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`)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Divya Darshanam

27th November,2017, will go down as one of the most memorable days in my life. The day I had the privilege of having a full 30 minutes ( 1800 seconds) darshan of my favourite Lord (Ishta Deivam) at his original abode in Tirupathy. For a person who is used   to be satisfied with the 20 to 30 seconds darshan that the Lord has given me  in all these years, this was a  feast for the eyes & soul. I was a part of a privileged group who had paid for the `Archana Seva`, seated inside the sanctum sanctorum, witnessing the special Pooja followed by an opportunity to go closer to the deity to receive the` Chadari` from the Priest. Needless to say I was in cloud nine. Excited, exhilarated, … any number  of adjectives cannot describe my true feelings. I even shed a few tears ( Ananda Kanneer)  and thanked the  Lord for deciding to grant me such a privileged darshan.
I have been a regular visitor to Tirumala  since April,1962 when I visited the temple for the first time as an adult and got hooked to the Lord for life. I have been visiting the temple at least once a year, if not more, for the last 55 years. Total surrender to this Lord has seen me coming out of many challenges I faced in my life with my head high.  I have shared my experiences with the Lord in my autobiography under the chapter titled `My Tryst with God`.
 I have  had  the pleasure of standing in a corner and having the darshan of the Lord for 4 to  5 minutes by bribing the volunteers inside  the sanctum sanctorum in the past ( in the 70s when the  administration of the crowd was slack and corruption was rampant).  I was even smuggled into a VIP queue by brokers for a small fee. But the experience on 27th  November  when I had the legitimate Archana Seva was unparalleled  in my life.
For this I must thank my good friend Sridharan Chettiar, a good Samaritan with a generous heart who decided to include me in his family group to have the Archana Seva for which he had made bookings eight years ago. This special  seva is held  between 4.30 & 5.00 am every day immediately after Thomala Seva. About 20 families ( hundred people) who have valid tickets are allowed to participate in the Seva. I am told all these special sevas  are booked for the next 15 years. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to witness the  special seva this year
Thank you Sridharan for your kindness. I consider this darshan as  the best 75th birthday gift I have received this year and thank you Lord for your divine grace. I get goose pimples thinking about the Seva even 10 days after I had the darshan! Govinda.. GOOvinda!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rainwater harvesting with a difference

           It was raining the whole night. When I got up to open the main gate in my independent home at 4 am, I found the house surrounded by more than ankle deep water. I was worried that if the rain continued for a few more hours, water would enter my home as it had happened in the past.  Fortunately, when I came out at 6.30am the rain had stopped. There was only a slight drizzle. By 9.30 am all the water had drained out leaving behind  only the garbage which had floated  into the compound from the road which is at a slightly higher level than my home. 
 It was not so a few years ago when  even a couple of hours  of heavy rain would result water collecting and remaining  stagnant  around the house  for a few days . What has made the difference? Implementation of a simple  rain water harvesting idea  suggested by my   Engineer /Contractor friend who has been looking after all construction related activities in my home. 

Though we had implemented the traditional RWH system when I built the first floor of my house long ago, it had not made any difference to charging my open well  which had remained bone dry for almost a decade. This was before the RWH was made compulsory for every household  by  the AIADMK government in 1990s.  After the implementation of the scheme by all our neighbours, I  found the  open well getting recharged and we could start using its water even for our cooking and drinking needs.But the implementation of the new idea by my contractor friend has not only helped increase the water level in the well to its maximum potential ( water is now available at 10ft) at the end of the rainy season  but has also helped in getting the water collected around the house after a heavy rain drained out fast in a couple of hours   instead of the water stagnating for a few days.  
The idea given by the contractor  involved digging   holes on the concrete flooring surrounding the house and also on the long passage leading to our home. The holes were dug  every  six ft, covering the entire length and breadth of the concrete flooring.  PVC pipes,  2 meters  in length and 6’” in diameter were embedded in these  holes and filled up with gravel & sand. The top was kept open providing an opportunity for the collected water to percolate down to the earth. This simple procedure costing me a few thousand rupees has made a difference to our efforts in solving the water stagnating problem. The only maintenance required  is to clear any muck collected on top of the holes once a year, before the main monsoon season. 

Thanks to the availability of water through bore well which we had installed  three  decades ago and the clean water from the open well, we find that  we are not dependent on  the Corporation water at all. In fact,  we have temporarily  closed the connection discharging  water into our sump. In any case the water supply from the Corporation had always been erratic and not dependable forcing us to buy tanker water during emergencies in the past.

If similar systems are implemented by all the independent homes and apartment complexes  with concrete floorings  surrounding their homes , it should greatly  help in mitigating their  water related problems. The corporation could also consider implementing similar ideas , suitably modified to suit the ground realities, on  all the roads of the city.  It will,  I feel, help in preventing the copious rainfall  being wasted and running  away into the sea.  While the citizens could solve their water related problems  with simple RWH ideas themselves, the government  should implement all ideas to save as much water as possible running away into the sea.  Will they display the same political will that they displayed when they implemented the compulsory RWH  for all households  in the city more than  two decades ago?
This article appeared in the `Down Town` section of the Hindu on Friday,24th Nov.`17

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

S.K.Swamy- Chip of the old block

The India chapter of the International Advertising Association recently inducted Srinivasan K.Swamy, the chairman of R.K.Swamy Hansa group of companies into its Hall of fame “ For building stable and meaningful companies in all areas  of the communication business in India and abroad.” A well deserved recognition for a man who is well known for his multi tasking abilities and  his total commitment to whatever cause he takes up.
Sunder, as he is known among friends is the son of the legendary adman R.K.Swamy. Not only he is a chip of the old block but has excelled his father in terms of his achievements in the area of his business, professional bodies and social service which can be only described as `awesome`!

Since his father`s death he has been successfully steering the group  Companies  with interests in a range of Advertising  and Marketing Services  like Events, Activation, Marketing & Media Consultancy, Global Language Services and Public Relations; Social and Rural Sector Communications; Human Resources Communications; Healthcare Communications; Market Research etc  besides  Real Estate Development. The group with a revenue of over Rs 600 Crores  employs in excess of 2000 people. 

He  is the Past President  of Advertising Agencies Association of India (2004-07), All India Management Association (2008-09), The Madras Chamber of Commerce & Industry (2008-10), Confederation of Asian Advertising Agency Associations (2010-12), India Chapter of International Advertising Association (2012-16) and Advertising Standards Council of India (2016-17). Currently he serves as Senior Vice President, a World President-Elect position, of International Advertising Association which will see him  as the President  between 2018 & 2020. He is also Vice Chairman of Asian Federation of Advertising Associations and a Governing Council member of Audit Bureau of Circulations. 

His contribution to the advertising & marketing industry is noteworthy. He strived for, and ensured equal bi-lateral relations between the broadcaster body, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, and advertising agencies body, Advertising Agencies Association of India, and was the Chairman of this joint industry body IBF-AAAI for 8 years. He was the brain  behind the starting of Goafest, India’s largest advertising festival.
His involvement in Social service is equally impressive.   As President,  he is actively involved in running the 220-bed, multi-discipline, tertiary care Hindu Mission Hospital at Chennai catering to the urban poor and the surrounding rural areas.  As Chairman of Valluvar Gurukulam School Society, he is providing leadership to run three schools for 2800 poor students, primarily girls, whose parents have not entered the portals of any school.  He is also the Vice President of National Boys & Girls Education Society  and Chairman of Vidyadhanam & Annadhanam Trust  involved in imparting Vedic education as a residential programme.  He is also a Trustee in the Consumers Association of India and CONCERT. As a philanthropist, he supports many religious, educational and healthcare causes that he is involved in.

It is not surprising that his work is being  recognized by both industry and social bodies.  Advertising Club Madras presented him with the Distinguished  Service Award in 2016 which was  closely  followed  by the Life Time Achievement  Award from  Advertising  Agencies association of India.  It is interesting to note that more than two decades ago his father was the recipient of both these awards. Recently  he received the  Lifetime Achievement Award  from Rotary Club of Guindy . 

 An  industry veteran described Sundar  as the President on steroids. Yes, his nervous energy is as infectious as his booming laughter that precedes him everywhere. He exudes positive energy and he has the capability of diffusing the most delicate situation with his explosive laughter. I have worked with Sundar closely during our Adclub days and later as a Trustee of Consumers Association of India. And I can tell you that it is always a pleasure dealing with him. Inspite of his hectic life style, he always finds time to keep his commitments and help friends in need.

I am sure that Sundar who is in his early sixties will continue to win more laurels in the years to come!