Saturday, March 31, 2012


"Hariharan...have you ever fallen in love with anyone during your student days?" That was Seshu with on of his usual, ever embarrassing questions.

I was shifting uncomfortably in the sofa. 

We are a conservative family. Twenty five years into marriage, I have never told my wife that I loved her. Even when she reads some of my posts which contain some romantic moments/instances, I do not sit near her; I used to feel uneasy.

The above being so, you can imagine my plight when Seshu questioned me about my love life during student days. 

Seshu (name changed) was one of our neighbors- he was staying in a flat upstairs and we were in the ground floor. Seshu was 65 years+. He was a banker in Dubai. After retirement, he returned to Chennai in 1995 and settled down in his R A Puram flat. His elder daughter was married to a Corporate Executive in Dubai. Seshu lived with his wife Rama and son Murali in Chennai. Murali, who was a commerce student was interested in motor car racing. All I learnt about motor car racing during my six months association with Seshu's family was that it was a very, very costly sport. 

Krishna, my elder son who was sitting next to me got up and walked to his room. Parvathy, my wife came to my rescue. "Mama...shall I get you some onion Pakoda?" She went to the kitchen and brought a plate of Pakodas.

Munching one of the  Pakodas, Seshu asked "Ha...I was asking you whether you fell in love with anyone when you were young....Or did any girl fall in lover with you?"

Seshu, being Seshu, Pakoda was too small an incentive for diverting his attention, we realized.

"Do you know Hariharan....Kamalini in the 2nd floor....the journalist... drinks beer. I counted six cans in the dustbin..." said he another day.

"Joseph in the F Block was caught red handed with the servant maid...his wife caught him...there was so much....."

Seshu became a regular visitor to our flat at 6.30 in the evening. We were in the ground floor. Residents of flats in the upstairs who walked past our flat for catching the lift could easily hear the conversation. We were worried as to what they would think about us. 

I came out with a devious plan to squelch the gossip session of Seshu. Parvathy and I started watching Saath Nibhana Saathia, a TV serial when he would be pouring his gossips. Occasionally we would turn towards him so that he does not feel that we were ignoring him.

6.30 pm next day.

There was no sign of Seshu. I smiled triumphantly at Parvathy- my plan has worked. We watched the serial at 7 o' clock and were getting ready for dinner at 7.45.

Calling bell rang.

Seshu was at the door step. "Since you were watching a TV serial....I thought I should not disturb you...Now that you are free....we can talk freely....!"

!!!!!!! I avoided Parvathy's mischievous smile.

"One day Murali will win a Formula 1 race....a rich, beautiful girl...perhaps daughter of an industrialist would fall in love with him...." That was Seshu's pet fantasy. 

While there was perhaps nothing wrong in fantasizing, I felt awkward when he shared the same with me.

"Let's go out at 7.30." That was Parvathy's plan for avoiding Seshu.

The next day Seshu caught us in the corridor. "I saw you going out for a walk yesterday night. I thought it would be a good idea to join you. We can talk while walking...." 

!!!!!!! It was Parvthy's turn to avoid my smile.

We tried various tricks-switching off the lights in the hall, pretending to sleep, etc. Seshu effortlessly thwarted each of our plans. We accepted our defeat and patiently listened to the Manjula-Hussein love story, Ramalingam's fraud in his bank.....

After a few days I returned to Dar Es Salaam and forgot about Seshu in my busy schedule. My wife did not talk about him when we skyped nor did she write anything about him in her mails.

I visited Chennai again after 5 weeks.

Around 6.30 in the evening it struck me that it was time for Seshu's visit.  Though I was watching TV, my attention was on the entrance- when would he come?

6.45....7.00....perhaps he wants us finish viewing Saath Nibhana Saathiya....


Parvathy noticed my frequent glances towards the entrance. "Are you expecting someone?"


The expression on her face changed. "He will not come."

"What happened?"

"He has been admitted to the hospital...."


"He is mentally not stable......"

Seshu gave me a blank stare. Obviously he did not recognize me. We were in the hospital to see him.

"When we came to India, we had more than Rs. 1 cr as savings. Over the years the savings have dwindled....Meanwhile one of our FDs matured. Rajesh (who took care of the administration of the building) told us to invest the same in a plot in Kelambakkam. We invested ......... lacs. But the property is still not registered in our name. Perhaps we have been cheated.......

"Also Murali wants us to send him to London. He wants to be trained in car racing....when Seshu refused, Marali demanded his share of the property.....

"Seshu has been having one problem after another over the past couple of years....First our daughter married a guy who was not from our caste. Then Seshu's brother and his wife started treating us badly....

"Seshu vents his feelings out by gossiping with others.....gossiping helped him forget his worries....helped him divert his attention....but people gradually started avoiding him...he was left to himself....he could not bear the loneliness...." Rama wept.

Parvathy and I returned home with a heavy heart.

The chair next to the keyboard where Seshu used to sit stared at us.

I could not control my tears. 

"Seshu....please come...let us talk about my love life...about Kamalini...about Manjula who eloped with the newspaper vendor....but....come...please....."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Career advice from Anna for youngsters

(A group of 4 students meets Anna to seek his advice on what career they should pursue. Let’s listen to the conversation, imaginary of course.)

Student 1: Anna, we know you have a vision for India. Please let us know our role- the role of youngsters, students- in your vision….

Anna: Bachcho ….you should concentrate on your studies…well educated youth only can realize the vision I have for India.

Student 1: Exactly Anna…that’s where we need your guidance…please let us know the profession we should choose…the career we should pursue….

Anna: My first priority would be law…you should pursue a career in law. You’ll have lot of opportunities in new India…

Student 1: How is that, Anna?

Anna: Because the legal framework of the country will be undergoing a paradigm shift…pucho kaise…so far we Indians have been believing law by itself cannot curb violations, crimes, etc….now that’s changing…you need only a Lokpal Bill. All corruption will be wiped out. Paradigm shift, no?

Student 1: But how will that increase our job opportunities….?

Anna: One, many Lokpals and Lok Ayuktas will be appointed- that means job opportunities for you guys…. Two, we need lawyers to prosecute offenders….

Student 1: Yes…also you need lawyers to defend the suspects before the Lokpals and….

Anna: No…no…you’re still in the old school of legal thought. There is no concept of defence or suspect… nor is there any concept of innocent till proved guilty. Another paradigm shift! The Lokpal or Lok Ayukta decides that someone is corrupt, say in a mining scam. He conducts a Press Conference and delivers his judgment. No need to give the accused a chance to defend.

Student 2: Sir, what further opportunities exist for this new breed of lawyers?

Anna: Just as the banking software from India is unique and the Western world has grabbed it, the new legal system of the country is going to be unique. We can patent it and export to other countries. Just as IT professionals, you will get jobs abroad to practice this unique law.

Stuent 2: Can you explain further this unique law, Anna?
Anna: For example the law of evidence will undergo a massive change. Perception is the most important form of evidence- more important than eyewitnesses, documentary evidence or circumstantial evidence. Legislators are perceived to be criminals and looters. Hence they are criminals and looters.

Studen 2: ……………………….

Anna: Similarly the system of punishment…. Let me give two examples. If someone slaps a Minister perceived to be corrupt, the law will mandate him to slap on the other cheek as well….who said we are soft on Hindus and BJP? This ‘other cheek’ law will be liked by Christians… Similarly you can tie the offenders to lamp posts and public can flog them …Now that presents a great export opportunity to a hitherto-unexplored territory. Indian Banking software has found acceptance in the Christian led Western countries. Now we will get clients for the new law from the Muslim led Middle East as well……

Student 2: Anna….but these changes……

Anna: Not just these changes…..right to fast will be a fundamental right. Does any country in the world provide for this right? Rashtrapati Bhawan and Governor Bungalows in the State capitals will be converted into Fasting Centres.

Student 3 (who had been patiently listening to the discussion so far but was not convinced): Sir….is there any other profession you would suggest that we pursue….

Anna: My next choice is.…..police.

Student 3 (happy with the choice…): We get a chance to curb crimes, maintain law & order….

Anna: No…no…that the existing police force will do…you will file FIRs against Ministers and legislators. Under the new legal framework as soon as a person is elected to the legislative assembly or parliament an FIR will be filed against him….

Student 3 (unable to understand): For what crime, sir?

Anna: That can be decided later. But FIR has to be filed first. These called “Presumptive FIRS”- again a new concept.

Student 4 (not satisfied with the discussion so far): Can you suggest some other career for us, Anna?

Anna: Definitely…politics.

Student 4: Politics? I thought you are against politics and politicians.

Anna: Yes…I am against current politics and politics but not against future system of politics.

Student 4: What change are you contemplating in the political system?

Anna: There will be elections every day in some constituency or other….For example if we make a demand and the concerned Minister does not agree to the same, there will be election in his constituency the next day….election a day, makes the politician’s day…

Student 4: Sir ….but……..

Anna: But let me explain the most important change in the political system that our team will bring about.  Currently a mass leader like Sonia Gandhi makes a puppet like Manmohan Singh the Prime Minsiter and controls him. Lallu Prasad Yadav made his wife Rabri Devi the Chief Minister. In the new system puppets likes Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi will control mass leaders like me. So that presents an opportunity for you guys…you can become the powerful puppets…

Students 1 to 4: …………………………..????!!!!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Year 2500

Vikram climbed the tree and brought the corpse down. He carried the Vetal on his shoulder and started walking.  Vetal said,” Hey King Vikaramaditya, I will tell you a story. At the end of it I will ask you a few questions. If you do not know the answer, I will remain your captive. On the other hand if you know the answer but keep quiet, your head will burst into pieces.

Vikram had handled this situation many times in the past. Being an intelligent King, he always knew the answer and the Vetal always escaped.

Veta started the story. “Long, long ago there were communal riots in a State. Around 1200 died during the riots. Surendar was the Chief Minister of the State at that time. This story happens 10 years after the riots.”

“Sir…today is the 10th anniversary of the communal riots in the State when 1200 people were cruelly massacred under your Chief Ministership….Do you have any sense of remorse?” Pradeep was interviewing the Chief Minister at his residence.

Pradeep looked satisfied with his last and the most direct question. Audience will be obviously thrilled. He had been asking one tough question after another and 
Surendar, instead of his usual contemptuous style had been giving quite conciliatory replies.  This episode of ‘Face the Mass’, his prime time news program is going to be a TRP topper. The wrinkles in Surendar’s forehead convinced him that Surendar did not have any answer and that he was going to fumble.

Surendar looked straight into Pradeep’s eyes.  He remembered that Pradeep was a young reporter with India 365 Channel at that time. He was giving a minute-by-minute blow up of the riots. Standing in the riot affected areas, he was raising tough questions for the Chief Minister and the administration.

Surendar was just 6 months into the office and was too inexperienced to control the riots. Pradeep asked for Surendar’s interview. Surendar did not have answers to any of Pradeep’s or anyone else’s questions. He declined Pradeep’s request.
CNN and BBC picked up Pradeep’s footages and relayed. Overnight Surendar became a villain and Pradeep a hero.

Violence continued unabated for 3 days at the end of which 1200 people were dead.

Surendar contemplated for weeks on the core cause of the riots- Momentary anger could have triggered the violence. But how did it continue for 3 days?  There should be something deeper. One community felt that the other is privileged economically while the other perceived that the former controlled the poll outcomes and thereby held political clout. He concluded that the long term solution would be to improve the economy and make politics more transparent.

Pradeer accused him of complicity in the riots. Several NGOs picked up the same and filed cases against the Chief Minister and his government in the Court.

Surendar commenced a massive program to provide electricity to all the villages in the State.

Media encouraged police officers of the State to speak against Surendar. One or two of them promptly obliged and shot into limelight.

Surendar provided drinking water to all the villages.

An NGO took up the case of a girl whose family was killed in the riots. The alleged victim told the court that the NGO tutored her to give false evidence. Supreme Court indicted the NGO. Media alleged that Surendar Government had terrorized the victim to change her story.

Next Assembly elections were announced. Surendar started campaigning.

Pradeep conducted an opinion poll and concluded a total rout of Surendar’s Party. His opinion poll was well received by the viewers.

Surendar won the elections with 2/3rd majority. Statistics revealed that both the communities voted for him. He then set about cementing the roads in all the villages of the State.

When the High Court of the State dismissed many of the cases against Surendar, Pradeep and the rest of the media alleged bias on the part of the Court and asked for transfer of cases to another State.

Surendar converted the State Highways into four lane highways.

Supreme Court appointed an Investigation Team to look into the complicity of Surendar in the riots. The Team found him innocent. Pradeep and the media questioned the credentials of the members of the Investigation Team.

Surendar invited business houses across the country and globe to invest in the State which they did in lakhs of crores of rupees.

Based on media reports, several foreign governments denied visa to Surendar. He could not travel to developed countries to solicit investments.

Surendar simplified the procedures for investment in the State. Land allotments for projects were made in record speed. A big business house which found it difficult to invest in a distant State shifted its project to Surendar’s State.

Forced to accept the fact that the State was growing fast, Pradeep and the rest of the media argued that economic development would not wash way the sin.

Surendar undertook reconciliation fasts in various parts of the State aimed at bringing both the communities further closer.

Pradeep promptly called it a publicity stunt aimed at gaining sympathy.

Surendar ensured that there was no communal riot in the State afterwards. His formula had worked- since the economic condition of almost all the communities improved, since corruption was weeded out, since politics became more transparent, both the communities did not indulge in violence. One of the countries which had denied visa to Surendar appreciated his governance!

Surendar was shaken out of his flashback by Pradeep’s reminder. “Sir….I am waiting for your response. Do you have any sense of remorse?”

“Pradeep…Let me tell you a short story. Once, a saint and his disciple were about to cross a river which was overflowing. There was a beautiful girl on the river bank waiting to cross the river. Since the river was deep, she requested the saint to carry her on his back. The saint obliged. The girl got down from his back on the other side of the river and the saint-disciple duo continued their journey. The disciple was quite disturbed. He could not digest that saint carried a girl on his back! Seeing his concern the saint enquired him as to what was bothering him. The disciple voiced his concern. The saint smiled and replied “I dropped her on the river bank but you are still carrying her in your heart.” Pradeep… do you get my….”

“So Mr Surendar….just as the saint carried her on his back….though for a short time….you agree you encouraged the mob….”
Surendar heaved a sigh.

“That’s the final nail, viewers….Chief Minister Surendar accepting his complicity in the massacre of 1200 people…..” Pradeep faced the camera and shouted at the top of his voice.

“Pradeep….,” called Surendar.

Pradeep turned back and was shocked to see a pistol in Surendar’s hand. “Oh…no…”


Having concluded the story Vetal asked the inconvenient questions. “Oh King Vikramaditya….If Surendar worked on a long term solution and succeeded in ensuring that there was no communal riot, why did Pradeep not appreciate? Who was biased- Surendar against a particular community or Pradeep against Surendar? Was Surendar right in finally …….”

Vikram, being an intelligent and compassionate king, gave the right answers. Vetal climbed the tree.

PS: You are most welcome to differ from me, disagree with my views, call me biased, question my facts or dismiss this post as too simplistic, motivated. Of course you always have the pleasant option of concurring with me

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Introspect, before it is too late

“He (Yedyurappa) was condemned unheard as the Lokayukta violated principles of natural justice by not issuing notice to him before making the accusation,” said a division bench of the Karnataka High Court.

“Even during the arguments on the petition, a specific question was put to counsel for the Lokayukta to produce any material to connect the petitioner with the alleged offence but he was mum,” the court said, adding, “Suspicion cannot be a ground to tarnish the image and reputation of a person holding a constitutional post.” 

Can there be a clearer eye opener, a more damning indictment than this for media? Read the full article by Akshaya Mishra in First Post.

Remember how Santosh Hegde conducted Press Conference before even releasing the report.

Remember how media lapped up this report. 

Remember the backdrop in which the report was released. Congress's image was battered by a spate of massive corruption cases-2G, Common Wealth, Adarsh. Lokpal agitation and public opinion were pushing it to the corner. Exploiting this report was clearly in the interest of Congress. It would be naive to assume that media was not aware of this.

It was pointed out at that time that BSY was not given a chance to represent his side. But who had the time for such irrelevant nicetiesWhy did media not do its research before breaking the news? 

Can it not be concluded now that an immature and perhaps motivated media reporting  prematurely sealed the fate of BSY? All it will take in future to topple governments is to 'motivate' the media. Does media deserve this larger than life role?

It is not anybody's case that BSY is innocent; he may or may not be; it is just that he was not given a chance to defend himself. When Barkha Dutt featured in Nira Radia tapes, she had the luxury of defending herself and continuing in her office. Why should this luxury be denied to politicians?

Let us for a moment assume that media inadvertently reported this story. Is it not the moral duty of the media now to express regret?

I have read many blogs also ridiculing BSY based on the basis of ill-informed media reports. A clear lesson for bloggers too- research before blogging.

Time clearly for introspection by media. 

(A year ago Team Anna projected Lokapal and Lokayuktas as the one stop solution  for all of India's problems. Time to review that also!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Katha Upanishad-What happens when one dies....

I lost my father a few days back.

That he was a great soul, a good teacher, more a friend than a father and that the loss is irreparable, etc though true and important, are extremely personal matters and not the theme of this post.

Then what is the theme?

A story from Katha Upanishad runs as follows. King Vahasrava performs a yagna in which he offers worthless gifts to Brahmans. Nachiketas, his son notices this and pesters his father to offer fruitful gifts. Vahasrava, in a fit of anger gifts Nachiketas to Yama. Nachiketas meets Yama and asks the most important question-what happens after death? Yama reveals the secret which is one of the best explanations offered by any religion on the post-death happening.

Thus Nachiketas learns the distinction between soul and body, the immortality of soul, the concept of moksha, etc.  from Yama.

And what did I learn after my father’s death?
  • We informed the relatives about his death. A standard question from them was “Is it going to be electric cremation or conventional cremation?” How is it relevant? In an electric cremation Asthi (ashes) is given within 2 hours whereas in conventional cremation it is given the next day. Sanjayanam is a ritual performed after obtaining the ashes. Hence in the case of electric cremation Sanjayanam can be performed on the same day and the relative can book return ticket the same night! Otherwise he/ she has to stay overnight!
  • We took the body to the cremation centre.
“Sir, you have one hour. The next body is arriving at 3.30. You need to finish all your rituals before that,” explained the attendant at the cremation centre.
“What time will you give the Asthi? By 5.30? I have to catch the 7.30 train back to Chennai,” requested an impatient uncle of mine.
  • By the time we got the Asthi and finished Sanjayanam, it was 6 in the evening. The Asthi was to be immersed in a river. My father died in Salem. We would have to go to either Mettur or Bhavani for immersion both of which were 50 kms away. The Pundit said that we could not keep the Asthi in the house overnight nor could it be kept in a neighbor’s house.
‘What if we keep in the boot of the car overnight and immerse tomorrow?’ suggested a very resourceful relative.
The Pundit perhaps had not faced this kind of a question earlier in his career. He tentatively agreed to the suggestion.
So the Asthi waited patiently in the boot of the car overnight!

  • We mentioned my father’s death in the obituary column of The Hindu. Every now and then some distant relative or an old friend would call to express his condolence and a typical conversation would go as follows:
“I learnt about Narayanan’s (my father) death…I’m sorry…?”
“Are you his elder son? What’re you doing?”
What’s your brother doing?”
 “How many children you have?”
“What are they doing?”
“Are you looking for alliance for the elder daughter?”
“I have a suitable boy in mind……”
And that was a condolence inquiry!

  • For a good part of his last few years, my father stayed alone in Valady, my native village. A neighbor and a servant maid looked after him reasonably well. While he paid them monthly for their services, he had told us to pay them a reasonable lump sum after his death.
What constituted a reasonable lump sum?
“Rs. 25,000 each,” suggested my uncle.
“Rs. 50,000 each,” was another suggestion.
“Do they deserve that much when especially for the last few months Narayanan was with his son and not with them?” questioned the uncle who had suggested Rs. 25,000 as the compensation.
Discussions. Points and counter points. Fact sheets. Their performance analysis of the past few years.
Finally it was decided to pay them Rs. 50,000 each.

  • As South Indian Brahmins we have to perform the last rites for 13 days. Every day the Pundit would come at 6.30 in the morning and the rituals would last for an hour. Thereafter we would be free till next morning. The  free time thus obtained would be spent on ‘atma vichar’- one day it would be Sankaran Kovil by-election, next day it would be UP election results, third day would be Rajini vs. Kamal vs. Vijayakant…..
  • My father’s pension account was in Valady. “It would be better to close the account when Hariharan is in India. So let’s do it during these 13 days. Otherwise Hariharan will leave the country and if the bank wants his signature on some paper, we will be stuck.” It was done.
  • “You need legal heir certificate to dispose of the family house,” said a lawyer relative. We contacted an official of Salem Municipal Corporation. “Sure, no problem. It will involve some ‘expenditure’.” We agreed to the ‘expenditure’. Then the official wanted my mother’s death certificate as she was also a legal heir. My mother died 25 years ago and we did not bother to get her death certificate then. “No problem. It will involve some more ‘expenditure’” volunteered the obliging Corporation official.
  • Everyone gave a farewell speech on the 13th day.
“Narayanan was a very, very independent person. He would not take help from anyone. I have to thank God that he gave me an opportunity to help him once,” said a relative.
“I was blessed with an opportunity to look after him once….,” said another relative.
What was the point? Were the phrases “thank God”, “blessed with an opportunity” polite garbs for the fact they in fact helped him?

  • “One has to be practical. How many days will one be brooding over his death? Will you stop eating, sleeping? What’s wrong in settling the financial issues? What’s wrong in laughing, gossiping, arguing…..? In fact Narayanan was a great philosopher. He did not believe in these rituals or the outward show of grief,” argued a close relative.
Perhaps he is right. One needs to be practical.

I am back on my job preparing cash flows and forecasts.