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Monday, 17 December 2012


A number of TV vans were lined up on the road
The window of my kitchen seems to have become the window to the dark world of crime, sadness and anguish. Once again, as I stood in the kitchen this morning, fixing up the breakfast, I observed that a big vehicle was parked blocking the traffic light in front of the colony gate. Irritated at the apathy of the traffic police as the police station is right there, I uttered a few curses trying to focus better on the vehicle. It was a Zee TV van. As I looked further, I could see a few more vans with satellites, parked in a row outside the Police Station. Oh my God! What has happened, I wondered. I put on my shoes and was soon out on the road to satisfy my curiosity.

The road outside my colony, termed as the Crime Street in the Rape Capital of India was lined with the TV vans of all hues and colours. Not being too adventurous, my queries were limited to my conversation with the security guards posted at the gate of our colony.
“What has happened here? Why so many TV vans,” I asked.
Kal raat koi kaand ho gaya hai, (Some incident has taken place last night).”
Kaand? What kaand?” I asked.
“Some woman has been raped there,” replied the watchman on duty, raising his hand in the direction towards the road. His voice was unaffected as if reporting a run-of-the-mill incident. Nothing seems to be shocking the common man's mind these days!

I immediately came back home to switch on the TV only to hear that a young man, who works in a software firm and his female friend who were going back after seeing a movie, took a White line bus from Munirka last night between 9.30 to 10 pm. Some men, who were already on the bus, started molesting the girl and when he objected to that, they tied him up and hit him with iron rods. They gang-raped the girl and later threw both of them out of the moving bus after removing their clothes. The victim has been taken to Safdarjung Hospital in a critical condition. The Police has not been able to locate the criminals so far….. the TV news continued.

TV vans awaiting some news bytes
I stepped out of the colony again and this time ventured up to the Police Station. I saw many a camera-person waiting outside the police station as the young man was perhaps being interrogated in there. There were a large number of curious onlookers present on the road including me.

A White Line bus of Yadav Transport was engaged by  the posh 
Birla Vidya Niketan School of South Delhi for ferrying children
to the school, was found in Sector III of RK Puram
There was a white bus also parked on the other side of the road. A few guys standing next to the bus were calling someone on mobile, “Yes, we are here right in front of the police station.” Is this the bus which was used for the gang-rape? Thinking that gave me goose pimples and I rushed back to the safety of my house. 

Onlookers galore outside the Police Station
But my mind is still not at ease. How unsafe it is for a woman outside her house!  We have always been told to take a male escort along when stepping out to ensure our safety. But it looks like that a male companion is no deterrent to the crooks, the rogues and the criminals. What kind of psyche is this that makes a monster of a man? What compels him to become a beast on seeing a hapless woman? What can be done to stop this kind of crimes which seem to be increasing by leaps and bounds? My restless mind doesn’t seem to be finding any answers.


JNU students held a day-long demonstration  in front of
the Vasant Vihar Police Station
P.S. 18th December, 2012: Four culprits have been arrested. Main guy is Ram Singh, the driver of a school bus plying for Birla Vidya Niketan. Another one is his brother. Third one is a fruit-seller. And the fourth one works as an Assistant in Siri Fort Gym. Two of them are still absconding. The girl is battling for life in Safdarjung Hospital. There is uproar in the Parliament with many MPs demanding death penalty for the rapists. JNU students held a day-long dharna and conducted Nukkad Naatak on the road in front of the Vasant Vihar Police Station. The road was closed for the better part of the day. 

But how long will this agitation last. Soon everything will settle down and it will be life as usual. Why such heinous crimes are taking place in a country which boasts of innumerable female Goddesses. Are they worshipped only for seeking blessings and because they are perceived  in a position to give you something? They say in Vedas, "Yatra naryastu poojante, ramante tatra devtah (Where a woman is worshipped, Gods live there)". But is the converse of this also true.... Where a woman is NOT worshipped, demons inhabit there? But in today's world we have forgotten all these lessons and crimes against women continue unabated because:
  • The value system is dying a fast death with no lessons on civic sense, moral science and ethics in schools.
  • A woman is still seen in the society as an item to be possessed physically and not as an equal and a person in her own right. 
  • There is no fear of Police or authority.
  • The culprits are usually not caught and if caught are let off on bail.
  • The culprits also believe in the power of money to turn tables in their favour, and
  • The judicial process is very slow and tedious.


Friday, 7 December 2012


It was traffic as usual on Nelson Mandela Road
The morning before yesterday, I was in the kitchen fixing up the breakfast. As I emptied the milk packets and placed the vessel on the stove for boiling it, I thought I heard a scream. Initially paying no heed to this strange sound amid the myriad sounds of the morning traffic on the main road, sales pitches of various vendors and hawkers and unfamiliar chirping of migratory birds on the big Neem tree outside my flat, I continued with my chores.

But the squeals would not stop and their pitch kept increasing with every successive one. What was that, I was forced to wonder? It sounded like a siren but it was definitely not a siren, I could decipher that from the multiplicity of ear-splitting decibels and notes. Oh my God, it suddenly dawned, was it a woman … wailing perhaps in extreme anguish.

The auto was parked exactly at the place where this auto is located
I tried to look at the road from the window of my kitchen to ascertain the cause, but I could see only heavy morning traffic and vehicles zipping past. People were rushing off to their work-place. The only thing that I could figure out was that an auto-rickshaw continued to be parked there right in the middle of the T-junction under the red-light. Why was the auto parked neither this side nor on that side of the road but in the middle? Why was it not moving even when the light turned green? Was some woman being kidnapped and she decided to raise an alarm at the traffic light? Or was it that she was in labour and could not tolerate the pains? Was the auto driver seated or had deserted the auto and run away? The possibilities were innumerable and I was not able to stand in the kitchen anymore. I decided to check up and went inside to pick up the phone to first call the Security at the gate.
“What is this sound about?” I asked the watchman.
“I don’t know. It is some woman crying in the auto on the road,” the watchman on the duty replied nonchalantly.

I could not restrain myself anymore. A woman is definitely in acute distress and needs help. So I hurriedly put on my chappals and picked up the mobile phone before rushing out. Maybe I’ll have to call the police, I thought.

By the time, I reached the gate, there were no sounds and it was traffic as usual. Two of our Safai karamcharis were coming back from across the road. They shared, “It was a woman who was taking her ailing husband to the hospital and the man died on the way in the auto-rickshaw itself. So we told the auto driver to take her back. No point taking the dead body to the hospital.” And they moved on to resume their duty of collecting garbage from the flats. 
The watchman added defensively, “Madam, we are not supposed to leave our guard-post especially for an issue outside the gate. So I continued to stay put here.” He was right in his own way, I agreed.

But there were countless vehicles of all sizes and shapes which stopped at the red light, gazed curiously at the hapless woman holding the dead body of her husband and wailing uncontrollably, and had moved on. Nobody had time for anyone.

Wondering whether the milk of human kindness had dried up in today’s world, I returned to my kitchen only to notice that the milk had flowed over the flames and had extinguished it.  Did it symbolise anything? May be, I am being too imaginative.

Out of the three absolutely healthy trees, this one fell down out of the blue
trapping a car and blocking the busy Nelson Mandela Road.
And yesterday, exactly after 24 hours, by some quirk of fate, the tree under which the auto with the wailing woman had remained parked for about ten minutes suddenly fell down trapping underneath a bright red car. Nothing abnormal had happened, no earthquake, no thunder, no lightning and no accident. How the otherwise healthy tree fell down is an absolute mystery challenging my rational mind.

They say trees too have life (Prana) and can feel. Was this tree not been able to endure the pain of that woman’s uncontrolled heart-rending wails? Or maybe it was a mere coincidence. Who knows!!!

-    A real incident


Saturday, 24 November 2012


It was the winter of 1992 and I had been suffering from persistent cough for over three months. I had tried all possible medicines but the rogue cough wouldn’t go. I even went to a TB Hospital to have myself checked up for a possible onslaught of tuberculosis but all reports were clear. To say that I was miserable would be an understatement!

It was at this juncture that someone suggested, “Why don’t you consult  xxxx Vaidyaji  ( an Ayurvedic practitioner)? He is really good.”

My response was lukewarm and I said hesitatingly, “I somehow don’t believe in Ayurvedic treatments.”

But my well-wisher was very persuasive, “No, no. He’s not like those ordinary Vaidyas. He is a Gold Medalist and also the personal physician to the President of India… And he sits in this building only. Govt. of India have also recognised him and given him a place in their office building.”

I finally got persuaded and went to consult the famous and highly revered Vaidyaji.

Vaidyaji checked my pulse and advised confidently, “You will be alright in no time but you will have to take this pudiya (powder) with honey twice daily, in the morning as well as in the evening, at least for a year. As of now, I will give you the medicine only for a month.” I was highly impressed with his confidence and expertise.

“See me after a month and don’t stop the medicine under any circumstances,” he gave parting advice.

Two days of licking honey smeared in the grey-white powder and lo and behold! ... my cough had vanished. I just couldn’t believe this miracle and was on top of the world.

A month passed and I went and picked up another month’s supply of powder from Vaidyaji. I admit honestly that I had never respected a doctor more in my life. I was now perfectly alright and bubbling with energy all the time whether it was sitting late in office or saying yes to a suggestion for going for a late-night movie on a working day or arranging a dinner for 50 persons at home. I had become a fountain-head of unstoppable energy. Such was the magic of Vaidyaji’s medicine!

In one such dinner organised by me, my brother who is a doctor and another friend who is also a doctor were present and I could not help bestowing effusive praises on this great man who treated me as if with a magic stick.

My brother laughed and said, “Are you sure, this Vaidyaji of yours is not stuffing you with steroids?”

I felt belittled and snubbed him immediately, “Now, this is the problem with you allopathic doctors. You can never accept any other system of medication.”

I must have been on the verge of losing my cool when this other doctor friend intervened, “My son is also suffering from similar perennial cough and I would like to show him to the Vaidyaji too provided the medicine does not contain any steroids.”

I nodded understandingly. He continued, “If you do not mind, can you give me one of the pudiyas of the medicine. I’ll have it tested in my lab and then seek an appointment with Vaidyaji.”

I immediately obliged him with two pudiyas of the medicine. He put them in his coat’s pocket and left.

I waited anxiously for his call which came after six days, “Hey! Are you aware, what you have been eating for the last two months?”

I was shocked at the revelation he made to me, “This powder is full of steroids…unaccounted and unmeasured. How long have you been taking it?”

I felt as if the carpet had been pulled from under my feet. I knew the side-effects of steroids and had always been against eating them even in small quantities. And here I was, eating them morning evening happily for over two months now. I could not stand any longer and had to slump in the nearest chair.

With great difficulty, I mumbled, “Now, what do I do?”

“Stop it. But you can’t stop it immediately. It will have to be tapered down over a period of three weeks at least….,” he went on and I was thinking why I did not listen to my brother earlier. I was feeling dazed now.

Over the next three weeks, I gave up the steroids and reverted to my normal though low energy levels.

A year later, I was diagnosed as having Diabetes Type II although no-one in my family has ever suffered from this dreaded silent killer. Recently, while surfing the internet, trying to collect more information on the causes of Diabetes, I was shocked to read somewhere “excessive use of steroids” as one of the probable causes of non-functioning pancreas! It took me no time to connect the threads.

How I wish, I had not undergone that ‘miraculous treatment’ by Vaidyaji !

(A real life experience)


Sunday, 14 October 2012


“I am having burning sensation in the upper abdomen,” said hubby.
“What do you expect if you keep watching the TV the whole day?” I couldn’t help being sarcastic.
“Take some antacids. It must be the Chinese food we had last evening.” 
But neither Eno nor Tums seemed to be effective.
“You guys have given up on all your exercise of late. Why don’t you go for a walk? The weather is so nice outside,” suggested our son.

The two of us set off for a lazy post dinner stroll. Five minutes of walking and he says, “I am not comfortable…am having some funny feeling in my upper abdomen. Let’s go back.” And we turned back.

In the morning, he shared that he felt a strange discomfort in his chest when he climbed stairs… a kind he had never experienced before. We were alarmed. Let’s go to the doctor, was the unanimous view.
And we headed off to an Urgent Care Centre in this small city of US Mid West. The doctor wants to do an ECG. But the machine has just conked off. He suggests that we get an Ambulance and take him to the Emergency Care of the Hospital.
“What rubbish!” hubby exclaims. “Let’s go home and have lunch. I am feeling hungry and perfectly ok.”
And we go home and have our lunch. Hubby goes up and down the staircase and flaunts, “See. I’m alright now. No need for going to the Hospital.” Was it the escape-artist in him, I wondered.
Lunch is over but both I and our son are concerned. We insist that we go to another Urgent Care Centre. The Doc on duty sees him and says, “I can do ECG and a much needed blood test too. But I can give you the result only tomorrow morning. I’m afraid it may be too late by then. You better take him to the Emergency Care of the Hospital right away.”

We were alarmed. “This sounds bad news. Let’s go straight to the Hospital,” concern was evident in our son’s voice. Thus despite hubby’s resistance, we reached the Hospital Emergency Unit. And the real-life drama that unfolded that afternoon, lasted for the next twelve days…..

A Heart Monitor 
As soon as we arrived at the Reception of the Hospital Emergency and shared the reason of our visit, the girl at the counter dropped everything and rushed to get a wheel-chair. Hubby is amused and laughs, “I came walking from the Parking.” But she insists that he sits in the wheelchair. He is briskly wheeled into a room…. Room No 113. The Doctor on Duty reaches there simultaneously. An X-Ray machine has come and chest X-ray taken, ECG machine is wheeled in and ECG done, blood sample is drawn, oxygen has been placed on his nose and an IV (Intra Venous) drip administered.  All this happened in less than ten minutes. In another few minutes, the Doctor on Duty had confirmed by looking at the Blood Report and the ECG that he had suffered a heart attack, may be a few days ago. We are told that a Cardiologist is on his way.

The Cardiologist arrives in no time and prescribes the further course of treatment. Hubby is now being moved to a room on the 3rd Floor… Room No 313.  I notice the number 13 coming my way the third time that day but keep quiet. Why allow my mind to run unnecessarily into irrational directions, I thought.

View from CCU
As we settled in the room, the Hospital Registration people came in seeking details of his passport, local address and Insurance Company who will foot the bill etc. We are confidently carrying a Travel Insurance which covers him for USD 200,000. Wasn’t it wise of us to have taken such a huge insurance, I muse. Some signing of papers and documents etc. and we were in the room, experiencing for the first time, life in a US hospital.

As soon as we are left alone, we trigger off our network. First of all, inform the elder son in Canada, then my doctor brother back home in India and my doctor nephews in the US. We need support from all quarters.

Hubby’s condition appears to be stable. But will we have to deposit the entire cost of treatment up-front as we do in India? I can mobilise money back home but here I am carrying limited foreign exchange by way of a Foreign Travel Card. The night is spent worrying about his unexpected heart-attack and in figuring out how I will manage the finances. Will he be able to get the treatment he needs?  

Trnng…trnng…… the phone rings early morning next day. It is our elder son from Canada, “Hi Mom, I am on the way to the Airport…will reach there by noon. This is the earliest flight I could get.”

The Cardiologist visits. He has seen the early morning blood reports, has reviewed the vitals and announces, “We will have to do angioplasty on him.” We are stunned. The doctor is very understanding and says, “You may discuss amongst yourselves and let me know. I’ll come again after an hour,” the doctor’s patience was admirable.

Elder son has arrived and so has the doctor. With both my sons firmly by my side now, I was breathing easier. We discuss with hubby and he signs the consent for angioplasty (a procedure for inserting a stent in the blocked arteries of his heart).

Hubby in the hospital
Immediately, he is wheeled into the Cath Lab where a stent will be put in his heart to open the clogged mischievous artery. Wishing him well, we all wait in the lounge. After half an hour, a Nurse comes and announces, “It will take some more time.” Another 20 minutes pass in total silence and the Cardiologist steps out. He looks concerned, “We could not do angioplasty on him. There are too many blockages. Come with me.”

In the room, he shows us the angiogram, a video where we all could see hubby's pumping heart with multiple clogged arteries with two major ones blocked at Y junctions where stent cannot be put as the artery branches off into two.

“I am recommending a bypass surgery. Will talk to the Cardiac Surgeon,” he said.
We were directed to the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) where he had been shifted to recovery.

The Cardiologist has been trying to line up a Cardiac Surgeon but is not successful. “Anyway, you guys don’t worry. Even if I line up with a surgeon, he will not be able to do any procedure before five days …until the effect of these drugs taper off from the system,” he comforts us before leaving.

The doctor leaves and we are sitting in suspense the whole day. The evening dawns and the Nurse informs that we have to shift to the room now…Room no 313 again.

At night before leaving, I hesitatingly ask the nurse on duty whether we can get a CD of his Angiogram which we had seen, maybe by tomorrow. Expecting a curt ‘No’, I was pleasantly surprised to hear, “Yes, of course! Let me see if the concerned person is available. I’ll give it to you in ten minutes.”

Armed with CD of the angiogram, I talk to the Doctor back home in India. He wants to see the angiogram. The file size is big. It is not going with the e-mail as an attachment. We keep struggling and finally the boys manage to do some technical jugglery and send the links to the doc in India. E-mails sent, we go to bed past midnight.

In the morning, we contact the doctors in India. The cardiologist over there advises, “It is only a mild heart attack. You can easily bring him back. Ask the doctors in the US to do medical management. Surgery can wait.” 

In the hospital, we suggest to the Cardiologist medical management of the patient. He refuses point-blank, “He is not stable. I have given him every possible medication, but he still has some pain. If I remove these drugs and allow him to go out, he sure will have a massive heart attack and you will come back here again by calling 911. I am the doctor on the spot and I know the condition of my patient better than anyone else.”

Next day, I wake up at 5am. It is not possible to sleep anymore. I fix up my cup of morning tea. My elder son also comes down to the kitchen. He quietly fixes up his coffee. As we sit on the deck sipping our morning cuppa, he says, “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll do our best. Don’t bother about the money either. We will take care of everything.”

The stress is becoming too much. The uncertainty is killing me. That night as I hit the bed, I want to cry burying my head in the pillow. But tears do not come. Instead, what I hear is a sudden pounding heart. The heart beat is going up. It is so clearly audible and is becoming louder by seconds…boom boody boom boody….oh my God! What is happening to me? I try to take charge of myself, try to calm down, try to relax, whatever I could think of in those awful moments. Noooo…I don’t want to fall sick at this juncture….not at this time, not at this place.

Finally, a Cardiac Surgeon arrives, looks at the reports, sees the angiogram and gives his verdict, “It is not possible to perform a bypass surgery for a variety of technical reasons. More than 10% chances are that you may die during the bypass,” he declares.  Can anybody be so straightforward, I wonder?

The ball is again in the court of the Cardiac Interventionist who had already ruled out putting a stent earlier. He says it is not possible to put stents due to the location of the blockages and leaves. But then we knew this 10 days ago also. Didn't we?

What do we do now? Interventionists say stent is not possible. Surgeon says bypass surgery is not possible. And the Cardiologist says that if you step out of the hospital, massive heart attack cannot be ruled out. What do we do? Fly him to India? What are the risks involved? If he suffers a massive heart attack on the flight, what will I do except watching him helplessly. But what are the options? The mind is going numb. I am finding it difficult to think and decide. Have all doors closed?

An hour passes in a state of limbo. A young doctor in his early thirties comes again. He is now beaming, “Yayyyy! There is hope. I have contacted some senior doctors who have found a way out. They can put two long parallel stents at the points where arteries are branching off. ”

I am still skeptical and blurt out, “How many such operations have you done, Doc?”

“None,” the doctor is honest. “But the Senior Doctor has done a few of them. This is the only way for the patient.” I am amazed at his calm tone despite my brusque query.

We seek time. A doubt arises... is my poor husband being made a guinea pig? But what is the alternative?  Anyway, another weekend is approaching and nothing will happen for the next 72 hours. Keep thinking, keep worrying.

On Monday morning, as we do not see any other alternative, we sign the agreement for the procedure.  He is wheeled into the Cath Lab once again. We kiss him luck and wait in the Lounge. Half an hour passes. A nurse comes out, “The patient is doing well. The Doctors are on the job. It may take another hour.”

Inside the Lab, the patient is wide awake and is fully aware of the environment and the activities around him. He has not been given even local anesthesia...not even a sedative. He can see everything, hear everything, feel everything. Two doctors are controlling the movement of the catheter while the third one is guiding them. “Push it further by .25mm. Yes, move it a bit more…No, no, a little backwards.” The mattress underneath is changing position automatically from time to time.

The Lobby outside the Cath Lab where we spent hours of restless waiting
Outside in the waiting lounge, all of us are trying our own individual methods of keeping our minds calm. Lobby, Lobby in the hall? Who's the tensest of them all? Difficult to say.
Two and half hours of impatient wait, two and a half hours of worrying ourselves to bones, two and half hours of sinking into depression and bouncing back to eternal optimism. The wait was finally over when the doctor walked in to announce that all was well and that they have managed to put five stents in his heart including at those crucial locations by merging them or putting them in parallel. He guided us to a room where he showed us the angiogram of his heart with stents in it after a grueling process and the smooth flow of blood in them.

In next ten minutes, we were ushered to be with him in the CCU. He was smiling away. What a relief! Oh my God! And suddenly we realized how hungry we all were! Time to go and pick up something from the café to eat.

In another four hours, back to Room No 13 on the 3rd floor, I realized that the number 13 which had been with us all through had actually been lucky for us. 

The journey, that started on the 13th day of the month, had to culminate in room no 13 only and it did. Who said unlucky 13? It was Lucky 13, which helped my hubby all through!  

(A real life incident)

The Hospital

Monday, 8 October 2012


The year was 1971. The place was Lucknow University campus. The occasion was the Convocation ceremony of the 1970 pass-outs. The area was chock-o-block with the students who had even thronged the verandas of the first floor to get a better view of the ceremony.

She had come to receive her Master of Arts degree and the Gold Medals and was sitting consciously at the last chair at the end of the first row on her assigned seat.

His Excellency the Governor of Uttar Pradesh Shri B. Gopala Reddy had just arrived and was being escorted to the high podium in the venue by the Vice Chancellor and the Dean of the University.

The initial welcome of the Chief Guest over, a bouquet of flower presented, it was now time for him to start handing over the Degrees and the Gold Medals to the toppers of various courses.  As the students started receiving their medals, she started getting restless as her turn was soon going to come. She observed that the male toppers who approached the dais, shook hands with His Excellency, received the degree and the medal, bowed and left. As is customary on such occasions, boys were all shaking hands with the Governor. But the girls? How can a girl shake hands with a man? Two women candidate who came to receive the honours simply received the degrees and walked away.

In those days, in that city, with those social mores, no girl was supposed to shake hands with a male even if he was of her grandfather’s age. But it is not correct, she thought. Why should a girl not shake hands with the Governor?  She cannot just take her medals and walk off without even acknowledging the receipt by saying a proper thank you symbolised by shaking hands. But no woman is doing it. Should she? Should she not? What a dilemma! Who could she ask for guidance? There is nobody around. What to do?

The announcement had started, “Master of Arts in Political Science, the topper this year is Kum. Ranjana Sharma. She has received two Gold Medals, one for obtaining highest marks in the subject and the second one Devi Nirupama Gold Medal for being the female candidate with the highest marks in the University……..”

As she walked towards the dais amongst the sounds of clapping and a roaring applause, the conflict in her mind was getting more intense. Should she shake hands or should she simply walk away like other females? Should she? Shouldn’t she?

Ranjana Sharma shaking hands with  His Excellency Sh. B Gopala
Reddy, the  then Governor of Uttar Pradesh

As she reached the dais, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh extended to her the degree and the gold medals with a very serious and disinterested face half looking in some other direction. She in turn extended her right hand for shaking it with His Excellency who was taken aback. As he awkwardly shifted the degree and the medals from his right hand to his left hand to free it for shaking it with her, it took him a few seconds. 
For her, those few seconds when her arm was still stretched out awaiting a hand-shake, felt like eternity. As he shook hands with her, he burst into an indulgent grin.  After shaking hands, she received her medals and walked away with her head held high and shoulders straight and square only to hear an unprecedented uproar from the gathering, whistles and cat-calls, cat-calls and whistles. It appeared to be unstoppable. 

Later, in the evening where all the Heads of the Departments had been invited to dinner by the Governor at the Raj Bhawan, he enquired,
“Who was that girl who shook hands with me in the convocation this afternoon?” 

The Head of the Department of Political Science, Dr P.N. Masaldan smiled and said, “She is my student, Sir.”

As if this was not enough, the next day’s newspaper carried a boxed news item,

“Kum. Ranjana Sharma, who topped in MA (Political Science), was the only female candidate who shook hands with the Governor in the Convocation.”

This paved the way for a new journey of life for her. Looking back, shaking hands with a man is no big deal in the present times but the social values forty years ago in a small town were so different that today’s generation may find it absolutely difficult to understand and appreciate how difficult this small step towards breaking the mould must have been for that girl and how this simple incident of her shaking hands with a man was being quoted year after year in the University. 
(This is a real life incident.) 

Sunday, 9 September 2012


                                        *  *  *  *  *
For my TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


The eternally grateful student in 1953
It was one of those ordinary evenings in the year 1953 when my father had just returned from the office. As he settled down in the Sitting Room with a cup of tea with me as a four-year-old romping around, a gentleman in white dhoti, kurta and Gandhi topi walked in unexpectedly and touched his feet. 
Embarrassed at this gesture from a stranger, my father stepped back and said, “What are you doing?”

The old frail man stood there with his hand folded and said, “Sir, I want to thank you for what you did for me today. Your decision in the court this morning has restored my dignity and prestige, I had been fighting for the last twenty years…and that too without my knowing you. I don't have words to express how grateful I am to you.”

“It is alright,” my father said. “I am glad you received justice and what was your right.”

The gentleman continued standing with folded hands, “I am grateful to you from the bottom of my heart and I want to do something for you in return to express my thanks.”

“No, no… nothing. I have done my duty and I do not expect anything in return. God has given me everything. Please go and enjoy,” my father was losing his patience at the end of a long and tiring day.

“Sir, I am a teacher by profession. Can I teach your children for some time?” he was persistent.

“My children are very small. They don’t even go to school. This child is only in Nursery. You can’t teach anybody,” my father started laughing at the thought of my getting a tuition.

“Sir, in that case, can I give her some lessons in handwriting? .....Only for a month…please, Sir. Don’t say ‘no’. My heart will be broken,” saying so, he caught hold of my father’s feet with tears in his eyes.

My father, who was all of 28 at that time felt much too embarrassed and finally relented, ”OK then, only for a month, not more than that.”

And thus started my one-hour class of hand-writing training for the next one month.  A wooden Munshiji type desk on the sitting room floor, a ‘G’ nib, a holder, a square flat  ink- pot which had two ink tablets dissolved in some water and a four-line note book, all these  were purchased for me by my mother as per the directions of that teacher.

Then on, every single day, he was there exactly at 4 pm for an hour in those hot scorching summer afternoons of Orai (Distt. Jalaun) in Bundelkhand area of UP.  Writing continuous Os without lifting the holder, the variations in the height of the loops of the Ls, Hs & Ts, the flow and length of strokes of various letters, the various pressures ….. everything he taught me with so much patience, precision and perfection that the foundations of a good hand-writing were laid.

One month passed and on the last day, my mother insisted that he leave after taking Guru Dakshina (fees) of a Khadi Kurta at my hands. He hesitated, but the mother insisted that in the true Guru-Shishya system, no education is complete unless the Guru (Teacher) is given the due Dakshina (fees) by the Shishya (pupil). He humbly accepted the Dakshina and left and I was only too happy to run out of the house to play with my friends.

Today, I do not remember this gentleman’s name and don’t even remember his face clearly. But he has a clear-cut impression in my childhood memories. What he has given me by way of a handwriting is still a part of my personality. Each time I get a compliment even today, almost after six decades, I bow to him and thank him.

On this Teacher's Day, I pay my humble tribute to this first Teacher of mine whom I remember with unfathomable respect and gratitude.

                                         * * * * *

Friday, 24 August 2012


Let me take you to Lucknow of 1970 to share a personal experience which I found funny then but thought-provoking now.

I had given my wrist watch at Rupani Bros. for repairs. So on our way back from the University, I asked a friend of mine to stop over for a few minutes in Hazratganj to take care of my bicycle while I went to pick up my watch from the shop.

As I stepped down after picking up the watch, I was intrigued to find my friend grappling with a young beggar woman who was trying to wrench her wrist from her firm grip holding a baby in another arm. Suspecting trouble, I ran to my friend’s rescue and tried to intervene. In the melee’ that followed, the beggar-woman managed to pull her wrist away and ran, with me chasing her.

“Let her go. Let her go,” my friend called out after me. 

On hearing her, I stopped and came back.

“What had happened?” I inquired excitedly.

“Nothing,” my friend, cool as a cucumber, continued in her inimitable style, “This woman was asking for money. So I advised her to do some work instead of begging. I told her that she is hale and hearty and should not demean herself by seeking alms.”

“So, what happened then?”

“Well, she replied that there are no jobs available. So I told her that she should come with me. Our maid has left. She could stay in our servant quarters and work in our house. We would have given her salary as well as food and shelter. But she started running away. So I caught hold of her wrist and told her to sit on the carrier of my bike so that I could take her home. Ha..ha..ha..Seeing a potential employer, she ran away.”

As she shared this, we laughed and laughed pedalling our way home.

Today whenever I think of it, I can’t help thinking that we the people are basically responsible for encouraging beggary in our country. We think that by giving alms to beggars, we are washing away our sins or may be doing some good to humanity. Or is it that by doing so, we are unburdening ourselves of the guilt of having all that the poor beggar is deprived of?  The fact is that by giving alms to professional beggars, yes I mean professional beggars, we are only encouraging a tendency to beg and shun hard work. 

Here I must share a more recent experience of mine. While driving down quite late from office, I think it was around 11pm at night, that a pedestrian on the pavement near Hotel Hyatt Regency caught my eye. A frail bearded fellow wearing pants and T-shirt walking confidently looked very familiar …who is he?  Where have I seen him? I kept wondering without my brain finding an answer.

Next day morning, as I stopped at the same traffic junction, I sighted the same old, frail, bearded man who was lame also whom I had seen so many times begging at this traffic light. He walked with the help of a stick and had an aluminium begging bowl in his hand as usual. Half bent as he moved towards my car, the expression on his face invoked tremendous sympathy in the passersby.

It is then that it flashed like lightening, he was the same guy who I had seen walking confidently on the pavement the previous night with both legs intact! He was apparently in his professional attire now.