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?)