OF FAIR AND FOUL IN MID DAY MEALS


Source: OF FAIR AND FOUL IN MID DAY MEALS

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OF FAIR AND FOUL IN MID DAY MEALS


 

It was John Maynard Keynes who once famously alluded to the thin dividing line between Fair & Foul in a Nation’s Economics.  Like most of his quotable quotes, this too is applicable to most of our problems which have eluded solutions despite well-meaning policy formulation & budgetary allocations by successive Governments.

The ineffective & oftentimes intellectually dishonest implementation of the much touted Midday Meal Scheme for Primary School children has occupied centre-stage in my modest thoughts : the brow isn’t actually furrowed but is headed in that general direction.

As I come out of a longish stretch of inertia (more famous Bloggers refer to this inaction as Writer’s Block) I cannot think of any subject more appropriate than this to unleash my creativity on  .

Directive Principles enshrined in our Constitution are  guidelines  for the Central & State Governments to enact & implement laws to effectively address various issues such as economic inequalities ,  child nutrition  , & indeed Cow & Calf protection ,  to name a few ; the last mentioned pursued with zeal greater than that visible for Child Nutrition in contemporary India !!

State sponsored Mid-Day meals in schools were first introduced  by MGR , the sensitive cine star turned politician in what was once Madras , over a decade after the Indian Republic had adopted the Constitution . A few other States followed perfunctorily & it was not long thereafter that a Central Government notified Mid -Day Meal Scheme was launched  as a collaborative project between the Centre & the States. Four decades later , in November 2001 , the Honourable Supreme Court of India passed an Order  clearly defining a Child’s ENTITLEMENT per day  as below  , in addition to micro-nutrients & medicines as recommended by the National Health Mission :

ITEM

PRIMARY : CLASS I to V

UPPER PRIMARY : CLASS VI to VIII

CALORIES

450 700

PROTEINS ( Gms )

12

20

RICE / WHEAT       ( Gms )

100

150

PULSES ( Gms )

20

30

VEGETABLES          ( Gms )

50

75

OIL & FATS (Gms)

05

8

Free Rice & Wheat from the Central Govt Pulses / Vegs / Oils & Fats from State Govts.

Kitchen infrastructure/ Running Expenses & cost of logistics concurrently from Centre & States

Meagre entitlement , so easy to fulfill , wouldn’t you agree . And yet both of us would be ever so wrong !!  Successive Governments have made huge budgetary allocations :  after all  over 120 million children in  nearly a  million schools to be fed for about 200 School Days a year translates to HUGE MONEY TO BE STOLEN , as reflected in some media headlines that scream at us with monotonous regularity  :

  • No Midday meals served for over 18 months : funds siphoned off
  •  Midday Meals Cereals sold to private traders
  • Only 7  out of 80 midday meal samples passed Food Safety tests
  • Traces of Coliform in School Meals / Adulteration / Food Poisoning
  • CHIKKI ( Energy Bar ) micro nutrient contaminated with dirt

Of course, not everyone can be painted with the same brush, but small pockets of excellence notwithstanding , implementation has largely remained well  below par . Few committed State Governments, &  Public – Private partnerships , such as  Akshaypatra in Karnataka ; & ISKCON in Mumbai are notable exceptions that prove that through honest & effective management of resources it is indeed possible to deliver affordable , safe & healthy  meals to Primary School Children.

Part of the problem has been dilution of focus by loading many sub-plots to piggy-back onto the main story . Different Pressure Groups have, over the years , added seemingly noble objectives to what ought to have remained essentially a Mid Day Meal scheme .  Literacy ;  Removal of Caste & Gender bias  ( you gel well if you eat together !! ) ; Empowering Women ( Village level Self Help Groups engaged in cooking School Meals & thereby employing women ) ; & Poverty  alleviation ( how !! )   are but a few such sub plots

Our Mythology speaks of  the Pandava prince Arjuna’s singular  focus on the eye of the GOLD FISH on a spinning wheel , to present his credentials in Archery to King Draupad & thereby win the hand of princess Draupadi as his reward ( later shared with his four brothers  at the behest of his mother who enjoyed prolonged bathing )  . Had his focus been diffused  & attention diverted he would , in all probability , not have hit the bull’s eye ( fish- eye in this narrative ) , nor won the princess’s hand ; the legend of Panchali would have been nipped in the bud ; the battle of Kurukshetra would probably have given mythology a miss ; Prince Arjuna’s charioteer in the battlefield would have been spared the arduous narrative to coax & cajole the prince on the horns of a dilemma out of his to-be-or-not-to-be stupor (plagiarized ages  later by a  bard on the banks of river Avon ) ; & my good friend  ParthaSarathi  would probably have been named somewhat differently . To cut a long story short & to steer clear of my nasty penchant for digression , suffice it to say that detached concentration & single minded focus without sub-plots is  a CAPITAL IDEA.

 Allow me to amplify the direction I am taking by sharing the following Maharashtra  State Government Declaration that I came across earlier this year when attending a workshop on School Meals  :

DSC02338

Can you find a mention here of Child Nutrition Healthy School Meals or anything even remotely congruent to the Central Plot. 

I would happily condone its linguistic inadequacy had the Central Theme not been so completely                                                                                                                                  side-lined.

The   Bureaucrat  CONCERNED  seemed completely UNCONCERNED  as to why I found this to be a matter of  DEEP  CONCERN . For his enlightenment : 

  • OBJECTIVES ARE SO BRAZENLY UNDEFINED
  • AGENDA IS SO VISIBLY DILUTED
  • FOCUS IS SO  CLEARLY DIFFUSED
  • HOW DIS-ORGANISED CAN SUCH  ORGANISED ASSERTIONS GET !!!

Nutripack Logo_jpeg

It was against this perspective that we launched a Research Project “NUTRIPACK “ in January 2015 , without much ado , from the historic & now University town of Wageningen in Netherlands as a collaboration between a Dutch Corporate with a CEO passionate about CSR , a Dutch Consultancy with very strong K2K & G2G platforms , a Dutch University of Applied Sciences with a Food & Agriculture bias , &  Baramati based  School of Biotechnology & Agricultural Development Board ; under the aegis of the                                                                                    Dutch Government . Attempts to meet the Union HRD Minister who presides over the Indian Government’s Mid-Day Meal Scheme in  Delhi were tactfully thwarted by her extremely polite   staff ( Madam has a very busy schedule but has read your E Mail with utmost interest !!  She will respond very shortly!! Madam gets very upset if we remind her— because she is so very busy, etc  ) 

Apart from identifying present shortcoming in terms of Safety , Hygiene , & Nutritional inadequacy , Project objectives entailed  evolving  new recipes & a viable model for delivery of safe & healthy meals each day  from Centralized Kitchens conforming to ISO & other Food Safety Standards.

Students were deployed from the Dutch University to collaborate with students from Baramati , mentored by  local  as well as  visiting Dutch faculty. Five months of penetrative field visits , laboratory tests , & detailed interface with  various stake holders at Pilot Schools in and around Baramati followed . Schools selected for the study were representative of a wide spectrum  consisting of Government-aided , Privately-aided , & Public-Private partnership aided Day-Schools & an affluent “funding-no-problem” Private School to provide the contrasting scenario. A privately funded Residential School for orphans & for children abandoned by parents under economic compulsions was also studied. Daily School Meal budgets ranged from a meagre Rs 3 per Child per School day to a princely Rs 5 to Rs 7 per child per School day , contrasting starkly with the Rs 50 + per Child per School day budget at the Private affluent “Aid-not-required” School which serves a menu customized by a full-time Nutritionist to provide variety as well as Nutritional balance.  Interestingly, & perhaps predictably, Pupil- absenteeism due to illness was observed to be the highest & a “Happiness” survey among pupils lowest at the high-budget School. While pupils at aided Schools were happy with their Rice & Dal / Sambhar with a miniscule serving of a vegetable each day with a “Laddoo”  or a Banana being the high point once every so often , those at the Private unaided school seemed unhappy with their Soup / Salad / Rice / Chapati / Dal / Vegetables / Fruits / Yoghurt or Buttermilk / Milk , & craved for food-adventurism in Pizzas , Burgers , Oriental & Continental cuisine . Body Mass Index studies showed dismal results & the unnerving prospect of stunted physical & mental growth in a very large percentage  of a new generation in resurgent India. Apart from School Meal samples , Cooking & Serving Utensils  were also tested & shockingly high percentage of microbial contamination observed specially in the Serving Bowls / Spoons & Plates. The less said about the quality of Drinking Water, the better .  The impact of personal hygiene in terms of washing of hands before cooking / serving / eating of meals was also included in the holistic study of  probable causes of contamination with the rather distressing observation that washing of hands with tap water in fact dramatically increased the level of contaminants , as did the use of some branded soaps . Branded & somewhat expensive hand washes were found to be the most effective , followed closely by unwashed hands.

In terms of Kitchen infrastructure , the sharp contrast between a Government aided school & that at the affluent Private School as below speaks for itself.Private School Kitchen

 

Government Aided School Kitchen The Research outcomes were presented at a Round Table in Mumbai in early June 2015 , coinciding with the visit of the Dutch Prime Ministerial delegation , in the august presence of the visiting Minister for  Agriculture , Agricultural Counseller from the Dutch embassy, Senior personnel from UNICEF , Women-on-Wings, & several leading Corporates .

As though in support of our cause , Mumbai editions of both Times of India & Indian Express carried Editorials highlighting inadequacies in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme , to coincide with our Round Table event .  Child Nutrition was the subject of much animated debate as multiple viewpoints & suggestions surged forth during the sumptuous Trade Dinner that followed with Mumbai’s who’s who in attendance. Multi-disciplinary MOUs were signed , hands warmly clasped in We Shall Overcome  symbolism & life moved on .

Until five months later a follow through was undertaken earlier this week on skype between  stakeholders to address the inevitability of change that had been recognised & had thankfully not been overtaken by the passage of time.

Rules of the Game are getting finalized : Mustn’t lose sight of Women’s Self Help Groups , we are told ; avoid Eggs is the egg-on from some quarters , belying the once popular Dara Singh commercial urging kids to eat eggs each day ( Sunday Ho Ya Monday : Roz Khao Andey !! ) : Some States have already banned Eggs from the Mid Day Meals menu : ” Elephants & Horses do not eat eggs & see how healthy & strong they are ” : thus spake a Senior State Government official , as he helped himself to yet another Egg-containing Cookie at the Taj Palace Round Table. That Eggs are cheaper than Lentils at today’s prices would not convince such guardians of Indian Culture otherwise.  Thankfully , there is no dearth of sanity , passion & immense patience in single minded pursuit of the goal  by all key stake-holders & “we shall overcome” is indeed the order of the day.

A Pilot project is on the cards to finally deliver Healthy Safe School Meals to a few hundred children at a few Schools to establish viability of the endeavour before expanding its horizons to post another blog another day .

Until then , cheers & all the best

 

 

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This One’s for you Nandu


Here’s dedicating this post to Nandu on his 70th , with warm Greetings & all good wishes intertwined with unmitigated trivia that has the habit of coming to the fore from one’s innermost nooks & crannies down memory lane on special occasions such as this (phew!) 

Nandu wasn’t the bright one at School in Maths , & was thereby the cause of bald bewilderment in “Khurchandu” , the Private Tutor , who often exclaimed in horror “Dikkat Kahaan Paida Hoti Hai” & provoked an immediate though sotto voce response from Nandu which need not be repeated here !! He always scored high marks though in History through his “Meri Raani, Meri Raani , Meri Raani “ chant multiple times , each morning & night , to memorise the reign & times of Mary , Queen of Scots. He was duly rewarded for this effort with a degree in History from Hansraj , DU , & moved on to do his CA from the land of vales , dales , bonny lasses & Nano Ales , where his “Meri Raani” once ruled.

Nandu was always the “Angrez” , which was kind of unusual in a house full of Hindi High School types . Whilst other elder siblings sang Vividh Bharati & Binaca Geet Mala kind of bathroom numbers (in the bathroom , of course !!) , Nandu’s favourite croon was “Oh my Darling Clementine” . As a matter of interest & just by  way of a digression I so adore , my only war cry at that age from the bathroom was of two magical words , which always brought an elder sibling nearest to the loo to address the issue as per a well -orchestrated protocol at Number 43 , Digboi .

Nandu’s pleasant thoughts as a school lad were always expressed in Hindi or Sindhi , whereas his anger found articulation in English , “ None of your business” being his favorite , followed by a hasty & tactically prudent retreat to safety behind bolted doors of the nearest room , with his immediate junior in the clan hierarchy , bread knife in hand , in hot pursuit ( handling sharp devices from an early age must no doubt have inspired him to become a surgeon in later years , in unflinching service to Her Majesty’s Britain : but that , as I am so very fond of saying , is a story for another day ) .

Always good at networking , Nandu has a penchant for striking up a conversation with complete strangers even on a turbulent flight , for example  & of landing up at their home & hearth even before the unsuspecting lot have had time to unpack their laundry after an extended business tour. His most notable Networking pal was a once powerful Politician of a now- obsolete dispensation . For reasons best known to phoneticians , late Dada , otherwise impeccably accurate in pronouncing names , often mispronounced the name of the aforesaid contact , to sound terribly like the first part of the proverb meaning pay-back-in-one’s-own-coin ( what else , you single trackers !! )

Nandu’s  hyper sensitivity to hygiene is what folk- lore are made of ! It once resulted in a hilarious situation where Nandu insisted on rinsing Coffee cups in a hotel room with complimentary Mineral Water , only to realize thereafter that there was no water left to put into the kettle for a refreshing cuppa .

Nandu
Always the life & soul of a party , with his Lit Match on the tongue , Whisky glass balancing dance Spot the Queen Card Trick , & Santa Banta inanities, he can charm the most difficult –to-please customers . A gracious host , & a delightful guest , that’s our very own Nadu in short , who preferred to party when the Nation sat glued in front of TV sets to watch Kapil’s Devils lift the World Cup at Lords in 1983 . 

An active Round Tabler till 40 , & an enthusiastic Square Pegger & a Rotarian thereafter , he has always found time for a heady cocktail of Fellowship & Service .

Behind every good man , there is often ( not Always !! ) a good woman . But for Veena’s judiciously overwhelming influence , he would probably still be the shoot & scoot guy beating hasty retreats to safety behind bolted doors , with a Bread- Knife wielding Brit in hot pursuit.

Happy 70th Nandu , & all good wishes for a long healthy & happy life of togetherness for Veena & you . Cheers & ATB

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Happy 80th Birthday Hiroo & May there be Many Happy Returns



This one is for a Very Special Person : to Greet him on his 80th Birthday & to wish him Many Happy Returns of the Day.

Long ago , in the Malgudis of Upper Assam called Digboi & Duliajan , the aforesaid gent was often referred to as KHUSH , an abbreviation of his surname : a remarkable transformation of a Proper Noun into an Adjective , to denote his Happy disposition , rather like the proverbial Miller of the Dee ” no lark more blithe than he”.

In my good times & bad , Hiroo has always been a source  of comfort : his laughter is infectious & his general sense of well being inspirational without intrusion . Here’s all good wishes for a very Happy Birthday & Many Happy Returns to you , & many many years of Good Health & Mirth with Mira always beside you. IMG_1382

Snig Mehndi Hiroo Guddi AvinashHiroo

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While I was away !!


 

 

About this time last year I chose to take a break from Blogging:

For Blog

 a break that has lasted a little over a year. I was beginning to stray from a self-imposed protocol in the selection of content. Also, some well- meaning feedback needed to be taken on-board.……

……. It is an exhilarating feeling to access Blog-Stats for the year of my absence reflecting a viewership of over 700 from 38 countries from across the world with China as the only notable exception. That there were over 25 “Likes” registered during my “exile” is the cherry on top.

Like any other period in history, my 12-month absence too has been a collage of events & non-events.

Most significant have been the ascent  transcending predictions of  “Iron Man” & the passing away of the “Man of Steel”,  the latter acknowledged through a brief albeit respectful obit  by the men “Who also make Steel” . It seems like yesterday when these very men had issued full pagers in the Financial Press decrying the Man’s accomplishments & when Jamshedpur stood polarized about the Man who intuitively  made friends,enemies , & also Steel.

There were three “dispatches” which I deeply mourned ; no “matches” of any consequence barring one which I should have liked to but did not attend  (that , as I often say , is a story for another day ) , & no “ hatches” warranting a mention .

I retired from Packaging Industry after a multi – faceted innings of over 35 years & was delighted at the upload on You-Tube, a first for me , of my final Presentation at a Packaging Conclave . While the number of hits was impressive , it was soon overwhelmed by an upload of a 3 year old’s argument with his mom about Cup Cakes : have you watched me on You Tube became futile thereafter .

There were a couple of hospital vigils, thankfully both with a happy ending.

I took up a full-time job post retirement , in a field completely new to me : an enjoyably huge challenge to understand a rather complex range of products as far removed from Packaging as Chalk is from Cheese. The Packaging fraternity do not appear to have written me off yet & the occasional phone call or e mail from them never fails to bring me some joy.

Substantial gains at the Stock Exchange on low hanging fruits : made hay in the sun- shine partly in the wake of  Lotus-ubiquity , & partly as an offshoot of the Who- Blinks- First played out in Global sweepstakes in Ukrine. That & the non-dilution of Bank F D Interest Rates were the bright spots in my otherwise inert Financial Planning.

Guru Nanak , of the “IDP Guru Nanak & I” fame has finally claimed a rightful  place on a straight wall in my Sitting Room & keeps a benevolent eye on events & non events in my life : whoever said Blogging was an exercise in futility !!

My move from Pune to Gurgaon with most of my personal effects wasn’t worthy of a mention anywhere , even in passing  .  A certain move to New Delhi caught media attention with amazingly sharp focus on inventory of  personal staff  & effects.  There were those who moved without causing a ripple & some who caused ripples without moving.  All in all , it was a season for moving experiences of various hues.

There were high profile Jail _Bail_ ke _Khel . Yerwada , unable to keep up with Ins & Outs of a certain recalcitrant , may end up with one more depending upon outcome of a case long buried & recently exhumed. A self –recusing ( a word I was hitherto not familiar with ) heel -cooler , in for a seemingly innocuous misdemeanour ,  ( in less than a minute in a moving elevator how can it be otherwise !!  ) is doing precisely that .  Meanwhile , the man of enormous means & a title more becoming than his stature  continues to languish at Tihar given his inability to furnish the Bail amount . A period  one might say with ample display of “Prisoner’s dilemma” in all its facets.

And finally , &  by no means the least in importance ( indeed topmost in my order of importance ) was a close encounter with ASL 7459 , Dada’s old Desoto : The very same which served well , whether during long after-eight drives or in long-distance sojourns with eight crammed into the old faithful ; the one which enabled driving lessons for growing up lads & lasses in the clan  ; the one which had an accident-free record barring the small & inconsequential run-in with a Milkman on his bicycle .

DSC_0279

The Registration number has changed ; the body redressed in a quaint black & white ; the engine replaced with a powerful new engine specially brought in from the US : re-built in every aspect but with  a thoughtful retention of the Baby-Wipers on the front windscreen , & the Instruments panel , still operating with its erstwhile efficiency. The entire extended family owes a round of applause for Vivek , who has restored the old faithful with immense passion , to much more than her erstwhile glory.

Cheers for now & all the very best to all

 

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SPECIAL GREETINGS ON A SPECIAL DAY


Happy birthday Mira & may there be many happy returns .

The above greeting seems ever so staid and uncharacteristic of my Blog.

My Blog, after all, relates essentially to epochal Events & dreary Non-Events that constitute the collage of life . In keeping with this essence , the Greeting would be incomplete , would it not , without some little tidbits about coincidences of history associated with this special 24th day of the month of February over the years & indeed over centuries ( Wikepedia , how very incomplete would one be without your constant companionship !! )

By Roman custom, February 24 is the day added to a leap year in the Julian Calendar, which counted the year somewhat inaccurately at 365.25 days , thus necessitating the add-on of a Leap day every so often. February 24, 1996 (400 years after Julian Calendar went out of fashion ) was the last officially recognised Leap Day in the European Union . Bureaucratic delay at its peak one might say.

The Julian Calendar is, and has been for over 400 years, overwhelmed globally by the Gregorian Calendar , recognised by the UN amongst others , in the interest of international integration . Gregorian Calendar was introduced ( by Pope Gregory : who else !! ) , by a decree signed in the year of the Lord 1582 on the 24th day of February .

True to its stated objective , Vatican immediately got down to restoration of normalcy : the Spring vernal equinox had slid from March 21 to March 10 because of the cumulative Julian error as above & needed immediate restoration. Therefore, February 24 in 1582 in the Gregorian calendar was followed by March 06 1582 in Church records for all calendar bound obligations and events . Births on February 24 in 1582 were officially recorded as March 06 : a small price to pay for restoring the equinox to March 21 where it has stood , rock solid , ever since , performing its sheet anchor role with reference to Easter .

Back home ,the official Indian Calendar follows Saka Era ( Gregorian year minus 78 years ) , contrary to the common belief in favour of the Vikram Samvat ( Gregorian year + 56.7 years ) . The Saka Calendar was adopted by the Government of India based on recommendations of the Calendar Reforms Committee of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research , in 1957 , on , believe it or not , the 24th day of February.

Apart from epochal events associated with February 24 in the evolution of a uniform calendar system, several non-events, both sublime & not quite sublime , have an uncanny association with the date.

So what !! you might wonder sotto voce if you are alone when reading this , or aloud if there are others around you . and rightly so !

The day is special to me as it is to many others , not because DuPont launched the world’s first Nylon bristled Tooth Brush on this day in 1938 ( btw did you know that DuPont called its newly discovered yarn Nylon because it was the result of concurrent research in New York & London . NY & LON as a conjunct seemed like a good idea. An idea born through collaborative endeavours in R&D centres in Dispur & Lancaster would then be called Disaster . But I digress , as is my wont , & must return to the theme of this post.

The day , as I was saying , is special to me not because it was on February 24, 1944 that the Russian revolution erupted ( officially the August Revolution only because August offers a more convivial weather than February for outdoor anniversary celebrations ) .

The day is special not because February 24 1937 saw the oath of office by the first ever Congress ministry under provincial autonomy negotiated at the Gandhi-Irwin dialogue : an oath they have consistently let the Nation down on .

Cassius Clay ( later Mohd Ali ) dislodged Sonny Liston as the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion on this day in 1964 , & a year later , to the day , the Liverpool lads , later tagged as The Beatles began shooting for their first film “ Help” ( the theme song is still fresh in one’s memory 5 decades later ) . But then . that’s not the reason why this day is special to me & to many others.

The day is special to me not because it was on this day in 1944 that Juan Peron staged a coup in Argentina & the legend of Eva Peron took its first tentative steps. What , one wonders , would have been the fall out ( if the coup had not been staged )  on Aleque Padamsee whose only claim to fame was the Liril girl in Ooty , till EVITA happended . But that again is a digression best avoided.

24th February 1991 saw the start of the first Gulf War against Iraq . North & South Yemen declared war on each other also on Feb 24 , 1974 & there is no one left there to “knock it off “.  It was on Feb 24th in 1974 that Pakistan finally recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign Nation : big deal !! one might exclaim. None of these can be the cause for this day to be special to me.

The objective of going to some considerable lengths in collating events & non -events coinciding is to put emphasis on the point that whilst wars may have been won or lost , Tooth brushes launched , & epoch making treaties signed on this day , the day is special to me not because of any of the above but because it is the birthday of someone very special to me.

Our lives are interspersed with events & non-events, some happy and some not so happy Special days such as the birthday of someone as special as you are the beacon of hope that, in the midst of a medley called life, there always is & shall be , for many more years to come , an anchor-point , a point of reference so to speak , for our extended family , in you , our very dear Mira .

A Very Happy Birthday Mira & may there be many Happy Returns of this very special day .

Cheers & all the best .

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Valentine and a Letter


They were newly married .

He was 27 , sensitive , and simple in his living habits . An intensely private  person ; passionately in love with his bride , camera , and books in that order. Anglicised in his protocols through a few years workex in England , he was nevertheless commited to his roots and Desi with a broad perspective on propriety.

She was gorgeous in looks , with lustrous eyes , and had an endearingly assertive demenor. At 21,  she was ambitious beyond her years ,and had a penchant for seeking out the influentials in their fast expanding circle of friends.

Valentine’s day was round the corner. Having arranged , through a friend in England ( pre AMAZON and FLIPKART days ) , for a special surprise-gift for his Valentine , he checked each morning at the local post office whether his parcel had arrived ( a necessary chore back then , in pre-FEDEX days ) .  In order for the intended surprise not to be compromised , he had left a written instruction at the post office for his mail to be held for pick-up until his parcel had arrived .

Coincidentally , and unknown to him , she too was making daily calls at the local post office to retrieve a letter which she was anxious to receive personally.  The Post Master , while noting  her hold-for-pickup instructions , had compromised his intended surprise . As was to be expected , she perceived his post office endeavors differently

Following a few days of visible anxiety on her flawless face ascribed in his mind to the monthly mood changes he was familiar with , she finally blinked, accusing him of intercepting her mail , emphasizing how unimportant and innocuous her correspondence with her loved ones was.

He was flummoxed and unable to comprehend the truth . When accused thus by a young wife , men often get defensive and eager to prove their innocence , without speculating  even for a moment why a certain letter , harmless in content in her assertion, could be  so important to her .

It was 10 days after she walked out on him that her surprise gift arrived .  Coincidentally , the letter she had been expecting also arrived on the same day .

Curiosity got the better of him and he deftly opened the letter : a seemingly innocuous greeting card as it turned out , with a longish scribble which he read out to himself several times as though the contents would miraculously change soon to put him out of his anguish .

He visited  her at her parental home soon thereafter , to ask her to return to a fresh start , and to assure her that he was willing to forgive and forget . She declined , unwilling to accept his truthful offer at face value. He returned after agreeing to a divorce through mutual consent . A year later they were  divorced and celebrated their parting of ways with a buffet luncheon at what was once their favourite place by the riverside . They promised to remain good friends , and exchanged a mutual vow of silence on the cause of their break up which curious friends might want to ascertain.

It is often said that the spoken word is never lost in the wilderness for ever , and that sooner or later it reaches destinations unintended .

He kept his vow of silence for 35 years . She chose to speak , ascribing their break up to a grotesque untruth .

Was he the loser in this little tale . Or was her fragility enough to justify her deployment of means and resources definitively foul.

As he races to his sunset years , he looks upon this as one of several lessons life delivers through a sequence of events and non-events.

Bye for now and cheers to all

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