Monday, December 24, 2007

Women of India - unite to break the shackles

By: K Parthasarathi 12/17/2007 3:17:27 PM
When political parties are formed to protect and secure the interests of different classes of people, why not one to champion the womens causes? Imagine the sea change it would bring about in the country.It has the numbers on its side
If more than fifty percent of population comprising of women have not obtained their rightful share and empowerment in social, political and cultural spheres, it speaks very poorly of the country. What the growing women’s movement seeks is not a gratis or a favour but a legitimate right. If the SC, ST and backward classes demand reservation on the basis of percentage of their population on the plea that they have been oppressed and suppressed, it applies with greater force in the case of women. Sadly this movement is sporadic, not wide spread and limited to the educated class amongst women and mostly in urban areas. It has not made any dent in the rural areas where the plight of women is at its worst. The attitude of men by and large remains still attuned to the medieval era where women were looked upon as objects of pleasure and as a social device to cook, wash, take care of the parents and children and also earn money to supplement the income. She was treated as a beast of burden and is still so in the interior villages. In some states they do arduous work as much as men folk do at much lower wages and take care of the additional family responsibilities too.
The awareness to their inalienable right of equality with men and what it can do to change their lives is not extensive. The equality we talk about is not confined to social sphere but extends to political, economic, educational areas too with a larger participation consistent with the size of their population. A few sops here and there would not help much. As a first step it is only their political empowerment that would usher the desired changes in innumerable areas where there is presently gender discrimination and inequality. The opening of white and blue collared jobs reserved for men till now to a few educated womenfolk does not signify things have been set right.
It is rather depressing to note that India despite all the glittering growth in the recent times we talk about ranks at the bottom of about hundred odd nations in the gender gap index as revealed by World Economic Forum. Indian women figure unfavorably in several parameters like literacy, mortality, child mortality, jobs, and comparable wages with men, sex ratio, post and prenatal care and their place in society. It would be naïve to expect men to bring about the much needed changes on their own. The key lies only in their political empowerment where they would have an equal say if not more in guiding their destinies.
The promise to bring about a Women’s representation would ever remain a promise unless pressure is brought upon the political class. Even if the bill is introduced in the current session of the Parliament, its discussion and passage is beset with many difficulties. Whether there would be an increase in the total number of constituencies to accommodate the addition and if not which constituencies out of the existing are to be earmarked and which parties are holding those seats currently and the relative strength of major parties, whether there will be a quota for the backward classes within this addition meant for women are all questions that would defy easy solution.
What would be the basis for earmarking women’s constituencies, urban or rural is another snag. The simpler alternative of stipulating the parties to nominate women for at least one third of the constituencies as a mandatory measure may not ensure that one third of the houses would be women unless the constituencies are identified and reserved. The existing male representatives who have been nursing these places would not easily agree to give up. Fighting an election is a difficult job involving hard work and needs lot of personal money.As of now only the rich men can fight an election.
Are their women with such resources outside the families of the existing legislators to stand for election? This should not become a political farce with wives and daughters of the existing political class replacing the men. Even then the presence of large number of women legislators would bring greater sensitivity to the women’s issues. The women’s groups should be vigilant to ensure that the male dominated legislature does not bring about a half hearted measure and pressure should be mounted from now on what kind of changes is needed. We hardly see any such effort from them in this regard.
This political empowerment of women alone would transform the society from its patriarchal nature to one of gender neutral social order. We should strive for an order when the women are able to feel that all laws of the country are equal and that they enjoy all the options that men have. The traditional way of looking upon man as the head of the family and a wage earner with a subordinate role for the woman as a home maker and care taker of children should yield to an equitable relationship. There should be equal representation of women in all institutions, offices of government and private establishments. While the percentage of girls up to school level is almost equal to those of boys if not more, surprisingly the ratio drops down significantly at college and at higher levels of learning especially when the girls outperform the boys in the school examinations.
Why is there very low percentage of women in seats of higher learning like Business schools, Engineering colleges and civil services? What are the difficulties in their way of progressing side by side with male students given their academic competence? Equal presence in the educational institutions at all levels is the first prerequisite towards empowerment and economic independence. What are the existing social and financial barriers that prevent this happening? Why not reserve seats in institutes of higher learning too for women? There should be a peremptory change in the way we look at women in our familial, social and official spheres.
Women’s movement should not be content only with dowry deaths, domestic violence against women, immoral traffic, female feticide and such like matters but should transcend to the vital areas like the way society looks upon women. This movement should spread across the entire country in every nook and corner to tap their hidden strength. Sadly the women’s movement is isolated to small pockets of influential women and is not representative in character of the wider cross section. People perceive that they do not speak for all the women including the poor, working class and the destitute. The composition of the movement should be inclusive of all strata of society, all religions, literate and illiterate and all income groups. They can enlist the support of willing men too to organize and spread the message. This should be strictly an apolitical mass movement and with the kind of voting power they have they can easily bring about the desired changes.
Even if there is agreement for greater presence of women in the legislatures in the near future, women should not allow the divisive forces of party politics to enter their movement. Where women’s issues are concerned, they should speak in one voice cutting across all party affiliations as otherwise the movement would suffer. A united approach alone can bring about a sea change in the perception of the society towards women, greater gender equality, and total absence of discrimination in educational and employment opportunities. When political parties are formed to protect and secure the interests of different classes of people, why not one to champion the womens causes? Imagine the sea change it would bring about in the country.It has the numbers on its side.
Successful women should cherish the values of the movement and work towards its goal and not be content with their personal attainments. The long entrenched vested interests will not give in easily for the sweeping changes to come about. It is a long drawn process for which an aggressive, affirmative and sustained action is called for.
K Parthasarathi

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mahalingam Iyer’s solution

It was a MIG apartment.Mahalingam Iyer had sold his share of land in the village and bought this house some twenty years back. A retired government servant he was getting pension. He had a son and a daughter born late in life. Govind his son had finished his MCA and joined a reputed company. They sent him to US two years back. Although of marriageable age, iyer was waiting to finalise his daughter Lalitha’s marriage first. He was frantically searching for a suitable match. Traditional and conservative, he spent long hours in the local temple assisting in it’s affairs.
Padmini, a close friend of Lalitha and slightly elder to her was also living in the same apartment. An extremely good looking and tall girl, she had learnt multi media and was working with a big publishing company. Her father was not well to do. Though they were searching for a suitable match, nothing could materialize as her parents could not meet even the ordinary demands of the other parties. It was then a rich business man approached her parents wanting her hand for their only son. They said they were struck by the girl’s beauty and that they were not particular about the status or the wealth of the girl’s parents. They assured that they would take care of the marriage expenses too. The boy looked decent and was assisting his father in the family business.Padmini’s parents were flabbergasted at this god send offer and readily agreed. The marriage over, Padmini soon left for her husband’s place. Initially she came to her parent’s place a couple of times but was not seen thereafter. It appeared that they were not letting her go.
After three or four months Mahalingam iyer saw Padmini’s father in the temple. The latter rarely visited the temple.Iyer found him standing before the deity praying with eyes closed and tears trickling down his cheeks. He went near him and stood by his side quietly. When he opened his eyes he put his hands on his shoulder asked him ” Are you alright? You seem to be tormented with some problem. If it is not very confidential, you can share with me. It will lighten your burden.” The neighbour hastily wiped his eyes and said “We have been deceived.Padmini’s life is ruined.” Even before completing the sentence he started sobbing.Iyer asked whether they are ill treating her because she did not bring adequate jewelry or dowry. He replied that the matter was much more serious but kept quiet without telling what the problem was. It took a while for Iyer to ferret out the information that the marriage has not been consummated and that the boy was unfit for married life. It appeared that it was beyond any medical remedy.
Iyer was shaken initially and after some deliberation asked Padmini’s father to bring the girl home. She was a major and can come out on her own volition.Iyer told him that they can find a solution after talking to her. The poor father readily agreed.
In the night after dinner iyer broached the subject to his wife.Lalitha was also present. His wife also sympathized with the girl’s lot and wondered what could be done. The fate is cruel in some cases, she added. Iyer told his wife “I have arrived at a solution and wanted to know your views before expressing it to Padmini and her parents. Firstly, I am going to ask Padmini to get a divorce. This can be obtained within a short time.Secondly, I will ask Govind to marry her. She is a good match for him. I am not going to see horoscope or bothered by any tradition. I have almost decided and just need your approval.” Iyer’s wife said”Padmini is no doubt a very good girl. Even Govind has a soft corner for her. My only worry is that this marriage should not impede Lalitha’s marriage. You know conservative people may think twice before agreeing to marry a girl from our family.” On hearing this Lalitha exploded “I don’t care. If no one is willing to marry me for this reason, I am prepared to remain single all my life. But Govind should give a new life to Padmini.There is no room for any discussion on this.” Iyer’s wife remained silent.
In six months Padmini was married to Govind.Lalitha too got a good match. The only negative off shoot of this episode was the temple management’s strange decision to divest Iyer of his responsibilities in the temple.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dulal's gift

-by KParthasarathi Friday, December 21, 2007 Dulal was both happy and worried when he received the invitation for the wedding of the owner’s daughter. He was an assistant in the accounts department. He has been with the company for almost a decade. He had never been called by the owner even once but has heard him address meetings on various occasions. He was not sure whether he knew his name. Yet he was the only one of the staff members in the accounts department to have received the invitation. It came along with a colorful box containing two large laddus with liberal sprinkling of cardamom, pista, almond, kesar, saffron and many other spices. He was delighted as he was chosen among the many though he did not know why he was selected. He heard that another one in Quality department had received the invite. He was not aware that a few staff members were chosen at random from the computerized list as the owner wanted one or two from all grades of staff from different departments to be included in the invitee list. The owner was not aware of who all had been invited. Dulal’s immediate worry was what present would be within his affordability and at the same time seem decent. It was only last week he had taken a loan of rupees five hundred from his neighbour for buying gas refill and for some urgent provisions. He had already availed credit from the provision stores and the shop keeper refused to extend further credit. He was worried where from he can find the money for buying a gift commensurate with the owner’s position. When he reached home, his wife and children were very happy seeing the packet from the famous mithaiwallah.They had never tasted laddu of such quality and taste. Each laddu was about the size of a water melon fruit.Dulal and his wife thought of the ways to raise the money for the gift. She told him that if the owner gets impressed with the gift, he may be inclined to give more than the usual annual raise. He told her that the bada saheb may not even see the gifts from people like him. Nevertheless both agreed that the gift should be befitting the saheb’s status. She approached her brother to lend them one thousand rupees. After much haggling he parted with only half the amount.Dulal comforted her and himself saying that it is not the cost of the gift that mattered but only the sentiment behind it. After a long and extensive search, they settled for a Rajasthani printed bed sheet in beautiful multicolored design. It cost slightly more than the money borrowed from her brother. On the Barat day he went in his best dress to the famous marriage hall. There were hundreds of cars with large crowd of invitees and entrance was regulated by police by scrutiny of invitation cards. He could see many politicians, government officials, industrialists and rich friends of the owner. He also saw the senior officers of the company. They did not take notice of his presence. He was standing in a corner alone when a couple of his colleagues from quality and personnel departments also came by his side. They found comfort in mutual company. When the entire Bade log had finished meeting the couple and congratulating them, Dulal and his companions mustered courage to go near the couple and hand over the gifts deferentially. The owner was talking to some VIPs and none introduced them. After giving the presents, they hastily withdrew from the dais. While the colleagues made a beeline towards the dining hall, Dulal felt that he was not hungry. He felt very small and an utter stranger in that crowd. He wanted to leave the place immediately. He did not eat and left unnoticed by anyone. When he reached home, his wife was surprised at his early return. His children ran towards him asking what all he ate. He was morose and silent. His wife understood and brought him three chapattis with achar. A week later he found the owner’s driver coming to the cashier with a packet in his hand.Dulal heard him telling that Bada Saheb gave him that gift. When prodded by the cashier as to what the packet contained, he opened the packet to reveal the Rajasthani bed sheet in multicoloured design.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Misleading appearance

The young lady seemed to be restless in her seat in one of the rear rows of the Omni bus from Mumbai to Belgaum. It was drizzling and dark. The bus was almost full but there was no sign of it leaving. It was delayed by thirty minutes already. The conductor could not tell why the bus was held up except to say that the Time Office had not given clearance. A pleasant looking young man in his late twenties was sitting by her side reading an English magazine. He seemed unperturbed and was cool. He made no attempt to make any conversation with her. She had to break the silence by telling him that she was going to Belgaum and that she was not comfortable travelling in the night bus. She had to travel as she was required to be there next morning. She was afraid as there were many incidents of hold up on this route and the passengers stripped of their belongings. She told him she felt somewhat assured that a decent young man was her co passenger.
It was then a big and burly bearded man in a rain coat entered the bus and occupied a seat on the same row but on the other side. She also saw a lanky man enter who sat by the side of the driver. The bus started immediately giving rise to the speculation whether the bus was held up for the sake of these two guys. Our young lady took an instant dislike for the brawny bearded man who was looking hither and thither .She sensed trouble from him and expressed her apprehension to the young man by her side. He did not reply but she could sense his fears too as he was casting his glance now and then furtively on the muscular man.
The bus had moved out of the city and was moving at high speed on the highway. The checking of tickets was over. The conductor had switched on a movie on the video. The passengers relaxed in their seats and some started dozing straight away. The lady decided to remain awake and be on the alert keeping a watch on the hefty man. She found him half asleep with his eyes closed. Her co passenger appeared to be in deep slumber. After a couple of hours she also felt drowsy and stretched herself in the seat.
It was then she saw one short guy from the front rows stand up and pull a black thing from his side pocket. Suddenly he shouted ‘This is a hold up. All of you remain seated and be quiet if you value your lives.” To her great shock, she found the young man by her side getting up. She pulled him down saying “You fool, he will shoot you. Sit down please.” He pushed her down and cocked a pistol in his hand and warned the people not to stir and to hand over the money, jewels and valuable possessions without slightest resistance. We are ruthless and would kill, do remember that.”
The passengers let out shrieks in fear. The man in the front fired a shot in the air. There was abrupt silence. The bus had stopped in what appeared to be a jungle and the conductor was huddled in a corner. Almost all the passengers took out their purses, rings and watches and the ladies their jewelry. The burly man too made an attempt to pull out a presumably a purse but could not do in sitting posture. He stood up slightly only to pull out a revolver and shoot on the spot at the wrist of the young man. His gun fell down. The lanky man in the front side in the sitting posture fired at the shoulder of the short bandit when he was least expecting. Immediately the conductor, driver and other passengers pounced on the two and showered blows. They were tied and made to sit in the back seat watched by the lanky man with his pistol on hand.
When calm descended in the bus and there was a general relief, our lady stood up and said to the bearded man with a sheepish smile “Thank you Sir. But for you and the other gentleman we would have been robbed and who knows might have been killed also”
He smiled at her and said pulling away the beard mask “I am from the police. We have been keeping a watch on this route for quite some time. We got a tip off and luckily could nab them without any casualty.” He got down along with his colleague and the two bandits at the next stop. The lady learnt her lesson not to be deceived in future by appearances alone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do away with death penalty

The news item that India has voted against a moratorium on death penalty when a committee of the UN general assembly passed a resolution favouring it brings to focus again this much debated issue. India is in a minority with 52 other countries as 99 countries out of 184 voted for it and 33 abstaining. In actual practice most of the countries have not employed death penalty. Several leading jurists had pleaded in vain to the government for abolition of death penalty for the reason that it is irreversible punishment with the risk of innocent victims getting killed by the state.
Although capital punishment is legal in India they are few and far between. Between 1975 and 1991 only about 40 people were executed and there has been no execution between 1995 and 2004. One has only to juxtapose this figure against the number of murders taking place almost daily all over the country. The number actually condemned to death is a minuscule percentage of the murders taking place. While the judges award this extreme punishment in the rarest of rare cases where there is not even a shred of mitigating circumstances, the figures does not indicate for the real picture. The prosecution and the police more often than not present shoddily prepared cases, not infrequently under wrong sections and without proper witnesses allowing the culprits to escape with minor punishments or go Scot free. The judges do not condemn a man to death unless there is an iron clad case with no extenuating reasons.
Inspite of the rare cases of execution in the country hanging a man to death (India still goes by hanging with a noose till death) is a harsh and depressing manual business. Not all can be hang men as it calls for a strong stomach to bind the noose around the condemned man and pull the trapdoor for him 'to choke, gasp and swing until he died'. It is perhaps for this reason even hardened people do not come forward to assist the jails in this gloomy business. In the recent past, Tihar jail was frantically looking for hangmen which tribe has almost gone extinct. Human rights activists while arguing for total abolition of death sentence plead as interim measure for less painful methods of killing. Many countries employ less cruel and more humane method like lethal injections, electrocution, and gas chamber to take the lives. When this method of killing by hanging was challenged in 1983 on grounds that it was a torture and a painful process the apex Court in its wisdom it is learnt had surprisingly ruled that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity, humiliation or degradation.
The notion that capital punishment acts as a deterrent is flawed. The continuance of brutal and merciless hanging is not going to stop murders particularly when there is an unholy nexus between political class and criminal elements. Life long period of incarceration with no remission should be adequate. Society need not proceed on the basis of’ an eye for eye and a tooth for tooth’ even in cases of murders where there are no extenuating circumstances. It is enough to put them safely away from society in special prisons with highest security.
It is not too late for the country to go along with majority of nations in the plenary session of general assembly in December. What is sought for is only a moratorium on death penalty till it is eventually abolished. This is the way the world is moving save some democracy-deficit countries. Meanwhile let there be a public discussion on the subject to know the sense of the nation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are cricket players ‘boys’?

We have often seen the cricket players being referred to collectively as boys. The board officials always express their confidence that the ‘boys’ would do well in the ensuing tour. But then a boy as we know is a young male human (usually child or adolescent). To call thirty plus ageing cricketers who are married and with kids as boys is not what is understood in common parlance. A captain of 30 years and more calling the other players of equal age or more as my boys although collectively is jarring. Particularly when these young men earn what people double their age would not dream of earning and enjoy all the pleasurable past times that normally only adults would indulge in, calling them as boys is not the right thing. True there are some twenty plus in the team younger to the other ageing veterans but that cannot justify their being termed as boys.

When you talk of separating the men from boys we mean men are made of sterner stuff than the weak boys. We would like to believe that our cricketers are real fighters yielding no quarter easily to opponents and would prefer being called men. Matrimonial ads inviting applications for a boy aged 34 is common. But that is private and personal matter of the individual concerned. Not so with the cricketers who are the icons of their vast admirers.

There is one another thing that I would like them to adhere to. They should come to the ground be it for net practice or the formal match smartly dressed, clean shaven and properly trimmed hair(except Harbhajan of course). There should be a natural dignity about them with no place for trivial like ugly stares at the umpire, nodding the head in disbelief on being given out, stamping the foot or the bat, lingering longer than needed to walk away or exchange of words with competing players even under provocation. Even exuberant display of joy on achieving a mile stone is best avoided. A slight raise of the bat or the cap or helmet is adequate acknowledgement of the cheers of the crowd. There are thousands of eyes watching how they conduct themselves. The players should behave like grown up men and not churlish boys. Humility in triumph is the hall mark of great. Can we ever envisage a Don Bradman indulging in crude display of emotions on the ground? Luckily most of our players save a very few earn our praise in this regard. The team should take a pledge that it would shame anyone who provokes them by just ignoring them and leaving the matter in the hands of umpires and the match referee. A fine on the player by the referee should be regarded as a blot on player’s record.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Can Kirsten do wonders?

The question that comes uppermost in mind is what could be the rationale of choosing a batsman as a coach for the current team that boasts of some titans in the game. The teacher or a guide should be superior in talent to all the players as otherwise he cannot command the respect of the team by his prowess. Kirsten’s profile is at best like some of our senior players and certainly not a cut above them. What is the kind of learning that players like Sachin, Saurav, Dravid or Lakshman or even Yuvraj or Dhoni can expect from him despite about 7000 runs scored in both forms of the game? May be the younger players can learn a trick or two. But is it an adequate reason to run after foreign coaches who appear and talk in condescending manner?
We needed badly a coach to prepare the team before it embarks on possibly the most challenging tour to Australia. Playing in their grounds is different from our tailored pitches. They are waiting to give a drubbing and have already launched verbal taunts to gain a psychological edge. The new coach may be available as per reports only during the middle of tour. Till then a manager of sorts would be holding the fort. What kind of contribution can one expect from such persons on sinecure?
True though there are many willing but the names of desi coaches that did the rounds are not inspiring though some of them were good players in their days.. This must have been the reason for the committee to choose Kirsten. A good player does not necessarily make a good coach. It calls for different skills. The selectors had to make do with what was available. Not many are willing after the Chappell tenure and the refusal of another one to join after selection. The board had also snubbed one good coach after meeting him by remaining silent. Perhaps he knew the Australians better than the others.
The ideal candidate should have led a national team as captain in international matches for fairly long period and should have acquired the skill in all departments of the game like studying the nature pitch, whether to bat or field, what order the batting should be, whom to bowl and when, how to set field placments, the strength and weakness of opponents in general and individually in particular and above all the ability to carry the players with him. It is not that he will interfere with captain’s prerogative but would be giving useful inputs in the team meetings. He should be one who can command the respect of all as a man by his knowledge of the game and deportment. The participation in several test or ODI matches as a player alone will not guarantee this skill. It looks every player after his active days is interested in extending his career either as a commentator, coach or columnist. Not all can fit the bill or shine. It is hoped that under Gary Kirsten the team would scale new heights. For this to happen the players, the board, the past players and the sports writers should give him a long rope and not undermine his authority in any manner immediately after one series.
One gets the impression there is a lot of adhocism in all things that the board does be it in the selection of coach, the team or the selectors. It includes all the other areas of the game. There is a hint of intolerance to different view points with the officials seemingly taking the attitude of “I am talking, let no dog bark.”

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Renuka's revenge

Renuka was just 23 when she got married. She pleaded with her father that she would like to continue her studies and not get married. He pleaded that he had found a good match and that she should not let go.Kishore looked handsome and was in a decent job. There was no specific reason for rejecting him. She agreed and the marriage was soon fixed. But it was only thereafter the real nature of Kishore’s parents was revealed. They were greedy by nature and as the wedding day approached their demands grew higher much more than what was initially agreed to. Renuka’s father was not very affluent and he had two more daughters to marry off. Nevertheless he strained all his financial resources to meet their requirements to ensure that the marriage went off without a hitch.
The initial six months after the wedding passed off peacefully.Kishore in his new found marital bliss was not complaining though his parents were grumbling that the girl should have brought more dowry and riches. They were always pestering her to approach her parents for getting the money to buy a new car for Kishore.Renu knew the financial situation of her dad and ignored their pleas. Meanwhile she gave birth to Sharanya, a baby girl. Every little function associated with the birth of the baby provided a ready excuse for fresh demand. Daily there were fights between husband and wife at the instigation of his parents. They stopped all the servants except one maid and made Renu do all the drudgery, go out on all errands and even tried to keep Sharanya away from her. It was becoming intolerable for her. That servant maid knew what was happening and was very supportive to Renuka. She did not reveal her pitiable position to her parents. She was not allowed to visit them except to bring some jewelry or money.Kishore who was initially neutral turned to side with his parents. He wanted to buy a flat and was short of funds despite the bank loan. He started beating her when she refused to seek any further money from her father. They became cruel and even starved her.
It was then one afternoon when Sharanya had gone to KG school, the tragedy occurred. Renuka was electrocuted in the bath room when she was taking her bath. It was reported the accident was due to a leakage of current in the geyser. Her parents suspected foul play and reported to the police. Even the neighbours were aware of the strained relations and suspected mischief. The police made enquiries and in the absence of any firm evidence police could not proceed with the case. They however did not close it.
It was three months after the death of Renuka around 8pm Sharanya came down crying from the first floor telling everyone that she saw her mom in the room and that she was beckoning her. The grandparents and husband thought it was just imagination of the child but she told the same thing every day and that her mother smiled at her though she would not answer her questions. When they went up they saw nothing. The maid told her husband who was the son of a tantric. He said the deceased lady was trying to convey some thing, possibly some unfinished work and that she should go up around that time to find out what she wanted.. The maid on the pretext of being with the child went up. She too saw Renuka’s figure standing by the flower vase and poring into it. She could not follow what Renuka was trying to convey. The figure moved away from the flower vase and again came near only to look into it. It did like this three times and beckoned her. The maid understood what she was trying to convey and removed the plastic flowers to find a folded paper. She could not make out what was written therein. She carefully inserted the paper inside her blouse. The figure smiled at her. In the evening her husband read it to find it was a letter addressed to Renuka’s parents. She had written that her life was in danger and that her husband was threatening to kill her for failing to get the needed money. He was contemplating another marriage with hefty dowry after her demise. She did not want to burden them with her problems.. She wanted them to take away the child in the event of her unnatural death. It became clear to the maid and her husband that Renuka was done to death by tampering with wires. They handed over the letter at the police station after keeping a Xerox copy with them. Eventually the parents were put behind bars for seven years and Kishore for ten years rigorous imprisonment.
The maid was happy that Renuka’s soul was finally at peace as she stopped appearing thereafter.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Whom would you blame?

KParthasarathi Friday, December 07, 2007
Anjaly was very happy as it was the last day at the school before the summer vacation. A young girl of seven, she looked forward to spending the first two days of the holidays with her cousins at her uncle’s place. She slept very late on the previous night after watching Mr. Bean’s movie with her mom. Her uncle who had come to her home a week back had promised to take her directly from the school. There were no books in her bag, just a couple of frocks. The school closed at 12-30pm and parents were to pick up the children at 1pm.Anjaly was playing hide and seek with her class mates. She hid herself in the almirah and slightly closed the door. Being a narrow almirah she lied down comfortably. She waited for her friends to discover her. With the late night, she gradually fell fast asleep. At one when the bell rang all the children ran away to the front portico to be picked up by their moms or dads. None of the children noticed the absence of Anjaly.Her house was very close by but her mom did not come as her uncle was to pick her directly. Her uncle had totally forgotten the promise made. He left on an unscheduled tour for an important meeting the day before .Anjaly’s mom assumed that the girl was having good time with her cousins. There was no abundance of phone or mobile facilities those days.
The durwan made a cursory look in all the rooms and locked them after all the teachers left. He was to go to his native place in Nepal that evening. He handed over the keys to the principal after locking the main gate.
Anjaly woke up after a couple of hours but could not open the door of the almirah.She started crying and thumping the door. It was dark and hot inside. None could hear her wail on the road. She tried hard to open the door several times and succeeded finally. But the doors of her class room were locked and her class was on the rear side. She was hungry and thirsty. The panic and the continuous crying made her fall asleep again.
It was on the third day when her uncle returned home from tour his children started pestering him to bring Anjaly.It was then he remembered the promise he had made to his niece and sister. He presumed that his sister would have taken her home. He went in the evening from his office to her place only to be shocked to learn that her sister was under the assumption the girl was in his house. They ran to the school only to find the doors fully secured. They ran and thither trying to locate the principal’s house. It did not strike them that the girl could be in the school. They apprehended she had been kidnapped. But there was no call for ransom. The parents were not well to do also. The police were approached. Her class mates addresses were collected from the school. None went to her school whose doors were locked. It was only when one of her classmates revealed that they were playing hide and seek, the police decided to check all the rooms and her class in the school. The mother was meanwhile continuously praying to all gods for the well being of her daughter. One day was lost since the uncle returned. When they finally opened the door of her class, she was found crouched unconscious just behind the door. She was rushed to the hospital and despite the best attention she could not be saved. Whom would you blame for this unfortunate tragedy-the careless mom, the forgetful uncle, her class mates, the sloppy durwan who locked the doors without thoroughly examining the rooms or the casual school management for failing to see no children had been left behind?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rich man's legacy

KParthasarathi Tuesday, December 04, 2007
He was a very wealthy man and had all the material things that one could aspire for. Yet he was a sad man burdened with a young son who was a polio affected cripple and mentally retarded to add to the misery. He needed constant assistance and supervision even for basic chores. He was given to tantrums and needless howling for no reason. The old man’s wife had passed away some eight years back. He had of course many relatives and friends who visited him regularly. He knew that they were all there lured only by the sumptuous feasts thrown in, costly gifts given and their desire to be seen with the famous and rich. They seldom visited the son who remained in his secluded room engrossed in his own world of fantasy. Even the very few who went to the boy’s room did so very visibly to the wealthy man.
There was a distant relation of his thro his wife who was in difficult financial circumstances. He and his family used to visit frequently when the rich man’s wife was alive and mostly when he was away at his work. They were very good people who empathized with his late wife and were genuinely attached to the hapless boy. Very shy by nature and apprehensive that they would be mistaken for some ulterior motive for their frequent visits, they reduced their trips considerably after the demise of the lady. The old man thought with the passing away of his wife, possibly the bond had weakened. But they still visited the son at least once a month. The boy also from what the father had seen enjoyed their company and was very quiet during their visits.
The paid servants were impersonal, distant and sometimes rude to the cripple when the man was away. He even suspected that they beat the young boy whenever he was adamant or defiant. For this reason he never stirred out except on urgent business. His poor health was bothering him and the constant worry told upon his weak heart that had already suffered an attack. He feared his days were numbered and wanted some security for the son.
When he broached this subject to a few relatives of his who frequented his house and claimed intimacy with him, he was appalled at their suggestion that he be put in a well equipped home for the disabled and to give the home a rich donation. They assured that they would keep an eye on the boy and his well-being though they kept silent on their expectations in his legacy. He disliked their artificial tone of concern and the fake warmth for the boy. He distrusted them totally.
It was then he approached the poor relative of his wife and his family and begged them to stay permanently in the house with him and his son. He told them of his sleepless nights troubled by the thought of boy’s future after he passed away. He assured them that they would be paid each month a good amount for their help and to compensate for shifting from another town leaving the earlier job. The relative explained that they are agreeable to this only out of affection and memory for the lady relative and their genuine liking of the boy. He refused to accept any payment and also made the stipulation that he would continue to work as before and that he would find a new job soon in this town. His wife and he would take care of the boy as if he were their own son for their entire life. This was agreed upon and soon they moved in. The arrangement worked well and he could witness a welcome change in the boy. He was well clad always, trim and was seen playing with the other children at home. He was no more sulking or morose. The boy also grew better in health in a short period.
It was then tragedy struck. The wealthy man could not survive a massive attack despite medical attention. After the obsequies were over, the lawyer spoke to the assembled relatives who were eager and curious to know how the rich man left his legacy. The lawyer who did not see the poor relation in the crowd had him brought. His wife was not present. He said his client had not bequeathed any money for any of them present. He had willed away his wealth after the son’s death to charitable institutions and hospitals. He has appointed his relative who is residing in the house as the trustee. The income from his wealth would be spent for household and other expenses at his sole discretion. His client was confident that the interests and the well being of the boy were safe in his hands. Fully aware that the relative would not touch a penny out of the income for his personal use, he had directed certain amount to be paid to him monthly for taking care of his son.
What the lawyer did not reveal then at the express wish of his client was the legacy of a sizable fortune in favour of the wife of the relative. It was this lady not connected thro blood who has been showering all her affection on the boy without any expectation. Knowing their nature well he had left twenty five percent of his wealth to her and her children. This fact would also be revealed to the lady and her husband only at the appropriate time by the lawyer.

Monday, December 3, 2007

To his dog, every man is Napoleon

KParthasarathi Monday, December 03, 2007
My grand father had a fondness for pets. Being a big land owner, his house in the village was very spacious with large vacant space filled with coconut, mango, neem, guava and jack fruit trees. As a chit I have visited his house once and have seen a dog, a monkey, a deer, a peacock and couple of parrots. I had a fascination for the monkey and would sit and watch its pranks endlessly. In the hall, he had a long swing where he would lie down after lunch. There was no electricity those days. There was a punkah over the swing with a rope hanging down. It was the job of the monkey to keep pulling the rope for the punkah to oscillate. My grand pa carried a small cane in his hand and he would be constantly moving it to keep the animal on its job. The moment he dozed off and the cane stopped moving, the monkey would climb up the rope to sit on the punkah.After a few minutes when grandpa woke up from the slumber and the cane started moving, the monkey started pulling the rope. It was a pleasure to watch the monkey playing hide and seek waiting eagerly for grandpa to doze.
He had taught the parrots to utter some words but I could never understand what they said. They were more interested in the maize corns that I fed them with than talking.. The spotted deer was beautiful to look at but it never allowed me to touch its velvety skin .All the time it pranced about erratically running from one end to the other. I have seen the peacock in its colourful plume fully spread only once for a fleeting moment. The moment it saw me watching, it folded up
The starving dog he found one day became my grandpa’s dearest pet. A country dog answering to the name Caesar was a mixture of black and white. It expressed its affection for the old man by its vigorous wagging of its tail. Very sharp and intelligent it provided constant company to him who stayed alone with servants. He had lost his wife early in life. It always accompanied him in the early mornings when he combined his constitutional with a quick survey of the fields under cultivation. He virtually doted upon it and would not visit his children as he was averse to leaving it behind under the care of his servants.
One morning when he was making the rounds, he had the urge to answer the call of nature. He saw a circular shrub about five feet in diameter with a single opening. He had relieved himself earlier in this place. As he was sitting there that day ,a king cobra slithered silently to the opening and stood still spreading its hood with its eyes fixed on my grandpa. He froze in fright. The opening was narrow and even the slightest movement would make the cobra attack him with certainty. He quickly recovered himself and let out a soft whistle. Out of nowhere Caesar came running and it did not take a second for it to size up the situation. It sprang on the cobra and holding it in its mouth dragged it away. Grandpa ran home with his heart pounding fast due to fear. He sat on the bench in the front porch recovering from the shock. He sent the servants to look for the dog. A short while later the dog came home limping and lied down at the feet of grandpa. Bitten by the snake several times during its fight, it breathed its last very soon keeping its melancholy gaze fixed on its master all the time. Fiercely loyal it had remained faithful to its end. Grand pa did not recover from his grief for a very long time. There was a sense of guilt and remorse that he was in a way responsible for its death. He gave away all his pets and never had a dog subsequently.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The lure of dressing room

KParthasarathi Saturday, December 01, 2007
There is consternation among the selectors when BCCI gave its diktat that the dressing room is henceforth out of bounds for them. Some of them are even toying with the idea of quitting. The reason behind the board’s action could be that once the team is selected, the team management takes over with no place for selector(s) to poke their noses and throw their weight around on who plays, in what order and how the game is to be played. It is a very sound decision when one keeps in mind the adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
I have always assumed in my ignorance that these are like rest rooms with attached baths for the players to change their sweaty and smelly uniforms after a shower. With fourteen players in the team it should naturally be a crowded place with everyone jostling against the other in the limited space and with media, sponsors, and celebrities trying to get a peep into the much sought after room.
I had assumed that no serious business would be done in such a place till the recent order and I have realized that a dressing room means much more than a trial room in a mall or washing room in an airport. It is here that many secrets are buried as in the bottom of a pyramid. It is in this mystery- filled room that real action takes place more than what is displayed on the ground by the players.
The golden rule is that what goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. This unwritten understanding that the secrets of a dressing room should never go out is breached once in a while with the connivance of the players or the coach or the official of the board who manages the show. Otherwise who would have known that an English captain was fully drunk when he came to practice if a mate had not spilt what he had seen in the dressing room? We would not have known about the spat that Afridi had with another player when Asif intervened only to be hit by the bat used as a club. Even a janitor tells that she saw the late Woolmer counting wads of notes in the dressing room. But some secrets are well kept like why Dravid relinquished his captaincy at the peak of his career and who and what provoked him to take such an extreme step. The mother of all juicy revelations was the public spat between the coach and dada. Ganguly and Greg reportedly had an argument in the dressing room in which Greg suggested Ganguly to step down since he was not in good form and even the team fared poorly under him. The secrecy was breached in this case and their spat was all out in the open. What followed later is public knowledge with Ganguly losing captaincy but managing to retain his place in the team.
To prevent fresh controversies, the board has given strict instructions to the members of the Indian team not to leak the happenings in the dressing room and team meetings. With the selectors also kept out, the chances of the public knowing what happens inside the dressing room have become dim.
But then dressing room is a place where young colts are broken. In any bunch of players one could observe some are jolly characters given to fun and frolic, some talented in singing, playing drums or guitars, some cerebral working out the mysteries of D&L formula or reading books, and some morose and self centred.An assorted group from diverse regions brought up in different backgrounds and with different educational attainments, they are bound by the common thread of representing the country in the game. There are always a few who keeps the others on a high in the dressing room with their antics, music or even chats. Professional jealousy, varying media attention and fluctuating opportunities to be in the playing eleven keep the players tense although outwardly they may appear chummy. But being in the squad for long periods brings no doubt the feeling of togetherness and camaraderie.
It is here the big decisions affecting the course of the matches are taken by team management and not all of them can be made public knowledge. Certain privacy is conducive to the conduct of the game and to the bonding of young players though unfair methods, parochialism, ganging up against an individual player or two, illegal stuff like betting, wrecking the game as a spite against the captain or for personal glory, indiscipline are things to be brought to board’s attention and even public domain.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Requirements of a coach

-by KParthasarathi Thursday, November 29, 2007
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It appears that the former South African opener Gary Kirsten may be appointed as the coach for Indian team ending the long period of speculation.His credentials for the job as is understood from media are :

-has scored about 7000 runs each in both forms of cricket as an opener
-had the determination and ability to bat for long periods and a hunger for scoring runs
-is calm, level-headed and organised
-was a consultant batting coach for some team
-runs his own cricket academy in Cape Town since 2006.

Nothing spectacular about him except that he was one of the many good batsmen in the world of cricket. There are many other illustrious names with bigger coaching experience at national and international levels. There are many players in the current Indian team with equal or greater achievements to their credit. It would not have been the intention of the committee, which finalized on this name, that Kirsten would be teaching these seniors a few tricks of the trade they are not already aware of. May be they did not keep in mind the sensibilities of the senior players in choosing an individual who is at best an equal and not anything more. May be after the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the tenure of Chappell and the subsequent refusal of a coach to join after selection, there are not many big names willing to handle the job except on their own terms.We will never know what factors influenced the selectors to pitch upon Kirsten.
While excellence as a player for long years at the highest level, be they in batting or bowling, is an essential requirement, it alone is not sufficient. There must be proven evidence of having coached reputed teams of the top three or four countries in the cricket world. This requirement is not met in the instant case.The coach must have also exhibited outstanding man-management skills and capacity to motivate. He must be one who can command the respect and inspire the awe by his past records and profound knowledge of the game and proven ability to strategize for the team in big tournaments. He should have a long term vision and know the direction for taking the team.In the case of Indian team which has big men with bigger reputation and earning capacity, the coach should also be a superman even to make them listen.Remember the ordeal that Chappell went thro with some of the rebelliousplayers.
I do not know about Kristen’s capabilities to meet the high demands of coaching an Indian team and fondly hope that the wise heads who have selected him have taken note of these points.I do hope that the senior players would cooperate with the coach instead of belittling his efforts by devious ways.It would be nice if the current bowling and fielding coaches are also made part of the coaching scheme so that the good work being done by them is not lost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Choosing gifts is an art

KParthasarathi Wednesday, November 28, 2007
My niece got married recently. When I went to my sister Lekha’s place a few days after the wedding, I found her and her daughters sitting amongst the heap of gift parcels with many of them remaining unopened. I saw on the table about a dozen table lamps of different designs with some of them identical in make except for the colour.There were wall clocks in plenty, framed pictures of gods and goddesses in silver, coffee cups in silver, china, silk saris, trinkets, marriage manuals and books on Bhagwad Gita and many more. They were still busy opening the wrapped packets. When my sister saw me, she said “Raju, tell me what do we do with so many clocks, table lamps, crockery? Saris are ok in a way although Shreya will find very limited use for saris in US. Frankly I am at my wits end as to where I can store all these in my congested flat.” I asked”Lekha, I hope you are keeping the bills or receipts carefully with the respective articles. While you cannot get cash as in US for the items returned, you can at least exchange them for something useful. You can get rid of some useless items at least.”
“What are you talking Raju? Who keeps the receipts theses days in the gift packets. In fact they tear off the price slips or stickers to keep the value of presents from being known. Where the stickers are difficult to be removed they erase the price by using permanent marker pens. Who cares whether you have got the same items from many? Forget it, these have to be disposed off over a long period of time as gifts to others when we are invited.”
I remember my daughter always buys gift cards or vouchers from Sears, Kohls, JCPenny, Target or Wal-Mart wherever she is not certain what they would like or where the things she finds decent are above the amount she had envisaged. The great advantage in this practice is the giftees can choose what they want and can even put some more money if necessary. The gift cards are given by shops with attractive envelopes. There is a great demand for such cards and people prefer these cards to gifts in kind. They can have long validity period say six months.
This concept has not taken off widely here though Landmark, Crossroads, West side, Pantaloon, Globus, Lifestyle issue gift vouchers starting from Rs.100 onwards. The middle class still have not come out of the traditional habit of gifting (mostly unwanted) silver, steel and trinkets. Just imagine the kind and volume of useless purchases made during Diwali time that are sheer waste of money. It is high time that branded stores, big hotels, beauty salons, boutiques and reputed shops sells this idea by offering some discounts initially like a Rs.500 card for Rs.475.It will soon catch up. The smaller stores, sweet marts, departmental chains, cloth shops should use this idea as the middle class and lower middle class people do not visit the high style and expensive places. Till such time, people should invariably put the receipts without removing the labels and packaging in the gift parcels. All are shrewd to know the value of an item gifted and removing the price tag doesn’t deceive anyone.
There is one more thing. There should be some effort to know what the person who receives the gift would like. There is little point in presenting books to someone who is not given to intellectual pursuits or giving music albums to one who has no ear for music. The nature of gift would instantly reveal how much you have known the person. I still remember how unwittingly I gave a very costly perfume to a boss of mine little realizing he was allergic to strong smells or the gaffe made in gifting a sleeveless silk suit to a prim lady colleague on her wedding day who always came in sari to office. Choosing right and appropriate gifts is an art. People who receive gifts always notice and appreciate them when they realize you have taken the time and effort to choose what they like best. It will show them how much close you are to them. The moral is that one should not be cavalier while choosing a gift as a wrong gift may be counter productive and take away the goodwill and esteem.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kindling the young minds

-by KParthasarathi Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our former President Dr.Kalam always exhorts students to dream, hoping that dreams may ignite their minds to accomplish great things. This wasn’t so five decades ago for back then, a dream was associated with slumber and I still remember getting whacked for yawning in class. Yawn, I did not know then, is a prelude to sleep often induced by boring subjects or people.
No one explained why the paper planes that fly in the classroom glide effortlessly at times but nose-dive most often. Nobody ever asked such questions as minds were not encouraged to be inquisitive. It would be presumptuous to interrupt the class with questions and riskier if they turned out to be foolish.
I was in class VIII when the English teacher asked us to write an essay on what we would like to be when we grew up. As a child, I fancied being a steam engine driver with the thrill of driving the engine in the dead of night across the fields accompanied by the rhythm of the wheels and occasional long whistle, watching the stars and stopping at stations to drink coffee from the IR restaurants without the risk of ever missing the train. But afraid of being reprimanded, I wrote about some mundane ambition.
My friend Chellappa, more imaginative and bolder, refused to divulge the subject he wrote about. In the last hour of the day, the English teacher walked in. From his ominous look, we could smell that something untoward was about to happen. “Chellappa,” he bellowed, “Come here.” Chellapa walked up with trepidation towards the table.
“So, you want to be a scientist,” he roared and laughed hysterically like Gabbar Singh in Sholay. The entire class joined the laughter only to be stopped abruptly by the tight slap my friend got. “What is your optional subject,” the teacher asked.
Chellappa mumbled, “Book-keeping.” “How dare you want to be a scientist, having chosen book-keeping,” he demanded. My pal replied meekly, “Sir, you asked us to write what we would like to be and not what we would be.” Rebuffed, the teacher dismissed him from the class.
The teacher also ridiculed a boy who had a squeaky voice and wished to be a play back singer and another who took part only in the lemon-and-spoon race but wished to excel as an Olympic runner. Then, there was the boy who opted for Tamil medium on account of his poor scores in English, but wished to be a playwright like Shakespeare. The unimaginative teacher, who had neither vision nor compassion, smothered all the harmless instincts of the children. The young minds, peculiarly sensitive to ridicule, never recovered from the shock.
Luckily, this teacher was an exception. I have known several scholarly teachers who responded to their calling with sincerity and passion despite the pittance they received. They shaped minds and stoked fires that lay latent in young hearts. They would discover talent-academic, aesthetic and technical-and stimulate and guide the children to become proficient in their chosen skills. The teacher should act as a trigger, letting children roam free in their minds and seek answers to their unresolved questions. He should rejoice at the discovery of kindled spirits and provide the answers wherever he can.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vishal’s kindness

KParthasarathi Monday, November 26, 2007
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Vishal Gupta was one of the fortunate few born with a silver spoon in the mouth. Blessed with a good natured wife and intelligent children, he had nothing much to wish for. He was walking in the narrow pathway of the large municipal park one evening. He was late that day and it was getting dark. Except for very few old people spending their time on the benches, the park was desolate. The lighting was also not adequate with lamp posts far from each other. But Gupta followed religiously the daily regimen of forty five minutes walk prescribed by his doctor to keep his weak heart in good condition.
Suddenly out of no where a man emerged from the bushes. He was a strong built man but his eyes were sunk and cheeks hollow betraying his indigent condition. He simply stood opposite Vishal Gupta with his threatening physique but pleading eyes.Vishal said in annoyed tone “What is your problem? Why are you standing in my way preventing me to proceed further? “He replied in a tremulous voice “I want some money immediately. Give me the money you have. I think you can afford it”. Gupta being timid by nature was afraid to argue with him considering there were none around to help. He normally carried a small amount with him for any emergency. He took his purse and gave it to him meekly. The man opened purse and counted six fifty rupee notes. He kept one fifty rupee note with him and returned the purse with the balance He left hastily after saying “this is adequate for my needs. I am sorry for taking this money like this. I do not know any other way. Please excuse me.”
Gupta was intrigued at the strange behaviour of the man. His curiosity thus aroused he followed the man at safe distance. After passing thro several lanes he reached a hut. He heard the man crying and telling loudly to his wife that he had become a despicable thief and robber taking away money from someone without earning it. His wife was consoling him saying “what other alternative we had to save the starving children. They have not taken a morsel since two days and are weeping continuously. No one around here is willing to help. I am also not comfortable with this way. I will not ask you to do it again, I swear upon God.” Gupta heard the man beating his head with his hands and sobbing in remorse. When he entered the dimly lit hut, the man was startled and started crying saying” Oh God, police have come to take me.” Gupta patted him on his shoulder and asked him to calm down telling there is no policeman. He told the man who was shying away from him “Don’t be afraid. No harm will come to you. When you took only fifty rupees from the purse and returned the balance, I realized you are no robber and that circumstances must have forced you to take this cranky step. My impression is vindicated by the feeling of guilt shown by you. I have forgiven you already. I have now seen your pitiable condition. You can work if you are willing as a gardener in my house from tomorrow.”
He thrust the balance money in the hands of the incredulous man standing before him with folded hands. The man and his wife fell at the feet of Gupta clasping his legs. The bewildered children too followed suit by falling on the ground before him. The man mumbled “Sir, you have saved us from falling into a life of wickedness and misery. You are our saviour and we are beholden to you.”

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile-Mother Teresa

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Magnanimity is above circumstance

-by KParthasarathi Saturday, November 24, 2007
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We live in a small town, rather an oversized village, about thirty kilometers away from a big city. It is an old house slightly narrow but very long with a porch at the entrance and a large vacant ground at the backyard. It was built during my husband’s grandfather’s time. We chose to live in this place as my husband had large areas of land in the adjacent villages. A lawyer by profession my husband is not practicing much these days except to help old clients. The children who are in the city visit us during week ends off and on.
One summer evening when I was watching the TV I heard someone calling ’Amma’. When I went to see who it was I found an old man of about seventy, frail and small built and not looking well off. He had a smiling face belying his indigent circumstances as revealed by his tattered shirt and much worn out chappals. With a soft and pleasant voice he said “Sorry to bother you. I came to this place to return some amount I had taken as a loan. The person to whom I returned the money came home only at 9pm.The last bus to my place had left at 8-30pm and the first bus leaves early in the morning at 6am.Would you kindly allow me to sleep on the raised platform (thinnai in Tamil) in the porch for the night. I do not know anyone else here. My relations with that person were a bit strained and there was no question of my asking him.” As my husband had not returned from the city, I hesitated for a moment. My six year old grand daughter who had come to stay with me for the week end said” Grand ma, please allow this thatha(grand father) to sleep in the porch. Where else can he sleep in the night? He looks tired and hungry.” This clinched the matter.
I gave him a mat, a pillow and a sheet to cover as mosquitoes are a menace here. Declining to have food, he accepted a glass of buttermilk when I insisted. I could hear his talking to my grand daughter and her peals of laughter now and then. I could see a jovial personality within this frail man depressed possibly by financial worries. When I came out to take my grand daughter, he told me that he had a married son with children who are living in the North. The daughter in law was also employed in the government.
The old man’s wife fell from the bus some years ago and is unable to walk. She needed help even to take her to bathroom. Luckily one lady in the adjacent flat is very friendly and helpful whenever he had to go outside. After this accident the son and his wife became distant and aloof. He was sending money earlier whenever asked for. But the old man has since stopped asking. He was getting some pension that was just adequate. He had no complaints to make and was thankful to god for keeping him physically fit and healthy to take care of his wife and manage his affairs without imposing on others
A thought crossed my mind. Financially not sound, advanced in age, a crippled wife, denied the affection of his only son in the twilight years of the couple, he counted his blessings instead of crying about his disappointments. He was grateful to god for the doughnut he had instead of cursing the holes in it. I wished him good night and went inside with my grand daughter Shruti.
When I got up in the morning and went out to the porch with a cup of coffee, I found he had gone. The mat and the sheet were neatly folded and kept over the pillow. When I lifted them to carry inside, I found a small paper folded and on opening a fifty rupee note fell down. He had scribbled in pencil “To dear Shruti, with love, Thatha” I wiped the tears from my cheeks.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chappell is not off the mark on a flawed team

KParthasarathi Monday, November 19, 2007
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The BCCI may be furious over Chappell's charges that Indian team for the word cup was a flawed group without many youngsters and may dismiss them as rubbish. The secretary may take shelter under the usual argument that the Board doesn’t get involved in selection maters that falls under the exclusive domain of selectors. Even the boy who plays cricket for the school knows that the tentacles of the board are spread far and wide on every aspect of the game. The Chairman of BCCI functions like the heads of dynastic political parties. All of them will swear that their parties function democratically with their strength drawn from the petty workers on the field. All decisions taken in the name of high command or executive council are really the wishes of the supremo.Everyone else is a paid hireling remaining in office at his/her pleasure. It was the same when Dalmia was at the helm and now the genuflection of the various functionaries in BCCI is much more pronounced with the head being a powerful minister with lot of clout. His word is decree and wishes are commands. Unless BCCI is saved from powerful people, things would continue like this. Let the half dozen old names who take turn to occupy offices yield their places to a totally new set of capable and younger people who wish to serve the game. For this the structure of BCCI should change.
The selection of Indian team has always been an amusing subject with no predictability or clear direction. The culture of the country with its hero worship and personality cult is very much prevalent in cricket body too. Some players from some regions do not come under normal evaluations. To talk about their fitness or suitability is sacrilege. Greg Chappell raised hornet’s nest by talking to Ganguly about the need to relinquish captaincy to focus on his game and pleading for more youngsters in the team to raise its level and competitive spirit. But the culture of trusting old and tired limbs and making the youngsters wait till they became old went against this insistence of the coach India’s foray was an anticipated disaster losing after the first round. Our ego would not accept the sane advice of an experienced coach.
The selection committee based on regional representation was not designed to be national in character. Invariably there would be briefings from the high command thro its minions on whom to select and whom not to. BCCI, an essentially money making body, go by the wishes of sponsors who are the bread and butter of the institution. They in turn have their commitments on some players on whom their crores ride on. The game and performance take a back stage in such a dénouement. The sponsors ensure they rope in the selectors too with assignments .They have a great say in the choice of players notwithstanding the protestations to the contrary. Everything is done behind the scene far from the scrutiny of the public.
The selection committee’s methodology and the reasons for selection or exclusion of players are always shrouded in mystery. Even the press conference after the selection of the team where the questions would be dealt with in mono syllables is dispensed with. Unless a speaking document signed by the selectors giving the reasons for inclusion and non inclusion of players in the zone of consideration is released, the hanky panky of favouritism would continue. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let things come to public domain.
If an organization is incapable of choosing a new coach for more than a year and is content to give its cronies the position of managers, the game will be like what it is today. The lone success in T20 or some wins against a depleted Pakistan team should not make us complacent. In the view of Allan Donald it is only England and South Africa who is regarded as equal to mighty Aussies and who may supplant them. To prove him wrong the emphasis should be on talented youth and in building a vast reservoir of players for the highest level. Players above 30 however great and fit should compulsorily retire. Let everyone get an opportunity to serve the country. A country of billion will always throw up competent youngsters. Sadly we have gone back to an old warhorse as captain for test team. We have no guts to put our faith on a young Dhoni. We would continue with the thirty plus warriors with their slow reflexes and weak limbs and keep the youngsters waiting on the sidelines.
Instead of getting upset with what Chappell said and responding in arrogant tone, let BCCI change its ways. Otherwise we will be talking about the same issues after a rout in down under.