Saturday, December 31, 2016


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


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.


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