Monday, 2 October 2017

Monday's Questions, Oct. 2, 2006- Dec. 31, 2006

Eleven years ago on this day I had started an interactive forum on Orkut with my students. It ran for about five years. Personal records say that the last question was posted on 18th of April, 2011. Starting today, I am trying to post some of those interactions on my blog. Hope this will be useful for someone somewhere.

The post contains the names of the respondents. If anyone wants their name removed, please do let me know.

Abhilash Suryan Oct 2, 2006
Monday's Question
Dear Members,
On the doubly auspicious occasion of Vijaya Dashami and Gandhi Jayanthi, I'm starting a weekly quiz forum titled 'Monday's Question'. Hope u all will respond positively to it.

Abhilash Suryan Oct 2, 2006
Inaugural Question
Let the first question be one connected with the Mahatma. The greatness of this man was his simplicity. He also inspired thousands of young men and women to work for the rural poor. Which great Gandhian founded the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences at Sevagram?

Dhiraj - I too have a Dream!!! Oct 2, 2006
I did not know the answer sir.. so i googled.. The Mission

In the spirit of its founder, Dr Sushila Nayar, The Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram, is committed to the pursuit of professional excellence in order to provide accessible and affordable health care to underprivileged rural communities.

Abhilash Suryan Oct 2, 2006
Correct, Full marks to u
Googling is allowed Dhiraj, 
My aim is only knowledge sharing and googling is now the easiest way. But now you know something about Dr. Sushila Nayar, the former Health Minister of India. Hope that information will be useful to you somewhere else. Then this venture will be fruitful.

Abhilash Suryan Oct 9, 2006
Question for 9/19/2006
This monday I'm moving from the Mahatma to a philosopher closely associated with the Communist International. He graduated in Mechanical Engg. & did his higher studies in Aeronautical Engg in Berlin and Manchester. These prompted an interest in Mathematics and logic that led him to Cambridge where Bertrand Russell recognized him as a genius. In fact, according to some scholars, it was the admission of his superior genius which arrested the philosophical development of Russell himself. During the first world war he served with reckless bravery in the Austrian Army. By inheritance he was one of the richest men, not only in post war Austria, but the whole of Europe. But giving away much of his money he became a village school teacher. Whom am I referring to?

Abhay Mohan Oct 9, 2006
Ludwig Wittgenstein..... took u r advice and googled sir...

Abhilash Suryan Oct 10, 2006
Abhay u r right.
Correct Abhay.. Wittgenstein's dauntingly complex 'Tractacus Logico Philosophicus' is considered as a major milestone in western philosophy. But the most interesting piece of information on him that I had come across is an article which stated that he once had a school boy rival who hated him with such an all consuming rage that he set out to exterminate Wittgenstein's original race, the Jews from the face of the planet. and you know who killed 6 million Jews.

Abhilash Suryan Oct 16, 2006
A long one for today, 16/10/2006
From the Mahatma and philosophy let's move to soccer, arguably world's largest 'religion'. It teaches us how to plan, organize and play us a team to achieve a common 'goal' in real time situations. Just like the warrior heros of yore, we may have something to learn from the life of soccer stars both on and off the field. This story is about one such hero, whose one immature and foolish action once almost destroyed his life and career. He was a promising young mid fielder in the Yugoslav national team. At the peak of the civil war in Yugoslavia, during a national league game between the Serb supported Red Star Belgrade and the Croat supported Dinamo, Zagreb he ran up and brutally kicked a Yugoslav Police officer who was beating up a Croatian fan by the sidelines. Dismissesd from the national team, he received a suspension from the Serb dominated the Yugoslav soccer federation, causing him miss Italia90. But the eagle eyes of the then A.C. Milan top brass spotted him and picked him to replace the aging Dutch trio of Gullit, Van Basten and Riijkaad. Croatian federation appointed him the Captain for their first ever campaign in the world cup finals at France, 1998, where they reached the semis and lost to eventual champions France after giving them quite a scare. In the losers final, he allowed his more deserving deputy, Davor Suker, who was at the threshold of a personal milestone, to lead the team. In the second half with Suker struggling to find the all important goal, he himself came on and soon with a marvellous run from the mid field set up a remarkable opportunity to score his first ever world cup goal. But with only the goal keeper to beat, astonishingly, he passed the ball to his predatory partner whose stunning shot made him the sole winner of the Golden Boot on that edition. Can you identify this remarkable personality, a national hero?

Vishnu .. Oct 16, 2006
Zvonimir search says so

Abhilash Suryan Oct 18, 2006
Google has it right Vishnu.  .

Abhilash Suryan Oct 23, 2006
Continuing with heroes for 23/10/2006
But all heroes need not get the recognition they deserve. Although their contribution to the society is almost insignificant, the movie stars often get unconditional love and adulation. 'Actor' heroes of the reel life hog all the limelight while genuine heroes of real life are often ignored. So let me use this week's question to pay tributes to one of the greatest ever contributors to mankind who died rather young, nearly unrecognized and almost unknown in his motherland despite spending his time and energy in the service of all mankind.
The question is; about whom did Doron K. Antrim wrote in Argosy in April 1950, "You've probably never heard of him, Yet because he lived you may live longer"?

Sangeeth-Escapin d tide..... Oct 24, 2006
Dr.yellapragada subbarow!!!.......(had 2 google it,sir!!!.....xcellent qtn!!)................

Abhilash Suryan Oct 24, 2006
Correct Sangeeth.
"You've probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada Subbarao, Yet because he lived you may live longer", wrote Antrim.

Every word of Antrim is true even today as millions live a longer and more satisfying life because of Folic acid vitamins, Tetracycline antibiotics, and anti-filarial (the drug Hetrazan which was used by WHO against filariasis) and anti-cancer drugs (Methotrexate is still in widespread clinical use today), developed under the research and direction of this India born biochemist turned wizard of wonder drugs. If Fleming's Pencillin was effective only against gm +ve bacteria and Vaksmann's Streptomycin was effective only against gm -ve bacteria, it was Subba Rao's Aureomycin which was the first to counter both. Besides the conquest of many illnesses that have plagued mankind for ages, Subba Rao contributed to the understanding of such life processes as muscular contraction which gets the living world's work done. He was in the Harvard tradition "the brain" and could perhaps have claimed that the boys he had guided and inspired were just so many "hands". But that would have been unfair to them as it would have been so unworthy of himself. "The victories of science are rarely won single handed," he insisted. "No one man should get the credit." His last expressed wish to colleagues was: "If God will spare me another couple of years, may be we can cure another disease." SubbaRow is not famous, but his gifts to biochemistry and medicine keep performing a million good turns for mankind each day around the world.
And for the information of all those who failed in a couple or more papers in the University Exams and are hanging their heads in disappointment, this man, arguably the greatest Medical Scientist to emerge from India, cleared his matriculation examination in his third attempt!

Abhilash Suryan Oct 30, 2006
One from Indian History for today, 30/10/2006
The 'Iron Man' of India, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and his team carried out the arduous task of uniting all the princely states into the Indian Union, often acting authoritatively, 'with an iron hand'. ".....We are indebted to Sardar..." said Nehru on this. "Jawahar Lal is a thinker, while Sardar is a doer" said Gandhiji. And had Gandhiji allowed democratic means, probably he would have been India's first Prime Minister! The question is, Why did Sardar Patel resign from the Nehru cabinet in 1948?

Abhay Mohan Oct 31, 2006
Sir with my limited knowledge i dont think Sardar Patel actually resigned..Well if its due to the death of Gandhiji... i dont think he was allowed to resign...Well i think there were accusations that Home Ministry (the one which Sardarji was heading) didnt provide enough security for Gandhiji..And that lead to his assasination... Sardarji wanted to resign..But then Prime Minister Nehru didnt accept his resignation and asked him to continue..Sardarji was reminded that he had given his word to Gandhiji that he will continue in the government irrespective of the problems that he might face.. So Sardarji continued to hold portfolio of Home Ministry till the time of his death in 1950...

Abhilash Suryan Nov 3, 2006
True Abhay...
... thanks for correcting me. I'd seen an article stating that Sardar Patel had sent in his resignation owning the moral responsibility of Gandhiji's assassination, but it was never accepted.

Abhilash Suryan Nov 6, 2006
A normal,straight forward one for today, 6/11/2006
Which business group's communications research centre is 'Fabrica'?

Vishnu .. Nov 7, 2006
Benetton...(googled again )

anyway...if anyone wants to know more about Fabrica, go here

Abhilash Suryan Nov 11, 2006
Vishnu and Google scores again. [:)]
The"United Colors of Benetton" success story began in 1955 when Luciano Benetton, the eldest of four children, was only 20 years old and working as a salesman in Treviso. He realized that people wanted colors in their lives and especially in their clothes. He sold a younger brother's bicycle in order to buy the first second-hand knitting machine, and began to market a small collection of sweaters to local stores. The positive reaction to his designs was only the beginning of a solid start. Soon after, he asked his sister, Giuliana and his two younger brothers, Gilberto and Carlo, to join him.
In 1965, the Benettons opened their first store in Belluno and the year after in Paris, with Luciano as chairman, his brother Gilberto in charge of administration, their younger brother Carlo running production, and Giuliana as a chief designer.
But the Benetton is more famous (or infamous) for their series of controversial, sometimes offensive, advertisements that have caused a number of media critics to accuse the company of deliberately creating controversy in order to sell its products. This publicity campaign was launched by the photographer Oliviero Toscani. The advertisements, entitled "United Colors of Benetton", have included images that are apparently unrelated to the clothes sold by the company, including scenes of a man dying of AIDS, panicking crowds jumping off of a sinking ship, a bloody, unwashed newborn baby, a collage consisting of the genitals of many people of various races, and a death row inmate. The only caption included in these pictures is the Benetton logo.

Abhilash Suryan Nov 13, 2006
For today 13/11/2006
I've a fascination for the Italian names, there is music in their names. So this week let me ask you which popular entertainers go by the names Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello?

Abhay Mohan Nov 13, 2006
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles....

Abhilash Suryan Nov 16, 2006
Correct Abhay....
...but my fascination ends with the names, I don't endorse such mindless, non stop violence in movies for children, at least. Societies which feed their young with such uncensured violence should also be prepared to reap their rewards. Who else can be blamed for the kind of incidents happening in their schools?!

Abhilash Suryan Nov 20, 2006
For 20/11/2006, we have one from......
Let us devote this week for paying tributes to one of the front line fighters for the protection of our environment. Which famous environmentalist's autobiography is titled 'Unbowed'?

Abhay Mohan Nov 21, 2006
Wangari Maathai..winner of 2004 Nobel prize and this year's Indra Gandhi Peace prize..

Abhilash Suryan Nov 26, 2006
In awarding the Peace Prize to Prof. Waangari Maathai in 2004, the Nobel Committee recognized that peace is not possible without environmental sustainability.

Known as Kenya's "Green Militant", she founded the Green Belt movement - a grassroots women's group which since the late 1970s has planted more than 30 million trees in Kenya and a dozen other African countries, often daring the machete wielding, gun slinging mudheads, before it's too late and all of Africa may have to be renamed Sahara.The movement also provided hope for many women by providing jobs, economic opportunity and independence to nearly 10,000 women who plant and sell seedlings for a living. Her proactive policy may help regain the lost glory of the continent and the people who once lived in perfect harmony with nature. Her struggles also underline the role of women, especially mothers in creating environmental awareness in the future generations.

"The generation that destroys the environment is usually not the generation that suffers," Prof. Maathai said in her acceptance speech. We have to remember that we are merely care takers who should hand over the planet to the future generations without much damage, else history will not forgive us.
And for the suffering women of Africa, her prize sent an inspirational message. "The culture pulls us down so often," said Beatrice Elachi of the National Council of Kenya. "We are told to give way to men. But now, thanks to Waangari, every woman will know she can make it."

Prof. Maathai is also a woman of many firsts: the first woman in eastern and central Africa to earn a doctorate, the first female Professor at the University of Nairobi and of course the first African woman to win the Peace Prize.

Do we have some ladies in this community, who are listening?

Abhilash Suryan Nov 27, 2006
One from Photography for today 27/11/2006.
Photography, I think, is an art form where the synchronisation of man, machine & the moment is paramount, of course in addition to being in the right place at the right time.
Which legendary photographer propounded the concept of 'the Decisive Moment'?

Sangeeth-Escapin d tide..... Nov 27, 2006
Alberto korda???....not sure.........

Abhilash Suryan Nov 27, 2006
The answer is wrong, question passes to someone else......\

Abhilash Suryan Dec 2, 2006
Well done boys
Although Abhijith gave the correct answer I'm equally happy with Sangeeth's wrong ones because my single question made our members familiar with some great photographers and their works. So well done Sangeeth for overcoming the temptation to 'google' and giving those names.

Now something on Henri Cartier -Bresson;

Inspired by a photograph by Hungarian photographer, Martin Munkacsi, who later became a fashion photographer for Harpers Bazaar, which captured the freedom, grace and spontaneity of movement of three naked boys running along a Liberian beach and their joy at being alive, the young French art student, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was also in Africa, on the Ivory Coast, decided to put down his paint-brush on his return to France and devote himself to photography. This was indeed a decisive moment for photography, as he was to become the most famous photographer of the twentieth century.

He can very rightly be called the pioneer of photojournalism, and his genius lay in his uncanny ability to freeze-frame the decisive moment, that fleeting instant which offers the opportunity for a great photograph as opposed to a mere jumble of images.

Cartier-Bresson's darkly evocative picture of Pt. Nehru announcing Mahatma Gandhi's death at the gates of Birla House is a perfect lesson for any student of photography and now very much a part of Indian History itself.

Abhilash Suryan Dec 4, 2006
4/12/06; A Trip to Pakistan, this week.....
This week let me take you to Chenab Nagar, a small town in the Punjab province of Pakistan, one of the world's most modern states. The town was once known as Rabhwa. In this town you can find the tomb of Dr. Abdus Salam, one of the greatest ever Physicists to emerge from the sub-continent, the winner of Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979. On the tomb stone you can find an inscription reading 'Abdus Salam, The First!...... Nobel Laureate'!!
My question for the week is; what went wrong with the inscription?

Abhilash Suryan Dec 5, 2006
The answer is not 100% correct, can some one else give a more perfect answer.

Prabodh S Dec 7, 2006
It was first written as Abdus Salam the first muslim nobel leaurate ,but because he belonged to Ahemedyya sect,which in Pakistan is not considered as muslims coz they dont believe that Mohammed is the last prophet.........So the term muslim was rubbed off,,, now it reads ,Abdus Salam the first nobel leaurate
I am not sure whether the sect i had given is correct,,this was there in a newspaper recently

Abhilash Suryan Dec 9, 2006
Now that's correct Prabodh
Dr. Abdus Salam was known to be a devout Muslim, whose religion was inseparable from his work and family life. He once wrote: "The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart."
But the law enforcing authorities in Pakistan had other ideas. Ahmediyyas or Qadianis, followers of 19th century religious leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, are a non-Muslim minority as per Pakistani law. They can't call themselves Muslims and their beliefs are considered blasphemous by the fundamentalists. So a magistrate had the word 'Muslim' erased from the tomb stone! What a way to respect a great personality!!
Dr. Salam's was an inspiring life, hailing from a small town, in the hostile environs of the pre-partition days, he went to Cambridge, secured a double first in Mathematics and Physics in 1949 and later a Ph.D. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to the theory of unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current. He helped form the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commision and later served as Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of Pakistan. He retained his Pakistani identity to the very end. But in the face of a violent anti-Ahmediyya movement in Pakistan, he had to set up the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste in Italy, which is now named after him.
Dr. Salam considered it his life's mission to fight the prejudice against Science in the Islamic World. He visited every Muslim capital in the world, after his Nobel, asking them to set aside 1% of their GNP for scientific education. He had virtually no takers and was often received with prejudice and scepticism. But he received a warm welcome in the country where, at the time, the world's largest Muslim population lived, when he crossed the border to call on his Primary School Teacher.

Abhilash Suryan Dec 9, 2006
Happy to find a new respondent in my forum....
.....but I have also noticed that Members have a tendency to delete the wrong answers. Kindly avoid the temptation to press 'delete' for even the wrong answers carry useful information as far as quizzers are concerned.
Thank you, 
with regards,

JOBIN Daniel Dec 9, 2006
An outsider here..

First result from google search abt Dr. Salam, if any one is interested.

And to all of u, I am an old student of Abhilash sir. Thanks to him for letting me in. And happy to b in a forum along with great quizzers like u. Ther wont b many msgs from me.. But I wont be missing any mesages. Thanks to all of u.. keep the spirits high! Keep going!

Abhilash Suryan Dec 11, 2006
For 11/12/2006, One from Modern India.
I don't know whether it's proper to put such a question in this forum. In that case I'm giving propriety the go by this week. Kindly excuse, let me prefer think with my heart to my head this Monday.
The question is from current affairs, Why was a place called Kherlanji in the news recently?

Abhay Mohan Dec 11, 2006
Kherlanji is a village near Nagpur where four members of a Dalit Family was burned alive in September by the upper class people.

rohith sreekumar Dec 12, 2006
The feudel lords of kherlanji destroyed d morality of dere village by brutally raping an lynchin a dalit was a real sad sight indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Abhilash Suryan Dec 13, 2006
I used to be a proud Indian,
...till certain experiences on the personal front forced a vision correction. Now I've a much clearer picture of this great civilization.... several deeply disturbing incidents forcing me to take a fresh look at it. In certain parts of our nation a riot'll be triggered by the news of a cow slaughter, but what if human beings are mercilessly slaughtered? We respect animals, birds, snakes, trees, plants and even marine species by associating them with the Divine, people may let their pets lick them, but tell them to share a well with under privileged human beings, you'll get a taste of their tongue. The case is no different even in Tamil Nadu, ruled for the past so many years by the parties born out of the Dravidian movement!! How could we point a finger at a racist regime for throwing a certain M. K. Gandhi out of the train at Pietermaritzburg just because he was 'coloured', when in our own neighbourhoods apartheid was being practised for generations, oh..... let me remind you that the remaining four fingers were pointing in our direction....
At Kherlanji four members of 'Dalit' family were brutally killed, one of them Priyanka, was a teen aged NCC cadet who dreamt of joining the Indian Armed Forces one day. The enlightened inheritors of this great civilized society is reported to have continued to violate her even after she was dead out of it. When violent protests erupted after days of inaction on the part of the authorities, the response of our neo-Gandhian rulers was that the rioting was triggered by the Naxellites.
Close on the heels of Kherlanji came the acquittal of all the persons accused of massacring 7 'Dalits' at Kolar in March 2000.
I'm hanging my head in shame now. 
If you ask me what we can do, I've no answers...... but at least, you and me, we can change our attitude towards the under privileged.
Lord Shri Krishna once told "Dharmasamsthapanardhaya Sambhavaami yuge yuge", I think it's time for him to come again, in the guise of some Maoist Guerilla, and deliver justice.

Abhilash Suryan Dec 18, 2006
Today, 18/12/06
From the merely modern to the most modern, this week let's go across the Atlantic to U.S. of A, Pennsylvania to be precise. How did Charles Carl Roberts IV, an obscure Penn state milk-truck driver hit the international headlines in October, 2006?

JOBIN Daniel Dec 18, 2006
1st try..
"He was a lean man with a retreating line of sandy hair, his wire-rimmed glasses presenting an almost owlish countenance.", The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7, 2006.

JOBIN Daniel Dec 18, 2006
"Killer “angry at life and God”", Herald Sun, October 3, 2006

Abhilash Suryan Dec 25, 2006
Last week I was seeking revenge...........
Today I want to share with you the information that there is another way; a refusal to meet violence with violence, instead to greet it with forgiveness. It's easy to preach like the 'devoutly Christian' U. S. President whose actions claim thousands of innocent victims. I thought it's impossible to practise the way of Jesus, till I came across the Amish.
The Amish or Anabaptists are a Christian denomination who lead an 18th century life style by renouncing all modern amenities such as electricity, plumbing, automobiles, TV, radio, music, video games and mobile phones and what not.They don't serve in the military nor receive any government assistance and live mostly by crop and dairy farming and their life is exemplified by piety and simplicity.
In a country where one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was shot dead by the then Vice President, what Charles Roberts did may not have made it to the front pages, but for the victims. Their faith allow the Amish to see even such tragic events as the will of God and they don't argue with Him. So the parents of the pre-teen girls murdered, sent words of forgiveness to the family of the killer who shot himself when cornered by the police. Retaliation and revenge are not part of their vocabulary, and they leave the vengeance to the Lord. So at the burial of Charles Carl Roberts, 50% of people who turned up to pray for his soul were Amish! And they invited his widow and their 3 small children to join the Amish community!!
In these highly materialistic times, it's difficult to imagine that such a community of people live on this planet, leading a life of happiness and bliss without getting corrupted by the lure of so called modernity. I may not be able to copy their life style, but the knowledge that such people exist will definitely affect my world view and attitude in life.
My heart goes out to the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. This Christmas, kindly join me in praying for the souls of the little girls murdered at Nickel Mines.

Abhilash Suryan Dec 25, 2006
25/12/2006, X'Mas Monday
On this Christmas Day let's remember a great soul, who inspired by Christ, lived a life in the service of the needy which would have made his Master proud.
The question is 'Who was affectionately referred to as "Kamiano", the great soul?'

JOBIN Daniel Dec 27, 2006
lemme try without search..
The great father Damien

Abhilash Suryan Dec 31, 2006
I’m not a practising Christian but to me Jesus is one of the greatest ever influences on mankind’s history. What places him a notch above the other great souls, in my opinion, is his willingness to die on the cross to wash away the sins of all mankind and his superhuman ability to seek forgiveness for his tormentors. He had inspired thousands of great souls in the generations that followed in mankind’s history and to me if someone stand as tall as him in supreme sacrifice, it’s Father Joseph Damien and I think I need not explain why.
But it took more than 100 years for the Catholic Church to grasp the greatness of this man. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 but not yet a Saint! And he himself mentioned that the greatest setback in his life was the denial of permission to enter the head quarters of his Sacred Hearts Congregation to meet his ‘superiors’ on his visit to Honolulu, he was confined to the Leprosy Hospital there throughout his stay. On his death Father Damien was derided as a "false shepherd" who was driven by personal ambition and ego. Questions were raised on his morality & soon after his death his associate Father Louis Lambert Conrardy was thrown out of Moloka’i because he didn’t belong to the Sacred Heart Church!

Let me quote Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote in defense of him
On October 26, 1889, Stevenson wrote:
When we have failed, and another has succeeded; when we have stood by, and another has stepped in; when we sit and grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and dies upon the field of honour - the battle cannot be retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. It is a lost battle, and lost for ever.

And our own Mahatma Gandhi wrote,
"The political and journalistic world can boast of very few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Moloka'i. It is worthwhile to look for the sources of such heroism."

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Tiny Tale of the Two Teens on Either Side of the Wall in My Hall

The clock was striking six in the evening and the tiny dynamo Sarfaraz Khan was pumping his fist after hitting yet another six.

The gentle sobbing became audible from across the wall, even as the roar of the crowd was subsiding.

The boy on the other side of the wall kept on crying as he was talking to his Baba back in Bengal over the phone on the hardships at work.

I got up, switched off the TV and returned to my room.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Good Samaritans of La Spezia

Today is world kindness day, they say! And we have been asked to share our own stories of incredible kindness- of our holiday being saved by a stranger's help in a distant land.

We were on a cruise to the five islands, Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera this past July. Soaked up in the Mediterranean sun, we arrived at the La Spezia port, late in the evening. The lone family man in the group had a long shopping list mailed in from his wife, so we got down near the big shopping mall on the way back to hotel, located a bit far, at Lerici. As it happens, so often, the shopping went on and on, till the mall downed the shutters. The bright lights within gave no clues whatsoever on the impending darkness outside the mall. And soon we were out in the darkness carrying giant carry bags in either hands.

There were no sign of taxis nor of any other means of public transport and we stood staring at each other and the speeding cars here and there. We were stuck there in a strange and distant land, not a single pedestrian anywhere to be found! 

Out of nowhere, a small car appeared and stopped near us. The young man at the wheel smiled at us and asked us, "hello, where do you want to go?" Being the elder in the group, the younger guys looked at me inquisitively. With the readings on the Italian mafia pushed back to the corner of my mind, I nodded to the group to get in to the car. 

Once inside, we didn't even know the direction to go or the place we should get down. The young men were discussing among themselves in the native tongue and finally stopped near a bus stop. They got down from the car and gave clear instructions on the bus we had to board and where to purchase the tickets. 

 Alexio (left with thumb up) and his friend posing with us

The Bus Stop

The wait

we were shaken, off our prejudices, as they sped away:)

We do not know, if stopping one's car in the middle of the night, for total strangers from distant lands, counts as an incredible act of kindness on the part of Alexio and his friend. But on that midnight at La Spezia, for the two Chinese and two Indians stranded in the streets in a strange land, the two young men had virtually descended from the heavens, guided us to safety and sped away smiling!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Hoops of Steel: a Roadside Rendezvous with my Teacher turned Colleague :)

"Each man's life touches so many other lives, and when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" 
Clarence Odbody, Angel II Class 

All men have their angels watching over them and at times they do come in flesh and blood too, an old friend, sometimes or an old student, and even an old Teacher at times of severe stress! 

It was a hectic and extended Saturday at work and I was driving back at a frenetic pace. The elderly gentleman was struggling to cross the road, wonder for how long, and I applied the brakes and the car came to a halt a few metres down the road. Rushing out of the car, I ran towards him and called out, "Sir, you aren't going across anytime soon".

He turned, surprised and burst into a loud laughter on seeing the familiar face, of the student turned colleague. We had a friendly chat even as I waved the vehicles to a halt and led him across the highway to buy a few bananas for dinner. And I brought him back, to my car, where my own student turned colleague was waiting for us.

Once in the car, he switched to the Shakespeare mode as was vogue, in his prime. And he turned Polonius this time to tell me.....that it's friends like you that people need....... 

"Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel."

and he kept on repeating.....

"with hoops of steel"

"with hoops of steel"

.....and I didn't cry, for that was my steely resolve :D

Thursday, 19 March 2015

On Adversity.....

The post was originally scribbled down, sometime ago, from random readings to inspire someone, subjected to a bad dose of adversity, back to normal. It is being posted here with minor modifications after an accidental sighting of the same person who, by a queer twist of destiny, chose to join sides with one’s own sworn adversaries. 

Adversities are unavoidable in an increasingly competitive and vicious world. Adversities can originate from the actions of the society or the people around us and at times, sadly and surprisingly, even from one’s own family or friends. Maintaining our focus in the face of adversity is a tough task. All of us may have to come across problems in life and most problems are not without solutions. We have to develop the mindset that no matter how bad things may appear, we will survive. And once we tide over an adversity, we will emerge stronger to meet greater challenges. There may be innumerable examples of people from every walk of life surmounting adversities of various kinds from which we can draw inspiration.

Adversity can originate from society when someone tries to rise above the levels of acceptance sanctioned by it. The American Democrats have the mascot jackass or the donkey for their party! How come the party of Roosevelts, Kennedys, Clintons and Obamas associate themselves with that "stupid" animal? Having grown up as an orphan boy who refused to bow to the adversities in life, Gen. Andrew Jackson was the first commoner without an aristocratic lineage to seek the Presidential office. The conservative press ran a vitriolic attack on him, digging up information on his past. He was derided as the "son of a common prostitute" and the "paramour husband of a convicted adulteress". His heroic retort was "I never war on the females, it’s only the mean and cowardly that do". When he was referred to as Andrew "Jackass", an obvious reference to his lack of 'noble' birth, the defiant Jackson adopted the nickname and decided to use the image of that gentle yet strong-willed animal on his campaign posters. He was elected not once, but twice, perhaps the first orphan to be democratically elected as the President of any nation. It got stuck and later the US Democratic Party founded on the principles of Jacksonian Democracy adopted the Donkey as their symbol. That's some way to turn the tables on one's adversaries! 

For the more fortunate, ones with a home and parents, the adversity can spring up from the least expected quarters, the attitude of one’s own family. It was Winston Churchill who had said, "Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts". Few could have known better! Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill did poorly in school, for which he used to get punished severely. He was the lowest ranked boy in the lowest class, an embarrassment for the family. He was rarely visited by his mother and wrote letters begging her to either come to school or to allow him to come home. His father barely spoke to him and considered him "a washout" of limited intelligence that could never succeed in life. Left to himself; he discovered a love of literature and writing, which would help him enjoy his life. The father, a brilliant scholar but a failed politician, died prematurely. Churchill, the son, went on to become one of the most inspirational leaders the world has ever seen. 

Adversity can also arise from an unruly mob when you are someone who has to perform in public, such as a cricketer, precisely the kind that Adam Gilchrist had to face when he was walking into bat against South Africa in Johannesburg. Beset with problems on the personal front, he was welcomed by the crowd with banners asking "Who's the father of your child?" and yelling out names for answers. He responded by launching a savage assault on the South African fast bowlers. True, he cried after reaching his hundred, but thereafter he decided to enjoy himself. He even targeted an advertising hoarding, about 30 feet above the ground, beyond the deep midwicket boundary, hitting which carried a prize of a gold bar worth in millions. Gilchrist nearly found it and jumped up and down as he watched the ball move towards its target. By the time he had finished he had taken 204 runs off 213 balls. "Gilchrist was playing with them like a cat keeping a half-dead mouse alive for entertainment,"; wrote Wisden. "It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to get through in my cricketing career and my public life as a public person," he was to say later. But he did himself no harm in the end. 

Try imagining yourselves in the shoes of each of the great men. It is not difficult to grasp the tremendous battles that might have taken place within their minds. The strength to fight the adversity lies within each one of us. More often than not the problem lies within us, we can control it and its outcomes. There can be no solution to the problem if we fall into the trap of hopelessness. It drains our emotional energy and allows the adversity to nail us down. Do not bail, refuse to give up. Borrowing from Arthur Ashe; "regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner".

Finally, what if the adversity strikes us in the form of fate? Meet it, accept it and go out with grace like Lou Gehrig, or cheer up the people around you, even as you go, the Duncan Edwards way. After fourteen years and more than two thousand consecutive games when one has to say farewell to the game in the knowledge that one has to die soon, a slow and cruel death from what is now known as one’s own disease; what better words one can say to the innumerable fans anxiously listening other than "Today I consider myself, the luckiest man on the face of the earth"? 

Even if it is death itself that is staring at us, give it a fight, a la Duncan Edwards; that "unspoilt boy" about whom the legendary Bobby Charlton, so miserly with his praise for others,said "he was the only player that made me feel inferior". He had fought on for 15 days with the multiple injuries sustained at the Munich air disaster. The doctors were amazed at his fight for life. Finally when they had almost given up, he opened his eyes and looked at the gloomy faces around him and he asked "What time is the kick off against Wolves, Jimmy? I mustn't miss that match", that one last spark, before being extinguished! 

So next time you have an appointment with adversity, no matter what, do remember that you are not going to let it have its way. Be in control and have a great life, as long as it is yours.