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Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Once again, I am happy to be back in Tenkasi. Nearly six and a half months had flown past in the company of our children and grandchildren in the U.S.A, before I blinked my eyes. It was, once again, a memorable experience spending time with the little ones and watching them grow.
Back in India…………..

Chennai International Airport Terminal bears a new look and appears a lot more decent now. Yet, outside the airport terminal, as we negotiated through the small taxi-lanes to the exit, the sight on either side was shocking and disgusting. Mounds of garbage were lying uncollected. What image are we projecting about India?

It was six in the morning. The weather was good. The GST Road was filled with traffic, right from the early morning. Omni buses from several towns in Tamil Nadu, reaching Chennai were competing with each other for the little space on the GST Road, which was already cramped with the Metro Rail construction work. The road now appeared still narrower. Lane discipline was, as usual, absent. Rather, I realized that if one sticks to the lane discipline, it might take an eternity before one reaches his or her destination. Traffic was free-for-all. Driving a car looked a child’s play to me in the USA.

Fortunately, we didn’t suffer much jet lag. The morning was spent in attending to a few urgent needs pertaining to my hearing-aid and eye glasses. At the hearing-aid center, the audiologist patiently reprogrammed my hearing-aid, though I wasn’t fully satisfied. I complained that the batteries, they sold me lasted only five-six days. The billing staff initially tried to act smart, not wanting to own any responsibility for the poor quality of the batteries. He agreed to replace the two batteries, only after I argued, unwillingly, about the need to trust me about my complaint. Here, in India, many sellers take the buyers for a ride with great impunity and don’t trust the customer easily. I compared this with my experience in the USA a few years ago when I went to COSTCO with a complaint about my watch. I didn’t even remember when I bought it from them. Without raising a single question, they refunded the whole money to me.

Outside the hearing-aid center in Ashok Nagar, I waited patiently for an auto who would agree to take me back home strictly on ‘meter charges.’ I would have tried with at least a dozen autos. None agreed to come on ‘meter charges.’ They either wanted an arbitrary amount, or something extra over the meter charges. Nothing had changed in Chennai, at least regarding the auto rickshaws. The government must definitely be knowing this and they seem to be helpless about the monstrous auto rickshaw drivers’ union. One should have all the time and patience to lodge a complaint to the police.

I had booked a sleeper bus to Tenkasi and boarded from Koyembedu omnibus terminus. This is a place where thousands of buses arrive and depart every day, generating crores of money as revenue for the bus operators as ticket collection and to the government in the form of license fee. Yet, ever since I had known this place, this terminus had remained shabby, dirty, and waterlogged. Buses were parked haphazardly, public toilets were broken, and there was absolutely no facility for the passenger. The drivers and the staff working in the terminus must be personification of endurance, using this terminus every day.

Now, back in Tenkasi………….

Even as our bus approached Kadayanallur, the whole scenario had changed quite dramatically. This is Courtallam Season time. The usual seasonal winds are blowing strong. There is no water in the Courtallam waterfalls – thanks to the scarcity of rains in the adjacent Kerala hills. Yet, the buses and the trains arriving at Tenkasi are full of tourists hoping to enjoy the ‘Season.’  I am told many go to Papanasam from here. Afternoons are quite hot. However, one’s mood gets lifted when we sit outside our house on the verandah and do nothing except enjoying the cool breeze in the morning and evening. Vinayaka tiffin center on the Tenkasi-Courtallam road is doing a roaring business, visitors having to wait long for a seat in the small cramped place. However, their tiffin items – especially vada, varieties of dosas with green leaf, garlic, vegetable, onion rava, poori and masala - are some of the best in the region. The four ‘ratha-veedhi’s around the main Tenkasi temple are swamped by tourist vehicles, leaving very little place for genuine vehicle owners who drive to Tenkasi. The cement road built around the temple is full of pits and potholes, developed within one or two years of laying, I don’t know how. It is a moot question whether the contractors used cement or sand for the supposedly concrete road. Again, the people are, as usual, indifferent to any inconvenience, and there is a general apathy towards maladministration.

Just happened to talk to a few, casually, and I am horrified by the stories of corruption everywhere. Tamil Nadu seems to be leading the way in matters of corruption. Here, nothing moves without some underhand dealings. I am sorry, we haven’t changed.

Finally, all of a sudden, everyone in Tamil Nadu had become conscious of the ill-effects of liquor and drinking. All politicians, excepting the ruling ones, have taken to beating the drums, showing one-upmanship in demanding abolishing the liquor shops. They all shed crocodile tears. The only reason: the forthcoming elections to the State Assembly during 2016. They all have a found a weapon to embarrass Madam Jeyalalitha, the Chief Minister. She could neither agree nor disagree to the demand for introducing prohibition in the State. Caught between devil and the deep sea!

At the national level, the Congress Party and the entire opposition, not to forget the BJP’s own senior politicians, are trying very hard to embarrass Narendra Modi, the PM as much as possible. Like Narasimha Rao, who ran a minority government a couple of decades ago, Modi is certainly trying to bring about a change about India matters. I don’t think, he would be allowed by the corrupt political system in the country.

Yet, whatever I have said and written, I realize this is my place. This is my country. This is where I belong to. This is where I have a scope to do something differently. This is where I can show who I truly am. This is the place I love.

I love Tenkasi!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Piku, the movie – a review and some rumination

Just happened to watch 'Piku'. What an amazing movie! Splendid acting by Amitabh in his own inimitable style. Though I have not been watching many Hindi movies lately, I never knew that Deepika Padugone was capable of such a fine acting. Just one or two, I had seen had sadly showcased her as an attractive personality for her look, figure and fitness. Irfan in his own casual style is another superb actor. I laughed and laughed throughout the movie. A simple theme woven marvelously into a hilarious two-hour movie.

In the end, I wondered myself, "Am I not behaving somewhat similar, now that I am 65+?"

Old age is something unique to me. For that matter, every stage in life is unique in its own way with its own charm and chagrins. One needs to experience them. Most of us don’t remember our young childhood days, for most part. We have only vague memories about them. But those memories and the impressions of those memories – many of which illogical - deeply ingrained in our subconscious had been ruling our entire life, without our cognizance. As growing young adults, we are obsessed with our dreams and pangs of life and its associated responsibilities. During middle age, we are overwhelmed with our responsibilities at home, at work and in the circle of our society, besides the need to be competitive – staying ahead in the race for what we don’t really comprehend.

Only when we grow old, we start maturing; I don’t say we mature – the process of maturing starts. The memories of our life come back. We chew them, evaluate them, understand them, grasp their implications, brood over them, judge ourselves and others based on our revised evaluations and so on. Some of us suddenly become panicky - feeling insecure, insignificant, redundant, and not wanted. And, some of us can’t digest our having become less significant and we want to reinforce our importance, we begin behaving tough, demanding, cynic, questioning, suspecting, dominating, and so on.

Our ancient sages have advocated a beautiful path for everyone, to make life easy, simple and less stressful: Artha, Kama, Dharma and Moksha margs. Though, in some traditions they have changed the paradigm to Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

Old age is that span of our life where, having fulfilled our earthly responsibilities to ourselves, our kith and kin, our society, having passed the stages of artha, kama and dharma, we attempt detachment. The detachment may never get completed in our lifetime, but yet, we all try in our own way. Old age is the only time when we can truly enjoy the freedom – freedom from all attachments. Freedom comes only when we have no choices, my guru had said once – not the reverse, as most of us mistakenly believe. One has to deeply think about this to understand its significance. Freedom is only when we truly realize that our life is nothing but happiness and there are no choices to it.

After watching the movie, Piku, I suddenly went ruminating – comparing myself with the characters in the movie. The cool headed, straight and blunt character of Irfan is really very impressive.

Thanks to the producers and the entire team that made PIKU.