Wednesday, December 30, 2015

KINDNESS IS THE BIGGEST THING

Nice connecting with you all after a long time. I hope the rains that went by, treated my Chennai friends with some kindness and I really wish that each of you are back to your normal rhythm of life.

After having to vacate home twice during the floods in Chennai, we got back home just a few days before Christmas. Staying at a make shift place, we had waited for two weeks to slip by after water had been pumped out of our colony. Christmas this time was pretty dull. I did not even push myself to put a star even though my wife had requested me twice. Putting up the Christmas tree was out of question as it was already the 21st of December. I believe my sister portrayed more spirit as she put up a star at the ground floor of our home. My wife also never gave up her tryst with baking cakes. I tried to liven up things on Christmas day by playing the Gunter Kullman Christmas Choir numbers for a while and it seemed to mollify the situation a little. Thus Christmas this year slipped by without a big impact.




As was the normal practice, we shared the Christmas cakes with our neighbours. And this time we gave it to a more number of them, because the floods brought a connect with a few more neighbours. It is a popular observation that if we have the habit of smoking or consuming wine or whiskey, it's a great leveling platform where irrespective of position and class, many times people seem to bind while they are into these. Calamities offer another leveling platform bringing together people from different levels in the society to enquire and help each other. Thus our cakes found their way to more houses this time.

The floods gave me a true picture of the unity in diversity, right there in my colony. We had a huge community of Muslims who went all over the place offering food and clothes. They even opened the mosque for anyone to stay. Many Hindus and Christians stayed there for days. Looking at the social circle that I am in touch mostly, I have to admit that other than my few relatives and just three individuals from my huge church community, nobody really called up to enquire about our state. This church is where I go to every Sunday and it is for this church that I sing in their choir. I don't blame them. May be they have called up more worthy friends. Probably our colony does not feature in the so called elite list for being considered worthy enough for a call. We Christians have always been ordinary people claiming extra ordinary things. We get too worked up worshiping God and singing for Him, that we forget our neighbour. This is the picture that I see. May be I am yet to see a better picture of the Christian group around me. It is not that we expect all our friends to wade through the water and reach us. At one point, we were running out of ideas on how to move my father out of home after the water levels had gone up and vehicles were refusing to come inside the colony. The main road was a good half a kilometre away and the vehicles would only come till there. Friends could also help by giving ideas. I have to ask myself if I would also have behaved the same way. However, I did hear about our church extending help to several flood affected families.

That apart, the person who played a key role in evacuating us the first time was my driver, a core Hindu, who offered to walk all the way from his house through the hip level water and then again wade through knee deep water in our colony. He could have always told us that he was not in a position to move out of his home. We had a tough time convincing an ambulance driver to come into our colony due to the deep water level, but it was our driver who called up and convinced the ambulance driver to move into the deep water to take my sick father out of our home to a safe place. I truly consider it a great help that he did. The second time when we evacuated, it was another uncle, a Hindu converted to a Christian, who helped us in the rush hour to pack all things and keep them at an elevated level in our ground floor and then leave on time. It really helped to save a lot of damages. He was the same person who bailed us out of the tsunami in Velankanni in 2004, driving all the way from Chennai and braving an accident en route. We also had a person from the hospital where my sister worked, who came to our make shift shelter almost every day and provided us with essentials.

My college friends with whom I am connected in Whatsapp, frequently enquired and kept my morale high. Some of them really ventured into helping people in distress. Coincidentally, all of these good humans were mostly Hindus and Muslims.

Besides these good angels, two atheists called up and enquired. One of them called up daily and gave me very accurate indications of the weather forecast. It really helped me to plan in advance and take drastic action, while also giving me to time to convince my dear ones. This friend even went to several places to rescue people and carry out relief efforts. Sometimes atheists are much more better humans than the ones like me who scrupulously follow religion. I am not sure if I would venture out in the same fashion.

Sometime after we got back home after the first evacuation, I noticed while standing in my car porch, that a family staying on the street opposite to our home , about ten metres away, were all looking towards our first floor roof. I wondered what was there that attracted their attention. A few moments later, one of them walked up and requested me for a few coconut branches for their religious function. I opened my gates for them and they went out happy with what they wanted. There have been many Hindu friends who have come with similar requests and we have always made it a point to give them. 

A few days past Christmas, when I was sitting with my father in his bedroom, I noticed a white hat suddenly appear through the small opening that the curtains left near the window. It made me cautious as we were always careful about strangers stepping into our home, although we just left the gate with a latch that could be opened from outside. This opening action of our gate, always gave out a loud sound and so we would easily get to know about anyone who entered. But I had not heard anyone enter as yet.I waited for a while and again the white hat appeared and moved aside. I called out to enquire who it was. My sister hearing my call, went out and saw a young Muslim boy standing near the window and calling out "Aunty". She tried to understand what he wanted and then gave him whatever he was looking for. He was looking for some nice stiff bamboo branches and this was for his teacher in the mosque to whack students like him when they failed to learn their Quran lessons. He went home with a warm smile on his face and with a handful of bamboo branches. A few days later he again him with his few friends and they took some more.  Days later when I was accompanying my sister to a nearby shop, I heard a boy call out "Hey, see that cane stick Aunty". It was the same boy Mohammad Nazir telling his friend. We waved at him.

More than being a Christian, it is this co-existence with people from different beliefs, that I love. This period of calamity gave me that picture, that belief, that in many humans, whether an atheist or a person pursuing a religion, there is that inclination to do something good. So I believe we don't have to really debate whether God is there or not there. Kindness exists and that is the biggest thing. How does anything else matter?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ANOTHER BIRTHDAY GIFT FROM MY LITTLE ONE

My little one is not little anymore but still she is my little one. These words from my little one are big words for me.



Thursday, October 8, 2015

I BELIEVE IN MY MAD PURSUITS

Last Sunday, me and my family, were driving back from church, after the release of "Yeldho", the CD containing songs sung over the last 20 years plus by our church choir, the Celestial Voices. Several thoughts on this drifted through my mind and what dominated more were those about the singing madness that still persists within me.  We had slogged through several weeks of practice sessions and recording sessions at the studios, that had run into late hours in the night to get this done. And now, it was a great feeling to see it getting released. Listening to the song from the CD with all the music and harmony is one thing. But when I was sitting under a tree shade for practice in our church premises, along with the bass singers of which am a part, I could hear the plain raw melody of the supranos who were practicing inside the church. Their song slowly and softly spread all around the church, as though going up the church steeple, when the group hit the high notes. There was no music accompaniment, but still, that was a unique feel.





These days if I love a song, I keep humming or singing that, right through the day, especially on weekends. My family often would ask me whether I had got hooked on to it so much that I cannot sing something else. My father in particular, would sometimes tells me, that I am old and that people around are going to think why I am singing all intense romantic songs describing women and their features:) Now this clearly meant that all of them were yet to see a real worth in those singing attempts. Of course, they would love to hear Christian songs being sung during prayer time, but they would not believe that anything  beyond it, was worth trying now.



In the early eighties, I was approaching high school and that is when I got too passionate about songs and started singing them, sometimes right through the day. My father seeing me in this state would ask me whether my focus was in the right direction. But I was clearly mad about singing and I think he was very circumspect about acknowledging it, lest I lose focus on my academic pursuits. But singing in me, never died and I often went full blow when my father was not there at home. And in case he was there, I would get into the singing mode, while in the restroom.


But as we all know, madness and passions stay forever at least in some dormant form, how much ever these are ignored by the world around. And what lay dormant for about four to five years from then, started slowly but diffidently showing its face while I was into college. For me to realize that I was good at anything and to be confident about it, I had to always look up to my father to acknowledge. And so, if he had not acknowledged my calibre in an area, to me it was like I was really wanting in something in those areas. So, this meant that I was always a person who wanted to sing, but who was at the same time, not free and confident on stage to sing. My college mates had to keep pushing me to sing and my first stage performance was a classic royal fiasco, where I stood breathless on stage with the song all stalled. But still, my friends found me good and took me along wherever they had a get together and so I had a chance to belt out Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil songs in these small encounters. And this continued even after I got into organizations for work and is happening even now. I have sung for small groups and on stages,in these places, all without music accompaniment. Now, this for me is like being in a radio mode, to sing when friends demand. We could also term this as Music as a Service, if we align it with the latest trends in Cloud Computing:) It's only that instead of paying me money, they very liberally praise me. But then, this never fetches one an identity.

In the late eighties, while I was yet in the last year in college, mp3 players, cd players and mobile phones were still technological marvels yet to sweep India, though am not sure where else in our world they had taken off. The radio was still a big thing. My journey to college was through the public road transport and I would get to hear film songs being played at shops and marriage halls while travelling. I must confess that many times on my journey back to home, I have left the company of my friends in the bus and got down, hearing melodious songs being played at these places. Such was the madness in me and am sure I would have driven my father into a rage if he had got to know this. There have been several instances, when my wife and daughter have nudged me, because I was loudly humming or singing some song that I was mad about, in public.




It was just the day before that I had spotted an article on the Hollywood stunt director Lee Whittaker. He was the brain behind the stunts that we got to see in films like Viswaroopam, Linga and Bahubali. He grew up on a farm near a lake in Kentucky and was always jumping off the barn, riding horses and motorcycles, driving boats and swinging across creeks on a vine. He was wild and adventurous. No one back home believed he was doing action, because in his small town, Hollywood was never a real entity. Well, when madness takes a direction and brings in an identity or a monetary angle to it, that's when acceptability sets in. And until then, every person with several items of madness of this type that he or she pursues, will be looked upon as truly mad or crazy beings. It is ironical that until we build an identity or strike a monetary return, the many things that we pursue with our heart and soul into it, will remain many times as pieces of madness on the outside.


These days, an identity in solo singing comes when you penetrate into the last three or last two rounds of some reality singing show. Most of them prefer a Carnatic base. Otherwise it is the pure Carnatic singing road that is there which is a much tougher turf. But for Christian folks, carol singing and choir singing are great opportunities, though these belong to a different genre. Once we are able to fit into a group's harmony, we are in. For me, this has given me an identity. I began singing for carols when I was just 8 years old. The expectations in carol singing are not that demanding. But choir singing demands more accuracy and therefore more focus. For me, choir singing remains to be a very humbling experience because, whenever I think that am a great singer and that my voice should be heard more, the choir reminds me that I have to listen to the others and sing in harmony. That's because choir singing is not about one person singing but it is about a huge group striking a super level harmony.

Looking back, I believe, that it is important to believe in these pieces of passion or madness that each of us have in different forms and to slowly breed them, even if the whole world around thinks otherwise. After seeing the CD released and listening to the songs, my family sees value in my pursuits. But then, to polish my singing, I had to hold on to my restroom singing for decades. We never know when our pursuits will gather force and give us an identity or monetary returns. There is no doubt that when life drives us to mad corners, with its several vague twists and turns, these pursuits of madness, will come in handy and save us from really going mad.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TRYST WITH KITTENS

My daughter and myself went around our house trying to take snaps of a few kittens that came into the world just now. They don't belong to us and for that matter to anyone. But they gave us real joy. These were shot by my daughter.

Here's the little kitten beating the heat with a green seat.





Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MY FIRST RENDEZVOUS WITH PROFESSIONAL HAPHAZARDNESS

It was just the second week at work for me in my first ever job. I was into the night shift right away. Since we were on an overtime mode, the first batch which I was into at that time and which started at 6.00 am in the morning, would close only at 6.30 p.m. My first department where I was posted was the precision machine shop. As a rookie engineer, I had to learn to man the line with an experienced supervisor. In the process, I also had to pick up the technical aspects. I was given a potpourri of small things to do every day while into this like getting the drawings, route cards, material and tooling ready for the upcoming job. I also had to co-ordinate with the crane operators and helpers to unload jobs that got completed on machines. Besides this, I also had plan machines for any jobs that came up at random as a deviation from the normal production plan. The supervisor was a young guy and was supportive.



Did I enjoy it in full? I would be lying if I said yes. For me, it was like a career shock when I got into all of this together, all of a sudden. Coping up with night shifts, dealing with reticent labour, getting used to the noise, heat and smell of a shop floor and adapting to a new kind of learning and that was learning on the run.  But I think, the ability to persist was both my strength and my weak point. It was a weak point, as once I sensed something little good in it , I would continue and try to see if I could find more good things in that space and remain. But as in the case of all situations, in the middle of this struggle, there were a few things that I loved. Production technology was my passion and so the very fact that I was in the midst of a huge variety of machines overwhelmed me in a positive manner. I loved the pair of heavy industrial boots that I wore and it was beautiful to see it when I non-chalantly stepped over the huge bluish silver metal chips mixed with coolant. I wished at that time, that I should have had one of those yellow industrial helmets with the company's logo on it, but I knew I would have to wait for a while for it. Up above, on the truss roof structure, it was great to see flocks of pigeons and to listen to their cooing and grunting once a while. Some of them even took a ride on the carriage of huge machines when it moved as part of a machining process. It was fun to watch. The smell of the golden shower tree, just outside the machine shop was different, sometimes superb and sometimes too acute for the nasal faculties.

In order to get the tools for the several lathes ready, I had to very often explore the insides of a little steel shelf. It had a huge stock of High Speed Steel (HSS) tools lying haphazardly inside. The insides were pretty unkempt too. Many of the tools could not be used and one had to be extremely careful so as to get back without getting the hands cut. After a few encounters, I decided to do something about it. The second night shift stint everyday as I noticed never happened in full. Beyond 9.30 pm, the whole administration office aisle turned into a mortuary. The workmen would be snoring to glory in the air-conditioned area, but me and my supervisor, were expected to be awake as guardians of the work ethics. So I thought that the best time to do this would be beyond 9.30 pm. And so one night, I set to work and took out the entire contents from the shelf. Some workers, who were getting to sleep a shade late, saw me and passed some jeering remarks. “The new fellow is trying to discover something in the middle of the night?” shouted one to the other as they went by. I hung on. I segregated the good pieces from the bad ones and arranged them inside with neat tags. The bad ones I kept aside for the supervisor’s scan. Besides this, I also spotted a bunch of costly ceramic inserts (modular cutting tools) that were to stored at another proper place and consumed. My young supervisor appreciated me for what I did but beyond that it just went unnoticed, not that I was looking for further kudos, but then, I wanted this new system to happen. 

I moved out of that shop in six months as part of our rotational training and when I checked back a few months after I had left, the shelf had attained its old state again. It pained, when I saw the shelf again. When I look back now after 25 years at work, I have come across many such haphazard and improper entities at work and I have rolled up my sleeve to clean up real dirt, or to take issues out of the dark corners, talk it out and clear the road for the team or even overhaul long pending jobs as part of special task forces. These actions only created more animosity amongst people around me and what stood out was that it never garnered real top management support. 

But still, even today, my mental faculties never curtail my tongue and my hand to address issues and to clean up the dirt. When I leave the place, like a writing on the seashore, it get’s washed away. Who will appreciate a garbage collector? Very rarely do people do that. The world mostly sides with limelight and shining work. Every morning, I hear the garbage man yell out his frustrations on people dropping waste on the road and the footpaths. But I don’t think anyone takes him seriously. The same state continues. It’s the same that I have seen in organizations, common social gathering places or even with my roommates.

But then, will I stop? Never!!! Traits will remain.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

THE DANCE OF THE EVENING SUN

These were shot from a moving vehicle on the OMR Road in Chennai, between Siruseri and Sholinganallur. Again, I used the same 2.0 MP camera of the antique Nokia E63 mobile.


The sun has several beautiful faces.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

THE DRY AND BARREN ART OF SUMMER

All these were shot from a moving train. Nature looks beautiful when dry and barren too. That's it's specialty. Again,
I used the 2.0 MP camera of the antique Nokia E63 mobile.








CLOUD ART

The whole colour tone changed when the bus moved just another 30 metres. I used the 2.0 MP camera of the antique Nokia E63 mobile.



If you notice, the shape of the clouds, remains the same.


SILHOUETTES ADORNING DUSK





Thursday, April 30, 2015

AMARYLLIS AT MY HOME




The one below was shot by my sister. A much better pic....the angle...


A DASH OF CRYSTAL WHITE AFTER A BOUT OF RAIN

The spot was pretty bright, almost matching that which emanates during a welding process.




 

In the picture below, you see a crow in flight and what is beside it, faraway is a plane in upward flight.
 


Sunday, March 22, 2015

A SCENIC TOP AND A MUNDANE BOTTOM

The evening was slowly giving over it's decree to the night and me and my daughter tried moving through this place.



Frankly, it was boring as there was nothing interesting out there that we did encounter. I wish we had a nice green expanse to walk on, with some sloped terrain to climb and then to come down. But it wasn't there either. But every time we looked up, we liked to see what nature offered. We could see the evening sky through the sublime and subtle art of the tree branches, that were part of the thick canopy that lay on top of us. Frankly, it gave us that real forest feel.

Imagine walking through some thick green bushes and shrubs, with nature and greenery embracing us all around and on top, with some slopes for us to struggle on and climb, those little sweet struggles and then the getting down from these. These little sweet things that we very seldom encounter in our urban life, were what we were really yearning for. But nah!! these were not there.

We would have never felt this, had the top been empty and open without this nice rustic canopy. Somehow, it's always these opportunities in half that frustrate us more than the situations where there is absolutely nothing to expect at all :)

Well, here's where we actually were :))



This is a road in West Anna Nagar, Chennai that runs in front of my daughter's school. And the snap you saw first, was just an upper portion of it. I think we should always keep looking at the better side of things and enjoy the best portions of the total that is offered to us :)) Expecting enjoyment from the whole total is what would frustrate us :))

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A BIRTHDAY WISH FROM MY LITTLE ONE

This is a card that my daughter had got done a few months back for my birthday. Each time I read it, I derive a lot of energy out of it. Kindly ignore the adjectives that are in excess :)


I am somewhere there still, hanging on as a hero in her mind probably...with time it will slowly vanish :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

WHEN ONE READ OUT OF SYLLABUS AND DOGS BIT THE OTHER

While into the WhatsApp group of my alma mater yesterday, I saw a lot of messages that were wishes for the children appearing for their board exams. It was a nice feeling for all the parents, to get those warm wishes and blessings. I even saw many children receive blessings from elders this Sunday too, while at Church for our worship. For many of us in our WhatsApp group, it was difficult to believe that 29 years had fled by since school, as while we were together, we could still smell and feel everything of school in the air, although we were just hanging around in WhatsApp :))

My thoughts trudged back to my days at school and how my frame of mind was during those examination days. Except on very few occasions, I don't think there was even one exam where I was relaxed while entering the examination centre. It was the same while at the normal exams at school too, when I entered the examination hall. The same thing continued while I was into college and even so for my post graduate studies. Being cool before the exams was just not natural in me.


The first person who comes to my mind when I talk about being relaxed before approaching an exam is my classmate Amarnath, while we were in the  XII  std. I am not sure if this relaxed demeanour in him was because he had shifted from a CBSE school to our school which had the Tamil Nadu State Board syllabus. On some days, I would go through the street where his house was and he would join me on the journey to school, on our cycles. I have seen him spend time reading magazines, while waiting for me at his house and when I would ask him whether he had completed the studying for the exam, he would reply saying "I ran through it thrice and felt bored. In fact I finished it yesterday night itself. I have been reading these magazines, since then". I would really feel a chill run down my spine, when I heard this, primarily because all of us were competing for top ranks:))  This was more so because, in the XI and XII standards, no one really enjoyed being in that top spot for more than one occasion. In the very next exam, he or she would be knocked of from the throne, as the competition was that stiff.

I often keep telling my daughter, to try and reach that state for any exam she takes i.e to try and be so prepared that she can relax and do something else she really enjoys doing, while approaching the examination. It's a different feel and I really wish she is able to do the same, at least a few times.

While at college, I had another classmate Aby Joy. He would come with a plaster on, somewhere on his face, hands or legs and tell us that he had had some injury or that he had had severe vomiting and that he just could not study anything, the previous day. I remember him once saying "Man, you know, a dog bit me." In fact, he had shared the same dog story, to different groups of friends on different occasions with such an intensity that they would almost feel that he was studying out of a kennel:) But when the scores came, they would find that Sheby had scored well :) It was fun to watch him react to a barrage of questions he would face from the classmates, who would be stunned seeing his scores. Of course, Aby could not sustain the demonstration of his raconteuring skills beyond the first year :))

Like many parents, I also joined my little one to school and saw her off at the front gate. Then I heard that the bus taking them to the board exam centre, was leaving from the rear gate. And so I went all the way behind the school and waited and finally saw her going into the prayer hall. The students were about ten metres away from the gate. We waved at each other. It gave me some sentimental happiness. Some parents consider this as too much of a chaperoning, as children are expected to manage themselves. In fact my little one is really cool, but I did it for my own happiness. I saw a few other parents too, wait there and wave to their little ones. One parent in particular sensed that his son was about to enter the prayer hall without noticing him, and he really stunned me when he hollered :) His son waved and that made him happy too.

I have to admit, that it is this stage play that parents including me keep doing, that drive the children to feel that the board exam is some thing of a celestial calibre. Little do these little ones know that when they are into jobs, it's not just the marks that matter. They are so innocent of the fact that tomorrow they will have to battle it out with mundane people who literally live out of bakeries, buttering their superiors :)

I will have to keep talking to my daughter soon about how she should remain cool and find a way to perform, when these creatures are around :) Until then I have left her to focus on the scores.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

ONE IMPACT OF MODERNIZATION AND TECHNOLOGY



I still like the simple green Christmas tree with all the trinkets and lights. Too much technology and the modern touch wipes out the basic traditional aspects out of anything :)



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

RANDOM ART WITH MICROSOFT PAINT

This is something worth a try with Microsoft Paint. Lot of simple tools giving you a great effect. 



If you can imagine, sky is the limit here too.







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