Dogs of War

dogs

DOGS of WAR.
_____________
The community, on Canine Street, had a problem of burglars frequently breaking into their property and stealing their valuables when they were not there.

After much discussion it was decided they would invite street dogs from all other places and offer them food and shelter on their street. This way it was felt that the dogs would permanently be on their streets and offer the residents protection from strangers and other people including burglars.

Once the plan was agreed upon they opened outposts in various other places in the neighborhood to attract dogs. Free food and bones were offered to the dogs.

Soon the word spread among the dog community that there was free food and shelter being offered by residents of Canine Street.

Every dog worth its bone was soon barking at the outpost set up by residents of Canine Street.

The residents of Canine Street wanted only the best of dogs from far and near. They put the dogs through various fitness tests, drool tests, bite tests etc. They elected only those with the fiercest growls, the worst bites, and menacing looks.

Soon a long line of these dogs were taken to Canine Street, and given colored collars to distinguish them readily from other dogs. The dogs were trained not to attack any of the residents of Canine Street, who were readily distinguished by the special colored hats they wore.

Everything went on as expected and soon Canine Street was free of any burglary. The residents patted themselves on their backs for their having conceived a brilliant solution and flawless execution of their idea.

Then the unexpected happened.
One house was burgled.

The residents called an emergency meeting to understand how this had happened.

As they discussed the problem they discovered the dogs had started accepting goodies from select strangers and were allowing them into Canine Street.

“You mean their morals have gone to dogs?” asked one enraged resident.

Now there were many angry voices raised by the dog lovers.

They objected to these animals being called dogs.
“Please accord them the dignity they deserve, they have names. Also it should be said their morals have gone to men.”

“What do you mean men? Why not women?” objected the misogynist in the group.

“Oh, you scum, always the male chauvinistic pig, show some respect” said the feminist in the group.

“How about if we rewrite the Dog Manual? That should control their behaviour.” said the lawyer in the group.

“Shhh, quiet, we just need to change the color and shape of the dog ribbons” said the tailor in the group.

“Let us get rid of the black dogs. The rest I think have correct values”said the racist in the group.

“What they need is a good beating with a big stick” said the authoritarian.

“I recommend that we hold a daily meditation class along with a new prayer. That should revive their inner self, leading to more moral behaviour” said the spiritualist.

“I think vaccinating the dogs with a new morality serum is the way forward” said the doctor.

Hearing the raised voices the dogs now joined the chorus and there was total chaos that followed on Canine Street. A full scale fight ensued and man, woman, child and dog fought till they could determine who was right.

Then like it always happens, when energies have ebbed, the fighting stopped.

As residents of Canine Street went back home they were shocked to find every one of their homes burgled.

It was with  a new rage they all descended back on the street to start fighting with each other.

The wise dogs, now well trained in the art of the steal, moved on to the neighboring street to offer their services, hoping that new unsuspecting residents would elect them.

Childhood influences on life goals.

dr

“Muthu, Muthu your father” screamed the bus load of children, on the way to school. At that moment Muthu wished he was anywhere else but on that school bus. Muthu had spotted his father long before any of his class mates had. He was hoping that his friends and classmates would miss the scene unfolding on the road.

However with the school bus having stopped for picking up about ten children it was an extended stop. The scene on the road was hard to miss. Mani, Muthu’s father was pushing a car, along with two of his mechanics.. The bored children in the bus were looking for some entertainment on the way to school, teasing one of their own was par for the course.

The stocky figure of Mani, with his lungi at half mast, excited the school children. His stout hairy legs, ending in a worn out chappals, a grease stained T-shirt camouflaging  its original colour  one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on the door edge, pushing the car to his work shop  was just the entertainment the children were looking for.

Now, as if on cue Mani’s lungi decided to unfurl itself off his waist and landed on the road. Mani quickly let go his hands of the car and pulled up the garment and tied it back at his waist, however not before he stood on the road in his striped underpants.

This was greeted with a collective roar by the children in the bus. A nonchalant Mani, hearing the roar, gave a bright smile and waved out to the children.

Muthu’s cup of woe was now overflowing; tears welled up in his eyes. The shame he felt in his burning ears was only matched by the blush on his face and tears flowing down his cheeks. The children in the bus turned around on Muthu, as a hungry pack of hyenas, and screamed “Muthu your father wears striped underwear.”

Soon a very helpful chorus started in the bus. One kid would shout “Striped” the rest would chorus “Underwear”.

Muthu turned to his best friend sitting next to him, in between sobs, said “I hate my father. I wish I had a different father, anyone but him”.

Muthu decided that he would grow up and be a different man than his father. Why could father not be like Raju uncle who came to get his scooter repaired? Raju, a medical representative, was always immaculately dressed with a shining leather bag, well ironed shirt and pant, shining shoes, with a bright tie around his neck.

Muthu wished to grow up and be in a job which would allow him to be well dressed and be admired. He had talked to Raju uncle to find out what he needed to study to become a medical representative. Once he learnt that he needed to study, chemistry, botany, zoology, he set his goals to be the best in his school in those subjects.

As the glow of dawn bathed Allur town with darkness gracefully surrendering its grip on the landscape, Mani stepped out of his home on to the veranda. He pulled out a beedi from behind his ear and lit it. He alternated between lung full of smoke and mouth full of tea. This was his only “me time” daily. Mani had been up for the last hour. He had been busy in the kitchen cooking the daily meal for his family. His wife, Gowri, of many years would wake up an hour later and pack their two children to school. Mani was the first educated person in his family of farmers. Mani’s father had tried his best to provide the family from the meagre land holdings that the family had. The rain gods had not been very kind, and the family had somehow eked out a living. Mani’s father had tried his hand at many other professions –   mason, carpenter, cycle mechanic. None of them had been able to take the family above subsistence level. The family had slept hungry many a day. Mani, the only son had always been their only hope.

Mani had completed his diploma in automobile repair. Over the years he had expanded his father’s cycle repair workshop into a successful automobile workshop. In a small town like Allur one could not be choosy about what one repaired. So Mani repaired, cars, scooters, motorcycles, mopeds, irrigation pump sets. His workshop was a museum of mechanical equipment of various types. Some would call it a graveyard of mechanical things. However from time to time Mani would resurrect these and sell it to his desperate customers.

Not for nothing was he called “Motor Mani”, “Magic Mani” by his ever grateful customers.

None of this impressed Gowri, his wife. She had named him “Mad Mani”.                                 Gowri was from a slightly better off family meaning they had never slept a day hungry. They could afford new clothes once a year on Diwali. To many, it was a mystery that this marriage alliance had happened at all. Given her pretty looks she could have landed a far better family than Mani’s.

Gowri’s joy at being married was short lived. She found that Mani’s finances and commitments made it impossible to fulfil her dreams. She had dreamt that with marriage she could convince her husband to migrate out of the town. She yearned for a comfortable life, away from her in-laws. Her dreams were shattered by Mani, who wanted to give comfort to his parents in their old age. Gowri soon found herself in the kitchen cooking or at the well side washing clothes.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose dreams are scorned

When trying to lift a heavy bucket of water from the well Gowri slipped and fell. She probably suffered from a pulled muscle in her back. She was down with an excruciating back pain. The doctor at Allur had suggested that Gowri needed to rest for a couple of weeks. After that she would need to do exercise and put on some muscle. To that end he suggested that her diet include eggs and some chicken.

As Gowri lay in bed for two weeks recovering from her back pain, a plan began to take shape. During these two weeks it was Mani who attended to all the chores in the kitchen and a new maid was employed to take care of washing the clothes.

As soon as she recovered from the back pain Gowri went to the market and got a dozen eggs. Along with her exercise she started cooking the eggs and consuming them. This act did not go down well with Mani’s mother a pure vegetarian. However the old lady kept quiet to maintain peace at home. Gowri now upped the ante. She brought home chicken and started to cook it.

Mani was caught between his mother and his wife. Gowri pointed to the doctor’s advice, which Mani too had heard. Mani’s mother refused to eat from food from a kitchen where chicken was cooked.

A man, just married, caught in the ecstasy of conjugal bliss can hardly be asked to make a rational choice between mother and wife. Wife won, mother and father were left with a relative. What was supposed purely temporary, became permanent over time.

Mani was still left with the chores of cooking as Gowri now had frequent recurrence of back pain. Over time all systems, allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy and even “Venkatachalapathy” (god by another name) could bring no succour to Gowri’s frequent back pain. The maid’s duties were expanded over time to include, washing clothes, vessels and mopping the floor.

Gowri always found temporary relief when her dear friends visited her, which was attributed to the happy memories they revived in her.

Thus limped the home on Mani’s income and effort with Gowri’s presence and grace.

Gowri meticulously brought up her children. This was one activity where everyone admired her. Gowri’s elder daughter Lakshmi and younger son Muthu went to the only convent school in Allur. Gowri was proud of her children’s English speaking ability.  Gowri ensured that her children always did well at school. She made sure that her daughter Lakshmi was trained in singing and dancing. In fact Lakshmi her daughter was learning the piano, the only one in Allur, at the church attached to the school. She ensured that Muthu her son took part in sports and any other competitions that the school organised.

Mani was proud of the way that Gowri was bringing up the children. Mani’s greatest pleasure in life was to see a bright smile that shone on his customer’s face when their mechanical contraption leaped alive. He prided himself on his trouble shooting and ability to improvise and solve a problem. Now his children growing up well added another dimension to his satisfaction.

Mani wanted his children to get educated and lead a luxurious life. He himself had experienced the magic that education had brought in his life. It was education that helped him repair any mechanical artefact that was brought to him. All he wanted from his children was they grow up to be educated and conscientious in a profession of their choice.

Mani was worried that his son Muthu did not have any clear ambitions. He had noted that Muthu admired Raju, the medical representative, who came to his shop. Mani did not think much of a medical representative as life goal when his son declared that he would become a medical representative. He had hoped his son would do a post-graduation.

However Mani was wise enough to know that any discussion on this would be pointless. He was well aware that his son thought poorly of him and any discussion he initiated might strengthen his son’s resolve to be a medical representative.

Mani was hard pressed to find a better role model for Muthu. A small town like Allur did not offer much in terms of people who could be role models. Mani wished for a miracle.

Miracles usually take the form of serendipity. It was a late Sunday afternoon, the mechanic shop was closed. Suddenly there was a loud sound of a musical horn the type of which they had never heard before. On Mani’s drive way stood a shining car, of German origin. By the time Mani got down to the drive way the car blared its horn once more. Muthu was woken up from his slumber. On looking out he saw this shining car. His curiosity piqued, he raced down to see the glamourous car.

As Mani reached the car, Raju, the medical representative stepped out of the passenger seat.

“It is my CEO’s car, and it makes a horrible noise when we move it into first or second gear, can you fix it?” he queried.

By now Muthu had also run up to the car and touching it lovingly. Suddenly the driver’s side door opened and the driver dressed in an immaculate white uniform stepped out.  Muthu standing close to the driver’s door felt a whiff of cold air.  Muthu had never seen an air-conditioned (AC) car before. He was very impressed that a car could be air conditioned.

A discussion ensued between the driver, Raju and Mani as to what the problem could be. Mani felt that the gear box had to be opened and investigated. Now the driver had to consult the god who was seated in the back of the car. A small discussion ensued inside the car, which was still running and had its AC going.

Suddenly the back door opened and God himself stepped out of the car. God wanted to check “Motor Mani’s” workshop before he agreed to a gearbox job on his car.

As God walked through the workshop and kept directing a barrage of questions at Mani, Muthu was following the whole thing in rapt attention. He had never before seen a man in a full suit with a tie and patent leather shoes.  Muthu could not tear away his eyes from God. God was suitably impressed by the range of torque spanners, drilling jigs, vernier callipers, dial gauges etc which adorned Muthu’s work shop. Finally God gave his consent for Muthu to carry out his repairs.

As God settled down on the veranda on Mani’s chair, Gowri cooked up hot refreshments and a coffee to appease God. These acts of Gowri did not go unnoticed by Muthu. He had never seen his mother make any refreshments for anyone before. Muthu plonked himself near God’s feet and in his best English started a conversation with God. God was very happy to talk to Muthu.

Over the next couple of hours as the car got repaired Muthu learnt that one needed to study a course called MBA to have any aspiration of becoming a CEO. As God and his entourage left after a successful repair Muthu declared loudly to Mani he wanted to become an MBA.

Mani went to the temple that evening and said a heartfelt prayer. He thanked the gods for sending someone who could inspire his son Muthu to set higher goals in life.

Childhood influence on life goals

dreams

“Muthu, Muthu your father” screamed the bus load of children, on the way to school. At that moment Muthu wished he was anywhere else but on that school bus. Muthu had spotted his father long before any of his class mates had. He was hoping that his friends and classmates would miss the scene unfolding on the road.

However with the school bus having stopped for picking up about ten children it was an extended stop. The scene on the road was hard to miss. Mani, Muthu’s father was pushing a car, along with two of his mechanics.. The bored children in the bus were looking for some entertainment on the way to school, teasing one of their own was par for the course.

The stocky figure of Mani, with his lungi at half mast, excited the school children. His stout hairy legs, ending in a worn out chappals, a grease stained T-shirt camouflaging  its original colour  one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on the door edge, pushing the car to his work shop  was just the entertainment the children were looking for.

Now, as if on cue Mani’s lungi decided to unfurl itself off his waist and landed on the road. Mani quickly let go his hands of the car and pulled up the garment and tied it back at his waist, however not before he stood on the road in his striped underpants.

This was greeted with a collective roar by the children in the bus. A nonchalant Mani, hearing the roar, gave a bright smile and waved out to the children.

Muthu’s cup of woe was now overflowing; tears welled up in his eyes. The shame he felt in his burning ears was only matched by the blush on his face and tears flowing down his cheeks. The children in the bus turned around on Muthu, as a hungry pack of hyenas, and screamed “Muthu your father wears striped underwear.”

Soon a very helpful chorus started in the bus. One kid would shout “Striped” the rest would chorus “Underwear”.

Muthu turned to his best friend sitting next to him, in between sobs, said “I hate my father. I wish I had a different father, anyone but him”.

Muthu decided that he would grow up and be a different man than his father. Why could father not be like Raju uncle who came to get his scooter repaired? Raju, a medical representative, was always immaculately dressed with a shining leather bag, well ironed shirt and pant, shining shoes, with a bright tie around his neck.

Muthu wished to grow up and be in a job which would allow him to be well dressed and be admired. He had talked to Raju uncle to find out what he needed to study to become a medical representative. Once he learnt that he needed to study, chemistry, botany, zoology, he set his goals to be the best in his school in those subjects.

As the glow of dawn bathed Allur town with darkness gracefully surrendering its grip on the landscape, Mani stepped out of his home on to the veranda. He pulled out a beedi from behind his ear and lit it. He alternated between lung full of smoke and mouth full of tea. This was his only “me time” daily. Mani had been up for the last hour. He had been busy in the kitchen cooking the daily meal for his family. His wife, Gowri, of many years would wake up an hour later and pack their two children to school. Mani was the first educated person in his family of farmers. Mani’s father had tried his best to provide the family from the meagre land holdings that the family had. The rain gods had not been very kind, and the family had somehow eked out a living. Mani’s father had tried his hand at many other professions –   mason, carpenter, cycle mechanic. None of them had been able to take the family above subsistence level. The family had slept hungry many a day. Mani, the only son had always been their only hope.

Mani had completed his diploma in automobile repair. Over the years he had expanded his father’s cycle repair workshop into a successful automobile workshop. In a small town like Allur one could not be choosy about what one repaired. So Mani repaired, cars, scooters, motorcycles, mopeds, irrigation pump sets. His workshop was a museum of mechanical equipment of various types. Some would call it a graveyard of mechanical things. However from time to time Mani would resurrect these and sell it to his desperate customers.

Not for nothing was he called “Motor Mani”, “Magic Mani” by his ever grateful customers.

None of this impressed Gowri, his wife. She had named him “Mad Mani”.                                 Gowri was from a slightly better off family meaning they had never slept a day hungry. They could afford new clothes once a year on Diwali. To many, it was a mystery that this marriage alliance had happened at all. Given her pretty looks she could have landed a far better family than Mani’s.

Gowri’s joy at being married was short lived. She found that Mani’s finances and commitments made it impossible to fulfil her dreams. She had dreamt that with marriage she could convince her husband to migrate out of the town. She yearned for a comfortable life, away from her in-laws. Her dreams were shattered by Mani, who wanted to give comfort to his parents in their old age. Gowri soon found herself in the kitchen cooking or at the well side washing clothes.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose dreams are scorned

When trying to lift a heavy bucket of water from the well Gowri slipped and fell. She probably suffered from a pulled muscle in her back. She was down with an excruciating back pain. The doctor at Allur had suggested that Gowri needed to rest for a couple of weeks. After that she would need to do exercise and put on some muscle. To that end he suggested that her diet include eggs and some chicken.

As Gowri lay in bed for two weeks recovering from her back pain, a plan began to take shape. During these two weeks it was Mani who attended to all the chores in the kitchen and a new maid was employed to take care of washing the clothes.

As soon as she recovered from the back pain Gowri went to the market and got a dozen eggs. Along with her exercise she started cooking the eggs and consuming them. This act did not go down well with Mani’s mother a pure vegetarian. However the old lady kept quiet to maintain peace at home. Gowri now upped the ante. She brought home chicken and started to cook it.

Mani was caught between his mother and his wife. Gowri pointed to the doctor’s advice, which Mani too had heard. Mani’s mother refused to eat from food from a kitchen where chicken was cooked.

A man, just married, caught in the ecstasy of conjugal bliss can hardly be asked to make a rational choice between mother and wife. Wife won, mother and father were left with a relative. What was supposed purely temporary, became permanent over time.

Mani was still left with the chores of cooking as Gowri now had frequent recurrence of back pain. Over time all systems, allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy and even “Venkatachalapathy” (god by another name) could bring no succour to Gowri’s frequent back pain. The maid’s duties were expanded over time to include, washing clothes, vessels and mopping the floor.

Gowri always found temporary relief when her dear friends visited her, which was attributed to the happy memories they revived in her.

Thus limped the home on Mani’s income and effort with Gowri’s presence and grace.

Gowri meticulously brought up her children. This was one activity where everyone admired her. Gowri’s elder daughter Lakshmi and younger son Muthu went to the only convent school in Allur. Gowri was proud of her children’s English speaking ability.  Gowri ensured that her children always did well at school. She made sure that her daughter Lakshmi was trained in singing and dancing. In fact Lakshmi her daughter was learning the piano, the only one in Allur, at the church attached to the school. She ensured that Muthu her son took part in sports and any other competitions that the school organised.

Mani was proud of the way that Gowri was bringing up the children. Mani’s greatest pleasure in life was to see a bright smile that shone on his customer’s face when their mechanical contraption leaped alive. He prided himself on his trouble shooting and ability to improvise and solve a problem. Now his children growing up well added another dimension to his satisfaction.

Mani wanted his children to get educated and lead a luxurious life. He himself had experienced the magic that education had brought in his life. It was education that helped him repair any mechanical artefact that was brought to him. All he wanted from his children was they grow up to be educated and conscientious in a profession of their choice.

Mani was worried that his son Muthu did not have any clear ambitions. He had noted that Muthu admired Raju, the medical representative, who came to his shop. Mani did not think much of a medical representative as life goal when his son declared that he would become a medical representative. He had hoped his son would do a post-graduation.

However Mani was wise enough to know that any discussion on this would be pointless. He was well aware that his son thought poorly of him and any discussion he initiated might strengthen his son’s resolve to be a medical representative.

Mani was hard pressed to find a better role model for Muthu. A small town like Allur did not offer much in terms of people who could be role models. Mani wished for a miracle.

Miracles usually take the form of serendipity. It was a late Sunday afternoon, the mechanic shop was closed. Suddenly there was a loud sound of a musical horn the type of which they had never heard before. On Mani’s drive way stood a shining car, of German origin. By the time Mani got down to the drive way the car blared its horn once more. Muthu was woken up from his slumber. On looking out he saw this shining car. His curiosity piqued, he raced down to see the glamourous car.

As Mani reached the car, Raju, the medical representative stepped out of the passenger seat.

“It is my CEO’s car, and it makes a horrible noise when we move it into first or second gear, can you fix it?” he queried.

By now Muthu had also run up to the car and touching it lovingly. Suddenly the driver’s side door opened and the driver dressed in an immaculate white uniform stepped out.  Muthu standing close to the driver’s door felt a whiff of cold air.  Muthu had never seen an air-conditioned (AC) car before. He was very impressed that a car could be air conditioned.

A discussion ensued between the driver, Raju and Mani as to what the problem could be. Mani felt that the gear box had to be opened and investigated. Now the driver had to consult the god who was seated in the back of the car. A small discussion ensued inside the car, which was still running and had its AC going.

Suddenly the back door opened and God himself stepped out of the car. God wanted to check “Motor Mani’s” workshop before he agreed to a gearbox job on his car.

As God walked through the workshop and kept directing a barrage of questions at Mani, Muthu was following the whole thing in rapt attention. He had never before seen a man in a full suit with a tie and patent leather shoes.  Muthu could not tear away his eyes from God. God was suitably impressed by the range of torque spanners, drilling jigs, vernier callipers, dial gauges etc which adorned Muthu’s work shop. Finally God gave his consent for Muthu to carry out his repairs.

As God settled down on the veranda on Mani’s chair, Gowri cooked up hot refreshments and a coffee to appease God. These acts of Gowri did not go unnoticed by Muthu. He had never seen his mother make any refreshments for anyone before. Muthu plonked himself near God’s feet and in his best English started a conversation with God. God was very happy to talk to Muthu.

Over the next couple of hours as the car got repaired Muthu learnt that one needed to study a course called MBA to have any aspiration of becoming a CEO. As God and his entourage left after a successful repair Muthu declared loudly to Mani he wanted to become an MBA.

Mani went to the temple that evening and said a heartfelt prayer. He thanked the gods for sending someone who could inspire his son Muthu to set higher goals in life.

Uncertainty and Life

uncertainty

Uncertainty and Life.

Arjun had just mailed the last of the nine applications for a college admission. He was just finishing his 12th grade and had to apply for college admission. He had chosen three Ivy League colleges which can be called aspirational, where he had a very slim chance of securing admission. Three more colleges where he had applied, were where he had a very good chance for securing admission. The last three where he felt he was certain to get an admission though he did not like those colleges much.

This of course meant writing nine essays and filling in all the requisite forms. Each essay and application demanded multiple passes, wordsmithing, and proof reading and getting it reviewed. Anyone who has been through this knows the amount of effort and tension it can cause.

Now completely relieved of this chore he sought out his father.

“Dad can I have the car keys?”

Father looked up from the journal he was reading and asked “Have you finished mailing all the college applications?”

“Oh yes, I have mailed them all. I have now removed the uncertainty of my college admission” answered Arjun.

“Oh, you have removed the risk of not being admitted to a college, but certainly the uncertainty remains.”

“What do you mean? If risk has been eliminated uncertainty also has gone. Is it not so?”

“No risk can be eliminated, but uncertainty cannot be eliminated. You are certain to get admission in one of the colleges. However the uncertainty of which college will admit you still remains.”

“I hate this uncertainty. It keeps me tense” replied Arjun.

Father put his journal down. “Arjun your attitude and the issue on hand make uncertainty either a joy or tension. Why the very beauty of life is uncertainty. Without uncertainty life would be drab.”

Arjun thought for a little while and responded. “How can uncertainty be enjoyable? Nature itself brings certainty, doesn’t it? The sun rises every day, the flowers bloom in spring. Without that regularity life couldn’t go on, right?”

Father had an amused look on his face as he said “Without regularity uncertainty would not exist. It would all be randomness, which would definitely be very maddening, as no one can plan. However when regularity is interspersed with randomness then it provides opportunity for those who are nimble.”

Arjun now was agitated. “Do give me an example where man would welcome uncertainty?”

Father had a thoughtful look. After a brief silence he said “Okay let me tell you what happened to my grandmother. Maybe then you will be able to understand what I mean.”

“Sita my grandmother was widowed at a very early age. She raised my father from age two with no regular income of her own. So here is the story of her brush with uncertainty.”

Sita was sitting with her daughter-in-law, on the courtyard outside the house, on a lazy afternoon. Both were playing a game of dice. An astrologer with his parrot walked over to them and offered his services to forecast the future. Sita was no believer in astrology. The daughter-in-law was curious and wanted to have a session with the astrologer.

Sita was in one of those rare indulgent moods and acceded to the request. The astrologer spread out the cards and asked the parrot to pick one card. The parrot which had been trained to pick a card, picked out one. The astrologer then proceeded to divine the future. He could foresee that the daughter-in-law was destined to have a great future except that there was a small problem from her past which prevented this from happening. He offered to perform, for a fee, some special prayers which could remove this hurdle. The daughter-in-law queried what would be the price.

Once the fee was quoted, daughter-in-law looked expectantly at Sita, the treasurer of the house.

Sita had enough of this nonsense. She now was determined to show the astrologer his place and in the process educate her daughter-in-law.

Sita knew that astrologers were loath to answer questions on death. So to silence the astrologer she asked him, “Tell me, when will I die?”

Normally no astrologer would answer such a question. However this man feeling distraught at losing a prospective customer was irritated already. Without batting an eyelid he answered “Tomorrow is a full moon. Before the next full moon someone sitting here will die.” Saying this, he left the place in a huff.

The silence of the afternoon was only punctuated by the noise of the cricket, which seemed oblivious to what had happened in the courtyard. Sita sat there stunned. Never had she imagined that the astrologer would answer that question. Now that the answer had been given, she was gobsmacked.

From that very day a slow but steady transformation came over Sita. She slowly lost appetite, she spent more time in prayers. Her tongue which used to lash out at everyone at every opportunity, slowly went silent. Every day at night as she went to sleep she would announce the count down.

“There is only 28 days left.” “There is only 27 days left” and so on. Her son after getting updates from his wife tried to talk his mother out of this maddening count.

Nothing could budge her from her own vigil of countdown to death. In fact she wanted all relatives to come and see her as soon as possible. She declared her will. Whatever unfinished tasks were there, she took care to complete.

Finally D day arrived, with great weeping and wailing she declared that it would be her last day or rather night. She could not sleep that night. As night turned into day and the full moon set on the western horizon Sita was a transformed woman.

She was shouting “Where is that scoundrel of an astrologer? I will skin him alive if I see him. What a fraud? I knew that even back then. Scoundrel, he just tried to frighten me, fool that I was got frightened. I will never allow an astrologer to step into our house again.”

However to ensure that everything remained safe they took the bus to the main temple about twenty kilometers away to propitiate the gods for the mercy he had shown. They then proceeded to wait for the bus home.

The bus, a ramshackle tin contraption, came to a halt. The women always boarded the bus from the front entrance. As Sita made her way towards the bus, the astrologer with his parrot cage was getting down from the bus.

Sita took a little while to recognise him. Then all her pent up frustration and anger came to the fore as she shrieked “There you are, scoundrel, charlatan, trickster….” Bellowing in rage with all the speed that her advancing years would allow her she rushed towards the astrologer.

It took only a brief look for the astrologer to recognise Sita. He, of course, clearly knew the reason for her outrage. He wanted to put a safe distance from her, more to escape the humiliation of a public beating  which he was sure awaited him at her hands.

He ran across the road not seeing the speeding truck coming from the opposite side. When man and metal meet, metal always wins. The astrologer lay dead on the road. A huge crowd collected around.

Many wanted to know what had happened. The turn of events left Sita stunned. After all the prediction was someone would die. It had happened a day after the period provided for leaving Sita in doubt about astrology’s ability to predict.

Father now looked at Arjun and said “So you can clearly see that uncertainty about one’s own death is the basis of hope and joy of life. So uncertainty is not always bad. Okay?”

Arjun after a thoughtful while asked “Should we consult an astrologer about my college admissions?”

Ownership

ct

Ownership.

As Paul parked his car and got out he sighed. A tough day ahead, he thought to himself. He was the regional manager of “HighBrow Computers” in Hyderabad. He had the unenviable task of discussing annual appraisals with his team of senior executives.   Having gone through this many a time he knew what to expect.

He would have to don the role of a psychiatrist. His office chairs would become the metaphorical couch where each senior executive would come and have a long crib session. Paul himself would have to listen to the constant drone of dissatisfaction expressed and justifications demanded.

He had to acknowledge the feelings of his team members. He could not agree with them. He would have to defend the organization even on indefensible things. He also would painfully have to point the short comings in each individual’s performance and talk about what they could have done better.

As he entered the office he saw the expected crowd of executives waiting for his arrival. Hmm, people are early to work today,  he observed to himself. Obviously these guys would have met and discussed in detail all the misgivings they had and planned to discuss, the possible responses of Paul and how they could corner him to go back and fight for them.
Paul had hardly started when his phone rang. It was his sister from Delhi on the line. She wailed and between sobs and incoherent words she explained her husband had met with an automobile accident, had been declared as dead. Tears streamed down Paul’s cheeks,  he tried maintaining an even tone and promised her that he will be there in Delhi by the next available flight.

Suddenly Paul felt all the energy drain out of him. He walked out of his office asked his secretary to book his tickets to Delhi. He announced to his team that he had a personal emergency and will not be available for an extended period of time.

As he drove home his thoughts were in a complete turmoil. Scenes of his childhood flashed to him. His sister ten years his senior was more like a mother to him than a sister. His mind switched to his nephew and niece who were in class nine and class five, what would they do? What can he do to help them? From having to play the role of a psychiatrist he now felt he needed one. Huh, the way time plays with us.

As his flight landed in Delhi he had made up his mind. He would shift from Hyderabad to Delhi. He needed to be there to ensure that he could support his sister and her children.

On the way to his sister’s house he called his boss, VP of sales and marketing, and explained the events of the day and his need to move to Delhi. His boss was very understanding and said he would try to get that done, however he would have to speak to HR and the CEO. Boss man offered to organize any help that Paul may require and promised to get back to him.

The VP marketing Venkat called on the HR manager Jones and together they discussed Paul’s request for transfer. Jones the HR manger felt, that while this was really a decision that Venkat had to take with CEO, his own advice would be that accommodating such request may open a flood gate of transfer requests at senior levels. However he suggested that Venkat talk to the CEO, Ashok, and take a decision.

As the door to his cabin closed, as Venkat left, Jones called Ashok, the CEO, and gave him the news along with his own views.

It was a disturbed Venkat who walked back to his cabin. Ashok, the CEO, had been clear that he would not agree to transfer Paul to Delhi. He was clear that Paul was most useful in Hyderabad. In a year when sales targets had been doubled he was not willing to change people who knew the market.

When Venkat had queried what will happen to Hyderabad targets if Paul quit, Ashok, dismissed it with a guffaw and a wave of his hand, “Is that not why we introduced succession planning? The next guy will feel fired up to be appointed as a regional manager.”

Venkat  called up Paul and explained to him that the transfer would not happen.

Paul’s resignation letter arrived by post three days later.

Well Venkat forwarded the letter to Jones and Ashok, requesting they do the needful.

Jones forwarded the resignation letter to his assistant and asked for an acceptance letter to be prepared and brought to him for his signature. Shortly his assistant appeared with the letter.

As Jones was signing the letter the assistant asked “Paul is a member of the executive council and as per the chairman’s instructions all resignations of members from the executive council must be forwarded to him for his personal approval. So should we hold on to this letter and wait for the chairman’s approval?”

Jones, had overlooked this. So he requested his assistant to leave the letter on his table. He reflected on what would be the best course of action. Should he follow the chairman’s ruling to the dot or find a way to subvert it and get his CEO what was wanted?

One of the small dilemmas that beset people in responsible positions, should they do what the procedure demands in spirit, or find ways to technically do what is demanded in letter while violating the spirit.

To be able to do what your boss wants really and help him overcome the roadblocks of procedure will mean that you will be amply rewarded. Only a person who is either naive or reckless will just do what is right.

Jones was clear that he would follow what the chairman’s edict was by letter while delivering what the CEO wanted by spirit.

A HR manager worth his salt has to be well versed in the dark arts, in short a master at shenanigans.

For Jones this was child’s play. He just had the courier hand over a receipt for an envelope dated on that very day, addressed to the chairman’s office and put into his table drawer.  Simple he could now blame the courier, his assistant anyone he wanted. He would courier the acceptance of Paul’s resignation after fifteen days. Then he could claim he received no reply from the chairman’s office and had accepted Paul’s resignation.

Paul came back to Hyderabad to windup his bachelor pad and move to Delhi. One of the tasks was to finish his travel bills which were pending for last 4 months. He finished his bills and called up the accounts manager, to arrange so that he could come in late in the evening, after office hours, and hand it over. He did not want to sit around addressing the curious questions from his juniors.

As he was leaving office he met Prasanna the corporate HR manager. Prasanna was shocked to learn that Paul would be leaving the company in the next two weeks. Over a cup of coffee Prasanna learnt the whole story. Prasanna wished Paul all the best and left.

That night Prasanna placed three calls. First he called Jones and queried why Paul’s resignation had not been sent to corporate headquarters. Jones very quietly answered he had couriered it about ten days back. As Prasanna put the phone down he knew he was being lied to.

The next call was to the chairman. “Hello Homi, remember you told me you were looking for a corporate liaison manager in Delhi for liaising with the government . I think I have found the person.” He then proceeded to explain what had happened and how they could use Paul in that role.

Homi did not need any convincing at all. Homi knew Paul very well.

Paul was the first recruitment as a marketing person who joined them from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. At that time Highbrow Computers had just been established and had not yet made a single sale.

Prasanna called Jones again and told him that he wanted to send out a letter transferring Paul from Highbrow Computers to Highbrow Corporate. Jones agreed that he would do it the first thing in the morning.

As Jones put the phone down he had a panic attack. Only today morning he had couriered the letter accepting Paul’s resignation to Paul’s home address in Hyderabad. Jones was up late into the night tracking the letter through the courier. Finally he organised with his Hyderabad HR manager that they would post a person outside Paul’s residence to intercept the courier.

Paul was really surprised to receive a call next day morning from Venkat, from Jones and from Ashok. All of them took care to tell him they valued his services and wanted to retain him and had worked with corporate to ensure that he, Paul, could be transferred to Delhi as a corporate liaison manager.

Paul was nobody’s fool, he smiled to himself, well accidents are not bad always.

Epilogue.

_________________________________________________________________

Venkat was desperate as the year drew to close. He was short of eighty million in meeting his annual sales target. He received a call from his regional manager in Delhi informing him that he had picked up and order for 120 million from National Computing Centre, a government organization. Venkat asked him how come this order never reflected in the sales pipeline before. It was then that it became clear that this was Paul’s effort.

________________

Homi chairman of Highbrow was sitting with his son, Anosh, and helping him understand how to choose employees or partners for a company.

“It is extremely important to get people, who believe in your dream, share the joy of the same outcome as you, than to get highly capable people in the start-up phase. In the start-up phase there is nothing for you to show anyone. The people who share your dream are very important, do not let them go. A business is about people who commit to ideas and own them. These are the ones who matter. They commit to ideas with no limits on the time horizon.”

Anosh said he did not understand. Then Homi told him of the story of Paul.

“Paul owns the business as much as I do and he was willing to believe in me when I had nothing to show. He could have got a job with twice the salary I offered him then. However he joined me for an adventure.”

Anosh asked “What about Ashok the CEO, is he not a very capable person, did he not grow the business a hundred times in the last twelve years?”

Homi gave a wry smile and said “Ashok will only stay as long as I keep paying him a little more than what he can get in the market. The day I stop that, he will find himself another job”.

“You mean Ashok will never show ownership qualities?”

“Of course he will, the day he starts his own company.”

Piggy Bank

piggy-bank

The Piggy Bank

Rrrring went the doorbell.  Mohan pulled himself out of bed, cursing.  What the hell!  Can’t sleep even on a weekend. He had shut off the alarm so as not to wake up.

This must be the maid…

He turned around to look at Usha. He watched as she let out one of those snores. Usha of course claimed she never snored.

So wearily he pulled himself out of bed and staggered towards the door.

Lakshmi, the maid, walked in without any greeting. She handed over the newspaper to Mohan as she went towards the fridge to keep the milk.

Soon Lakshmi had got the coffee filter going. She then proceeded to heat the milk.

Mohan smiled to himself as he settled into the sofa with the newspaper.

He had successfully converted Lakshmi to a coffee addict!

She came to his house on her first call as she wanted a strong cup of coffee to kick-start her day. Mohan too needed the same. So now Mohan waited for the coffee as he started the Sudoku.

The coffee was strong and heavenly. The Sudoku challenging but he could do it.

Usha was up now. She called out to Mohan “Who made the coffee, you or Lakshmi” she queried, “I think it was you” she said answering her own question.

Mohan fell silent. This was an area of constant friction. Best to avoid any exchange on this.

Usha made some hot chocolate and called out “Varun. Varun. VARun. VARUn. VARUN.

It was the last shout that at 110 dB bringing the apartment block down that evoked a response.

“DON’T SHOUT” responded Varun as he slumber walked into the kitchen and plonked himself on the dining chair.

Thus began the gentle morning at a family home.

Usha asked “You read about the queues at the banks to convert to new currency right?”

“Good move by Modi, brilliant in fact”

“Okay should we not exchange and withdraw some money?” queried Usha.

“Yeah, what is the hurry; we have about 1800 in small change. We will visit the bank when the queues go down” responded Mohan. He hated queues, having been made to stand in them by force, when a child. In his mind’s eye he could see himself standing in various queues, for ration, for admission forms, for voting etc.

His rumination was interrupted by his servant maid Lakhshmi, “My wages sir, also something additional for Diwali”.

Mohan was jolted into the present. He did a quick mental calculation. Lakshmi’s monthly wages were Rs3000, add another Rs1000/- for her Diwali. As he walked towards the cupboard to retrieve his wallet he asked himself, “Will she accept the 500, and 1000 he had?”

As he offered Lakshmi the high denomination currency she said, “Sir this currency will not do, what will I a poor woman do with these, these will not be accepted by anyone”.

“I have just returned from my holiday yesterday, I still have to change it to new currency” said Mohan.

“Sir, currently the black market is exchanging the notes for a 25% commission, I can exchange it for you, if you so desire” responded Lakshmi.

“What 25% commission” said Mohan sharply? The very thought of paying a premium for exchange on his tax paid money irked him. “You can exchange it in any bank” he responded.

“It will take me over four hours to do that, I have three more houses to go before I finish my work, I do not have the time” she said.

“Okay, wait for one day, and I will give you your salary”.

“Sir, my landlord has threatened to throw me out if I do not pay the rent by today evening.”

Mohan was quiet.  Then as he racked his brains his eyes brightened.

“Varun can you get your piggy bank” he said.

“Why, what do you want to do with it” queried Varun.

“I need some change I will replace it later”.

“No, I will not part with my money” squeaked Varun.

“Why not, I promise to replace it within a day or two”.

“No” was the monosyllable response from Varun.

Mohan felt cheated, he had always emptied his change every day into the piggy bank. The piggy bank definitely had at least Rs 5,000 or there about. With purposeful steps he walked towards Varun’s room.

Varun who was now vigilant made a dash for his room and beat Mohan to the piggy bank. Clutching it he sat on the bed. Mohan lunged forward to grab it. Varun ran out of his room to the sanctuary of the kitchen and sought refuge behind his mother, with Mohan in hot pursuit.

“Mom, please stop dad from stealing my piggy bank”.

Usha appealed to Mohan, “Why don’t you layoff, go out and collect some change from the bank”.

“Usha, don’t you think it is time Varun understood that he is not losing anything materially. I promise I will replace it.”

Varun now safely hiding behind his mother shouted, “I do not want black money in exchange for white”.

Those hurtful words stopped Mohan in his tracks. He had never earned a penny illegally.

He tried to explain to Varun what was black money and what was white.  All his explanations were met with a stock reply from Varun, “No I heard the Prime Minister on TV, I know all 500 and 1000 denominations are illegal.”

Mohan not to give up easily lunged once more at Varun. “Mummy” went a 110dB scream. Usha had enough of it, “Both of you, out of my kitchen, right now” she thundered.

Varun now made a dash into the drawing room, with Mohan chasing him. With one leap Varun leapt on to the bar cabinet. The bar cabinet shook violently with the bottles inside clanging, before it came to a halt.

Hearing the clanging of the bottles Mohan froze. Each bottle of scotch and rare wines inside was worth a fortune. Each of those bottles was brought from his frequent visits abroad, or was gifted by friends coming in from abroad.

It was prized collection and now at risk. Even though he wanted that piggy bank desperately, the stakes involved had escalated with Varun’s jump.

Mohan quietly went into his room, changed, and announced he was going to the bank and getting some change.

Mohan set off once more to stand in one of the very queues he dreaded so much, all the while cursing Modi.

Surprise! ICICI bank in Tiruvanmiyur was deserted.  He went in tentatively quite sure that they had run out of cash.  The lady at the counter smiled ,paid him his ten thousand, and asked him to return if he needed more!!

Diwali Rocket

rocket“I want to burst a Diwali rocket” shouted Arjun,

“No. I repeat no.” said father Ram.

“Why not?” countered Arjun raising his eight-year-old frame into a challenge.

“Because it is dangerous.”

“How do you know?” was the impatient counter.

“Because I have done it and almost injured one person seriously” was the honest admission of guilt by Ram. ……….

Ram, all of seven years, stepped out of home at 5:00 AM to start the mandatory Diwali fire cracker session.

The cool October morning winds seemed to excite him as he set off two small fire crackers. Then he opened the new bag and found a Diwali rocket. He had seen how it was set off by his uncle last year. Uncle had asked him to stay away from that Rocket.

However, Ram was overcome with excitement and wanted to taste the thrill of doing the forbidden.

What can go wrong? All one had to do was stick it into a bottle and light the wick.

He quickly sought out a bottle. Having got it, he put it in the centre of the road.

He pushed the stick of the rocket hard into the bottle. Since he pushed it hard  stick broke and bent, making a right angle at the mouth of the bottle.  This had the effect of making the top half of the rocket lean almost horizontal to the road.

Ram examined the set up. He was not happy about the broken stick. However he reasoned to himself that rockets will always go up.

He applied the burning end of the cotton rope to the wick of the rocket.

The fuse of the rocket lit and sputtered a couple of times and with a whoosh set off on its singular destructive mission.

With all its speed the rocket leaped across the road and entered the long lane leading to Sita’s house.

Sita with her hair hanging loose over her head was drying her hair after a nice Diwali oil bath.

She saw a flare in the lane entrance followed by the whoosh sound. Sita let out a terrified yell and raced down the lane leading to her house.

The rocket first chased her then overtook her and then just two feet in front of her the bomb went off.

Now Sita’s yell turned  into a blood curling scream.

The entire neighbourhood was shaken  from slumber  into  terror

 

The front porch lights came on in many houses. There was sound of running feet and shouts of the first rescuers “What happened? What happened?”

Sita’s father picked up his fallen daughter and asked her “What happened?”

Sita looked into his face let out another blood curling scream and wrapped herself around him.

Whimpering, and between her sobs she told the assembled crowd that a Diwali Rocket had chased her down the lane and exploded right in front of her. It was the lord himself that had saved her.

 

The gathered rescuers who had run out with the milk of kindness running in their veins now started getting angry.

“Who is that rascal that lit that rocket?” one angry voice demanded. “Should catch them and deliver a sound trashing” added another angry voice.

Ram when he heard those blood curling screams had run as fast as his legs could carry him into the compound wall of his house.

Ram now was watching the proceeding with a growing apprehension and was slowly shivering as he heard those angry roars.

As the new self-appointed vigilantes spread around Ram saw the botte he had used to fire the rocket on the road.

Holy cow!!

If people found the bottle in front of his house they would be sure to catch him and trash him.

He suddenly saw Uncle emerge from the house and go over and stand over the bottle.

Uncle’s dhoti covered the bottle completely.

The crowd looked around and after failing to find anything dispersed after some time.

Uncle waited till the last of the crowd had disappeared and a few porch lights were off.

Ram could hear his uncle close the front gate. Ram heard footsteps coming closer to him.

Uncle came and placed the bottle in front of him.

He silently stood in front of Ram who was now visibly shaking from head to toe.

With a smile uncle said “Next time call me before you light it.”

Ram slowly relaxed and thanked his namesake and walked back with a spring in his step.

All is well that ends well.