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Sunday, 30 December 2012

From Damini to Women of India

My name is Damini
The name given by my parents

Some call me Nirbhay
Because I dared to challenge brutality
Some call me braveheart
Because I fought bravely (in vain) with death
And some even India’s daughter
Because I brought women of India together

I was just like one of you
An ordinary village girl
With small dreams and wishes
Working to help my family
Studying to build my future
Enjoying life the way I could
Like every other girl like me would

Then on one illfated Sunday evening
On a busy Delhi road in a bus
My world turned upside down
When I was raped and brutalised

I fought to save my honour
I fought to save my life
But I failed
Because they were many

How many times I died
In that one hour
I have no clue
I had lost my senses

I thank you, my sisters
Brothers, fathers, and mothers
From the bottom of my heart
You prayed for me
You cried for me
You fought for me

You came out on the streets
You demanded justice for me

Justice for every woman in this country
Safety for every woman in this country
Honour for every woman in this country
Dignity for every woman in this country

You braved police barricades
You suffered water cannons
You faced tear gas shells
You dared lathis of police

You shouted slogans for me
You displayed posters for me
You wrote poems for me
You sang songs for me
You wrote articles for me

Alas! Everything has been wasted
Doctors could not save me
Medicines could not save me
Instruments could not save me

I wanted to live for my parents
For my family and my friends
I wanted to enjoy life
In this beautiful world
In all its serenity and richness

But God willed otherwise
And I surrendered to his wish
There is a purpose for every birth
Maybe I have fulfilled mine

I have but one request to you
My brothers, sisters, and mothers
My fathers, uncles, and friends

You came together for me
Your voice became one for me
Your purpose became one for me
You became one soul with several faces

Please do not let this power go waste
Empower yourself, protect yourself
Demand your due, for your sake
Demand your rights, for women’s sake

Let there be not another Damini
Or any of those thousands of women
Raped and violated and brutalised
Let mine be the last sacrifice
I can then be happy in the other world!

Rise above politics!
Rise above police apathy!
Rise above human brutality!
Rise above public indifference!

Friday, 28 December 2012

We Wish You a Better Future

We wish you a better future with 
More peace and smiles
More happiness and comfort
More accountability and honesty
More democracy and transparency

We wish you a better future with
Less tears, cries, and sobs
Less corruption and cheatings
Less murders and burglaries
Less bribes, scams, and rapes

We wish you a better future when
We are more disciplined
We have respect for others
We respect and obey the laws
We realize and assert our strengths

We wish you a better future with
A resurrection of feelings like
Love, kindness, compassion, and empathy
And a paralysis of feelings like
Hate, anger, jealousy, and EGO

My wife Jayasree,
Sons Sreejit and Srikant
And daughter Ruchi
Join me in wishing you
And your dear and near ones
A Very Happy and Prosperous Future!

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Gang Rape: Now What?

This is in continuation to the endless discussions that are happening on the unfortunate and terrible incident of Sunday last.

An unsuspecting woman is subjected to dirty sexy comments, molested, beaten with iron rod all over her body, kicked repeatedly in the abdomen, and subjected to unheard of torture, brutally raped by half a dozen people, stripped, and thrown out of the running bus. Her friend beaten with iron rod all over his body, locked in the driver’s cabin, made to witness the death dance of half a dozen drunken men on his friend, stripped, and thrown out of the bus, too.

The woman undergoes five surgeries and is battling for her life in the hospital (I salute her fighting spirit and pray to god to give her all the courage that she needs to overcome this trauma, if at all it can be overcome); the man is serious but out of danger; some of the culprits have been arrested.

There is a huge and loud hue and cry all over the media over the incident. Several politicians, including UPA Chairperson, the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and Delhi Chief Minister, condemn the incident. They go to the hospital and talk to the family and assure them of “all help”. Parliament is rocked. People in all walks of life condemn the incident in the strongest possible way. Fast track courts have been constituted. High Court demands a report from the Delhi Police. Social activists and psychiatrists analyse the incident, including the psychology of the criminals. The social networking media is overflowing with thousands of angry reactions. Hundreds of students and common people come out and demonstrate on the streets of Delhi demanding justice for the unfortunate woman. The whole of India is up in arms over the incident.

There are strong demands for awarding death penalty to the perpetrators of the cruelty including from some MPs; for castrating them chemically; for Bobbitizing them; for chopping off their hands and legs; for socially boycotting them; and so on and so forth. There have been descriptions in the newspapers and in social media on punishments for rape in other countries comparing with those in India.

Among all these noises, there is one thing which is completely overlooked by everybody. Everybody is talking about the gang rape the woman was subjected to. Everywhere it is the rape which is highlighted. But come to think of it, if they had only raped her and thrown her out, it would have only added another number to the hundreds of gang rapes in the capital. Maybe a couple of news items in the newspaper and some statistics. The CM might have visited the hospital, offered all help, announced a compensation (which the victim may or may not get*), and that is it. A few days later, everything would have been back to square one for everybody but her, her family and friends.

[*A nurse was raped in an East Delhi hospital by a member of staff of the same hospital nine years ago. She lost one of her eyes when the man pierced it with his finger while raping her. The CM announced financial compensation to her the same day. It was reported in the newspapers two years later that she had not yet got it despite vigorous follow-ups. I don’t know the present status.]

But it is not the rape that has brought the whole country together. It is the violence, the brutality, the barbarism committed by the criminals that has shocked humanity. And it makes it all the more disgusting when one realizes that such kind of brutality was utterly unnecessary and completely uncalled for. One woman could not have resisted the seven drunken devils (I only hope I am not denigrating the devils). With her friend locked up in the driver’s cabin with serious injuries, they could have done anything to the girl to their hearts-fill. And yet they chose to perpetrate unheard of torture on the woman. This is what sends a shock wave across all classes of people.

Is it only to destroy the evidence that they removed their dresses? Or is it also to shame them in public, after doing all what they did to her? It seems it is more of the latter than the former. They were not afraid of evidence at all. They were very sure to get away. They knew they would not be caught. That is why they left the man conscious which in turn enabled him to read and remember part of the number plate, which lead to identifying the bus and the criminals.

All right, now what?

How long are the media going to go on highlighting the incident? In another few days the news will be relegated to an inner page, because there may be other things to report, such as Gujarat and HP, Arvind Kejriwal, Gadkari, and several other “important” things. Or yet another rape! Students will go back to their universities, because they are concerned about their studies. Ordinary people will get on with their routine work.

It will be left to the woman to live the rest of her wretched life, what with most of her internal organs irrecoverably damaged or removed! She will have only her parents, close relatives and friends to share her sorrow with. It is also possible that she may again be shamed by the criminals’ advocates in the court. Remember, it has been highlighted more than once that it is the ‘provocative’ dress of women that lead to rapes, thus absolving the rapists of all their guilt. Rather they are depicted as the victims, who unfortunately fell for the ‘provocative’ dress of the women! What a shame!

There have also been talks of strengthening the law. It is utterly useless unless the laws are implemented in the right spirit, by the right people at the right time. This is not happening in India. Everything can be purchased with money, power, and influence. Every law can be thwarted if you have these. Laws are made to be broken. It has become kind of a phrase, “Do you know who my father is?” This is what some people ask the police most arrogantly (in Hindi, of course) when they are caught doing a crime. This is enough for the policeman to look the other way or be away from them as far as possible. If he does not ask this question, then the police look forward to be bribed.

There have been demands of compensation for the woman. No amount of compensation can replace what has been taken away from her. She has lost not only hers, but also her family’s life and livelihood. Every day of her future life will be painful for her. The mental agony she will have to go through might be unbearable. But looking at her fighting spirit, she might even lead a normal life several months from now.

Presently what can we do? Salute her fighting spirit! Pray for her fast recovery! Contribute to provide some solace to her! 

Is there a solution to such incidents? Can we prevent such incidents? While it is the responsibility of the police to bring the culprits to book once a crime has been committed, can we, as citizens of NCR do something to prevent such crimes? Do we have a little time to think and act?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I am a Woman

I am a woman

A daughter or sister or wife
A mother or a grandmother
A patient or a doctor
Pregnant or invalid or insane

They don’t bother
I am a woman
That’s enough for them

They may be one or two
Or a dozen

They want fun
They want pleasure
They want laughter
They want enjoyment

They catch hold of me
They tear my dress
Crush my self-respect
Crush my dreams

They don’t see my tears
They don’t’ hear my cries

They keep me pinned
To the ground
In the bus
Or in the car

Then they rape me
Alone or together
Once, or repeatedly

They kick me, they beat me
They bite me, they hit me

They destroy me
They ravage me

They drink my blood
They eat my meat

I won’t call them animals
Animals won’t do this
Can I call them monsters?
Monsters won’t do this

What are they?

And yet

I am their sister
Or daughter
Or mother

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Punish the Knife

One fine morning the tiny sleepy village woke up to the shuddering news of the murder of three members of a family. A mother, who was a teacher; her daughter, a college-going student; and son, a school-going boy, had been stabbed to death in cold blood during the night. Their bodies lay in the village square, the common meeting place of villagers.

It was first in the history of the village, or in the neighbouring villages,  that something so horrendous had happened. People were so frightened that they preferred to keep silent. When they talked, they did it in a very hush-hush voice. Even within their homes, they talked in a subdued voice. The teacher Suseela (‘teacher didi’, as she was fondly called) was very respected and loved in the whole village. She taught in the school in the next village because there was no school in that village. She, however, used to take free tuitions to the poor children.

Suseela’s daughter Sumati was a beautiful girl. She went to the town to study in a college there. Since the town was a little far away and had no easy access from the village she stayed in the hostel and came home only occasionally. The village pradhan’s son, a spoilt boy, had an eye on her and used to stalk her. She was frightened since the pradhan was very powerful, not only within the village, but even outside. She told her mother about it. Suseela consoled her and encouraged her to face such challenges boldly. But such things are easier said than done.

One evening Sumati was coming home from college. The pradhan’s son met her on the way and tried to misbehave with her. She tried as much as possible to evade and run away from him and his friends, but couldn’t. Having left with no option to save her vanity, she slapped him with all her might. The crook was shocked. This was the first time in his life that he had been slapped, and that too by a village girl! Even his parents didn’t punish him for his misdeeds. It was then that he decided to teach her a lesson. That night he went to their home with a few of his goondas. He raped and killed Sumati in front of her mother and brother. Then they killed them, too. He wanted to warn the villagers what it was to defy him. So he asked his friends to drag the bodies and leave those in the middle of the village square for everybody to see first thing in the morning.  

The same day the pradhan went to the police station and saw the inspector ‘properly’. Then matters moved fast. The police came, saw, and conquered. They sent the bodies for post mortem, seized the offending weapon from the teacher’s home and started investigation. They questioned several people, all innocent poor people from the village. The whole village knew it was the pradhan’s son behind the heinous act. But none dared to speak. The villagers knew how and where the investigations were heading. And it happened a few months later. The case was closed due to lack of evidence or witnesses.

This is a very common and logical end to a crime involving high profile people. But unfortunately for the law enforcement agents, there were a few educated youth in the village. They started an agitation to give justice to the slain people. They even did door-to-door campaigns to apprise the people of the need to strengthen the protest. Slowly the movement gathered momentum and more and more people joined it. A few reports came in the local newspaper as well. The matter even made news in the capital. Due to the intense public pressure, the court ordered the case to be reopened and a fresh investigation carried out.

This time the Police Crime Branch was entrusted with the case. After prolonged investigations, the police found that the knife, which was used in the crime, was the real culprit. Their argument was that if it was not for the knife, the teacher and her children would not have died. The police submitted its report to the court. They also submitted the knife in the court recommending the severest punishment to it. They patted on their own backs for the excellent and efficient investigation carried out this time.

Several rounds of arguments followed in the court. The educated village youth argued in favour of the knife because they wanted the person who wielded the knife to be punished. The police argued against the knife. In spite of the best efforts of the common villagers, the police was able to convince the court that the actual culprit was the knife. The knife was sentenced to death.

The knife, however, could not be killed like a human being. The court, therefore, called the best blacksmith in the area to the court. The knife was cut into several pieces. The pieces were then thrown into a deep pit specially prepared for the purpose. The police celebrated for getting a criminal punished for the heinous act committed by it. The newspapers celebrated the event as the victory of justice.  The judges were praised for the exemplary courage to award punishment to the criminal knife.

The villagers were silent and sad. The pradhan’s son partied with his friends.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Wait for White


Bliss and bloomy, full of dreams
Fruits in plenty, flowers all around
Smiles everywhere, glad and elegant
This beautiful island saw my birth...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dr Akavoor Narayanan

Dr Akavoor Narayanan

2 December 2012 – Third anniversary of the passing away of Dr Akavoor Narayanan. 

I first ‘saw’ (and not ‘met’) Dr Akavoor Narayanan sometime in 1976. I was then working in Publications Division (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) and was posted in Editorial Section II. One afternoon a man wearing a dhoti (traditional dress of Keralites) walked into the section and conversed with the Section Officer Mr Mehra [please see comments from Mr Anujan Akavoor]. He handed over to Mr Mehra a bunch of papers. I was instantly attracted to him for the simple reason that he appeared to be a Keralite. Meeting a Keralite and talking in Malayalam used to be like heaven in those initial days of migration to Delhi (even now it is). When he left I looked at the handwritten document. The document was in Malayalam. The author’s name was written as Akavoor Narayanan. I hadn’t heard the name. 

In the evening when I reached home I asked my cousin who Akavoor Narayanan was. He said he was a poet. He didn’t know much either. Somehow the name stuck with me. Later on I understood that he taught in the Malayalam Department in Delhi University.

I first met and talked face-to-face with him a few years later. My father had passed away in October 1979 due to cancer. He had a very painful end. I wrote an article on his last days. I took the article to Akavoor for his expert opinion. He immediately read the whole article and said, ‘Good’. He, however, suggested that I delete the last para in which I had described my hope and wish that father returns to us. He felt it was too melodramatic. When I told him that I was planning to send it to Yogakshemam magazine (the only magazine I thought would be interested to publish anything like this), he encouraged me. That was the beginning of our interactions. The article was published in the April 1981 issue of the magazine.

Much before the birth of Gayathri (a cultural organization of Delhi), I had discussed with Akavoor the idea of establishing a branch of Yogakshema Sabha (an organization of Kerala Brahmins) in Delhi. I had even obtained a copy of their bylaws and application form, etc. But he was not very enthusiastic. He said that it would be very difficult to get all Namboodiris in Delhi together, since they were not very many in number. Also, they were scattered all over Delhi. He also said stories about several Malayalee organizations that had been established in Delhi only to die very soon. I was disappointed.

My happiness and enthusiasm knew no bounds when I first saw the announcement signed by Pindali Parameswaran Namboodiri, Dr O.M. Anujan, and Dr Akavoor Narayanan a few years later, about the formation of such an organisation.

Slowly he became my friend, guide, philosopher, and guru. I had visited his Ashok Vihar home a number of times even before I had anything to do with Pranavam. It was at his home that I first met Prof. Arithottam Parameswaran. That day I had gone to discuss with him my plans to do BA in Malayalam from Delhi University. It, however, never happened.

It was during that time that I was translating the biography of Dr Ida Scudder, the founder of Christian Medical College, Vellore, from English to Malayalam. This was a short biography written by Dr O.P. Kejariwal, then Editor in Publications Division (he retired in 1999 as Director-General of All India Radio). I happened to type out the manuscript for him. I was so much influenced by the story that I wanted to translate it into Malayalam. One reason could be that my father was being treated for cancer in CMC Vellore around that time and I had visited the hospital on a few occasions. I told Dr Kejariwal of my plans and he readily agreed. Once I had finished it, he advised me to show it to somebody else.

The first name that came to my mind was that of Akavoor. I told Dr Kejariwal that I would show it to Dr Akavoor, and that he was Malayalam Professor in Delhi University. He agreed. I handed over the manuscript to Akavoor. He completed reviewing the manuscript in about a week. He had made small corrections. He said it was a touching biography and I should get it published.

I almost jumped with excitement. That was exactly what I wanted, too. But since I am a nobody in the field, I wanted his help. He asked me to send it to Mathrubhoomy weekly. He himself wrote a recommendation letter to the editor. It was, however, promptly returned. They asked me to cut it down to about one-third. I was disappointed. Akavoor, too, was not in favour of doing that. He said it was as painful as cutting your own child into three pieces (though in this case it was an adopted child!).

He then asked me to send it to Kumkumam weekly and again gave me a letter of recommendation. P. Subbaiya Pillai used to edit the weekly those days. And before long I received a letter informing that it had been accepted for publication. My joy knew no bounds. The article was published in nine episodes in early 1981. The translated version was published even before the original in English saw the light of the day.

During all these times I used to be in regular touch with Akavoor either on phone or through personal visits. The personal visits used to be very refreshing. Both Akavoor and his wife Ms Gouri used to behave like I was a younger relative of theirs known to each other for several years. Akavoor was very mild, very loving, and always encouraging. Those who knew him can never forget the sweet, loving smile and his gentle conversation. He was ever ready to help anybody in whatever way he can. He was so much above in stature but he never let me feel that.

Our relation got stronger when I started participating in the activities of Gayathri and later Pranavam. He was the Chief Editor of Pranavam from the first issue till his soul left this world leaving the body behind. I had occasions to work with him in the executive committee of Gayathri and as assistant editor and later as a member of the editorial board of Pranavam. Due to personal reasons I had been unable to keep in touch with Akavoor for a few years before his passing away. My loss, an irreparable loss.

He will always remain in my memory as a shining star, the eternal light.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Poor Me! Monologue of an Official

I am a poor clerk in the DDA (Development Demolition Agency).

I don’t know why some people have been raising all kinds of allegations against me. They say I am corrupt, my income is more than my salary, and so on and so forth. An uncle posted me to DDA when I qualified for the post after passing a test. Some people allege that my father extended special favours to the uncle. If father gave the uncle’s daughter a wedding gift (a small diamond necklace costing about ten lakh rupees), what is wrong in that? Is it not customary to give presents on occasions such as birthdays and marriages? I have been only a sincere and hardworking servant of the Agency since more than quarter of a century and about to retire in a few years.

My job is to approve papers for several activities under the Agency, such as construction or extension of buildings, keeping a watch on unauthorized buildings and unauthorized construction in markets and on roads, and any other related activity. Such a huge responsibility! I don’t take my work as work, but as a game. That is the best way to enjoy work. And I enjoy my work. I enjoy meeting and interacting with people. I listen to their problems regarding houses, shops and roads and do whatever I can to help them. I was so much interested to serve the poor, helpless, common people that I even resisted a promotion which would have confined me to an inside room amidst files. I would have lost the opportunity of serving the common people which is the ultimate goal of my life. Is it wrong if I paid five lakh rupees to an officer to stall my promotion? Afterwards also I used to send him some gifts occasionally, for example, a Maruti car for his son when he passed out from the IIT. I did all this to stay in this seat to serve the poor common people. And yet people say I am corrupt! Senseless fellows!

Sometimes people come to me directly with incomplete records. They want me to approve the papers so that their flat, or the extension done to their home, gets regularized. How can I do that? I cannot, because it is against rules. I advise them to go to Sincere Property Dealers (SPD) who are experts in such matters. Am I not doing a service to them by directing them to the right people? And for setting the papers right and to manufacture incomplete records SPD take small service charges from the owner. And if SPD gives me a share of the service charges they get, what is wrong in it? They want to show their love and gratitude to me, that’s all. If I didn’t accept that, they might feel offended. As a public servant I cannot offend anybody. In fact if any person approaches me directly, I send him to SPD so that he can avail of their excellent service.

Sometimes even SPD is unable to procure all the papers. And they want me to sign certifying that everything is all right! The correct way would be to procure duplicates and then process the papers, or to pay a penalty. But who has got the time for all that? Everybody wants things to move in a hurry. Time is important, is it not? I hesitate to sign. Then they force me to accept some gratification in the form of money. I tell them I have enough money and I don’t want any extra gratification. And even then if they want to do some favour, I tell them they could give it to my peon, who is very poor, has a large family, and is in need of money.

Since these are poor and helpless people, I approve their papers. And all of them pay money to me, no, to my peon. It became a habit for them to force me to accept money as they want to show their love and gratitude to me. Poor fellows. If they become happy by my accepting money from them, how can I prevent that? I hesitantly oblige. By evening the peon gets scared of seeing the huge amount of money and he asks me to keep them safe. I sympathize with him and take the money for safe-keeping on his behalf. I give him a small amount, approximately equal to one per cent, for his needs. He is very happy. The house owner is happy because I have accepted his gratification, SPD is happy because they were able to serve the clients and me, and the peon is happy because he too gets some extra money. The only unhappy soul is mine, who had to sign incomplete and sometimes wrong papers, to help the poor fellows! But my sorrow is much smaller when compared to the happiness of all these people.

The other day a client, who was building a hotel, came to me. He wanted his plan to be approved. How could I do it? There were several flaws in it. Also, some important approvals were missing. I told him on his face that it was not possible for me to approve the plan unless he completes all formalities. When the office time was over and I was about to leave for home, he came again. He pleaded with folded hands that I approve his plan. He said it would take several days or weeks for him to get all the papers completed and would have to spend a lot of money. Instead he thought it was better that I keep the money. And he had brought it, too.

Well, I thought for a moment. If the money is deposited in some offices, it will be eaten up by some nasty, greedy, corrupt officials. Instead, yes, maybe I could keep it. It will also be a great help to the hotelier. And he gave me a tiny amount of a crore of rupees. Poor fellow, why should I prevent him from earning his livelihood by building a five star hotel? He used to come to me later on also for signatures on some or the other papers. Every time he gave me a few lakh rupees. I didn’t want to disappoint him and I hesitantly kept those. He also gave a small present to my son on his fifteenth birthday, a car costing more than 10 lakh rupees. Actually I didn’t want to accept it, but he pleaded, he insisted, and I obliged. Poor fellow! Good fellow!

People who want to extend their shops to the public land come and cry before me. They say that if they don’t extend the shop by a few feet, they will lose all business and would become a pauper. I help them by approving their plan. To express their gratitude they give me small packets containing money. What do I do? I hesitantly accept. Poor fellows! Good fellows! This also happens with those who have built extra rooms or balconies in their houses without proper permissions. These people won’t even let me visit their homes. Instead they come to my home and give me gifts in the form of Indian currency notes. There are a few who insist that I accept dollars or pounds! Look at that! Strange are the ways of some poor fellows. Good fellows!

Before long a problem began to trouble me. Where do I keep the money? Burglaries are very common these days. I had constructed a wall a few feet away from the original wall in our bed room to keep a few safety vaults in between them. The money is gifted to me, or my peon, by my friends, and it should be kept very safely. After all, it is their money, not mine.

I built a small cellar of 40 feet × 40 feet below our bed room. No, no, I didn’t break the bed room. The cellar was built along with the bed room when I was building a new house. Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you. A friend of mine had gifted to my wife a small plot of about an acre in the outskirts of the city.  That is where I was building the small house. This friend was building a mall and I had approved the plan. He had further insisted that I should accept several thousand shares of his company. I flatly refused. I told him I could not accept such kind of illegal gratification. He then presented those to my daughter-in-law! Poor fellow! Good fellow!  

I was planning to build the house when a contractor, who worked for our Agency, met me. It was his wish that he should be given the opportunity to serve me. Poor him, what could I do? Such a simple man! I said ‘yes’. He insisted that he would not accept any compensation, whatsoever, including the cost of material, for the work. Well, I accepted that too. He only wanted a small favour from me. He had submitted the tender for a flyover which he wanted me to approve. Such a small demand! And he agreed to build my house only for a signature! Poor fellow! Good fellow!

The contractor made a simple plan for a small house with eight bed rooms, a gym, a swimming pool, a small theatre, a basement parking for a dozen cars, and a few other things. I realized it would be congested to build such a house in the small plot. I asked the contractor to see if some more land can be purchased adjacent to the present one. He had good connections and he procured me another small plot of six acres. I had to empty one safety vault in which I used to keep the gifts donated by friends.  The plot cost a few crores of rupees. Somebody came to know of the transaction and they made a big hue and cry about it. The vigilance, the media and other such nuisance. I had to part with more than a crore rupees to silence them. It took a few years for me to recoup this amount.

I didn’t understand what the problem was. If I purchased some land or built a house with money gifted to me by my friends, what was wrong in that? One of them was telling that I was evading tax. But why should I pay tax for the money gifted to me by my friends? It was not government’s money, nor did I earn it from the government. And, if I paid gift tax, it would be an insult to those who have gifted me the money. Also, this is not my money. This money belongs to the people who gifted it to me. I am only keeping it safely for them. That is why I didn’t pay tax. I very sincerely pay tax for the salary I get. What else do they need? The truth-seekers! To hell with them!

A couple of years back I purchased two houses for my son and daughter.  Can you imagine, the owners wanted only 25 per cent of the cost to be shown in the registration papers! The rest they wanted in cash! Look at how some crooked people evade paying tax! So, only an amount of about five crore rupees each was shown in the registration papers! Several suitcases with money were transferred from my cellar to his cellar. For safe keeping! Didn’t I take most of this money for safekeeping from my peon?

It is strange that people don’t understand such simple matters.  They just don’t consider my problem at all. Do they have any idea how long it will take for me to fill the places vacated by those forty crores? I am retiring in only four years. Will I be able to do it before I retire? I doubt it very much.

Poor me!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Wow! 3000 Plus!

Three months, 22 posts and more than 3000 hits! What can I say other than WOW! (Only once. If I say it again, people will think there is a dog nearby!)
Three months is an extremely short time to judge a blog. But I am taking the risk. I launched my blog on 29 August, the day of Onam, the most auspicious day for a Malayalee with a note on Onam itself. And yesterday, 29 November, the number of hits crossed 3000; to be precise, 3008! I know bloggers with more than a thousand hits daily might be laughing their heads off reading my boasting. They might be telling to themselves, ‘Ha, ha, 3000 hits in three months! And this fool is on the top of the world!’ Yes, indeed, I am on the top of the world! I am a small village boy who has hit his first fifty runs. I consider my fifty greater than Sachin Tendulkar’s hundredth century; my panchayat membership greater than the prime ministership; my small article in a local magazine greater than a Nobel Prize winning book! (Until, of course, I get my own hundredth century, or Prime Ministry, or Nobel prize!) (Prime Ministry? Why not?)
The road behind is very short, but, to my mind, eventful.
I opened my first blog a couple of years ago. This blog was supposed to be my professional blog on editing and book indexing. But it never took off. I did not publish even a single post. Shikha is my younger colleague and we used sometimes to discuss general matters. One day she talked about her blog which has been lying unconscious (though she said ‘dead’, I don’t want to use that word). I read all her posts. The spark which was born in my mind two years ago began to glow again. I requested Shikha to help me revive my blog. But unfortunately I had forgotten my id and password! So she opened a new one for me. Thus was born Pothoppuram.
It is true that I have been shamelessly promoting my blog. But doesn’t everybody do it? Authors promote their books; organizations promote their activities; researchers promote their works; business houses promote their products; and bloggers promote their blogs. Shamelessly, of course. Man’s (and woman’s) basic craving for recognition and appreciation naturally affected me, too. So I sent mails to everybody in my mailing list (about 400) proudly and loudly announcing that I have started a blog. Every time a new post was published, I sent the link. After a few such notifications, I began to feel slightly uneasy. Am I disturbing people? Am I intruding into their privacy? Do they curse me for flooding their inboxes? I should find out.
I sent requests asking them to send me a blank mail if they want their e-mail addresses to be deleted from the mailing list. Several readers immediately wrote that they want their addresses to be retained! And then, then, I got the first mail asking me at ‘point blank range’ to ‘delete my address’ which I promptly did. Another reader said that her inbox was already flooded and did I mind deleting her name? I deleted the name. She, however, had written, ‘I sometimes read your blog’. And yet another one, because the addressee had left the organisation. Later I got three more similar requests from my linked-in contacts.
I waited for more. But none came. So, six deletion requests out of more than 400! Wow! Is my blog that good? But I am not such a great fool (I am an ordinary one, though) to believe that the rest of the people regularly read my blog. There could be many reasons for their not responding: they might have deleted the mails without even opening; the mails might have gone into their spam folder never to be recovered; they just didn’t want to upset me (thank you for being generous); or they may just be lazy to respond; and so on and so forth.
Calculating from the number of hits, I realized that just about half of the addressees read my blog. But how do I filter the others out? This time I used the opposite trick. I wrote a note telling that if they want to be retained in the mailing list they should send me a blank mail. This time I got more blank mails and several of them wrote a sentence or two, too. At the end of four such mails, during the course of a month, I filtered out all those responded positively, all those commented on the posts at least once, and my close relatives and friends (who I believed would not sue me for the mails). (I pity the innocent Mumbai girls! Poor girls! I am sure for the rest of their life they will shudder hearing words such as Mumbai, computer, or Facebook!) So, the last few mails have only gone to those who I believe are genuinely interested in my blog posts.
While I have received several encouraging comments, none criticized the blog or any of the posts. It need not be because everyone had only good things to tell, but they probably did not want to offend me! Maybe they had several things to ask me such as ‘Why are you wasting your time and that of others?’, ‘What you write is all crap’, ‘Why should we read stupid stories about your childhood?’ and so on and so forth. But nobody wrote anything like that. Thank you for being so considerate.
I would, moreover, like to mention a few pleasant things connected with my blog.  
Beryl Belsky, who lives in Israel, hosts a web site The Writer’s Drawer. After reading my post on the uniform, she invited me to contribute a story to her site under the theme ‘Defining moments’. I contributed a true story ‘A woman’s fight to live’. A few days after it was published, on a fine Sunday morning I received a call from ‘Saroj’, the heroine of the story. She was simply overwhelmed. She said 95 per cent of the story was true facts and five per cent was exaggerated. I was really flattered. I had imagined something like 80 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively. She was glad that I chose her story to tell to an international audience.
About the ‘exaggeration’ she talked about: My principle about non-academic writing is that it is not the facts that the writer should actually try to transfer to the reader, but the feelings and emotions behind those. There are four steps involved in the process: (i) the writer creates the idea in his mind and feel the emotions; (ii) he/she transfers it into words; (iii) the reader reads the words; and (iv) he/she gathers the feelings and emotions behind the words. At all these stages some amount of the emotion is lost. As a result the reader gets only a portion of the feelings that the writer originally had. In order to compensate for this loss, the writer needs to put in an extra dose of emotions into his writing. This extra dose is probably what Saroj felt as exaggeration.   
Based upon a post in my blog, I was invited to write a longer piece for a publication (pardon me for not disclosing the identities). I, of course, prepared and sent the article to them. It was however, not published, not because of the low quality of the article, but because of the low status of the author! I, however, consider being invited to contribute itself as an honour.
Mr Jayaprakash Bhatt, my friend, forwarded my blog link to Mr Ramachandran Pillai from Hyderabad. He started reading my posts. He used to call me after each post and we used to discuss the post as well as several other things. We have become very good friends now. Mr Pillai is also an author of educational and other handbooks. Now Mr Pillai has started his own blog and is writing regularly.
Shikha, who helped me start this blog, is trying to revive her blog.
Samprati Pani wrote that she was thinking of starting her blog as well.
There are several other people, including my IndiBlogger readers, who constantly encourage me through their comments.
I once again thank you all for the encouragement.