Happy 70th Birthday ! Kaushalya Singh

Given her penchant for poetry , I thought  It would be appropriate that Kaushalya’s Platinum Birthday Greeting should be  poetry. Trouble is : not many words rhyme with Seventy  (bounty , shanty  , Damyanti  were some that came to mind : none appropriate you’d agree !) When dismayed , parental intervention often comes  to one’s rescue . Taking some liberties & alliterative licences , a few lines were thus couched :

“7 decades ago, of the first month on the second day

A genius was born to Ganga & Kay Bee Kay


A sibling to Mira  , she barely knew

That Kay Bee Kay & Ganga were not quite through


With biennial gaps in which to wallow

There were one two three , nay, four to follow


If I go any further , I might incur the wrath

Of Family elders who might begin to froth

How dare you !! they might begin to shout

Alliteration be damned , I might get thrown out “


Kaushalya showed early  signs of genius as a School Girl . Her Maths teacher Goswami Master ( endearingly referred to by the Kanuga Clan as KHURCHANDOO in a respectful reference to his bald pate which he perennially scratched with the Red Pencil which he seldom needed when checking Kaushalya’s homework ) often  commented , in utter bewilderment , more to himself than to anyone else : “ DIKKAT KAHAAN PAIDAA HOTEE HAI —-“   in an obvious reference to Kaushalya rattling out complex equations of Algebra when all Khurchandoo wanted was a quick proration of his monthly tuition fees after netting the days he couldn’t make it to the Kanuga citadel ( a tough ‘un in itself in those pre-calculator days ) .

Her genius earned her the endearing sobriquet “ Guryaanee” amongst her siblings.

She wrote poetry from a very early age , in a Burgundy Red Diary . One of her poems which I was particularly fond of  was “ Naree “  :  I shall say no more though : the last time I recited a few lines she was quite annoyed !! Admittedly I had made a few unacceptable changes .

Fast forward to her post graduation as M A ( English Hons ) & LLB from Calcutta University . As a student in Calcutta , she was pursuing a lot more than her post graduation & wedding bells were not too far with Ganesh Prasad Singh , G P for short . It was the mother of all weddings , with the groom choosing to arrive on an Elephant . But then that , as I am so very fond of saying , is a tale for another day.

The White Stork soon delivered , in quick succession , two Chota Geniuses , a boy who went on to set  River Liffey on fire , & a girl who continues to set river Thames ablaze . Its wonderful that both are with Kaushalya on this special day , along with their loving spouses 

A warm hearted person in good times & bad , Kaushalya has been sentimentally close to all her siblings.  I often remember with a whole lot of fondness , our days at Mayfair Gardens in Calcutta , when , as a fresh graduate & no pocket money now that I was at home in Flat 303  my Kwality Choco Bars at 3.30 each afternoon were funded by Kaushalya from Flat 304 Belatedly , my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the Ghais & on my own behalf !! . Always the first to come forward to  help & ever the low-profile do-gooder , that’s our  Kaushalya .

 I should have loved to be with you on this special day  

& raise an impromptu Bubbly  toast .

But that wasn’t to be , & the best I can offer

Is this impromptu on-my-Blog post  “

Have loads of fun , because all that matters on this day is love and heartfelt cheer

Happy Birthday !


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A United Europe !!

Most travellers to Europe ( Schengen countries to be precise ) have often contrasted the tedious inter-state cross-border traffic in India , with the zero-checkpoint transition from one member state to another in the Schengen zone. Of course some EU member states have so far not embraced the United Europe phenomenon in terms of their Visa regimes & Currencies , but they are in a minority within the EU.

Picked up an interesting story  on the internet recently about how united Europe really is : reminiscent of a short story I once read about a house in Ireland where the Dining room , the porch , & the Wash Rooms were in Northern Ireland , whereas the Sitting Room , Kitchen , & Bed-rooms were in the Irish Republic , or a configuration similarly ridiculous : imagine the supper travelling across the border from the Kitchen to be served in the Dining room , or a quick hop across the border in the stillness of night, to take a leak ( in the Wash Room : where else !! )

However, I digress , being a slave to old habits which proverbially die hard . Returning to what I picked up on the internet , & I quote :

” A metal strip on the floor of Eurode Business Center marks the border between Germany and the Netherlands. On one side of the building, there’s a German mailbox and a German policeman. On the other side, a Dutch mailbox and a Dutch policeman ———– The border is open enough that a single building can span it. No border guards, no checkpoints. But a letter sent from the German side of the building takes a week to get to the Dutch side. —— a computer security company —-  has offices on both sides of the building. On one side,  employees call German customers on German phones. On the other side, it’s all Dutch. —-the company’s CEO, has two offices, one on either side of the border. He carries his laptop back and forth all day long.

——– ( true story of )  a Belgian carpenter who spent his days doing carpentry in Germany, then drove home to spend the night in Belgium. The German company he worked for paid for the car. Belgium wanted to tax the car because it spent the night in a Belgian driveway. Germany wanted to tax the car because it spent the day on German roads. The fight was such a big deal to both countries that they went to court to figure out who got to tax the car. (Germany won.)

This is how a united Europe is being created. Slowly, case by case, one Belgian carpenter at a time. ”

I have regrettably not made a note of the writer this story belonged to but acknowledge a cut & paste job done above to make a point : what point ? one might ask ! To be brutally honest , I haven’t the foggiest except that it makes an interesting READ .

Cheers for now & atb

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The Brits are coming

My Brit brother called earlier in the day to tell me what he was up to on a balmy winter day in jolly old England & brought me up to date with happenings relating to his 4-month old grandson Rishi . That reminded me of an exchange of letters between Rishi & me when he was 2-months of age : cute inanities I had stored up for use in a blog some day & forgotten all about. Memory thus jogged , I have retrieved the exchange reproduced hereunder :

Rishi wrote to all & sundry when he was 2 ( months of course ) :

I am Rishi. Seven weeks, six days and 12 hours old. In a little while I will be able to crawl, talk, walk, swim and play football. Then my diary will be pretty full. So I thought, I will give you all a status update now. How I am getting on etc. Because in a little while I will be too busy for that.

Up until now my life is superchill. And so it should be. I laugh a lot and I am happy most of the day. In return I get to sleep in late, take an afternoon nap or just close my eyes in my rocking chair for a minute or five. My mum tells me there are people who spent a lot of money to spend two weeks chilling like this at the pool in an all inclusive resort.

So what do I like? Lights have been my life joy from day one. I don’t care too much about the toys. A soft toy called Giraffe? Come on! But lamps! They have been fascinating me since day one. Me and lights, is like fish & chips. I also like my friends above my bed, they dance quite cool on the music. And yesterday I met a new friend in something they call the mirror. I studied the chap for a bit, and decided he was cool so gave him a smile. He smiled straight back at me, so I think we will get on. Oh and I like chatting, in person I mean. I am not that digital yet, although I have been on Skype many times.

What else? O yes, I can do stuff. For example, I can put my fist in my mouth. Can you do that? And I can eat and sleep at the same time. How superchill is that!

Rishi xxx

Hereunder my response on the facebook post :

Hey pal ! Grt 2 hear 4rm u.

I too can put a clenched fist into my mouth & often speak & think differently & sleep in business meetings all at d same time without anyone noticing. That is a skill u will develop once u r SLIGHTLY older & about my age .

Till then ENJOY ur new friends & experiences.

The thing called mirror is very interesting . I too have one. But these days I can reflect without looking at it ! All my luv & cheers & God Bless u.

He has not responded so far : some day he will : may be soon & in person : my brother mentioned the Brits may undertake a Passage to India early in the new year .

Cheers & looking forward to meeting the youngest “super-chill” member of the extended family

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Namastey Europe

Got back mid November after 3 glorious days in Paris and 7 days in the Netherlands . Weather all through was most kind and at sub 7 in Pune on return continued to be so

Stayed at a beautiful village called Houten in the NL with plenty of early morning walks along elaborate parks and water bodies and very friendly rural folk nodding their good mornings to the elegant old man from India . Amidst busy schedule at office , managed an evening in Utrecht and a day in Amsterdam. Met a French woman in Amsterdam who had spent many years in Auroville and knew Dr Dilip Dutta , formerly of Digboi Hospital  : small world !!

Came across a firang bhikharan ( beggar ) in Utrecht ( usual Mumbai traffic- signal story : she was homeless with two kids and no job etc  ) :  reaction : yehan key bhikhari bhi angrezi boltey hain !! ( even beggars speak English here !! ) : small world indeed !! Ran into beggars in Paris Metro ,  Champ-de-Elyssye , and Rue de Theatre too.

Got  introduced  to Greek cuisine for dinner on the banks of the Utrecht canal. Also became aware of  the use of duck fat instead of vegetable oils in most European establishments, leading to a prompt change in  daily bread from  stuffed omlette to cold salads and jacket potatoes with tons of butter : long live the Brits for this amazing invention of pub food : duck fat in European cuisine : ugh !! .

The bullet train from Amsterdam  to Paris was an experience one was  so looking forward to : had booked well  in advance to experience their cuisine  / wifi connectivity / tea and coffee from all over the world and so forth.” We regret” the announcement declared  shamelessly in 3 languages , that there was no activity in the train kitchen due to an electrical fault and that there would therefore be no hot meals nor tea or coffee : keep wifing and drinking early morning wino for 3 hours if u like !!  Shatabdis back home are better : at least one can hop off at a station for a quick samosa and chaai !! . Small world indeedee !!

The hotel in Paris was a comfortable walking distance from Eiffel tower , Louvre , Lover’s bridge , Statue of liberty , Arc de triumphe , and Notradam . Everything was exactly where it was on my last visit over 30 years back . “La ca change” one might say , except for the old Organ at Notradam which was 775 years of age the last time & had progressed to over 800 years this time around , still playing with awesome acoustics.

Plenty of happy Chinese tourists , some sheepish looking  Desis in Delhi kee sirdee attire ( a sartorial wonder that can not be described : has to be experienced !! )  invariably with grumpy wives introduced as “meri ( my )  missus“: seemed genuinely envious that I had no missus , meri or otherwise  , and bus-loads of  American couples . Most importantly , I finally had a smoking room and could also smoke in taxis and public places . Cigerette packets in stock ex Mumbai were finally put to good use. The Dutch must learn such liberalism from the French .

The high points of Paris were the Eiffel top at night / a day at the Disney Land in the midst of their 20th anniversary celebrations / absolutely out-of-this-world fireworks display against the backdrop of a massive Christmas Tree , a simulated free-fall inside an old service elevator at the  Hollywood Towers horror-Hotel  , Armagaddon- special- effects , Cinerama 5-D experience in a space ship -gone -wonky , the Hollywood boulevard , and of course a Champagne-reservation at the  Lido . A 10 minute parade to Mridangas, Tabla , Shehnais,  and Sitar with artistes “dressed” as Hindu Gods and Godesses could be extremely  offensive to a sensitive Saffronite  ( was moderately offensive to me too. But the champagne had just been popped and the ICICI card swiped for a small fortune : a protest walk -out then would be churlish : thankfully for the Lido a Punjabi old lady and her  daughter were the only other Hindus present  and speaking for myself I rationalised that God resides in all !! Besides , the lead-artiste in a diaphonous gold brocaded saree looked absolutely Divine !!

Some stray observations :

1. Turkish taxi driver in NL : critical of his dual citizenship and felt like the proverbial “washerman’s dog of neither home nor the river bank” .

2. Egyptian taxi driver in NL : left Egypt after Sadat was assasinated : didn’t like Hosni Mubarak and was too young to know much of Nasser. Didn’t think Tehreek square was a good idea and felt Egypt must revert to a monarchy : good news for King Farokh’s descendents , if any

3. Algerian taxi driver in Paris : loves to smoke a cigarallo while driving : khoob jamega rang jub milenge teen Yaar : hum tum or Benson bhai !! ( its party time when he meets a fellow smoker specially of brand Benson )  Has no political inclinations : loves Raj Kapoor , Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachhhan and , hold your breadth , Kareena Kapoor and has never heard of SRK.  Buys French subtitled Dvds of Hindi movies : proudly showed us DVDs of Gopi , Ram Aur Shyam , Deewar that he had bought @ Euros 1 each for his end-of-day entertainment. Was heart-broken to hear about Kareena getting married to Saif.

4. Namastey and Aap kaisey hain was often heard at the hotel from french employees : (30 + years ago during my last visit even English was barely spoken or understood ).

Astounded at the multiplicity of pieces of  luggage , both checked-in and cabin ,carried by desis : felt nice to be travelling light : perhaps shall be so  even to the final destination when the time comes !!

Cheers for now

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Passion Emotion Sentiment

These three words are often used in our daily lives as synonymous , whereas they are in fact as different in their connotations as the proverbial chalk is from cheese ( I have never quite understood why chalk & not butter or peanuts or Peanut Butter are contrasted with cheese : but then who am I to question what I can not comprehend !!  ) .

Coming back to the question of Passion , Emotion , & Sentiment I give in to my temptation to  quote ( & not plagiarise ) from a post in Speaking Tree a few days back ( yes , I do have a blog there, regrettably in disuse rather like a bomb-shelter wherein I shall seek refuge one of these days  if / when the going gets tough !!   ) which  more or less sums up one facet of Vedanta thus : ( simplified internally for ease of my own understanding )

”  Entertain Passion but do not be Passionate ;

   harbour Emotion but do not be Emotional ;  

  respect Sentiment without turning Sentimental

The above, practised over a period,  transforms character of :

  •  Passion from personal to impersonal ,
  • Emotion from selfish to unselfish ,
  • Sentiment from preferential to universal

Does this mutatative philosophy make one indifferent & by extension irresponsible towards affairs of  one’s immediately proximate  world ?

Quite the contrary :  

—– ( it ) ” merely changes the quality of such feelings from sensual to sublime ”

In our daily lives , we come across challenges which we tend to circumnavigate unless their outcome , if confronted , could make a material difference to our self-serving goals. Opportunities are often wasted , unless these are directly  correlated to our own well being. Many , if not most , can not see beyond the two-dimensional self-serving picture. The larger picture , in the third dimension , is often blurred & leads to inertia & rationalistic indifference.

So far so good !! Quoting ( as opposed to plagiarising ) from a Speaking Tree blog , combined with my innate ability to waffle make a heady cocktail . Vedanta may well change the quality of one’s feelings from sensual to sublime , but at a more mundane level , certain external stimuli do in fact change one’s feelings from sublimity to the very coarse & sensuous . An effective way to contain & indeed reverse the phenomenon is to allow the moment to pass by without offering a conscious  resistance to its passage.

Every human passion/emotion/sentiment , at the end of the day , tends to be either contextual or interpretational. And the context & interpretation thereof largely gets shaped by one’s perception of oneself in a given situation.  Centrality of one’s being in the enormity of the Universe often does the mischief . And one begins to develop a delusion of every event & non-event in the universe having some sublime relationship to oneself. Universality of passion / emotion & sentiment then becomes preferentially introverted.

There is a method in every randomised kaliedoscopic formation of events & non-events . Each such formation offers a propelling force , a challenge , & an opportunity . One responds to this invisible force differently on different occasions. On occasions that one does get propelled forward the results can be quite overwhelming

As the old saying goes , it is all about taking an opportunity head- on the moment it makes its presence felt.

Unhappily , realisation such as above comes rather late in the day for many such as me . However , looking back at lost opportunities can only aggravate the already stagnated situation . I for one have decided to take each day as it comes , celebrate it in its entirety , & not waste a moment looking back in the rear view mirror : after all rear views can at best ensure safety on the road whereas taking the full frontal windscreen in one’s perspective leads to a movement forward .

I do not know why I am writing this seemingly serious drivel instead of my usual light hearted banter : something within me is forcing me to do so & my  fingers have involuntarily moved  to key in a serious piece of boredom : my profuse apologies but I could not resist the propulsion.

Cheers for now

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Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time , not so very long ago , News was News covering the proverbial “Man Bites Dog” happenings of universal interest from North East West & South . Debate on the other hand , was debate & never did the twain meet .

News was serious business with Juthika Ratnam , or Devki Nanandan Pandey ( depending upon whether one was a Desi Firang or a Desi Desi in one’s close encounters with air-waves : short medium or long !! ) .

Debate then was debate , with astutely made points & counter-points in civilised seriousness  interspersed with immensely witty , often  scathingly euphemistic jibes traded between adversorial participants within narrow confines of time alloted by , & in language repetitively respectful to , the Presiding official.

Once upon a time , investigative journalism was the oligopolistic domain of the likes of “Indian Express” under Arun Shourie’s scathing Editorial Pen at the seriously sublime  level , & of “Blitz” under Karanjia’s salacious demeanour , content-titillation embellished by the back page treat for lecherous boys & men : latter unmatched by anything I in my innocent years had seen barring  3-D  images cleverly printed on Blotting Paper freely distributed by a certain  trader called Earl Fuller who often brought the good stuff from Singapore on his business trips to meet Dad & his colleagues deep in the jungles of Assam . But that, as I often say , is another story for another day. For the moment , suffice it to say that while family elders had qualified by virtue of age to use the great invention of those times in writing instruments called the biro ( ball pen in modern parlance ) , I was still on a quill & an ink pot ( Parker Quink ) & had the first rights always on Earl Fuller’s naughty blotters .

And, once upon a time , Candid Camera was an outrageously funny ( ha ha- type & not the funny- peculiar variant ) & MTV Bakra was a must-watch flag bearer for a while.

Once upon a time , Governments used to fall at the electoral hustings on allegations of kick backs in mere 9- digits of the Indian Rupee , 21 of which would fetch a US Dollar & 32 a British Pound ( remember a certain INR 64 Cr story !! )

Having officially qualified as a senior citizen for additional 25 basis points on my hard-earned Fixed Deposits , I have often been ridiculed on the flip side for harking back to the old times with boring narratives of how things were once upon a time . That notwithstanding , I should like to hold my ground & hark back to how different things were once upon a time.

At the macro level  candid camera , investigative journalism , titillation , & debate ( more appropriately slanging matches ) appear to have got mixed up in the electronic media’s 24 X 7 blitzkrieg , into an entangled mass of mediocrity  comparable to Hangers in a disused wardrobe or Cut Springs in a hardware store . Parliamentary debates in the world’s largest democracy are few & far between . Presidential debates in the world’s oldest democracy  have also been reflective of a degenerative regression to uncontrolled aggression. Have not watched ( on the box ; where else !! ) Parliamentary debates in the mother of all parliaments : may be what transpires in the HOC is no longer news-worthy or relevent to the boorish times we live in.  Back home, there is thankfully a semblance of sanity in the OUTSIDER debates on Bloomberg with Tim Sebastian ( of Hard Talk fame ) moderating the proceedings with panache .

Thankfully , however , times change not always for the worse , as appears to have happened at the macro level : they do sometimes change for the better too , & have thankfully done so at the micro level of yours aye in recent times . How so !! my well-wishers might wonder . Is it his long term US visa that even NAMO has not been able to obtain , or is it his long term Schengen visa accorded in the Orange Carpet category ( those familiar with Dutch colours will understand ) . Is it a bird , or is it an aeroplane they might wonder in well meaning bewilderment.  Such turn arounds & make overs are beyond words . The feeling of a rainbow wrapped around one’s shoulders is great . Specially when one is sitting atop a hill which , though dwarfed by mountain tops conquered by many,  is nevertheless an improvement  over the erstwhile plateau .

Detailing steals the charm of mystery surrounded by enigma shrouded in the unexplained . The unexplained shall therefore remain a mystery . May the good times last at the micro level : the macros can go to an unheavenly state  & stay there for all I care !!

Cheers for now & atb


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Expectations Reduce Joy !! Ergo The Joy of the Unexpected

  • Started Blogging 4 months back : mid-June 2012 , to be precise
  • Posted a modest score of 27 : the initial two posts a week has petered down to a weekly average of 1.5
  • Crossed the 1500 views threshold : nearly but not quite 100 views a week : highest daily score of 176 views on 5th August
  • Viewership from 14 countries : India , Singapore , Qatar , Kuwait , Russia, USA , UK ,  Canada ,  Germany , France , Ireland , Italy , Denmark & the Chech Republic .
  • Wake up : Australia , Newzealand , China , Malaysia , Indonesia , The Netherlands ,  Africa & South America : you guys do noot know what you are missing !!

I had no Expectations to start with  & am therefore able to savour the joy of the Unexpected  today .  Having now gotten into realms of Expectations ( 3000 views from 25 countries ?? ) , I will probably not experience Joy of similar proportion , going forward .

Expectations do indeed Reduce Joy

Cheers & atb

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