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?