Strong and shaping me

A few years ago, I met a girl in my office. She was interning and I was heading the desk. She was smart, good with language, had a terrific sense of humour, and was pretty. She was in her early twenties. Because she was proficient and had a degree in journalism, my boss asked her to join the desk as a trainee. I used to talk to her a lot and not always about work.

Soon, I learned that she had a boyfriend. When I teased her about that, she would say that they were “on a break” like in the series, Friends, in which Ross and Rachel go on a break from their romantic relationship to preserve their friendship.

In the months that followed, we kept in touch and I would often ask her about her boyfriend. I realised it was an on-again-off again relationship that my friend didn’t want to take forward even though they had been intimate.

During the time she was there, she even started an affair with a married man not knowing he was married. Somehow, the winds had shifted around her foundation.

Why do I tell you this story? This is the template on which women often base their relationships. They may not marry men with whom they once were in love with . Or were intimate with. The modern woman craves for more.

Parents have little choice other than marrying their daughter to the man of her choice. My friend married a guy of her choice in a way they wanted to. The parents had no other option other than to bless the couple.

The latest trend is that women look all things their parents traditionally looked in a prospective groom and much more. My friend chose a guy who was close to her in age, dark and handsome, and was attuned to her temperament. Like the movie, O Kadhal Kanmani, my friend moved in with her boyfriend much before marriage. That she was bold enough to do that is a testimonial to her courage and others like her. She also waited, like many others like her, for her to be mature enough to live with her partner forever. But she made the choice to tie the knot mostly on her own.

The modern woman especially in cities doesn’t vote lest the government take over her duties..

There are 497 million women in India, which is 48% of the total population, according to the latest Census data. At least a few million must be calling the shots despite making bad decisions. This only makes them stronger.

My friend married and was divorced within a few months, much to my shock and dismay. From being an example to girls her age, she had, in a way, become a fallen angel.

I had a close friend in college while doing my bachelor’s degree in Nagercoil. She was romantically interested in me and I was not particularly keen. My friends used to tease me about her for hours together even as I tried to keep a straight face. I think I did underestimate her quite a bit. Recently, I saw her on social media and she was in the US happily married. She had made it in life in way I never would have imagined. She was sweet the same way she was in college. We were polite with each other and moved on.

Again, that is an example of a woman putting the pedal down on what she wanted. Even while coming from an ordinary family in Nagercoil, my friend had landed a life she most craved for. Well, time to say, congrats.

Nowadays, I shamelessly watch Romedy Now. I can’t say I hate all the movies. Some are particularly good and soul satisfying. I wish they served more of that fare.

I think of these friends while watching TV or taking a bath. They creep into my thoughts unbidden and stay there for an uncomfortable time. As much as I admire their roller-coaster of lives, it feels unseemly to be thinking about them, now that I am a husband and father. I mean for this post to be a tribute for all the strong women I have met in my life.

My mother was one. Soon after the birth of my brother, my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to cure. My mom didn’t have much to hang on to. Her relationship with my dad, especially in the last few years of her life, was hard on her and him. Yet, she remained tough till her last breath. She died when she was 39. I don’t want to end this post without a mention of her. She was probably the strongest woman I know. She made sure that my brother and I turned out alright. My early childhood is strewn with happy incidents, which she stage managed. I do wish she was still around. She would have guided me in all my relationships with women, who were just like her. RIP, mom.

Forbidden love

We were not in love
You called it infatuation
I thought it was just sex

When you left I was lonely
I realised I had loved you
more than what you had thought

You are now married, I am too
we haven’t forgotten the past
we still love each other

You love your husband and son
I love my wife and daughter
and life seems all right

On the train

I miss you
I remember the times we had together
How much I was in love with you
The lady on the train thinks
we are brother and sister
Even after I clarify
She seems doubtful
That brings a surge of joy,
I grin widely,
She smiles slightly
I think you will be smiling too
Only if you knew
I know I will remember this moment forever

Behind the scenes, at the CAG

Not Just An Accountant – Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper

Rs 500, Rupa Publications, New Delhi. 2014

Author: Vinod Rai

Vinod Rai’s voice is one of reason; more sober than sensational. His analysis on Coalgate and 2G scam in this book should not be missed. His argument is piercing and book reads like a thriller He slowly builds up, solely based on facts, the now famous accusation that lakhs of crores were lost in these scams.

When it comes to gas exploration and drilling, Rai unequivocally hits out at Reliance. With ample proof, he establishes that government departments toed the Reliance line under the guise of being corporate-friendly.

The book starts with a one-page forewoaccountantrd by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, where he calls upon people to act with righteousness in the heart and excellence in their endeavors. (Kalam, sadly, is no more)

In the preface, Rai lays down the contours of the book and its various case studies.  In a short chapter, he recalls his journey to Delhi after working in Kerala and a couple of other places. The book begins in earnest only after he was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General.

He repeatedly points out that had the government taken a different stand on the various scams, we would be on a different level economically. He eviscerates the various decisions taken during the rule of UPA II, most of during which Rai was CAG.

He also records his correspondence with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on various subjects, including leaks to the media.

He takes us behind the scenes of the CAG’s office and also questions how media leaks happened frequently and were in many cases before the final draft had been drawn.

He also exposes how civil aviation ministers considered Air India to be part of their fiefdom and expected bureaucrats to fall in  line. When anyone opposed, they were shunted out to unimportant posts.

He also bemoans the corruption in the holding of the Commonwealth Games. He accuses the government of withdrawing supervision enabling the organizing body to indulge in corruption.

His steadfastness, persistence and honesty are to be appreciated. I hope this book is widely read.

Ooty- Part IV

Coldness and its various forms. It is different in Ooty compared to Chennai. Even when it’s raining, Chennai is humid this time of the year. Chennaites like the rain. People in Ooty don’t. When they say that the weather is pleasant, they mean one thing in Ooty and another in Chennai.

Chennaites yearn for freedomooty from humidity and here in Ooty we yearn for the sun.

I had the occasion to be in Chennai recently. It’s raining out there. But still it is quite humid. Ooty is cold and I need a sweater, which is unthinkable in Chennai. May be in Decemeber I will need one especially if it is late in the night, when I like riding my bike.

But people can be cold in Chennai. They are all warm in Ooty.

It’s a nice place to live in and I am having fun.

Missing Balu Mahendra

Balu Mahendra with Bharatiraaja

A few years ago, I accompanied my grandfather to a literary meeting. That’s where I laid my eyes upon the late Balu Mahendra for the first time. It was funny as a character in my grandpa’s novels was named Balu. There was no connection. Mahendra was familiar with the novel. He read voraciously. Much before he was a Pune film school student, he was the editor of a magazine.

Going through the Wikipedia entry on the director, I realised that he was a great director, but not a particularly gifted screenplay writer. Also, he remade films that were hits.

But during the 70s and 80s, Mahendra was unvanquished. His influence on a host of new age directors and cinematographers is beyond doubt.

I have seen Veedu, Moondram Pirai, Marupadiyum and a host of other films. When he dabbled with comedy, he was inimitable as was evident in the Kamal Hassan starrer- Sathileelavathi.

He was a sensitive director. He had strong opinions on how women should be portrayed in cinema.

Mahendra developed naturalism as his style of filmmaking. Also, he kept it real. He knew that he need not sacrifice drama for realism. He could be both real and dramatic at the same time. I think he desisted melodrama.

One day, I ran into him at the now defunct Cinema Paradiso, a video store. I told him about my grandfather. He then instantly remembered me. I told him I was a journalist. He joked that he had to stay away from my tribe. That was the last time I met him. I am sad to see him go.

Ooty – Part III

There is a stream at the back of our house in Ooty. The backdoor opens to it. A stream, which not long before, was made of clear water. It is now a drain. Thankfully it doesn’t smell too bad though it looks like it has things floating on it.

When I light up my first cigarette of the day, I open the backdoor, watch the stream and the buildings looking on to it. It is cold and I am thankful of what I am smoking; though it is killing me slowly.

I wake up late and make my way to the Internet café. After a cup of coffee, I am refreshed and soon begin to read, and with some difficulty, write. I am so grateful that the café is so close to my home though I spend a fortune on it. We haven’t hooked up the computer or the TV.

Our house is close to Ooty’s nerve centre, Charing Cross. We went shopping yesterday. We picked a sweater, a woolen cloth cap and a pair of gloves.

My wife is into pizzas. So we went to Dominos two days ago. We have also been to Subway. We are slowly ticking restaurants off our list. The good thing about chains is that you get what you expect.

I am thinking of looking around Ooty on Sunday. May be I will have more to write.