FOREWORD: This is a post that is dedicated to my grand uncle. The matter and content of this post is best understood by and most relevant to my family circles. Hence the intended audience to this post are my family members and relatives.

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6th July 2017. The Hasnabadi family lost another jewel – Raghavendra Hasnabadi.

Education, wisdom, knowledge, eloquence and intellect are the traits all sons of Bhima ji Rao Bhishto carried and exhibited. And to say the least, Raghu ajja was more.

With every death of our grand dads and grand uncles, the protective umbrella of experience and wisdom that has guarded us through life seems to diminish greatly and leave us, the younger generation, exposed to ugly shallowness of our times. Makes me constantly realize that without our elders and the wisdom that comes with them, the heritage that they have guarded on their shoulders and flourished during their lifetime, our lives are too ordinary, superficial and shallow. But you know what’s funny, this realization always dawn’s upon us only after it’s too late. For most part of our lives that we spend with them around, we are seldom aware of the lives they lived and paths they treaded, the hardships they overcame and the challenges they faced. Like the grass that’s always greener on the other side, we read in awe about the lives of the freedom fighters and others whose lives are glorified by our text books. But little do we realize what our grand dads lived were no ordinary lives.

Our grand parents were special. For their actions were driven by sincerity, respectfulness, kindness, and faith. The kind of determination and grit that fueled their energy is no match to anything we have seen or experienced today. They were special, for every one of my grand dads and grand uncles had a story to tell.
Sometimes I wonder if I would ever have a story like that to tell my grand children when I have completed a significant time of my life. Our lives are technology dominated. Sense of superiority comes with superficiality and self esteem grows with picture perfect selfies, better cars and foreign trips. We depend on our phones and power of money more than we depend on our memory and abilities. Discipline is something that we learn only after we step into our 60s or when border line diabetes mocks us. Values and morals diminish with every new generation that sprouts. Our grand parents were special for we can never be like them.

I have always felt the rush to immortalise the stories and golden days our grand dads lived coz rest assured, going further this world will never see grandparents like the way our generation did, with technology seeping into the lives of the old and the young alike, in unimaginable ways, there by diluting the essence of innocence, grandeur and authenticity our grand parents came with.
So I planned to talk to Raghu Ajja and Shankar Ajja( the only 2 jewels who are with us, out of the 8 siblings, along with the other one being Sheku Ajji who is not quiet in a position to recollect anything from her childhood ) in depth about their lives and the message they would like to pass on to the younger generations to come.
But fate had it this way. I barely had 1 or 2 sittings with Raghu Ajja and he is no more with us today.
Well, all said and done, the cycle birth and death is vicious and eternal.
“jaatasya hi dhruvo mrutyuh, dhruvam janma mrutasya cha”
This verse from the holy Gita translates to “An entity that is born, is sure to die. And when it dies, it is sure to be born”
Like puppets, we watch the world take its course and let go of our protective umbrellas, feeling more empty and void than ever before.

But then, there is hope. There is still something that can fuel our lives for the rest of the years that we are to live without our umbrellas overlooking us at all times. Like the touchstone that acquires the properties of the gold that it is rubbed into, in the quest for knowledge and understanding of how our grand dads could do and and be all that they have ever done and been, a lucky few of us, try to learn( and hopefully emulate) how to live it large by spending a few precious moments discussing their lives with our grand dads. According to me, there can be no better life lessons than to carry out conversations with your grand parents.
I can proudly yet with all humility say that I am one such lucky puppet who got to interact with Raghu Ajja, my grand uncle, my umbrella, discussing his life in a couple of sittings.

With Raghu Ajja no more with us, this project of mine remains incomplete. However, I am sharing the details of those precious moments we spent discussing about the journey of his life on this page for us all, the uncertain and confused souls to read. Most part of those sittings went with him educating me about different policies available in mutual funds to invest money in a right way, though ūüôā
However, our last meeting was different. His ailment had taken away most of his charm. He had become a lot more quieter and restricted. He had stopped working ( he was self employed and into mutual mutual funds ) and had successfully handed over the same to his daughter Vidhya Atte. That day when I finally met him, like any other day of his ailment, he spent most of the time lying in bed, sleeping. But after he got up and realized I was waiting to talk to him, he sat up on his wooden chair and enquired about my well being. He later began to speak about his life at length for about an hour and a half with hardly a break in between. That was the moment I had waited for in a long time, ever since the seed of documenting the life stories of my grand dads had sown in my head. Ajja was in his elements that day, rejoicing every moment of what he recollected of his childhood days. I will never forget those moments I spent with him.raghu ajja.png

Raghavendra Hasnabadi was born into a Deshashta smartha brahmin family of 9 siblings ( inclusive of him), As the 6th son of Bhima ji Rao Bhishto.
He recalled that his father had a government job, that of a land surveyor working for the British government in India. His father spoke good english and could effectively communicate with his higher ups. As the sole breadwinner of the family, his father often travelled with his mother on duty. This led Raghu Ajja and his siblings to grow up geographically away from one another and in the care of their relatives, meeting mostly during holidays. Owing to their parents transferrable job, the older of the siblings like Rangaraj Hasnabadi ( my loving grand dad) and Hanumantha Rao Hasnabadi moved to Bangalore early on in life and studied college, working and earning along side. The younger ones travelled with their parents and studied at various government schools. Raghu Ajja completed plus-two( translates to 2nd puc in today’s times) and got into a government job in irrigation department much against his wishes. He wished to study further but prevailing poverty led him to fetch a job.
He recalled that despite his father being poor, he was famously known for his righteousness and honesty. Despite not being able to earn a lot of money, all the respect he earned during his lifetime protected his children during their growing-up days. They were all treated with a lot of respect and dignity and were quiet well-known in their village.
Raghu Ajja got into irrigation department in the year 1952. That is where he met one of his closest friends for life Sri. Venkatesh Katti who later became Raghu Ajja’s guru and introduced him to the world of Adhyatma. Thanks to his job, Raghu Ajja got to travel along with Sri Venkatesh Katti across the state/country every time he was assigned a work responsibility. This enabled him to associate closely with his Guru and deeply into the subject of Adhyatma. He studied and discussed in depth, Advaita Vedanta like Shankara Bhashya and Bramha Sutra to name a few. While on travel, after working hours, they would both go looking of a serene place to sit in and around the place they were posted, for spiritual discussion that would go on for hours on end.
It could be a bank of river or a stone slab under a peepal tree.
He recalled that those were indeed some of the most enlightened days of his life.
He slowly began to withdraw from his friends, since their discussions normally happened to be about family-lives, dramas, work and politics which ceased to interest him. There were years of his life where he spent without any friends, with a guru to look up to and a family to care for and he was absolutely in peace with what life had to offer. He learnt astrology and delved into bits of astronomy in the process for about 2 years and even devised a ‘yantra’ after slogging for months! He said astrology charts and calculations were not readily available those days and astrology was also not everybody’s cup of tea, like it’s service is found selling in literally every ‘gulli’ today, luring commoners with a display board with a ‘show of palm’. Neither did astrology earn a single paisa for those who offered consultation, back then. Astrology was only meant for the learned and those who considered it a passion. ” You actually devised a ‘yantra’! How cool is that Ajja?! In today’s times wouldn’t that translate to building an astrology software, or a mobile app, to say the least?!” I marvelled. Bitter experiences related to personal life led him to discontinue his astrological studies.

Sometime around then, Raghu Ajja was introduced to yoga, which along with pranayama, he went on to practice rigidly for decades, which he discontinued due to the knee pain that he developed, barely a few years before he passed away, at the age of 84. Yet, he took to other form of exercises to stay fit! Even if I attempt to talk about his self discipline in the next couple of sentences, it will still be an understatement. So I leave it at that.
He briefed me about how pranayama and Adhyatma go hand in hand, and how one can achieve his goals in meditation when one adheres to rigid pranayama and accompanies that with spiritual studies. Simply put, for a person of his regime, I imagine, ‘self realization’ couldn’t have been too far to achieve.
While on one hand, Raghu Ajja was on his path to spiritual life, on the other, his guru, Sri Venkatesh Katti was on his way to expand his knowledge by studying ‘Tantra shashtra’ and black magic. I am led to believe that his son’s failure to get on in life and indulgence in bad company made his Guru take a plunge into ‘ tantra shashtra’. And that is where Raghu Ajjas ideologies deviated from that of his Guru. Raghu Ajja didn’t want someone practicing tantra shashtra’ for a guru and tried his bit persuading his guru, but in vain. That is when both their paths split and Raghu Ajja stopped his Adhyatma learning from his Guru. Thus, 12 whole years of in-depth learning and spiritual interactions and discussion brought about an enormous change and significant enlightenment in Ajja’s life. Raghu Ajja, though willing to continue his spiritual learning, did not find a suitable guru who could replace Sri Venkatesh Katti. ” Finding the right guru is the most important step towards self realization”, he stresses at this point. ” At the same time, it is a duty of a guru to find a right ‘shishya’ and successfully pass on knowledge for him to attain salvation. And neither is easy” he quotes.

Raghu Ajja retired at 60 as an executive engineer in PWD irrigation department in Dharwad in the year 1993. Post retirement, Raghu Ajja was introduced to LIC and was encouraged to to become an agent by one of his friends, Mr. Yankanchi, the division manager at LIC. That marked another new beginning as he embarked as an LIC agent and later went on to become a certified advisor of mutual funds.
Now STOP and imagine what it is like to prepare for a certification exam and start a career afresh, at the age of 65?! #RESPECT. There after, he built a huge client base for himself in Dharwad and later in Bangalore, all of that, single handedly, which kept him busy and going, until only a few months before his death, when an ailment struck him and he passed on work related affairs successfully to his daughter to continue.
He believed in earning and saving till the end of his life. In one instance he quotes proudly that he has not only saved enough money for his grand daughter Chandrika but also invested in the name of his great grand child( yet to arrive into this world) in a way that Chandrika will get returns on the investment when the time is ripe, about 20 years from now! On the contrary, at 33, where I am half done with life, I am yet to begin a savings plan for myself!
Just as I was engrossed in worthy discussions with Raghu ajja, my 6 year old’s phone call brought me back to my world. I told ajja that I am still left with a number of questions and that I will come back soon. ( Ironically the next time I went to his house to offer my last prayers, I was unfortunate enough to not even get a glimpse of his body, I missed it by less than 10 minutes). As I walked out of his room, Ajja called me and said- ” Pratibha, come here. I have one important thing to tell you. Always remember, if there is ever a worthy investment, they that is only in your kids education. No other investment has ever proven to be of greater worth. Plan and save money for their post graduation and beyond. Education is most important.” I nodded my head in agreement and walked out to bid adieu to Shanta ajji and she remarked with glee ‘ in all these days, it’s only today that he has sat up for so long and had such lengthy conversation with such zest. His words are otherwise very limited and conversations rarely happen. He sleeps most of the time. ‘ Now can you agree more that I am one lucky puppet?! ūüôā

On the 6th day of July, did he already know the time was ripe and he would have to depart to his heavenly abode? I don’t know. But all of that day, he lay in his bed, holding his daughter’s hand firmly in his, as he narrated to his wife and daughter, the story of a roman king who executed the lives of so many of his country men for various reasons. The people who had to be hanged on that particular day stood in the queue waiting for their turn. There was an old man in the queue, on to whom his little grand daughter clung on, at all times. When the old man was asked about his last wish, he said that his last wish is to be allowed to hold his grand daughter’s hand, tightly clasped, even when he is on the scaffold with the rope around his neck, untill his last breath.
The Roman king granted his last wish. Thus the old man held his grand daughter’s hand till his last.
Ajja did hold on to his daughter until his last breath.

Today, in my eyes, Raghu Ajja stands as an embodiment of grit and courage, of perseverance and poise, of self-belief and success.

While a puppet like me can only show gratitude with folded hands and thank God for placing me in such lineage, I would also like to say, with all the ‘ancestral wisdom and intellect’ that I have, I would like to live the remaining years of my life, less ordinary.

May your soul rest in peace, Raghu ajja. You continue to live in our hearts.

 

 

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A day in the life of kashmiris

Posted: December 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Toh Shabbir, aap kya chahatehain, Kashmir Bharath ke hi rahe ya Pakistan ke hojayein?” I asked Shabbir, my cab driver during our tour of ten days in Kashmir. We were on our way to the foothills of Gulmarg. He smiled, shrugged and said ‘ what I want or don’t want doesn’t matter me’m saab, no one asks us ‘. There! Yet another time he had dodged my question- I grinned.
Ladies and gentlemen, what came next turned out to be the most unforgettable 15 hours of my life.
Suraj and I trekked Gulmarg uphill for over 6 km, scaling all the way to its summit and got back to the foothills on horses back.
There had been a rumour all of that day that the riots could begin any time with no confirmed reports.
We had to drive 56km, all the way back to Srinagar and were glad our Gulmarg trek went well without any hitch. Shabbir started driving back, while we removed our jackets and gum boots, trying to get comfortable In the back seat.
Suddenly, Someone out of nowhere threw a fire lit tyre right into the middle of the road. Shabbir brought the taxi to a sudden halt, safely pulled up to a side and frowned as he announced- RIOTS HAVE INDEED BEGUN. The clock showed 3 pm. After 4 hours of trekking uphill and 2 hours downhill on horse back, we had not even had our lunch.
Shabbir took an inside route that would connect to the highway, assuming in all probability, that the route will be open. After driving for 50 whole minutes, we did see the highway ahead at about 200 meters away, but our path was blocked by huge tin cans dipped in kerosene and torched up. We saw a man making an attempt to move them, enough to let his taxi pass. I told Shabbir that we should help him too, so we can sneak out as well. But Shabbir gave a firm NO. He decided to drive all the way back, so we drove for another 50 min, now back to square one! My mind kept telling me that Shabbir didn’t really care and was just wasting time.
As we joined so many other taxies treading their way through, only a few meters at a time, we reached a junction where there were a bunch of hooligans, standing and waiting across the road, ready to throw boulders at anyone who dared to drive past. I saw Shabbir get down and speak to one of those guys for 5 min, occasionally chuckling. I was stunned! I was convinced that Shabbir is one among them- Just another con man making money out of India tourism but an outlaw supporting the miscreants. As we finally managed to steer past these hurdles and hit the Srinagar highway at around 6 30pm, it was evident that the protests on the highway were very severe, with mob spanning every half kilometre, waiting with gunny bags filled with stones,weapons and kerosene ready. The road of the highway ¬†itself was donned with fire and soot, with flakes of carbon lingering in the air, smelling of kerosene everywhere. All the tourists vehicles including ours entered an abandoned petrol bunk and waited there, judging too well that driving through that highway was nothing short of digging our own grave. Just as we began to discuss restlessly amongst ourselves, we saw a huge military convoy pass by. A ray of hope?! Every single vehicle waiting at the petrol bunk now quickly sneaked into the convoy since it was known that no one would throw stones at the military convoy. But We were the only ones remaining. Shabbir had refused, despite me begging him to join the convoy till the moment had passed, and the convoy was out of sight. I was worried we would get stranded through the night. I was now out of my wits. “Shabbir, what the hell do you think you are doing? Exactly what is your intention? Do you even want to help us and get us back safe to Srinagar?” I yelled at him.
Just as Shabbir, not losing his composure, had begun to explain that our safety is foremost on his mind, something unbelievable happened. The buses and other tourist vehicles that had sneaked in through the convoy came rushing back at once to the petrol station. We were shocked to see that ALL the vehicles were severely damaged. They say riots are the language of the unheard, and that day, Suraj and I got a first hand view of a typical riot scene- All window panes broken, one of the drivers lip cut because of hurling of stones at the windows, the stepney wheel of a TataSumo splashed with kerosene and lit up, and a whole bunch of tourists with glass pieces stuck in their hair, bleeding here and there….
I began to carefully pluck glass out of people’s hair and forehead, while Suraj and Shabbir doused the fire on the stepney wheel of Tata sumo, and tended to the severely wounded drivers. Those miscreants had obviously spared the convoy but had clearly aimed for these tourist vehicles and busses.
Amidst what seemed like mayhem to me, I couldn’t make time to express a word of gratitude for that presence of mind and thoughtfulness Shabbir had exhibited at that moment when he decided to NOT join the passing convoy, for, I was busy giving first aid for the injured.
Finally, at 10 30pm, Shabbir drove us back safely to the hotel, arranged for food to be parcelled and delivered to us and left.
That was the last day of our tour and we never got to see Shabbir again.
My words of gratitude remained unsaid. the next day, we took the flight back to Bangalore.
On the occasion of new year’s eve, 2 months later, we wrote him a thank you letter along with new year wishes and shabbir in return had sent his family picture with new year greetings written at the back of it. I still have that picture with me. His children, as beautiful as their home land itself, happily
 pose for a photo with sparkle in their eyes oblivious to the world of uncertainty and chaos around them.
As I lead a life of comfort here, I can’t help but think of the lives of kashmiris dreaming year after year, for a life, that is NOTHING but normal.

SCREEEECH. I applied the breaks just in time and prevented yet another untoward accident. Their thunderous laughter still kept ringing in my ears and I could ride my bike no further.

Cut to 2 hours before.

It was a fine sunny Saturday afternoon. I was the only girl on my side of the court, with the rest of them being random guys from the boys volleyball team, practising for the upcoming volleyball tournament. A guy on the other side of the net spiked a ball that came smashing towards me. Quick as lightening, I squatted on my toes, received the ball well and gracefully passed it to the guy standing behind me. Still squatting, I looked back to see how the ball would further be manoeuvred. To my surprise, the boys burst out laughing, unmindful of the ball. Still clueless, I got up and dusted the mud off my pants and to my SHOCK, I realised that my denim trousers had torn apart at least by 7 inches. Not knowing what to do, I took a timeout, picked up my bag, and using it to cover as much as I could, I mustered the courage to walk to my bike. I took one last glance at the boys and now they were rolling on the floor laughing. As I headed home, a gamut of thoughts bombarded me- why me? was the first question. How could I be so undisciplined so as to wear jeans for practice instead of track pants? I blamed myself. The picture the boys on the floor laughing kept occurring before my eyes and i felt so terrible, I almost ran Into the car ahead of me, SCREEEECH..

I pulled up my bike to the side of the road decided to see the brighter side of things. I realised how I had not shed a single drop of tear and gave a pat on my shoulder and told myself – you are a tough cookie. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine. Pretend for a day that you are Bipasha Basu playing beach volleyball- problem solved, I told myself. I reached home with a clear mind, and in peace with myself. On the following Monday, I went to college with my head held high . The boys gave me looks and jeering glances often, but the more they looked at me, the more I felt like Bipasha Basu :). I didn’t mention about this incident to anyone, coz I believed that it’s all a part of the game. And if the boys decided to spread the news across college, what would I care?!

Ladies and gentlemen, Here is what I learned from this whole fiasco
Bad things do happen. how I respond to them defines my character and quality of life. I cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind. But surely, i am not the one to grieve in perpetual sadness, immobilised by the gravity of the situation.

That day, as I walked down the parking lot, all that had happened the previous day appeared like a flash before my eyes.
And I could hear my own voice reverberating in my head – Shed all inhibitions, have no regrets, have no contempt either, for life is too short to be anything but happy.
As I rode back home in a mere 20km speed, with a sense of liberation, feeling lighter and better, with wind in my hair and smile on my face, I remember humming a Guy Lombardo song which goes something like this-
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!


It is said that in 1971, John Lennon along with a couple of others wrote the song “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” exhibiting optimism despite the ongoing war waged by the US on Vietnam. Fast forward to 2012 – As the most heinous and brutal gang rape victim breathed her last on December 29th and the humanity in India is at the peak of its haplessness, the people and the media are collectively giving their struggle and fight a new face by calling it a ‘National awakening’ assuming that the protests and peace walks have taken it to a different level. Thats not just optimism, but hope against hope. But this time, I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic, I am cynical.

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I will not believe that the nation has awakened to the atrocities on women after the rape incident. We are what we are. We are a nation whose demographics of male politicians ruling the nation is far superior compared to the number of women in governance. We are a nation where most of our men exhibit male chauvinism and medieval attitudes. Our thinking is orthodox and irrational when it comes to our women. And I am saying all this, not with a head held high, but low in shame.

I am shocked beyond wits with the kind of response from most men holding responsible and elite positions in social hierarchy to the outrageous rape incident. A chief minister of India’s capital had once said that in order to keep such crimes at bay, women have to be always accompanied my men at night. How ridiculous is that? I say, if the men out on the streets can‚Äôt control themselves pouncing at women, then it is they who need to be accompanied, for they have a serious problem. Someone who calls himself a God man says that the girl who was raped should have called the culprits bothers and pleaded them to stop! And what can you say about this other specimen who said that women in urban India are under the influence of western culture and hence get raped?! Disgusting.¬†¬† These statements coming out from people of elite stature in responsible positions ruling our nation makes one think where our country is heading.

Lets face it. Peace walks, protests, media hype can‚Äôt change much. They might at the most bring pressure on the government to give financial aid to the victim’s family and make public assurances of turning things around. With passage of time, assurances and promises will dissolve into thin air, media will have new events to be covered and no one will follow up. What India really needs at the moment is legal reforms. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. But then, if it took the government of India 4 years to hang Kasab, convicted terrorist behind the 9/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai that left nearly 3000 people dead, I have no reason to believe that one brutal rape incident will make the government change the law. I say – If the law says that the rapists will be castrated at the India Gate publicly then these men will not dare do any such acts even if the woman walking in front of them is visibly naked. Why can’t we revise and enforce strict laws? I don‚Äôt know how many more rapes and assaults it takes for the Indian government to understand that RAPE is not just a physical violation but mental, physiological and emotional violation and make the punishment to rapists more severe.

And then what about human trafficking, domestic violence, acid attacks, child marriages, female foeticides… how and when are we going to address these problems?

For those who don’t know what I am referring to, here’s some insight. How are these issues handled in your country? Like I said, I have no hope, this time, I am cynical…

¬†‚ÄėA country is considered to have achieved its full independence only when women can walk safely in street at anytime without fear‚Äô –¬† Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation


October 23rd, 2003. Little did I know that morning that the date would¬†remain etched in my mind for ever.¬†Those days, I stayed with my Ajji (grand mom) for over 2 years in her¬†house- a duplex building, very lavish for just the 2 of us in a prime area¬†in¬†Bangalore, ¬†just about 2 miles away from my home. Those 2 years of my¬†life, I wouldn’t call the best, but turned out to be very eventful.¬†Eventful because that stay with my Ajji was during my graduation. Since we were just the 2 of us at home, I had¬†begun to enjoy my new found liberty. No one to question me whether I¬†attended classes or where I went in the evening. What more could a girl of¬†18 ask for?¬†I had monopolized the first floor of the house – there were three bedrooms,¬†and a big lounge, all of which I had used up totally. One big room was for¬†partying when my friends stayed over, we spent nights eating,dancing and¬†gossiping all night long. The big room had a¬†Jacuzzi¬†and mirrors all over¬†one side of the wall. Perrrfect I should say! Grandma would make her visit¬†upstairs only once in a week or so, just to keep a vigil on the domestic¬†maid and ensure that she was doing her duty well. I¬†despised¬†even this¬†visit of hers, for every time my friends visited and stayed over night, the¬†room would generally be left untidy, with some formidable (in my¬†grand mom’s¬†point of view) things littered around. if at such occasion Ajji paid a¬†visit upstairs, that would generally leave me uncomfortable.¬†The other medium sized room was my study room that contained books, my¬†computer, clothes, work papers, CDs, music system, and other et-ceteras.¬†And the third room was something like a dump yard. If my friends came over¬†at short notice or if we had guests at home, then instead of bothering to¬†clean up the place,I would just dump all the clothes and books that¬†littered around in this room since no one entered this room. This way,¬†tidying my room would effectively take less than 5 minutes.¬†Every evening at 6:30 pm Ajji would religiously visit temple and spend about¬†an hour and a half there listening to religious discourses by several¬†god-men¬† She would then promptly bring home the prasad(sweetened confection offered to God and later distributed among¬†devotees)¬†to share with me. I¬†would typically return home from college around 6 pm. Ajji would keep¬†something ready for me to eat, prepare tea and leave by 6:30 pm after which¬†all of the 90 min was bliss for me. I had the carte blanche to do as I¬†pleased. I would quickly freshen up and make calls to friends. since I¬†would be alone at home, I didn’t have any restrictions to speak my heart out¬†and loud on phone, be it with my male friends, where occasionally our talks¬†would lead to flirting¬†tit-bits¬† or with my female friends where we shared¬†our¬†gregarious¬†instincts. There was no cable connection, hence watching TV¬†was not an option (Yeah, its funny the house had a jacuzzi but not cable TV ¬†ūüôā ). My only¬†pastime¬†would be to eat, listen to music, apply¬†some face pack on and spend time on phone. Studying was not in the list¬†unless it was exam time.

Once it was an occasion of Diwali, festival of lights. Ajji got invited¬†over by my aunt and needless to say, I would pay a visit to my home and¬†spend the 3 days of the festival there. I was excited about going home to¬†stay over. Although home was just about 2 miles away, its was not very often that I got to stay overnight and spend time with my family. Every evening¬†that I paid a visit at home, mom would make sure I returned to Ajji’s place¬†by 9:30 pm since she didn’t want Ajji to spend nights all alone. Though this got on to my nerves occasionally, I would take solace by reminding myself¬†of all the other benefits I was availing from my stay there with Ajji. So,¬†for ¬†Diwali¬†vacation I packed my bag and kept it ready, Ajji did hers¬†and we were all set to tend to our respective invitations next morning. I¬†had made extensive plans for the 3 festival days. First day, I would¬†get-together¬†with my cousins and burst crackers at Adi’s place, 2nd day was¬†Sachin’s birthday, and he had asked me to come over 2 hours before the¬†other friends turned up for the party so we could plan and prepare for the¬†event, third day, I would spend time with my family, at home. I had to get¬†back to granny’s place the 4th day, so I had to max these 3 days up. As per¬†our plan, the next morning, Ajji and I had breakfast, and secured the house¬†keys (both of us had a set of house keys), and left to our respective¬†destination. The first day at Adi’s house was a blast, we had good¬†memorable fun, I returned home along with my sister late at night.I was too¬†tired that night and craved for a cozy slumber. The next day was Sachin’s¬†birthday, October 23rd. I was supposed to be at his place by 3pm and¬†receive friends at 5 pm. I got ready that morning without wasting much time¬†and called Shruti, my second cousin. I asked her if she was free that¬†morning since I had to buy a birthday card for Sachin, and hoped that she¬†would be a company when I shopped. I bought him a nice lovely card (Sachin¬†had a thing for perfumes, so I already had a Tommy Hilfiger perfume¬†gift-wrapped and ready) and when I was done shopping other random stuff, we¬†started to Ajji’s place. I had made sure that I carried a set of keys with¬†me since the dress I wanted to wear for the party was at Ajji’s house. It¬†had to be my favorite black pencil skirt and a high neck sleeveless snug¬†fitting red and white top, accessorized with my white watch and black shoes¬†for the party. It was already 2:30 pm, and we had not had lunch yet and I¬†was running out of time. I parked my vehicle randomly at the gate, since I¬†knew I wouldn’t be spending much time in there, I only wanted 20 minutes to¬†get ready for the party. Lunch, I had decided, I would skip. I swung the¬†gate open, with Shruti by my side, I hurriedly unlocked the door and¬†entered the hall area of the house. I drew the curtains open, and threw my¬†hand bag on the sofa there, and much to our shock, saw the backyard door¬†open and half ajar. I couldn’t believe what I saw and tried to recollect if¬†we had ensured that we locked the back door before Ajji and I left the¬†house 2 days back. As I talked to Shruti about it, we suddenly¬†realized¬†that the light in the room next to the dining hall was on…Someone was in¬†there!! It took less than a second for us to¬†realize¬†that the house was¬†burgled! We felt a flush of hysteria as we realized and immediately¬†rushed out of the main door and bumped hard into 2 girls who were running¬†towards the gate from the backyard. Next thing we know, all of us yelled¬†wild at the top of our voices and went berserk. The last thing we expected¬†at the heat of the moment was to bump into the burglars themselves! The 2¬†girls were on their way to escape when they rammed into us by chance,¬†little did they know they would get caught this way. Fear and suspense was¬†driving us insane, but it took no more than a minute to gather all courage¬†for me. I held one of the girls hands and banged her on her shoulder, the¬†other girl tried to defend this girl and make an escapade. As I still held¬†the first girls hand, I elbowed the second girl’s neck. The first girl¬†whose hand I had still firmly held, tried to wrench herself out of my¬†grasp, in vain. Soon she ¬†started speaking to me in a tone as if nothing had¬†happened. She addressed me as Akka(meaning sister, the domestic maids here¬†generally address their masters as Akka or Amma) and said ‘its me, didn’t¬†you realize, your maid servant?’ Ah, Gouri…yes, Gouri she was! It then¬†struck to me that she had worked as a domestic help in recent past for¬†about 3 months. I was hardly at home at her routine time and didnt know¬†much about her except that Ajji occasionally grumbled and expressed¬†dissatisfaction with the quality of work she did. But I did remember¬†yelling at her one day since 2 hundred rupee notes were missing from my¬†closet and I vividly remembered keeping the money there just 2 days prior¬†to the theft. She denied having taken that money as expected, but I wanted¬†to threaten her nevertheless, so that next time if she ever encouraged¬†thoughts of stealing, she should know I am no meek lamb.¬†‘What the hell are you doing here Gouri?’, I yelled at her, trying to conceal the nervousness in my voice. She said that she was on her way home with her¬†friend, felt very¬†thirsty¬†and decided to stop by my house thinking Ajji¬†would be home to give her some water. She went on to explain that she was¬†aware of the tap in the backyard, and when no one attended the calling¬†bell, she went to the backyard to drink water from the tap, and to her¬†surprise, the door at the back was open. Her¬†explanation¬†to save her skin¬†was a wasted effort, I sensed the sheer palpable lie behind her explanation. Shruti and I¬†felt something fishy, and decided to call the police. I latched the main¬†gate from both inside and outside, prompted Shruti to keep a vigil on both¬†and them and not to let go of them. Shruti held Gouri’s hand tight, as I¬†headed towards the room and took a glance at the state the room was in,¬†shocked to see that they had broken open the almirah and ransacked the stuff¬†inside. I ran to the phone in the dining hall and called the police,¬†narrated the incident and gave them directions. I called my parents as well¬†as my uncle who also stayed near by. In less than 10 minutes, we had the¬†police and the Hoysala (The official patrol van in Bangalore) guys at the¬†door. The police examined the house,ceased the weapons used to break open¬†the door- a¬†chisel, a dagger, an iron rod with sharp edge on one side,¬†all of these from the small lawn that Ajji had maintained in front of the¬†house, a big stone and a knife. It was a well planned burglary. They¬†carefully picked the weapons in a cloth and put them in a cover and sealed¬†them. As one of the police men interrogated Gouri and her companion, a¬†couple of others kept asking us questions to get better clarity. The police¬†called for the fingerprint experts. In the mean while, the news had spread¬†across the street,¬†neighbors¬†flocked into our house to see what had¬†happened. There stood one constable at the back yard door shouting at all¬†these people asking them not to touch the door handle since the¬†fingerprints on the door had to be captured, and those people whose¬†curiosity got better of them stood in the hall staring at the suspects as¬†the police interrogated them, occasionally taking queer glances at us,¬†until the police signaled them to leave. The phone rang, and as I attended¬†the phone call, I took a customary glance at the clock which now showed 30¬†min past 4 pm. It was Sachin at the other end of the call – ‘where the hell¬†are you, I thought we both agreed that you would be here at 3?!’ I said¬†‘Sachin! …err, you wont believe what has happened, there’s burglary at my¬†grand mom’s place…the police…you know how it all happened…’ Sachin¬†was in no mood to listen to me, he felt I was making up things for not¬†showing up in time. He said with a stern voice ‘Ok, so you are coming or¬†not?’ I found it very stupid of him to not believe me, especially when so¬†much was happening at my end. I said some investigation was happening and I would try my best to reach by 6 pm. ¬†Even before it¬†occurred¬†to me that I should wish him¬†happy birthday, he cut the call. I returned to the hall with a grin. All¬†eyes were at the 2 girls who were trying hard to convince the police of¬†their innocence. The police suspected that it could not have been possible¬†for the 2 girls to break into the house all by themselves. They felt there¬†was a man behind the breaking open of the back yard door and the Godrej almirah. The news had reached my granny by then. My aunt brought her in an¬†auto rickshaw without giving out all the information about the theft. She was¬†asked to examine and give a list of all the valuables that were missing in¬†the house. She took a good look at the state the the house was in and¬†headed straight to the kitchen. She opened a big container that contained¬†rice and stuck her hand into the rice grains and juggled in there. She then¬†came out and said that a gold chain was missing!! It took me by surprise¬†that she should hide her gold chain in the rice ¬†container and shock to know¬†that Gouri actually knew where Ajji had hid the chain! She must be one hell¬†of a thief, A thought. The police didn’t react too much, for they must have¬†come across many such stories in their career. One of the senior police men¬†who had sat patiently listening to suspects now got up, took the cover¬†containing the weapons in hand and walked straight upto the girls. He started beating Gouri on her hands and legs, saying ‘enough is enough, if¬†you don’t confess, you will be behind bars. I know how to get stuff out of¬†people like you’. Shruti and I closed our eyes as Gouri flinched in pain. I¬†felt police were man-handling the girls and abusing them without knowing¬†for sure if they were the culprits. But the girls were stubborn, they¬†didn’t budge one bit. The police indicated the ladies in plain clothes who¬†had accompanied them to take the girls to the room and frisk them¬†thoroughly. One of the girls carried a purse that yielded an advocate’s¬†number. The police called the advocate to find out if they could get any¬†more information about the girls. It turned out that both these girls¬†husbands were in jail, serving their terms for theft, robbery and burglary.¬†They later found out that these girls were a part of a bigger group that¬†operated in some certain areas in Bangalore. The clock showed 9 pm and¬†thought of the birthday party and Sachin’s disappointment kept haunting me oevery now and then. I knew Sachin was terribly upset with me for not turning up¬†on the big day and didn’t bother to call me again. I felt bad for spoiling¬†his day. The police decided to take the girls to custody, drove them to the¬†J P Nagar police station. Dad, uncle and I followed them in our car to the¬†station. Without wasting much time, the police tied them in a chair and¬†resorted to shock treatment. I spontaneously shrieked out of fear. One of¬†the lady associates sent me out. As I stood outside the station, I simply¬†couldn’t believe the turn of events that had taken place that day. I could¬†see from outside that Gouri and the other girl had bruises on their faces,¬†both of them weeping badly. It all seemed like a movie to me. In less than¬†15 minutes, the police came out and said that the girls had finally given¬†into shock¬†treatment¬†and confessed that they carried out the crime. The¬†girls had elaborately explained their planning and execution. They had even¬†disclosed their other burglary fiascoes. I was complimented for our¬†presence of mind and courage, which I conveyed to Shruti the next day. The¬†police suggested not to file an FIR, since the girls had admitted their¬†crime and besides, filing of FIR meant that Ajji and I would have to¬†regularly pay visits to the station and court, which neither of us wanted.¬†My parents, uncle and aunt spent the night with us at Ajji’s house. The¬†next morning, one of the police constables came home and returned the gold chain¬†to Ajji and said that Gouri had dropped it in the police jeep on her way to¬†the station, out of fear. He also said that I would be given police¬†protection for a week, in case Gouri’s associates should try to do any harm¬†to me at the least. There after, for a week, I could see the Hoysala van¬†passing by every morning as I waited at the bus stop to take the bus to¬†college, the police man inside occasionally gesturing a hello by waving his¬†hand up in the air with a smile on his face. Ajji gifted me the chain as a¬†token of¬†appreciation¬†for winning it back to her. A couple of weeks later,¬†One of the uncles from the US at a social gathering said that he had¬†mentioned all about our deed in a web site that he maintained and gave us¬†the link to read what all our relatives had said in response to his¬†article. Shruti and I blushed. We giggled among ourselves and felt so shy,¬†we wanted to run away from the gathering, unable to handle attention. We¬†had become the topic of discussion that day and for a couple of weeks after¬†that. Everyone¬†among¬†our relatives seemed to know what had happened on that¬†day, October 23rd, the day they called us heroes ūüôā

Lord Raama, Is that you?

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Mythology, Social
Tags: , ,

“And that’s why we say that you should pray the lord before you go to bed. Make it a habit to chant ‘ramaskandam hanumantham‘ before you sleep and then you will see that you will never get such bad dreams” – so said my mother and put to rest my fear of bad dreams that kept recurring in my mind ever since I had had a bad dream the previous night. “It is said that even sage Valmiki, once a dacoit, on his transformation to being a good mortal, was advised by sage Narada to ceaselessly chant ‘Mara’ (reverse of Rama) when Valmiki was unable to chant lord Raama’s name” – I remember her saying something like this that day before our discussion ended. I must have been around 10 years then, and Since that day, I don’t remember sleeping a night without praying my Lord Raama. Lord Raama is more than just a God for me, he is faith, he is liberation, and he is my guard.
I have read somewhere that the name Raama encompasses three syllables: Ra, Aa, and Ma. Ra signifies Agni (Fire God); Aa, Surya (Sun God); and Ma, Chandra (Moon God). Fire God burns all sins, Sun God dispels darkness, and Moon God cools one‚Äôs temper and produces tranquility‚ÄĒin essence fostering the harmony of thought, word, and deed.
“When in distress, you should always remember your favorite deity. For some unknown reason, Guru Raghavendra comes to my mind every time I am in distress…” she had said on another instance. That was when this question occurred to me – who is my favorite deity? and the answer to the question occurred as instantaneously – Lord Raama, Lord Ganesha. Some time as recently as 7 years back I added lord Hanumaan to the list.

Mythology has always caught my curiosity, I love reading books on mythology, especially stories of my favorite deities. One such book that caught my attention was ‘Ramayana’ (Valmiki’s version) by Sri Rajgopalachari. The narration of the story is simple and elegant, and is written keeping the youth in mind. His attention to detail, pruning of unnecessary passages, the emotional and the elated tone of the story are all very evident as you read the chapters of the book.
Since I am particularly fond of Raama, with every page I contentedly turned, I eagerly waited for some of the very important episodes of the Ramayana’s mythic past – the Seeta swayamvar, the deceiving illusion of the golden deer that captivated Seeta, the killing of Raavana and lastly, the fire ordeal that Seeta went through to prove her chastity to Lord Raama.
I must tell you that for most part of the book, my state of mind was so elated, I enjoyed reading every word of the book. I took some time off between chapters to assimilate, introspect and also appreciate Sir Rajgopalachari on his marvelous writing. As I turned through the chapters, I both rejoiced and sighed as the pages on the left piled up and the pages on the right diminished, for, I was happy that I was getting closer to some of the most awaited ear marking episodes of Ramayana,but at the same time, sad that I was approaching the end of the book. I relished every page of it and every chapter left me hungry for more.
And finally I landed on the page where my Lord Raama takes the brahma-astra in his hand, utters a spell and directs it straight at Raavana, the brahma-astra penetrates Raavana’s armour, pierces his chest where the secret of Raavana’s invincibility is enshrined, and shatters it. This brings the end of Raavana, the evil incarnate.
It was a delight to read the saga of Raama where the Lord Raama and His consorts are born are mere mortals who, given to destiny, experience human sorrow, and go on to establish Dharma on earth.


Now, as I continued to read, I only waited for the union of Raama and Seeta, and their celebration of togetherness after a long episode of distress and battle. But what was yet to come was far from being pleasant. To believe my eyes, I had to go back and read the part again where Raama says ‘How can a kshatriya take back a wife who has lived in a stranger’s house for so long?’. Although I knew well that Seeta takes the fire ordeal to prove to Lord Raama her chastity, given to Lord Raama’s character, I didn’t expect this coming. I felt that it was so unbecoming of him to suspect her chastity and not accept Seeta with open arms. It was painful to read it.
To me it was unsettling that Raama should instigate Seeta to jump into the kindled fire to prove her integrity, after having gone through an emotional turmoil, for no fault of hers. In my eyes, Raama had won the battle, but lost the war.

Before Valmiki’s time, legend had it , that after recovering Seeta, Raama sent Seeta away to live all by herself in a forest, fearing a scandal! This has taken shape as Uttarakaanda of Ramayana. Valmiki, in keeping with Raama’s benevolent character, has portrayed him differently.
However, I can only find some solace in Sir Rajagopalachari’s explanation that since Lord Raama was an avataar of Lord Vishnu, who had taken birth as a mortal to slay the daemon Raavana, Once the target was meted out and victory was achieved by lord Raama, that also marked the end of the avataar and the divinity was lost, after which Raama lived only as the king of Ikshvaaku race. With this explanation, King Raama’a behavior can only be attributed to the customs and thinking that prevailed in those times.
I battled an array of thoughts after the ending of Ramayana stirred up my emotions and invoked my feminist views before I could contain and tell myself that mythology is inevitably bound to the society and time in which it occurs and hence is justified by its prevailing culture and environment.

Seeta’s sorrows have not ended with Ramayana, it is but an ongoing pathos in the lives of our women. A closer look into the society in India today still mirrors the voiceless and endless suffering of our womenfolk.

My Adobe Friends!

Posted: February 16, 2012 in People

FOREWORD: This is a post that is dedicated to my friends in Adobe. The matter and content of this post is best understood by and most relevant to my friends whose references are made in the post. Hence the intended audience to this post are my friends from Adobe.

17th Feb2012: My last day at Adobe!! It doesn’t feel complete without taking time to mention you guys who made my stay here so much fun! Even silliest of events got so memorable, only because of you guys. Remember how we always had something to say in the last hour on the last day at work? I have lots to say too, and I am penning them down here so u have ur share too!

Jumping straight to the point, I am taking all of u one by one to scrutiny,so face it!

ACHALA: The sizzler
’bout U: Shez moody, shez outright, shez a drama queen, shez ebullient, shez loud. But what the hell, I like it loud! +10 for all the dramebaazi that she does. Xoxo ūüôā
She makes a perfect friend for me and i haaate losing her friendship! We share gregarious instincts, and that’s what tea times are for. We loooooooove tea time —¬† Gossip, and more gossip!
Retrospect this: U know Achala is workin’ hard when: a) she has at least one big argument with Sailesh b) She is all around the aisle and there is a gush of storm where ever she goes c) you hear her blast her project BSA on phone d) And soon after that she and I leave for for tea…
Pick words: the thing is thaat…,tough ide.

AMIT: My confidant
’bout U: He ‘bhaav-khaao’s like no other:) Not many people can really interpret his silence. He normally comes across as a docile person… but when u r friends with him, you get to see the other side of him: witty, silly and his best!
Tea times are very important,coz a secret a day keeps boredom at bay.
Retrospect this: Like it was not enough sharing the room with the boss, he shared the toothpaste as well in Mangalore! Now lets just hope he stopped at that.
Pick words: Wait,let him first talk, and then you can try to pick words from that!! ūüėõ

KUNAL: The stud
’bout U: Kunal is Kunal, he first decides if he wants to be arrogant and mean, OR if he wants to be sweet and helpful. And when he is the later, he’z a darling, I swear!
Former?, Ask Achala…!
Like I know him, He is an absolute convivial, a go-getter, and a warm friend. Looks like a model. Well?? Or atleast, some one in pink pants thinks so ūüôā
Retrospect this: Kunal blocked Ms.Pink pants on Gtalk after she complimented him for his looks ūüėÄ How ruuuuuuuude!
Pick words: Aaj lunch keliye bahaar chalte hain…!

SAILESH: The sweeetest!
’bout U: Saaailesh is from Orissa, Land of temples, land of floods and land of Maoists too. And i love teasing him for that! ūüôā
Hez the sweetest of the lot and I cant reiterate enough! Pluky at work, very helping and inspiring.
Retrospect this: What was meant to be a life time secret was brought to light by a candid picture of Sailesh taken in Ooty!Now, Kunal, was that your candid camera?
Pick words: arey baba, no re baba. And ofcourse, not to forget Sailesh’s universal password that the whole Web team knows: letmein

DEEPAK: The chipper
’bout U: Deepak is slapstick, witty, jovial and fun. He is the gossip guy too, his involvement makes any gossip complete and spicy ūüėõ
Deepak is very friendly by nature and is the first one to go n talk to any new comer in the web team!
Retrospect this: He made a hearty and a very significant contribution to the ‘Adieu Ms. Pink Pants’ episode. Little did she know such a day would come when she made the (in)famous statement that she wants a guy like Deepak for a husband!!!
Pick words: Cant think of one, any bids???

GAURAV: Mr. Nice guy
’bout U: Gaurav Rihan was the guy who did my buggy test round during interview.
Generous in suggestions, gentle n caring and always smiling ūüôā
Retrospect this: Gaurav is Sweet…Very sweet…soo sweet that he didn’t mind sharing his cubicle with Ms. Pink pants when ever she wanted. We rarely got to see Gaurav alone in his cube those days! Keep up the spirit Gaurav, Work is worship ūüôā
Pick words: Good hain, ..Sir Ji

MOUMITA: The decorous
’bout U: Moumita comes across as a silent person. But when you make her your friend, you will know that she talks enough to make you feel good. Shez gentle, caring and warm hearted. Shez a perfect friend material.
She officially took over the ‘Bouncer’ title after Achala left Adobe. She is doing better than Achala actually, she bounces at the rate of 3 times a day. Right Amit?
Retrospect this: Moumita is a good listener, she only listens to us conversing about salary and bonus, but she never reveals/shares her’s. Didn’t i say shez a quiet person?!
Pick words: Lunch!! Saloni…Chaloni! (that’s how she calls ppl for lunch)

KANCHAN: Pathaka
’bout U: Everytime Kanchan and I begin a conversation, it gets saucy. We normally begin talking across the cubicle, but end up chatting on Gtalk after a while since we can’t say it loud ūüėÄ
How can I forget this!!! Kanchan and I once went to ask permission to leave early when he was in good mood, and ‘the man’ gave us permission just like we expected, but we didnt expect this coming from him – “Fine, you can leave early ,Enjoooy, go n bang!” BANG?!?!? ^%^$%@$$#@!# We needed a min there to get back to Gtalk and digest what he said before leaving for the day ūüėõ
Retrospect this: Someone called Kanchan aside and asked ‘the Kanchan'(now u knw who that some one is) to tell this other colleague not to wear short tops while gyming. well, i don’t know if she was able to get the message across, but Kanchan did wear a long tee herself next day! That message was not for u sweety, he likes it short as far as u are concerned ūüėõ
Pick words: no pick words, shez not that repetitive!

AND FINALLY….
LONG HAIL the KINGMAKER…All of you “please tries” to shout that out loud along with me.
And no one shouted?? no wonder, u guys have made it to his hate list, unlike ‘the Kanchan’!!