Monday, April 30, 2007

blind and prejudiced

(an adaptation of Ruskin Bond's 'the eyes have it')

I met her on the train. Rather bumped into her on the train. It was easy for me considering my visual disability, but couldn’t she look where she was going? She was saying something now. Her voice tickled my ears and my senses alike. Silver anklets rustling in a gentle wind. My sense of hearing was strong, compensating for my blindness. I think I could imagine soulful poetry in the most harshest of noises ,poetry with which I attempted to fill the blackness devouring my eyes.
She was apologizing and asking me where I was going,both at the same time.
“In search of my never ending quest of misery” I thought to myself
“Andheri” I replied “You?”
“Vile Parle ” the anklet continue to rustle in my ears “I stay near Cooper’s hospital”
The sounds of the train enveloped a short silence bridging our conversation.
“So what do you do?” the anklets asked
“Other than bumping into people on the train?” .My attempt at humor evoked a gentle giggle. Sympathy?
“No seriously….u got in at VT right ?”
It was now that I noticed her perfume ,the mild lavender scent seemed to complement the gentle pleasantness of her voice.I tried to imagine how she looked. My thoughts drifted momentarily. Thoughts of another time ,a time before my hands preferred to hold tennis racquets and not walking canes. Thoughts of a crazy car crash on a wet monsoon night on the Bandra flyover. Thoughts of waking up to perpetual darkness in the ophthalmic ward of the KEM hospital.
“ Don’t talk much do you?”the anklets and the train’s chug-chug were involved in creating a pleasant symphony
I smiled ,not something I did often these days. “Oh I do talk…that’s one of the things I can still do” I was at my irritatingly self - depreciating best. Somehow my dark humor seemed not to register with her. “ I consider myself a writer ,freelance….write little poems and short stories.Enough to buy me bread and maintain a roof on my head. Still assume that I have a big epic in me waiting to be penned. Too lazy to go about it though”

“Wow ,that’s cool….and do you read a lot ?”She seemed genuinely interested and even more genuinely stupid. I mean ,how much literary material do you think was available in Braille.
“ Not much …don’t like heavy stuff” Me back to my cocky humorous self and her brains remaining as oblivious as could be.
She continued to talk to me.She seemed comfortable talking to me.
It was kind of strange though… most people by now would be attempting to disengage from the discomfort of having to talk to a handicapped person.

We talked for the better part of an hour. We talked about the climate.We talked about music .We talked about nothing in particular and we seemed to have talked about almost everything under the sky. When the train came to a halt at Vile Parle ,somehow I just wished she wouldn’t leave. She almost didn’t.
“Revathy , chalo ,Parle aa gaya”An elderly female voice called behind her playing spoilsport to my imagination. I realized that I didn’t even know her name till then.
“Well ,it was nice talking to you”she was going to say good bye “Most people I know find it uncomfortable to talk to a blind girl for more than a minute”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

money ,money ,money

Circa 1994……I think I remember the year most because that was the year India produced a brace of ‘world class’ beauties Misses Sushmita and Aiswarya. Incidentally ,that also happened to be the year that I joined in the noble pursuit of medical education.
Hopes ,dreams ,ambitions ..a bevy of positive feelings.A spring in my steps and a song on my mouth.Life’s good ,or so I thought.Universal adulation and pats on my back..Just five odd years and I could add the coveted ‘Dr’ to my name.Life was indeed good

10 years down the lane…Sushmita ji and Aiswarya ji have gone places.(So what if neither has a real hit to their credit? ).I do have the coveted two letter prefix attached to my otherwise plain sounding name(Though ,Feroze Kaliyadan ,I admit dosen't sound all that plain).Somehow though ,the spring in my steps seems to have disappeared.I do hum songs ,but more often than not my musical interests seem to be inclining towards the melancholic melodies of the KN Saigal variety.

Ok cut to take ….I am not really overjoyed at the moment.Ok to put it more emphatically I THINK AM NOT HAPPY.There I said it! So now the 64 million dollar question..WHY???

Hmmm…Hmmmmmm…….Maybe I should rephrase that question in a more unselfish manner.Why are people unhappy ,even when an arial view suggests no reasons for them to be so.What is the single most important factor governing happiness in the majority of people.
- I thought a lot before putting money as the top ranking factor ahead of more noble elements like love ,relationships ,health or job satisfaction.I mean think about it’s nice to say that love and relationships count more than fluffy little bundles of currency notes ,but I sincerely feel financial security (or insecurity ) is the single most important thing in a majority of people.Maybe in part it’s because many of the other seemingly more important things are taken for granted.For example you have a loving ,caring spouse and a couple of wonderfully cute kids…you take their presence for granted.It is only when something happens to this cosy family picture that you realize their importance.However till anything of that kind occurs your main constant worry is again money..even though it may be more for your family’s sake than your selfish interestsEven when a person is sick or heartbroken,things would look much less bleaker if he or she is financially stable.Seriously how many people do you see now carrying on with a broken heart in the ‘Devdas ‘style? Just think many peple have a constant relationship problem ,romantic or otherwise?Health is again definitely a issue .Ask a person with a terminal cancer or paraplegia ,but then people with diseases significantly affecting their normal life are much less compared to people getting into depression after financial crises.Like I said most of the other issues are ‘come and go’ ‘maybe maynot be’.Money ,on the contrary is like a constant nag …even if you have too much of it (how much is too much depends on relative satisfaction levels of individuals ).To put it in a simple succinct manner ,human beings will always find something or the other to worry about ,but the single relatively constant niggling factor will always be money.

OK so now the next 64 million dollar question…what do we do about it?

Answer no: 1 is the ‘elementary .my dear Watson’ type – make more of it.Beg ,borrow ,steal.(or puting more hard work ,if you’re the old fashioned type).Now we have a slight problem here.When do we stop?How much is enough?Is there really an ‘enough’?This is where individual satisfaction levels come into play.On one hand there are the people who are seeming satisfied with the bare necessities of life (mind you ,as long as at least that is satisfied ) and on the other you have people whose definition of what is a bare necessity changes everyday with every new car model launched ,with every new exotic mobile launched.Can the latter type of personality ever make ‘enough ‘ money?I think the answer is obvious.Interestingly though since this whole bit is about happiness .it should be pointed out that these go-getters are unlikey to be designated as unhappy just because they are not satisfied with what they have.They become unhappy only when they don’t get what they hope to have.Then again isn’t that the same with any ambition?Does that make aspiring for heights a wrong thing to do?don’t think so.So if you’re happy with what you have..well and good.If you aim for more and get there... equally good.If you dream beyond your scope ,keep it in mind that failure is a possibility and make sure that you have to strength to digest it.

Considering the pearls of wisdom ,I imparted ,I guess I have more reasons to be happy than a lot of other poor souls.So for the moment I’ll stop cribbing and think of a more positive blog next time!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Some of my agnostic friends ask me why they should be held blackmail to a concept of a ‘hereafter’ when nobody has really returned from the exalted place to confirm the story??I tell them that I can only tell why I believe in the hereafter.I ask them to imagine working under a boss they have never seen in person.This boss passes out all orders and instruction via a third person.One fine day the boss guy makes it known through the intermediary that all guys and gals who’re good this year will be given a paid 1 year vacation to the Bahama’s .No extra work ,just behave good.What do you do? There’s a good chance that the whole thing is just a hoax…but if you just have to behave good ,what do you have to lose?? It is the same with judgement day…maybe Darwin was right and the prophets wrong ,but does god really impose all that tough a life for you to reach paradise?So you really don’t have much to lose ..and a lot to gain!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sonia Gandhi ,the Kerala police and a messed up weekend!

We all have been at some time subjected to inconveniences because of scheduled or unscheduled VIP visits and the associated police ‘bandobasts’.I would like to recount a little experience I had .

Timeline : March 2006 ,Sonia Gandhi visits Kochi
My usual working pattern is from 8:30 to 6:00 on all days except Sundays.My wife of 2 months duration has an almost similar schedule .So weekends are kind of special for us.It’s a time to unwind ..listen to some music ,take in movie or laze around with a comfy book.As usual, the last Saturday was to have been spent in the same leisurely bliss…except that Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and her cats (of all hues ,including the mandatory black ) had other plans in store for me.I got out of the hospital by 5:30,the general idea was a quick shower followed by dinner and a second show movie.My wife had already reached home and was doing the groundwork.I reach the road cutting into NH-17 near Edappally and suddenly there’s a long caterpillar stretch of motor vehicles neatly stacked bumper to bumper.Suprisingly the main road is totally empty.What gives?So I get out my car and check with one of the ubiquitous khaki clad gentlemen littering the empty road.In the totally expected ,crude style of our ever so polite police force,I am told brusquely that the road has been cleared for Soniaji’s visit. Cleared? I query curiously. Well ,of course you nut, cleared as in ,the ‘pilot’ vehicles have passed by and now we’re waiting for the queen bee. “Ok.So when do you expect the queen bee to fly by?”.”Hmmppph… idea”(why are you so bothered, anyway?)I parted with the constable on relatively harsh terms.I simply couldn’t understand the zeal with these policemen were carrying out there ‘duty’. If the same enthusiasm was extended to their everyday work I think Kochi would be a much better place than it is.Anyway , I do think that I managed to get my viewpoint across,not that it mattered to Mr.Policeman though.
Anyway I get home bruised and battered after an hour of bumper to bumper traffic and with some strength of character managed to convey to my understandably angry bitter half that the days’ program stood cancelled.”I’ll make it up tomorrow I promise” . Thank god for instant noodles and soup I managed not to go hungry that night.

Come Sunday morning ,most of the dark clouds had shifted away from my dear wife’s face.So we make our next set of grand plans…a lavish breakfast at home,then I go to the hospital to rush through my rounds and then we go to the lending library in town ,get a few good books ….and so on and so on.Things were going according to schedule when Soniaji gave us another rude jolt .The roads leading to the library were blocked .As is the norm a horde of policemen were standing guard every few meters.I tried parking my vehicle on a empty piece of landscape ,but no sooner had I stalled the engines that a rapidly moving mass in khaki scurried over asking me to move out as though the future of the nation depended on it.It is a fact that I could have reached the library by following some rather circuitous routes ,but I was so utterly disgusted by then that I headed straight home.

Now just imagine if there had been some really serious matter I had to attend to (rather than bother about my wife’s happiness,which by itself could be quite a serious matter!)...I’m sure that the same day there would have been people with pressing need who would have been depressingly delayed just because Mrs.Sonia Gandhi had a fancy to visit Kochi.Personally I am as apolitical as a person can get (I really believe that there is no difference whom you vote for in an election as all politicians in time turn out equally bad),but this one experience ensured that no matter what, I am not going to vote for Soniaji or her congress ever again in my life.Interesting a large bunch of the so called part worker who had descended in hordes to Kochi were too drunk to listen to Soniaji’s speeches.It is evident that a lot of these people had been paid some ‘pocket money’ and a bottle or two of liquor to rally around their ‘leader’.Can our politicians really get cheaper?

Actually ,I really don’t know what makes me more angry…the politicians with their rallies and ‘hartals’ on the drop of a hat ,the policemen with their crass behaviour or the general public who seemed to have forgotten to question the wrongs happening around them.Everybody seems to just accept things as they are.It’s time people really started acting as responsible social animals .We have this tendency to engage regularly in conversation degrading the official machinery of our country ..but what do we do about it?Given an option of getting things done easiliy by shelling out a bribe ,most people go for it.I have had a rather bitter personal experience of having to spend 4 months trying to get my passport ,basically because I didn’t deem it proper to grease the hands of the police constable who came in for verification.I must admit that following the interactions I have had with the famed Kerala police, I now have a natural bias against them.But it should be understood that it is the general public which has contributed to making the police the monster it is now.(For example ,it is generally an accepted fact of life that if you want your passport ,you need to give a couple of hundred bucks to the verifying official.If everybody just refused to give in to the policeman’s need to be bribed ,things would change automatically.)
Just take another example.On the bypass between Edappally and Vytilla it is common to see ‘flying squad’ vehicles lying in wait to pounce upon drivers.Interestingly in the west (Infact in most civilized societies ) the general norm is not to bother a motorist as long as there is no valid reason.Here innocent people rushing about their daily routine are hauled up and literally harassed by the ‘flying’ and the ‘saada’ squads.The problem though is that many of these harassed motorists shell out a sum of money to get the issue settled quickly.True the policemen at times behave worse than seasoned criminals ,but what do we become when we bribe them?? ‘Arise .Awake and bribe not till the goal is reached’?