Saturday, December 30, 2006

RIP - December 30, 2006

It's over. Saddam Hussain has been executed. The news channels inform you that he was tried and executed for the mass murder of 180 odd people of a certain village where he escaped an assassination.

I'm no fan of the man, but somehow his death in this manner was most disturbing. Call him a despot, dictator what you will but the people who consigned him to this death are no less. Singularly the American president has become the biggest bully, despot, mass murderer, psychopath and every other vile term that comes to mind.

The American presidents of old were men of principles, and they were led by Abraham Lincoln who immortalized the fundamental principle of patriotism in the line “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Today American presidents have decided that they will determine the destiny of other nations and they will unilaterally decide what “other nations will do in exchange for what they choose to do there”.

If history is a teacher, then the silly American presidents have not learnt their lessons. The Second World War was won with brute force. A decision to bomb two towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Harry Truman has gone down as an acceptable act of war, because it was done by the Americans, the saviours of the world. I’m sure if the same bomb was launched by the Axis powers on any of the Allied nations then we would have had another mass murderer. Why judge Hitler and Truman on different yardsticks?

Strange are the kind of double standards we live with, America has the biggest stockpile of nuclear weapons and has been the only nation to use it in an act of war and yet nobody condemns them. I suppose even a small portion of their arsenal would suffice to decimate the world but yet they choose to retain such huge arsenals. And the hue and cry that is raised when any of the aspiring nuclear nations try to develop their nuclear expertise is appalling. India among others was till date treated like a nuclear pariah till the supposedly “ground breaking”, “earth shattering” agreement with the US was signed recently. I do not know the gist of the treaty but knowing how the American presidency works, I’m sure it is loaded unfavourably towards India.

Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Somalia, (well actually what is known is a few what is unknown is numerous) are some of the countries where the American president over the years has been humiliated over the years for his follies. The stories are all similar and they have the same sickening end after a stupid unpardonable entry into the country by brute force, the Goliath is always slayed by David with the contemporary equivalents of a slingshot and pebbles. Goliath is so shocked that he cannot beat a quick retreat and he is so big when he falls he causes greater damage. However the price of the collective follies of the American presidents is paid by the poor unsuspecting civilians who are wounded, maimed and often killed. They are often reduced to an insignificant statistic with a glorified term “collateral damage”.

The massacre of the innocents is probably the worst possible crimes committed against humanity and their spin offs including lawlessness, riots, starvation, poverty, diseases etc etc the visuals of which are the staple of most news channels are born from that space between the two ears of the American president. He is a criminal and the blood of so many innocents is on his hand.

At the risk of sounding stone hearted, the 9/11 incident did not deserve the kind of public outrage that it got. The incident was yet another bombing in a city, however the media blew it up and the fact that the crime was done in America made it the mother of all crimes. I’m sure that the world would not have blinked an eyelid if the same happened elsewhere. Bombay has suffered worse and will the world give the same knee jerk reaction to those explosions?

9/11 was but David’s answer to what Goliath had done in David’s town. It is said that “As you sow, so shall you reap”. I was pained at the extent of collateral damage that the people suffered there but surely the reactions could have been discounted by at least 80%. The Al Quaeda is protesting with the weapons at their disposal to defend the rights of their people . But they are not americans, they are muslims so they are terrorists, american backed gunmen are "freedom fighters". We see enough similar incidents where the comparative factor should be the number of lives lost, irrespective of the colour, race or nationality. Are Americans, God’s gift to humanity and the others children of a lesser God?

It will be grossly unfair to condemn the president alone for this, the rest of the world has approved of this big bully attitude and have fallen in line because they benefit from it. They get aid, they get technology, they get the friendship of the big brother etc so they turn a blind eye to every excess committed. The price they pay, the loss of their self respect. The pariahs of the world who stand up to the American hegemony are victimized, sanctioned, condemned, invaded and if given a chance executed. Now that Saddam has gone, Bush Jr. will surely get bored and will have to start on a new adventure. Iran looks like a good target and the fanatic Ahamed Jinad looks like a good punching bag, then there is always the favourite Kim of Noth Korea. So there is more excitement in store for Bush.

I read some where that Bush is devout Christian. I fail to understand whether Christianity is different in America, for Christ came to speak of love and universal brotherhood. Surely he must have heard “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and he and his predecessors will have been taught “Love thy God with all you heart, with all your mind and love thy neighbour as yourself”. I suspect that in their busy schedule to save their world they had little time to save themselves.

The American president today is a bully but his true nature can be seen as compared to their national emblem the bald eagle:
“It is said the eagle was used as a national emblem (of America) because, at one of the first battles of the Revolution (which occurred early in the morning) the noise of the struggle awoke the sleeping eagles on the heights and they flew from their nests and circled about over the heads of the fighting men, all the while giving vent to their raucous cries. "They are shrieking for Freedom," said the patriots. Thus the eagle, full of the boundless spirit of freedom, living above the valleys, strong and powerful in his might, became the national emblem of a country that offers (sic) freedom in word and thought and an opportunity for a full and free expansion into the boundless space of the future – From the internet.

However this can be seen in true perspective in the words of Benjamin Franklin who said

I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America.. . . For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”

At the advent of a new year, I pray for the departed soul of Saddam, may he be forgiven his sins, for all those who suffer from dictators, despots, wars, etc and for the perpetrators of the same. May God give bless and heal them.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

O Holy Night!

At 11 PM on Christmas Eve, I was bristling with nervousness in the choir room in St. Luke’s. The moment of truth was to dawn in a few minutes and I was nervous. Let me explain. This Christmas I wanted our choir to sing a few numbers in the classical style complete with a four part vocal harmony. And for the first time I was actually conducting my choir for a big occasion. And the day was Christmas 2006.

After several hectic practices that were crammed in the last week we scraped together a collection of songs that spanned different genres and styles. From our usual “jing-bang” numbers to the sublime classical they were all there. And to render them was assembled the best people I have seen in a while.

Of great concern in the Catholic church is the decline of good classical church music primarily because the old school of musicians passed away without building up a sound second line and secondly because of the lack of good trainers today. So even though it has been a long cherished dream of singing classical music my lack of musical knowledge and training coupled with my inability to play any instrument was the biggest handicap to achieving my dream coupled with the fact that our choir if we may be permitted to call ourselves thus is made up of a group of enthusiastic singers with very little music in them but who compensate with tremendous enthusiasm, dedication and hard work.

So relying purely on the ability of self and of the choir to memorize the various parts; we worked on them till we managed to make discord sound like music. It was a dream come true during practice but could we replicate it all on the big day?

We did our best and we even sang the acappella version of “Silent Night” in addition to other carols that I arranged with simple harmonies. Were we good? I do not know. But I do know that it is not impossible to dream and make dreams come true.

I did get words of appreciation from a few and the usual brickbats from a few after the service but I truly know that my choir had done a truly wonderful job and our great journey has begun. We have taken the baby steps to being a truly good choir and we have not fallen.

Skeptics had written off my dream and even worse mocked the ability of my choir to sing but on that night, that Holy Night a new beginning was made.

Becoming a truly good choir is within our grasp. We need a little help from good music teachers, lots of hard work and commitment from everyone and above all the blessings of God for whom we sing.

Kudos to every member of the choir who sang that night, who backed me till the end.
I am proud to have been a part of this beginning and I pray that we go to great heights.


I was robbed last night!!!!!!!! This morning when I woke up at 7.30, I could not find my mobile phone. Actually this phone was a gift from my brother. He had upgraded himself to a superior model from the Sony Ericsson stable; I think it’s a K-750i. So I was using a Sagem My SX 6 2 model phone. Now this phone was carefully selected after much research by my brother and it proved itself. With a nifty camera and tiny MP3 player I finally had my first gizmo phone. I had mused myself with sharing files via Bluetooth and really enjoyed the phone. But disaster struck me last night for the 4th time.

So we start again from the point where I woke up this morning at 7.30 and discovered my phone missing. A frantic search revealed my deepest fears to be true; I had lost my mobile yet again. A thief had opened my bedroom window and after cutting open the Netlon mosquito mesh had somehow managed to sneak away with the phone which was lying 6 feet away from the window at the head of my bed. A visit to the police station followed which resulted in a very courteous sub-inspector visiting my house and taking a written complaint from me. He inspected the house and gave a small talk on safety measures to be taken by us for the future and left with an assurance to contact us in the event of any developments.

I came to work with mixed emotions, gratitude in greater part that the loss was limited to the phone only and sadness at loosing a beautiful and expensive phone and more importantly the contact numbers of 300 people that I will be hard pressed to recover ASAP.

As I mentioned earlier this is the fourth phone lost by me and the 6th in my family overall. A brief story of all my losses follows:
1) Motorola E 350 : My first colour phone, a horrible display and a squeaky ringer not withstanding, this was my first colour phone in the time when all carried B&W. I lost this during a jumble sale when somebody stole it from the cash table where I was counting the money
2) Nokia 3315 : The stable second best seller of Nokia after the rugged 3310. This phone somehow slipped out of my pant pocket when I was riding my bike and got lost somewhere near the Sun Plaza near the Gemini flyover.
3) Nokia : Hmmm I cant remember this model but I know its another economy model. I lost this in a teashop outside Munnar. I had inadvertently left it on the table in the teashop and when I went back it disappeared along with the waiter who served us.
4) SAGEM My SX – 6 i: Don’t tell me you forgot the story above already?

In between the above mentioned my folks have misplaced one Samsung CDMA and yet another Nokia low-end between them. One simply misplaced and the other pick pocketed on the bus.

So finally let me come back to the reason for this post, if you read this, please send me your contact numbers ASAP!!!!!!
I have a limited memory and I’m really picking my brains to build my contact list so please help.

PS: The heading reads SOS in Morse code, in case u havent figured it out.

The murderous statue

Note: This post was started long ago when the mobs ran riot in Maharashtra over a silly statue. However I did not finish it then, so the relevance may be dated.

Heard about Alice in Chains? They are a rock / metal grunge band popular in the West in the eighties and nineties. I’m not sure how their name originated but maybe they saw some Alice chained up somewhere. If an Indian band would want to get inspired for a name similar to that they can try “Ambedkar in a cage”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have deep respect for Baba Saheb Ambedkar and for his contribution to Indian history. What deeply saddens me is the actions of all those who claim to be his fellow countymen today.

Now why Ambedkar in a cage you may ask? Drive down the many roads of India and you will find high up on a pedestal a statue erected to honour this great man. But what shocks you about many of these statues is that they are encased by a wire mesh cage. I found out from locals that this was done to protect the statue from vandalism. Those who have followed the news recently would know what happened when some mindless characters vandalized a statue and the widespread reactions it caused. Buses and trains were burned, public property vandalized and damaged and police shooting to quell the mobs resulting in deaths.

I remember vividly the day almost 4 years ago when I had to organize a “mela”( it’s the desi term for a sales promotion event, actually a mela means a fair but our melas are focused on a single loan product like cars, bikes etc) in Thiruvallur a small town near Chennai. The road to Thiruvallur goes through certain villages which are dominated by the marginalized. I strongly dislike the term caste and more so the scheduled caste and as they are victims of oppression, the term marginalized will suffice. In each of these villages you will see Ambedkar in a cage and shockingly on that fateful day one uncaged (if that term exists) statue was garlanded with a garland of slippers by some antisocial. Whatever be the reasons for this act the villages exploded and in the carnage that followed 2 unsuspecting farm labourers were hacked to death. I remember the victims being transported by ambulance past me. Later on I was told that it was indeed a massacre of innocents and those two poor farm labourers had little to do with the incident. The so called malicious minds among the perceived upper classes do such acts to show their contempt for the marginalized. Caste is so rigid in the interiors that we still see stories of two tumblers and entry barriers in places of worship etc.

The first question that comes to mind is why do people associate so much importance to a statue of a dead man that life is given a go by? Is that silly statue worth two lives? Is that one statue in Nagpur or wherever worth the lives of so many who perished in the mob outrage? I have commented in an earlier post that when man started seeing god in stone, he forgot that god lives in you and me. So we deify stone, concrete, wood, metal, ice and every other imaginable material as God and flesh and blood as refuse.How many disputes have arisen over statues and buildings? Where is the end to all this?

The next question, we are in the dawn of year 2007 and still we find caste the biggest issue dominating the news hours. Politicians still keep the caste fires raging to ensure their hearths are burning daily. Demands for reservation and more reservation ensuring that meritocracy is thrown out of the window. When will we see a country that is not derailed in the march of progress by the evil of caste?

Big questions these, but like I mentioned before the start to all these begins with self.
I don’t believe in idol worship and will never worship any god in such forms.Likewise if memorials are to be constructed to honour some human, I will not contribute in cash or kind for the same save if it were to build a hospital or the like.

Next mine is not a same caste marriage, I declined to inform my in-laws my caste antecedents as I am above my label. Next I don’t care what the label of my fiancĂ©e is. When it comes to my kids they will never have any label tagged to them and I will teach them that merit is the only key to success. I don’t discriminate among my friends and I never will and If I should see anyone in my circle who does so, I will do my best to stop it.

Will these make a difference, it will to me and from me to those around me. At the risk of repeating myself,

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing”

This is my spark……… Where is yours?

Merry Christmas

Seasons greetings!!!!!

Merry Christmas everyone and best wishes to a joyous new year!!!!!

Hey it’s that time of the year when hope fills the air. It’s Christmas, the biggest birthday party celebration across the globe. It’s the birth of Christ and the dawn of hope yet again. It’s the season of love and giving, of meeting old friends and relatives, of exchanging sweets and gifts, of carol rounds and parties, of heavy lunches & dinners, of Santa Claus and Christmas trees, of stars and cribs, of night masses and carol singing.

I’m sure that all of you will have done all or at least many of the above said, but at this time take a brief moment to ponder over these lines of a carol:

“Presents glitter on the tree,
Gifts for him or her or me,
But we find the best of all,
Mary’s baby in a cattle stall”

Point No 1: When we receive gifts we utter a spontaneous thank you to the giver of the gift, and we have the greatest gift of all……….
This is the time to say thank you.

Point No 2: We have been gifted far more than we realize and most of our gifts do not come wrapped in glittering paper and ensconced in a ribbon but they re nevertheless far more precious. As we realize the value of these gifts, be it our parents, or home, our physical faculties, family etc let us spare a thought for our brothers who do not have them. If we can do that this season will be the best way to celebrate this season.

Merry Christmas everyone and best wishes for a joyous and prosperous new year.


The great annual St. Luke’s M U L J B E A S E L !

Now don’t look so confused, in case you still did not get it and are very bad at solving jumbles, read the title again as The great annual St. Luke’s JUMBLE SALE! This is the annual social action effort of the youth fellowship of my church. I’m going to retire in the space of a few weeks but I look back at all the activities I was privileged to be a part of by virtue of being a member of WS4G. WS4G or We Stand For God is the youth fellowship of St. Luke’s and over the years has done its bit for the underprivileged.

During the season of advent we endeavour to turn waste to wealth by the jumble sale. The jumble sale to the uninitiated is the collection of articles that have outlived the utility value of their current owners and are sold to raise money for charity. Over the years we have built up remarkable competencies in procuring and selling material as varied as used clothes to consumer durables. Clothes, furniture, books, footwear, music tapes and cds, vessels and kitchen implements, consumer durables are usually to be found here.

We usually get several small entrepreneurs to participate in the sale with their products and this brings in additional revenue. Food is another revenue stream for us. Our average revenues for a day’s hard work and a few evenings in the run up to the big day are around 30 K nett. This money is then given to various charities supported by our church.

This year was more of the same, lots of stuff, a few shops, good biriyani and all earned us $$$. It was a good sum and it was in excess of the average but for the sake of modesty we will not reveal the same.

Our success over the years has spawned many copy cats but I’m not too sure about the commercial success of them.

We have learnt many lessons from the jumble sale over the years. From planning, budgeting, organizing and project execution with experience as the sole and probably the best teacher. Procurement, logistics, and above all actual sales of the kind that cannot be taught in a B school are some more take-aways.

Till date we have never lost money on a sale and this is creditable since we always start with a zero balance and always begin with a loan for the seed capital. And always we pay of the loan and other incidental expenses including transport, promotion and most importantly food for the volunteers.

The keys to the success of every sale are 1) The generosity of the parishioners who often give away good articles with significant residual value for the sale 2) The good planning and promotions done prior to the event 3) The ability of the volunteers to dispose of everything by the end of the day

However what must not be forgotten in the midst of all this is the commitment of the volunteers who set aside one Sunday and a few evenings prior to that to do voluntary service for the poor. The biggest key to the success is the effort of every single individual no matter how insignificant it may seem that eventually makes the Christmas of an unfortunate brother or sister a little better.

Kudos to my friends in the WS4G for this year’s event and for all the earlier ones. Nostalgia is already biting me as I realize that this is my last as an active member but the takeaways will stand me in good stead when I go ahead for bigger challenges.

I'm too busy to blog!

Nothing in Particular!!!!

I just can’t believe it, but it is actually more than 15 days since my last post. This has nothing to do with my creative juices drying up or the usual writer’s block, it’s just that I was too preoccupied with lot of other things. What with Christmas and my wedding on the anvil, I somehow contrive to clutter up my day with N number of things that stop me from blogging.

So life is going on at a break neck speed as this is also our year end at the bank and everyone wants to end the year on a high. (High, only in terms of business numbers!). So work is actually keeping me busy. And not to mention the fact that choir practice for the night mass kept me totally busy.

How repetitive and redundant do I sound????

Also I must confess I had a sudden attack of sloth so I simply did not blog, but now I’m back and back with a vengeance as you will see.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Miracle at MCC

Miracles happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A miracle happened last evening and I am a testimony to it.

The 9th annual Christmas carol night started yesterday in MCC school at 6.30 pm. To those who are fond of Christmas carols in Chennai, this is a regular much awaited event. Organized by the alumni of the Madras Christian College the event spanning two evenings invites leading choirs and song groups of Chennai and other places to perform for a discerning audience.

The program is held in the grounds of the school and is always under the threat of the elements. The north east monsoon is still active during the earlier part of December and organizing events like this in the open calls for a lot of faith. Chennai was treated to a few unexpected showers on Sunday so the venue was already soggy and the event seemed on the verge of a washout. However the rain held off and the programme went on schedule.

I enjoyed the show, savouring the fare dished out by the performers. The repertoire included western classical, Indian classical in Tamil (really enjoyable) & a Malayalam choir. Then the Chariots from Pune and the Cantibles showed how wonderful male voice acapella singing can be. Of special note are The Chariots a group of students from Africa who study in the Spicer college, Pune. They enthralled the audience for a second time with a Tamil song which was as enthusiastically received as was the next number in Swahili. Music knows no languages.

A duo from Ireland then sang a duet and two solos in the opera theatre style. One of the duo a doctor from Chennai is now a leading player in the Irish theatre scene. The lady, Mrs. Judith Sheridan (I hope am right) then showed us why she is very highly rated in Ireland with her stunning voice.

Anyway coming to the miracle, the rain held off till the programme got over and when the vote of thanks was being delivered the rumble of thunder filled the air. The compere bid us farewell and asked us to return today and closed with the line and here comes the rain. And it poured!!!!!!

The entire audience was a testimony to this, you may think that it is an exaggeration of sorts but the compere announced that the programme went on the strength of the prayers of many and the words were proven yesterday. The rain held off till every song was sung and every speech was made. Also the sound engineers had enough time to protect the expensive equipment from being damaged. If that was not a miracle then we must redefine the word.

To all those who missed out yesterday, the programme concludes today. It’s free. Come, you may see another miracle today.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Discriminate not

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I saw this hoarding on Nungambakkam High road (Uttamar Gandhi Road if you please) and I just couldn’t resist taking a picture. If you can read it with a little more effort it says how 3 letters can cause us to discriminate. It was a beautiful message against AIDS on AIDS awareness day. Kudos to the creative team of the responsible ad agency for such a superb effort. (Apart from Sharad Haskar's work this is one hoarding I don’t mind seeing again and again)

But when I think about the hoarding and the message it has a lesson for all. Often seemingly insignificant things make us all discriminate among our brethren. I have done and so I do feel a little guilt. Forget caste, colour, creed, social status, sex etc, sometimes ability and egos can cause us to discriminate and often look down on others. My ability to do something better than others has caused me to look down and discriminate against those who cannot do likewise.

Age has mellowed me and now I think twice before I do anything like that. I guess we mature with age and experience and I’m thankful to both. I know that just because someone has AIDS does not make him / her any less a person from the others. And I have friends from all races, cultures, castes (its deplorable the term still exists) and I value each one of them for what they are and not for what tags they carry. If we must discriminate, we can: against those parasites who still keep the fires of discrimination alive for personal greed be it caste, creed, race etc.

I regret my past for my indiscretions where ego more than anything else made me discriminate
against my brethren on few instances and hope that I may never discriminate from another again.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Christmas Concert

Hi!!!! It’s been sooo long since my last post. I was busy with a Christmas carol concert! Christmas is here, well actually its advent time. So the great season of hope begins.

Anyway coming back to the topic of this post, I was fortunate to sing with the John Milns Chorale, a Christian choir led by Mr. Jabez Janagaraj. If you have followed the classical music scene in Chennai over the years and the choir music in particular, then these two above mentioned names would stand out. The John Milns chorale (JMC in future) named after a protestant priest who was an outstanding tenor in his time is led by Mr. Jabez, a die hard fan of the old school of classical music and choir singing.

Since inception the choir has performed in various churches and other public shows,recently the choir found itself at a crossroad. The increasing age and the acute failing health of the leader had made the very existence of the choir a big question mark. However like a true champion Mr. Jabez rose from his sick bed and whipped the choir into shape and we sang at the historic St. Mary's Church in Fort St. George on December 3rd.

It was not truly a concert, more of a Christmas service with the songs interspersed with readings from the Bible, but it was a dream come true for many of to whom the very thought of a concert seemed such a distant dream a few weeks ago.

So we sang accompanied by an orchestra with violins, violas, cellos, trumpet, flute and an awesome double bass. The orchestra was led by Mr. Jerry Fernandez (he has played for most of the leading film music directors including Ilayaraja). The song list was as diverse as they were beautiful, carols from Germany, France, US and a host of other countries came alive before an audience that just couldn’t have enough. The small church was packed and the overflowing crowd sat wherever they could. Yes, D was there with my folks. And she captured a little of that evening on her camera.

It was a truly memorable concert and we got a large share of accolades but personally we knew that we did well but not well enough. And since in Chennai we do not have any other benchmarks but ourselves we knew that we could have done better. But it was a good concert nevertheless in a truly historic setting.

As I sign off, this is my salute to Mr. Jabez, truly a genius. He taught me what little I know about choir singing. His musical talents are unrivalled and it is a privilege to sing under him. He is eccentric and many do not take favourably to him for the same reason, but I know that geniuses are permitted their eccentricities. There will be a huge void in his absence that will be very difficult to fill up.

To those who missed the concert, you may get another chance to hear the JMC at Divine Mercy shrine on Jan 22nd. And you are invited!

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