Monday, December 1, 2008

Sentry - A poem by a Soldier

As Mumbai settles down, Im embroiled with anger and anguish on the system we live in.

This poem "SENTRY" was written by soldier on a post atop a desolate mountain ... It came as a mail from my good friend Major Jerry, who was a course mate of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who fought the terrorists and gave his life to save us.

My Salute to all those Soldiers and their families who make the ultimate sacrifice for us.They died so that we live.


Life often comes knocking at my door
for a casual appraisal of our daily chore It chides me
often for wasting it away
for drifting with me and loosing myself in its sway

The other day i stood sentry after last light
when life came visiting at the sentry post site It gave me
a strange look and then remarked
how can you be a sentry for the life's better part

I looked at life and smiled at its loving concern
and said, "from a soldier, you have a lot to learn"
Gazing at the horizon and then yonder
I was ready with a reply, after a brief ponder

Life, you often spend your life without
a worthwhile cause
Today you must think and give yourself
a brief pause....

Life was taken aback, to be astonished she was surprised,

and she was astonished

When a sentry stands guard in his
battle fatigues dressed
He is the one , who is doubly blessed
Blesses him God, for the harsh duty he stands Blesses him
all people for safety to them
and their lands

When i stand sentry, i enable the children to read
to grow up tomorrow and give us the lead When i stand
sentry, the farmers till their land
They churn out rich crops from the grains of sand

When i stand sentry, the doctors save your progeny
they toil to carry out life saving surgery When i stand
sentry, factories work day and night
contributing in no small measure to the nation's might

When i stand sentry, in comfort works the scientific minds
to reinvent science and making us proud with their new find
When i stand sentry, in peace the people sleep
to awaken the next day, ready for a giant leap

When i stand sentry, on the alter of duty i pray
tell me life of all, who is the luckiest today My duty is
GOD, my duty is DIVINE
Whats better than life in the duty's line

Jai Hind.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In The Middle Of No Where

The Year was 1995. I was part of the Calicut University contingent attending the National Service Scheme’s National Camp at Bodal in Gujarat. The government had selected this place as the location for a housing project to rehabilitate those who would lose their homes due to Narmada Sarovar project. We would end up constructing a total of 32 houses during the 10 day camp. I would end up being the Best Volunteer there. 100 volunteers from 20 Universities were attending the camp.

I was not keeping well after 3 days into the camp as I ran a high fever. The smell of mustard oil and the sweetness of breakfasts had taken an initial toll on me. I had to rest for one whole day, and at the end of the day had to attend a party in the village. A new potato ware house was being opened and the whole village was invited. The entire camp was invited and we were the special guests. I was not in my usual upswing mood and decided to take my dinner early. As I was about to pick up my dinner place, I heard a lady saying, “ aa glass onnu eduthu tharumo “( Please get me the glass) . I turned back and it was not Nazee, our lone lady volunteer. It was a local and I wondered if I heard it right. To my utter surprise, I had heard it right. She was talking to a guy who also looked a thorough bred local in clear Malayalam.

This village where the camp was happening was in Anand district, the birth place of Amul. We had traveled for a couple of hours to reach the village from the city. From the nearest main road, this was 14 kilo meters away, and the whole travel was on mud roads. There is possibly no way an outsider would even know about the existence of such a village. How come there is a Malayalam speaking family there? I could not contain my anxiety and went and asked him. His expression was of over joy. He happiness on knowing that I was a Keralite was evident on his face.

His name was Anthony and he ran a Tyre Puncture shop!!! That was the last thing I would have imagined. A puncture shop in the middle of no where!! Seeing my amazement, has said that there are many trucks in the village that ply between the potato warehouses and the city, and he has the only puncture shop in the village. I had to ask him, how did you reach this place? He said, had run away from his house and after few weeks of travel, had reached Anand. He got a ride in the next truck, and that took him to Bodal. He was some 15 years old then, and knew no other language and knew no job. The truck driver taught him to repair punctures, and he had a job. He went back home after a decade to meet his parents. He was not welcomed at home, and he returned back to Bodal. I asked him, is your wife also a Malayalee? He said No… She is from this village, but we speak Malayalam at home and both my kids speak good Malayalam. I had my eyes popping out as he narrated his story.

Back to 2008 and last 2 days, I was traveling to Hyderabad. As I waited for my bus, I was feeling thirsty and went to get a bottle of water. The boy standing in the counter looked a pure Mallu. Few years in Bangalore have taught me, that most bakeries here are run by Mallus from Kannur. The boy seemed happy that I decided to start the conversation in Malayalam. I asked for a Musambi Juice. He said ,in a lowered voice, “ Chetta Musambi venda.. Nalla Chicku Shake undu “ ( Don’t have Musambi, the Chicku Shake is better).

As I sat in the bus, some how Anthony Chettan of Bodal came back to my mind. But I was in for a bigger surprise. As the bus stopped at 1 Am for an untimely food break, I was forced to get up from my seat by my uncompromisingly hungry neighbor. I was half asleep as I walked to the restaurant. I looked around, and there was no sign of any life in the periphery of my eye-view. And I wondered why some one will run a restaurant in the middle of no where. The answer was simple, if it is the Middle of No where, it is run by a Mallu. So was this restaurant, An Uncle and his nephews from Kannur. I heard someone shouting from inside , “ randu KP , Mutta Curry “ . KP is Kerala Porotta with Egg curry was the order. All had their lungis tied up, and I felt I'm in some road side eatery in Vadakkanchery. I spoke to the Senior guy in the cash counter, in between my intake of a Double Omlette. They are running it on lease and are doing rocking business. It was the border to AP and he gets the entire trucks and most of the contract carriages stopping over. He runs the restaurant 24 hours , and has already negotiated for the neighboring site to start constructing a new hotel when the lease expires. He said that he found out this place as they were traveling to Hyderabad one day to find out a place to run a hotel. That looked a bit unbelievable to me though! It definitely was the middle of no where. The nearest house was 3 kms away!!

On my return I met another man from Raichur, who runs a grocery shop there for last 25 years. He hails from Trichur and has not gone home for last 12 years. He has no intentions to go back either.

He told me something which seemed the answer to why we end up seeing Mallus in the most unimaginable places. His theory is that we, Malayalees have the best survival instincts amongst all. We can overcome emotions like home land, home sickness etc etc, much better when survival is of prime importance. He joked, India’s Chandrayan, had a full Mallu team in it. The next mission will be to send a Mallu to open the much discussed tea Stall in moon.

As I'm typing this, I'm in the train and I took a break and looked out of the glass window, and saw a small light in what looks like the middle of no where. Would it be another Anthony Chettan tallying his collections for the day , far away from where he belonged.

Survival, in the Middle of No where. ???

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love Your Parents - Visit to Old Age Home

My parents mean the world to me. I don’t believe in a super power. To me the biggest power above me is my parents. There is nothing bigger or important than them.

The reason I decided to work in Palakkad, my hometown when Kavi was carrying ammu, was that when Ammu is born, our parents would be there to take care of her. She would get those values which only a grand parent can give her. We stayed there till ammu was two and a half years old. She learned more on respect and care in those years, than I can ever teach her.

It hurts me every time I read about parents being abandoned their own children. I always wondered, how can some one do it to his own parents??? Those who put sweat and blood together to bring us up???

When I joined Feed The Nation, we discussed on what we would do?

I suggested, we should visit an old age destitute home. The inspiration was from an experience we had some time back at a destitute home..This was called Karunalaya in Cochin. Kavitha, was doing her MSW and had a project visit there. She wanted me to go along on a later visit.What I saw was heart breaking. Old people, all abandoned by their kids are waiting for an early death. That was really tragic.Most of them were found in streets in fatal conditions. They were treated and many had come back to normalcy, still many were in critical condition. The feeling of loneliness, separated from families, not been shown to their grand children ; that was what was killing them...

Many of them belonged to affluent families and their kids were also well off. But they were not taken care of. They showed absolutely no hatred towards their children. Infact most of them were defending their kids.The facility was run by nuns, and they took care of those old people as their own parents. It was tough as many were not mentally stable..When I spoke to them, what they told me took me aback. They wanted no money. They wanted no clothes. All they wanted from us was to spend some time with them every week or once a month. They were missing their kids.

That’s why I suggested destitute home.. You would at least feel less guilty...

We decided to go to Karunyalaya in Bommanahalli, Bangalore.

It was ammu’s birthday and mine too …( we are separated by a day : 15th and 16th March )
The mother superior has permitted us to host the dinner for the inmates on the 16th March.There were 11 inmates and 14 others in the facility.

The entire FTN team was there. They had organized everything for Ammu. A beautiful cake, balloons and celebrations. We spend time sitting with the old inmates, just listening to them as they told us their stories. How happy they were and how they reached here. It touched us beyond what we felt it would.

Ammu cut the cake and after the birthday celebrations, we served them dinner. Simple as it was, they enjoyed it. Did I see tears in few eyes?? I don’t know. But they were touched. Ammu also was serving, and that probably added to their happiness.
We had bought new clothes to all of them. They took it from Ammu as if their grand daughter was gifting them a new dress.

When it was time, there were a lot of happy souls. They all would have had very painful memories, I’m sure. But our presence and care would have given them a night of peaceful sleep.

It was wonderful to be with those elderly ladies...

I feel ammu also carried home some good blessings from them and some lessons on care and respect..

Love Your Parents, cos you dont get a second chance .

My journey to truth - Theism

I was a Theist till I was 14 yrs old.

My parents are Theists. They brought me up as one. I was fascinated by temples, the big banyan trees and the temple elephants. I was as devout as them and believed that God will make me pass my exams. When ever marks were low, I would go back to God and ask him to improve it next time. Frequent visits to temples were mandatory, as I had to pass my exams. I never wanted to rub on his/her wrong side. I made all attempts to please God. I would put coins in the Hundi , recite the hymns my grandma had taught me, bow to the God when ever I pass a temple, put vibhuthi on my fore head every morning and evening, act as if I was the greatest devotee of all inside any temple, I did everything I could to please him.

I was a big fan of Ganesha. I played Mridangam, and had been told that it was ganesha’s instrument. That added to my fascination. The image of ganesha was so charming for me as a kid. The stories attached to his protecting his mother and the fight with Nandi and then Shiva, and finally his head being slithered off only to be replaced by an elephants head would intrigue any kid, and I was no different. I also heard stories about his eating habits, his stomach bursting and being repaired with a snake being tied along and of his riding a mice as his vehicle, all added to my firm belief that he is a super hero. I collected his pictures and stuck them in my cup board and books.

I loved to visit the Hanuman temple in our fort. I loved the vadas they gave on every Friday. His stories were equally fascinating, though not as much as ganesha. I never liked Krishna or Rama. I infact hated Rama, on what he did to Sita. Krishna, to me he appeared as a womanizer and one who gave up on his love Radha and got married to some one. It always amused me that elders tried to give strange reasons on Rama’s and Krishna’s behavior. I never could digest them...

Having studied in Christian schools, I could never escape from the over whelming shadows of Jesus Christ and his miracles. How he fed 5000 people, his crucifixion and resurrection after 3 days. Honestly Jesus never fascinated me as a God or Godman. Moreover I never liked the way the Nuns tried to inject that belief in us.

I also had few Muslim friends, but never knew their god up close then. All I knew was their god punishes hard if u do mistakes.

By the time I was in my 8th standard, I started realizing that I was running behind myths. My brain kept saying all this is foolish, but my concept of assuming that my elders are always correct, never let me think otherwise. I kept going to temples, but I was turning an Atheist.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feed The Nation - Aakashaparavakal , Mentally destitutes home.

Im part of a community in orkut we formed,called Feed The Nation,based in bangalore.We are a group of people,who intend in dedicating a little time and resources to 3 causes mainly.. 1) Old Age Homes 2) Orphanages 3) Mental destitute homes

We visited our 3rd cause, a home run for mentally challenged,Aakashaparavakal. They rescue,mentally ill people,wandering in the streets,treat them and try to bring them back to society.When we walked in,we were told that an inmate had died few hours back.It was Tragic to see the death of 23 yr old srinivas, and the resolved looks in the faces of the fellow inmates, few of whom even understood what happened.
They are in a disturbed stage, but then suddenly they bring you back to the greatest reality of life.. We all run to catch so tangible things.. They can change over night.They mentioned about a rescued person, who owned 20 acres of land in the heart of a known city.He was found wandering on the street in nothing more than torn clothes.He was eating out of a dustbin.All he wanted was some food to quench his immediate hunger.

We also saw a mentally challenged person being resued and brought into the facility. He was very sober..He looked dirty, his clothes were shredded to mere threads. He looked at all of us and smiled. He kind of knew that he was in safe hands... The caretakers took him in and gave him few pieces of bread and some coffee. His eyes glew, and we realised he was fighting hunger for who knows how long. He ate as if there was no tommorrow.

58 inmates in all, all rescued from streets... Im amazed by the dedication of the caretakers there....They need funds for food, clothes,which we intend to sponsor in the coming months.We have sponsored for covering the parapet of the terrace with wire mesh,as the inmates have a tendancy to jump out..

Im working on creating a fund from my friends group to supply them rice for next 2 months. The responses have been great so far. They need approx 600 kg rice every month..

Just the smile on their faces,when we put our arms on their shoulders, will make me visit them often.