Sunday, March 11, 2018

`Involuntary` Habits & Stammering

 I have this bad  habit of constantly  clearing my throat  which according to my late wife sounded like a` `neighing of a horse`. She would get irritated but felt helpless. In the Western World this could be a possible reason for the wife seeking a divorce. Most of us have some irritating habit or the other which we are not aware of. Some such habits could also harm a person.
Like my friend who has the habit of  inserting a pen or pencil in one of  his ears and constantly twisting it  while he is in deep thoughts. My ex-boss , a handsome man with a lovely moustache had the habit of constantly caressing his moustache but suddenly he will start pulling a hair or two from the moustache when he was agitated about something. Nail biting or nose picking are a few other  obnoxious habits which some people have even when they are grown ups.

According to a report in the Press,  experts have divided repetitive, non functional motor behaviours into three categories .”First there are classic tics involving quick, jerky motions of the head, neck or arms preceded by an urge, akin to an itch that needs to be scratched. Tics can also be phonic such as grunting, sniffing,or throat clearing (as I do). Next are more fluid and rhythmic like body rocking, finger drumming and leg bobbing. The report groups compulsive  nail biting, hair pulling , skin picking etc. under  body focussed repetitive behaviours.

All these behaviours are what experts call `Unvoluntary` as opposed to involuntary muscle twitch or tremor. It is interesting to note that the experts feel that such acts are a form of communication. They may be  reflecting the anxiety, boredom, anger, sadness or tension that the person might be undergoing resulting in such behaviours.

Can such behaviours be controlled or stopped completely. There is no  conclusive findings on that.
There is another behaviour,  unrelated to the above reports,  that we know as  stammering. I know of a few friends and relatives who  stammer , some very badly, during a normal conversation. But when they are behind a mike or on the stage, they talk normally. The most well known  example of this was -late `Zul Vellani` who used to stammer very badly when in conversation but transformed himself as a  fantastic `voice over` when lending his voice for a documentary or as a stage actor in some plays staged in the sixtees and seventees. Another example is that of actor  Hrithik Roshan.

'What causes stammering?' Most experts agree that it is due to a combination of factors - physiological, neurological, psychological and environmental - but the precise ways that these factors operate together is not known, and clearly the combination will be different from one individual to another. Fortunately it is possible now to get over this problem by speech therapies  and  cures offered by other specialists.
There are many speech therapists in Chennai who claim to provide cure for stammering. Some of them specialise in treating young children with the problem. If treated early the success rate is high.

( This article has appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt 11-17th March,2018 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Free Loaders

It was a regular meeting of our Rotary Clubs at a star hotel. Members started arriving early to do justice to the High tea that precedes all our meetings. Usually during our meetings  we get visitors from other clubs to make up their attendance. On this particular day, we saw a well dressed, educated man walking in and  proceeding straight to the buffet table. He was filling his plate with a generous helping of every item on the table. When some members tried to find out the Club to which he belonged, he replied that he was from Trichy but was evasive when we tried to probe him further. He was obviously a gate crasher or free loader as I call them who shamelessly visit meetings in star hotels with the sole purpose of having free meals. In my long experience of managing scores of meetings and conferences I have come across many such despicable characters. I have an uncanny knack of spotting such guys, however well dressed and sophisticated they may look.
I am a member of a Book Club in Chennai which organizes at least two meetings every month in a star hotel preceded by High Tea.  A large number of members used to turn up at such meetings which  also  included many non-members/free loaders, who not only filled  up their plates with generous helping of items on the table but some of them also fill up a carry bag with the items. To counter this menace the Club decided to issue membership cards which the members had to show at the entrance to the meeting venue before they are admitted. Though the freeloaders were  prevented from attending meetings  with this step by the Club, it couldn`t stop a few paying members from behaving like  free loaders. You see, these guys, who were not genuine book lovers, found out that by paying the annual membership fee, which probably covered the cost of 5 or 6 meetings, they could get free meals  for 25 meetings. Very good value for money.

Free loaders in marriages are very common. When suspicious organizers question them they get away by saying that they belong to the girl`s party or the boy`s party depending on who asks them the question. But an incident that I witnessed at a friend`s son`s wedding at a well known marriage hall floored me. While I was having my meal, sitting in the `Pandhi`, I noticed an old couple with two big tiffin carriers filling up the containers with the items on the serving table. A few servers from the catering team were even helping them. When a suspicious family member from the girl`s party tried to question them, they replied that they were taking the items to serve some old people of the boy` s family in the rooms as they were not in a position to come down. When the family member tried to probe them further, they realized that they were cornered. They just rushed out with whatever they had taken from the table. It was a sad sight to see the old couple indulging in such a cheap act.  I felt that they would not have barged in without the collusion of someone in the catering team.

 I think the free loaders are more despicable than the beggars we see on roads!

This article appeared in the Adyar Times issue dt. 18-24th February,2018 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Wrist Watches & Body clocks

I am one of those who likes to wear his wrist watch 24 hours of the day. Except when I am having a bath. Without it I feel lost. And I have this `compulsive obsessive disorder` of looking at my watch every few minutes. A habit which has got me into trouble with a few clients in my long career as an advertising professional.

 I remember once a client admonishing me for this habit. “ Stop looking at your watch all the time……. I want your total attention to what I am saying, If you have to go somewhere please tell me,  we will call off this meeting”. He was really angry. Sheepishly I removed the watch from my wrist and put it into my shirt pocket. Though I apologised, I was finding it extremely difficult to control my urge to pull the watch out of my pocket.

A friend of mine who was in the audience at a meeting I was addressing mentioned to me that he found my habit of constantly looking at the watch during the talk not only distracting but very irritating. I smiled and told him `Habits die hard”

I have a set of three watches which I wear in rotation every few weeks. Imagine my panic when I recently discovered   that not only had the wrist watch I was wearing stopped working, but the spare ones had also stopped. I was listless. In my desperation I rummaged through all the discarded watches kept in a box in my drawer.  While none of the automatics were working I found to my great joy that the first manually operated `Enicar` watch I had owned from my college days started working as soon as I wound the key. Though it was in a really bad shape, look wise, I didn`t care. I immediately wore it and kept it on until I went to a watch repair shop to get one of my regular watches functional.

Another interesting experience I have relates to my  body clock, which most people would have experienced in their life time. In the old days I was a user of the regular alarm clock for  waking me up in the mornings at a fixed time. These days I use my mobile for the same purpose. But I invariably wake up five minutes before the scheduled alarm time. My body clock in action! Once I woke up late to find that not only  the alarm clock had stopped working (or maybe I had failed to hear the alarm) but my body clock too had failed. I discovered that my wrist watch was not on my wrist. Obviously it had fallen off during my sleep. Looks like my body clock failed to work in the absence of the watch on my wrist!!

Most of the younger generation don`t seem to wear wrist watches because they can see the time on their mobiles. I however, find  it easy to look at my watch than at my mobile for checking time.  I have a fetish for time management and my wrist watch is my life line to maintain my reputation as a person who always keeps his time commitments

I think I will add a clause in my will that my family should not remove the watch from my  wrist when they  are taking me on my last journey. You see, I don`t want to be late for my meeting with the LORD!

This article appeared in Adyar Times issue dt 4-10th February,2018 under my column `Rajan`s  Random Reflections``

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Security Systems

    I am sure many  NRI parents would have had the experience I am going to share. It relates to the security systems – both Burglar & Fire proof -installed in the homes of their kin in the USA.
I remember a visit to my cousin`s home in Washington almost 30 years ago.. My wife was with me on her maiden visit to America. On the first day of our visit,  after a hearty dinner we had retired to our bedroom on the first floor in the two-level, 4 bedroom home. In the middle of the night  I woke up very thirsty. Unfortunately I had forgotten to collect a bottle of water which I always keep next to my bed and consume first thing in the morning. My wife, who had also woken up, volunteered to go down to the kitchen to fetch the  water. As soon as she got down and entered the kitchen area, the security alarm started wailing aloud, waking up not only my cousin but I think the entire neighbourhood! I also rushed down. My cousin, who realised what had happened apologised to us for not warning us about the security system. It seems the system could also be connected  to the nearest police station when the family goes out of station, locking the home. If a burglar attempted to enter the house, the police station would get the alert and rush to the home to nab the burglar.

The next experience relates to the smoke/fire alarm installed at his home by my son in his one bedroom flat  in Tampa, Florida. During my short stays with him every year I would volunteer to cook  his daily meals, not only enough for us but also for a few of his close friends who used to barge in to partake the home cooked meals. I was a popular uncle because of the `Home Cooked Meal` service I provided for a few days every year. On the very first day of my visit I forgot the instructions my son had given me regarding the smoke alarm in the kitchen. So I was startled  when it went off making a loud noise when I tried to fry something in the Kadai.  I did not know what to do. It was a lonely neighbour hood and there was nobody nearby to help. I had to call my son to rush home to help me. To avoid a repeat performance from me, my son ensured that the alarm was covered with a wet tissue  paper during my stay at his home so that it did not  get activated by the smoke emanating from the items I was cooking. I was told that this smoke alarm is mandatory in any house in USA  (as most houses are built on wooden structures) and if found not working when officials come for surprise checks, the owner would have to pay a penalty.

Today such systems are available  in India too. Judging by the number of criminal cases that the police is able to solve thanks to the CCTV cameras installed in many residential/ commercial areas,   there is increasing demand for such  security systems. Senior citizens who stay alone will do well to install security systems in their homes for protection from strangers with malicious intent.

(This article has appeared in Adyar Times issue dt.7-10th January,2018 under my column Rajan`s random Reflections`)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Celebrating the memory of a dear one

      Today marks the fifth anniversary of the passing away of my dear wife . Though living without Prabha  has been   a reality,  I had  decided  to celebrate her memory  instead of mourning her death  by undertaking  a number of  activities under Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation( PRTF) which I founded in  2013. In 2017 PRTF continued  to sponsor writing contest  for women in a ladies magazine, published books of budding women writers, offered  talent scholarship to deserving students etc..

The two films based on Prabha`s short stories produced by PRTF which were first screened at the fourth anniversary function last year have been received well by viewers on You Tube as well as at private showings.  Impressed by the film `Thayumanaval`, my good friend R.T.Chari of the Tag group fame commissioned Rajeshwari  Anand, the talented director of the film to produce a film based on a short story titled `VEEDU`  written by Sahithya Academy award winning author, Indira Parthasarathy. It looks like Rajeshwari is likely to get more such assignments making her realize one of her dreams of producing more films  based  on fictions. One of the important objectives of PRTF is to bring to limelight talented women and I am glad 2017 witnessed Rajeshwari getting her due recognition from people who matter. 

Though no special programme has been planned for the Fifth Anniversary, the family intends to have a special feast  on 7th evening for the students  of  the Corporation School in Damodharapuram in Adyar & Thiruvanmiyur where PRTF is supporting the Prabha Rajan Bala Gurukool  by sponsoring special tuition classes  for the students  of the school, consisting of rehabilitated street children. This will be in addition to the regular activities of PRTF, planned for 2018.

Prabha is no more but I live with her memory every day of my life. I will do so until the Lord decides to unite me with her in heaven!

5th January,2015.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

S.I.W.S. School - Grand Alumni Meet

  An Event to Remember

“Immediately after obtaining my B.Sc & B.Ed degrees, at the age of 22 , I applied for a job of a teacher in S.I.E.S. School. I was rejected because of my young age.  However,  thanks to Krishnamurthy Sir, who hails from my village, I got a job in S.I.W.S School as Physics Teacher without even an interview. After 35 years of continuous  service,  which had its ups & downs, I retired as the Headmaster of S.I.W.S School in 1991”        Shri A.S.Varadarajan,  Varadarajan Sir to thousands of Welfarites, was in his elements recalling his long association with the School. 

He was the Chief Guest at the “ Grand Alumni Meet “ of the recently started S.I.W.S. School Alumni Association held on 17th December,2017 in Mumbai. Blessed with a phenomenal memory for names & dates  he was regaling the audience  consisting of over 200 ex- welfarites from all over the country and abroad,  with his  speech full of interesting anecdotes and incidents. The spontaneous standing ovation he got at the end of his talk was proof enough that the audience enjoyed every minute of his talk.
The Meet started with a sumptuous breakfast of Rava Kesari,  Upma, Bonda & Coffee on the terrace of the Mysore Association Building in Kings Circle, Mumbai . The auditorium of the  Association  was the venue of the Meet. Registered members started trickling in from 8.45 am. Lot of back slapping, hand shaking and hugging marked the occasion where batch mates were meeting after many years. You could feel  the nostalgia in the air!

The formal meeting, as per tradition started with an invocation song followed by the lighting of the `Kuthuvilakku` by the dignitaries occupying the head table. Welcoming the audience, the dynamic Chairman of the newly formed Alumni Association, Shri V.Sundaresan briefly outlined the background to the formation of the association and its objectives. This was followed by a brilliant talk by Dr.V.Rangaraj, the Chairman of S.I.W.S. Trust which manages the school who in his well prepared speech talked about his dreams for the school & College.

It was then the turn of the Chief  guest to mesmerize his  captive audience. Though he was allotted only 10 minutes, he spoke for more than 30 minutes.  The audience wanted more, but  the organising Team was tense as they had a  tightly planned schedule  to be covered before 1pm when the hall had to be vacated, making room for the next event scheduled at 2pm. 

Next item  on the agenda was the honouring of old school teachers with a special memento and a shawl  viz. Varadrajan sir, Alamelu teacher, Leelamma John, Nancy D’souza, Pavai Parvathy teacher, Ambujam teacher, Prema Hattangadi.  While every teacher received enthusiastic applause from the audience, maximum noise was reserved for Mrs. Nancy D’souza, commended as the most popular teacher of her time by the Chief Guest.
The much awaited ceremony to confer the Distinguished Alumni Award to five nominees chosen from the 1950 to 1969 batches witnessed the Recipients going up the stage to receive the citation and a medallion from the Chief Guest. You could see the happy faces of the recipients when their citations were being read out by the MC,  Dr. Usha Iyer. The first one to be honoured was N.Krishnamurthy (1958 batch), an Air force Veteran who had seen action  in the two  wars with Pakistan  in 1965 and 1971.  In his student  days  Krishnamurthy was also a National Table Tennis Champion. The next recipient was R.V.Rajan,  also from the 1958 batch, who was recognized as a veteran Adman and Rural Marketing specialist apart from being an active social worker through several voluntary organisations he was associated with. T.N. Sundar  from the 1959 batch  received the Award for scaling great heights in life without any academic qualifications.  Dr.V.Rangaraj  ( 1961 batch)  was recognized for his significant contribution to Indo- US trade relations and long association with the American Embassy.  S.Ramanujam ( 1965 batch) popularly known as `Jam` among friends was chosen for his brilliant academic record and for his significant contribution to the social & spiritual activities in Mumbai. The two minutes acceptance speech, spoken from the heart,  by each of the recipients reflected their joy in receiving the Award from the association.

The truncated bollywood entertainment programme that followed the Award ceremony  hosted by Laxmi Sharma(1992) started with a  recorded song on the theme of the association specially scripted and composed by R.Jayaraman Iyer (1964 batch) who also briefly explained the concept behind the song.  Alumni members  Venkatesh, Sunder, Geeta, Leela, Shobana, Brinda, Lata, Lakshmanan and Gopu accompanied by two professionals  Vipul on keyboards and Kalpesh on rhythm along with alumni members R.S Mani on accordian, Suresh Iyer on guitar and Gopu on dholak   belted  out famous film songs of yester years much to the delight of the audience, many of whom  could be seen singing along with the main singers or tapping their feet. Unfortunately because of shortage of time each singer was allowed to sing only one stanza.

The shortage of time and the urgent need to hand over the stage back to the management of the auditorium resulted in the organising team cancelling the   meticulously planned batch wise Group photo session. The batch wise seating arrangement also saw some alumni finding themselves to be the sole attendees from their batch- they had come eagerly looking forward to  meet some long lost class mates only to feel disappointed. Hope the next event will see greater participation from every batch.

The curtain call was given by the hard working Secretary of the Association, the ever popular & talented Gopu Raman (1971 batch) who not only gave a spirited vote of thanks but also sang a song as a part of the entertainment programme.

The Master of ceremonies was Dr. Usha Iyer  the Principal of S.I.W.S College who tried her best to speed up the proceedings in her inimitable style. Thanks to K.N. Lakshmanan ( 1968 batch) every guest received a gift pack consisting of a collection of nail polishes produced by his company `Clarion Cosmetics`.
On the whole it was a well organised event with lessons learnt for future programmes of the Association.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


 A kleptomaniac has a mental disorder that compels the person to steal. Unlike a shoplifter, who will steal an item he or she wants or needs, a kleptomaniac steals for the thrill of stealing, often taking items that have little or no value. However, there are a  few cases where diagnosed kleptomaniacs have stolen even  expensive items. 
If you notice that every time your friend  `A `  comes visiting you in your office, some of  the pens  & other stationary items disappear from your table, it may be that your friend is a kleptomaniac. There are many in our society, even well- to-do who are afflicted with this mental disorder.

I had a lady boss, a mini celebrity in her time, who could be called a Kleptomaniac. She had the habit of picking up things that attract her in the hotels that she was staying during her travels.
I am not referring to the  `toilet kits` or the `dental kits` or the `shampoo sets` which almost all of us take away from the hotel rooms when we are checking out.. These branded items are supposed to be a part of the Hotel`s  brand building exercise. The hotels do not mind your taking them away  because the cost of such items are built into the room rate they quote to you. Rest assured that you will not come under the classification of a `kleptomaniac`. I have a huge collection of these from hotels from around the world

Hotels, however,  don`t expect you to take away the paintings  on display in the rooms or the expensive bath or hand towels, drinking glasses  or  the cutleries  used in room service. If you do this you will certainly come under the classification  as a Kleptomaniac.

 My lady boss once went  beyond this. I remember her  picking up a beautiful flower vase displayed on a side table in the lobby of the hotel where she  was  staying. When she realized that the receptionist had noticed it, she coolly went up to him and said ` I like this lovely piece. Do you mind if I take it.` Without waiting for his reply she quickly made an exit. Poor receptionist was speechless. And the security guard watched  nonplussed because she was a well known guest of the hotel.

When faced with this major problem a hotel management decided to have a display card on the side table in every room in their hotel  with the following message; ` You are welcome to help yourself with any items you fancy in this room. Please remember the cost of such items will be added to your room bill when  you are checking out`. I am told that the incidence of expensive items missing from the rooms came down drastically at this hotel.

I think the signs  of a potential Kleptomaniac  can be seen among some children who nonchalantly steal items from neighbor`s or friend`s  homes. Some of them steal things even from their class rooms in schools. Many of them  boast about it to their friends later. Parents of such children would do well to control their kids early in life so that this dreadful habit is nipped in the bud.
(This article appeared in Adyar Times Issue dated 17-23rd December,2017 under my column `Rajan`s Random Reflections`)