Saturday, December 25, 2010

Twin Reunions

During a short holiday in Mumbai recently with my better half, I managed to have a re-union get-together with two sets of friends. The first one was with my five school friends who had passed out of South India Welfare Society School in 1958 – 58th batch as we are known now. The second one was with five friends from Clarion McCann Advertising where I started my advertising career in 1964. Though both the get-togethers were interesting – meeting old friends and catching up on the happenings over the years – the residual impact of the two on me were different.

The get-together with school friends was real fun. In spite of the presence of spouses, it was a `no holds barred` discussion. All of us were more or less of the same age group- 68 plus and had travelled a long way in life, since our school days. There was Krish, a retired Air Commodore from Indian Airforce, Raju and Sundaresh – who have done well in the Pharma industry and Mani, a Civil Engineer who had just retired from a top Construction company as a Senior Manager and of course me the `Ad man – Mad man` in the group.

What was interesting was how the discussion, after the preliminary enquiries about respective families, quickly veered around to our onesided love affairs in school days. Raju was shocked to realise from Mani that ‘so & so’ girl from ‘so & so’ class had a big crush on him about which Raju himself seemed to be unaware or may be he was acting innocent in front of his wife(!). When I was mentioning the name of a girl from my class for whom I had harboured calflove, Krish literally jumped from his seat and said,‘yes,yes, I remember the girl’s face …’ and went on to describe the girl with all the passion he could muster - giving me the feeling that may be even he had a crush on my girl! The discussion then went on to discuss the love affairs- real and imaginary- of other school friends, who were fortunately not present. Our spouses, cut short their own `girlie` discussions to listen to the juicy stories about their husbands. And they seemed to be enjoying the discussion, as mush as we were. It is another matter, that some of the friends got pulled up by their spouses later at home – wanting to know more about their love affairs!

I had no such problem as I had already laid bare my life story in my candid autobiography.

It was also interesting to know that none from our batch had kicked the bucket yet. On the whole it was a fun get-together and the small group took a decision that a serious effort will be made to have a grand re-union of the 58 batch in 2011. I promptly volunteered to steer the idea as I was looking forward to a project to keep me busy next year!

Compared to the school friends` get-together the old Clarion staff get-together was a bit of a dampener. The group consisted of two friends who were 80 plus, three friends who were 70 plus. I was the youngest at 69. While we did have some fun going down memory lane sharing some interesting anecdotes from our lives in Clarion, what was shocking was that many of our old colleagues are no more. Except one or two who had died of old age, many of them had died young due to stress related problems. Some of them had got `burnt out` and left the industry in pursuit of less stressful careers. One had been even murdered along with his wife by decoits when they came to burgle their home. Another colleague had to spend a couple of months in the Tihar Jail for some business related crime he had committed.

On the whole it was a depressing experience! Though at the end of the get-together we all agreed that we must have more such get-togethers, involving more old colleagues – I am not sure if I can go through another round of mind numbing stories!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Nostalgic Trip

Since I left Bombay in 1971, after spending 29 years of my early life, I have visited the city several times on official trips to attend some function or the other. But the recent trip that Prabha and I made to the maximum city was truly a trip down memory lane. Made very comfortable by my three host couples Raju & Gita; Gopal & Hema and Raja & Rama with whom we stayed during the nine days we spent in Bombay- nay `Mumbai`.

Apart from the two fun filled get-togethers with my school friends and old colleagues from Clarion Advertising where I started my advertising career, the most memorable day was the morning Prabha and I spent walking around Matunga, the Little Madras where I had spent 26 years out of the 29 years I was in Bombay.

We started the walk with a visit to the Asthika Samaj and Bhajana Samaj – the two oldest and popular temples of the area. Asthika Samaj has obviously got more idols installed over the years – compared to Bhajana Samaj which still displays a huge framed picture of … in the main sanctum sanctorum.

As we were coming out of Asthika Samaj, I saw the familiar board of ‘Zenith Art Studio’ a popular photo studio of the area. I decided to visit the studio and give a surprise to Harish, the cheerful Marwari owner of the studio with whom I was very close because of my interest in photography.We walked up the stairs following the sign board which led to a corner room on the first floor where a man was standing outside the door. I told him that I was looking for my old friend, whom I had not seen for 45 years.He opened the door of the small 6 ft. x 10 ft room and pointed out at a figure lying on a bed and said, ‘This is Harish’.

I was shocked beyond words. Because the person I remembered was a young man in his late thirties, sporting a smart black moustache, always wearing a white kurta & pyjama and bubbling with enthusiasm. The body lying on the cot was that of a very old man, with a bushy white moustache, grey hair on his head and very much in pain. When he saw me he could not recognize me immediately because even I had changed over the four decades shedding most of the curly hair on my pate but adding on a lot of weight in the middle. But when I spelt out my name and recalled the connection, I saw some recognition in his eyes. He held both my hands and started sobbing. I became emotional too! But I controlled myself and told him that I had specially come to visit him and pay my respects. Again he started sobbing. Since he could not speak, I found it difficult to continue my conversation. After wishing him well I came out of the room and asked the attendant outside the room, what had happened to Harish? He refused to reveal much, except to say that the studio had changed hands and someone else was running the business. Since his fall from the bed Harish had become confined to bed. He did not know much about the family. I came down the stairs with mixed feelings. Happy that at least I could see Harish alive but sad that he had fallen into bad times and was suffering in his old age! I don’t know whether the tears that he shed were tears of joy in seeing an old friend or tears of embarrassment.

* * * * * * * * * *

After the visit to Harish, as we were walking along the road, I pointed out to Prabha the various landmark shops (Laxmi Jewellery, Laxmi Silks, Brijwasi, etc.) which were still there as I had seen them for over 40 years. I pointed out at the building complex where the famous Matunga Don ‘Varadabai’ used to live and run his underworld empire. A person, whom I had seen as an ordinary rice smuggler, who became a powerful don controlling large parts of Central Bombay. He was also the subject of the famous Mani Rathnam movie ‘Nayagan’ featuring Kamal Hassan in the lead role.

Two major changes I noticed in Matunga – the no. of cars parked on either sides of all roads and bylanes making the movement of vehicles and pedestrians difficult. The other thing is the composition of the crowd walking around. The real “Madrasis’- the `mamas` and `mamis` seem to have all moved to better accomodations in suburbs like Mulund, Chembur, Ghatkopar, Dombivli, Thane and of course Navi Mumbai.

I showed Prabha the building where my old school was located, opposite the twin Napoo Gardens. While the school building is there minus the school, Napoo Garden has undergone some changes – concrete compound walls replacing the earlier steel railings. One ground has been retained as a play ground while the other one has been converted into a beautiful landscaped garden. I remember the time when the popular film star, Chief Minister of TN – MGR came to address a public meeting at the Napoo Garden.

We then visited Sharadha Bhavan, the Udipi restaurant opposite to Matunga station which has not changed at all but the quality of the dishes served by them has definitely come down. The restaurant still sells its famous Sharada Bhava Mixture a savoury item very popular among South Indians. Cheddha Stores which used to be a small grocery stores has transformed into a multiple (shop) grocery and general stores, where you shop in air conditioned comfort for all types of Gujarathi Snacks including my favourite Teplas, Kakras, Kandvis and Dhoklas.

On the way to my old college, we stepped into the Gulshan Irani Restaurant. While the interior looked the same, outside the restaurant they have an open air fast food joint dishing out all the junk foods popular with the younger generation.

* * * * * * * * * *

The visit to the Podar College ( where I did my B.Com) was a bit of disappointment. There was a wedding happening in the famous College Auditorium (where my own wedding reception had been held 39 years ago) and the building itself was very crowded with thousands of students, who had come to participate in an inter collegiate event.

The college Swadeshi Stores on the mezzanine floor ( where I used to literally live for two years) has been replaced by the NSS office and I could not find a single familiar face. I realised that 45 years is a long gap for me to expect known faces. Later I heard most of the popular professors of my time – Prof. Tole, Prof. Phutane, Prof. Bapat etc. are no more. I came out of the college a little sad because there was hardly anything in the college to help me connect with the old time, except the building.

The Matunga Gymkhana Grounds bang opposite the college, now has a short compound wall running right across the length of the ground with hundreds of boys and girls sitting and chatting. During my time, in the absence of the compound wall, the boys of Podar college used to sit on the footpath on either sides of the road, ogling the girls from Ruia college passing by.

The cricket pitch, right in the centre of the ground, where my friend Jayaraman and I used to spend long hours in the evenings lying on our backs, staring at the stars and dreaming about our future, is still there!

After a quick bite at the ever popular Mani’s Cafe opposite Ruia College and a courtesy call on my old class mate K.K.Mani, we landed at the old chawl building where I had spent 26 years. The building looks more dilapidated with the front side having a no. of shops serving the student community coming out of the adjacent Matunga Station in thousands to attend the two colleges and several schools in the neighbourhood.

The main purpose of the visit to the chawl was to spend some time with an old couple, living in one of the rooms, whom I had known from my childhood.

The floor which has nine rooms looked totally deserted – in my younger days the floor would be always busy and noisy with scores of children running around and playing . Now only some of the rooms have tenants living as the tenants of the other rooms have moved up in life and shifted to better apartments without giving up their claims on the rooms in the chawl.

While the exterior of the chawl was depressing, the meeting with the old couple was even more depressing. The old man in his early eighties and the lady in her seventies were a picture of desolation. Both were ill, finding it tough to manage their own affairs and barely able to help each other. The son’s family was in the Middle East and the daughter, though living in Bombay, could not be of much help due to her own busy life. Prabha and I decided to listen to the old couple venting their frustrations. Though any no. of relatives lived in the neighbourhood, it seems nobody visited them to enquire how they were fairing.

It was a very lonely life, with nothing to look forward to except waiting for the call from the maker of the world. It was indeed a sad story, very common among the thousands of NRI parents, living in metropolitan cities of the country.

The couple was extremely happy that we spent so much time with them. Prabha and I were equally happy that we could bring some cheer to their otherwise boring life.

The nostalgic trip to Matunga after nearly 40 years made me feel more sad than happy. Sad to realise that not only people age, but even places age, not necessarily gracefully.

Friday, November 5, 2010

RVR Autobio- excerpts -V (Calcutta Days))

Calcutta Days
I reported to Mr. Subash Sen, one of the Directors and founders of Clarion who was in charge of training. I got an accommodation in Murugan Lodge near the Lake market, in South Calcutta, which I shared with four other bachelors, thanks to the help provided by Nath, one of the assistant executives in the company. I had my breakfast and dinner at the Murugan Restaurant nearby, run by the same management. Since Clarion was offering subsidized lunch for its staff I decided to have lunch in the office from then on.

On the first day at lunch, I ordered a plate of vegetable curry and rice. I was quite hungry and ready to attack the meal, when I found some¬thing fishy in the curry. When I questioned the bearer, he responded with a sheepish grin and a typical Bengali accent, “Sir, phish is bege¬tarian in Bengal”.

Another incident on the second day of my stint in Clarion, Calcutta almost cost me my job! Every morning, the staff, including the Directors must stand in a queue, waiting to sign the attendance register located at the reception desk. On the very first day, at my request, the Anglo Indian receptionist had taught me how to say ‘Good Morning’ in Bengali. So the next day, I wished Mr. S N Banerjee, the MD who was standing behind me “Aami Thomake Balo Bashi”. Instead of being happy I found his dark face turning red and he asked me “Who taught you Bengali?” Later I found out that instead of ‘Good Morning’ in Bengali, I was telling him “I Love You”. I could see through the corner of my eyes, the receptionist going under the table. Thanks to other Directors who realized that I had been taken for a ride, I was bailed out. After this episode a friend advised me to buy an English-Bengali self instructor, which I did and started learning important sentences in Bengali. For practice, I would take the tram and try to read all the shop signs on the way. Even today with some difficulty, I can read the headlines of Bengali newspapers.

In Clarion, it was important to know Bengali because, except the Managers, all others down the line replied to you in Bengali, even if you had asked them a question in English. This knowledge of a few essential Bengali sentences helps me strike a chord with Bengalis wherever I go.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Forgetting- A Disease?

‘Forgive & Forget’ goes the old saying. But people affected by your forgetfulness are not willing to forgive you. Forgetfulness is a disease which every human being experiences in his / her life time. The disease generally is expected to attack people in their old age. But these days, even small kids complain of forgetfulness – not just what they have read for the exams but even the simple instructions that their parents give them.

The most common loss of memory relates to birthdays and wedding anniversaries. How many times you are waiting for a call from your son, daughter or spouse wishing you a happy birthday or anniversary but the call never comes or the gift never arrives! You feel so miserable. Shamelessly you call the person yourself and try to give enough hints but still the near or dear one does not respond – making you even more miserable!

There are people who believe in taking the`bull by the horns` and tell the person concerned about the important date and demand a gift! My wife has taken an interesting route to solve the problem. She buys the gift that she thinks she deserves for her birthday / wedding anniversary and tactfully presents the bill to me on the D day – knowing pretty well that I will not reject it. Clever, don’t you agree?

The following kind of forgetfulness causes you embarrassment on a day to day basis: You ring up a no. but forget what no. you dialed. And hesitantly ask the person who picks up the phone ` Sorry, What this?`. Often the response would be furious: ` you dialed the no., you should know`. And the phone is disconnected. The most frequent embarrassment I face is when I ring up some body and say `Sorry Ganesh, I forgot what I called you for. Will call again when I remember!`. The embarrassment is greater when I forget the name of a friend with whom I am having a serious conversation and suddenly I am expected to introduce him to another friend who joins the conversation , whose name also I have forgotten. At such moments I just wish I could vanish in thin air!

And there are instances of forgetfulness which are ridiculous:- Like searching for your spectacles all over the house when it is safely tucked up on your forehead! Or religiously prepare a check list of things that you want to buy but forget to take it with you when you go for shopping. The most common form of forgetfulness is when you keep something safely in a place and forget where you kept it when you need it urgently. Oh1 The list is endless!

Sometimes your forgetfulness can create a havoc or lead to a major or minor crisis in your life!

I want to share with you an incident from my life 25 years ago – when I was panic stricken because of a temporary memory loss!

I had gone to Gorakhpur in Eastern UP for a visit to make a surprise check on an audio visual campaign for a tyre company which was to start the following day in a nearby village. Since I had checked into the hotel early and my evening was free, I decided to see the evening show of the movie ‘Ardh Sathya’ featuring actor Ompuri ,in a cinema hall - a few kms away from the hotel. I took a cycle rickshaw with just enough cash required for the evening outing.

The movie started and as I was beginning to get engrossed in the movie, suddenly I realised that I could not remember the name of the hotel where I had checked in nor the address of the hotel. In spite of scratching my brain hard, I just could not recall the name.

I started imagining the worst- lost on the streets of Gorakhpur, running from street to street to locate the hotel late into the night, sleeping on the footpath. With poor telecom facilities prevailing then ( no mobiles for instant connectivity ), the idea of checking with my colleague back in Chennai, at that hour, did not seem practical. I did not know any other soul in the town and even the address of the local dealer was safe in my brief case, in the hotel. It was one of the worst 60 minutes I spent in my life before the intermission came.

As I moved out of the auditorium to get a cup of tea in the makeshift restaurant inside the cinema hall, I suddenly saw the familiar face of the supervisor of the AV van operator whose team had also come to watch the movie in the same theatre. Without wasting any time on formalities I asked the guy whether he remembered the name of the hotel where I have checked in. He gave me a funny look and told me that the team was supposed to report to me next morning at Hotel Bambino on so & so street, where I was supposed to be staying.

I thanked him profusely and sheepishly told him about my temporary amnesia and we all had a hearty laugh. Needless to say that I watched the rest of the movie with total peace of mind.

The offshoot of that experience is the recurring dream I have - of getting lost in a strange place without cash, without contacts and walking around in my underpants while everybody is staring at me! This is a nightmare I am trying to forget – but it doesn’t seem to leave me even after 25 years!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Little Joys of life

Life is full of ups and downs. There are periods when we feel on top of the world and there are occasions when we are down in the dumps. Nobody, just no one, is spared this life cycle.

But irrespective of the phases of life that we go through, we do derive pleasures through little things that we do and experience on a day to day basis, which make our life worth living. I am listing below a few things which constitute the little joys of my life.

 Getting up early (4 am) with a spring on my feet. These days I have to be careful lest I twist my feet while jumping out from the bed!
 Completing the morning chores before Prabha gets up. Keeping a hot cup of `Kumbakonam degree coffee` ready for her! She will invariably cool the coffee under the fan before she starts sipping the strong brew.
 Using the golden hour to do some thinking and writing with Carnatinc music playing on the radio (Rainbow FM) in the background!
 Going for a morning walk on the beautiful Elliot Beach Road in Chennai, breathing fresh air and watching the sun rise, (except when the clouds play spoil sport!). It is also fun watching people of different sizes and shapes crossing you with their idiosynchrasis on full display. These days you have to contend with many of them talking loudly to themselves- actually they are busy talking on their `hands off` mobiles!
 Shopping in general (!) but particularly shopping for vegetables keeping in mind a pre-determined menu. Cutting the vegetables ready for cooking (yes! I have been doing this regularly for the last 10 years)
 Cooking a meal whenever Prabha permits me to enter the kitchen. I am willing to do this on a daily basis because it is a creative pursuit and a great stress buster (though after retirement I dont have any stress to burst!). But unfortunately my presence in the kitchen creates great stress on Prabha. So I have to contend being a Sunday cook!
 Making a check list of things to be done for the day every morning and reviewing the same at the end of the day – feeling happy if I have managed to complete more than 50% of the checklist. It is another thing that my check list is reduced to just a dozen items as compared to the list running to several pages in my hay days!
 Making people happy – with little acts which touches them, very often when the person is least expecting it. Like a simple compliment, a little gift or suggestion for getting over a problem. Seeing the surprised happiness on the faces of a coolie or an auto driver, or any skilled labourer as and when I pay them a little more than what they are demanding (if it is a reasonable amount they are demanding)
 Like partying and giving parties – prefer to host my dinners at home where I can flaunt my well equipped bar to guests, especially those who love the cup that cheers. Old age and fatigue have brought down such occasions drastically! My bar also looks considerably depleted?
 At the club bars which I visit for my occasional drink alone, I enjoy sitting on the bar stool nourishing a drink while reading a newspaper / magazine available at the bar! Needless to say that I am an oddity at the bar.
 I enjoy the company of youth. They make me feel young. Because of this I enjoy teaching which helps me to be in constant touch with the younger generation. It tickles my ego when they compliment me on my high energy levels and my passion for the subject I am dealing with.. Though I know that they are not telling the truth when they say that I don’t look my age?

 Love to travel seeing new countries and new places, meeting people from diverse traditions / cultures. Though I am often accused of visiting a place only to tick it in my list by Prabha who enjoys savouring new places, wanting to know every detail about the new place.
 I love the ‘man vasanai’ – the smell of earth immediately after the first rain of the season
 I love to go to hill stations for holidays more than the beach resorts (since I see the sea everyday during my walks)
 I love to visit temples when they are least crowded so that I can have total concentration on the presiding deity of the temple. I find too many distractions on festival days.
 I love reading books more than watching television. My choice is biographies or fiction by Indian authors in English. Like to read one book at a time and get totally immersed in the world of the characters described in the book!
 I love to take on big projects and see them executed well with the help of a dedicated team. I find I am generally good at identifying the right man for the right job
 I enjoy problems and challenges. There is no greater joy than what I feel after taking on a problem like the proverbial `bull by the horns` and leaving it behind after taming it No wonder I am known as` Crisis Rajan `- I don`t create the crisis but solve it!
 Enjoying family get togethers – especially when all my children / grand children spend time together at home / outstations. Though I find that the grandchildren who are becoming adolescents, whose priorities have changed, have no space for grand parents.

With so many things to keep me positively focused, I have have never experienced boredom in my life! This is the secret of my positive approach to life!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tributes to a mother and a wife



My Mother is what does that make me....
Yep...thats got it...OLD!!!

Now this is not about me, it's about her all the way.

As I flash back, I remember many incidents...some funny, some sad, some thrilling, some mundane, and mostly that she was always there....

Most of my memories of my mother is of her diligently working at something or the other, either at the kitchen, or in the garden, or in our rooms. No wonder she could maintain our spacious house single handedly!
I remember our first house, a huge sprawling one, with an even bigger garden. That's probably why she developed a passion for plants, perforce having to tend to such a big garden, the natural nurturer in her took over!

I remember the wallop my sister and I got when we got wet in the rain one afternoon!! Now I have to constantly remind myself that, when my son insists on running into the rain....

I remember how my mother took one look at my brother and the hanging arm, broken while imitating spiderman (or was that superman?), quickly pushed it back into place..yes very much like she had some training from Puttur (a place famous for repairing broken bones in Tamilnadu!!) and slinging it neatly with a towel. The doctor was so impressed, he simply had to x-ray and place the plaster!

I remember her encounters with snakes, the way she handled them would put the Korava community to shame! ( Probably teach Greg Martin a lesson or two!). The curry leaf plant harbours green tree snakes ( harmless apparently) and if you are not careful you could pluck it along with a whole branch of leaves too. Which she did.
Luckily she spotted it as it was trying to slither its way out and into our dining room, while I sat frozen in time, with my second born on my lap, about 2 feet away from all this action. She held on for dear life...yes she actually was holding the snake....superwoman....and finally managed to push it into a polythene bag!
What still stands out for me is that at this point is that the only male available (why do we look for a male?!!...dont ask me why... its a conditioning!) was our dhobi (ironwallah ), who happened to be at the door. He actually refused to hold the bag with the snake, and it took my mother and me quite a bit of convincing to make him take the bag and discard its content in some far off place!!

I remember the many, many meals she has cooked, and still keeps cooking for us based solely on our desire to eat it, or our preference. Every time I am amazed at this, this enthusiasm to feed us never wanes!!

I remember the many talks and chats we have had, much to my father's jealousy!! As I donned different roles, the relationship with her too gained different shades. Sometimes the empathy was rewarding, sometimes the criticism was irritating. Yet her presence and her opinion, which I take for granted many times, always has a bearing on my actions. As I try to balance the values given to me by her with my own individual identity.

Motherhood is never understood until one lives through it. Perspective, time and maturity are great educators.

I remember...that motherhood is how I will always remember my mother.

Happy Healthy Life Mom!
Happy Birthday!

By Sowmya Srinivasan

MY MOTHER (speech delivered at Prabha`s book launch)

I have been given the task of speaking about my mother this evening. It feels strange to talk to an audience about someone whose presence I’ve taken for granted, all my life! Where can I start?
Well like all good stories….once upon a time…….. there was a girl who was the youngest, in a family of four kids. She lost her dad when she was just 21 days old. My grandmother, who was barely educated and just in her 20’s took the decision of leaving her in laws and raising her 4 kids on her own.
Looking back, from the perspective of my own secure and happy child hood, it must have been difficult for my grandmother, bringing up 4 kids on my grandfather’s meager pension, moving from one rented house to the other, in Chennai and still trying to give her kids a decent life and education.
But I’ve only heard happy accounts of her young life from my mother. Of long walks to school and college, and happy times on the terrace of a house in Kutcheri road, making fun of neighbour’s kids and studying with her siblings. She studied mathematics in college, and I always make fun of my mother, that all her kolams are influenced by that – they are always made up of circles, squares and triangles! And at the back of my mind, I’ve always felt that her mathematics background had something to do with her rigid adherence to rules, time tables and routines.
Well to continue… my mother married my father RV Rajan, a high profile executive of an ad agency…well settled with a car and house in Delhi. Though she must have been the envy of all the young married and unmarried women , It must have been a difficult transition to make. Having to settle in a strange city, not knowing the language and facing all the challenges that my dad threw at her from time to time. I’ve heard the account of how my father wanted my mother to cook for 25 people in the first month of their marriage. And she had never stepped in to the kitchen before her wedding! But my mother rose to the challenge with the one tool that she uses time and again to overcome any problem – Hard work! She woke up at 5 and started cutting the onions , worked through the day with her meenakshiammal cook book and managed to serve dinner on time- no mean achievement for a novice!
My Parents moved to Chennai, where my sister, my brother and I were born.I remember our first house, a huge sprawling one in Shastri Nagar, with an even bigger garden. My dad was always travelling, so my mother was left with 3 kids alone in the huge house. At nights it would get pitch dark outside. But I don’t remember my mother being scared, or agitated. I think she took refuge in cleaning every corner of the house – to keep her mind occupied!
In the busy – ness of raising a family, looking after In laws and innumerable guests, she must have felt stressed and unappreciated. This forced her to write a long letter to my dad about all that she was feeling. And my dad – the typical advertising man that he was , decided to go and publish the letter ! Of course with my mother’s permission . (I must say at this point that my dad doesn’t have a sense of personal space and privacy… that’s something else that my mother has had to put up with all these years!)
But that letter was the beginning of her vocation as a writer. She wrote many articles and short stories in Tamil based on real life incidents, which were published in magazines. She won the first prize for a story that she wrote about an unusual wedding incident. This was published in Mangayar Malar. She wrote about her travels , to the US and other countries,too.
Like all mother and daughter relationships, ours too has gone through a variety of stages. From blind trust to tantrums, to irritation at her constant criticism to an acceptance of her views and values.During my difficult teenage years, when our relationship was going through a rough patch, she wrote a letter to a daughter, expressing her anguish (which got published in Mangayar Malar). Though I could barely read Tamil then, I remember being moved to tears by what she had written. I must say that I’ve done my bit to encourage my mother’s literary talent too!
Travel changed my mother. I noticed after the first trip to US how my mother had mellowed and was more confident of herself. Joining the Inner wheel club of Madras south transformed her from a typical quiet, workaholic, house- wife, in to a confident woman who could speak , unprepared, at public functions. I remember her initial months as inner wheel president, where she would write her speeches with my father’s help and practice over and over again. She would not compromise on house work , even when she had to go out to attend meetings and functions. I think we learnt a lot about hardwork, diligence and perseverance from her, in those days.
One important thing I learnt from my mother was not to foist my opinion on my kids. Whatever her personal views about a person or an issue, she would allow us to come to our own conclusions. She never stooped down to telling us – don’t talk to so and so. It was always our decision.
I have learnt to appreciate her more, after I became a mother myself.
People say that memories are made of innumerable mental images- I have many mental images of my mother,
- whacking us for not finishing our dinner, or getting our clothes dirty
- holding my brother’s broken arm and calmly fixing it in a sling
- getting up even after a bout of severe migraine , to complete her house work.
-Working on her neat clean golu and her geometric Kolums!
- accompanying us to dance class day in and out
-teaching us to sing and singing for us when we danced.
- walking out of her room, all dressed up, to accompany my father to a party
- going after centipedes and scorpions, and snakes with a broomstick, even when grown men were shivering with fright!
-Sitting up late in the night to read a book or write her stories(With no full stops and commas, invariably my dad had to make sense of them!)
- listening patiently to all our woes in school and college, and coming up with sensible advice
- walking to the blind school in the hot sun – so that she could be a scribe
-The silent anguish at seeing her brother waste away with cancer
-Patiently Learning Origami from us so she could teach the kids admitted in the cancer institute
-Of sitting up with our new born babies late into the night – so we could get some rest .
-Eagerly looking at our faces for appreciation, every time she cooked for us!
-Rehearsing her Invocation song again and again…..
So many memories……
With her large friends circle, her innumerable c lub activities, her Pattu class, her writing… my mother has come a long way from the quiet, diffident house wife she was.This would not have happened , if not for my father’s constant support and encouragement too.
And today I feel very proud that her book is to be released in the presenc e of her 90 year old mother,all her friends and well wishers.
Amma, this is your day. Enjoy the limelight. You more than deserve it!

Kavita Srinivas

Prabha – My better half

The other day my daughter mentioned to her grand mother that she is going to be 90 next year! My mother-in-law refused to believe that she is 90. She thinks she is not more than 80. We had to show her passport to convince her about her date of birth!

Her daughter, my wife Prabha has entered her 60th year. Others can’t believe that she is that old and that she is a veteran grand mother of four loving grand children! God has been kind in keeping her young looking which I think is in her genes.! (Her 60plus elder brother who is settled in USA was looking like a college student until a few years ago.)

We have been married for 38 years now. During this period I have grown old gracefully(!) and look my age. But Prabha continues to look like she is in her mid forties or early 50s.She is now concerned about some grey hairs making their rightful appearance in her mane.

While we have no problems (I think) with the mismatch in our looks, while moving in familiar crowds, I think Prabha has a problem when we are seen together in new environments and among new friends. People who don’t know us but see us together sometimes ask Prabha whether I am her father. I am sure that this puts her in an embarrassing situation. But when I am confronted with the question whether Prabha is my daughter, I proudly tell them with a twinkle in my eyes “No, she is my second wife.”

Well this article is not only to complement Prabha on her looks but also record for posterity, the other positive aspects of my wife of 38 years! While my daughters have written about Prabha as a mother I thought I will contribute my bit about Prabha as a wife.

It is true that in the initial years of our marrird life I was shocked to find that she did not fit into my social circles because of her problem in communicating in English. I have described in detail her trials and tribulations on this score in my autobiography and how she came out of it through sheer determination and hard work. While I have played a role in bringing her out of her shell, the credit for her current social status with an identity of her own, must entirely go to her! Because as they say, “One can take a horse to the water…”

Prabha has done an excellent job of converting her challenges into an opportunity and has been more than successful at it.

Though a reluctant starter, Prabha is a fast learner. Once she gets on to something she will put her heart and soul into the job. Whether cooking meals for a small family of 5 or for a party of 40 people, or maintaining her garden with hundreds of plants with love and care, attending music classes and learning new songs, or handling any assignment given to her by the neighbourhood Ladies club or the Inner Wheel, she has proved to be a very dependable and dedicated worker. Her passion for doing things perfectly has earned her a lot of admirers.

Prabha is a fearless and brave person. No bad news, no calamity or even a simple accident affect her composure. She is very bold and has been a nemesis for any crawling or slithering creatures that dare enter our home. The murderous look in her eyes and the speed with she acts with a broom stick in her hands is some thing you have to see to believe on such occasions. ( While the men( !) in the house run for cover)

She is also not a sentimental person judging by her reactions to several situations that I have seen .

Prabha is an intellectual of sorts! Not many people have had the opportunity to see her wax eloquent on Hindu religion, mythology, Tamil literature, carnatic music etc. Her memory and knowledge on these subjects is phenomenal,(though she will forget simple things I tell her to remember and accuse me that I never told her anything on the subject)

Prabha has been a good wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter-in-law and affectionate grand mother. Prabha is multi talented. Apart from her writing and singing activities I find her to be also a good story teller. Given an opportunity she can also act. She exhibits a child like enthusiasm for a lot of things. When our travel takes us to historical places, she would like to know details about everything on display. You can find her religiously reading all the explanatory boards on display, much to my irritation as I have no patience for such things!

Unlike many women I know, she is not a gossip monger and can get along with anyone because of the simplicity and transparency in her dealings. Most certainly she is not a cunning person but can be too naive sometimes!

On the negative side I will say that the obsession she has for maintaining the fairly big house we have, spic and span, sometimes drives every one, especially me, go crazy.

Anyone or anything that intrudes her daily routine creates tension in her. While it is an excellent quality to be focused, sometime it creates explosive situations between us. But considering the overall good that her hard work does to the household, I most often swallow my pride and get on. I suppose that is a part of the adjustment that is expected of a spouse in a married life.

I would like to conclude this piece with a confession. If I have led a very fulfilling life and have a sense of accomplishement, realizing most of my dreams. I must acknowledge the major role played by Prabha in my life. Thank you Prabha for everything. And pardon me if I have disappointed you on some scores!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mission Accomplished

Prabha’s book Kadambam – a collection of short stories in Tamil was launched at a simple but a well attended function on Saturday, 31st July 2010. The well planned event was executed to perfection. Nearly 100 copies of the book were given away to guests who attended the function. The purpose of this article is to review the impact of the event on Prabha.

Being a shy and reluctant starter, she was not in favour of my publishing the book, saying that there is nothing great about her writing to deserve a book and that I should not waste money in publishing it. But I was determined to bring to light the tremendous talent she has for writing in Tamil and I am happy that I took the right decision, judging by the response Prabha has been receiving post the event.

From Wednesday, three days after the event, our landline has not stopped ringing. A write up in the Hindu Metro Plus on Wednesday and photographic coverage in the weekly Adyar Times have added to the awareness about the book. Those who have read the stories are all praise for the simple and effective style of writing. Her choice of subjects and the messages she has tried to convey through her stories have come for praise!

Many of the readers are able to relate to characters and situations in Prabha’s stories. Needless to say that Prabha’s hidden talent has come as a major surprise to many of her friends, who have known her as a diffident but dedicated worker who will do a good job of whatever is assigned to her!

The immediate effect of all the encomium she is continuing to receive is that Prabha is seriously looking at all the unpublished stories and articles she has written to see if they can be polished a little bit and sent to magazines. Hopefully, she will also start writing again. When that happens, I will consider my mission in publishing the book accomplished.

BREAKING NEWS! As I am typing this article, Prabha informs me that she has written a new story yesterday!

My mission is surely accomplished!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

RVR Autobio-III -School Days

When I was in the 9th standard, my school moved to its own premises in Wadala which was a 30 to 40 minute walk from my house in Matunga. A group of us from the neighbourhood took a walk every day which enlarged my circle of friends. It was at this stage that I became close to Jayaraman, a bright student who always came first in my class. I became a part of the group of bright students bursting with a lot of creative energy! It was a multitalented group that wanted to participate in extra curricular activities such as singing, staging plays etc. But we had a problem. The school was being run by a group of Palghat Brahmins with Mrs. Saraswathi as the Principal. She was a Malayalee spinster who ran the school like a dictator. I remember her telling the students “Don’t waste your time on cinemas and dramas. Education is the only thing which will give you a good career!” So she banned all extra curricular activities except the mandatory sports activities.

My group began to feel frustrated and helpless. Some of us joined the Bombay Tamil Sangam which was encouraging students with talent in writing, debating, acting etc. I think the seed of converting a challenge into an opportunity was sown in my mind at this time. I mooted the idea of starting a Students Cultural Association through which we could express our creative talents. Others immediately agreed. Thus was born the “Manavar Kalai Arangam” with the motto ‘To encourage ourselves’ and I became the Founder Secretary. We had JNS Murthy from a junior class as President. Though JNS, at that point did not have any creative interests, we made him the President because he came from a business family and he could help us in raising funds for our programmes. Another friend Raghavan, who had the physique of the famous Tamil comedian Nagesh was excellent in comedy roles. I always landed character roles – invariably the father of the hero in all the plays.

One of our earliest plays was a one act play titled ‘Pushpalatha’ written by Director K Balachander. At that time he had just got into directing plays. Raghavan and I went to Madras and got his permission to stage the play in Bombay. In another play, I donned the role of Munuswamy a thug with one Muniamma as my wife. For the role of Muniamma we had to get a female artist from Madras, as no Bombay girls agreed to act in our plays!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

RVR Autobio Excerpts II -Life in a Chawl

Chawl life is unique to Bombay. A chawl consists of a 2 to 3 storey building with several single room tenements to a floor in which any¬where from 10 to 20 families live, sharing 2 or 3 common toilets and bathrooms. Each tenant will have a minimum of 5 occupants or more. Occupants could be lower class (factory workers), middle class with white collar jobs, small traders and businessmen.

A typical chawl is a potpourri of Indian diaspora as people from different religions, hailing from different parts of the country live to¬gether, unlike modern day flat system where people lead isolated lives and busy that they have no time for neighbours (of¬ten they won’t even know who the neighbour is). Interestingly, in a chawl people live like a joint family. Since the rooms are small (max. 250 sq.ft.) and placed next to each other, there was absolutely no privacy. Even ordinary conversations among family members will be heard by the neighbours.

Though the individual tenements are very small, when there are occasions to be celebrated by a family, the rooms of all the tenants are thrown open to the host for accommodating visiting relatives, providing space for serving meals to visitors or even providing room for the visitors to sleep for a night or two. In spite of living in cloistered surroundings, the hearts of the chawl members were big.

At the same time, it was not uncommon to witness serious fights among neighbours, often for trivial reasons. Most common fights were over disputes among children carried forth to the parents. Another common fight used to be over the mess that small kids make on the passageway to common toilets – the issue hotly debated as to whose child did the job and who should clean up the mess. These fights among two neighbours were often free entertainment for the other neighbours, from very personal attacks to general, using the most abu¬sive language. There will be Marathi abuses vs. Gujarati abuses, Punjabi vs. Bengali, Madrasi (anybody south of the Vind¬hyas is known as a Madrasi in Bombay be it a Tamilian, Kannadhiga, Andhraite or a Malayalee) vs. Hindi. Sometimes the verbal attack would lead to fisticuffs, forcing the other neighbours to intervene and separate the “fighters”. Very interestingly, the same neighbours who fought like cats and dogs one day, will be seen enjoying bonhomie like long lost friends on other happier occasions.

A chawl is one place where you can never get bored or depressed. For children of all ages, living in a chawl is fun. You are always surrounded by friends from the building who are playing with you, joking around or generally keeping you engagedn and that they had told him that he was a ‘God’s blessing’ to them. We got frightened that he might go back and check this out with his parents and land us all in trouble. So we had to pacify him and tell him that what his parents had told him must be true. It will be interesting to know that this is the same Ganesh who married very early (at the age of 23), and later gave us the true insights into married life. He also became a father and a grand father at a very early age

Monday, July 12, 2010

RVR Autobio Excerpts -1 Matunga Little Madras

We were living in a chawl (a building which housed 27 tenements with just two rooms in each tenement) in Matunga which was dominated by South Indian (Palghat) Brahmins and Gujarathis. Matunga! The lit¬tle Madras of Bombay like the Serangoon Road in Singapore. Twenty six years out of the twenty nine years in Bombay, I lived in this Cen¬tral suburb. Walking around the streets of Matunga, especially the main market area near Matunga Central Station (There is another Matunga Road Station in the Western suburbs), one felt like being in Madras with mamis(ladies) wearing 9 yard sarees and mamas (men) with folded dhotis walking around the market place doing shopping!

The chawl where my family was staying was the first building on the right, when one stepped out of the station. Those days a full fledged fruit market was operating on the footpath adjacent to the outer wall of our building, making it difficult for the commuters to enter or exit from the station. This fruit market was of course removed subsequently and relocated to a multi storied building which was put up by the Bombay Municipal Corporation nearby clearing the way for a parking lot for vehicles in front of the station.
Matunga was truly a place where you could get everything from ‘a pin to an elephant’, as they say. Step out of the station and bang op¬posite you had a choice of Gujarathi, Udipi and Iranian restaurants; a fruit and vegetable market, grocery shops, a silk saree shop, a jewellery shop etc. The vegetable market had all the items, including those that were unique to the South Indians like drumstick, small (sambar) onion etc. The flower bazaar with a row of shops next to the Matunga post office resembled the typical flower shop one finds outside temples in Tamilnadu. The smell of Jasmine and Rose would envelope you as you walk along. Suddenly if you get a whiff of fresh ground coffee it means you are close to Philips Coffee House, which sold fresh ground coffee powder to customers! Close to the flower bazaar were two temples – one Bajhana Samaj and another called Asthika Samaj where you would find the Sanctum-sanctorum filled with big, framed pictures of every popular deity you can think of. In the evenings, these temples would be crowded with both young and old `Madrasis` who came to listen to discourses by religious leaders of the time, narrating stories of Ramayana or Mahabaratha.

Gujarathi, Tamil and Marathi medium schools, a Commerce and Arts & Science College were not far away from the station. VJTI (Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute), an old and well knownEngineering College was about 20 minutes walk from the station. Aurora Cinema, in Kings Circle, close to Matunga was the only cinema theatre to screen popular Tamil movies on Sunday mornings! Later, when the Tamil population in Matunga grew in leaps and bounds, Aurora started featuring Tamil films during regu¬lar shows.

I keep going back to Matunga at least once a year on my way to the Bombay airport to buy my favourite Gujarathi Teplas, Dhoklas and Kand¬vis from Cheddha Stores opposite to the Matunga Railway Station.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

R.V.Rajan Autobiography

A Candid Autobiography

By R V Rajan,
Chairman, Anugrah Madison Advertising P Ltd.
(a Rural Division of Madison Communication)

From the chawls of Bombay to the demanding world of advertising and rural communication, Rajan’s life is a story of what industry, energy and audacity in pursuit of ones dreams, can achieve in life.

This book is about his personal life, his professional life and his parallel life concerning his work with voluntary organizations like Round Table India, Rotary International, Advertising Agencies Association of India, Public Relations Society of India, Advertising Club Madras, Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), an NGO headquartered in Singapore, IFRA, an association devoted to Publishing Industry headquartered in Germany and Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI) which conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award on him recently.

It is a candid racy fast moving book which makes for compelling and rewarding reading.

Published by
Productivity & Quality Publishing P Ltd., Chennai

195 pages paper back – Rs.295/-

Special offer!
Rs.250/- only till 1st August 2010.

Just pay Rs.250/- + Rs.30/- for courier charges per book
and the copy will be at your doorstep!

Cheques / DDs in favour of R V Rajan to be sent to
Anugrah Madison Advertising P Ltd., Jammi Building II Floor,
125 Royapettah High Road, Chennai 600 004.

For Direct Transfer to the A/c through NEFT –
Karur Vysya Bank, Whites Road Branch, Chennai 600 014
Current A/c. No. – 1219 135 459
IFSC – KVBL0001219

For more details write to: or Mobile: 98403 92082

For an excerpt from the Businessline issue dated 3.12.2009, please click on the link below:

What they say

Sam Balsara, Chairman & Managing Director, Madison World
Autobiographies need not be written only by very famous people. There is a lot for us to learn from not so well-known people who are achievers nevertheless and whose life can provide inspiration to a lot of people. When reading Rajan’s book for some reason I thought I was going through R K Narayan novel. Rajan’s story is absorbing and fascinating because of its simple, one-to-one narrative style.

Prof. Mithileshwar Jha, IIM Bangalore, Co-Author of Asian Edition of Philip Kotler’s Book on Marketing
It was a privilege and delight going through the story of your evolution from “Matunga Rajan” to “Crisis Rajan” to “Value-based CEO Rajan” to “Rural Marketing Guru Rajan.” It is a delight because it very candidly, in a story telling mode, without malice to `anyone, narrates the journey of one of Lakshman’s common men to un-common achievements. In the story you have beautifully weaved-in very important learnings for a professional – on professional approach, leadership, risk taking, crises handling- all with a clear conscience , with a sense of daring and a deep sense of spirituality. At a very basic level one also learns a lot about functioning of professional advertising agency. All professionals will benefit from it, more so the budding, young ambitious students of management.

Mr. M Parameswaran, Executive Director & CEO, Draftfcb Ulka
The vivid recollection of the numerous incidents that have happened in your exciting life will make interesting reading for anyone interested in advertising and the legacies of our bygone era.

Mr. Raj Rangarajan, NRI, Freelance Journalist
Your book made great reading and very gripping in parts. You have done ample justice to personal aspects of your life with unqualified candor -- a trait not many writers have mastered. From Amsterdam to artichokes to "avani attam" you have covered it all in your uniquely humorous, chatty style. Whether its Advertising, Rural marketing or Round Table you have been splendidly fascinating.

Mr. Bobby Sista, Former CMD, Sistas Advertising
I have only one word to describe your book – AWESOME. While I thought I knew you, on reading your book I have discovered a totally new person and personality. Your achievements over the years and in a variety of assignments culminating in your ultimate career of Rural Communications are really very impressive.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To be an Author

Prabha and I were recently invited to a dinner get-together for a few authors by a journalist friend. ‘Now that you have also become an author by writing your autobiography, I thought I will invite you to this exclusive do’. I must say, I was quite thrilled at my new status in society.

It also warms my heart when I hear somebody tell me, “you know I finished reading your book in one sitting – it was so interesting!” But what is more satisfying is when I hear the comment “It is an inspiring book. I gave it to my friend who is having problems with life. He is now fully charged up and says he will not brood over his problems anymore but find solutions!” Somebody described the book as ‘awesome’ and some one said it is a ‘charming’ book. The other day I visited the Landmark bookshop in Nungambakkam High Road. I found my book prominently displayed at the front of the shop along side the book by Nandan Nilakeni. I promptly captured the picture in my mobile camera for posterity.

For all the kudos I am getting, I have also heard people commenting on my candidness. While one friend asked ‘Rajan, your description of your early life where you are projecting yourself as a deprived person - don’t you think it will affect your present image?’

Another friend was curious “you have described in vivid detail a lot of your personal problems and how you solved them. Did your family have no objections?”

A journalist friend was candid in his opinion – “this is not the way to write an autobiography – you should not have gone into so much of personal details.”

As a person involved in the creative business, I am aware that assessment of any creative effort - be it a story, a painting, a play or anything else is always subjective. What I think as brilliant will be considered by somebody else as rubbish. It is all in the game of creativity! But I am happy that I am getting more favourable response to my book than negative ones! It is also satisfying to note that the book is now beginning to reach beyond my circle of friends and relatives.

On the whole I am happy that an effort I started as a fun activity post retirement, is taking on new meaning and is making some difference to some people’s lives.

R V Rajan
8th July 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Be henpecked to be happy!

Even after 37 years of married life, I have not learnt my lessons! In spite of the fact that I consider myself a ‘women’s libber` trying to do a lot of things to help my wife (so I think). Things, which very few of my generation (I have completed 67 and running 68!) would even consider doing. Most of them are happy to put their feet up after they return from an outing and order around their wives – ‘Give me this! Get me that!’

On the contrary, I am one of those who believes in helping myself for all my personal requirements at home. Right from my school days, when I returned home and if I found my mother resting, I will not disturb her and quietly help myself in the kitchen,

I have carried the habit into my married life! Every time we have a party at home, I will not only help my wife in planning the menu but also buy the vegetables required and cut them suitably to help her save on time. While she is busy cooking I would take the dinner set out, clean them and lay the table for the party. At dinner time, I will be busy running between the kitchen and the dining table, ensuring the continuous supply of items. I always believed in giving a personal touch to whatever I did. After the dinner, I would try and clear up all the glasses and plates left all over the house by the guests.

Similarly, on a daily basis I help my wife in planning the menu, buy the vegetables and cut them, in the process save her a good 60 minutes of valuable time in the morning,
so I think. But a statement she made about 18 years ago complaining that while the men have Sundays and other Public Holidays to relax, a woman is bonded to the kitchen for 365 days of the year looking after the husband and children, made me think again! I decided to help. I became a Sunday Cook and told my wife proudly that from now on she can take rest on Sundays.

But will she rest? No!, A workaholic that she is, on Sundays she would find some other household chores to do and continue to complain about her plight. The understanding husband that I am supposed to be, I decided to help her in the kitchen, even on other week days!

That is when all hell broke loose! Instead of appreciating my initiative she blasted me for entering the kitchen without her permission. If I bought some groceries, which I found missing in the kitchen stores, she will scream at me for my unnecessary intrusion into her ‘domain’. If I gave her some ideas about how I would like certain items made ( I am an avid ‘foodie’ as you can judge from the girth around my waist), she will shout, “Don’t teach me how to cook! I know how to make it. Do I interfere in your office matters? Will you tolerate if I tell you how to run your business?” The admonishing will go on till the afternoon, if I stayed on in the house!

Sundays are the days when I get the maximum firing! Not only for the mess I make in the kitchen, (So she says, but I believe that though I am a messy cook, I clean up the kitchen to the best of my abilities before I hand it back to her) but also for the ‘unnecessary’ things I buy from the nearby supermarket! The problem is that apart from being a Foodie, I am also an avid shopper which justifies the firing I get from my wife- “You just go on buying things… I have to find a place to store them, maintain them. Do you ever care for the troubles I take to maintain this house?.. blah...blah”

Have I learnt my lessons? No, of course not! I continue to irritate my wife every day for some reason or the other! You see, I realize that I am doing whatever I am doing at home because I am enjoying doing them. Not necessarily because I want to help my wife – which in any case she is never going to accept or appreciate.

My advice to all the wives of my friends, who feel very jealous of my wife because she has such an understanding and helpful husband, please think! Would you really be happy to have a husband who meddles around with your kingdom every day? Remember, the grass always look greener on the other side!

To all those lazy husbands, who consider me a lousy example to follow, please don’t because from my long experience, I have realized that no wife would like her ‘kingdom’ to be invaded by her husband. So relax, the next time you feel lazy to go to the dining table to have your meal, ask your wife to come and feed you with a spoon! For all you know she will enjoy doing it and be proud of the fact that her husband does not even lift a spoon without her help! Better be a ‘henpecked’ husband to be happy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Human Dynamo

A human dynamo!

I am a great admirer of women! Not only for their beauty and charm but for the enormous energy they pack in their often frail(!) bodies- to keep a house going! Most of the housewives, especially in India, are like bonded labourers. They work 24x7x365 days of the year. No breaks and no Sundays off for them. Invariably they are the first to get up and the last to go to bed. In between they do ‘ashtavadhanam’ to keep the house tidy and neat while pandering to the varying needs and demands of the family members.

For anything and everything it is the woman who is looked up to by the others, be it the husband, in-laws or the children. They also have tremendous pain bearing capacity – be it physical or mental. It is amazing!. I know of a woman who is in her early forties, who packs so many activities in her life, I wonder where she is getting her energy from?

Living in a distant suburb of Chennai, she is a thin and skinny woman, less than 5’ tall, living in a joint family with two kids and also employed in an office to supplement the meagre salary the husband brings home. Being the typical Indian housewife she gets up very early, goes through her morning rituals, including cooking breakfast and meals and packing them for the school going kids and office going husband, and leaving enough for the old in laws, who are too old and weak to offer her any help!!

She leaves home at 8.15 am, walks 10 minutes to a bus stop, to take a bus to the railway station where she catches a train to Park Station. Here she changes to another train which takes her to Mylapore station. From the station her office is about 10 to 12 minutes walk. By the time she reaches the office it is 10 am. Rain or shine she has to follow this process.

If the pressure of work at home was not bad enough, the pressure on her in the office is even more challenging.. Being a solo secretary and a wiz kid on the computer to boot, she is also adept at typing in three languages ( English, Tamil and Hindi), all at the same speed! Naturally, everyone in the office who wants to get anything done on the computer is hanging around her for his turn. This includes the big boss, his assistants and the assistants` assistant. With four fellows breathing down her neck, it can be a very intimidating situation. Not so, for the not so young lady! She obliges everybody.

In between if there is a break, because a couple of executives are on tour, you will find her busy typing something from a book or a manuscript- a freelance typing job she has taken up for a fee. To compensate for the 60 odd minutes she spends less in the office, she works thru the lunch time, taking just a five minutes break to gobble up whatever food she has brought from home to keep her going! On some days during lunch time she will vanish from the office for 30 to 40 minutes, ostensibly to go to her bank but my guess is that she has gone to meet some supplier of either sarees or artificial jewellery – a side business she runs to augment her family income, to manage the growing demands of her growing children. Many of the wives of the executives of the office are her regular customers.

At 5 pm sharp, her fingers will be off the computer- by that time she would have finished every job given to her that day! Even if somebody gives her something to type at 4.50 pm, the job will be done before 5pm. Her speed on the computer is incredible. At 5.05 she is ready to leave the office to catch a train at 5.20 from Mylapore station so that she can be home by 7 pm. Once she goes home, she has to continue her household chores, cleaning up the house, cooking dinner, looking after the special needs of the old members until she crashes in her bed around 11 pm. While going through all these, I have never heard her grumble or showing faces to express her displeasure. When the office hired an extra helping hand to provide some relief to her, every one still went to her because they found that the new person was no match to her in terms of understanding and speed. She told the management, not to worry, she can handle all the jobs herself! A human dynamo indeed!

I am aware that the world is full of such hardworking women who make tremendous sacrifices to keep a household going! That is why I admire women!

The Ubiquitous Velaikari (Maid Servant)

Maid Servant (Velaikari), the ubiquitous part time domestic help is unique to the Asian region, where the labour is cheap and almost every middle class house has some Muniamma or Chellamma, Thayee or a Bhayee to help the housewife. As per the unwritten agreement, she is expected to come early in the morning to purify(!) the portion in front of the main door / gate with water and draw a simple kolam using white rice powder and her dexterous fingers. She is then expected to clean the house, wash the utensils and also help in washing the clothes and dry them up. In many of the houses the maid servant is also expected to re-visit the house in the afternoon to have one more cleaning operation of the house with a broomstick to clear the dust collected during the day and also help in removing the dried clothes and neatly fold them up so that they can find their rightful places in the cupboard or the wardrobe! This Muniamma or Chellamma or whatever is her name is expected to help the housewife all the 365 days without break and without any paid annual holidays, breaking all labour laws in the country. It is almost like a bonded labour but with a difference!

While almost every domestic help starts with the good intention of following the agreement during the first month, the trouble starts in the very second month when the maid is delayed by half an hour one day. She comes at 6.30 am instead of 6.00 am. That is the beginning of the tension for the housewife.

Within a couple of days she first absents herself for a day and later for a couple of days at a stretch- the reasons for not coming are many – It could be the child is not well (most common excuse), husband / daughter / mother-in-law or any other distant relative staying with the maid has been admitted to the hospital. In some cases the maid admits that the husband came home drunk the previous night and beat her up so badly that she could not get up in the morning- bruises on the face and body are shown to justify the reason for not coming. Invariably, such sob stories are followed by requests for advance money. While the housewife is asked to deduct the hand loan from the next month’s salary – the next month the woman has more sob stories to tell and requests the madam not to deduct anything from that month`s salary but the next. And the next month for adjusting the advance never happens!

Result of all these is the mounting tension on the housewife, who in turn passes on her tension first to the husband and then to the children. When the children get married and go away the poor old husband has to bear the brunt of the wife`s tantrums! As a person who has suffered this syndrome for the last three decades, I can tell you that the domestic helps are the major cause for many marital problems in a typical middle and upper middle class household!

When I ask my wife ‘why you .don`t you sack the woman and get a new maid’, the answer is so typical ‘though she cheats on her work, at least she doesn’t cheat me otherwise. She is a very honest person(!)`.

Today in our house we have a maid servant who has been with us for the last 10 years. Over a period of time she has managed to get her salary tripled with progressively lesser and lesser work. But as a family, we continue to suffer her because my wife is afraid that she may not get another reliable (!) helping hand if this woman leaves us!

Recently, the maid servant used a brilliant strategy (I would call it a master stroke) to remain in the job, doing even much less work for the same salary! You see my wife had a fall and broke her left wrist, making it difficult for her to do all the chores requiring the use of both hands. The maid servant, who continued with her errant ways, making my wife more tense and miserable, one day told my wife, ‘Amma, I feel bad about absenting myself often because of my personal problems. Why don’t you find another maid servant! I will try and help you get one!’

I jumped with joy! I told my wife, `this is the best opportunity to get a new maid. Grab it`. The maid, true to her promise paraded a couple of potential candidates, most of whom were demanding a salary which was three times what my wife was paying the current maid. The explanation was that the Koreans and Japanese expats and even some people from Mumbai residing in the area were offering much higher salary for much less work.

My wife has now done a complete somersault. Instead of getting rid of the current maid, she has convinced her that if she continues with us, she does not have to do any work inside the house like dusting, washing clothes or the utensils, which necessitate the maid to come regularly at particular times. She told the maid ` I will do these jobs myself. You see these are not so difficult(she has been doing all these jobs for several days a month when the maid absents herself). You only clean the entire compound area and water the plant. You can come any time convenient to you to do the job. I will pay you the same salary!`

I was completely bowled by this!The maid is delighted. Because she is having the cake and eating it too! The positive aspect of the story is that I am not a victim of my wife`s tantrums in the mornings anymore!

Email id.:- Mob. 9840392082

Hero the Zero


‘Veliyiley Puli – Veettiley Eli’ – A tiger outside but a mouse at home. It is a famous Tamil proverb which is so true of many people I have known in life.

I was reminded about this proverb when Prabha & I were shopping along with a celebrity and his wife during our recent trip to Kathmandu. The gentleman was keen to buy a few items and started collecting them in his shopping basket. The moment the wife saw his basket, she literally pounced on him and reprimanded him for wasting money buying all unnecessary items.(though her own shopping bag was full of knick nacks she had picked up from the shop) She literally forced him to return most of the items, except one, to the shelves.

She would also not trust her husband’s computer(!) brain to calculate the amount to be paid, insisting that she will get the correct amount only from the shopkeeper which ofcourse was the same amount mentioned by the celebrity. Looking at us the celebrity just grinned sheepishly.

Very early in my advertising career I had a retired bureaucrat as my client. He was considered a terror to deal with by everyone! A great stickler for time, be brooked no nonsense from anybody nor could he tolerate inefficiency! Dealing with him was a nightmare. Somehow, I got on to his good books and he would invite me and my boss to his house for drinks once a year, as a thanks giving gesture. He would be very clear that the invitation was between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm., time only for two drinks! During that one hour there will be ample demonstration of who the boss was in the house. The endearing way in which he would address his wife and gently request her for things from the kitchen. One big stare from her, he would realize that what he asked for was not available and so quickly change the request. Another big stare from her at 7.30 pm, he would get up and shake hands with us indicating that it was time for us to leave, whether we had finished our drinks or not! In front of his wife, he clearly looked helpless and powerless! Next morning at the office, however, he was terror personified once again.

Many famous heroes, political leaders, doyens in business whom the whole world reveres and respects have to forget their celebrity status once they enter their homes. Why look at outside for examples, many ordinary people like you and me do go through such experiences! The wives constantly nagging their husbands for their inadequacies and inefficiencies, is a common refrain!

“What a mess you make in the house? Can’t you keep the things in their right places?”

“Don’t sit there cross-legged and order me around! Go get what you want yourself”.

“You have no dress sense! What colour combination is this?”

“I only asked you to buy ‘x’ item. Why did you buy all these other items? Where is the place to store them in the refrigerator which is already bursting at the seams. Do you realize that it is me who maintains the home!”

The endless complaints and nagging that a man has to suffer at home, irrespective of his celebrity status outside, are sure to deflate his ego and make him realise that he may be a great hero to the outside world, but at home he is a zero!

A Tribute to Dr.V.Sunderrajan

Remarkable Journey of a Remarkable Person

Dr. Sundararajan – ‘Pichai’ to all of us is no more! When I got the news from Narasimhan, his brother-in-law, two days ago, I couldn’t believe it! Because he was with me just a couple of weeks ago, transiting through Chennai after business trip to Sudan

I first met Pichai when I visited Ayyampettai at the age of 14. He was three years younger to me and looked a typical village boy. Wearing a dhoti and a half slack with a small tuft on his head!

He was quite playful and I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent in his company. The years passed by. Against several odds he went on to complete his M.Sc Statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta and got a job with the Planning Commission in Delhi. While there, he met Mr. Rangarajan, the former governor of RBI and Andhra Pradesh. With Mr.Rangarajan’s mentorship and encouragement, Pichai applied to Harvard. He got admitted to Harvard with a fellowship, for a doctorate degree in Econometrics (a relatively new field then).

The next time I met him was in Bombay, from where he was flying to USA for further studies. His father, Venkata (periappa to us), had asked us to extend whatever help he wanted. I took him to my tailor in Bombay and got a mandatory suit stitched and got him some foreign exchange (which was a very rare commodity those days) for his out of pocket expenses until he reached his campus. I still have the photograph of Pichai with me and my father taken at the Santacruz airport where we had gone to see him off.

He successfully completed his Ph.D. and got a job with New York University as an Asst. Professor. I think it was during his stint at the University that he got married to Kalyani and set up a home in New York. Within a couple of years, encouraged by Kalyani, he responded to an advt. from International Monetary Fund (IMF) inviting applications for the post of Management Trainees. He was one of six people selected out of thousands of applications received from the world over. A remarkable feat for the young boy from Ayyampettai to reach the hallowed portals of not only Harvard (which is a dream for many bright youngsters in the world) but also the IMF, a world financial body which was not only advising but also controlling the fortunes of many countries of the world.

The rest, as they say is history.

He worked very hard. He traveled extensively almost 20 days a month as a part of a Mission or later as a leader of the Mission advising governments and Apex Banks of various countries regarding money management. He was hobnobbing with Presidents, Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers and Governors of the Apex Banks. It looked as if he was forever traveling or busy preparing reports based on his visits. He seemed to enjoy whatever he was doing and impressed his bosses so much that he was steadily progressing in the IMF eventually to reach the position of Deputy Director (one of only six posts) in charge of some countries. While he was in the IMF, the Government of India approached him with the offer of Deputy Governorship of RBI which he refused as he did not want to uproot his well settled family in the USA.

He took voluntary retirement from the IMF at the age of 58. Instead of using the opportunity to take a break from the hectic life he was leading, he decided to continue to challenge himself and float a consultancy firm along with a few friends to leverage his reputation, experience and knowledge as a specialist in Islamic Banking. A Tamil Brahmin, and a vegetarian to boot, hobnobbing with Sheiks and Sultans of the Arab World looked incongruous. But the fact is that they valued his expertise and were constantly seeking his consultation. The result was that his life became even more hectic. He was really pushing the limits of his physical endurance without taking adequate care of his failing health – resulting in his untimely death in Sudan, where he had gone to attend a series of meetings with Sudanese government officials. As I am writing this piece (14th April), his body is yet to arrive at Washington for the final rites and cremation. To think that his body is lying in the cool box in a strange country unattended, waiting for the system to transport him on his last journey, is quite disturbing.

While he was very busy building his career at the IMF, his wife Kalyani, a girl from Triplicane in Chennai, stood like a rock by his side looking after their home and bringing up his two wonderful kids Prashant and Kripa. The Pichais recently got the greatest promotion that any parent can aspire for - grandparenthood. Through Prashanth they were blessed with two grandchildren (twins- a boy and a girl). During his recent trip to Chennai Pichai was sorry that he was not spending enough time with his grandchildren and promised to rectify the situation when he gets back home! Alas! It was not to be!

I have always admired Kalyani’s tenacity and determination in ensuring that her children, born and brought up in USA, never forgot the Indian values. The couple`s frequent visits to India with their children was a part of the strategy to help the children keep connected to their family roots. Besides, like many NRI parents Kalyani was very busy, (in addition to a teaching job she had in a public school) escorting the children to all types of classes teaching Indian values. While Prashant became proficient in violin, Kripa learned to master Carnatic music. One must listen to Kripa performing a kutcheri in carnatic music – a girl who can’t speak Tamil without American accent, singing the beautiful compositions of the Masters with perfect pronunciations. Without Kalyani’s total support and commitment, Kripa could not have done what she did. Pichai was lucky to have a wife who managed the household beautifully during his long absences on official work.

I first visited Pichai in his modest home in Washington in 1980 on my way back from Stockholm where I had gone to attend a Woco Conference as a Round Tabler. Prashant was a very naughty 4 year old boy and Kripa was a little baby. The second visit was in 1988 along with Prabha. By then they had moved to their beautiful house in Bethesda, a very upscale area in suburban Washington where the City`s famous residents lived. He was kind enough to send a ticket for Prabha using the mileage points he had accumulated through his several international trips. Since then I must have visited the Pichais six or seven times, always enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the couple.

What was remarkable about Pichai was that he never lost touch with his roots in India. He bought a spacious house in Tambaram, where his parents spent their last days in total comfort. He helped his two younger brothers to go to the US for further studies. His help was always available not only to his family members but also the family of Kalyani. The amount of physical running around he would do in trying to help people whenever he was in Chennai, was mind boggling! The amount of money and time he spent on his ailing younger brother Rangu in recent months is a case in point. Yet he would never complain. He made it all look like a routine, just another part of his responsibility to his family. He was like a banyan tree providing shelter to all those who came under his canopy. And all these he did without any fuss, with total involvement and commitment.

It is also amazing that even after more than 35 years in the USA he had no trace of the typical American accent that the youngsters of today flaunt within a couple of months of staying there. He had a unique style of speaking while talking one on one which he had the ability to transform into a very effective speaking style behind the microphone. I had the privilege of listening to him on a couple of occasions. His talk on Islamic Banking at our Rotary meeting in Chennai, two years ago, was a resounding success, so much so, that a columnist present wrote a special feature article on the subject in Hindu Business Line using the material provided by Pichai.

For all the great things he achieved in his professional life, he was humility personified. He was so humble that one wondered whether he was deliberately underplaying his importance. He was the first member of the `Remalla` family to become financially successful at a young age, however, he never was ostentatious.

While globe trotting around the world he was closely following happenings at home. He was quite crazy about watching Tamil serials on Sun TV. Whenever he visited our home in Chennai, he would quiz Prabha about what happened to so and so character in ‘Kolangal’ or ‘Anandham’. He had a childish enthusiasm for a lot of things in life. He was fond of adventure sports. He would take his family on outings which involved river water rafting, or bungee jumping etc. He was very fond of good food and was not averse to the cup that cheers! He was a great conversationalist actively participating in discussions on any subject, impressing people with his general knowledge on a wide variety of subjects.

In all the years that I knew him, he never bad mouthed or complained about anyone. He was a perfect gentleman. I had great admiration for Pichai as a wonderful human being.

Pichai’s sudden death is bound to create a huge vacuum in the lives of his near and dear ones who had taken his presence and his benevolence for granted. I am certainly going to miss him as a good friend more than as a cousin. May his soul rest in peace!

morning walks

Morning Walks!

I must thank my friend Desi for introducing me to the morning walk habit. Yes, it has become a part of my life so much so that if I miss walking even for a day I feel miserable – as miserable as when I don’t get my morning coffee or I am unable to get rid of the garbage of the previous day from my stomach!

The morning walks are all the more pleasurable because I get to see the rising sun every morning and breath the fresh air from the sea as I take my daily walks on the beautiful Eliot Beach Road, which is just 10 minute walk from my house. And I go for a walk in my car ! Don’t mistake me, I take the car up to the beach road, park it on the allotted space and then go for a walk !

Another interesting aspect of the morning walks is the sight of people who walk on the beach road. They come in all sizes, shapes and age groups. There are single men and women taking a brisk walk, many of them listening to music from their ipods, while walking. Some of them carry their mobiles and shout as if from the roof tops so that the whole world can listen to their problems with their spouse, children, friends or business contacts. And a few of them walk talking to themselves – later you find that they are operating a hands free mobile, and are actually talking to someone else!

There are a few who believe that they must stop and not only say ‘hi’ to their friends whenever they meet every furlong, but also discuss the day’s politics or the weather ! Thus defeating the very purpose of having a brisk 30 minutes walk every day! I know of a friend who has learnt to tackle such unwanted intruders. If any one stops him on the way to say ‘hi’ he continues to jump or jog on the spot until the conversation is over and then continues with his walk.

During the walks you cannot miss the group of senior citizens both male and female sitting on the parapet walls of the road and having a heated discussion. The women are invariably talking about the problems with their daughters-in-law and men the politics.

What is very funny is the sight of some ladies in outlandish or mis-fitting dresses! Like the other day my wife and I came across an old lady – she must be over 80 wearing a loose fitting jeans and a T Shirt, but with a ‘red’ pottu on her forehead with her hair in plaits like a typical South Indian lady. Obviously she is the mother of some NRI who has got converted from the nine yards saree to jeans and T shirts. Equally funny is a fat old man walking with a quarter (not half) pant with a T Shirt of some U S University gifted to him by his NRI son, with a splash of ‘Vibhoothi’ on his forehead!

Another gentleman has the habit of walking with his left arm firmly in place on the side and the right arm swinging up and down during his really brisk walk.

But the beautiful thing about the morning walk is that nobody really bothers about your dress or your peculiar walking habits. Most of the people walk totally lost in their thoughts, like I do most of the time, that they don’t even notice friends passing by wishing them.

I do feel sorry for those fitness freaks from Adyar who are contented with having their morning walks on the tread mills located at homes or in the nearby club! They are really missing the fun & joy of walking on the Beach Road.

Life on Fingertips

Mobiles have literally taken over our lives. The latest information on telephony indicates that there are 500 million mobile telephones in the country.By 2012, it is expected to become 712 million. Nearly 75% of India’s population will have telephones in another three years! A mind boggling growth indeed!

Today every one has a mobile. Drivers, maid servants, watchmen, vegetable vendors, carpenters, plumbers, masons and even beggars! I saw recently overheard a beggar exchanging notes with another beggar regarding the menu at different weddings – all on mobile. A recent ad film for Airtel shows a cute looking boy complaining to his father on his toy mobile requesting him to pull up his mother on the phone for scolding him- even children are not spared by the impact of mobiles.

Mobiles are not only popular in urban areas but are also sweeping the countryside. It is clear that this mobile revolution is going to change the way we are going to connect with the rural folks! Every one in rural India, from a poor farmer at the bottom of the pyramid, to skilled workers, traders, scavengers, gypsies and even goat herds have mobiles provided by their Ejamans (bosses) so that they can be reached easily. It reminds me of a scene from a recent Tamil film. A boy, an uneducated goatherd in a village is chasing a man driving a bullock cart who is talking on his mobile. The goatherd requests the driver to lend his mobile for a minute, as he wants to make an urgent call. While the man is dithering, the boy literally snatches the mobile and runs into the filed pressing some number. Suddenly he hears a mobile ringing behind him. He turns and searches through the field and locates a mobile – he has found his mobile which he had lost while driving the herd of goats through the field. He returns the bullock cart driver his mobile and orders him to get out of his way as he is obstructing the signal coming from the tower! I thought it to be a brilliant portrayal of how mobiles are impacting the lives in rural India. Though lacking in literacy, mobiles are helping the rural people to become more informed because information is now available to them on their finger tips! I believe this facility is going to wipe off the middlemen who have been exploiting the rural folks for generations.

A friend of mine recently had an interesting experience traveling by train. Normally as a train is approaching many big cities it is a common sight to see both men and women from nearby slums, squatting on either side of the railway track and defacating. As the train passes them, they will quickly cover their faces. But this time my friend found many of them busy talking on their mobiles, oblivious of the passing train.

While mobiles are undoubtedly a great boon, they are also becoming killers, breakers of relationships, creators of social upheavals resulting from the spread of rumors through SMSs.In day to day life, mobiles have become the biggest intruders of privacy and conversations. It is so irritating when you find that a serious discussion with a colleague / customer/ a family member being repeatedly interrupted by calls on mobiles.

But mobiles have come to stay. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, as I found out recently. Thanks to the mobile I could reach the site of an auto accident involving my daughter, within 10 minutes, because lying on the road she could reach me on my mobile with the help of her mobile.

Everyday, so many new features and value added services( like the net on mobile) are being introduced by the mobile manufacturers that it is now possible for people to run their offices using the mobiles. Housewives , especially the office going moms can closely monitor the happenings at home . The old saying “your life is in your hands” will soon have to be changed to “your life is now on your fingertips”.

Exam Fever

It is exam time. Not only for the kids but also for the parents. Whether the child is in pre-kg or studying for the crucial 10th standard or plus two exam, the parents these days are more tensed up than the kids. Any invitation for any function, the response from the parents, especially the mother is, ‘I am sorry, I can’t come yaar, because my son is having Maths paper tomorrow. I have to sit with him. Otherwise he will not study yaar!’

The parents, the mothers particularly get so tensed up that one feels sorry for them. The more educated the mother, the more tensed up she is!

Mind goes back to the times when my children were growing up! Neither my wife nor I experienced the tensions that the modern day parents display during their children’s exam time. May be because both of us were not capable of teaching our children any subject. I had happily forgotten everything I learnt in the school the day I stepped out of the school. Neither did my wife display any talent nor patience to sit and teach our children.

All that I used to tell my children was, ‘If you study well and get good marks you will do well in life. It is up to you to study or not’.

If they needed special coaching in specific subjects, I sent them to special tuition classes. All my three kids did fairly well in their plus two exams, getting 80 plus percentage marks and pursuing the courses they wanted to study. My two daughters are well settled in life with school going kids and sure enough, as modern mothers exam times are tension times for them too!

I think my generation of parents could handle the exam fever better because our children had far less distractions compared to the modern day kids. While TV was the only possible distraction those days, today the kids have not only TV and the variety of children channels it offers, but also the PC with its internet opportunities, palmtop video games, and of course the ubiquitous Mobile which is turning out to be the biggest culprit. ‘SMSing’ friends 24 hours a day has become a habit with the modern day kids. Even the school going kids are not spared!

I wish the modern day parents did not indulge their children so much. Instead if they teach them to think on their own and make them responsible for their actions, not only the child will develop as a better and confident individual but also relieve the parents of unnecessary tensions caused by the lack of faith in the children.




It was a trip that I was dreading! Because it involved a test of endurance and a test of faith. Test of my capacity to endure trekking with a walking stick, on a very rough, pebbles and stone ridden forest path, with lots of ups and downs but breathtakingly beautiful! And then walking up 450 steps to see the temple of Lord Narasimha in Jwala the place on top of a hill, where Mahavishnu taking the avatar of Narasimha, killed the demon king Hiranya Kasibu as an answer to the prayers of his young devotee Prahalada. Here you can see the tall pillar from which Narasimha is supposed to have appeared to take on Hiranya Kasibu.

Another temple located in Pavana on top of another hill involves climbing 1000 steps and then walking almost 6 kms through thick forest area, full of bears, foxes and snakes. In the earlier days, it seems even tigers used to live in this jungle but thanks to increased human activity, some of these dreaded animals are not there anymore. Fortunately a jeep is available which takes you to the very entrance of the Narasimha temple located in Pavana.

This temple where the local tribals frequently visit to sacrifice goats as a part of their special prayers, is again an awe inspiring place. Even the 90 minutes ride on the so called jeep, a badly maintained old contraption with loose parts is in itself an endurance test. The vehicle travels through a very rough jungle path full of rocks and pits, with sudden climbs and drops, that your heart is in your mouth throughout the journey. Like the trip up to the Jwala temple, here also your faith in Lord Narasimha is tested. During both the trips you can hear devotees repeatedly screaming ‘Jai Narasimha’. This ferocious avatar of Mahavishnu is a popular deity in Andhra Pradesh and now quite popular even in Tamilnadu, thanks to the Ahobila Mutt run by a Trust headed by a Jeeyer.

Thanks to the efforts of this Mutt and its ardent devotees located all over the world, a lot of facilities have been introduced in Ahobilam. This temple city which is located on the foothills of Garudachala Mountains is about 100 kms from Cuddappah in Andhra Pradesh, on the Chennai – Mumbai Rail line.

Ahobilam boasts of 9 temples for Lord Narasimha (Jwala, Pavana, Varaha, Malola, Chatravada, Karanjika, Yoga, Ahobila and Kroda) While the temples (Jwala and Pavana) are located up the hill, the other seven are located in and around the Ahobilam village. Prabha and I were visiting these temples as a part of our visits covering 108 Tirupathi called Divya Desams. Out of the 108, you can visit only 106 on the earth. For the balance two viz. Thiruparkadal and Vaikundam, the abode of Lord Vishnu, you have to wait till the Lord decides to take you away from this world!

There is another 2000 year old big temple for Laxmi Narasimha located very near the Ahobila Mutt headquarters and run by the Trustees of the Mutt. This huge temple with its serene atmosphere inspires peace and tranquilty in you. I spent two evenings in this temple, sitting on the steps of one of the Praharams, totally lost in meditation. It was a truly great feeling!

We made this trip, thanks to the invitation of my good friend Parthasarathy of Kripa, whose younger brother works in the Mutt. He and another friend Neelamegham had made all arrangements for our comfortable stay in the guest house of the Mutt with a guide to help us in visiting the different temples. What should have taken us minimum two days, we were able to complete in less than 24 hours, thanks to the advice of this guide. Even the weather god was very kind, as a cloudy sky kept the weather very pleasant throughout our stay in Ahobilam.

It was as if Lord Narasimha, was taking special care of us. It only reconfirmed my unconditional faith in God. What else can you call it, considering that a person who finds it tough walking up the two floors of his office could endure and survive the arduous and risky trip up the hills in Ahobila.

I am now awaiting with bated breathe the visit to the Narasimha Temple at Sholingur near Vellore where you have to walk 1000 steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum. I am sure Lord Narasimha will be behind me to see me through this journey as well!