Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The dilemma

by KParthasarathi Tuesday, April 29, 2008
It was around 8.30 in the morning and my children had left for school and husband to the office. I heard a commotion on the road outside my house. When I looked out through the window I saw a cluster of people in the middle of the road by the side of a truck. I heard screams of pian.Must be another wretched accident. I rush out and hear people talking of a young boy run over hit by the fast moving truck. I inch closer only to see blood splattered across the road and a mangled body of the urchin in khaki shorts and oversized blueT Shirt.. I could get a glance of the boy’s charming face with the eyes closed partially and the face contorted in pain. He would have been 11 or 12. He must have died instantaneously as otherwise the on looking passersby would have had him removed to the hospital. The driver of the truck was caught and held. Some people in anger showered him with blows till they were stopped by some onlookers telling it was no fault of the driver. He was shivering in fright and a sense of guilt for being the cause of the boy’s death. He was repeatedly pleading with others that the boy saw the approaching truck standing on one side of the road and suddenly plunged into the middle of the road. The hapless driver was telling that the boy did not give even slightest indication of his intent to cross the road. Meanwhile a policeman appeared on the scene and soon followed by a police control van. After a quick survey, they covered the body with a white cloth. Soon there were marking the place with chalk piece and the driver taken inside the van.
The thought of a very young life snuffed out in a fraction of minutes and the waiting mom and other folk in his family was too much to bear. There was the feeling of nausea from the pit of my stomach and I rushed into my compound. Tears trickled involuntarily from my eyes. I could not bring myself to my normal self and sat on the portico dazed. In the matter of an hour every one had left and there was no trace of an accident except for the blood mark and white lines of chalk piece. I went in and got busy with my daily routine of loading the washing machine and the dishwasher. A little while later I heard a wail from the roadside. Not having gone out the hangover of the ghastly scene, I came out to investigate. I saw an aged woman from the working class looking hither and thither and asking the passers y whether they had seen her grand son. It was a busy road with no shops or a shade of tree. Cars and vehicles were moving fast. None had the time or the inclination to stop and listen to her. When she saw me, she came towards my gate. I went out and asked her what the matter was. She said her grand son went out to get tea for her more than two hours back and hadn’t returned. She added”Normally I wouldn’t worry as children when they see play mates start playing and forgetting the job. But I have brought my grandson from the village to take him to the hospital. You see this boy’s vision is not good in the nights and these days he found it difficult even during day time.” When I remonstrated with her as to how she could allow such a boy to go out on a busy road, she said the boy had told her that he would not cross the road and that he can manage without much difficulty. “Foolish as I was, I did not stop him. I don’t know whether he got into any trouble. I am afraid as he is the only child of my daughter. “ When she confirmed about the boy’s age and the colour of the dress my worst fears turned true and I was in dilemma whether to tell her what I knew..
“Amma, did you see my grandson by any chance? Can you tell me how I can trace him? No one has the patience to listen and answer” she told me sobbing all the while. I had no mind to break the sad news. I steeled myself and said that I have no idea. But as an after thought I told her ”You see, there is a police station after a furlong on this road. They normally help in tracing the children. They also keep in safe custody lost children till they find the parents. I think it is best for you to go there without asking anyone else.”
She replied”Amma, you are so kind hearted. You will live long happily. I will go to the thana as you advise.” I saw the bent figure walking in hurried steps towards the police station with hopes and anxiety. I felt bad that I had to lie but took solace from the sloka “…..na brooyath satyam apriyam….”(never tell the disagreeable even if true)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ranganna's bequest

-by KParthasarathi Saturday, April 26, 2008
Ranganna’s body was laid in the hall with his head on the Southern side. Though past eighty, his face looked as he was in slumber. One could see a trace of a faint smile. There was no specific ailment except weakness and the end must have come in his sleep painlessly. The purohit was finalising the arrangement for the funeral rites.Ranganna’s wife had passed away five years ago. His three sons (one had predeceased him) and four daughters were all sitting in different places in the hall with grim faces. Their maternal uncle almost the same age of Ranganna was watching the proceedings. A few relatives and many friends of the dead man arrived one by one or in groups and receded to some corner after offering their condolences. He must have been an affable and jolly person from the number of friends seen. No one seemed to cry inconsolably but was definitely distraught. He was staying alone in his last days in this old house. Some local caterer, possibly a friend of his, was supplying him the food. Though the house was in need of good repair, the land on which the house was situated was worth several lakhs.
While the body was being washed and covered with a shroud, the purohit saw a key tied to Ranganna’s sacred thread. He asked the eldest son to remove it. It was then the maternal uncle stood up and in a commanding tone asked the purohit to leave the key with him. There was utter silence amongst the sons and daughters. The eldest son said the key was for the small cupboard of his father and may contain valuable documents. When the key was given to the uncle, he told “I know and it will be safe with me. Let us get on with the work on hand. We can look into this key matter after the thirteenth day.” He was anxious that there should be no hitch amongst them till the final rites are over. He was aware his nephews and nieces were keen to know about what their father had decided about the house. After the chanting of mantras when the mortal remains was carried outside the house for its onward journey there were hysterical cries from the women folks. It was slightly dark in the evening adding to the gloominess of the atmosphere.
The next day there was the murmur of voices from the sons and a few daughters that the cupboard be opened to see what their father had decided about the house. He had no other property. There were two tenants who were paying some rent that took care of his need. When in service, he had given all the sons and daughters good education. The sons were well employed. The girls were married off well. All of them lived in comfort. Although there was no lack of affection, Ranganna decided to live alone when the sons soon after their mother’s death discussed among themselves how long in a year each one should keep their dad with them. The eldest son felt that father had a soft corner for him as he supported the family with his income in the initial years till he got married. The youngest, a daughter, said that since father had already spent most of the money on the marriages of her elder sisters, he could not provide her with as much gold and silver as he had given to her sisters. She was sure that she would be getting special mention in his bequest. The uncle in his loud and stentorian voice remonstrated “Enough of this prattle. It is not even two days since he died. I do not want anyone to discuss this till the afternoon of thirteenth day.”
On the afternoon of the thirteenth day after the ceremonies were over on an auspicious note, the uncle took out the key from his pocket. He said “I know you are all restless. You must forgive me. I was anxious that under no circumstances the final rites should suffer.” He opened the cupboard and found besides clothes and assorted small things, a leather bag. He found in it the title documents of the house in original and an envelope addressed “To my sons and daughters”
With their permission he opened the envelope and read the contents aloud. “Dear children, I have given you all good education and got you all married well. That was itself a big achievement for a person like me born in penury and had only a middle level job. Being scrupulously honest I could not amass riches. I have only this small house. In my younger days I studied on the liberal help of kind hearted men. They left a lasting impression on me. If this house is sold, each one of you will get only a paltry amount. I decided therefore to bequeath it to the RK mission to use it as students’ home for the school going poor children and have registered a will accordingly. I hope you would whole heartedly approve of this and make me happy as you have always done, Appa”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sahayam's ghost

by KParthasarathi Friday, April 25, 2008
Singhal had lent ten thousand rupees to Sahayam five years back. He used to live in the town where Sahayam lived before he shifted to Jaipur. They were neighbours and Sahayam’s family was helpful in the initial days when Singhal had moved to the Southern town.Sahayams had no children. He never lent easily as he was not in money lending business. But his usual caution gave way when his wife pleaded with him on behalf Sahayam’s family. She fell for the sob story of pressing need from Mrs.Sahayam and her assurance that the money would be returned in a few months. Even after a year there was no sign of money being returned. Gentle reminders proved of no avail.There was no documentary evidence for the loan given. Being soft by nature Singhal relied only on polite demands for repayment even by instalments.While Sahayam did not deny the liability, he would always request for more time. It was then Singhal was transferred to Jaipur, his home town. Sahayam assured him that his money was safe with him and that he would return in four installments without fail with the repayment commencing after three months.
It was more than three years since Singhal left. He did not get a penny. It was then Singhal got a tour to Sahayam’s town. He decided to meet him and take something in writing for the loan taken.
When he knocked at the door one evening, a small boy of around twelve opened the door. He said he was Sahayam’s nephew and had come for vacation. He knew from the conversations between his uncle and aunt that his uncle owed the North Indian gentleman some money and that the latter was pressing him to return. When asked whether Sahayam was available the boy asked him to come inside. When asked about Sahayam, the boy replied that he had passed away by sudden heart attack two years back and that he was staying with his aunt since then. He told the visitor that she would be there soon as she was taking her bath. He added that his aunt was scared to live alone as she was troubled by the ghost of his uncle. He frequently came in the evenings around 7 pm and when the door was opened he entered with loud noise with the stench of a drunk. She then saw him throwing about all things. After sometime the ghost would disappear and all turned quiet. It was for this reason he said he came to live with aunt. His aunt suspected that ghost could enter even when the door was not opened. She feared that the ghost was violent when angry.
Singhal became worried and restless as the watch showed 6-45pm.It was then Mrs. Sahayam entered. After a salutation that appeared indifferent, Singhal observed that she was constantly looking at the door with fear in her eyes. When Singhal asked whether it was a fact that her husband came daily around 7pm noisily like a drunk she nodded her head in affirmative, Singhal remembered the boy’s warning that Sahayam turned violent whenever displeased and he was sure his sight would not be a pleasant sight for the ghost. Convinced about the veracity of boy’s statement, Singhal made a hasty exit pleading urgent work elsewhere despite her pleas that her husband would be happy to see him after so many years.
It was after his exit, she asked the boy “why was it that the gentleman looked so scared? Did you tell him that uncle has turned an alcoholic and creates noisy and violent scene when he returns daily from work? In fact Singhalji was not aware of Sahayam turning an alcoholic“. The clever boy said he did tell him about his coming daily at 7pm like a drunk and sometimes violent but did not reveal about his bluff regarding his death and his appearance as a ghost. He also added gratuitously that the North Indian uncle may not come again. When asked why, he said with a tongue in the cheek that it was just a hunch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Master's munificence

by KParthasarathi Tuesday, April 22, 2008 Vishu was twelve when he lost his father. His father was a mrudangam player eking out a difficult livelihood. He was not on the top league that renowned musicians sought for. He had to be content with playing for lower grade musicians. He had accompanied some of the stalwarts more by default than by choice when the regular player was unable to attend by sudden sickness or emergent circumstances. Vishu had gone with his father to the music concerts held mostly in temples on festive occasions or in marriage halls. He had a fascination for violin and used to watch the violinist wielding the bow and producing sweet music. But his father taught him at home the only skill he knew though he was aware of Vsihu’s fancy for the stringed instrument.Vishu had an elder sister who was learning vocal music. Both of them were studying in a corporation school. It was then a tragedy struck when Vishu’s father suffered a massive heart attack while playing in a concert and collapsed on the stage. He passed away even before medical aid could reach him. Vishu’s maternal uncle who had come for the ceremonies decided to take his sister and her daughter with him to his village. He came to know of the boy’s interest in violin and approached a leading violinist along with some musicians who were friendly with Vishu’s father. The violinist knew Vishu’s father. They pleaded with him pointing out the indigent circumstances of the family and the boy’s interest in learning violin. The renowned violinist had seen Vishu on a couple of occasions when along with his dad. Those were days when people were prosperous and prices were low. He agreed to keep the boy with him and teach him. Years rolled by. Vishu served his master and his wife sincerely with devotion. He was the errand boy helping them in ever so many ways. They were impressed with his impeccable behaviour.The guru’s wife taught him initially the rudiments and the boy later learnt directly with the guru himself. By hard work and inherent skill he had become an accomplished violinist. He was not allowed to play in public platforms as yet. He continued to go with his master carrying the box and his other needs. The guru was a hard task master and did not allow any intimacy. He was stern while teaching him and on other occasions talked very less. In fact it was guru’s wife who was very kind showering her affection on the boy and fed him well. He had not gone to his village to meet his mother and sister for more than five years. It was then one day his uncle had written that his sister’s marriage has been fixed and asked him to be present a week in advance. His uncle had also written to the guru seeking his blessings for the girl and his presence on the occasion. Vishu’s joy knew no bounds and pleaded with the master to attend his sister’s wedding at the village some 200 miles away. Even as the lady was suggesting that he attend, he told Vishu that he had a concert that day at another town. He said he felt bad that he was not able to participate in the joyous function. He gave him some money to be given as his gift and permitted him to leave for the village. It was the day of wedding. There was only one street with tiled houses on both sides leading to the temple. The road was covered by a pandal.The mangalya dharanam was to commence soon.Vishu came out and looked across the street. He was feeling a little cheerless that his guru could not make it. Some one called him inside. An old Morris drew up opposite the house. Three elderly gentle men came out. Hearing the commotion, Vishu rushed out and was greatly surprised to see his guru along with a top musician and equally famous percussionist.Vishu stood speechless till his master patted him and said “This is unexpected. We missed the train and took a car to reach the town where we have the concert this evening. I remembered your sister’s wedding and made a slight detour. The great vidwans had very kindly agreed to grace the function.” Vishu fell at their feet and took them inside. His master said “We intend to sing for an hour in the pandal after the muhurtham.Can you send word to all those who would be interested to listen.” The villagers had never heard such a soulful music from the great titans. In the middle of the concert the master made way for Vishu and told him to accompany the great musician. He said “This is memorable for three reasons. This is your first kutcheri before the presiding deity of your village, you are accompanying a very senior vidwan and you are singing on your sister’s wedding” With tears filling his eyes Vishu prostrated before him thinking of his large heart and affection for him. kpartha12@hotmail.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where is 'equality for all' ?

-by KParthasarathi Monday, April 21, 2008
The recent controversy over the naming of the airport at Hyderabad betrayed the unseemly enthusiasm of the Congress to name it after Rajiv Gandhi. The Telugu Desam party was justified in opposing this. It has always been the practice to name the airports after the famous local leaders. Mumbai airport is named after Chatrapathi Shivaji and the one at Nagpur has Dr Ambedkar’s while Kolkata airport bears the name of Subash Chandra Bose. Chennai airport remembers Anna and Kamaraj by naming the two terminals after them.Ahmedabad is named after Sardar Vallabhai Patel while the capital’s airport carries the name of Indira Gandhi. Amritsar carries the name of Ranjit Singh. Why then deprive Andhras alone their genuine desire to name their airport after their local leader? Congress refuses to learn their lesson from the past mistakes. The people of Andhra value their Telugu pride very much.TDP itself came about as a result of the hurt when a Telugu Chief Minister was insulted publicly.Telugu atma gauravam (Telugu self respect) became NTR’s popular slogan. To ignore and ride roughshod over their plea to retain NTR’s name is to provoke the Telugus needlessly. This is bound to hand over TDP a cause to fight for and hurt the Congress.
The question also arises why every airport, building or institution or social schemes should be named after the members of single family alone. India does not mean Nehru and his family only. I am sure Sonia Gandhi would not want that all institutions and buildings be named after her family members. It should be the result of the misguided enthusiasm of her acolytes thinking that such a measure would please her. Perhaps she should publicly announce her distaste for naming all and everything after the names of her family members lest the people think that these things are done at her behest.
It is not that the nation does not have tall leaders other than the members of Nehru-Gandhi family. Just see a sample list of schemes under Rajiv Gandhi’s name alone. Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for the children of working mothers, Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for SC/ST candidates, Rajiv Gandhi National Awards Scheme for Original Book Writing, Rajiv Gandhi Bharat Samvrudhi Yojana-Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission, Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, , Rajiv Gandhi Udayam Mitra Yojana, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidytikaran Yojana (RGGVY, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Rajiv Gandhi foundation,Rajiv Gandhi shiksha Mission,Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award,Rajiv Gandhi shelter scheme,Rajiv Gandhi Handicrafts Bhawan,Rajiv Gandhi Computer Saksharta Mission, Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Rajiv Gandhi Swavlamban Rozgar Yojna, Rajiv Gandhi Rehabilitation package for fishermen,Rajiv Gandhi University, Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Awards. And now Rajiv Gandhi International airport. The above list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. I have a high regard for Rajiv who had the right impulses and the passion initially to set things right but could not do so for various reasons. All the same our love for a leader or leaders should not become an obsession. There were/are equally capable leaders who are no less worthy. The names for land marks/institutions should not be mired in controversies. The ruling party may be under the impression that the credit for the schemes could be appropriated for the party with the name of its leaders. People are no more politically naïve and are aware which government brought what scheme and are not deluded by mere names. How long would it take for new dispensation when it comes to power to change all names? The best course would be not to use any name of political leaders at all. Where there is such a desire to name after a politician, it would be ideal to have a consensus with the major opposition parties.
We boast ourselves as the largest and vibrant democracy with equal opportunity for one and all but at the same time expose our slavish mentality in eulogizing members of just one family however deserving they may be as if the rest of illustrious Indians do not account for much in our scheme of things. The high command of the Congress that boasts itself as a 'democratic and secular' party is pretty anxious that none in their ranks shall do or say anything that would injure the felicity of the members of the' first family’. The top leaders of the party would expect a deferential silence to and unqualified acceptance of the wishes of the supremo.In such an ambience where is the hope for 'equality for all' in our country.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Vanishing tribe of general practitioners

-by KParthasarathi Saturday, April 19, 2008
When I was a young boy we had an elderly family physician who was someone more than a family friend. He knew every member of the family, what their regular problems were and their general state of health. A kindly soul he did not seek any publicity except for his name board showing his name and his MBBS qualification. A room in the front portion served as a consulting room and the one behind used for dressing and for making medicines. Although he had prescribed hours for consultation and dispensing, he was always available for emergencies unless he was out on visit to his patients. There will be a crowd of patients sitting on the benches both in his consulting room and outside in the verandah.There was a stool by his side where the patient will sit and relate his complaints. There was no privacy. Everyone can hear unless spoken in whisper. A jovial man he would ask questions to his own mirth and that of the waiting patients. There will be the inevitable physical examination and reading of the temperature. He relied mostly on his diagnostic skill and rarely referred patients for laboratory or radiological tests. He will scribble in a slip the ingredients of the mixture for the patient to give to the compounder in the adjoining room. He used to take a paltry sum that covered the consultation fee and the cost of mixture in a corked bottle with dosages indicated by a paper strip pasted on the bottle. The medicine would last for two days and in most cases there would be no need to visit him again.
Each locality had a couple of general practitioners (GPs) who took care of all the families (both rich and poor), diagnosed and treated all common medical illnesses and did minor surgery. As a family doctor, our physician was loved and respected. He would have visited almost all the houses on some occasion or the other. He had by long experience gained the ability to see the big picture and also zero in on the root cause of the problem. He was a Jack of all trades, could pull a tooth, set fractures, stitch open wounds, and remove the blocking wax from the ear and so on. He will himself refer to hospital where the cases were serious and called for hospitalised treatment. I have seen in some localities even LMPs commanded considerable practice with success. The patients had tremendous faith in the curative powers of their doctors. The GPs too those days were compassionate and treated poor patients free giving them the free samples of medicines they received and took with this purpose in mind from the medical representatives who came to meet them.
The situation today is vastly different. GPs with rich experience are a rarity. Most of the doctors after acquiring MBBS specialise in some area. The scene is fast changing with specialists mushrooming and the prescribing GPs disappearing. The frontiers of medical knowledge and its technology have also extended a lot. The lure of fame and quick riches draw medical graduates to specialise in a narrow area. Where there is money there is crowd. Ophthalmology, Cardiology, Oncology, Cardiovascular surgery, Gastroenterology, ENT, Orthopaedic etc draws the most doctors. The fees of specialists are naturally prohibitive considering the fact only those with specific complaints would visit them. There are no more general physicians or general surgeons in large number as we had a few decades back..
Patients who can afford would prefer to go to a specialist at the earliest opportunity instead of losing time with GP. But the bulk of our problems are minor in nature and a GP should be able to treat them. With easy internet access to patients, they fear the worst scenario and rush to the specialist. Most of the educated have some knowledge of anatomy and the diseases. But the snag is these specialists know in depth only in their limited areas of specialisation. There are the inevitable many referrals to other specialists with innumerable tests and consultations that make treatment way beyond most. Patients generally go to hospitals where they are covered by insurance. All tests are done routinely whether needed or not more as a process of routine elimination. Even a small ailment or a surgery in a hospital run on commercial lines is very prohibitive in cost. The hapless many struggle without going to hospitals or specialists till the problem becomes serious.
Will there ever be the good old general practioners as we had when I was a chit? They may lack the narrow specialisation of the present day specialists but their knowledge in their “parent” fields was beyond question and far superior. They were a boon to the innumerable poor people with the day to day ordinary complaints of a bad cold, fever, tooth pain, a minor fracture and dyspepsia. The commercialisation of medicine and hospitals has caused a great havoc.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why repeatedly expose Indians to Taliban killings?

By: K Parthasarathi4/16/2008 4:58:36
The killing of Indian workers engaged in rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan has assumed such a regularity that the Indian government can no longer ignore. Two BRO personnel have now been killed and a few others injured by a suicide bomber attack despite a prior warning from Afghan interior minister that the road project BRO was engaged in was on the Taliban hit list. We had lost young lives earlier too at the hands of the Taliban outfit. The circumstances and locale of their tragic ends have not varied much. Unarmed and unguarded they fell victims in the hands of the thugs for no hostile act except for doing what was expected of them in their call of duty. They were the hapless targets for Taliban to vent its anger at the Indian government.
India in its political wisdom had agreed to put in its men and money in what it considered a laudable task of developing a war ravaged Afghanistan. One reason for our continued interest in getting such road projects completed could be that they would afford easy passage to Afghanistan through Iran bypassing Pakistan. But the question remains at what cost. Obviously it did not anticipate fully the extent of animosity that Taliban nursed against India. The Taliban does not want India to be involved in the development of Afghanistan. The mad outfit dislikes India working hand in hand with US, its sworn enemy, and its Afghan president. It has been proved more than once that the threat from Taliban is real and that the vast numbers of Indian workers when they stray into the interior parts without adequate security cover are sitting ducks to these terrorists.
No government can provide the kind of security to prevent kidnapping of men by terrorists waiting in ambush or against suicide attacks. Even workers of Border Roads Organization, that is known to have protective rings around its workers, have fallen victims. It is not that Taliban had not warned Indian government. Its ultimatums that Indians leave Afghanistan for good reveal their malicious intent. The message of such dastardly killings is loud and clear that India should steer clear of any programme for development of Afghanistan and not get close to the Afghan ruling set up.
While it is agreed that no government worth its salt can submit to such diktats from ruthless terrorist outfits in shaping its foreign policies, it is expected that adequate measures would be taken to prevent loss of lives. The Minister in charge of external affairs as expected has made it clear that India would not be deterred by such threats from Taliban and would continue to assist in the development of Afghanistan. But the consequences of such a refusal to succumb to threats without adequate back up to protect its personnel have been tragic. More so when the government could not do much to secure our men"s safety even when they work in BRO protected by the large presence of ITBP troops. The safety and security of India"s workers should not be allowed to depend on the protection of local forces and the private companies. The writ of Afghan President does not seem to spread far and wide as Taliban could strike at will and his government is too weak to protect its own people, let alone the Indian workers.
The danger of an attack by the capricious and barbaric insurgents, who owe allegiance to our inimical forces, cannot be termed as unexpected. Yet our personnel are insensitively allowed to fend for themselves in a hostile environment without the kind of security ring capable of thwarting murderous attempts. Assessment of risks to the Indian workers in vulnerable areas and forewarning them is the prime responsibility of our government. Commiserating with bereaved families after the brutal murders and compensating them with large amounts may bring immediate succor to the affected families and soothe the shocked sentiments of Indian citizens but cannot bring back the valuable lives lost.
Fighting a war to safeguard the integrity of the nation and losing men in the battles is an accepted risk with the men in army trained and well equipped to protect themselves and the others with them. The country also sends its army for peace keeping operations under the auspices of UN notwithstanding the dangers involved. There is a well organized plan and strategy by the military establishment behind these operations. But the case of developing a hostile area with the help of civilian workers without the fool proof cover of armed men as in an army is altogether of a different nature.
Permitting our personnel of BRO travel in the interior parts in the company of other Afghans, who are perhaps not seen as enemies by the insurgents, is a very risky proposition. It is also no consolation that quite a number of Afghan nationals have also been killed. No government with the best of intentions can save the people once fallen in the hands of fanatical and ruthless outfits. There are lessons to be learnt from these gruesome killings. What steps are envisaged by the Indian government to prevent a recurrence of similar fate to other Indians and to ensure their full safety is not known. It is hoped that they will not be allowed to work under the care of a feeble Afghan government and exposed to the mercies of mindless Taliban.
When Afghanistan, to whose help we have gone, is unable to contain the insurgents and provide a safe climate for our men to lay the roads, it is perhaps necessary to examine de novo our earlier decision to build roads and welfare projects.. Would it not be better like many other countries to offer money and materials for its development instead of sending men particularly to such countries where there is a religious slant and hostile jihadist movements?
There is no detraction from prestige in going back on our commitment and withdrawing our men from places where they are easy targets for the insurgents. Such a denouement should not be seen as a victory for Taliban. It is a tactical move to protect our men without weakening the country"s close relationship with Afghanistan and its current rulers. India need not dilute its support for reconstruction of Afghanistan and can support it with liberal aid without exposing its men to murderous assaults. There seems no other credible way for the Indian government to prevent recurrence of such civilian tragedies in future.K Parthasarathi Feedback to author

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Comparisons are invidious

by KParthasarathi Tuesday, April 15, 2008
As a young manager one Saturday afternoon I was talking leisurely to my boss on a variety of subjects. During the course of this long chat, he praised a colleague of mine. He was telling how impressed he was with his work, his intelligence and his ability to present knotty cases in simple manner. As he was speaking, I was unconsciously squirming in my seat. When he proceeded to shower his praise on my colleague’s ability to carry his team and his motivational powers, some sort of illogical jealousy grew in me. I was wondering why he was telling me all these and whether there was a hidden intent behind it. Doubts assailed my mind whether he considered my colleague better than me. I too toiled hard for long hours and was considered a capable manager with promising future. All the bosses under whom I had worked had always spoken of me in high praise. Despite this knowledge I started mentally comparing myself with my colleague and giving ratings on various attributes. When the boss found me glum with a long face, he said in a puzzled tone that he was just mentioning about my colleague to me as he knew we were very close friends. He added generously that he was not making any comparisons.
Nevertheless when I returned to my cabin, I was involuntarily worrying myself whether I too would merit such an appreciation from my boss with a lurking doubt that I may not. It is human nature that if the boss criticises someone, we are comfortable and feel assured that we do not suffer from such demerits. If he praises someone, we feel insecure with jealousy. Our moods keep changing constantly by comparisons. They invariably hurt if the person compared with is spoken well off. We relish the failures of others and are inwardly unhappy at the success of others. A couple of days later when the colleague about whom the boss had spoken dropped in to my house with his wife, I mentioned about the chat and the high opinion the boss had for him. I made the gratuitous remark that he probably ranked highest in the estimation of the boss. It was then my friend mentioned that he too had similar experience a few days back when the boss it appeared showered encomiums on me. We realised then that this was one strategy of the wily boss to get the best out of his managers.
I remember my attempts to motivate my daughters by comparing them with their friends. Little did I realise that this was a big mistake and counterproductive. In many instances I learnt from my wife that my daughters were better than their friends and that I should not be taken in by appearances. No man is hero to his valet. Likewise we know our children very well with all their weaknesses while we know very little of others. My friend’s daughter was learning music along with my daughter from the same teacher. I found that girl picked up the lessons fast and was able to sing with lot of confidence in a loud voice. Whenever asked she would readily sing unlike my daughter who had to be cajoled and persuaded. The other girl, I learnt, had the habit of humming the music all the time and was also practising regularly. My daughter considered music as an imposition and went to the classes in deference to her mom’s wishes. She practised on the day there was the class and that too after several reminders from my wife. Nevertheless she sang well and the teacher was happy with her effort but I always nursed the opinion that she was not putting that extra effort as the other girl. The result was clearly manifest when they sang together. One evening I told her that she was under no compulsion to learn music if she was not interested and that I was making no comparison. I also mentioned that she needed to be prompted by her mother almost daily indicative of her lack of interest. This pricked her self esteem. She replied that she liked her lessons and that she would need no more goading. It was then my wife pointed out that every child has its plus and minus points and that my daughters excelled in studies and sports and other extracurricular activities. This remark soothed the injured spirit of my daughter. We were surprised to see the change in her and soon she was on par with the other girl participating in all music tournaments.
Comparisons should not be invidious but gentle and oblique without hurting the esteem of the individual. One should compare one’s achievement with the goals set and not with other individuals. Comparing crudely with others can make one bitter and spoil the friendships invariably.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Arresting inflation on war footing

By: K Parthasarathi4/11/2008

The steep rise in inflation with the whole sale price inflation touching 7% is causing concern. This sudden spurt in prices has thrown household budget of the common man into total disarray and the poorer sections are the hardest hit with the prices of food items like wheat, oil, pulses, and vegetables having gone up substantially. The manufactured items like steel, cement, coal have also gone up bringing in its wake all round escalation in prices. It is not that government is impervious to the unwelcome development but its response has been slow to the locomotion of events. There is now pressure on the government to take steps to control the inflationary spiral. It has already taken some fiscal measures like scrapping import duty on crude edible oils and banning export of edible oils and pulses to arrest the upward movement of prices although the effect of these measures would manifest only after sometime. The incentives for exports of steel, cement and some minerals have been removed to make larger availability within the country and thus favourably impact on lowering prices. The steel producers have also been persuaded to reduce the prices of steel that they recently increased.As Asian Development Bank had remarked the Indian governments ability to control prices can only be limited as India is not alone in the region where inflation is rising and global commodity prices are also on the upswing. The mischief does not lie in food items alone, it is the all round price rise in non-food primary articles and basic metals that have contributed to inflation. These commodities are in short supply across the world and prices naturally have moved up. Although the price of crude has gone to very high level with no indication of coming down, its impact on local scene is not felt that much due to the administered price and subsidy. The ADB warns that that the inflation is expected to spike in 2008 and could hit a decade long regional high. According to World Bank economist, the higher commodity prices are not likely to ease up making it necessary for government to take right measures to reduce the burden on the poor. According to him the elevated prices level in metal, food and oil would remain for long period with no abatement. The importance of fiscal rectitude by the policy makers have been emphasized to tide over the difficulties.It is not enough for the ministers, politicians and economists explaining the whys of this price rise. The poor folks are neither interested to know the reasons there for nor are they impressed with such explanations. They would like the prices to be reined in quickly and made to remain stable at the affordable levels with the value of their static income not eroded unduly. Things can perhaps be managed only to some extent with mild monetary measures and by reducing the rates of customs duties on capital goods, cement, steel, edible oils, larger import of food grains and edible oils. Banning of futures trading on a food items also helps. It is not certain whether these mild measures would yield quick results in combating inflation. It is always the case that consumer price inflation for industrial workers is always lower than that for agricultural and rural labourers. The burden on the silent majority of poor labourers would be the highest. If the inflation continues to rise even after implementing the measures that are talked about, RBI would be compelled to resort to drastic measures to slow down credit growth and make borrowing costs stiffer.It has often been left to the central bank to intervene and take such monetary measures as is possible to contain the inflation. But RBI has its limitations. Drastic measures would be frowned upon as that would stifle the growth. As a result it keeps increasing the repo rates in small dosages at regular intervals. The idea is to mop up the excess liquidity caused by the inflows from abroad and to squeeze the growing credit in risky areas. The extension of credit from the banks sees no signs of abatement.It should set for itself the goal to bring down the inflation" as close as possible to 5.0% and should employ all the available policy instruments, including the CRR, to bring desired changes in liquidity depending upon the situation as it evolves. Policies like higher provisioning requirement, increase in risk weight age in specific sectors, reduction of interest rate ceiling on NRI deposits etc have all been employed in the past. When things become unmanageable stiff increase in bank rates would be inevitable slowing down the economy and bringing down the growth rates.There appears to be no quick fix solution from the government judged by the remarks of Congress spokesman that it has no magic wand to curb the inflation. He could not indicate any specific time frame to bring down the prices to bearable levels indicating a lack of clue of how things would turn out. The thinking in the government perhaps is that while global factors and increasing demand may partially explain the inflation, the constraints on the supply side are the main culprit. One view could be view that the economic growth was being driven both by an increase in consumption and in investment with the rising demand causing supply constraints stoking inflation. Emphasis may be immediately given to remove the supply side constraints.One also shudders at the thought of the great harm the implementation of 6th Pay Commissions recommendations along with tthe disbursement of arrears to be inevitably followed by state governments too will do to the cause of containing inflation.The waiver of not-so-poor farmers loans and the money available in their hands is another worry.There will be freebies in concealed form in the run up to the polls adding to the fiscal profligacy.Till such time inflation is brought under check, the government should proceed cautiously.Whatever the reasons may be, the government should get its act together and cannot allow the people to suffer. Indias agriculture has been much neglected area thanks to a minister who considered it as a part time job. India should increase its production of food grains and pulses to the full capacity. Food security should rank high in its priority and the PM should ensure this is not compromised in any way. People have not forgotten the sorry figure cut by the agriculture ministry in importing inedible wheat at exorbitant prices while denying the indigenous farmers reasonable and remunerative prices for good quality wheat.Agriculure is a key portfolio needing full time attention and should be entrusted to someone who can devote his undivided attention.With elections around the corner, the government would be keen to to contain the rising inflation on war footing. It cannot politically afford to allow the prices of essential items to escalate beyond the reach of poorer sections. Even if the monetary and other measures needed for this purpose would dampen the growth of economy, the government has no choice but to safeguard the interests of the common man. Growth is secondary only to this imperative of keeping the poor from hunger and hardship. Nevertheless prudent balancing of conflicting stands thro multi pronged strategy should ensure that inflation is curtailed and growth remains unhampered.

K Parthasarathi

Thursday, April 3, 2008

VaradhaKutti's trial

by KParthasarathi Thursday, April 03, 2008
Varadha kutti was a priest in a small temple of a village on the banks of Cauvery. He got this name partly from the presiding deity Sri Varadharaja Perumal of the temple and partly because of his short stature. He was well versed in the temple rituals and also knew the mantras for traditional religious functions. He was very sincere in his work and honest doing the pujas at the appointed times. He served as purohit to the villages around. In addition, he knew the mantra for curing snake bite that was passed on to him by his father. It was a family secret well kept. Countless number of times he had saved the people from the jaws of certain death. He would always be reciting the mantra to keep its effect at optimum. He lived in a small house adjacent to the temple. The keys of the temple were with the priest and trustee. The temple had also large tracts of lands and income was more than adequate to meet the expenses of trikala puja.It was customary for the tillers to give fifty percent of the proceeds.
The trustee of the temple was a local politician and rich man. He had annexed many areas of temple lands to his own. None dared question him for he was a wicked and greedy man. He gave the cultivation of the temple lands to his cronies for some consideration forcibly taking away from the traditional farmers of long years. These new men gave only a small portion of paddy despite the high yield all around. When Varadha Kutti softly questioned this saying that the income of the temple is depleted, the trustee got annoyed. The priest was also telling the other villagers of the drop in the income of the temple. In order to teach the priest a lesson, the trustee removed some jewels from the god and managed to hide it in the dark ventilator of priest’s kitchen. When the loss of jewels was noticed by the priest he informed the trustee who called all the panchayat members and the police. When the jewels were traced in the priest’s house, everyone was shocked. None would believe. The priest wailed inconsolably telling that he was not aware how the jewels came to his house and cried that Lord Varadaraja was subjecting him to great trial. The policemen took away the priest to a lock up in another village. The villagers suspected some foul play but dared not open their mouths against the trustee surrounded as he was with strong men armed with sticks.
The priest did not sleep the whole night and was constantly complaining to his God as to why he was being put to such tribulations when he had been fully devoted to Him. The compassionate policemen took a few plantain fruits pressing him to eat. He thanked them but kept the fruits aside.Varadha Kutti must have dozed off to sleep mentally and physically tired as he was. He was rudely awakened by the noise and wail of people outside the station. A young boy of sixteen was brought before him. He was blue in colour and foaming from the mouth. The villagers said “Ayya, Our trustee’s son is bitten by cobra. We have brought the boy without loss of time. Please save him”
The priest immediately tore from his dhoti a strip of cloth and began reciting the mantra with total devotion. After every few minutes, he tied a knot in the strip and continued the incantation.This went on for some time.Varadhakutty’s face was grim and was watching the boy all the time. It was only when the boy opened his eyes and asked”Where am I? What are all of you crowding around me?” Vardaha Kutty said “The boy will be fine. Give him a glass of hot milk” and returned to his cell.
It was then the trustee who was standing a little away out of embarrassment and guilt fell headlong at the feet of the priest and was crying as he said ”Ayya,forgive this wretch for the injustice done. It was my entire mistake. I will openly apologise before all villagers. The lands would be restored. You have made me a new man”
Varadha Kutti looked up at the sky as he started towards home ”Varadharaja, you have saved me from ignominy. This trial must have been for the sins committed in the previous births.”