Saturday 2 March 2024

Scribbling from a sleepless night

The little one has reluctantly resigned to sleep in his swing. His big brother has already fallen fast asleep on the bed. I got up and began pacing up and down the room. It has been a hectic, but happy day. From the previous night, I have been trying to scribble something, but the words refused to fall into the right places to form apt sentences. It was the convocation day and the campus was full of happy faces. Students received the commemoration certificates from the VVIPs of the day, the Chairman, AICTE and the Director, VSSC. Some students were accompanied by their entire families, the toddlers in the arms of mothers, grandparents who could barely walk and of course, the parents with pride written all over their faces.

Breaking my stride, I paused to take a look at my sleeping princes. I have just started the struggle to remain a worthy role model……. How many more years?…….. It has been quite effortless for my father to remain my greatest role model all these years. As a young boy, I remember him being brought home from hospital with injuries suffered while trying to save his students being beaten up by political opponents in campus violence. Teachers of his ilk seem to have become extinct from our campuses……….

The thoughts were arrested again by the nightmare from the previous night. I sat down by the side of my son and began stroking his unruly hair. I couldn’t resist reimagining myself in the shoes of the dad, not far off from my place, struggling to come to terms with the loss of his son, whom the parents affectionately named after the prince who renounced his kingdom to become a teacher and preached compassion, to all creatures, to all mankind. 

One look at the dad of the deceased will tell us that he hasn’t been living his life for himself, but for his family. And I wondered how his family too might have had a day in their son’s campus, in a not so distant future, among the cheerful and proud faces, much like the families in our campus earlier in the day.  

Saturday 25 November 2023

The Elderly Couple on the Elevator!!

The Smiles from My Shelf [12]

In spite of being a Saturday, it wasn’t easy to find a spot for parking the car around the Government secretariat in the state capital. After going around a few of times, I found some space just opposite to the gate of the building housing the District Treasury. The doors of the elevator were about to close as I was rushing in. A few people were already on the elevator. I squeezed myself to the corner of the elevator near the door next to an elderly couple trying my best not to disturb them. The lady was anxiously searching her bag and was whispering to her husband. He appeared angry and was trying to remain indifferent by uttering to her to let it go. It was apparent that the couple had lost something or forgot to take some document necessary for the day’s transaction. Seeing the indifference of her husband, the elderly lady reluctantly and hesitantly opened up to the rest of us on the elevator as it reached the second floor. She suspected that she left her smartphone in the auto rickshaw. I tried to reassure her and told her not to worry as we can get her phone back in no time. But on reaching for my phone, I realized that I myself had left my phone in the car. However, the other two gentlemen on the elevator were also already acting on helping the couple and collected the phone number from the elderly gentleman. One of them tried to call the number and it kept on ringing but no one was attending the call. We were wondering if the phone kept in the rear seat had fallen off from the vehicle. All of us then went to the respective sections to get our works done, hoping that the call will be returned sometime soon. I had to run back and forth a few times between the car and the 2nd floor office to fetch the forgotten documents along with my phone. The Good Samaritan continued his efforts to reach the lost phone of the couple from his phone. Then finally, as he was standing beside the cash counter, he received a call from an unknown number. It was from the driver of the auto rickshaw. He had returned to the place where the elderly couple had disembarked, hoping to find them and return the phone. We were all relieved and happy. And as I was sitting in the chair waiting for my turn to go to the counter, the elderly lady was passing by. She stopped on seeing me and said “We got the phone back. The driver brought it back.” And in her tired eyes, there was a smile of gratitude.      

Monday 24 April 2023

When Sachin Tendulkar got me a job as a Design Engineer, Aero Engines!!

Bangalore; 2001, fag end of an autumn season. I was there for a test, with no high hopes after repeated failures. Hence there was no hesitation to allow myself some TV time with friends on the eve of the test. Indians were on tour to the rainbow nation. At Bloemfontein, India had lost 4 in the first test, to some incisive and hostile mix of fast and swing bowling. I was with my text books, halfheartedly going through the highs and lows of the aircraft engine cycles. The mood was melancholy, in the room of 4 people. I strolled out into the balcony, with a couple of books for company and reluctantly went through the pages, on reheat and regeneration. Rebuilding was on in the Springbok Park. Sachin was taking the lead, as was the norm those days. This time however, he had a rookie who knew no rules for company. Someone who matched him stroke for stroke and left the bowlers wondering whether the same man batted from either end. In the background, within the room behind the balcony, the words of appreciation were giving way to shouts of exhilaration. The temptation to return to room was becoming increasingly irresistible. However, restraining thoughts suddenly leapt to mind. Here is someone, of the same age, shouldering the hopes and aspirations of a nation of a billion people, and almost unfailingly meeting those expectations every time he walks in to the middle. The thoughts spurred me on through the pages and pages of aero engine theory and I had a sound and satisfactory sleep on the night before the test. Next day, as I stood up and received the question paper for the test, there wasn’t one question that I couldn’t answer in detail and depth.

Even the atheists cannot but agree with Matthew Hayden; “I have seen God; He bats at No. 4 for India in Tests.” Sachin had played many a great innings for India: 143 against Australia at Sharjah in 1998, 98 from just 75 balls, against Shoaib Akhtar and co at Centurion during 2003 World Cup, or the path breaking 200 against South Africa at Gwalior in 2010. However, that innings of 155 at Springbok Park, alongside the double century partnership in double quick time with Veeru Sehwag, albeit in a lost cause might be the only one that spurred someone’s benign landing on a career in aero engine design and testing!!

And as he ‘raised his tea time tweet’ to acknowledge the fans on reaching another half century, we sincerely hope that he shall convert it to yet another centum and we shall be around to cheer him for the same.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Aagneya and Comrade Kodiyeri

“Small sacrifices must be made!” uttered Otto Lilienthal from his death bed after breaking his spine in a fatal crash of his experimental aircraft. We have collectively made those small sacrifices and made a humble beginning........

Aagneya is a reality.......

The task at hand was tough but the enormity of it, inviting. At the team-aagneya, we had a few young men and women who relished a good challenge or two and they thrived as the task began to appear tougher than expected. As the famous saying goes; even our 'little squirrels' contributed in whatever way they could ...... :-)

Most people will frown if we say that we had put our lives on the lines, but at least a few will understand the truth behind the statement.

So goes my post on the blog of GEC Barton Hill dated Saturday, 5 April, 2008

But all these could not have been possible without the support of the then Home Minister.

I had thought of writing in acknowledgement many a time in the past. Most recently, when his health had a sudden deterioration after a surgery and my wife had the privilege of examining him and writing the report. Professional priorities have changed and along with it, changed the reading and writing habits. And it got prolonged indefinitely. But if I do not put it down now in writing, it may remain a lifelong regret.

In 2007, a very dynamic group of students had come up with a proposal to organize a techno-cultural fest for GEC, Barton Hill with the intention of continuing it every year. But, unfortunately, it failed to take off due to the unreasonable demands from a group of local trouble makers who had been fleecing the students on one pretext or the other.

The following year, a very much supportive, broad minded, and friendly, P S Chandramohanan Sir assumed charge as our Principal. The students, led by the new batch of office bearers of the college union decided to make a fresh attempt at organizing the event and began receiving threats from day one. Sensing that the students were unyielding on account of the patronage from the faculty members, the threats were redirected to the teachers: “We can easily find our way to your teacher’s home and put a sword on the neck of his wife and then let’s see how brave he can be” was one message sent through the students. To which the humble reply was “they were most welcome, but the wife can’t serve them tea, as there wasn’t one at home.” Another threat was to destroy the car, which was also welcomed for it was old enough to be given away. Jokes apart, the particular group was more than capable of executing their threats.

Days passed and on the eve of the D-day, we had to attend one inter institutional quiz competition. The quiz master Vijayakumar Sir was mentioning about a lack of focus from my side and during the break, we explained to him about the reasons behind the lack of focus. He had mentioned that once upon a time his family used to command the respect of the local people in the troublesome region around the campus, but it’s no longer possible to advise them against the evildoings. My phone rang even as we were having that conversation and on attending the call, I heard the student leaders at the forefront of organizing the event, one after the other, sobbing and begging me to stop the preparations for event. It was very much apparent that they were speaking under duress and I broke the conversation, apologized to the Quiz Master and my partner Prof. Balu John and rushed to the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police nearby. I handed over the intimation letters to the Police from the Principal even as I struggled to find words to explain the urgency of the situation to the ACP. Fortunately, the ACP, very much rough and a typical police officer, happened be the Father of one of my old students and showed the courtesy of listening to me. As we were speaking, my phone rang again and this time I quickly handed over the phone to the officer sitting in front of me. He misunderstood the situation and began blaming the students but was kind enough to order his subordinates to check the location for any untoward incident. I rushed out of the room and Balu Sir also joined me and we decided to go to the location by ourselves after intimating the Principal about the incidents. We met the head of the administrative section of the college Sri. Kavanad Ravi Sir on our way to the car and quickly briefed him also. Being the brave and fearless man that he is, he also turned his bike in the direction of the college. Police had already arrived by the time we reached the college and they were questioning the students, who were badly beaten up and could barely stand up, in the police way. I tried unsuccessfully to interfere in the interrogation on behalf of the students and tried to reach a ruling party MLA who had offered us all support and protection from the goons. He was out of reach and I requested my good friend, his PA, to inform him as soon as possible. Principal had also reached and it was getting dark. As I was walking in and out of the rooms, not knowing what to do, I noticed one member of the student union sitting quietly with his friends and watching the proceedings, probably waiting for instructions from his teachers and friends. I walked up to him and said, calling out his name: “You had observed first hand, what has happened here and what’s going on and you know that all our students had functioned only in the best interests of the institution. I see no other way, an instruction should come directly from the Home Minister, and nothing less will be useful at this hour.” He readily agreed to reach out to the Home Minister and within no time, the ACP arrived at the scene and the entire process of interrogation of students was stopped. Police personnel in plainclothes approached me and collected my number and assured me not to worry and offered the support of the entire force for the successful conduct of the event. To this day, I believe that was an instruction directly given by the Home Minister.

The next day, a large posse of policemen raided the entire neighbourhood and caught a few goons who had beaten up the students. And in the evening as the event took off in a grand way at the Nishagandhi, we could spot, as we watched out with the tired but unblinking eyes for any metal piece springing out of the crowd to spill our blood as promised by the hooligans, the plainclothes men of the Home Minister keeping a close watch on us as well as the crowd.   

Aagneya had the tagline ‘Unleash the fire within’

Com. Kodiyeri, the then Home Minister, had an undeniable role in kindling that fire.

And as he is lying in state, we gratefully acknowledge his patronage, caring and protection for a group of youngsters who had dared to dream during their days of distress a decade and half ago. 


*Names of some individuals are not revealed respecting their right to privacy. 


Sunday 6 February 2022

Eleven Great Songs by Lataji: My List

It is not so easy to pick the list of favorites from among the thousands of songs from about seven decades of the most recorded voice in history. Listening all day, here is my list:

1. Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai from the movie Guide for Waheeda Rahman

2. Chalte Chalte Yun Hi Koi for Meena Kumari in Pakeezah

3. Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya in Mughal E Azam for Madhubala

4. Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi for Nargis in Chori Chori

5. Hoton Mein Aisi Baat for Vyjayanthimala in Jewel Thief

6. Lag Ja Gale, for Sadhana in Woh Kaun Thi

7. Bahon Mein Chale Aao from Anamika for Jaya Bhaduri

8. Dheere Dheere Bol Koi Sun Na Le for Hema Malini in Gora Aur Kala 

 9. Raina Beeti Jaye, Sham Na Aaye in Amar Prem for Sharmila Tagore

10. Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum for Rekha from Silsila

11. Rim Jhim Gire Sawan for Moushumi Chatterjee in Manzil


11. Main Chali Main Chali for Saira Banu in Padosan