Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I me myself

They saw me grow but not mature,
They want me to be theirs but not mine,
They want me to be perfect in their imperfect world,
But I cant leave, as they live for me.

Her wake guided me through my struggles,
In her I saw a part of me, or I thought I saw,
She drifted disgusted, when I reached out,
So I have to leave, as her path is destined to be different.

They travel along with me and relate to my trails,
They lend an occasional shoulder or an ear,
I cannot weigh them down, paining with my frails,
I travel with them keeping my distance, to lend them than to be lent.

To always lend an ear neither consoling nor encouraging,
To be there for everything,To be there without any scorn,
To motivate and pick me up when I fall and pat for the small steps of success,
It will always be I being me for myself!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The class test

Mathematics was his favorite class of all in the 6th grade. The teacher was solving one of the most interesting problems in the chapter "playing with numbers". It was a piece of cake and he really enjoyed solving it very fast. All he required from the teacher was to show which problem to solve and by the time she completes reading the problem, he would have finished it. But today he had to skip solving the problems. With heavy heart he had his math book open on the table, but had his eyes fixed on the book that was open on his lap. His history text book. As much as the migration of Aryans from somewhere middle of Europe to an unknown hinterland sounded not only drab, but also completely incomprehensible. But the class test in the afternoon is something he cannot avoid. As he tried to remember the path followed but the Aryans, he could sense the bout of sleep that was about to hit him. He tried to keep his eyes open. He had not opened his civics books yet. The fundamental rights and duties and adult franchise was waiting patiently for him to master. This simple thought gave him a piercing headache. "I will not watch the football world cup anymore" he promised himself, blaming his father whose football fanaticism rubbed onto him also. The face of Kamala mam, his fearsome social science teacher frightened him and pushed him into going through the most boring text he had ever read in his short career as a student.

 He could not hold off his slumber anymore and involuntarily fell on the desk, with his history book sliding off his lap. "Mam, Ramesh has fainted " shouted the overly enthusiastic boy sitting next to him. His sound was good enough to jerk Ramesh off his slumber. But his mind reacted faster than his eyes and kept them closed. He remembered the girl who had fainted the other day during the morning assembly session. She had received a royal treatment from all around and was sent home to take rest. He thanked the headless chicken who shouted, silently and went on to play the role of poor little kid to perfection. He could hear all the commotion around the room. A moment of fame or rather infamy is not bad for the average kid. His young math teacher had panicked and did all she could to wake him up or rather bring him back to his senses. Ramesh was secretly enjoying all the attention he was getting. "Raju, go and fetch the peon and the PT master" she instructed one of the boys fervently. By the time the those people arrived, Ramesh was calmly lying on a desk.

He precisely knew how he should act now. In another 10 minutes, he would open his eyes slowly and be groggy for a few minutes. He would explain the teachers that he had skipped breakfast in the morning. If all goes well in another hour his parents or atleast mom would be here taking him home. It was the summer and students fainting was a common occurrence. The idea of skipping the class test was too sweet even to imagine for him. By this time, the news had percolated to the headmaster and had cut short his morning rounds to visit the 6th standard F section. The sound of his 6 feet plus stout head master had spooked him a bit, but he was quite confident of pulling off the sick child act. "I have already called his parents. His mom will be here in another 20 minutes "declared the headmaster. It was music to his ears.

The stage two of his action plan was set in motion. Like a seasoned actor getting the role of his lifetime, he showed signs of getting back his senses. There was a lot of commotion amongst the students. "We will take him  to the office room, so that you can continue with the classes" declared the headmaster. "Can you walk Ramesh?" asked the headmaster with genuine concern. On seeing Ramesh node doubtfully, he asked the peon to help him reach the office room. Much to the chagrin of the class, Ramesh left to room and math lecture was to be restarted.  The events that followed perfectly feel in line with the script of the imaginary "faking a faint to skip a class test" manual, Ramesh had in mind. In exactly 40 minutes, he was sitting in the backseat of his mother's car. It was the perfect contraption, with all the pieces exactly falling in the right place. Sitting back, he enjoyed his mother rumbling about his father being ignorant and careless about his health.

As expected he got a royal treatment at home. His mom had taken the day off and started preparing his food. By noon, he was happily munching his favorite combination of Rasam rice and Bhindi fry, watching the highlights of previous day's football match, completely oblivious to the happenings in his class. During the social science period, a very young teacher who recently joined the school walked into a class of relived students, to make the announcement that, Kamala mam was sick that day and the test had been postponed to the next day. The students could use the free period to prepare for the test!!! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The fear

He hardly slept for a few hours. His mind was replaying the news item again and again, the disappearance of MH370. As a very frequent flyer, common logic says he must not  be frightened about a plane mishap, if only the common sense rules the world. He tried to close his eyes again, but there was something ominous lingering in his mind, a slow, quiet, but inescapable feeling of fear. "I cant be frightened by a random event like this. The probability of a car crash is higher than a plane tumbling into the ocean", he tried to comfort himself. He closed his eyes and tried to take deep breaths to calm down his nerves. As a child he was extremely fond of flying. The admiration for the birds, the freedom they had in looking at things from the top always facinated him. But only during his first flight, as a child he was scarred for life. A 10 minute journey through a turbulence gave him a nasty fear of flying. His flight was still a few hours away. Every minute passing seemed like an eternity. He simply woke up from his bed and headed straight to the bathroom. He splashed a bout of cold water in his face and let it sting him. He filled the bathtub with cold water. The hotel room itself was not on the higher end, but the bathroom was spacious and very comfortable. Putting on his favorite blues number he slipped into the bathtub.

The flight started moving through a turbulence. It was not uncommon over the south china sea, but this was quite a bad one. The seat belt sign was switched on. There was a huge commotion with the air hostesses frantically trying to set things in order and get onto their seats. In no time the turbulence got even worse. There was an announcement on the speakers for the passengers to keep calm and there was nothing to be frightened about. As the announcement was going on, the flight suddenly started loosing altitude as a rate that could even frighten the best of best on air. In about 30 seconds the flight lost over 2000 feet altitude. The passengers and the crew alike started getting tensed and almost everyone started praying one way or the other. Just when it looked like everything was getting under control, the plane suddenly started free falling. Thats when he felt the cold water getting into his lungs and got out of the bathtub with a startle. Another nightmare and now only 2 hours left for the flight. Inspite of the sleep he was very tired for obvious reasons. 

He slowly got off the tub and dried himself with a towel. He looked at his reflection on the mirror and could sense fear in his eyes. The television was still on and the news channel was now running a program about the world air-mishaps and they were talking about the Boeing 330-200 mishap that had occurred a few years earlier. Frustrated, he slammed the power button of the TV to experience a moment's peace. As the departure was getting closer, he put on his crisply ironed attire and cleaned up his hotel room. He opened his wallet to look at his son's picture. He closed his eyes and thought about how his wife would be taking him to his classes early in the morning and how he would be making her life a living hell. He wanted to see them right now, but alas they were a few thousand kilometers away from him. He had very little packing to do, as he always preferred to travel light. He looked around to make sure that everything in the room was set in order and locked it before heading to the airport. 

He was walking slowly though the crowd. He had taken the same route several times and his motion was mechanical without any need to look for signs. The people around looked calm. That was reassuring for him till he by mistake looked at the direction of the televison. The reporter was once again blaring out about the missing Malaysian airlines plane.  There were a few people very much concerned about the disappearance of the flight flocking around the television.  They were showing the possible places where flight might have ended up. He froze there momentarily, before coming back to his senses. His upright posture and coolers brilliantly masked the fear that was building in his eyes. He craved for a shot of whiskey, but all he could lay hands was a shot of espresso. Though  he would have preferred the former,  the espresso was not bad either.  He continued his walk ahead. The security check was a mere formality for him as there was no one waiting in the line he had taken. So far so good. 

He could see the gigantic Airbus 380 waiting for him, its flawless design and gargantuan size was a sight to behold. This massive bird on air is one of the biggest marvels of the modern science and technology. If only the science of medicine had made the same kind of advancement and found a cure for the wavering frightened mind.  He sighed and slowly walked towards the giant bird. He boarded the flight and settled into his seat. He closed his eyes and went through his regular formalities. He slowly went on to make an announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome on board ....." 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Congratulations On turning 50 -NIT Trichy!!


Some time in late April 2010(I was in my final year of under graduation), an Alumni day was organised at NIT trichy, my undergraduate Alma Matter. The podium was set, decorated by many distinguished alumni and a very important person as the chief guest (I actually forgot who it was!!).  The top performers in each department were honoured along with several other awards for students who excelled in different areas like sports, culture, arts and science. And then there was me. As my name was being blared out on the microphone, the chief guest who was giving the award was quite bemused. He could hardly explain a huge grin on my face or the happiness and eagerness to get the certificate, and once again confirmed with the student assisting him, whether he read the award right? "Anand Chidhambaram Alumini Endowment award", for the "TENTH RANK HOLDER IN CHEMICAL ENGINEERING AT NIT TRICHY" (I knew in advance about this ofcourse).  Yes there was an award for coming 10th in a class of 40 odd students. I have no idea who Anand Chidambaram was/is or why this award is being given (will for sure find out some day), but there can be no better worthy candidate for the award than me.  Average in studies, absolutely nil extra curricular activities whose work spikes up during 2/3 particular times in a year like NITTFEST, Pragyan and department symposium, spending most of the day playing football either on computer or on the field, you could easily classify me as an "ordinary student".

 So why is this extra –“ordinary student" writing this piece? Nit Trichy is celebrating its golden jubilee year this July and unfortunately I won't be attending the facilitation function. I do feel bad for not attending it, And hence I am writing this l piece to show my gratitude to the insti. Its not a rehash of sporadic personal events (those things are truly personal only matter to me and my eclectic band of maverick buddies), but a practical look back at my time at NIT Trichy and what I learnt from it.  Its been 4 years since graduation, but the institute is a part and parcel of my life. There is a low motivation for being there in person as no professor would recognise me and I am not overly attached to any of the concrete structures there (possibly the CEESAT building and garnet football ground).  My personality that I would carry on to my grave was shaped at this haven, in the 4 uneventful years that I spent in Trichy.  

July 2006, I entered NIT Trichy straight from the highly competitive Tamil Nadu Higher secondary education system, as an awkward 18 year, not interested in anything other than studies, an introvert lacking confidence, with minimal English language skills, without an iota of an idea about my future and 4 years later left the place as an young man , who spent most of the last 6 months doing mostly stuffs – “extra curricular”, very confident about what I can do and what I cant, unafraid to try out new things in life, not intimidated by high IQ or opulence and ready to take on the world as I knew it that day or my dear readers, I left the place educated. If I can point at two things that made my life interesting at NIT

Ø   People:  If you need a beacon of diversity, you need not look further than NIT trichy. Students from all over the country, ( every state had a compulsory quota, sadly this has been scrapped)  attend this school. It is located in Tamil Nadu which is quite different from the rest of the country starting from language to mentality of the people. A simple yard stick for diversity is, in a class of 40 students in my department, students could speak 20 different languages. With diverse personalities, one starts appreciating the importance of cultural diversity. Ofcourse, its not always for the good, but the overall experience is amazing.

Ø   Independence:  The amount of free time that was available during my college days is scary (this a paradox though, when you are in a grt group even this time flies).  Every person can be what he wants by his/her choice.  There are not many places, which provide this luxury in a platter.

Unlike Sir Humphrey Appleby, I can list out the things I learnt at NIT Trichy and after in the following points,

1)           Survival of the fittest : It’s a belief that “survival of the smartest” is right way of life. Spending a semester at  NIT Trichy will easily burst this bubble. Its always the survival of the fittest -> the perfect concoction of smartness, hardwork and adaptability. If a person is deficient in one, it can be easily compensated by other.   
2)           Live In The Moment: Try to embrace how exciting life can be when one truly lives in the moment. Try out new things.
3)           Technical Education : It does not matter that much.  If one has the basics right, it’s the easiest part of the college education.
4)           People : First time off the supervision of the parents, in the first few days at NIT Trichy I met 100s of new people. What I learnt is that – “people of generally good, but its only a few with whom we are compatible”.

Ofcourse things were not all rosy. The heat, powercuts, mess food, lack of internet and trees, shabbily maintained campus (we should bear part of the blame), RGing among students, lack of infrastructure and research etc etc. But inspite of all these, after NIT Trichy days like most of us I missed it so much, still do.  I so much missed the place that I went back there the very next day after I packed up from the hostel (Yes I lived only 4 hrs away).  But then we miss things only after we lose them, a dangerous but perfectly normal human behaviour.  But now 4 years down the line I look back my days at NITT with great pride. And ofcourse I have some observations here also.

1.       The cycle: Keep in mind that you've missed things a thousand times before, and it always becomes easier. It may take weeks, or months, but it always does. Whether it's a place, a person, or your favorite food.
2.       Balance: Try to find a balance between the past and the present. Live in the moment, but never fully let go of your past. Keep in touch with old friends, and remember the events that made you the person you are today.
3.       Be Realistic: The most dangerous part of nostalgia is the tendency to romanticize. When you look back, look back on the past as it actually was. Doing so will prevent you from ranking the past as better than the present.
4.       Look Forward: Avoid excessive planning, but have a good vision. Your grandmother is right when she says you have a lot to look forward to. Be excited for, and do not fear, what lies ahead.





Recently I ran an half marathon, at Leiden, Netherlands,(for those of you who can recognise it, it’s the NITTFEST’10 Tee) and I dedicate my run to NITT. Ultimately what I want to thank NIT Trichy and its people for making me the human I am today. Even if I don’t find a place in the annals of NITT’s history, the annals of my history is heavily influenced by NITT.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Courtesy and manners

It was that time of the year again. He dreaded the summer vacations. He never understood the logic of going to a hotter place in summer, devoid of basic amenities like wifi and high speed internet. Fully bred and brought up in the city, he is used to a way of life very hard to give up.  He is ready to bid goodbye to his teenage in a few months, but still could not find a way to wriggle out of this family engagement. It was the family trip to their native place, rather his father's birthplace. The surroundings are as simple as it could get. Lush green paddy and sugarcane fields surround the village in all the 4 directions. Simple cement 40 feet roads, with small shops on the roadside. A main road that connects the two nearby towns passes through the village and is the sole entry/exit to the village. Spreading over a few square kilometers, the village had a population over 4000, it is amongst the most affluent ones in the state. The passage of days were like years.

He was finally thrilled as the 2 week long stint in this pre-Neanderthal place was coming to an end.  There was a nearby temple to visit, followed by lunch in a local hotel and then leave for the city, which is an 8 hour drive from the place.  It was the entire family going to the temple, with a headcount of over 20. Our protagonist being the youngest amongst a clan of cousins, did not have anybody in his age group. Meeting the family was fun for the first few days. But he was rather glad it was all coming to end. The temple visit was quite normal. Only thing that interested him was an elephant that was giving its blessing for free when offered a banana. Once the temple visit was over, the group divided into two and a group of around 8 people went for the lunch in a local hotel.

"The lunch in this hotel is simply not to be missed. Raghu, do you know it has not changed a bit since my childhood?" exclaimed an excited mother of our protagonist. He replied in the same way as had been doing for the past two weeks. A silly smile and a nod that meant absolutely nothing. The hotel had a pretty small entrance, that lead to a well lit dinning room. There were several small tables spread evenly across the room. The group further split  and took 2 different tables. It was quite busy with mainly tourists and devotees who had come to visit the temple. Our protagonist settled in a table with his parents and a distant relative. Right opposite to his table was a group of possibly locals sitting.

It was not the family or the country side that irritated him the most. It was the people, that put him off the most. They were so rustic and behaved in an ungainly manner. He could never stand their dirty clothes, rude words, and utter disregard for personal hygiene. While he was having his food, which was quite tasty to his surprise, he was disturbed by sounds the person sitting in the opposite table was making. He could have been a local farmer, dressed in a traditional wear. He had a thick mustache and beard. He was munching his meal making gangling sounds and postures. "They have absolutely no courtesy and manners. How can they develop if education has no meaning ?" Raghu asked himself the rhetoric question .

After the meal, he went ahead to wash his hands. To his pleasant surprise, he found liquid soap solution on the wash basin. He opened the tap and washed his hands. Then he squeezed the liquid soap solution and started cleaning his hands further. In the mean time the same man who was sitting opposite to Raghu, walked up behind taking raghu by surprise. He pushed raghu to the side and starred at him. " Are you from the city?" he grumbled.  Raghu nodded still trying to understand what was happening. He closed the water tap that was open full, "Do you know how much scarce water is in the village. You waste it as if its your  grandfather's property." Saying so he started mumbling, "The people from the city have no courtesy and manners. What is the use of the education?" Courtesy and manners are so subjective. Is it not?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Karna's Cry

The child in a basket floating through the deluge,
Fighting through the cusp to find the refugee,
In mother destiny's lap,
Being the lucky one left in solitude to fight.

The dark destiny meandering on the top,
The vultures circling to feast the corpse,
The basket of life drifting into the oblivion,
Its my deed holding a life's yearn.

The weight of the chariot piercing my arm,
The arrows shredding my heart,
The revered one plotting my  harm,
And my own blood cheering my last breath.

A teacher's revered hand,
A brother's soothing shoulder,
A mother's warm lap,
Pass by my severed heart's grasp.

Feeling the ache to sing to the world,
Its not kindness but victory,
Its not loyality but the birth of right,
Its not righteousness but the perceived truth.

Now the final thread,
Holding me afloat on the chasm,
Is least required in my final abode,
I give it to you, oh the giver!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The race

There were a few people scattered around the stadium. The inter school athletics competition is not the most glamorous of the events in the city. The people present were mostly the parents of the children participating or the teachers accompanying the students. Sprinkled in the midst were a handful of enthusiastic organizers. The play ground, where the track and field events were to take place, was actually an hockey field which was also sporadically used as a football field. There was no grass on the track, as most wilted away during the scorching summer. It was the beginning of  the autumn and weather was quite pleasant for the time of the year. Ungainly dark clouds were visible at a distance, but at present there was a mild sunshine accompanied with a cool breeze. The conditions were perfect for the races. There was then a loud message in the speaker, "Under -12 800 m will commence in 20 minutes at track 2." The announcement led to a minor commotion and created a bit of excitement as 800 m is one of the most popular events. The track for the 800 m event is two rounds of 400 m each.

"Good luck son, make your father proud!" exclaimed a visibly exited father to his son, Satish. Satish was nodding his head. He was the runner up in last year's competition and his father badly wanted him to win this time around. Next year he would have compete in the under 14s and the competition would be a lot harder than under 12s. His father was quiet confident that his son would win the competition. He was a full 2 seconds faster than last year. His father, being a track and field athlete in his younger days was also his coach. "Remember to always breath in with your nose at the beginning. As you hit the top speed you may use your mouth to breath, but mostly stick to the nose", continued his father. He had a long list of last minute advises for his son. Dressed in his running gear, the boy was quite confident himself.

The youngsters lined up at track 2. There were 8 students competing. Satish was the oldest of them all. His father was feeling proud looking at his son make a perfect crouch start position. With the start of the race only a few seconds away, both father and son could feel the adrenaline pumping. THREE TWO ONE and GO!! The father got off his seat and started clapping. Satish had made the near perfect start. He had the perfect poise and balance and was leaving others trailing in his wake. "Come on!!" his father was shouting punching his fist. He knew that the race was his son's to lose from here on.  The first 250 m was near perfect and his on had a good 10 m on his nearest competitor.

But suddenly one of the boys, who was in the 4th position suddenly moved up a gear and was coasting past others. The father could sense that his son had a potential threat. By 400 m the distance between the boys reduced to less than a meter. And slowly but surely the other boy was gaining the upper hand. But his son would not give up without a fight. The two boys were giving it all out there. There could be only one winner. It was only the last 100 m left and the other boy started to overtake, inspite of the best of Satish's effort. His father was all disappointed. He knew Satish had almost no chance as the momentum was with the other boy.  He could not take another second prize. But he was nonetheless proud of satish's effort. He did not give up with out a fight.  He was praying all heavens for a miracle to happen.

And the miracle almost did happen. The unkempt track had a small bump and the other boy tripped on it and rolled over on to the side of the field. The father could not believe what he was seeing. He almost prayed for this to happen and it happened. To his amazement and the bewilderment of the onlookers he started cheering the fall. Satish would be the champion. Its his race now. He had already started celebrating. "And the winner is David" shouted the voice in the microphone. Shocked, the father returned to his senses and tried to make sense of what had just happened!! As the other boy fell off the track, the first person to go to his aid was Satish!!