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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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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