Saturday, December 31, 2016

OUR LAST SINGING SESSION THIS YEAR - A SHOW OF FORTITUDE

The month of December, into the future, will always be a period when me and my family will look at nature, keeping our fingers crossed. The encounter with floods last year and with the cyclone Vardah this year has made all of us at home to see December, as a month to expect something nail biting and bizzare to happen, in the years to follow. We came out of these safely, but not before we felt like being pushed to the edges of life. Nature was kinder this year though, in that we did not have to leave our home and stay at a temporary shelter. But still, more grief has filled in me this year seeing our city stand naked and all stripped off its green cover. Two small trees that stood in area within my contours of my home, fell down much before the climax set in. I however managed to replant them the very next day. 



Two coconut trees gave us creeps, as they kept hammering on our building, once in every ten or fifteen seconds. The impact could have been much lesser if we had not designed the building such that the coconut trees went through two square openings in the building at two places. This had obviated the need to cut the trees when we had constructed the first floor. I never knew about this hammering going on while on the first floor as we had sealed ourselves inside, locking up all the doors and windows. But it was when I got into my daughter's room that she made me feel the vibration on her table. There was a periodic hammering sound coming up, but until then, I had not realized what that sound was. I had not focussed my attention on it specifically as it was one of the many sounds creating the cacophony that day. When I went down to the ground floor, I could sense the real gravity. With every hammering shot, we could feel the vibration in the furniture on the ground floor. Sitting in our verandah on the ground floor, I could see the entire trunk shake after every shot. The next day, I went up our terrace and did a closer examination. The plaster had been eaten up at two places in each of the box holes as the wind had treated us in two directions. The trunks of both trees had two huge scars as two different areas took the impacts with each wind blowing in two different directions that day.




The day after the cyclone, I took my daughter for a walk on the road that ran parallel to our street. I always loved this road for the canopy it had. But the cyclone had unfortunately ripped down a lot of branches and even uprooted some of them. Two trees broke and lay across the road such that there was a green cover over the road, through which we could walk through. My daughter and me took a walk through these. We believed that such an experience would not come up again in the near future. But with the climate change patterns setting in, we never know what is in store in the coming years.



The cyclone was the third challenge that Chennai faced after demonetisation and the departure of our beloved Chief Minister. Many carol singing sessions that had been lined up were called off as a mark of condolence and sharing of the grief that had engulfed the city. But Candles by Candlelight, the singing session at the St.Christopher’s College was to take place. I was in two minds as to whether I should participate, but I pushed myself and went. It was not a competition, but just a stage performance in front of an esteemed Christian gathering. 


Our choir did well. The speciality of this singing session is when they switch of the lights and each person in the crowd participates in the singing with a candle in his or her hand. The serenity and the impact was mind blowing. When I heard the vote of thanks, by Dr.Ravi Santosham of the GATT Qunitet, I was convinced as to why Christmas singing should continue. We believe that the birth of Christ itself was in the middle of so many challenges and suffering for Joseph and Mary and Christ brought hope and peace into a hapless world of sin. Christians should continue singing carols in the midst of challenges so as to spread the word of hope and peace.



I wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous 2017. May good tidings of joy always reach you.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

THE IMPACTS OF MY SINGING CRAZE – SHADES OF THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SAD

Although I was a day scholar at college, I frequented the hostel at least two days in a week. Settling in a corner of my friend Manokaran’s room, I would start singing. Jayaram, who also sang, would join me sometimes. Hostel mates would slowly come in and in about thirty minutes, there would be a good crowd listening and calling out for more songs. After each such session, when I travelled back home, I just could not think of anything else other than songs. I consider such wonderful moments with friends to be very precious. Even today, when there are small unions with friends, the same singing happens, but still, those times at college remain as beautiful patches.



I had a cousin sister with whom I had the opportunity to discuss many Malayalam songs. She was blessed with a great voice and there were songs that I always wanted her to sing again and again. She also would very keenly listen to the songs I sang. There were many moments we spent, singing and discussing the finer aspects of the songs. In 1993, in her twenties, she left for her heavenly abode after a battle with aplastic anaemia. In a forest, where lots of birds sing, even the absence of one, makes a difference. Her songs still remain in the song space that surrounds me.

My marriage was in 1993 and my wife never knew about this craze that I had. Whenever we went out together, I always had a song running on me, either humming or singing. My wife often nudged me to draw my attention to people who were watching me. She found this to be very embarrassing and calls me crazy. I have still not got out of this habit as yet.

On an afternoon in the hot month of May, 1996, my
colleague, who is my good friend and I, stepped out for lunch and were walking through the shop floor. This was while I was with my first employer. I never knew that he had actually come out after a hot board room discussion. We moved towards the company canteen silently and I was humming a favourite song that was on my mind, a little louder. I knew that I could hum it even louder as my song would never be heard by anyone 15 feet away due to the din of the machines around. I sang a little louder. A third person joined us while we were on the way. He was part of my colleague's team and on seeing him, my colleague started off with the same topic that had been discussed in the board room. I was still humming and singing a bit loudly. Seeing my casual demeanour while such a serious topic was being discussed by him, he suddenly yelled a question "Why can't you keep quiet?” at me. It really rattled me. I should have been careful I thought. He immediately apologized for what he did, but I too felt I should have desisted from such behaviour that time.

In 2000, my first employer sent me for a management training programme at Lonavala. This was for a week’s duration. There were participants from several corners of India, belonging to the same company. One person named Kumar, with whom I was teamed up for working sessions and presentations treated me with sheer disdain, right from day one. It really put me off and also hurt me so much, that I could not focus on the sessions that were running. I really did not know why he was doing that either. On the last day, there was an open session around evening time, where the participants could entertain the gathering. I was also one of the few who sang a few songs in Hindi and Malayalam. Kumar came to me and was effusive in his praise for my singing. Thereafter, the way he talked to me and treated me was so different. That evening, many other participants called me to their places in the hotel, where they were meeting as small groups and made me sing.


In the year 2003, I joined my second employer at Kolkata. My wife and daughter had not moved with me as she was into an established job at Chennai and my daughter was into school. So I was shuttling between Kolkata and Chennai once in three or four months. The Howrah mail took a long time and so the Coromandel Express was what I always preferred to for coming down to Chennai. The return was by flight, as that way crunched down on the sad period of thinking while leaving home. I had a good Walkman with me and I had just caught up with Salilda's Bengali film songs. On one such trips to Chennai, I was on the middle berth and with my earphones on me, I was singing along while the song was running. I never knew that my singing was that loud. When we touched early evening and I had climbed down from my berth to sit down for a while, a Bengali lady who was travelling with her little son complimented me for the singing. She also gave me a Chocolate pie that they were having then and told me to always keep singing.

Kolkata gave me a new high in singing. There was a corporate Anthakshari competition, for which I also had mailed in my nomination. I still don’t know Hindi although I keep singing a lot of Hindi numbers. On the night before the competition, my friend and roommate Ankur, spent his valuable time, to explain the meaning of the songs that I had selected for singing. I had written down the script in English. In the first round which was an individual round, I sang three Hindi songs and I got lots of appreciation from the judges for my voice and singing. And then, they started talking to me in Hindi on something else they wanted me to sing along with another colleague. I did not know how to respond. The colleagues with whom I went were also new to me and they also did not know why I was displaying an embarrassed silence when the judges were asking me. I did not want to show any sign of my ignorance of Hindi as I thought that it would go in as a negative point. Nevertheless in the team round, we as a team could not qualify and move further. But, that was the first time, an external judge was complimenting my singing and it gave me real confidence. The very next week, I was on a stage at Kolkata and I sang a Hindi number.


The singing craze still continues even when age is going up in numbers. Many times I wonder if it’s time to keep quiet. But frankly, am not able to.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

OUR SECOND WIN THIS SEASON - A BIG KILL

I remember our battle at the Green Meadows Resort on the ECR road in 2011. The teams who battled were from a diverse genre. We hall all kinds of groups and it was a real treat to watch. I could not believe that we battled and got the second position then.




Our competition at the Hindustan University was of a similar profile. There was a Mizo choir, four Marthoma chruch choirs, two CSI choirs and many bands and to beat all of them and come out as the winner was truly amazing. As a group we have given our best and Vinod, our great conductor and trainer deserves a big applause for ironing out all the discords while we were put through the rigourous drills.



We had some lovely and precious moments around the time the victory was announced. Me and my choir mate running up from the ground floor on hearing the cry of our other mates, never expecting a victory at all, the sight of other teams giving us a standing ovation when we were collecting the award, our ride back home with lots of singing and revelry, our group walking a short distance to the church singing 'Jingle Bells', our dear priest waiting for us at the church with a bag of sweets and the final victory shout before we parted for home.

Here's a small poem that I jotted down after this victory.


When  Victory Came Knocking

🎈🎈The smell of victory,
After an intense battle,
Can be intoxicating,
And yesterday,
Victory overwhelmed us.πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰


πŸŽ‹πŸŽ‹For many of us,
Victory came knocking,
When we had closed the doors of hope,
And had started looking beyond.
Some of us had moved afar,
And were busy feeding our horses,
And sharpening our swords,
For the next battle.
But then we heard,
The cry of victory,
Resonating all over our camp,
And we ran back,
To embrace an astounding triumph.🎈🎈
πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰The unbridled joy,
That victory inundated us with,
Could be seen and heard,
On our journey back home too.
There was revelry,
And a joy that was very special,
Even as we sang,
While on our way back to our church.πŸŽ‹πŸŽ‹
πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰There is a special camaraderie,
That can be sensed,
In our bunch.
It is this affinity,
That is feeding into,
The celestial harmony,
That we generate.
May God, always keep us this way.πŸŽ‹πŸŽ‹
πŸŽ‹πŸŽ‹We are gifted with a General,
So committed in his venture,
And blessed with such a sharp ear,
That even the tiniest discord,
Will never get past him.
May God bless him,
As he mounts his horse again,
To lead us,
Through many more carol battles.πŸŽ‰πŸŽˆπŸŽ‹

Sunday, November 20, 2016

WE OPENED THIS SEASON WITH A BANG

The Christmas season for this year opened up sometime during October end. Due to some personal exigencies, I could not make it for two practices and thereafter I caught the singing bus over the last two weeks for the next two practices that followed. Sometimes during the first practice that I was into, I felt that the choir was chewing something too big for its calibre. In fact two of the songs were picked from last year's list as last year's Christmas had been literally washed out due to the floods, and we did not get to sing much. And the chewing impression I had, was about the two that we had picked up from last year. During the second practice, that impression changed as I saw many aspects of harmony falling in place. But still, perfection was eluding us somehow. It was somewhere there close by, but somehow we just could not embrace it.




It was with this mindset that I had got on to the podium for our first competition today. We had a stiff battle from a few other teams, but then it just happened today. We saw everything falling in place and it was close to or I should say, a flawless performance. I saw one of the judges stand up and clap for us when we finished the second song. A few other judges did again mention about us  and our superb performance while they spoke before the award ceremony. And in the feedback session from the panel, we had no negatives listed on our performance. 

So, we could smell victory, much before we were declared as the victors. That was indeed a great feeling. It's something I cannot fully express in words, but it can only be felt while standing right there in the middle of the audience and the judges and listening and watching them while they give their feedback. Today was our first competition for this Christmas season and we, the Celestial Voices, have begun with a real bang. We convincingly beat seven teams and emerged first.

We will prevail right through this season. Let there be no doubts !!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

BIRTHDAY TIMES ARE HERE AGAIN!!!

πŸŽ‹πŸ
Today, you should take time for yourself,
And walk along those serene paths,
That you always wanted to,
      Those pristine green paths,
🍰Feeling the flowers and shrubs caress you. 

Today you should wear,
Your uniqueness boldly on you,
And should as the young ones say "rock". 
But it's also a great day
To be silent and reflect..πŸ°πŸΈπŸŽ‚

🍷Today is when,
Reminiscences will fill you to the brim. 
It's a good day to look forward
And set new goals. 
But more than that, 
It's a great day to be just YOU,
And do all you really like,
From the bottom of your heart. πŸΈπŸ·

πŸŽ‹πŸLong back on this day,
When the earth heard u first cry,
They were filled to the brim,
With joy boundless.

Everything you did,
Brought happiness to all around,
And many a hand,
Wanted to take care of you.

πŸŽ‚Today, with the burdens of life,
You probably prefer,
To cry all alone,
To cry while it rains,
So that only Providence will know,
Your tears.

But today is a day to smile,
To be just YOU,
Unique, unbridled and effervescent!!!

Happy Birthday!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A CHALLENGE TO MY NATURAL SELF

Every human derives a lot of strength from his natural character, the natural being that is ingrained within him. Even as a parent I consciously evolved in the way I gave feedback to my daughter, taking all care that the feedback, never altered their natural base. Whatever corrections had to be done, had to be done with the natural strengths remaining intact. My strength lies very much in my silent nature. Some people see my external body language and conclude that I am reserved. Actually I would spontaneously explode and talk to the extent of inundating the other person, if the topic was around what I was interested, so much so that the other person would get overwhelmed. But on a majority of times, I would prefer being alone and being alone for hours never makes me gloomy but on the contrary energizes me for action.


When I was in school, I was less assertive, more diffident and more quiet. Once, one of my uncles, whom I often spotted talking in a social circle more than what was necessary, often kept prodding me to talk more while in a social gathering where close family and friends showed up. The more he prodded, the more I became conscious about it and at one point, I started talking although I really felt that the talking I was doing was beyond a "Hi" and that it was more intrusive and unnecessary. At that point, I never knew, that I myself was tarnishing my natural profile. Yes, it was good if I did talk more, but then, it would have been more appropriate, if it could have been allowed to happen as a slow transformation with sensible talk. Instead, I was actually responding, to someone's constant prodding.

On one such attempt, I met one of my Dad's very old friends at a wedding reception and started a conversation with him. "Hello Harry Uncle, how are you?" I asked. "Oh Roy, I am fine. How is Cherian? Hasn't he come?", he asked. "No Uncle. Dad is busy with some work. So he asked me to be here", I replied. "So how is your son Uncle? Where is he now?" I asked, beautifully placing my next question as though with the elan of a very seasoned socialite. "He is fine. He is in the Gulf", he replied almost immediately. "So where is he working in the Gulf Uncle?", I asked again with all inquisitiveness. "He is in the Gulf", replied Uncle with some more sternness in his tone. I paused for a while and silence filled the space between us. Around us the buzz of the crowd and music was in full blow. Little children were running all around with ice cream cones in their hands. The decorative lights that festooned the arena, slowly started coming into prominence as twilight slowly gave in to the night. And then I placed the same question again, "Uncle, which company does he work for in the Gulf?". He gave me a death stare and walked away. I realized then, on the impact of the change, that I was attempting to implement within me.  The ramifications were pretty clear.

With the passage of time however, I really developed the art of smooth and polished talking at social functions. I believe, we can take feedback and apply them with our own natural style and at our own pace and not as a response to someone's pressure messages. After all, an improvement can only be done, from a base of natural strength.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A SCHOOL BAG FULL OF REMINISCENCES - THE LIGHTER MOMENTS

Looking back at my school days, I believe that school would have been a monastery, if all the students were studious. There has to be a bunch of fun loving, casual mates who will contribute to the overall student ecosystem by relieving it of the stress levels and mundane times. We too had a bunch who kept the class lively, although teachers may have thought of it the other way. As in my earlier school related posts, I would be maintaining anonymity of the individuals. I am drawing memories from across my twelve years at school about different individuals.

Flint was an Anglo Indian and had a naturally fair complexion. His hair was a nice curly and well shaped topping for his head. He had good height too and our classmates filled in the rest for him by announcing that he resembled actor Kamal Hassan from a few angles. This made him all the more conscious and he altered his walk and mannerisms to match the actor’s moves. When he smiled, the pyorrhea on his teeth that was a shade distorted in front, showed up. His focus on style, grew more with the passage of time, that he would get off his school uniform and wear a very nice shirt while cycling back home, ensuring that the girl folk got a glimpse of him. He was really popular amongst the back benchers and when Kamal’s Sakala Kalaa Vallavan released in 1982, he became all the more popular.





Although branded as a back bencher and sidelined without any hope by teachers, I still admire Flint for his stubborn character. One day, he was caught while at one of his pranks. The teacher yelled at him saying “Show your smartness if you can, by passing a test in Geography”. Flint took up the challenge and asked the teacher to set the portions and the day and time of the test. And on that day he cleared the test with very high marks. But as we all know, it's consistency and not just one time peaking that matters and Flint went back to his old state soon.

Kial and Deepu together made a very funny pair and they created classic pranks. Their primary motivation of course was to grab the attention of the female folk. Deepu would set up a thick wooden stick that was actually broken as two pieces. It’s rough edges and corners at the broken area, merged so well into each other, that holding on one end kept the other in place and the merged area showed no signs of a breakage either. So for a person watching the whole thing, it would be like Deepu was holding a normal thick wooden stick. Kial would come up, flex his muscles and in one super man’s move, break the stick with his hand. Amazing show indeed. Well, I would be lying if I said that I had never wanted to impress the girl folk. I did want to, but somehow, studies and other important matters took priority. 

One afternoon, while the sun was at its scorching best, we had our physical training period. All of us were lined up in ten rows and our master was calling out instructions for our exercises. Each time we heard him say “Hands up” we could hear one voice within us say “Pants down”. It was so well timed that what he said would mix with what our master called out but still would be a shade late.  Our master went wild and he called out several times to the students to show the person who was doing this and to the person himself to step out. But in these times, we proved to be a real united pack of untamed wolves. Not one person gave in. And so we remained standing there and each one got a nice whacking with the master’s cane. For the diligent students, the installment was one whacking in addition as he was more frustrated with their silence than that of the others. We all knew that the character creating this mockery was Deepu.

Nigdal was another Anglo-Indian, who had a fantastic way of dropping rubber lizards and reptiles from a higher point on to the tables of the girl classmates. You would really get a feel that it dropped from the roof, as he would surreptitiously get himself to a higher elevation to drop them. They would land like with that real "Plop" sound. It was fun to hear the reactions from the girls with most of them screeching “Mummy” and holding on to the other. Nigdal’s attack would be when the whole class would be preparing for an intense test in Physics.

Many teachers would tell us in advance about question answer sessions that they planned to conduct. On such days, Deepu would position himself behind a girl and surreptitiously tie one of her long plaits to the wooden frame of her chair. And when she would be called by the teacher with a question, she would politely get up, only to be pulled down suddenly, by the trick worked up by Deepu. Atleast our batch was not so notorious as our seniors who had bleaching powder spread inside the desks of girl classmates. When the teachers were not around, Deepu mostly used the top of the desks to move around in the classroom. Very rarely did he take the aisles between the desks. You would get a feel that he was up to a table top dance sometimes.

These are some of the many funny experiences that flood my mind as of now. In one way, I should thank these friends for filling my mind with these lighter experiences.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A SCHOOL BAG FULL OF REMINISCENCES - THE GYPSIES

Reminiscences of my school days would be incomplete without a mention of the gypsies. I thought it was appropriate to dedicate an entire piece for them as a mark of respect for them. Although, we often tend to see them as vagabonds and criminals, there is something really attractive and mysterious about them. While on our journeys to school and on our way back to our homes, there was not one day when would have missed seeing a band of the gypsies somewhere on the route. Dressed in the most haphazard and unkempt manner, at first sight, they are certainly a bunch that does not deserve any mention. But observe them a little more closely and you will see why they are an amazing bunch.

One of their skills that caught my fascination, is the way they brought down squirrels with the catapult. I have also seen them shoot small birds with their air guns. There are days when I have stopped my cycle to watch this flawless execution being exhibited. It requires such a great amount of practice and focus to bring about this impeccable execution. I have seen hardly one or two in their bunch, miss a shot, over the entire school time span that I have seen them. This meant that most of them, were really good at it. It really made me think, as to how I could scale up my performance in my academics, through sheer practice and focus.



The other fascinating aspect that I observed, was that they had their own products that they made and sold. I had mentioned in my last post on the same subject of school reminiscences, that there would be vendors who lined up with their sale spots on both sides of the road on the salary day of each month. The gypsies also would put up one or two sales spots in these. Of course, we could find their sale spots on other days too, at different places. What they made, were mostly trinkets and jewelry of various colours, made of beads and metal and other small metalwork. They also sold catapults of different sizes. They had their own supply, assembly and selling systems in place. A bunch of them, would go out on the roads and the streets and use their sticks that had magnets fixed at their ends to pick up different types of iron stuff and scrap. They could be nails or rings or any small parts that found its way outside the Railway shops. Another bunch, would sit and make whatever products they could from what the supply bunch collected. My assumption is that they would invest in the purchase of the beads, that were very much a part of most of their products. What was fascinating was their passion in what they made and the faith that their products would sell, when they were still a group that were being looked down in the social strata by the hoi polloi. I doubt whether their social position has become any different today either.

Monkeys are very much a part of the bunch. The gypsies get them dressed in beautiful human attires and make them do all the monkey tricks. A lot of people gather to watch this and generously give them money. This show was always there on the Railway salary day of every month.

I remember watching a very funny scene while returning from school, one day. A police team was trying to clear out a gypsy bunch from a location. One of them, while lifting his air gun in the process of quickly evading the police beating him up, happened to portray a position as though, he was aiming the gun at the police. The poor fellow got beaten up all the more, miserably :))

With the rampant growth of e-Commerce, the products of their type are being made and sold by several other individuals through home based ventures. Women can stand out in the crowd or go boho-chic by incorporating the gypsy woman jewelry into their outfit. You enter a fascinating world when you have a tryst with gypsy jewelry. You can spot beads from the size of a mustard seed to that of a lemon in their works of art. I think women should go in for this jewelry only if they are in the mood for experimenting as they are sure to stand out in a crowd in a pretty quirky way with these. That way, they get to tweak their looks everyday to go in the gypsy way. A free spirited and flamboyant mentality is what a gypsy look reflects and that is yet to catch up in a big way in conservative India. There are several gypsy tribes all over the world and each have their own flamboyance in their way of life.

I very rarely take the Railway road these days and it's been a long time, since I have seen a bunch of gypsies. It would be really interesting to see, how the mobile technology has impacted them as mobiles have crept into the hands of almost everyone in India. Imagine some one in the gypsy community getting a good exposure on e-Commerce. He or she could make a big impact, while India is going through this transformation in shopping now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A BIRTHDAY WISH FOR A TRAVELER FRIEND

🍁🍁 

You have been blessed with a pair of eyes,
That is always busy,
Exploring different corners of the world,
Through the traveler in you.

Your gregarious nature,
Brings together a lot of individuals,
Under the umbrella of comradeship.
🍁🍁🍸🍷🍰 

Happy Bday.πŸ°πŸŽ‚πŸ·πŸ‚πŸ‚

May destiny bless you,
With unending zeal and enthusiasm,
To explore the remote corners of the earth,
And also bind several people,
With the warmth of your heart.πŸ‚πŸ‚

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