Tuesday, December 19, 2017



"Books like friends should be good and few"

Over the years, I have gained a lot of friends  from childhood, school, college, early work, recent work, associations and social groups.

One despite being busy with one's own professional or business activities, should learn to nurture, continue and grow these friendships. After all, that is the purpose of life; what makes us different from the animals!

If you draw circles around you, the various zones around will form friends of differing types. It is good to know which zone, close or far, each friend belongs to. The same person may shift to various zones depending on your (or his/ her) commitments too!

What are friends for?

( I feel that you should learn to be at peace within yourself even when no one is around! 
The motto should be 'My best company is me!')

In general, friends are needed to 

- maintain social activities with 
- to call up and chat any time
- to seek advice from as and when you need it
- to give advice whenever it is asked for
- to confide in when in trouble or sadness.

To maintain good and long friendships, some qualities matter

- honesty
- regular contacts ( not necessarily frequent)
- learn to say 'no' to friends if it against your better judgement.If they cannot take it, the friendship is not worth it.
- regular hang outs coffee, jogging,social meetings to name a few, if they are locally placed.

Facebook friends and Whats App are applications where 'friends' are easily available nowadays. But in cyberspace, one should realize that what you say not only goes to 'friends', but also to ' friends of friends' whom you do not know.  Facebook also suggests 'friends' for you, which is not how it is done in real life. Good to be aware of these facts.

Hence in cyberspace, (Facebook, Whats App)
- never share intimate moments
- never share when you are too angry, too sad or emotionally upset
- never pass comments about anyone which you will not say directly to his / her face
- never bad things about your last job ( you need the reference. Also when you sleep over it, things look better the next day!)
- avoid political or religious strong sentiments
- never confidential statements about  your finances or your holidays when you are away from home,

Coming back to real friendships,
- be supportive and non judgmental
- Having said that, good friends sometimes give solid advice which are difficult to swallow! True friends do not hesitate to be critical, when you are going astray and doing something really, really stupid!
- If you can give more than you take, then you are a good friend in a relationship. The converse is also true, if your friend gives more than he / she takes, that person is a good friend!
- spare time when needed by your friend on occasions.

Now for the cautions in friendships!
- Money, booze and moral issues will and always do sour a friendship very rapidly. Not worth it.
- Do not intrude into a friend's personal matters uninvited. You may be in the wrong zone. Respect the privacy of your friend.
- In a similar fashion, till you know the other personal well, best keep a distance, criticize less and be less judgmental. 
- Last of all, when friendship involves people of opposite sex, DO NOT confuse friendship with love. If the lady is ever in love with you, she is capable of expressing it; do not be carried away by what you see in movies! 

Remember,'the rich and the famous ( nowadays the powerful too) have loads of friends'! If you are poor and a nobody, you will be lucky to have even a single one!

A common saying in New York is, "If you need a friend, get a dog!" It is true dogs make excellent friends. Totally non-verbal and totally true!

But that's an entirely a different topic!

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Choosing Christmas trousers

After discarding the ready-made trousers for Christmas saying that they were made more for mannequins than humans, I ventured to a local Sowripalayam shop for choosing the material.

The small shop near the bus stop had a young female at the cash counter – obviously the owner as she was more interested in browsing on the mobile phone. There was a solitary salesman who was balding and graying rapidly, (like me!)looking anxiously at me.

I asked him for the cloth for ‘trousers’. He repeated my request saying if it was for trousers. I affirmed whole heartedly!

He brought out some cotton material on the counter. It was a light blue cloth with large dark blue lines. To my dismay, this appeared to be the underwear material that the Tamil movie comedians like Senthil and Goundamani wear under their lungies, exposing the material to the world at large whenever they chose to!

I said,” What’s this?”

He answered, “Trouser cloth! What else? They move fast”.

By now, the owner got interested. I knew this, because she put away her mobile and looked towards me. She chipped in, “Everybody buys them!” 

She even looked surprised I had the audacity to question what it was!

“Not me,” I said.”I want trouser cloth!”

Both of them kept looking at me as though I was mentally challenged and repeated what they had uttered a minute ago!

I realized at the folly of this communication at last. My laughter finally broke the spell of misunderstanding!

I pointed to the trouser cloth section and said , “That!”.

Lady replied,” Oh that… Why didn’t you say so? That is pant and not trouser cloth!”

I told her that pants meant underwear in my dictionary. Before she got the wrong idea that I was getting fresh with her, it was best to explain what I meant!

I introduced myself as the local surgeon. As taught to me by Rev Fr Augustine of St Joseph’s School, Trichy, in UK English, 'pants' meant underwear and 'trousers' meant long men’s wear! 

In USA however,  pants meant the long stuff! I explained this in a way which Rev Fr Augustine no doubt would have approved! This was news to them! 

Furthermore, I added it was a 'pair of trousers' – as trouser meant only one leg! More news from Wren and Martin English grammar was imparted indeed, even when the book had gone out of print!!

Next stop was at the local tailor’s. 

Now this guy apparently knew me, as my wife was his doctor! Fortunate to have a popular physician wife!

Velu, my childhood tailor had always done 3 pleats for school shorts...... I used to loathe pleats! They made the shorts baggy. You felt you were walking, wearing a school bag!

Shorts with pleats used to look like the kakhi shorts worn by police constables of those days ( they used to run a lot after thieves to catch them those days!)

I used to long for pleatless shorts and trousers, but alas Velu had never yielded! 

My dad’s undeniable commandment to him was, ”Thou shalt stitch only pleated loose shorts for my son!”

Coming back to the present, the tailor silently took the measurements. I was wearing a pleatless one as a model – I did not say a word, secretly hoping that he had not seen snaps of my childhood shorts!

I also remember Velu used to routinely stitch 'cuffs' for the long trousers when I reached college. 

Cuffs were fold-ups in the bottom of the trouser legs. 

These folds were good for nothing, except to gather sand in them at the end of the day! I did not see any advantage of trouser cuffs, when compared to the more ‘modern’ legs without cuffs... except when you wanted to make the legs longer. 

You could just unfold the cuffs and the trousers instantly became longer. The very reason for fathers to love these !! But for some obscure reason, all the men I knew also wore trouser cuffs those days. Trousers with no cuff was considered 'revolutionary and forward'!

I recall my music teacher Mr Joseph had a habit using a couple of ‘trouser clips’ too. 

He would tuck the excess trouser leg in them to prevent getting it caught in the spokes of his bicycle wheel. The picture shows a modern plastic one!, thought I've never seen one for decades.

Nowadays, women with long pallu or dupatta travel without a care in the world, on two wheelers. I feel sad whenever I see this!  

Even when the traffic was slower in the past, the men were worried about getting the trouser legs caught in cycle spokes! How come now, we never worry about women’s safety ! Not to mention the pillion riders not wearing helmets as well! 

Be it as it may, I did not say anything about the trouser cuffs to Sowripalayam tailor. 

Asked when he’d deliver it, he said, “3 days”! This was news indeed!

 With Velu, it was always 1-2 weeks before we could progress to ‘trials’ for the trousers! 

During 'trials', he would make you stand up, put all sorts of pieces of trousers on you and hold them up by sticking pins into the cloth. 
One had to be careful to avoid the pins going through the genitals. 

I shudder to think back now, that Velu was a bachelor with no knowledge of anatomy!! My ignorant father used to watch all these pins going through all the cloth pieces without a single thought about the future of his son, happily giving useless suggestions like “An inch looser here, an inch longer there”.... sheesh!

No pair of trousers was ever stitched in 2 weeks’ time, even after the trial.

Another thing in fashion was the 'trouser fly'. This used to be made with buttons initially. After clearing up with dad, Velu chose the modern brass metal zipper! Which has now has given way to plastic ones! 

In the beginning , Velu was confused if the zipper was to open from the  top or from the bottom. This led to confusion in acute emergencies! This confusion was also transferred to me (and other customers, I am sure) during its use!

Anyway, now 3 days are over and I received my stitched trousers. They are excellent! Surprisingly no pleats and naturally no turn ups too!

Time has moved on! 

No one has the time or desire to shop for trousers cloth and visit a tailor to stitch! (I hear that women do still!) 

I am glad that I was born in the era when things were slower, cooler, less autonomous, with more interpersonal relationships overshadowed by parental supervision!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017



When we were kids, we had only fountain pens! ( Why fountain- I don't really know)  Ball pens were very new . No school, or legal papers allowed them. Nor did our parents!

My sister and I had one or two Hero pens each. 

Every Sunday, my dad used to take the pens apart, wash them, clean them, fill them up with ink and make sure they work well. 

So the pens were always in working condition all the time. Hero pens were difficult to kill. Believe me, my sister and I tried to, several times!!

Before my father's era, there were quill pens.They did not contain the ink, but only the nib which had to immersed in the ink every time you wrote a line!

Do you know that the most interesting and romantic love letters were written with the quill ink pens. They were slow to write with and were laborious. The writer had time to put his thoughts in order before writing the words! 

But after the advent of ball pens, the love letters are much shorter because the pens moved on paper faster than the thoughts in the brain! Now with mobiles, the emoticons have away even words!

But I digress!

Recently, (with my young grandson opening cupboards and old packages) I have come across an army of fountain pens discarded, labelled as non functional lying around.

Remembering my late father, and his old habits, I gathered the pens, took them apart, cleaned them, and de-clogged the nibs of pens, watched on by my family with amusement.

Much to their dismay (and to my joy!),  all the pens are now functional and filled with ink - ready to be written with- ha ha!

'THE (FOUNTAIN) PEN-DRIVE'  has been been a successful mission after all !

Imagine my surprise when today my son Pravin dropped on my lap about half a dozen discarded ink pens, to be fixed! 

One fine day, I guess my grandson would expect him to do the honours!!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A visit to Little Flower Monastery


Rev Fr Francis an old friend visited me a couple of days ago. He is a busy and important man. He came to invite my family for the Feast of St Theresa of Child Jesus, in Coimbatore. It was being held at Little Flower Monastery, Saibaba Colony.

Lisieux School

Being schooled in a traditional Roman Catholic School – St Joseph’s in Trichy, I knew a feast meant a church meeting, a remembrance of saint who had done yeoman service to humans in the name of God.

Not to be ministered unto but to minister

Also near to where I used to live in Puliakulam road, Coimbatore, is a Little Flower Orphanage run by nuns. People of all faiths and all religions used to visit on some festive day (birthday of their loved ones, death anniversaries) and donate generously food, clothes, music and time to the inmates. The inmates were the abandoned elderly, the terminal, the orphans and the unloved people on this earth. My late dad used to visit the Little Flower Orphanage and apparently used to donate stuff on all our birthday – something I heard of, only after his death.

Along with my son Pravin, I attended the service today for 45 minutes, followed by lunch by the order of Little Flower Monastery to the priests, the parishioners and some of the invited guests. People of all religion were invited to it and that was the speciality.

What impressed me were many things. First of all, the punctuality of entire event. Lisieux School is a very popular school and the Little Flower Monastery is situated in it. The school is comprehensive with full complement of class rooms, playing courts and other facilities.


The chapel in the campus was a piece of art. One felt that one was sitting inside a museum in Italy the Vatican city and not in Coimbatore. The painted cut glass had inscriptions of incidents from the Scriptures done in an elaborate style.

Suffering of Christ

Glass etching is done by creating art on the glass by a laborious process of application of acidic, caustic and abrasive materials. Dr Alisha Eva Mervyn has performed and shown me the results. This takes effort, skill and time. It stands the stead of time over centuries. 

Crucifixion of Christ

Replica of the painting on the ceiling - of Michaelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ reminded me of the Sistine Chapel. The picture shows two figures God and Adam. God is shown as an elderly but muscular with along beard and drapery surrounded by angels without wings. God is not depicted as the all powerful one with royal garments, but draped in a simple drapery showing He is easily amenable to Adam and to the common man.

Paining of God and Adam 

The dome of church was concave and was outstanding with painting of the dove trifurcating to meaningful themes. Domes of Vatican churches depict history from the Bible and this dome too stood as a lesson the history of mankind.

Painted Dome

The interior color theme was brown, acoustics were perfect like in a music studio. The chapel had many doors leading to it and the seating was on wooden spacious pews.

The altar depicts the holiest aspect of church and it showed just by looking.


Being a Christian, I am used to live organ music in church. It was a novel experience to hear the recorded songs sung in Karnatic style of serene music. One could have easily heard this music anywhere. It was melodious and soothing to the soul.

The priest in charge and Rev Fr Francis spoke on St Therese and Little Monastery respectively.

Rev Fr Francis

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897) is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Pope Saint Pious X called her "the greatest saint of modern times". Rev Fr Francis spoke on the achievements of Lisieux institutions including the international school. Avila convent was mentioned for producing outstanding examination results and young women of high caliber. He also thanked the mixed gathering of priests, nuns and the general public.

Followed by the feast. I was so happy to meet my friend of long standing Rev Sister Shaliny, the Principal of Avila Convent.

Rev Sis Shaliny, Principal of Avila Convent

Rev Sister Shaliny has received numerous awards as the best teacher and the principal by government and rotary clubs of Coimbatore and around. Time may have passed over the decades, but friendship and fellowship of the church remains the same!

Our luncheon table was shared with Dr Janardhanan, an old friend and surgeon. He told me that every year he was a guest of the church and he made it a point to attend. All our religions, devotion to the higher power help us to become better humans. An interaction with social mingling goes a long way to understanding and peace.

(Special thanks to Dr Pravin Hector John for his expert pictures used here) 

Monday, June 12, 2017

KAVAN - a movie with chilling association between TV media and the politicians

KAVAN - a movie with chilling association between TV media and the politicians

We the public are often played for suckers by the media' is the social message delivered by the Movie KAVAN! There is most likely more truth in the movie .....

..where the young honest journalist watches the commercial corporate TV media collide with politicians and crooked police to frame a young couple of mixed faith of terrorism. This is not true and is due to the political power behind all the cover up and the selfish game to fool the public.

Movie shows that there are good police and bad police officials; good journalists and bad journalists; good media moguls and bad moguls. 

The TV channel boss - one of the main villains plays on the news media, parts of the clips taken in the same political rally at various intervals , initially to promote the politician and later on to degrade him, as he has stopped paying the channel the promotion fee!!

I felt I was watching the national TV news when I saw the movie. 

Take note -we only see what they want us to see; that is the message from this masala movie where one unnecessary song has 19 change of clothes for the hero and heroine (yes, I actually counted)!

Movie may not be actually worth it, but the social message is - don't believe everything you see on TV!

Saturday, June 10, 2017



“I have miles to go before I sleep,
I have miles to go before I sleep”
                                  Robert Frost    

Most of us say in our country that we need to improve like the west… that we need to become honest and not remain corrupt in various departments. Some would respond to this with ‘this will take years’. Some say ‘never’.

I wish to introspect and see how we can improve with whatever limited sources we have, to enable us to become a better society.

I am not for a moment saying that the advanced societies are better than us in every way. What I mean is we need to learn the good things from other country systems and follow them to improve our ways. We have no reason to hero worship anyone because we are already a diverse, ancient culture with most things to be proud of and have survived centuries of history.

My last month holiday in US was an eye opener. I have worked abroad for many years, but never spent 30 days as holidays. My wife and I looked around 6 states there and hence I have a bird’s view of how different we are from them. I have outlined the top 10 things which we can improve.

1.       Toilets
2.       Public Littering
3.       Courtesy to other humans
4.       Parking on the road
5.       Driving on the road
6.       Minding your own business
7.       Emergency services response by officials
8.       Museums and preservation of history/ ancestry
9.       Treating the prince and the pauper alike
10.   Learning from children

1.       Toilets:

Since the recent years, the number of toilets in India, especially in the north has tremendously increased. What do this mean to the man or a tourist on the road?     
One sees people urinating on the road (even this morning on the main road at 6 am) every day.

When we took the guided tour through New York City (NYC) our articulate guide Jimmy said that in NYC “Law in New York states that all hotel restrooms have to be made available to members of the public if they want to use them.”

In the Times Square, I tested the theory by walking into Sheraton Hotel and asking the receptionist for direction to the rest room who cheerfully directed me to it.

If only we can do this in all the cities in India, a man on the road who wants to piddle can use the toilet close by. My neighbourhood has at least 4 restaurants in the distance of about 50 meters; so that man this morning could have used any of these!

The government need not spend any extra amount of money in building good public toilets for the travelers.

2.       Public Littering :

Civic sense is what we need. Civic sense is but social ethics. It is consideration by the people for the unspoken norms of society. A lot of people assume that civic sense is just about keeping the roads, streets and public property clean. The least we can do is at least follow this path!

The news in papers and televisions are about hero worshipping matinee idols/ sports stars/ people in public life. If only the media moguls can support the public by releasing videos of how we should not throw plastic bags, bottles, papers, etc in public by the so called ‘heroes’.

Using the TV media and public hoardings, we need to create the awareness that the public places should be kept as clean as home. If we can rope in these ‘heroes’ in the advertisements, it will not only catch the public eye,  improve the public education , but also build up the ego of these chaps!

People need to collect the rubbish from homes and dump it in the dumpsters kept by the road side. Most houses are already doing this on a daily basis. But the man on the road tends to throw the bags and papers around and this should be curbed.

All the public display areas like museums, parks in the west are spotless (well, almost!) as folks collect all their stuff in a bag when done and take them home to dispense.

The westerners have gone on further to split their waste into two bags, recyclable and non-recyclable. If this is not done, their bags are not collected by the municipality and left outside their house. We will need to get this done as a later step.

3.       Courtesy to other humans:

Westerners tend to say, “Hello, how are you today, howdy” to strangers in malls, in the airports very easily and smile at you.

Naturally this is regional. You cannot expect a man in NYC or East Coast to be nice to you. I guess that a man in Mumbai or Delhi may not be civil to a stranger like you given the busy nature of his work, and the speed of life. But on an average, the Indians do not do this. We tend not to smile at strangers.

This morning I smiled at a random stranger on the road and nodded and he returned it! So if we initiate something courteous first, the others will follow.

Same as holding the door open for someone.

We need to be courteous to foreign nationals too. They are here only for a short while. Any kind act (like direction to a place/ restaurant) will always be remembered by them. After all, by doing so, you are improving the image of 1.311 billion Indians.

4.       Parking on the road:

I have touched upon parking as this is simpler than driving.

We need to park our two and four wheelers in consideration to other people who are parking around us.

If there is space for two vehicles, I have seen guys pulling up in centre- never understood why.

I have seen police and VIP cars in parked in restricted areas ( no parking zone – obstructing pedestrians’ path)  in movie theaters late at night. Again why does the public official coming for a late night movie use the restricted pedestrians’ path for parking? We should actively encourage our public and our public servants to use sense in parking.  

5.       Driving on the road: 

I have seen so many advertisements in movies for beverages, toiletries, food, etc on the TV.

If only we can slow some slides ( during the commercial breaks) about driving on the left of the road, the lane discipline (drive in the left lane, use middle for overtaking and the right for turning to right), precautions prior to overtaking another vehicle ( look in the rear view mirror, right signal, look over the right shoulder, step up to right, check road ahead, overtake reasonably rapidly, check rear view mirror, signal left and after leaving a safe distance shift to left land, cut out your left signal and slow down).

Over speeding is something only strict enforcement can control. But we can try incorporating slides in the TVs about the speed limits.

6.       Minding your own business:

”An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”

I have almost never seen any westerner loitering on the road with nothing to do and watching the road.

Life is short! I wouldn’t like to spend the rest my life looking at what each stranger on the road is doing!

7.       Emergency services response by officials

London police responded in 8 minutes in the busy central London a few days ago to a terrorism call . This is characteristic of an advanced society.

If there is fire call, or a call to the police, emergency time of response should be a measure of response.

This we need to inculcate in our culture. We should not be happy that they arrived, but how quickly they responded and how efficiently they controlled the situation.

8.       Museums and preservation of history/ ancestry

Museums of art, museums of music, museums of Indian American culture, museums of space, and what not – are a noticeable factor of the west. The places are well kept, videos displaying the events. Live people ( paid actors/ unpaid volunteers) act out in old uniforms how people lived in the society in the past! These are place like a drama during day time every day so that  school children are brought to these museums to learn history!

We are one of the most ancient societies of the world! We need to look at our own museums, how well kept they are – there is no need for me to say anything more. All I know is I come from a great, ancient culture and I am proud of it. But how am I going to show it to the children, tourists and the future generations?

9.       Treating the prince and the pauper alike:

This is where we grossly differ as a third world.

We know how we give preferential treatment to our affluent society members, how the VIPs put in a word for their relative , etc. Even in immigration queues, the foreign Indians coming into India, who all their lives have been standing in queues abroad for buses, shops, post offices, rest rooms, etc…. suddenly jump the queue in front of others, swarm around and obscure the queue.

This culture is in-built in us and we need to break this habit. We need patience, learn to take a deep breath and wait our turn. But we can only do this, if the system is fair and just.

For instance, an American surgeon told me, there was one donor liver for transplant. Waiting for the liver were a homeless person (term for a very poor man on the road) and a minister in the government. The donor liver was transplanted to the homeless person as he was ahead of the minister in the list in the government hospital.

We know this involves educated people (doctors, hospital administrators), government officials. But justice and system prevailed and the minister had to wait for his liver in the west.

When we do this freely on our own volition and the system allows this (system is only us – the humans!), we are a civilized nation.

When we care for the handicapped, weak, poor and the minorities – and not marginalize them, then we are an advanced and civilized nation.

10.   Learning from children:

This is philosophical – I have an infant grandson who is teaching me a lot of new things in life.

From him, I have learnt –

·         Always to be happy,
·         Always to be doing something or other,
·         Never to give up in doing things which you really love in life,
·         Demand loudly whatever you want for not worrying about consequences &
·         Forgive & forget easily (life is too short to be bitter! )

I know that children consider all humans to be equal. As they grow up, they learn from parents and the society that all humans are not equal – this is something we need to correct! The fault is in the humans and the system. We can still do this!

Do one good act to a stranger every day, without expecting anything in return and we will be a better society!