Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jugadoo.com

Dr.Rohanbabu is pacing the hall up and down. His hands are holding one another at his back! There is a frown on his face. He is in deep thought contemplating on some new project.
Dr.Babu suddenly stops pacing, picks up the phone and summons one of his aides by name Muthiah to discuss with him a concept that has just germinated in his 'fertile' brain.
As soon as Muthiah arrives, Dr.Babu gets to brass tacks. He declares to Muthiah that he intends to start an institute to teach management to aspiring students.
'Quality education?' queries Muthiah; himself an eminent educationist.
'Not necessarily. But it will be practical education' clarifies Dr.Babu.
Muthiah being a committed educationist immediately goes in to planning mode and innocently reminds that a vast area of land will be required to start a campus.
'We will manage it with the state. I have buddies both in the opposition as well as the ruling parties' says Dr.Babu.
I want to have it affiliated to IIM-A dictates Dr.Babu.
'That may not be possible' a shocked Muthiah blurts trying to hide the expression of shock on his face.
'Don't worry, we will manage it. I have friends in the centre' assures Dr.Babu.
'What about the faculty, sir?', Muthiah seeks enlightenment!
'Don't worry,we will manage it by drawing faculty from our existing institutes' reassures Dr.Babu.
'But we do not have faculty who can teach management subjects', a surprised Muthiah observes.
'Don't worry.Let them teach whatever they can teach. It is after all management. We will manage it', an axiomatic reply from Dr.Babu!
'What about the practical part that you have mentioned?' asks Muthiah.
'I will teach it myself' confirms Dr.Babu.
On this one idea, Muthiah looked convinced. He had seen 'Babu'manage successfully to become 'Dr.Babu'.
'What about student placement?' queries Muthiah.
'We will do some "Jugad" like...'
Before Dr.Babu unfolded his strategy, the alarm clock gave out the wake up ring and my dream ( nightmare) broke.
After all, it was a dream!. I heaved a sigh of relief...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thank God,I am an atheist!

I am a "part time atheist". When the going is good,I am an "atheist"and whenever the going gets tough,I become a "theist"! In all my 62 years of life,I have not met a full time atheist yet.
Recently I met a person who appeared and sounded like an atheist. I was very happy because for me an atheist is God himself!
I wanted to make sure. For this,I started narrating a story written by 'Binadevi' (a pen name) to this new friend. I read this story a long time back and it influenced my thinking greatly thereafter.
The story goes like this.
There was this doctor in charge of a rural health centre in some Indian village. One day, two patients were brought to his place; greviously injured in an accident and unconcious. One of the two was driving a bullock cart which was hit 'head on' by a limousine being driven by the second injured. The doctor did not know any of them from adam. Each of the injured needed to be operated upon forthwith for survival.
The doctor had to choose!
The doctor chose the car driver for surgery and the bullock cart driver got only first aid. In the very little time available for a decision and in the absence of any data, the lone doctor thought that death of the car driver will have a more severe impact on his immediate family eventhough death causes the same grief in all households.
As expected, the bullock cart man dies and the car owner survives.
Subsequently,the doctor gets to know that the car owner had developed suicidal tendencies for some time due to certain personal issues and is often getting involved in accidents. This accident is sixth in the order!
The bullock cart man is the lone breadwinner for his nonagenarian mother!
The doctor feels very sad at his decision.
Concluding the narrative,I exclaimed that 'God's ways are mysterious!'
My new friend objected to this and said 'where is God in this? It is only chance' .By saying so he failed my test . He is not an athiest. He is a believer.
What I call as 'God' is referred to as 'chance' by him.
My search for an atheist continues!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Snow white and the 'six' dwarfs

It all happened in the very early 50's of twentieth century while I was studying in the Infant class in a Roman Catholic school in Bhimli,a small seaside town in Southern India.Though a girl's school, it offered co-education up to 5th.class.
Every year,there used to be a gala function on Holy Mother's Day (I am not sure about this name).During the function,toppers in academics,sports,fine arts etc. used to be awarded.In addition,there used to be music,dance and drama performed by children of various classes.That year it was decided to stage a drama wherein children from the entry level can perform together with students from the higher classes.The story chosen was 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs';the story of a beautiful girl, Snow White who "takes refuge in the forest in the house of seven dwarfs to hide from her stepmother, the wicked Queen. The Queen is jealous because she wants to be known as "the fairest in the land," and Snow White's beauty surpasses her own. The dwarfs grow to love their unexpected visitor, who cleans their house and cooks their meals. But one day while the dwarfs are at their diamond mine, the Queen arrives at the cottage disguised as an old peddler woman and persuades Snow White to bite into a poisoned apple. The dwarfs, warned by the forest animals, rush home to chase the witch away, but they are too late to save Snow White from the poisoned apple. They place her in a glass coffin in the woods and mourn for her. The Prince, who has fallen in love with Snow White, happens by and awakens her from the wicked Queen's deathlike spell with "love's first kiss."
Sister Grace cast me as one of the seven dwarfs.Being the smallest of the seven,I was only to walk behind the other six as a tag.Each dwarf was to have long white beard.The costumes were made ready.Rehearsals were held.Everything was hunky dory.On the day of drama,we were all made up(Surgical cotton was used as beards for us.)and asked to walk on to the stage.As soon as I walked on to the stage,a small speck of cotton entered my nostril making me sneeze heavily resulting in my white beard getting blown off!.This scared me and I ran backstage crying.
The show however went on well and the audience applauded!
When the actors were being introduced to the audience at the end of the show,sister Grace called out my name also.I went on to the stage without my beard and with lot of tears in my eyes. Sister Grace gave me a hug that made me beam again!
There was a thunderous applause from the audience;an applause for the sister's Grace which is unforgettable!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Learnings on the Cricket field...

In a family of 10 children,I was the ninth; born 62 years ago in a sleepy little town on the eastern coast of peninsular India.
The world that I was born into was a lot different from what it is now in terms of the lifestyles of people.The present day conviniences and comforts were absent then. But 'comforting' I got in ample measure whenever I was in distress!
My mother as also the six brothers and two sisters who are elder to me, pampered me; pampered only up to certain limits permitted by the dictates of dicipline and restricted by the limitation on resources caused due to the sad and sudden demise of my father.
Their love for me was boundless!
At that point of time, giving good education to the younger brothers was of utmost concern for my older brothers. As a result of this, all of us got good education and could do very well in our lives.
In the large middle class families like ours all expenses were pre-budgeted and pocket money for children was unknown in those days. Given the conditions as they were, we the younger ones followed good financial dicipline.
It was fun growing up in such a big loving family!
Until I joined college where sporting facilities are available, I was happy practising only gully cricket for relaxation.
Most of the times I used to be fielding in the deep third man position. During practice, I rarely used to get a chance to bat and almost never a chance to bowl!
The field gear for playing consisted of four bamboo sticks. The bat belonged to one of the team members and he got it as a gift from his father! This was a very costly and rare gift in those days.
The owner of the bat was ipsofacto the captain of the team and he could call all the shots!
Pads, guards and gloves including the wicket keeper's were unaffordable. However the ball used for playing was a regular leather one bought on contributary basis; a rupee from each player.
Even when I could not pay my contribution, I used to still go to watch the others practising. As the wicket keeper was not provided with the required protective gear, most of the times he used to go through all the movements like in test matches only to let go the ball!
There used to be thus a need for a deep third man right on the boundary line to stop/retrieve the ball. The captain(who owns the bat) perforce used to ask me to take up that position and field.
Because of my great love for the game,I used to do this with the utmost dedication. My fielding skills got honed up in the process!
Perhaps to keep me motivated, the captain was once in a while allowing me to bat. I always made the best use of these chances to sharpen my batting skills. I soon realised that for one to become good at batting,one has to be fearless and should never take his eyes off the ball right from the time that it leaves the bowler's hand till it is dispatched properly for runs.
Also one should never leave the stumps and shuffle towards legside even when the bowler is throwing bodyline. Afterall there is a bat in hand!
The mantra is 'stay there! runs will come your way!'
Is it not equally true for our lives? Stay on and maintain the right poise. Everything that's due comes your way!
Whenever another team challenged ours for a weekend game, I always was in the playing eleven of our team because I could save a lot of runs fielding at deep third man position in addition to chipping in with a few runs myself.
Whatever is to be done is to be done with gusto!
Whenever I ruminate on these childhood happenings,the words of Bharat Ratna M.Visweswarayya ring in my ears- "If your job is to sweep,sweep it in the best possible way that none can excel you..."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Laaga Chunari mein daag!!

The other day I was baby sitting Shreyas, my grandson. My wife was doing some work in the kitchen. Gayatri and Kishore went to 'Babiesrus' to buy things for their son Shreyas.

The scene was 'picture perfect'! Sitting by the side of Shreyas, I was hearing to music on my laptop. Manna De was singing soulfully the song "Laaga Chunari mein daag" from the hindi film 'Dil hi to hai'.

Suddenly Shreyas started crying and I was at a loss to know what triggered this. I tried all known gimmicks to pacify him. His crying only became louder. It was then that my wife dashed an advice from the kitchen 'Laaga Chunari mein daag ani padutunnaadu kadandi, Diaper check cheyyandi(It is being sung that there is a patch, please check the diaper)'. Lo and Behold when I checked his diaper there was a blue patch on it -which appears when an infant pees!

What a telepathic prompt from my wife!

It is like Ammamma.com!

I always consider her as a SME(Subject Matter Expert) in such realms.This view of mine got further fortified after this incident.

After diaper change,Shreyas started playing.He looked enchanting and I tried to attract his attention by doing various antics.He seemed to be oblivious of my efforts and is dwelling in his own different world.Why this indifference?

I was trying to seek some enlightenment on this matter from my wife.

Just then Mannada started singing the last stanza of the song which is "woh duniya more babul ka ghar,yeh duniya sasural".This suddenly prompted an answer in my head.
If every child born in to this world is coming to his or her 'sasural',it is quite natural for it to feel a little shy initially.It is not indifference as I thought but shyness.
I got the enlightenment!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Antardrishti, the magic formula!

Some years back,I read a story in a telugu magazine. Though a little on the lighter side,it has a message. The story goes like this. God once visited this earth taking on himself human form to have a look at the way that his creation is. Some how word went around that God is at a particular place in a particular form of a human being. Sooner people started flocking around him. Quickly there collected a sea of humanity. Each person has a wish or two to be asked from him. A torrent of wishes!
God felt bamboozled and helpless!
He starts running away from the crowd. The humans start chasing God carrying their wish lists along. Afterall it is their home ground!
A worried (?) God in the front and a sea of humanity following him in a chase!
Just then,an old woman with a hay stack on her head came walking towards them. She looks askance at the man in the front and enquires as to who he is and why he is running away from the crowd. The conversation goes like this.
Old woman: "Who are you?"
The person:"I am God."
Old woman:"Who are running behind you?"
The person:"They are my creation."
Old woman:"Why at all are you running away from them?"
The person:"I have no time to talk to you. Kindly suggest a place where I can
hide from them."
Old woman:"If you are God, you better hide in their hearts because that is the only
place where they do not search for you!"
There is lesson in what the old woman hinted at.
We do not feel lonely and forlorn if we look inwards.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Phir bhi Dil hai Hindustani!!

Our Grandson Shreyas is American!!
Me and my wife are strongly native and Indian inside out. This Indianness made us overly conscious of the way children are brought up in America. The care starts in the hospital itself. Children are treated with utmost caution. Whenever a child is being wheeled past the hospital elevator, there comes an alarm and the doors do not open!
It is however intersting to know that while the Indian and chinese cultures actually dictate that new moms do not leave the house for about a month after child birth, the americans opine that this may develop a case of cabin fever! The fear of swine flu is however keeping infants from being taken out.
I know that in certain Asian and African cultures babies are not put in disposable diapers. Whenever a baby awakens, or the parent notices certain cues, the parent places the baby at a designated area to pee or poop. Social norms in America forbid it. Diapers, diaper changing stations, diaper disposal genies and the associated literature etc. constitute an industry which is perhaps worth billions of dollars.
Such variations- to name a few- in infant management practices surely worried us a bit initially. However we have adopted the practices prevalent here and have started understanding the convinience therein.
Moreover the appreciative way in which Shreyas reacts to chants like 'Narayana kavacham','RamaRaksha stotram' or 'Balamukunda ashtakam' is very heartening.
He seems to be telling us that 'I am an american by birth, phir bhi dil hai hindustani'!!
Shreyas thus has the best of both the worlds...

Whenever a child is born,so are grand parents!!

It was a great event in our lives. It happened on the 7th of october -my birth day.
Shreyas was born in South Seminole Hospital,Orlando,Florida. After a tough labour,my daughter Gayatri gave birth to Shreyas. The attending doctor was Dr.Bishop supported very efficiently and tirelessly by nurse Ramona.
My wife Durga was by our daughter Gayatri's side chanting prayers. It was very gallant of Durga to be there comforting Gayatri and fighting back tears welling up in her eyes while watching her daughter undergoing painful labour.Only a mother can do that. It is very rightly said that as God can not be everywhere,He created mothers- mothers like Durga!
Presence of Dr Shailaja Nadkarni (fondly called as 'Amma' ) all through provided a great emotional support system besides the professional reassurance that she as a doctor gave to Durga, Gayatri and Kishore-the expecting Dad.
At 6:22PM EST, Shreyas was born into this world. After the first bath, Shailaji took Shreyas to the window to give him the first glimpse of the Sun god- our 'prathyaksha daivam'.
Whenever a child is born so are grand parents!!
Durga became 'Ammamma'! and myself 'Tata'!!
My son Harish is thrilled to have become a 'mama'.
As parents ourselves with two beautiful children between us, we still felt thrilled at the arrival of this little one who as vishwakavi Rabindranath Tagore said brought the divine message that God continues to have faith in human beings!
It was around 4AM in India, by which time a photograph of Shreyas was emailed to his mama Harish, who inturn transmitted it to all our near and dear immediately. My elder brother 'Subrahmanyam annayya', complimented us and said that we have all become grandparents yet again.
How grand is grandparenthood!! Thank you Shreyas...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A WINDOW TO THE INFINITE

Some years ago, during a chat, my daughter Gayatri asked me from USA (at that time I was working in India) as to how she should start a narration of the story of Hanuman to a class of tiny tots of the Baalavihar at the Chinmaya mission, Orlando. The children belonged to the age group between 4 and 6 years she said. I suggested to her that in order to ensure ready participation, she should start the narration with a poser to the class like "who is the strongest man they can name?".Being ignorant myself of the quality of children in the Balavihar, I thought that the replies to this question would be something like 'superman','spiderman', ‘He Man’ and so on. My daughter, I suggested, should then tell the children that there is a 'Man' more powerful than all the earlier named and that is 'Hanuman'. My daughter somehow agreed to my naive suggestion and started the said class with the suggested question. When she had put the question to the class, then to her utter surprise and delight the class replied in chorus 'HANUMAN'!

When she told this to me during my next chat I was very glad.

Some decades ago, I had the great privilege of listening to the 'Gurudev' live on two occassions. I was amazed at his learning, scholarship and his energy levels. One of the batons passed on by 'Him' is being faithfully carried on by the wise elders in Orlando-I thought.

On another occasion my daughter narrated another amusing anecdote about a child in her class who one day came up to her and told thus. 'Ms.Gayatri, I am now able to understand Sanskrit'. My daughter then enquires as to what is the latest that she has understood. The child replies that 'Bhagawan uvacha' means 'Bhagawan is watching us'. Meanings apart, it was an interesting view point of a child who is initiated in to right thinking!

I had started becoming inquisitive!

I started attending the Balavihar classes of my daughter through distant learning mode! in my late 50's!!

I was getting eager to meet the great persons behind the mission work at Orlando and also my tiny little co-alumni!!

In 2008, a chance came my way to visit USA on business. While on this trip, I took a short leave from my work and rushed to Orlando to meet my co-students at the Orlando mission. Balavihar I realized is being run in conformity with Gurudev's view that 'children are not vessels to be filled but lamps to be lit'.

This visit was a great eye opener for me. Meeting with a person like Shailaji taught me humility.

A visit to the mission boosted my energy levels. All the persons that I met in the mission are 'achievers’, ‘successful in their respective fields of activity' and 'normal'. The ambience in the mission reminded me of the words of Stendhal "the normal most regularly approaches the sublime". Living such soulful life in the midst of modern pressures requires one to walk in the footsteps of a 'Master'. Blessed are all those at the mission who get this chance in abundance.

My first visit to the mission was brief. I had to get back to business in Chile. However the urge to get back to the mission became strong.

How lucky I am!

This time I am on a longer visit to Orlando along with my wife!

We have already attended a few study group sessions at the mission.

These gatherings of well accomplished and well educated men and women sitting together trying to understand the ultimate truth are greatly inspirational. Each may be looking through his or her window of experience but the view they seem to be getting is the same-the INFINITE.

Our latest visit to the mission was on the saptami day of Navaratri. After the day's puja, while taking the prasadam from Shailaamma I murmured to myself "Jnana Vairagya siddhyardham Bhiksham dehicha Paarvati"- an involuntary act