Sunday, February 18, 2024

A recognition after 30 years


Amid many farewell get-togethers, I attended a meeting with a difference. It was organised by the First batch of students of the Post Graduate Diploma Course in Advertising conducted by the Advertising Club Madras that was launched during my year as the President of the club in 19994. Vijay Vasudeven the ever enthusiastic member of the group had managed to get 10 out of 19 participants in the course to attend the event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the course and also to honour me for initiating the course which changed their lives for the better. While I feel delighted to get the recognition after 30 years, I think it would be appropriate for me to reproduce an extract from my autobiography which talks about my involvement with the Advertising club Madras and how the idea for the course was mooted and implemented .
"When K.A. Srinivasan, a veteran committee member became the President in 1992-93, he invited me to take over as the Convenor of the Club’s own building project. As a first step, I prepared a project report, clearly spelled out the objectives, outlined a structure and also worked out a budget. Armed with this document, I approached some of the leading lights in the agency business in Madras for their support.
Encouraged by the positive response I got, we started looking out for a suitable office space. Over the years, the club had saved about Rs. 5 lakhs. However, most of the premises on offer required more than Rs.10 lakhs. It was then that I came to know that my friend, Tabler Indu Chandhok had some office space available in Carex Centre, the building owned by his group company. Though the total value of the property was Rs. 9 lakhs and we were Rs.4 lakhs short, Indu, because of my personal relationship with him, agreed to sell the property to the Club, on condition that we pay the balance within a specific time. He was kind enough to allow us to take possession of the property and start work on the interiors. The property was registered towards the end of Srinivasan’s term as President. It was a proud moment for all of us when we performed the Pooja at our own premises on the second floor of Carex Centre, centrally located off Anna Salai.
When I took over as President from Srinivasan in 1993, not only did I have to raise Rs. 4 lakhs to pay Indu Chandhok for the premises, but I also had to find the money for the interiors. R. Krishnamurthy of Eenadu, one of the pillars of Ad Club those days and I called on R.K. Swamy, N. Murali from the Hindu and others for help. Swamy straightaway committed Rs. 3 lakhs, N. Murali Rs. 2 lakhs and another Rs. 60,000/- came from Shanth Kumar of Deccan Herald. An appeal to the members to contribute to the Building Fund helped in donations coming in from several small and big agencies and also individual members.
Once sufficient funds were collected, Srini helped with the interiors which not only served as a classroom for 20 students and a library, but also had a corner where the administrative secretary and his assistant could be seated. I managed to bring in Janardhanan, who helped me run the Round Table India Secretariat, to help set up the Secretariat of the Ad Club Madras. It was a dream come true for all of us when on 24th February 1994, we inaugurated the ’Centre for Advertising’ at our own premises with Arun Nanda, the then President of Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) as the Chief Guest. In his speech, Mr. Nanda acknowledged that it was the first time ever that such a centre was established by any Ad club in India. He was also delighted to learn about the proposed PG diploma course in advertising that the club was planning and wished it all success!
The PG Diploma course was my solution to the perennial problem of man power shortage in the booming advertising industry at that time. A jewel in the crown of Ad Club Madras, as it was called those days, the project was planned as an integral part of the permanent secretariat, to ensure continuous activity in the club and also to provide a regular income. The course initially trained 20 students, the number limited by the capacity of the classroom.”
Though I started it, the credit for running the course successfully for more than 20years should go to Past President Jagannath Ramaswamy,as the Course Director. It is not often that a Past President of any club can sustain his interest in any activity for such a long time. I am happy that Vijay and his team also honoured Jagannath at the function.
It was appropriate that the current office bearers of the club under the dynamic leadership of Bala also participated in the event. It is heartening to note that the course, after a gap due to the pandemcic, has been relaunched, with new syllabi. While I congratulate Vijay for conceiving the idea of the alumni get together of the First batch I hope he will help in forming an alumni Association of all past students of the course. I wish him and the office bearers of the Adclub Madras all the best in their endeavours to take the club to greater heights

Saturday, February 10, 2024

11th Anniversary of Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation.

Eleven years have flown by since the passing away of my life partner of 40 years on 5th January 2013. Instead of mourning her death, I have been celebrating her memory through the activities of the Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation ( PRTF), which I founded in her memory. Apart from being an accomplished writer in Tamil, Prabha was also interested in singing, gardening, and social work. She was a house-proud woman who believed in maintaining a beautiful home to which one was happy to return every day. I have been living with beautiful memories of my life with her for the last 11 years!

In the last 11 years, PRTF has held essays, short stories, novella contests, and many other ideas in association with Kalaimagal, Mangayar Malar, Ladies Special, and Amudhasurabhi magazines. Has supported 15 budding female writers in Tamil by co-sponsoring the printing of their books mainly published by Manimekalai Prasuram. PRTF also contributes towards women-centric projects of the Rotary Club of Madras South & Inner Wheel Club of Madras South. Many other projects to support deserving female students are also conducted regularly.

Last year PRTF for the first time associated with Kuvikam to conduct a short story competition and in association with Ladies Special magazine recognized two women achievers, both senior citizens with the PRTF Role Model Awards, This year also this programme with Kuvikam and LS repeated.

This year`s event, held at the Anand Chandrashekar Mini Hall in West Mambalam, was a modest affair with 60 60-plus audience. Many of them were accomplished writers in Tamil. The event was conducted with aplomb by Girija Raghavan, editor of Ladies Special magazine, a guest of honour who also doubled also as the Emcee of the evening. After the mandatory prayer and the welcome address by me, the first part of the event witnessed, the 91-year-old Mrs Padma Mani and the 83-year-old Mrs Padma Rajan receiving the PRTF Role Model Awards, given in association with Ladies Special magazine. Presented to them to prove that age is no bar for pursuing one`s passion. This was followed by the release of the 200th book of Kuvikam, containing the prize-winning stories from the short story contest conducted by Kuvikan, prizes sponsored by PRTF. Kirubanandan one of the Kuvikam twins, in his talk briefly traced the story of Kuvikam and briefly explained the process of judging practiced this year. He mentioned that the first three prizes were from the short-listed entries by a panel of three judges chosen by the well-known bilingual writer Vasanthy. It was interesting to hear that over 250 entries were received for the contest this year. The book was released by the chief Guest Dr. S. Murugusundaram, an accomplished Tamil writer and a well-known skin specialist. The first copy was received by Ravi Tamilvanan, Director of Manimekalai Prasuram and a close associate of PRTF right from its inception. The last event witnessed the chief guest distributing the cash prizes to the First three prize winners. In his address, laced with humour, Dr. Murugusundaram, congratulated the Role Model Awardees and the prize winners in the short story contest. He also appreciated the PRTF's efforts to bring to the limelight the hidden talents of talented women, age no bar. He also talked about his second book titled `Dr.Valluvar`, a self-help book in which he gives useful tips based on the health-related sayings of Valluvar. A copy of the book was given free to those interested.

Thank you Kirubanandan and Girija Raghavan for organising and managing the event this year with your trademark efficiency.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Return of my baby after 52 days!

 It was on 11th December 2023 that my car was towed away to Cars India Ambattur Works, where all the cars affected by the recent cyclone were being attended to. I did not then realize that the works had 350 cars to repair and restore and my car was one of them. Though I was promised that my car would be back in 30 days, it has taken Cars India, Ambattur, 52 days to return the car, and that too after persistent & often frustrating follow up with the concerned persons in charge of my car.

I am a strong believer in the Maruti brand for their maintenance-free cars and good resale value. Have also had the benefit of their excellent after-sales service through Cars India, Adyar branch for the last 30 years. Starting with Maruthi- 800, I have owned an Esteem, Swift, Ritz, and now an automatic Ceelerio over the years. As an old customer of Cars India, I thought I would get a preference in dealing with my case. That did not happen.

It is interesting that in the last 40 years of my stay in the current house water used to enter my car every time there was heavy rain and there was flooding around the house. I never had a problem starting the car after the flood water receded. Though the water level was slightly higher than usual, I decided not to try and start the car because of the message from insurance companies going Viral on WhatsApp, warning car users of the severe damage to the Engines, if the car was started in a flood situation. When I contacted the Adyar Branch, the person in charge also advised me not to take the risk. He arranged for a towing service to tow my car to their Ambattur works, which cost me Rs 8000. I felt sad to see my car being towed away for the first time in 40 years. It felt as if a near and dear one was being taken to a hospital in an Ambulance.

I am very disappointed with the way that my case was handled by Cars India Ambattur. While I can understand that there was a huge pressure on them dealing with hundreds of Cars, I was upset that I was not being given the correct picture when I started following up with them after 30 days. False promises and wrong status reports were being given to me. Unfortunately, the work was so far away that I had no desire to go and physically check the situation.
Anyway, I am happy that the car is back with me. Needless to say, I was as happy as one feels when a near and one returns from a hospital after a successful surgery. After going through the final bill I realized that the car was not very badly damaged. In hindsight, I feel that the Car could have been repaired at the Adyar branch and I would have got the car without having to suffer the undue delay by the Ambattur works. That is the price I had to pay for overreacting to the viral message on WhatsApp.

The positive side of the story is that I got used to the idea of living without a car. Something which I intend to do when I go to Coimbatore. I am not taking the car with me but will use the excellent call taxi service available in CBE.

I must thank all my friends and family for providing me the ` CAR SEVA` whenever I needed it. God bless them!

Saturday, January 20, 2024

I am moving to Coimbatore

  29 years in Mumbai, 3 years in New Delhi, and after 50 years in Chennai I will be moving to Coimbatore in March 2023 to lead a life without responsibilities

I thought I would share with you the reasons for my decision to move to Nana Nani (Phase 4) a Senior Citizen Home in Coimbatore, though   I already have a good support system in Sastri Nagar where I am staying with my son`s family surrounded by siblings living in the same housing complex.

The idea took root in my mind after I wrote the article titled `Home away from Home- a Life without Responsibilities`  for which I visited several Senior Citizen Homes and interviewed scores of residents in such homes. Most of them were  NRI parents with their children staying abroad. But many of them were also seniors whose children were staying in Coimbatore or other cities. Still, they opted for the Home because of the independent life without day-to-day responsibilities such Homes offered. I found most of them were very happy with their life in such Homes.

After Prabha passed away in 2013, I was enjoying the independent life I was leading, looking after myself and offering whatever physical help I could offer to others.   In the last couple of years, the aging process and the consequent steady decline in my health with all kinds of aches and pains have made me worry about the possibility of my becoming dependent on my children and a nuisance value. I miss Prabha now.  She could have taken minute-to-minute care of me if I was unwell as only a life partner can do, without my feeling guilty about it. This has created an anxiety syndrome in me. My spirit is still willing to take on challenges but the flesh is becoming weaker and weaker.

Today well-run senior citizens' homes offer an excellent alternative life for those who are financially independent and who are living alone leading an insecure life. They also provide reliable facilities for dependent parents living with children in nuclear families when they are not in a position to provide any help to their children because of a lack of energy and stamina.  As I find myself with my two little resident grandchildren. They are fun but I find that I can`t run after them or cope with their boundless energy.

Some children appoint full-time caregivers to look after their dependent parents. This is not practical for everyone due to space constraints and other reasons. Many of the senior citizen homes offer assisted living facilities within the community without the children having to worry about such parents on a day-to-day basis. Though at present I don`t need such care, I am looking ahead and being prepared for any eventualities.

The second reason is the condition of the beautiful Home I built 42 years ago. Age is also catching up with the Home which is witnessing many cracks endangering the security of the family. Though I  have seen water entering the ground floor of my independent home where I stay almost every year when it rains heavily, the recent experience because of the cyclone in Chennai has broken my endurance limits. I don`t want to live in the house to face the nightmare of another flooding of the house. With the possibility of my siblings also moving out for the same reason, and the families going for a redevelopment of the property, I  wanted to clear the way for my son so that he can look at plans without having to worry about me.

Why Coimbatore when there are many Senior Citizen Homes in and around Chennai? Better weather and the fact that my younger daughter Sowmya is now settled in Coimbatore who could be a first respondent in case of a health emergency, have influenced the decision.

I want to make it clear that the decision is based on my habit of thinking ahead and looking for out-of-the-box solutions to some of the problems I faced in my life. I  may still come back to Chennai if I am not happy with life in the new Home as the lease of the apartment is for 11 months only. Besides I will keep visiting Chennai whenever an occasion demands my visit. So friends in Chennai, do not bid me goodbye, yet

Saturday, January 13, 2024

How to make at least one person happy every day

Since I retired from my job at the age of 65, I have discovered the great joy of making other people happy. When people around me are happy I feel happy. In the last few years, I have publicly declared my latest policy to make at least one person happy every day. Friends ask me, how do I do it? The answer lies in my nature to help others. In all my life, whenever anyone approaches me for any help I would never say `not possible` but say, `I will try`. Thanks to the goodwill I enjoy among my large number of friends and contacts, I can connect the person seeking help to a person who is in a position to help. In 80% of the cases, the problem gets resolved making the person grateful to me for helping. It could be anything from a request for school admission, seeking a job, looking for an alliance, a medical condition, a problem with a government department, seeking a donation, a loan, or many other reasons people seek help and advice from friends. This is one way to make people happy but how do I practice it every day? It happens by instinct.

Godman Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living fame advises his millions of followers to keep smiling and create a positive feeling for you. I try to follow this advice and do not hesitate to greet anyone I meet during my morning walks or in any public places. I make it a practice to call or visit senior citizens who are living alone and looking for someone to talk to. Offer them any help they need then. I know of a nonagenarian friend`s wife who is a voracious reader. I regularly supply her with new books in exchange for those she has already read. The reward I get for my good deed is to be fed with some delicious snacks she lovingly prepares, once in a while.

Every year I buy the special Diwali issues of some popular Tamil magazines and circulate them in rotation among a few of my friends, all senior citizens. They look forward to this unusual service from me with great expectation. I feel happy when they are happy.
I am also prompt in appreciating people for their little and big achievements. A handshake, a pat on the back, or even a simple word of appreciation makes people happy. During my walks in the mornings at Bessy ( Besant Nagar Beach front in Chennai), I come across families with small, cute kids. Occasionally I stop and pet the child and tell the parents “ A smart kid. He will go places in life. God Bless”. The happiness on the face of the proud parents is to be seen to be believed.

Then there are scores of other small acts you can perform that make people happy. Like having small talks with service providers like electricians, plumbers, and mechanics who come to repair equipment. Enquire about their background, their families, or the simple act of offering them a glass of water or a cup of tea. I also derive great joy when I see the surprised and happy look on the faces of call drivers, auto drivers & vendors when I pay them more than what is due to them. I can go on. If giving becomes a habit it will surely generate a lot of happiness among the recipients of your kindness, and you will be happy that you are leading a purposeful life instead of just existing in the world.





Thursday, January 4, 2024

Remembering Prabha on her eleventh Anniversary

Instead of mourning her death on 5th January 2013 I have been celebrating the memory of my life partner for forty years through Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation (PRTF) activities which I started in her memory. On the 10th Anniversary event last year, a new idea of presenting the PRTF Role Model awards was introduced and two deserving senior citizens were honoured. I released  an advertisement  in the 2023 Diwali issues of Kalaimagal and Ladies Special magazines which briefly highlighted  the achievements of three women who decided to pursue their passion for writing, late in life, like Prabha.

 On her 11th Anniversary, I promise that I will continue with the activities of PRTF as long as I am mentally and physically fit. Om Sai Ram.
The attached photo of Prabha was taken in Kashmir where we had a- Childhood dream come true holiday- as she called it. We returned from the holiday on 25th April,2012 and she was diagnosed of terminal cancer on 5th June,2012. She passed away on 5th January,2013, exactly seven months after the diagnosis of colon cancer.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

A Farewell visit to Mumbai?

The wheelchair service by the Airlines has helped me travel alone more confidently. My trip to Bombay this week reinforced this belief. My original plan was to only attend the `Navjote` function of the grandkids of Sam Balsara, the big Boss of the Madison group with whom my agency Anugrah Madison had entered into a tie-up as the rural division of the group. It was a lovely evening where I not only met Sam`s family but also a lot of old friends from the advertising fraternity. The vegetarian fare at the dinner table with many typical Parsi dishes like Dhansak, Undhiyu, etc was delicious.

Thanks to my wonderful hosts in Mumbai, Sundaresan and Leela, a couple who are hospitality personified, I could visit Shirdi Sai Baba temple by Vande Bharath Express- leaving Mumbai in the morning and returning the same night after a very good darshan of Sairam. I was traveling by train after six years and by Vande Bharath for the first time. While the train in terms of space, ambiance, and spacious toilets stands out as a train with a difference, I found the dinner served on the train was no different from what they serve in Shatabdi, which I never liked.

During my stayin Mumbai, I had the pleasure of having lunch with 92-year-old Vijay Menon and his wife Shanthi. Meeting their daughter from New York on a visit to Mumbai was a bonus. Vijay, a friend for over fifty years, had opened up a whole new world to me when he roped me as the country representative of AMIC in 1984. He had  left the post to take over as the Secretary General of AMIC, an NGO headquartered in Singapore, promoting the cause of Mass Communication in Asia Pacific Region. My long association with AMIC led to my involvement with WAN-IFRA, another NGO devoted to Newspaper development headquartered in Germany. While at Anugrah Madison I had to explore the hinterland of the country, WAN-IFRA gave me opportunities to travel abroad every year. It was a fascinating experience.

One evening with my school friends at the Matunga Gymkhana was memorable. During the first 26 years of my life, I had seen Matunga Gymkhana, opposite Podar College where I studied, almost every day. It was a popular Club for Cricket and Table Tennis with some other basic facilities. It has been redeveloped into a first-class Club with several additional facilities and a couple of restaurants with a five-star ambiance serving some unusual dishes as starters.

Spending a pleasant evening with a client turned-friend Swamy( ex-Philips) and a quiet lunch with relatives Rajagopals  also happened during the trip. I visited Matunga where I had lived for the first 26 years in Bombay. I had a sumptuous and tasty Thali Meal at the Udupi Sri Krishna Boarding, near Matunga station, an iconic restaurant. It was a nostalgic experience indeed! Any trip to Mumbai is never complete for me without a visit to Chedda Stores, ( a small grocery shop turned into a big department store) and buying my favourite Theplas, Khakras, and other Gujarathi snacks.

Though I am impressed with the several new modes of travel that the government has introduced to reduce travel time (like the Freeway from Chembur to Masjid ), I am shocked at the number of high-rise buildings that have come up in the name of redevelopment, making Mumbai a concrete jungle. I found the city claustrophobic and heavily polluted. Frankly I don`t enjoy visiting Mumbai anymore . I told my host that this probably was my farewell trip to Mumbai!