Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rajiv Gandhi

Most people, including many Indians think that Rajiv Gandhi is son or grandson of the founder of the independent India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [Mahatma Gandhi].In fact Rajiv is no relation of M.K. Gandhi. He is the first son of Indira Gandhi, Indias prime minister [nemesis?] for 15 long years. Indira was the only daughter of our blue eyed boy, the first prime minister of independent India Jawaharlal Nehru. Then how did Rajiv become a Gandhi? Indira Priyadarshini Nehru [Indira’s full name] married a Parsi called Feroz Gandhi. Feroz and Indira could not get along and the marriage did not last long but succeeded in producing two boys, Rajiv the elder and Sanjay the younger. So by a different route both the daughter and grandson of Jawaharlal acquired the sir name Gandhi. This no doubt did them some good as many ignorant Indians thought them to be old man Gandhi’s relatives and so can do no wrong and thus voted for them!

Indira Gandhi was assassinated 25 years ago and bereft of leadership the congress party roped in Rajiv Gandhi who was then a happy airlines Pilot, and made him the prime minister. For few days after the assassination, the country was in chaos and that is the time when the country was literally burning and Sikh’s were being targeted and murdered [Indira’s assassins were Sikhs], Rajiv made the now infamous statement, when a giant falls the earth tremors’ meaning that the riots were a consequence of the giant[Indira] falling. I have not come across a more stupid statement to make given the situation in the country. I still remember the shock I went through when Sikhs who have done so much for this nation being murdered in cold blood by the mostly Hindu riff raff. And here was an important person, future PM of the country making such a stupid remark.

It is twenty years since the fall of Rajiv Gandhi. He too was assassinated. This time the dastardly act was done by Tamil militants whose case Rajiv stoutly and rightly had opposed. I had admired Nehru and he was my child hood hero. History made me revise my opinion. His daughter came to power when I had grown up and began my life as an adult. I went through the pains as a result of her terrible rule and came to dislike her and that dislike still stands. The dislike was carried forward to his son too and I took to looking anything that Rajiv did as a prime minister with suspicion. Now with 20 years gone since he died I have come to believe that he was the best of the three Nehru/ Gandhi’s in prime ministerial performance. He was not exceptional but was better than the mother and grandfather who did nothing to improve the country and in fact steadily took the nation down the economic slide. My generation bore the brunt of their policies and therefore the grudge.

His freshness at looking at problems helped in his performance, He was unlike his mother and grandfather, not taken up with socialism and had a healthy respect for enterpreunership.He knew that he country can only progress if the economy opened up and the beginnings of what we see today started when he was the PM. Nevertheless his tenure was none extra ordinary and he could not shake up the ponderous and corrupt beurocracy and was forced to get along. He also made some blunders and the one which ultimately cost him his life was the unwanted interference into the affairs of SriLanka. Sending Indian army to fight Tamil tigers was his worse blunder. The other was the stink of Bofors gun deal. That it helped his Italian relatives is public knowledge though successive governments have tried hard to obliterate the traces to keep the Gandhi honor going.

But when he lasted he was different especially when compared to his mother.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pulled tooth and the eyelid droop

If you ask anyone what is required to live one would normally answer air, water and food. If you were to ask me I would add one more item, gossip. For many, gossip is even more important than the first three. Without gossip they would not be able to spend their time. The communication revolution has greatly contributed to the spread of gossip and has become a very important aspect of our lives. While most gossip is innocuous, some can cause lot of problem. Here is a real life example.

My friend Dr Ravi Rao, practiced dentistry for four decades and recently gave it up and went back to work for his first love, Moral rearmament movement [MRA]located at Panchgani. This incident narrated here involving Ravi occurred many years ago and as the main actors are dead and gone it is safe to tell the story.

There is a fairly large Syrian Orthodox Christian community settled in Bangalore. Originally from Kerala, they are now fairly prosperous residents of this city. They trace their origin to Thomas, one of the first disciples of Jesus. [For more info go to Google search].Their ancestry is not important to the story but the closeness of the members of the community is. They are concentrated in the east Bangalore where Ravi Rao’s practice was located [incidentally mine too]. They have their own church and this acts a centre point of all their activities and needless to say also to share information related to each other, in short gossip.

Mr Joseph George and Sophia were important members of this community. Joseph held an important position and was influential and Sophia was a social bird. They were my patients and needed my help frequently. Sophia was nearing sixty when this episode occurred. She came to see me with a pain and swelling near her upper lip and I found it to be due to a root abscess of one of her teeth. I called Ravi rao and fixed an appointment for her. She went and got her tooth extracted and then after a course of antibiotics she became normal. Just about this time when she was returning to her normal self, she noticed that her left eye lid was drooping and she was not able to raise it. Right eye was normal. This was investigated by a neurologist and a CT scan of the brain showed a tumor pressing on the nerve which had resulted in the drooping eye lid. She underwent successful surgery. But the droop did not completely go. This became a talking point in the community. The conversation began like this between Aleamma and Sosamma, two important women members of the community. Aleamma phones Sosamma, ‘You know Soosi, what happened to Sufeee?’ Sosamma knows all about Sophie’s surgery but feigns ignorance and says no.’ You know that dental doctor Ravi rao, ‘Yes, yes, I know’ replies Soosi. ‘Sufee went to him for tooth pain and you know what he did to her?’ Now properly excited, Soosi replies earnestly in the negative. ‘He pulled her tooth out and along with it he also damaged the nerve that keeps her eye open.’ This piece of anatomical knowledge of shared nerve supply between the tooth and the eye was avidly shared and Dr Ravi Rao was branded as someone who did great wrong to their dear Sophie. ‘That is not all, she continued, they had to go in and operate on her brain, all because of some simple tooth pain’ she stopped.

This conversation took many shapes and turns and went round the community and reached my ears by another patient of mine. Joti sees me once in three months for her diabetes and blood pressure and when she came this time she asked me if it is true that my friend Dr Ravi Rao did this to Sophie? Should she continue to see him for her teeth problem if one were to come up? I was taken aback by this stupid accusation. I had to tell her that the nerve to the tooth and eye are differently located and even if he had tried hard out of some hidden anger against Mrs Sophia Joseph he could not have done it. These two are different events which unfortunately got connected by the twine of gossip. I asked her where she heard it and she told the name of another Syrian Christian woman. I told her to do me a favor. I asked her to make calls to ten of her woman friends and tell them the real events as they occurred and thus start a reverse gossip to exonerate my friend.

Later, much later, I came to know that the culprit was Sophie herself. She would begin the conversation with her visitors with a, ’you know Dr Ravi Rao, the dentist, he took my tooth out and after three days I got this trouble’ and proceeded with her other details. The listener would put two and two together and tell her own version to another friend.

Of course, such stories do little damage to professionally competent doctors and Ravi Rao’s practice did not suffer in the long run but when the rumor was on it did cause considerable embarrassment to me as I was the one who referred the patient to Dr Ravi Rao!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Global warming

My friend H.S.Jayaprakash is a prolific forwarder of mail.Most of the time it is below the belt junk.But on occassions he does send some nuggets.The following one is one such!

ENERGY SAVING/global warming

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she
should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good
for the environment.
The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the
green thing back in my day."
The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former
generation did not care enough to save our Environment"

He was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer
bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to
be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same
bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an
escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the
grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every
time they had to go two blocks.
But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have
the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy
gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really
did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their
brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back
in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in
every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a
handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the
kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have
electric machines to do everything for you.
When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a
wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to
cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They
exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to
run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain/Water-Tap when they were thirsty instead of using
a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water.
They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new
pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of
throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took a bus and kids rode their
bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their
moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in
a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.
And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal
beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find
the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments
how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back, THEN ??!!

Friday, May 20, 2011


Difficult to stop when one starts writing about Nehru. So much was he responsible for what we are today, both good and bad. That there is much bad and less good is again a fact of history, but when it was happening, few of us were aware of the fact that we were heading for the kind of disaster [disasters] that we were to experience so painfully later on in our lives.

Nehru liked persons who spoke well, looked well and dressed well. Some names that did a lot of damage come to mind. Top of the table was Krishna Menon. He was our ambassador to the mother country, Great Britain. When he was so placed he did his best to sour the relations between the two countries. Arrogance seeped out of all the orifices of his body, principally out of his mouth. Such a foul mouthed man this country is unlikely to see again. The famous spat between Krishna Menon and Kushwant Singh who was then our press attaché took place when Menon was the ambassador. Nehru chose him to be our representative in the UN to plead our Kashmir case. This he did with such inefficiency and boredom that he antagonized most of the western countries and nearly lost our case. Then, adding insult to injury Nehru chose him to be our defense minister. In this capacity he was an unmitigated disaster.

Another of Nehru’s choice went by the name of Sardar Panikkar. This chap was a not a Sikh but a Malayalee like Krishna menon, and excelled him in stupidity. He was our ambassador at Beijing. Chinese were building up troops at our border and all the time saying that they and we were brothers. Panikkar kept sending rosy reports despite advice to the contrary by the army generals, most notably, Gen Thimayya. Nehru believed him and when the Chinese gave us a bloody nose, the folly of Nehru stood exposed. He had to drop his friend and nations curse, Krishna Menon, very reluctantly. What happened to Panikkar I don’t know. Nehru died soon after the Indo Chinese war. Some say he never really recovered from this disaster. But the nation was so taken up with this man, that most of us did not realize that he was the principal culprit.

But there was one Malayalee who contributed a great deal at the time we became independent. Mr [Sir?]V.P.Menon. The two Menons were not only unrelated but also were poles apart. This Menon rose from the ranks to become one of the finest civil servants the country ever produced. He was primarily responsible for keeping the country united and bringing the 500 odd small and big princes under unified India. He did this with some charm, bit of diplomacy and good deal of threat and once by actual army action [Hyderabad]. Though the credit goes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel [then home minister], it was Menon who did the spade work. It was also this Menon who helped in drafting the Indian constitution. If anyone deserves Bharat Ratna to be given posthumously, V.P Menon deserves it most.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Jawaharlal Nehru was our hero. When he became the first prime minister of Independent India, we thought our savior had arrived. He was our blue eyed boy and our night in the shining armor. He could do no wrong. I heard him speak twice. Once when I was in school and next time in this city of Bangalore. Both times it was with unbiased admiration. He had charm, charisma and mass appeal. People were eating out of his hands. He could have done anything he wanted. As later events proved, he was a very poor administrator and intolerant of criticism and also very naïve. He liked people who agreed with him and persons with more knowledge and experience in managing the country like Rajagopalachari had to part company. When told that he should get citizens to limit their family by no less a person than J.R.D.Tata, he had replied that the nation’s strength is in its numbers. Indians, then, would have agreed to anything this man said. He could have made us adopt the small family norm which even now we are unable to. The strength in numbers belief has made this country so over populated, that it is virtually swallowing up all the resources and we are going to be the laborers for the rest of the world and not leaders.

But the man did something the nation will not forget. He had not a shred of communalism in him and he was personally non corrupt. If we are confident today that we can never be a theocracy, the credit should go to Jawaharlal. On the flip side he was also directly responsible for the license permit raj type of governance which has made this country one of the most corrupt in the world. All this is in hind sight, but when I was growing, he could do no wrong.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I am aware that what I write about recollected past is not of much interest to readers of my age group, but I hope it will be for the young. What was life like 60 years ago to what it is now is indeed interesting to know. When I was around ten, I saw my first motor car. It is not that there were not persons wealthy enough to own a car, but none felt the need for one, I remember the person who was the owner of the car was in all kinds of trouble. Forget it being the cause of his neighbor’s envy; it was a problem for the owner. First of all he had to face the daily nuisance of us children assembled in front of his house to see him take the car out .That was in itself was a sight. His house abutted the main road. The road carried all sorts of traffic which is mostly bullock carts and cycles with an accessional bus. When the bus was on the street there was no place for any other mode of transport to use the road, it was so narrow. Occasionally the bus would get stuck in the melee of pedestrians, cyclists and bullock carts all jostling for space. Into this chaos the owner had to reverse his car. It was easy to drive into his portico from the road than reverse into. So when he had to drive out he had to reverse on to this busy road. We [pedestrians, cyclists bullocks and bullock cart owners] had no idea of the space required for this contraption to move. So we stood gawking giving the owner just enough space to maneuver. Irritation writ large on his face he would shout in kannada,’ you idiots, do you want to die, you want to rot in police station’, and to the owner of the bullock cart, ’your bullocks have more sense than you have’ This was true because, to get a better view, the cart man had left his cart on the road side thus obstructing the car’s path, and had joined us. I also remember joining a crowd which was helping him to extricate his car from heavy and wet mud. It must have been just six months that the car stayed with him .He got rid of it at the earliest opportunity.

Most walked. Some cycled. Pocessing a cycle meant you were reasonably well off. Those who had Raleigh bicycles were considered upper class. Many of my class fellows walked miles to come to school and few cycled from nearby villages to reach the school. When it rained it was very tough to even walk let alone cycle. I remember there was a locally made umbrella of sorts with a fixed canopy made out of coconut leaves. This was not made to last and one had change these every other month. It was so unwieldy that it had to be kept out doors. Raincoats were unknown. Most of us did not have any special protective clothing and when we got soaking wet, which was quite often, we just took off the sodden clothes. Drying the wet clothes was another big problem. Those days washing and drying machines were unknown and one depended on the Sun to dry. And during rainy season it rained days on end and we went about clad in semi dry clothes! No wonder we suffered so much of ill health during rainy season. The kind of rains I saw as a child I have not seen since. It was so heavy that one was not able to see what is in front 3 feet away.

I had not seen a privately owned telephone in that town or I don’t have the memory of having seen one. Postal services were efficient and postman was one person every one welcomed as the only connection with the outside world. News papers arrived one day late and that too not always. Some had Radios and I remember when I was in high school listening to the Radio Commentary of the cricket matches. This was despite the fact India always lost the matches. There was a Station located in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] which broadcast Hindi film songs which was very popular.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tipper Topple

Yesterday in the wee hours, a truck carrying a load of whiskey cartons had a burst tyre. Trying to avoid hitting the meridian the driver swerved to the left and lost control of the vehicle. The whiskey laden truck toppled and came to rest on its side. There was a spill and several cartons split open and some bottles broke spilling the golden brew on to the road.

The first to smell the opportunity were the morning walkers. They made way with carton each on their heads. The reek then reached the houses nearby. The occupants came out and saw the waiting bonanza. The carried what they could. Then came the flood and these men and women had to make do with shared contents. They would not even leave the half broken half full bottles, these too were taken away and some consumed on the spot. All this happened in an hour!

What was the hapless driver of the truck doing all this while? He was stuck with a fractured leg and was screaming at the crowd at the top of his voice to get him out. What did the gentlemen looters do? They waited till the looting was over and then, only then, they extricated him and took him to the nearby hospital for attention.

Those who took him to the hospital smelt strongly of alcohol!

Moral of the story: Only when drunk will one goes to help others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


In a couple of days I will be seventy. Reaching the biblical allowance of three score ten, without major health and other problems is indeed a blessing of sorts.
On this occasion what are my thoughts?

The earliest recollection of my life is just before India became independent. I was six years old then. I participated in a procession carrying national flag [these were called Prabhat Pheris] shouting little understood pro freedom slogans. I also remember the procession abruptly ending with some Khaki clad men asking us to go home. Why do I remember this one occasion? I don’t know. It is possible that the desire for freedom had percolated to the level of young children of my age. Another reason may be is that my father was freedom fighter and congressman belonging to the old school of Gandhians. The other incident I remember is of our neighbor breathlessly announcing Gandhi’s death. The whole house hold went into deep mourning and fasted. That is the kind of reverence the people had towards this one man.

The small semi rural town I grew up is nestled in hills with thick forests around. It rained almost nonstop when it did which was frequent. I remember only two seasons. Rains and Sun. The rain brought in its wake, myriad of illnesses and the one I remember and suffered most, is attacks of disabling asthma.

Sun brought in some relief not only to us children but to all sorts of life which included, dogs, cats, snakes and other small life to go out to have fun. Snakes were aplenty and lived in cozy relationship with us. Often they were found in the rafters looking for rats. I lost my fear of snakes very early in life thanks this exposure. Go five to ten kilometers in to the country we could still sight wild life like leopards and occasionally tigers. Elephant sightings were uncommon. On a visit ten years ago I found no trace of the once verdant forest! The land was full of lantana and parthenium weed!

School memories are mixed. The best feature of schooling was that it existed at all! It was a kind of free for all place. Primary and secondary education was not serious and you passed any way. High school was better with some teachers being really good and took trouble to teach. Best of all was that the education was virtually free, being run by the town municipality! Because no one really forced you to study, one did because of few exceptional teachers who kindled the search for knowledge.
In that humid rainy season illnesses were common place. I remember suffering from Whooping cough, Diphtheria, Malaria and Typhoid to name a few. I seem to have had fever as a constant companion. Most of these went only when I left home at 15 to do my college.

The overall impression of child hood is not one of pleasure, but one of illness, uncongenial home and social life. But then unpleasant experiences have a way of staying in one’s memory more than the pleasant ones. And I am no exception. Let me stop at this and reminisce further after my birthday!