What I see is what my eyes can see (sometimes through some external device and the external device can be ‘other people’ too).
Before CanTHeeRava came into being, I used to write short articles that are now called blog entries. They were mostly sent as email newsletters to people I knew. Post CanTHeeRava…the story is well known to you. Here are some of those news letters, which might have been read at CanTHeeRava, had he existed online prior to 2008.
CKO 4860 (October 9, 2008)
You might know that mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan found what later came to be known as Ramanujan’s number, on a taxi’s number plate. It was not CKO 4860. This is another car’s registration number, which has stayed with me since I was seven years old.
I do not remember what day it was. However, I still remember very well the way I carefully cut a photograph of a car from the local newspaper of that day. No, it was not a race car. It was not that I was collecting photographs of cars for my album. It was a photo of a wrecked car. A car that a genius named Shankar Nag had driven a day before…
As a six year old second standard school kid, I was taught to collect interesting pictures from magazines and newspapers, which would tell stories by themselves. I started collecting photographs of eminent people, and natural scenery. Even to this day, I have a moderate collection of such images. The wrecked car of Shankar Nag was one of the images that made me cut it from a news paper and paste it in my book. No, I was not interested in accidents. I was told not concentrate on violence and bloodshed. Nevertheless, this photo made me do it. Why did this happen?
I had watched ‘Malgudi Days‘ on Doordarshan as a six year old. I could not understand Hindi. However, people in my house used to love the programme. They used to make specific mention of one man named Shankar Nag and used to praise him for his talent. They were very proud that Shankar Nag was from Karnataka. This made me think of Shankar Nag as an important person. When I saw that Shankar Nag had died in a car accident. I had to cut the photo of the car-wreck from the newspaper. It was more or less as a prompt response of a seven year old.
and after all these years, now, when I look at it I feel unlucky.
The MiRЯor Image (September 26, 2007)
I am not an avid admirer of Shahrukh Khan’s acting abilities. However, like many who share this view, I see an exception in ‘SWADES’. It is a good film in parts. Some of its scenes linger in the viewers’ mind for a long time. By chance, I relived one of the scenes of ‘SWADES’ at our home. This is a narrative of that incident.
If you would imagine a small, middle-middle class, conservative, and urban household, then it would be almost our home. It has an old fashioned charm about it. Because it is small, it brings the family together whenever we are at home at the same time. Sometimes it is a bit uneasy, and some other times it is a spectacle.
On one such day, all of us were busy eating in our living/dining room. My sister had turned on the TV. I had turned my back to it because of space constrain. I listened to it as if it were a radio and occasionally turned back to have a look when something sounded exciting. A popular channel was showing ‘SWADES’. I had watched it before. Hence, it didn’t rouse interest in me.
I could make out that it was the scene in which the joyous villagers get ready to watch a film show organized by their village panchayat, there would be a disappointing power cut during the show and the protagonist sings a song to keep the crowd occupied. Disturbingly, the panchayat film screen was projected from its ‘wrong’ side for a set of people that belonged to a particular community in the village.
As these scenes unfolded on the TV, I was quietly eating my curd-rice looking at the wall in front of me. I was also looking at a mirror on the wall and had watched the truncated panchayat film show on its ‘wrong’ screen position from the ‘right’ side.
A Lady at 60 (August 15, 2007)
Today someone I know, a lady turned 60. Normally, I do not fancy birthday celebrations. However, this is a special case. The sexagenarian deserves a neat celebration. It should be a low key affair, because she is a low profile lady. A personal whisper-wish would easily do it. It so happens, that she is also “the” land lady. I used to pay rent once in a year on her birthday. Mind you, this is not grace and favour business. Last time, I signed a ten year lease agreement.
With these things in mind, I start to her place. On reaching there, I see that she is not there. It occurs to me then that I last met her on her 50th birthday… Oh no! The agreement has expired. Where is she? I enquire at many places with little success.
I come back.
It is so hard to spot a lady at 60. Do I miss her?
I do not weep. My eyes go dry.
Three Fountain Pens (July 11, 2007)
When I was in primary school, I had a pen grip so firm that it could make four carbon copies without a carbon sheet! Although I preferred a fountain pen to a ball point pen, some limitations including the one mentioned above did not allow that. I had to wait till the first year of high school to put hands on my dream pen.
It all started with one of my paternal uncles gifting me a Hero pen in 1996. I struggled through the transition from a rotating grip to a stationary grip for some time. By the end of that year, it was smooth enough to answer tests. It became a permanent resident of my pocket soon after.
In 2002, on a rainy day in Bangalore, I met with an accident on my bicycle. I fell on my chest. Sadly, the pen that had served my cause for six long years with exemplary sincerity was crushed into pieces.
Fortunately, I had another Hero pen, which I used to carry during lengthy annual exams as my insurance. It made sure that I did not lose grip on my writing. Unlike its predecessor, this pen was at times adamant, yet saved its best performance for situations that mattered.
A couple of days ago, I took my pen out to sign a routine piece of paper. It was broken. There was no sign of any injury till the previous day. Quietly, I had lost a companion of eight years.
They had contrasting lives and ends. For me, it is a new beginning with a brand new pen. It will certainly take time getting used to it.
The Blame Game (May 27, 2007)
My friends and I wanted to obtain some documents from a government office for its submission in a court case. This was long after RTI was implemented. We unsuccessfully wrote to the officer in charge several times. Finally, we had to go to the office to collect the papers in person.
An employee of that office received us and enquired whys of our presence. He listened to our story and said that he would prepare the papers in our names for which we had to pay Rs500. In addition we needed to pay a fee of Rs1000. We did not know the application format to obtain what we needed. On top of that, we had no time to understand the sections and columns of the relevant act published in the gazetteer notification. We paid him what he asked for and tried to convince ourselves that it was his part time legitimate occupation.
Two days later, while looking for an address of a government office on the internet, we accidentally came across a catchy hyperlink. The link took us to a page full of Downloadable Model Applications in PDF, which was maintained by the government. To our shame, we found the format of the application that had cost us an illegal expenditure or should I say it was our stupidity that had cost us a lot more than 500 bucks.
Kaali Ghata (April 27, 2007)
In Carnatic classical music, ‘Ghatam’ is an important subordinate percussion instrument. It is made of burnt clay and is golden brown in colour. Its pitch is determined by its thickness and volume. It is unpredictable at times, because it is hard to tune. However, it is very consistent in speed and accuracy. This may sound contradictory. But, when played using all ten fingers at maximum speed, it follows the sound of hard hitting rain drops, inspiring the listener to lay back and relax. No confusions here.
An old vidwan once told me that about one hundred years ago, a pioneering Ghatam player in Tamil Nadu used a different type of Ghatam. It was black in colour, normally meant to store water and food grains. A Hindustani musician, who heard him play in a concert remarked that it really was a “Kaali Ghata”, [=Heavy Black Cloud in Hindi], a rich tribute indeed.
I wonder why we do not see it in present day concerts. The rain is no more unpredictably consistent, is it?
Kitaaaar (February 23, 2007)
Not so long ago, there was an extraordinary human being, whose name was taken in the same breath as the greats such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Heman, and others. He was famous for his easy solutions to complex problems in the universe. It was generally said that he could race against time and even win it!
Who was he? A leader of men, a hero…it is not a secret anymore. He was the great KITMAN. To give you an idea of his talents, some narratives are given below.
- A school bus was moving on a bridge. Unfortunately the breaks failed and the bus fell in the river. A school boy cried for help “Kitaaaar….”. The Kitman, who was fast asleep had a special device to detect distress calls. He rushed to the site of accident with his magic kit. He added some ‘thing’ to the river and astonishingly the portion under the bus solidified! The children were taken to safety. Wah…Kitman…wah!
- An isolated dwindling tribal population was troubled by a mysterious disease. On an ill-fated day, the tribe’s head (87) expired because of it. To spread the sad message, a vocal series accompanied by drums was arranged. The message said “Hogbitru, hogbitru…Kitaaaar…Kitaaaar…”. The Kitman, who was fast asleep, woke up and rushed to the spot with his magic kit. He collected a drop of blood from an ailing woman and added some ‘thing’ to it. The blood turned blue. He immediately knew what was causing all the trouble. He sent a wireless message to the nearest township and got them their life saving drugs. Wah…Kitman… wah…!
- In one of the democratic countries on the earth, an election was conducted for a local assembly. In a sensitive constituency, a polling station was rigged. The issue was taken to the court. Two men were taken to police custody for investigation. The two men did not yield even after undergoing severe punishment. They let go their pains by releasing an outcry “Kitaaaar….”. (Some old men say the intensity of the sound was so much that the only glass window of the King’s palace was broken into particles!) The Kitman who was fast asleep rushed to the station with his magic kit. He fed the accused with some ‘thing’ and they were turned inside out. He added some ‘thing’ to the voting machine and it showed what could have been the real scenario if the polls were not rigged. The policemen could not believe their eyes. Wah…Kitman…wah!
These are excerpts from the great Kitman saga. All of us need not be sad that we could not see him because the legend of the great Kitman still lives with us…with scientific laboratories around the world. The only difference now is, the outcry “Kitaaaar”, will not work the way it used to.
Lose Control (January 23, 2007)
“Doing an experiment without ‘control'”, said an experienced experimental scientist to an assistant “is as good/bad as not doing it”. The assistant could not understand what was told and started to control speed, emotions and many of his other qualitative traits while doing experiments.
A couple of days later, when he was asked to the results, he showed a single set of numbers corresponding to his experiment. The superior was furious at him. Luckily, he got another chance. This time he was particularly asked to incorporate both positive and negative controls. The assistant came back scratching his head.
He could not sleep that night. The controls haunted him like nightmares even in daydreams. He was silently screaming on top of his voice “what on earth is ‘control’?” He even doubted its existence on the earth.
The next morning, he went straight to the superior and poured his heart out. The supε could not believe it at once but later repented on his decision to have recruited such a dumb piece of *”^#.
The senior scientist had come across such experience before and wanted to know the reason behind such poor shows by new comers. He called upon his professor and scientist friends and convened a meeting to discuss the issue. They met in a beautiful place and shared their opinions. They unanimously concluded that the universities and colleges across the country had lost control over themselves. The resolution said,
• There was money, no accountability
• There were people, just unjust people
• There were students, the real sorry figures of the whole set up
• Everything was there, lacking everything
The participants decided to form a committee comprising top scientists and educationists, which would assess the situation in depth, and submit a report to the government within three months.
After the meeting, they had a small party. Many of them, typical of lonely scientific avocations could not help but smoke. They drank to their heart’s content, some of them to their gut-full.
Back at the senior scientist’s base, the reprimanded assistant had successfully completed the assignment. He was waiting to show some exciting results to his boss but received only a phone call, which said that his superior will come late because, a friend of his had lost control of a car, and was admitted to an ICU with multiple fractures.
In October by Default (October 5, 2006)
Three years ago, on a Sunday morning I was reading a news paper at home. I came across an advertisement on a national level essay competition organized to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s fifty fifth death anniversary. Listening to my natural inclinations I decided to write something on the given topic “Why did Gandhi die?”
I already had a couple of good books on Gandhi and India’s struggle for independence, which I had read in parts. I collected some more literature to support my writing.
The whole process of reading and making points was over within eight days. To my surprise the essay was ready in just three days that followed. After all it wasn’t more than one thousand words, was it? I made all the required refinements and posted a neatly written copy to the editor of the newspaper. Not to my surprise, I did not win a prize for that effort. I even forgot to check the contest result.
About a year later, purely to overcome boredom I watched a movie on Gandhi, nearly three hours of breathtaking recreation of history. That prompted me to collect more papers on Gandhi to correct my facts. It really helped to brush up a rusted, idol memory device. However, it did not last long. The repaired device of mine had almost no chance for it to be seen atleast once in a while.
Two years went by, and by chance I watched another modern confidence building movie [CBM] on Gandhi in a city theatre. I came home thinking about similar events in my past.
My half-baked quotes for an essay on the Mahatma, and the movies made on him told me,
“Gandhi died, perhaps because he was surrounded by people who did not know what he stood for, by people who needed contests and movies to think….”