which was blatantly hidden. On questioning, the parents and relatives are now coming with the truth. They never bothered to understand how much it would have hurt the boy and his family. It looks like they thought a marriage will solve her health mysteries. The girl is innocent and could not even realise what is happening to her. The boy is now finding legal remedies.

Some tell lies, for simple things. I like to be plain in many cases. In my younger days, when I did not have money for Petrol, and cycle to work, people used to ask me whether the motorcycle had gone for service. On telling the truth, that I did not have money for the Petrol they laughed and said “ Sir... Romba Tamash..pa...”. (meaning he is a very funny man).

Recently we were discussing about finances. I told one of my friends that I am not having that much of money to buy a house. A couple who were present could not believe this and thought it was a lie. I told them that it is the truth. At the same time, requested me not to reveal the actual cost price of their house to others. They even told me that they had not told their parents and relatives about their recent purchase of a property in England. The reason given was that it will cause problem. I could not understand but was wondering why they should tell a lie about it.

In this country, the Government grants benefit for those who are single and separated. Few parents who come to pick up their kids in my daughter’s school, suggested my wife to declare that she is living alone and claim benefit. My wife was very upset and we discussed the cheap mentality of such people. Again, when it is real, and when we do such claims genuinely, we are being scrutinised to such a great extent, we really get irritated to claim such reliefs. But the system does allow for those liars to go free.

I still remember those times in India, when local government staff visited home to supply ration card and wanted to know the income. Most of the house hold commodities are supplied according to the income. But when I declared the true income, which was on the higher group, they wanted to assure whether it was true, since I may not get any benefits. We could only laugh on that day.

My mom often used to say “Poi sonnal Bhojanam Kidaikathu” (meaning if you tell lies you will not get food) and I used to reply “Bhojanathukey Poi solrangaley ma”. (Just for the food people are telling lies mom).

I remember a lady near my house that fooled everyone by telling she was a bank employee. Later one day we found that she was doing a job of cleaning the telephones at offices, since she visited my friend’s office too. We never understood why she had to lie about her job.

Certain lies go without reason. We never know why it was told. But it hurts when we know the truth. Many of those, whom I have come across, have told that they have told a lie, and it hurts them as well for being a liar, since their partner believes them. Some feel guilty. In that case, why should we lie?

I love children because they are innocent and always tend to speak the truth. Once when my son was a kid, he screamed from the bath, that there was a bird in the toilet. None of us showed interest due to the morning tension. He kept screaming and my wife rushed hurriedly and called me too. There was a bird trapped in the toilet flush. We could not believe it. Luckily we saved and took outside the house and let him fly. The bird’s entry into the shower room is a mystery till today. But we realised how true the kids are!

Once I met a kid in a friend’s house and felt that he should eat well since he had not grown for his age. He got the doubt in his mind and said “Uncle, do you think I am not grown up for my age. It is because of this...” and removed his shirt to show the operation scare across his chest. He continued “ I had a heart surgery... since my heart was small I did not grow. Now the heart has been repaired, I will grow..”. I could not control my emotions.

Kids are so true and innocent. Probably that is the reason they are being told as early as when they are in nursery “Telling lies, no Papa”. Let us be like kids in being true.