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Sunday, January 20, 2013

I received quite an interesting mail on someone's experience with Chennai MTC bus service. I repeat below the message:


Useful to persons who travel in MTC (Metropolitan Transport
Corporation) buses....


TRUE INCIDENT by Ranjani - Useful for people traveling on Chennai buses!!

" I m working in Chennai (Thoraipakkam), Chennai. I usually travel by
Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) bus, from jain college stop
(Which is near to my office) to Tidel park and from Tidel park I
catch the train, to home. MTC bus coming from Kelambakkam(19B,21H)
mostly wont stop in Tidel park in the early days. So I usually prefer
to get into T51 bus, which will stop at Tidel park stop. After some
time 19B started stopping in Tidel park also.

Today while returning from office at around 8.30 pm, I was in a hurry
to catch my 9.28 pm train at Tidel park. I got in a bus(19B) in Jain
College at around 8.45 pm, and asked the conductor to give a ticket
for Tidel park stop. He said, the bus won't stop there, and he asked
me to get down at signal if it stops there or else get down at the
stop next to Tidel park. I was arguing with him that I am going daily
with the same bus and get down at the tidel park stop. But he kept on
saying the same thing..
I got frightened with conductor response. Suddenly I remembered a
complaint phone no.(9884301013) I read in one bus sometime back and
noted down in my mobile. I called that No. and said about the
incident that the conductor is not stopping at the usual stop.

The MTC representative (person at the other end) asked me to give the
phone to the conductor. The conductor was not interested to talking
with this official. The MTC rep. asked me the bus no. He enquired
where is the bus at that time and I said it is in Kandhanchavadi. The
MTC rep said he will come in the line and talk to them. I was curious
how he will come and catch the bus.

After few mins a voice through the wireless transmeter/receiver (to
track the bus), near the driver in the bus started booming ...
"Driver stop the bus. Driver stop the bus on the left side of the
road." Driver was not sure what was happening may be his first
experience, for others (including me) it surely was the first
experience. The driver stopped the bus and listened to the
transmitter. The MTC rep. enquired why the bus is not stopping at the
Tidel park stop. The driver said he stops at Tidel park stop and in
the previous trip also he had done it. The rep. asked him then why
the conductor is saying like that. He asked the conductor what is the
issue. The conductor was frightened and was speechless. The driver
somehow pacified the official and managed the situation and supported
the conductor by saying that the conductor was new to this route. The
driver asked for being excused for the incident and said he will stop
at the Tidel Park stop.

The MTC rep. said he wanted to talk the passenger who called him. I
went near the transmitter and spoke to the MTC rep. He said sorry for
the what had happened and asked sorry on behalf of MTC. Everyone in
the bus was utterly surprised of things happening. I came back to my
seat and I was so embarrassed as all were looking at me. Few
passengers asked me what is the number, and whom I called. They also
took the number. The bus stopped at Tidel Park stop then. After
getting down I called the MTC rep. and said the bus stopped at the

It was a an elevating and nice experience for me and others who
traveled in the bus, including the driver and conductor and I was very
surprised after this incident as all buses are tracked. Yes, nowadays
good things are happening in government sector also and technology is
used properly."

Complaint Phone no. for Chennai MTC bus:
9884301013,9445030516,9383337639 ( Chennai)

Beats me why the media doesn't cover such technological introductions ......

............. Unquote

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Short Story: "There is no coincidence in life"

There is no coincidence in life.

I learnt it the very hard way. I am a night’s owl; ‘late to bed and late to rise’ is my policy. My wife Thangam is my opposite. She is somewhat orthodox too. She wakes up very early. Even while listening to the traditional ‘Venkatesa Suprabatham’ and ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’ rendered by M.S.Subbulakshmi, she would finish all her daily chores – including taking bath, cutting vegetables, and finishing cooking. In the meantime, she would have woken up my seven year old daughter Suneeta – another lazy fox like me, prepared her for her early morning school and be ready to drop her in the bus stop for the school bus. In between, she needs to make steaming coffee for me while I immerse myself in the daily newspapers. She would also polish my shoes everyday and keep in shining – that is the way I like. She has also to keep my dresses ready for me to put on whenever I am ready; I have no patience to decide these things on my own. Thanks to the municipal water supply which is generally erratic and occasionally regular on some days, she would be busy filling up drinking water in all small to big vessels; you may remember the ‘Wagle ki dunia’ Hindi serial telecast by Doordarshan years ago. Most regularly, she has also to answer all types of street vendors selling a host of daily needs. All in the morning!

She does all these things herself never once complaining. I have never seen her feeling irritated or restless. I am her opposite. I never have the inclination for household work. I would invariably be spending all my morning time reading newspapers –front to back – watch the morning TV news in at least three or four channels – as though there were new products for display in every TV channel, take my bath at leisure – my daily shave and bath would take away a large chunk of my morning time – hurriedly put on my dress, gulp my morning breakfast and dash off to office.

“Prem! Can you help me? Today, Suneeta seems to be on strike! Unrelenting! She is refusing to get ready for her school. Whatever happened to her?” The rice cooker was blowing whistle loudly as Thangam called out from kitchen.

“O, come on Thangam! You know I have no time. Give her a good blow. She would behave all right.” I shouted back without taking my eyes from my newspapers.

Today, I was extraordinarily late. There was a late night English movie on HBO channel last night. My favorite Tom Hanks was there and the movie took its own time to finish, thanks to the intermittent advertisements. I went to bed very late. Besides I had to work overtime to finish some reports as some higher-up was visiting our office today. Everyone was expected to arrive at the office half an hour earlier than usual. Now I had to rush. I could only cursorily go through my newspapers. I had to sacrifice my watching TV news. I had no time for anything else.

Today even my razor struck work. I cut myself repeatedly before I finished shaving. I had a quick bath, put on my dress, gulped a few ‘idlis’, put on my shoes, collected my afternoon lunch pack and stepped out.


I skidded when I stepped into the wet outside verandah making a loud noise. I fell flat heavily on my back, the back of my head hitting the floor with a loud ‘thud’ noise. I felt my backbone broke into pieces. With a loud cry, I shouted for Thangam, “You demon! Come here! See what you have made of me!”

My office bag and lunch box had flown off splashing out its contents everywhere. Food from the lunch box spilled all over me. My dress was painted with the color of mud and food stuff.

Hearing the sound, Thangam came running, “Oh, dear! What happened?”

“What happened? ............. You spoiled my day ………….. You spoiled my dress ………….. Did you find the time only today, to soap-wash the verandah? See my condition!” I showered mouthful of abuses on Thangam even as she tried to lift me with all her might.

“Please don’t shout….everything is going to be all right…. Please come inside.” She lifted me. Using her both hands as crutches, I limped back inside my house.

I groaned with pain. Thangam found traces of blood on back of my head. “I think we should rush to a doctor. You are already bleeding.” Without even waiting for my reaction, she called a hire-auto over the phone.

I continued to heap abuses on her. “You idiot! Today is very important to me in my office. A higher-up is visiting and I need to be there. You will be spoiling my name in the office. Now you are delaying me further by trying to take me to a doctor. I know everything will be all right. I will go to the doctor in the evening.” Saying this, I tried to get up, but slumped back into my bed. I felt as though my back had crashed and got powdered completely.

Without even waiting for me, she called my manager over phone and explained the situation assuring him that she will call back after meeting the doctor. The auto arrived. With her help, I managed to take a few steps and we were off to the hospital. All the way, I was moaning, grumbling, and lamenting. The pain shot up every now and then when the autorickshaw jumped over a pot-hole or a bump – there were many on the way – I cried out, ‘What evil time had befallen me?’ In my pain, a terrible vision of my losing job just flashed through my mind and I cried aloud, ‘Oh, God, No!’

“Why are you torturing yourself? Why can’t you please bear with the pain for a little more time?” Thangam tried to console me.

“Why won’t you say that? If you were in my position, you would understand how crucial it is for me to be in the office. You know I am expecting a promotion shortly. My Senior Manager who has to recommend me is visiting office. Now, the chance is gone. You are a fool and illiterate. What do you understand? You have spoiled my chances of promotion…………….” I once again criticized her for causing my fall today. She was quiet and unruffled. Exasperatedly, I shouted again unmindful that we were in a public hire-auto, “You, silent bitch! Why don’t you say something about your fault? Why are you torturing me with your silence?”

We reached the hospital and an emergency doctor examined me. He felt my condition could be severe and might need immediate surgery. He immediately arranged for admitting me in the emergency ward and sent messages for senior doctors. My protests were silenced by him. Some tranquilizer and pain killer tablets I was administered had some soothing effect and I became quiet. I later came to know that my wife had spoken to my Manager about my head injury and the severity of the damage to my spine, the need for hospitalization and the possibility of my remaining immobile for some time. My Manager seemed to have been frustrated that I wouldn’t be available for the day when my Senior Manager was visiting the office, but accepted the reality as something not under anybody’s control.

In the meantime, Thangam had gone back home to finish remaining chores at home and returned before orthopedic doctors and neuro-specialists arrived. They sent me for series of examinations – X-ray, scan, MRI and many others – and concluded that my head injury was only minor, but the condition of my back was something to be concerned with. In between she returned home twice, once to bring my lunch and again to be there when Suneeta returned home from school.

I was only half conscious during the day. In the evening I felt better and the pain appeared to have subsided somewhat. Other than a big sized plaster on my head, I appeared physically normal. I was able to move at least my hands slightly. I was told that the doctors were going to perform a surgery within the next two or three days for my back and that I would need to rest in bed for a month or before I could resume my normal work.

A wicked thought came to me. ‘It is also a pleasure lying down in bed without having to do anything at all when everyone would be attending to me at my beck and call. I would attract lot of sympathy, especially from my office colleagues. May be, even my Senior Manager would visit me in the hospital and offer me some consolation. Even the hospital expenses might be borne by the office. It would be a kind of paid holiday while I would be taking rest. What a strange luck!’

I grinned at the thought.

In the evening Thangam came back to the hospital with Suneeta. Suneeta came running, climbed on the bed and hugged me lovingly. Thangam was trying to stop her, but Suneeta was already on top of me.

'Oh, dad, I love you so much. I want you to get well soon and come back home.’ Suneeta was in tears. I was deeply disturbed for the first time. What good did I do to this small girl to deserve her love? Before, I could even respond, another doctor came in accompanied by a nurse. He went through his routine and retracted as quickly as he came.

I asked for newspapers to read, but the same was not available immediately. Suneeta raised lot of questions about my accident and my present condition and after some time she left with her mother to attend her tuition classes. The rest of the day passed off without any significant developments.

After dinner, I was tired, the pain in my back returned and I had difficulty in sleeping. When finally I closed my eyes, I didn’t know how long I slept. But I woke up in the middle of night, terribly jolted with a nightmare and I felt as though someone kicked me and shouted at me saying, ‘You rascal! Wake up!’

I was trembling and sweating profusely. What happened to me? I tried to close my eyes and recollect my dream. Slowly the picture came back to me.


It happened a couple of decades ago when I was only twelve or so as a school boy.

There was a beautiful river passing very close to our town. It was a perennial river and never became dry. On rainy days, water flowed to the brim with strong current. On all holidays we would be playing around with the running water in the river. Many of my friends would be with me. We would also carry nice cooked variety rice, eat them sitting on the rocks in the middle of the river and then again play in the water. On school days, when my father seriously didn’t object, I would escape to the river with just one or two of my friends. My escapades to the river would also help me in avoiding daily errands from my mother or reprimands from my father who would otherwise sit down with me about my school work. The latter was always a painful process as my father used to screw my ears severely when I went wrong and unfortunately I was mostly wrong about my studies.

It had rained up the hills a few days back and I heard that the river was full. I sneaked out of my house when my father had gone out very early that morning for some important work. Only one friend was free to come with me and we both went to the river. I was filled with joy and thrill when I saw the currents in the running water. The river seemed to have swallowed many parts of the embankments. Disregarding some elders cautioning us, I jumped into the river. I knew swimming well. But that day, even for me, the water current was beyond my powers and I was dragged by the current. I struggled hard and it was fun. My friend decided against getting into deep waters and was satisfied with playing around the banks. We finished off after some time and we were getting late to the school.

We came out of water and dried ourselves. We were ready to leave and suddenly, we heard someone shouting aloud, ‘Oh, please help! My son is drowning in water.” The shout came from somewhere nearby. Puzzled, we looked around. A few bathers were pointing their fingers in some directions and a few others looked on helplessly.

I spotted the boy. He was of medium size and being carried away in the water. I could see him getting drowning in water. Before anyone did anything and before I could even think, I jumped into the water and swam towards the drowning boy. There was some distance and the currents were strong in the middle of the river. I swam fast and still the distance between us was increasing. Many people shouted from the banks. I didn’t care, just kept my pace and tried to use all my energy. From wherever I got my strength, I was trying to close in. The boy ought to be taking in lot of water and I could clearly see him struggling for breath. Luckily for me and what could have been fatal for the boy, he was caught in a twirl and his floating along the river came to a brief halt. That was my chance. I gathered all my strength, went faster nearer to him and just managed to hold his hand. Now, I was getting pulled into the twirl and I could be finished. Now, a few more people too jumped into the river to save us. I didn’t let go of my hold on the boy and I held him still more tightly. I tried to pull him away from the twirl, while his weight was pulling me into the twirl. We both struggled. The boy’s survival instinct ought to have been quite strong; he too held on to my hand very firmly. At one stage, I thought I was drowning myself and tried to set myself free from the boy’s hold; but he was not leaving his hold. The tussle went on and I felt I was almost drowning. I didn’t really know where from I got a spurt in my strength. I made a final attempt to hold his body and pull him away. He couldn’t resist my strength and we just managed to come out of the twirl. By that time, more people had managed to reach us and they all helped us get back to the shore.

Once we were back on the banks we were both given first-aid. I recovered quickly. The boy’s mother came to me and touched my feet. She cried and thanked me profusely for saving his son. Those surrounding locals were all in praise for me, even while some of them criticized for my daredevilry. Feeling elated I returned back home and tried to hurry up to the school. I was already late.

With great satisfaction, while gulping my breakfast, I tried to narrate briefly my day’s bravery at the river to my mother. Her anxiety grew when I was slow with the details, but towards the end, she was gratified about my selfless act. However, I heard my father sneering and shouting from the living room, ‘Oh what a great heroism! Ask that Devil what would have happened if he was drowned in the river! I would be forced to working into my retirement to save the family of five people. Tell him, I expect him to be more responsible to the family than to be good the whole world.’

All my enthusiasm suddenly vanished and I felt bursting like a balloon. My father sucked all my energy and motivation that moment. I was furious. I shouted back, cursed his cynicism, left my plate half-eaten and in a fit of anger I hurriedly left home staring at my father while leaving.

I didn’t look back when I heard my mother pleading with me to come back. I also heard her reprimanding my father for his nonchalant remarks. I didn’t care and I didn’t bother about my not having the lunch bag. I took quick strides and hurried to the school. If I was late, I had to face my headmaster, another bully. He would be cruel with his medieval punishments. I didn’t want any that day.

But who cared, I thought? What did it matter if I had not attended the school that day? I was totally dejected. I thought for a while, how nice it could have been if I was drowned in the river while saving that boy. I would have become a local hero and my name and photos might appear everywhere. I might win some bravery award posthumously. I would have at least earned a name. I wouldn’t have to listen to rebukes from my cynic father. Death could have saved my day, I thought.

I went to the nearby bus stop and waited for the bus. It didn’t bother me the least, when no bus was coming that way at that time. I was reminded of the scene at the river, of how that mother cried and touched my feet, when her son was saved. A small drop of tear shot out of my eyes. My God! My mother would have cried the same way if I was gone in the river. How sad it could have been? Why should I cause such misery and sorrow to my loving mother?

Some sense and balance returned to me while I was waiting for the bus that never came. I saw energy returning to me slowly.

I saw a bulky man waddling slowly towards the bus stop. He appeared a village type –bare bodied and covering his head with white turban. His body movements were funny and he could totter any moment. I chuckled. I imagined the man falling over a slippery banana peel and his dhoti tearing off from his huge pot belly. My imagination ran riot and I burst into a loud laughter.

My goodness! My imagination was coming true that very moment. I saw a banana peel lying right in front of his next step and before I could even think further, he stepped over it and had a huge fall. His body traversed several feet when his dhoti flew off and he was virtually naked except for a small longotti that covered his secret parts. I laughed again, this time with my entire body giggling.

Quickly I realized my mistake, but the damage was already done. Much to my surprise, the man was too quick for his body size. He rose from the ground, snatched his dhoti, deftly wound it round his waist, walked in slow motion to me, stared at me for some time and said, “May you live long!” Before I could respond to him, he moved away muttering something to himself. I looked on with disbelief and soon I was overwhelmed with guilt. Doing nothing, I stood there pitifully.


Vividly the whole scene came up before me and startled me. Lying down in the bed, in the mid of the night, I wondered what was the message to me. I tried to roll on the bed, but the pain in my back sent shock waves through my entire body and I cried aloud. The attending nurse came rushing to me to find out what was wrong. She found me groaning and restless on bed. She tried to comfort me with assuaging words and left after some time.

I was lying on the bed, completely awake for the rest of the night. It must be around nine or so in the morning when I was trying to get some sleep. But I was disturbed by one of my office colleagues. What he told me completely shattered me.


The previous day, the higher-up had visited our office and was rushing through many routines expected of him during such inspection and my manager was getting stressed out. In the early afternoon, my manager got a call from Velu , in charge of our nearby one-man office saying that one of our big tenders for a particular supply was being considered favorably and could be finalized if I could visit that place immediately. I was in charge of those products in my office and I used to attend to all tender matters. I was in the hospital and in no way, my manager could have sent me over there. He called people at our head office and they had nonchalantly turned down his request for help, but at the same time reminded him that our branch was not running very profitably and that it is up to him to ensure that he got the contract and remained profitable.

Caught between the devil and deep sea, my manager sought permission from the visiting higher-up to go to the nearby office so that he could finalize the contract. But the visiting higher-up was equally unconcerned, wanting to wind up his job that day itself and leave by the early evening. So my manager decided to send my deputy Satya to the nearby office and settle the tender as best as he could. But before Satya could reach that place, the tendering officer had left his office and was not to be available for the rest of the day. So, Satya was forced to stay back in the small guest house cum office. When Satya was having his dinner, Velu seemed to have got a call from his mother that his pregnant wife was having some complications in the hospital and his presence was required immediately. He took permission from Satya to leave the office and attend to his wife. Velu promised to return back as soon as his work in the hospital was over. But he didn’t return for the rest of the night.

Today early in the morning, Satya got up as usual and was brushing his teeth when a huge explosion from the ground floor shook the whole building into rubbles. There was a restaurant in the ground floor and probably from the kitchen, the gas cylinder exploded. Satya was caught in the debris when the building collapsed on him and Velu who was just entering the building was thrown off. While Velu survived with minor bruises, the pitiable Satya lost his life. Hearing the news, my manager had rushed to the place and was now with Satya’s family offering all possible help.


‘It was very sad. Satya has a baby girl Sumitra who is just one year old. She would be fatherless now. His wife broke down with the news and became unconscious.’

When my colleague concluded his narration of the happenings in the office I felt numbed with fear.

‘What if I had not fallen down in front of my house and broken my back? What if I had gone to office and I was asked to go to finalize the tender? What if I was in the place of Satya?’

‘Should I thank Thangam to have caused my fall?’ I didn’t know and I didn’t understand the connections. I would be happy if someone could tell me?

“Why don’t we bring Sumitra and her mother to our house?” was the innocent question posed by Suneeta when she came to hospital that evening.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Comments from GK Swamy on "Short Stories for Young Readers"

I read Short Stories for Young Readers by T. N. Neelakantan. I have to say the stories I read in that anthology were a very good mix of humour and seriousness. The first story "Every life has a meaning" was craftily written. It tracks two separate character's lives. We later find out that those two people's lives, however parallel they seem, are unified and one lends meaning to the other. There is also a thrilling detective story Shankar: The young detective. and the following story about super nova can be read as an allegory for the mortality of men.