The Hindustan Times,  03rd November, 1986

Eves in office
By K.P. Shashidharan

In the beginning of mankind, Eve committed a ‘heinous crime’ of eating an apple in the ‘kingdom of God’ and of persuading her innocent companion Adam to share the forbidden damned fruit, resulting in all agonies and sorrows of human- being. Later, Manu proclaimed that no freedom should be given to Eves – ‘the trouble- makers’ – in the world. The girl must be under strict surveillance if the further, the woman be absolutely subservient and submissive to her husband, and the mother be disciplined and controlled by sons. Thus, the wings of freedom and liberty of the beautiful Eve were cut short cruelly by various strictures and sermons in the past.

The modern Eves are different; they compete with Adams shoulder to shoulder in all gamut’s of life, at home and outside, not as suppressed individuals but as equivalent life partners, colleagues and companions, sharing all worries, problems and responsibilities of the family. The Eves who were confined at home suffocated and bored to death within the four-walls of the kitchen are fast breaking the claims of slavery and immobility. It is a fascinating realisation. The Eve at home, wriggles out of bed in early morning, completes all household chores, sends the children to school and husband to office and finally runs after a bus or a suburban train or drives her own vehicle to reach office in time.

She is nowhere less than her male counterpart. Though tender, soft and delicate, she can melt any ‘iron man’ and clever fully manipulate him for doing any thing under the sun for her. Scientists proved that women are biologically for superior to men. Eve in office, by her elegant physical presence, beautifies and spreads an ‘aura of romance’ in the office. Some of the Eves are absolutely wedded to their work, even relegating her personal an family life to the background. A few others decide to get rid of ‘family-cage’ as they cannot stand with anything interfering their career and go to the extent of fighting in court for legal separation. A third group of Eves don’t make that mistake at all they live as ‘kumari Eves’ for ever, never like to compromise their inflated ego and hardly believe in the ‘recreation of procreation’. Many a ‘kumari Eves’ finds none of their mental wave-length and wait ever for ‘Mr Right’ , to come, ignoring Adams around as incompetent nincompoops, and living like a Queen Bee ordering all around. Hats off to ‘kumari Eves!

Even some married Eves prefer to be called Ms to Mrs and do not like to be always under the shadow of ‘He-man’, and of course don’t mind even if he is utterly hen-pecked. She sinks into her busy office and family life, sermonises and admonishes husband and children to co-operate and help in all activities and comes home late in the evening, totally enervated. She gets hardly any time or energy to meet the psychological and biological requirements of her husband and children.

Eves are finally winning the battle of freedom, liberty and equality even though at the cost of their physical comfort and mental peace. Their revaluation has been non- violent and bloodless throughout, running into centuries of hardship and penury. The battle is going on …. Many are yet to come out of house-arrest. Thanks to the woman’s Lib! Let us wish success to their incessant fight against all injustices and inhuman treatments inflicted to Eves by ADS – Adam Dominated Society.


Nagpur Time,  05th November, 1986

Off Roots Again
By K.P. Shashidharan

The man in his fifties, holding a brief case is running continuously after the city bus, with a palpating heart, puffing and panting. With all his energy, he gets inside the overcrowded bus. To his agony and dismay, he finds that his new leather chap-pal is not embracing his right foot. In a moment of confusion and worry, he hurries out of the bus, clutching his pair of spectacles with his right hand. By that time, the bus picks up speed, people rush in; he hits a middle aged fashionable lady and falls flat in the centre of the road. The lady mutters abusive words at him while applying lipstick afresh and keeping her sari and bobbed hair in position.

The poor man has injured his knees, elbows and jaws, crawls on his fours, collects the letter-pad , papers, old-magazines, lunch box, tables and broken pair of spectacles and puts everything in his brief case and hires and autorickshwas to the hospital.

On Promotion

The old man had come to the small town, where life was easy going. He is now getting used to the busy city life. Frankly speaking, he never expected this promotion in the evening of his career. He was happy at his small town where he had constructed his house. His daughter is employed there, and son is studying medicine. He cannot shift his family till his daughter is married and son’s education complete.

His wife had had to stay back with children and he came to the city alone with a few essential things. He rented small room paying through his nose and cooked his food, washed his clothes and lived in cursed singleness. The polluted dusty and humid atmosphere in the city does not suit him as he has been suffering from chronic asthma.

Wherever transfer looms in air, you get panicky, nervous uncertain and perturbed. When it actually strikes, your roots will be cut off.

If you are working in a chilly snow- covered mountainous area, you may have to descend and move towards se coast, or you may be sent to a hot dry desert. In case you are absolutely happy and contented in small peaceful town, your are the right person to be transferred to the maddening crowd, where you have to be always on heels and wheels, spending most of your time travelling.

Transfer Race

Suppose, a young man is service, with sprit of adventure and sense of humour, looking forward for challenging novel experience gets ready for a cross country marathon transfer race. He takes it supportively and wanders like gypsy from place to place carrying his bag and bag-gage and crects his tent and cooks his food. After undergoing the trauma, agony and exhaustion of a few transfers he becomes lethargic imbecile and dreads transfer for ever.

Think of a young employed couple with two children the husband is working in private sector and wife is transferred, she movers with children, unaccompanied by husband finds it nearly impossible to get a transfer or a join in the new place inconvenient, expensive and uncomfortable, the double establishments have to be continued.

All said and dine, there are a few influential lucky chaps. They avoid bad postings and manoeuvre to get good postings of their choice. They have godfathers to protect their interests. They are the master-Wire-Pullers who know, when how and with what force which wire direction so that things work smoothly to their own advantage.


The Hitavada,  11th November, 1986

By K.P. Shashidharan

Gazing at the brand new chocolate brown Maruti 800 in the portico of the bungalow, Ritu expressed her unsuppressed desire, “I want to learn driving. I’ll be damn exciting”. Conjecturing myself the new vehicle, to be subjected to the trails and tribulations of beginner’s awful driving, I tried to discourage.” What’s the need, Ritu? I’m here. You don’t even go anywhere alone”. She strove to convince me. “Look, darling, when you go to office and there is some urgent work, I can do it. I can pick up our son from school when the driver doesn’t turn up. You needn’t be worried on official tour”. She paused. “You know all my friends know driving, sisters and sisters-in-law learnt driving. After all, what are the harms?”

It was quite certain she would drive me made if I failed to cure her driving fever. When the temperature of the fever rose beyond safe limit, I consented! “okay, I’ll tell the instructor of any driving school to teach you. After learning sufficiently well, you can surely take Maruti”.

“First keep the gear in neutral……. Switch on the ignition and start. Press clutch fully… Put first gear…. Accelerate……”

The instructor of the driving school was extraordinarily calculative. He possessed an old noisy Ambassador with double brakes, double clutches and an additional hand operated accelerator. He picked her up from home, asked her to sit behind the steering wheel. He shrewdly manoeuvred the additional brake, clutch and accelerator and assisted her to put the vehicle in top gear for the maximum time possible, so that consumption of fuel would be minimum and his earning based on distance covered the maximum.

The lady behind the steering wheel was cynosure to the passers-by. She sat so stiff, breathed heavily, tightened her facial muscles and neck nerves, bewildering with partly separated lips and wide opened eyes, metamorphosing her otherwise pretty face into a frightening scene. With a funny awkward gesticulation, she applied her all strength to change the gear, grapping the steering wheel tightly. The inimitable blood-pressure driving!

That crucial day when I didn’t take the car to the office, bright, shinning Maruti 800 captivated and wooed my wife so seductively and decisively that she couldn’t resist the temptation.

Drunkard car

Initially, the vehicle jerked violently and refused to move. More cautiously she endeavoured again and it jumped and moved spasmodically. While she concentrated on steering, other operations were forgotten resulting in unpleasant jerky movements and “Krrrrrr” zooming noise of the engine. When she regulated acceleration, brake and clutch, the vehicle propelled zigzag like a drunkard measuring narrowness of the road.

While negotiating a sharp turn in the junction the vehicle banged a bullock cart just coming form the curved road. The cart was safe but, the front lights of the car got smashed into pieces and the bonnet portion was crushed into a pathetic shape. The cart man roared at her, “What the hell? Don’t you have eyes? The rich drives mad over the poor man’s corpse? If you don’t know driving, better don’t play with other man’s life”. The street-goers became judges and mediators and decided that the lady behind the wheel should part away a hundred rupee note to the cart-driver as compensation.

Cursing all the way herself and feeling sorry for the car and its owner and praying to all the gods, she managed to bring the disfigured and revolting Maruti home.

Maruti wit badly maimed face and blind eyes presented an ugly, deadly, fierce look in the portico. Bursting with worth and disgust and vindictiveness, I reviled my wife till my blood pressure subsided to normalcy. Then the cool cat seized me with claws, totally unaware. “You are always concerned about your car. You didn’t even bother to ask whether I was injured or not. What a fantastic, nice husband you are!”


The Hitavada,  25th October, 1986

By K.P. Shashidharan

Nita and Namita, five and seven years old pretty mischievous daughters of my friend, are always vibrant with energy and full of life. Their almonds-shaped large eyes reflect absolute innocence, insatiable inquisitiveness, unsuppressable enthusiasm and playful nature.


Whenever we visit them, the girls welcome us with a hearty smile. Their long black curly hair spread over their chubby cheeks. Within a short time of arrival, they put forward to uncle and aunt innumerable riddles. Our attempts to answer them quite often led to embarrassing situations, so we generally evaded questions funny incidents in the school.

One Saturday noon, when the door bell sounded, I was quite surprised to find the etude little sisters at the door, slightly worried and exhausted carrying their school bags on their shoulders. “Uncle, uncle, we want to phone”.

They refused to come inside the house and said that they were let free from the school early that day. Instead of waiting for the driver to pick them up, they preferred to walk to home with a friend who knew the way, the elder one became responsible and decided to ring the mummy and inform that they would be coming walking.

“No need to ring, Nita. Please come with me. Let me take out the car from the garage. I’ll drive you home”.

Holding the hand of Nita, I was walking towards garage with the car keys-in my hand. Within a spur of a moment, I failed to believe my eyes Namita and her friend were seen running across the main road, without heeding call to stop.

The girls ran quite a distance and turned back to signal Nita to follow them. She also joined the group subsequently. Prudence demanded me to allow the kids to have their own way, without any interference, lets they run hither-thither dangerously along the main road, where traffic was heavy.

It seems that the girls were quite bored of monotonous daily bourgeois luxury of being driven to school in the morning and picked up in the evening by the driver. They desired to enjoy a care-free independent stroll along the busy road, gossiping and giggling all the way.

When we called on our friend, the next time, the girls were not seen welcoming us, as usual, with their innocent smile. We had to search for them everywhere before we founded then in the study room, totally bashful, coy and repentant. Their luxuriant, long curly hair was completely shaved off and smooth, white shinning heads reflected light.


“What happened? Why did you shave off their hair? “Queried my wife, anxiously, to their mother, who is very sensitive, emotional and God-fearing.

“It was offered to Tirupati Lord Venakteshwara. You know, that day they came home walking from school. Their father was out of station on tour. I was worried like hell. The kids were not reaching home for hours together. I swore to Lord Venakteshwara that I would offer their hair to him if they came home safe and sound”.


The Tribune,  03rd May, 1987

By K. P. Shashidharan

The markets in Srinagar romaine closed on Sundays but poor men’s bazaar springs up along the road from Lal Chowk to the Jhelum Bridge. Hundred of folding cots are unfolded just in minutes, and alluring clothes and other household articles are spread out on the cots. Vendors push their hand – carts loaded with goods with great difficulty through the dense crowed of customers.

The Sunday’s bazaar mirrors the ethos, habits, Life style of the poor multitude. One feels the heart throb of common men in the market: some are seen searching certain goods frantically, some are seen bargaining persuasively and some others are seen selecting things finally they are badly in need of. The hawkers raise an incessant chant of slogans: “only for today and not tomorrow!” “Avail of the golden opportunity!” “ the cheapest and the best throw away price!” “Hurry up! Luck does not wait!” “Buy wisely – it’s more than your money’s worth!”

Here competition is cutthroat, with no fixed prices. There is abundant choice of goods. The price you pay depends upon your bargaining capacity vis-à-vis the sales-manship of the hawker.

The articles generally available are winter clothes – pharens, padded jacked, sweaters, pants, under-pants, banians, gloves, socks, hats in various colours and designs and other household items.

Various kinds of Kashmiri food is also available.

A majority of Kashmiri men and women wear pharen – a loose thick woollen blankets sown, slung over shoulders falling down up to the knees.

Before dusk descends, the bazaar comes to a close. It disappears as suddenly as it had appeared. Those who want to buy things cheap wait patiently for the next Sunday.


The Hindustan Times,  10th January, 1987

The Strange Couples
By K.P. Shashidharan

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Varanasi, the most ancient city of the world. Of course, it has no monumental Acropolises, no st. Peter’s, and no Parthenon. The unbroken tradition, culture, religious rites and way of living of its people express its ethos and its antiquity.” The guide paused a minute, counted the heads and exclaimed: “Two of our friends are missing. Let us wait for them.”

We sat in the boat, shivering in the chilly biting December morning breeze, impatiently waiting for the missing person. Except two of us, all the rest were foreign tourist. The Ganga was slowly waking up from her deep night slumber. A thick blanket of mist covered the entire area and the slow moving water in the river looked like a vast lake.

“Here they come!” the guide announced in excitement. “They seem to have been taken for a ride by the ‘pandas’ of the ubiquitous gallies.” Both were wearing garlands of marigolds and roses, their foreheads were decorated with scared ashes, sandalwood paste and tikka. He was carrying rudraksh mala, vermilion, a copper pot, a sculpted image of Shiva and Parvati and a small linga. The lady had a camera in her hand. A few pandas and beggars were accompanying them. The oldest Panda said to him:

“Sir, you come after boat ride. We’ll wait for you.”

The guide asked them to hurry up; he stepped into boat with a jerk, followed by his companion. The camera slipped out of her hands into the water. Within seconds the man had stripped off his clothes except for his underwear, making more conspicuous his obese round physique. “Darling, don’t worry. I’ll get it.” From his actions everyone was sure he would dive into the water. But he hesitated and looked around helplessly. The Panda came to his help. “Sir, here’s a boy who’ll get your camera. You pay him only twenty rupees.” A lean boy in half pants plugged into the river and came out with the camera. He handed it over to man and asked for his reward. “Friends, lend me twenty bucks please. I am out of change.” The blonde sitting in front of me was furious and muttered to her friend: “we don’t give him anything. He has delayed the trip.” Finally he managed to settle the accountant and the boat was able to start.

It looked as if sun was emerging from the depth of the Ganges on the other side; saffron, red, orange and golden yellow rays spread and reflected on the flowing waters. “Jai Kasinath”, “Bolo Ganga Ki Jai”, “Ganga Mai Ki Jai”,. Morning ablutions were going on in full swing at the bathing ghats.

The guide explained the religious, cultural and historical significance of the city, the holy rivers, various bathing ghats and the life style of the people. All the tourists took snaps of temples, ghats, pilgrims chanting hymns, meditating and taking bath. A few small boats selling floating lamps and flowers to offer the Goddess Ganga approached our boat. The couple purchased lamps and floated them in the river.

The foul smell of burring flesh, bones and hair on the funeral pyres on he banks of the river at Manikarnika ghat became intolerable. The cry of the pall- bearers, head-shaven for the last rites: “Ram Nam Sat Hai” echoed cremation not permitted,” the guide warned the tourists.

The strange couple went on talking to the guide. From their conversation we inferred that they were from Mauritius and believed in Hinduism. They wanted to visit all the religious placed in Indian and be blessed with a child. Throughout the rest of the tour, they were ahead of everyone and spent most of their time either worshipping or purchasing things. Everywhere, the bus had to wait for them.

Next morning I read in the local newspaper that a Mauritius couple had been robbed of everything in one of the Varanasi Gullies.


The Hindustan Times, 19/10/1987

Whose Servant?
By K. P. Shashidharan

No one wants to be a servant but to be a servant to government is an aspiration of many for government servant is nobody’s servants.

The cogs of the wheels of the machinery of government like any machinery of government like nay machine need to be sufficiently lubricated to function smoothly. The inertia of the machinery to move either forward or backward can be overcome only when an external force is applied. When the external pressure is beyond its point of resistance, it starts moving in inches, mostly in circles and if the pressure is removed, it may go back to its original position.

It is a house whose inmates are divided into unequal classes or groups, services and grades. The same group of service or grade is again split into factions based on method of recruitment or channel of promotion. The perpetual cold war goes on under the same roof in different forms and forums.

Office time starts when one starts from home and ends when one reaches home. If the train or bus does not come in time, it is the government and not come in time, it is the government and not its helpless servants who arte the blame. If the boss has the audacity to question his subordinates for coming late, there are plenty of cooked-up excuses, like family members are sick and taken to hospital or the person himself is unwell or someone in the neighbourhood or some distant relation breathed his/her last.

Many a government servant is often the office premise but not at desk. The rule is that physical presence is not so important if an unmistakable proof of being around can be left in the office. Thus spectacles or a pen are left in a file or an overcoat is hung on a hanger and so on…..Nobody can catch you; have come to office and are around undertaking some urgent official business.

Not to take any decision is the only decision many of them make quite often. To play safe is the rule. The ball should not, in any case, be allowed to rest in your court. You have push it somehow to the other side. Raising queries, seeking clarifications, asking for precedents, practice rule position etc. ect, are multifarious methods of shoeing the depth of your understanding and efficiency in paper work and thus deferring taking a decision in the subject. In the process files move up and down with fresh quires while problems remain unsolved. But delay itself solves many [problems and the file cant en die a natural death.

Many lady servant knits and gossips to while away the time while gentlemen servants extent the lunch hour by playing cards, carom, chess, table tennis and the like. For many of them, government service is only a side business, the main interest lying else-where. Training is nothing but a paid holiday with extra emoluments for entertainment and official tours are mainly sight-seeing trips. The joy of getting the pay packet on the last working day of the month great. Indeed, every government servant waits patiently for it all the days of the month.

Those who are interested I the welfare of colleagues and themselves spend considerable time in the activates of association and the business of various societies. The canteen and nearby pan-shop are centres of daily rendezvous. A few of the government servants are only there to entertain the office through sports and games varied cultural programmes.

Pen-down strike is at times resorted to ventilate grievances though taking a pen for work is an exception rather than the rule. If they taken a pen for work, demand for overtime allowance followed by ‘No bonus, no work’ is the slogan of the day as pay is the legitimate right for upkeep; bonus and overtime allowance are must for doing work. If nay disciplinary action is initiated, the union is there to encourage gross indiscipline.

Yet the machinery rolls towards the twenty-first century.


Indian Express, 23/9/1987

The Last Dinner
By K. P. Shashidharan

His family coexisted with my family under the same roof for month’s together devouring dainty delicacies cooked by my wife. The size of my family was strictly as per the latest Family Welfare norms, whereas his was a large one – and ever multiplying. The gluttonous demeanour of his tribe was nauseating and repulsive to all of us, except our little lad of two years for whom everything was sheer whoopee. Though we shared the same house, the members of the two families met face to face very our presence while craving fervently our continuous stay here, obviously for their selfish motives.

When I rented the house. I knew nothing about this family. The earlier tenant had said nothing about them. The landlord of courses sang paeans in praise of his apartment and it facilities and never bothered to say word about the other family.

Bizarre incidents occurred from the very first night. Al of us were asleep when ear-splitting clattering of vessels and plates falling down in the kitchen woke as up. Rushing to the kitchen. E was pained to fine the place ransacked by him and his progeny. They disappeared I a flash as soon as I switched in the light. Thereafter it became a usual feature at night and we simply reconciled to the din and depredation.

This family was never seen at home in daytime. We wondered often where they could disappear all day, day after day. Late in the evening we would hear them come back, often with their friends and relatives to spend the night in the house and generally have fun. Having deep-rooted faith in non – violence and the well- being of others, I never interfered with their lives and routine.

Then we had to leave the city for a brief while. We took special care in locking all shelves, rooms and the gate. On return, however, we were distressed to find that clothes beds were badly damaged, and vessels in the kitchen thrown all over the place.

This was bad enough, nut the last straw came when we called some of our friends for lunch. My wife started the cooking the precious night itself. She soaked grams and lentils and boiled potatoes and semi-prepared various kind of vegetables for the next day’s lunch. In the morning when she entered the kitchen it was a devastating sight. Every thing had been consumed by our co-tenants and whatever little remained was scattered all over the floor.

If eating our food is all they wanted, we decided, we should give them a treat of there lives. The next day wee arranged the last supper – the choicest dishes we could think of. The table was laid and we retired for the night. The next morning we were delighted at our effort everything we had cooked for them had finished – and so had they. The whole family was wiped out.

We left very sorry, and wished we had, instead, a pied piper to evict them from the house, rather than from this earth, the way we did.


Indian Express 19/12/1987

Where Stones Bloom
By K. P. Shashidharan

The Meadow of gold’, car petted with lovely wild yellow flowers and shaded by green belts of coniferous and deciduous forests id left far behind. The ling stretch of tough unmediated outs road cools – around the waist of the Zoji Mountain like serpent.

The Jonga climbs up gradually. Taking care not to hurt the suppie and vulnerable curves of the mountain. The ash – coloured dust crates a thick white screen. The road passes through wails of snow and ice, it is the graveyard of hundreds of vehicles which hurtled down into the great depths of the river bed due to land slides, avalanches, blizzards and ice-slips.

Zojila is the gateway to Ladhak – the moon land, the land of gompas, lamas and chomos.

The roof of the world is full of harsh, naked mountains flirting with the blue canopy of the sky. The greatest sculptor, nature herself, has chiselled the mountains in spectacular way. The giant, wrinkled desert peaks change colour in the changing light.

Down the hills, bubbling rivers glush through, drowning the entire grnile country in the rhythmic sound of music. Startling patches of greenery confines to the oasis on the ricer bed. In the ‘nermit-kingdom’.

A few kilometres away from fotu-La, the highest mountain pass I the Beacon Highway, the cream coloured wrinkled mountains with moon-rook like formations captivate the onlooker. Lama-Yuru monastery, the most ancient and mysterious one in Ladhak is perched atop the hill above the village. The hair-raising, hair –pin bends descend to the Indus river-bed.

The oasis of Leh sprawls on both sides of the Indus river Smiling belles of the ‘little libel’, wearing ankle-length ‘kuntop’, covering their back with furry goat skin, adoring their head with Tibetan cap, made of black lambskin, walk along the bazaar. The rice-pearl ear-rings seeing in their ears and couch-shell bangles jingle on their wrists.

In the lost horizons of the ‘last Shangri-La, gomapas virtually hang from the lofty cliffs. “Mane” walls stretch for miles together with inscription from the Buddhist mantras. The pagoda-like structures called ‘chortens’ stand in line with prayer flag, fluttering in the icy wind.

The temple of God is ablaze with countless butter lamps. Fragrant herbs, roots and incense are burnt to purify the air Murals and ‘thanks’ reveal the hideousness and splendour of the age of the battle between good and evil. The entire philosophy of life and death is synthesised in the “the wheel of Life” the altars of the monasteries are laden with offerings. Gold statues of the Buddha in various forms – manjusri, Guru pad-masambhava, the maitreya Buddha and Avalokiteswara decorate the monasteries.

The prayer wheels rotate ceaselessly. Lamas dressed in saffron- coloured gowns sit in line before the religious texts and chant mantras incessantly. The sound of the cymbals, trumpets, the oboes. Tubas and kettle drums, accompanied by flutes, creates the vibrating music. Butter-salted-tea and tsampa are served to the guests! bowed my head in praise of ‘Avalokiteswara’ the God with 11 heads and 1000 hands, chanting ‘Om mane padme hum’, feeling the eternal, all pervading dense of time with no beginning and no end.


Indian Express, 23/2/1988

The Winter Family
By K. P. Shashidharan

In the last week of December Chille Kalan descends from the mountains of Kashmir to the valley to stay with his people for forty days. ‘He’ is King – winter of Kashmir, whose chilly embrace numbs the bone marrow and freezes blood in the veins. To Kashmir’s, he is father winter.

Catapulted on transfer from the southern tip of the country to the Himalayan lap in the north, I experienced Chille Kalan’s first squeezing cuddle on the national highway last year. The sky sporadically became foggy and cloudy, resulting in a cold downpour which gradually condepsed to snow flakes. A part of the mountain slid down over the road and buses were stranded on the way Passengers shivered in their buses and virtually starved for two days, while virgin snow created architectural patterns over green pine trees and covered the ravines with four – foot thick white soft bed, turning the entire area into a fairy Iceland. The harrowing memory haunted me for a long time, especially as I weathered my first winter in Kashmir.

Green with envy was I of Marino sheep and pashmina goats for their fine three to five – inch thick woollen fibre. Dressed like a tough mountain-trekker in layers of woollen garments and wind-cheater, wearing snow-boots, gloves, a monkey – cap. I strived to maintain the warmth of my body whenever I had to go out. In the evening, generally we sat near the bukhari with candle light, munched kabab and sipped steaming kahwa pondering over the power crises.

In the morning, it was fascinating to see truck drivers lighting bonfires under their trucks to warm the engine. W2hile it is snowing all vehicles have to ply with chained tyres over slippery ice and the snow- clearing machines move incessantly to clear the roads. Haps of snow kept on both sides of the roads, caked with dirt turn into hard ice stones which remain unmelted during the sojourn of the winter family. The municipal labours throw ice chunks in the Jhelum river. The sun does not appear for most of the day and the wintry blasts keep people off the road. Water solidifies in pipes making them burst. The whole valley becomes a big chill tray. Crazy men cycle over the Frozen Dal Lake while lazy men engage in endless gossip, balancing the kangri between their ankles under their pharen and inhaling smoke from the hookah.

In February, mother-winter—chille Khurd holds everybody in the valley close to her freezing bosom with motherly affection. Of course. Her icy love is less intense than that of her tough husband and lasts only twenty days or so. When the parents return to their abode, the Himalaya peaks, the toddler called Chille Bacha plays merrily in the valley for next ten days.

This year, when the majestic Chinar trees shed their crimson – coloured leaves to join other already naked trees of Kashmir and clouds gathered over Kounsarnag lake in the south- west mountains and over the Wular lake in the north, signalling the ends of autumn and the beginning of winter, my family resolved not to have another encounter with the winter family and flew to the south like migratory birds.


The Hindustan Time, 20/4/1988

Unfailing Kundalini
By K. P. Shashidharan

His is a “Kundalini” extraordinaire. All the astrologers who saw it praised in so many words and predicted that he would be terribly lucky and one day he would go abroad and return with all that his family and he would cherish to have. The palmists were also emphatic about his foreign trip.

One day, his boss called him in to convey the news that he had been selected for training in London. In that moment of ecstasy, all his doubt about palmistry and his “Kundalini” extraordinaire vanished in a trice.

His wife was expecting their second child that time and the elder girl just started going to kindergarten. He decided to leave his family with his in – laws till his return and saluting his rising birth stars he left for London.

Confirmation of his lucky phase of life came with the news that it was a son. The detailed letters his wife wrote presented a cute picture of the baby, talking after the father in every respect.

After describing the progress made by the daughter in her studies would come the operative part of the letter that seldom varied. An exhaustive list of things to be brought home—VCR, video camera, food factory, cooking range, two-in-one, sarees, dresses, toys and dolls for the kids.

Whenever he ranges up home, she reminded him if shopping. “Darling, don’t forget to bring video camera, I known you will surely bring a VCR. Our choco’s first birthday is coming. We’ll make a film.” Them she would hand over the mouth-piece to the daughter for the refrain” Papa, don’t forget me. I love you papa. Please get me toy train, beautiful frocks and chocolates.”

During his one year’s stay in London, he saved all that he could and spent every penny in shopping what his family and he needed and packed them in three large samonite suit-cases.

“Good-bye to London!” He boarded a British Airways fight for Bombay and slipped in to a reverie. He imagined how his wife and children would react when they see him after such a long gap and how their eyes would glow when they see all that he brought for them. His small son may not recognise his ‘Papa’ as the training has made him a stranger to his own son. And won’t his wife be thrilled to revive the romance of those honeymoon days again.

At last the jumbo landed in Bombay International Airport on the dot. He could recognise his people at a distance, impatiently waiting with garlands for giving him a ‘hero’s welcome’. After completing immigration formalities he rushed to collect his baggage. He waited till the last lot came but his suitcases were missing.

His heart pumped very fast. He felt as if he would collapse in a cardiac arrest. Regaining all the strength left in him he rushed to the counter and reported that his baggage was not found. He stood waiting for his three large Samonite suitcases packed with his life’s savings.

Within an hour the airport authorities could locate his language which was boarded in another plane by mistake. He thanked profusely his “Kundalini” extraordinaire as he joined his family, to be smothered by the long-suppressed longings.


The Hindustan Time, 6/6/1988

Born To Win
By K. P. Shashidharan

Either because of his name – Vijay – or his faith in his destiny, he believes he was born to win. Everybody in the village who knew him personally thought otherwise, but him personally thought otherwise, but his self-confidence remained un-shake.

When I joined first standard, Vijay was in third ands when I completed matriculation, he was struggling to get through the seventh. Even his well-wishers doubted whether Vijay would complete secondary school. But, to the surprise of all, he did, after attending some coaching colleges.

His illiterate parents had an ambition to see him as a big officer and donated a substantial amount to the management to get him a seat in a pre-degree college in a far-off city. There were not many collages going student from our village those days as only rich parents could afford city education for their children. Vijay did his best, but flopped miserably.

His parents too lost all hopes at this juncture and persuaded him to forsake further endeavours. He refused politely, requiring them to give one more chance to prove his worth, the was quite certain that he could pass the course provided he joined a reputed parallel college in the city and was permitted to take the examination a couple of times as he did in matriculation. Even this proved a waste of time.

Ultimately he returned to the collage, wandered in the market in the evening, stomaching the snide re-marks and comments coming his way from all and sundry. Something should be done to escape from the predicament, he decided. The valuable expertise and knowledge gained from many a leading parallel college should be re-oriented for a profitable venture in his village.

He gathered some educated unemployed rural youth and utilised their idle mind which was till hat time a devil’s workshop to draft a blueprint for a temple dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. “SARAWRATI PARALLEL COLLEGE” was their brain child.

To being with, it started functioning in a small rated room imparting free tuition to some school-going children, gradually extended its activities t the entire floor of the building with new teachers and coaching classes for failed candidates for matriculation examination. In the second year, when enough candidates were available, classes commenced for writing privately P.U.C., in the third year B.A. / B.Com and in the sixth year M.A./M/Com

The villagers, who were initially watching this venture with suspicious eyes, became enthusiastic supporters. Soon donations started pouring in to build an independent complex for the institution with all essential paraphernalia.

Batches and batches pf graduates and post-graduates come put of the parallel college every year, like Nalanda, Takshshila or Vikramashila University in ancient India; it grew in years as one of the vital institutions of the village, removing the darkness of ignorance from lives of the rural poor.

Vijay, the proprietor-cim-amnager, has become a phenomenon as a dispenser of learning who managed to get even with the cussed fake that dented him his own passport of a degree.


Indian Express, 6/8/1988

Jack Of All Trades
By K. P. Shashidharan

Bali Ram was our room boy at the academy hostel – a man in his fifties with a wrinkled face weathered by decades of Mussoorie winter, resembling dried apricot, he used to wear faded Wrangler jeans and fashionable wind-cheaters donated to him by earlier inmates. He was slim, agile and smart, unusual for his age and ever-ready to do any odd job for us for a service charge.

The days at the academy were very easygoing and comfortable with Bali Ram around. Early morning he would come to our room at the fixed time, deliberately making a noise while stirring sugar in the tea, using Pavlov’s experiment to attune us to Bali’s morning alarm to wake up. He would wish good morning in his crotchety raucous voice and enquire about our comfort in broken English. Then he would arrange hot water for bath, set bed, polish shoes and carry away dirty clothes for washing.

He used to do anything and everything for his sahibs—deposit salary cheques in the bank, drawn money do shopping, book railway tickets and even send parcels on sahib’s fiancée’s birthday. When we were attending classes, Bali would be busy I his odd jobs. Humming his odd jobs. Humming his favourite tunes he would wash our clothes, them for drying in the sun and relax for a while ensconced in a broken chair. Putting on his thick-framed spectacles and reading local Hindi news-paper. He ironed our clothes every day and kept in the respective war-drobes. As he knew a little bit of tailoring, all minor patch-work were also undertaken by him.

Bali was our “guru” in billiards and snookers. His exhibition shots were most impressive, though he played rarely, it was not easy to defeat him, but to satisfy his sahib he would intentionally make mistakes and pretend not able to use cue properly and welcome defeat.

Bali Ram’s service was also initialised by the boozing group. When their conclave started in the evening, Bali brought the bottle and arranged special snakes—chicken tikka, bada kababs, potato chips and so on his share would be usually left in the bottle, which he would gulp hurriedly with great happiness.

Bali Ram fixed his service charge separately on the basis of the nature and quantum of work done for every one individually. He rendered only advice free of cost on appropriate occasions. He advised me not to, marry early and prescribed so may other do’s and don’ts to which I had to give a patient hearing.

The old chief cook of our mess was great friend of Bali ram and so he could mange fee good food. He assisted him in pilfering provisions to the cook’s home. Bali’s close friendship with cook’s young wife was slightly mysterious and suspicious for all of us.

We missed him badly, when we left the academy for the places of our posting. When I realised later that one of my shirts was missing from the suitcase, I was fully convinced that Bali ram was truly a jack of all trades.


The Hindustan Time, 11/8/1988

Nursery Bargain
By K. P. Shashidharan

If nothing else, the contract arrived at between he anxious father and the carefree son showed the boy’s talents for striking a deal that had only kickbacks. The daddy must unfailingly present a chocolate to his ladies everyday in return for the torture of the coaching he suffered for the interview for admission into a nursery. On the D-day, the grand finale should be celebrated with a toy of his choice in addition to the usual chocolate bar.

The bargain over, the boy tricycle to glory all around the house, drove his various mini-automobiles, piloted his helicopter, or shot with his ‘Rambo’-rifle in the air. If he was bribed to sit for a few minutes before his to sit for a few minutes before his multi-coloured picture books, he only made an indelible impression of his fast-blossoming personality on each page. In his labours to scrawl a few dots and curved lines the meaning of which he alone could decipher, a few pages would naturally get unhinged from the book.

Enduring all this, the doting parents coaxed him parrot all the lessons; “A – for Apple”. “ B—for”, counting from one to ten father’s name, list of colours, names of various articles etc. when he started giving the right answers by and by, Papa and Mummy were exhilarated at begetting such a genius.

At the interview, the Principal bathed the lad from top to bottom with a welcoming smile. The little fellow was in no mood to respond to it, twining around his patter biting his nail and roving his eyes I the room. He forgot to wish the great man though he had been taught umpteen times how to greet.

“Hello! What is your name?” queried the principle.

After all what was there in a name and what was the point in uttering it to a bizarre “Comical Baba” who had no business whatsoever to ask much silly questions? Wonder the boy. He remained silent.

“How are you, dear?”

How could he be fine when he was not allowed to meddle with the hundred and odd beautiful things kept in the show case?

“What is A for?”

“Yes I know A for Apple but where is the apple? My dad gives me an apple for answering it”. The chap stood lost in his thought.

“Okay tell me what this is?” the Principal enquired indicating the phone in the table. Ashkarash burst out in laughter and exhibited his tongue as if the question were to show his tongue.

“You know children are unpredictable in their behaviour”. The Principal mollified the distraught parent.

On the way back home the canny junior turned to his begetter. “Papa, what is the phone called in English?” Before reaching home he demanded, as per the contractual obligation, the toy of his choice—a sonic controlled car—in addition to the usual chocolate bar.

Whatever his vocation, I knew, the boy will fend for himself.


Indian Express, 26/12/1988

The Show That Was
By K. P. Shashidharan

Long time ago, after a good harvest, when we, the villagers, were rich, happy and dying for some entertainment, there arrived a circus party one evening with a truck- load of equipment, animals and artistes. It wasn’t circus in the modern sense but a mishmash of magic, zoo and entertainment.

The properties met the Panchayat President obtained his green signals to go ahead, and begged his august presence to inaugurate the show. All the VIPs of our village—the head of the primary school, political leaders, resourceful businessmen and landlords—were given special invitations. For common men, three cicusattendants cirss-crossed village lanes, beating drums and cymbals, promising great wonders in the extravaganza.

When all the dignitaries sat on the giant-wheel, it picked up speed gradually. We had so far enjoyed only the kick of climbing up a tall tree and looking down sitting on its trunk but not experienced the soul-gyrating merry-go –round. Before the wheel attained its maximum speed, the President screamed that it should be stopped.

They youngster took it as a challenge a test of their bravery, and sat unruffled on the wheel, puffing off on their bides and laughing in demonstration of their masculine valour. Some of us looked at it in awe and wonder. Those who screamed on the wheel were jeered at by the brave.

The trained parrot climbed up and down the ladder, walked on a tight string, flew through the rings of fire and swung on the trapeze before a spellbound crowd. The king of all animals roared inside the iron cage. His smell and thundering roars in the dead of night caused all village dogs to bark incessantly.

We talked about all that we saw in the circus, in the fields, streets, teashops, the marketplace and at home the magician who brought out burning cigarettes one by one from his mouth and swallowed live fish with water to be coughed out later: the pretty girl who bent her body in all directions; the man who drove a motor cycle in the well and the muscle man who danced his muscles to the tune of music, and, of course, the jokers who made us laugh like mad.

The face of our village has changed rapidly since then—with metalled roads, concrete bridges, modern building, electric lines and telephone cables. Cinema houses and video parlours have become a major wants to be a circus artiste now. Those old jokers just cannot make us laugh now. The star attractions of the bygone years have started begging from shop to shop, in tattered clothes beating their stomachs and singing for a loaf of bread.


The Hindustan Times, 28/4/1989

Descent from Leh
By K. P. Shashidharan

With its vast desert full of granite dust, multi-hued mountains o varied shapes and snow-capped peaks flirting with the clouds, Ladhak is known as ‘the moon-land’. But the hazards of the journey keep out all but the most intrepid travellers.

We were in the ‘hermit kingdom’ for a week, taking in all the famous monasteries in Leh – Hemis, phyang, spitok, Thikse, shay and Shankar. The day we were to fly from Leh to Srinagar, the attraction of the summer place of Ladakhi Kings—delayed us from reaching the airport on time.

The counter was already closed and the stranded passengers of can celled flight crowded everywhere. The result was that instead of reaching Srinagar in 20 minutes, we had to suffer the vigour’s of the 430km road journey for two days with a night halt at Kargil. Quite an unforgettable experience for one coming from the other end of the land.

Starting from Leh at 1 p.m. by Alchi Monastery known for its priceless stucco images of Vajrapani, Manjusri and Avalokiteswara, in-valuable murals, thanks and frescoes – a unique adaptation of Persian miniature art I a Buddhist gompa, much before the Muslim rule in India.

The Beacon Highway extends along the Indus river bed till Khaltsi and Zig Zags like a snake, curling around the waist of Desert Mountains at Lamayuru. Perched in the eerie vastness of the mountain is the Lamayuru monastery. The road wind its way to the desolate heights of Fotu-La and turns into a landscape of dunes and climba to Namakila before descending to Bodhkharbu village.

As there was an apprehension of fuel getting over to the additional driving to the Alchi Monastery the engine was switched off in every slope. Still just six kilometres from Kargil, our jeep finally stooped coughed to a stop. We pushed the jeep to the height so that it could roll, down the slope but later gave up, realising that there were two more climbs before Kargil.

Darkness had fallen by then and an icy wind lashed incessantly. Trucks roared their way in the opposite direction but none stopped, Mighty Mountains tower above the road and from the depth on the other side, the lullaby of the river goes on.

Through the darkness a jeep came into view like a kindred soul. We begged for a litre of petrol to quench our thirsty vehicle. He advised us to get it from the nearby village. After a frantic search, we located the shopkeeper’s house, woke him up and secured the precious, fuel. At Kargil we filled the tank to the brim and rushed to the guest house on the bank of the Suru River.

While bolting down some cold rice to assuage the pangs of hunger, we were told by the man in the guest house that we should move immediately to reach Gumri before Zojila pass – the getaway to Kashmir—opened on that day for the convoy from the Kargil side.

Hugging the mountain slopes, overlooking terrifying gorges descending vertically to the river-bed thousands of feet below, the jeep moved along the dusty, unmetalled avalanche-prone hair-pain bends of Zojila pass and we reached Srinagar at noon.

The journey’s end never seemed sweeter to one who thought of his Creator more than once in that perilous descent from the ‘moon-land’.


The Hindustan Time, 8/2/1989

Steering in Delhi
By K. P. Shashidharan

The shift from Srinagar to Delhi found me as nervous as a Beginner at the wheel. Even if the grip was not tight enough to remind me of my driving lessons, the coordination went haywire during the month it took me to venture out in the Capital’s traffic jungle.

She is not a leek ‘Maruti’, named after Hanumanji – son of the Wind God – but a ‘Padmini’, perhaps the only automobile with a female name anywhere in the world. I came to Delhi by train and she came by air. My first test in the Capital was to bring her home from the airport.

Accustomed to trouble free steering in the by lanes of small towns, I was loath to incite my ‘Padmini’ by stepping on her accelerator. But the incessant honking from the trucks behind left me no choice but to handle her wantonly. But the real ordeal was when the four steams of traffic merged into one because of barricades at the centre of the road for security checking. That was my first taste of the terrorist hurdles.

Synchronising my movements with the traffic signals blinking in a wayward pattern was the next technique that floored me.

I was following a DTC bus at the crossing. Suddenly it halted at the middle without any warning that I nearly collided with it. The traffic eyes blinked red. One red ‘Hanuman’ sped past carrying its ‘Sita’ and “Ram”. The bus too moved ahead. ‘Padmini’ was stranded trapped in a ‘Chakrvyuha’ surrounded by roaring vehicles. The omnipotent judge—a traffic cop—fined me only Rs 200.

While driving to ITO along the M.G. Road from the ISBT side, I turned left of the flyover to turn right thereafter towards Vikas- Minar, and found the road obstructed Flowing along the torrential traffic river, I reached East Delhi over the Yamuna bridge and negotiated a U-turn later. During peak hours all right- turns are closed. I learned the lesson.

After dropping a friend at the Old Delhi railway station at 9 p.m., I was to return to the Civil Lines area one day. Traffic was at its peak in the walled city, crowded with rickshaws cycle, ‘phut-phutias’, tongas, scooters, buses and matadors, all engaged in dangerous manoeuvres in unpredictable directions. After a few kilometres of first-gear drive with frequent braking, I realised I was again a ling bridge. Down below, the Yamuna was full and placid. Over the rail-bridge above, trains were trundling by.

Drunken rikshwallahs teased touched, molested and assaulted my beloved on the way. I was helpless to protect her. Beyond the bridge, cow, oxen, buffaloes ruminated in the middle of the road unmindful of the two-way traffic flow. Dull-headed pigs and street dogs wandered amidst the traffic. I became wise thereafter. Only after studying the Delhi road map, do I stay off to unexplored areas now.

At the trade fair in Pragati Maidan, there was no place to park in any of the recognised parking areas in front of the recognised peaking areas in front of the four gates. I had to leave Padmini before ‘Appughar’ gate as I took the kids for a feel of the Indian Disneyland. But coming out of ‘Bhoot-Bangla’, I found her missing.

As I stood there with a sinking feeling, a ballon vendor came forward to console me that it was no theft. Only a traffic ‘rakshasa’ had kidnapped her by crane.


The Hindustan Times, 22/10/1989

Visiting Shiva’s Abode
By K. P. Shashidharan

The Himalaya- the house of snow, ice and glaciers is known for Shiva’s abode. The great yogic God of the Hindu pantheon is fond of sporting in the forest and said to have disclosed the secret of creation to his consort Parvati in Amaranth cave.

Thought I had been trekking to Himalaya many a time, trekking on pilgrimage to Amaranth was the most satisfying and rewarding experience for me in all respects. As a man who loves nature in its sublime, wild and untouched from, the changing kaleidoscope of the Himalayan scenic splendour is incomparably ravishing for the eyes; for adventure, there are very long stretches of narrow, risky tracks from where one can easily tumble sown to the death ravines and of course, for the believer, obeisance before the miraculous, ‘syayambhu’ mammoth Shiva lingam on the full moon day tantamount to ultimate spiritual fulfilment and salvation.

Equipped with necessary paraphernalia for a tough trekking, we drove to Pahalgam, 96kms from Srinagar. In the picturesque Lidder valley at Pahalgam, we hired a jeep for Chandanwari, the base camp for trekking, which us about 13 kms away from Pahalgam.

While driving amidst dense pine wood forests, the roaring laughter of the Lidder River was fascinating but extremely arduous with sharp bends and steep climbs along a rough and narrow road, Chandanwari is like a cup about 2 sq kms in area at an altitude of 2743 m from the sea level, flanked by mountains on all sides.

Next day, early morning, we joined the pilgrim trails, carrying ruck sacks, water bottle, and torch and sticks. Those who were unable to climb up resorted to pony backs and the horsemen carefully led their horses—along the left bank of the Lidder river Breathing in the pinewood scented air, we scaled the rapidly ascending tough mountain route over a bridge of congealed ice of 2kms length to reach. Pissu Ghati. In ancient time, sadhus used to jump down from the lofty peaks to the steep precipices of the ravines in self-immolation. At the top of Pissu Parbat, the track flattened our and an esplanade of eternal splendour of verdure and snowy summits emerged. The atmosphere was filled with the aroma of wild flowers and herbs.

The track inclines steep towards the right bank of the cascading waters of sheshnag stream. Looking down the deep blue water of the Sheshnag Lake (3575m.) is the Kohenahar Glacier (5181m), resembling the hood of a Corba. The majestic Trinity peaks on the glacier attract the attention of everyone.

Crossing a glacier bridge over a rivulet, we reached Wavjan, a barren plateau, notorious for dry winter and gales. The steep and slippery winding climb of the Mahagunas Pass (4600m) is the height point on the way.

Panchtarni is the last camp rerouted to the holy shrine. It is a high land valley, drained of five streams. All the trekkers thatched their tent and moved inside with camp five. Luckily our booking was confirmed.

The holy cave is 6kms from Panchtarni. After crossing a narrow mountain pass, the track descends to the banks of the Amarganga stream. Hundreds of devotees took a dip in the chilled water of Amarganga and applied Amarbhoot, a white substance comprising of calcium chloride and sulphate all over their body and claimed up towards the cave.

The Amaranth cave is a yawning natural gypsum cave about 15m. in length, 17m in breadth and about 14m height at the centre situated at the end of the glacier valley in the heart of a spectacular mountain amphitheatre. In the incredible shrine, the image of Shiva is sculptured by nature in ice stalagmite. The ling’s waxes and wanes with the moon, attaining maximum dimension of about 10ft on the full moon day and is considered as the embodiment of ‘Shiva Amareswara’. By the side of Shiva linga, there are two more fascinating ice-lingas, that of Parvati and Ganesha.


The Hindustan Times, 12/9/1989

Polishing Leftovers
By K. P. Shashidharan

We knew her from the say she struggled out of the egg, breaking the shell with her tender break. She was then a wet, yellow-feathered chick, peeping at the world hitherto unknown to her, making soft musical chuck. Her mother who had been brooding over the eggs, day in and day out fasting with high fever, was overwhelmed by motherly affection, seeing the first new arrival.

She was the first to wake up in her fowl-family every cockcrow. Within months she grew up fully—an obese hen with brown silky shining plumage and black tinged neck. We affectionately called her “Chubby”.

When all hens of her age started laying eggs, she was found missing for some days and one afternoon we found her running towards the tube well to drink water. When she returned we followed her at a distance and discovered her hideout. Chubby had made a nest of sorts with hay and dried leaves under a shady tree and sat over her eggs like a wild fowl.

Avoiding boom pecks from angry ‘Chubby’, we put all her eggs in a coop, filled with husk and brought her home and allowed her to hatch. She proved to be a dutiful breeder and hatched all the eggs in time.

She was extremely cautious and vigilant in bringing up her chicks. Kites and crow would fly regularly circles in the sky, looking for an opportunity to swoop down in the chicks. Once one kite was about to lift a chick from the ground when ‘chubby’ attacked it with a smart kick in quick flight and saved the chick. Whenever she feared any danger, her warning cackle would make her chicks hide beneath her protective wings.

We woke up from deep slumber one midnight, hearing alarming loud clucking of all chicken in the house. Chubby was standing outside the coop, trembling with fear. No chick was seen in the coop! it was pouring and dogs in the neighbourhood were barking, we could see foot – prints of some animal in the wet soil and a few white feathers scattered nearby.

Intensive investigation commenced the next day. Who fox in any way, if so it would have lifted ‘Chubby’ herself. Had it been a snake, all the chicks should not have been swallowed without the mother’s knowledge. Wild cats also would have preferred hen to chicks. And domestic cat or dog would not dream for Chubby would have cocksure pecked off its eyes. She was not chicken-hearted in any case. An experienced friend of ours propounded the mongoose theory to explain the disappearance of the chicks, but some of us dismissed that too.

The mystery remained unsolved. None of us realised the emotional turbulence experienced by the ill-fated mother. Later, Chubby had to face the biggest tragedy of life, having lost will to hatch another brood.

At dinner, we, the unscrupulous, unsympathetic cruel gluttonous people, were busy in tasting the curry made of the injured hen and bothered only of the possible loss of the chicken dish to an anonymous creature.


The Hindustan Times, 1/10/1990

Freedom to Dance
By K. P. Shashidharan

“Screw Driver might tighten my spirits; Bloody Mary is damn bloody in colour, but today. I’ll have only whisky and soda, -- no scotch for a change. Bagpiper Premium will do,” contemplated Kuldeep while facing his drink for the evening.

His mind, generally dull and morbid, enlivens and invigorates after a couple of shots. Generally he prefers undiluted and unadulterated ‘Chivas Reagl’ or ‘Johny Walker’ to keep him at his top from. It was the bagpiper’s Premium was introduced in the club and Bagpiper King and Queen were going to be crowned after the greatest dancing competition of the season in the club.

The club at the hill station is overlooking the oval-shaped lake and has a history of a century or so. The British people had started then club and during the British period only white men used to drink, dine and dance in the club. The panoramic hillocks curling around the three sides of the lake from part of the star – lit sky at night with numerous lights spread all over and beautifully reflected in the clam waters of lake.

Corpulent, tall and muscled, brimming with vigour and vitality out and out as is Kuldeep, enveloped his physique that day in loose baggy ‘stone wash’ trousers and a red butterfly T-shirt. He had got his hair dressed in style, bushy moustache clipped and a red butterfly T-shirt. He had got this hair dressed in style, bushy moustache clipped and brushed by the beautician. Spreading musk fragrance around, he rambled in the club searching for his partner.

“Oh! Neha, you’re in great from”?

The cuddly charming girls with curly hair waving on shoulders and dressed in a yellow T-shirt with inscription in red on the front “hard Rock Resort” gurgled, “Thanks, handsome! I want to be the Bagpiper Queen.”

Kuldeep and Neha boozed to the brim and their spirits roared high while their whole body started rocking to the times of rock ‘n’ roll. Their parent’s acquired enormous wealth for generation. They are lifetime members of the club and their way they like. When they were kids, parents used to deposit them in the children’s room at the mercy of ‘ayahs’ and indulged in drinking euphoria or spent time in playing cards.

Music started. Lights flickered. The group of dancers up to the age of twenty five formed in couples, swung their hips exuberantly, Paris had their own style in gyrating their body in tune with music.

Varied popular numbers were played and the dance competition continued. Only four couples could reach the final round.

Kuldeep and Neha were the cynosure as they paced ahead of their nearest rivals. Neha’s rhythmical and seductive movement and bewitching smile were reminiscent of Madonna’s sex appeal. Kuldeep held Neha close to him and started his unique style of stepping to and fro. “jooma Chumma De De’ “Le Chumma Le Le”. When the music was fast he crushed his feet on the floor in rapid dynamism – a sort of cosmic dance and climaxed his movements in a series of rotations in rapid speed. Spectators howled and clapped Friends Kissed the couple. The king and the queen were chosen.

While receiving the trophy the Bagpiper King remembered his grandfather who served as a bar boy in the prestigious club during British rule and always dreamt of having freedom to dance one day on the floor like his master.


The Hindustan Times, 1/12/1990

Thanks Symbolise Buddhist Ideas
By K. P. Shashidharan

Thanks are exquisite Buddhist religious painting aiming at spreading Buddha’s teachings bringing down to casual level high ideological thoughts and subtle phenomena in pictorial or symbolic from. In the monasteries of Himalaya ranges extending over Giligit, Ladakh, Zanskar, Guge, Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet a cast treasure of rich and varied tradition unfolds itself in thanks. These represent a symbiosis of Tibetan, Central Asian and Indian tradition.

The inception of Buddhist art can be traced back to Buddha’s life time. King Bimbisara wanted to send a painted picture of the Buddha to his Friend; but artist were overwhelmed by the splendour and light emitting from his body and they could not draw his image. The Buddha cast his image on a sheet of cloth and advised the artist to pain on it. This is supposed to be the first painted figure of the Buddha.

Nepalese, Chinese and Indian artistic traditions influenced the Buddhist art of Tibet. However, it is Indian art that has acted as the main inspiration and source for Tibetan Buddhist art and helped it to develop a special iconography. The wall painting from the Ajanta Caves belonging to the Gupta period, the sculptures at Gandhara, Bharhut, Sanchi and Amarvati Illustrate this point.

The Tibetan painting can be seen on different bases like paper, rock, wall and cloth in the from of frescoes and thanks. There are various types the material used for making them like hand-woven, designed silk or an embroidered work made by using different coloured silk threads.

Thanks can be classified on the basis of their subject matter. The thanks of the Buddha’s, Guru and Bodhisattvas fall into the category of Enlightened Being. There are thanks on meditation deity, guardians of Dharma, Mandalas and illustrations of Dharma. The Wheel of life, one of the very common paintings, illustrates pictorially the totality of the Buddhist teaching concerning Samsara and the way to attain liberation.

Thanks are usually painted in pieces of canvas. After preparing the canvas, the main guidelines are drawn, and on their base a faint drawing of the main figure is drawn with a pencil. Painting starts with the background scenery. On the basis of astrological forecast, an auspicious day is fixed for commencement of the painting and the time of drawing the eyes.

Colours needed for thanks painting are made of minerals and vegetables. An artist should follow various other disciplines to complete a painting. The direction which the artist should face while executing his work is prescribed in the text.

The last important task on completion of the painting is its consecration by a bla-ma om, ah and hum – the three seed syllables represting the body, speech and mind respectively are inscribed at the back of the painted canvas at particular spots on of the top of the skull, throat and heart, respectively.

The bla-ma sits in meditation during consratio, recites mantras to invoke the deity to be infused into the image.

The Dharma teachings prescribe in minute detail measurements of the images of the Buddha’s, Bodhisattvas, and Mandals. Etc, their garments, attributes, facial expressions, colours, etc. when any painting is made without any injunction of the scriptures, it is disqualified for consecration and worship. Thus, unlike modern art. Tibetan art has very limited scope for an artist to unfold his imagination.

The thanka paintings depict unfathomable religious philosophy and mysticism. Each and every image of figure established by the Buddhist texts is highly symbolical and meaningful, revealing sublime spiritual thoughts. Manjusri wield a sword not to fight an ordinary battle but to slay our ignorance.

The commercialisation of Tibetan art in recent times had damaged valuable spiritual tradition of centuries. The thanka paintings are essentially religious in nature and it is difficult to comprehend its meaning and appreciate its subtle ideology without being properly imitated into the religious environment of Tibetans.


The Hindustan Times, 3/12/1990

Kashmiri ‘Wazwan’
By K. P. Shashidharan

Kashmir is known not only for its unparalleled Himalaya scenic splendour, exquisite handicrafts, elegantly waves carpets, beautiful embroidered shawls, but also for its excellent cuisine.

Wazwan is the quintessence of Kashmir, nonvegetrain culinary art. The scrumptious yummy ‘Wazwan’ delicacies are indeed an epicurean delight.

I had “gushtaaba”—mutton pounded and made into big soft balls, deliciously prepared in curd—for the first time at Centaur Lake View Hotel in Srinagar. When I expressed my desire to taste other dishes too my friend gave recipes that he would invite me on his sister’s “Wazwan” in its traditional, gaiety and natural environment.

The opportunity came within a month. On the say of ‘Valima’ (marriage), the at break of dawn, accompanied by his assistants with cooking vessels. Thereafter appeared the ‘Kasai’ (the butcher) with the sheep of ‘halal’. When the meat was ready it was graded and classified for preparation of varied verities of dishes by the head-cook. Elaborate preparations started immediately so that ht feast would be ready before the arrival of the ‘baraat’.

Late in the evening the bridegroom entered the bride’s home. “Aapke aanne se idhar chaar chand aa gaye.”

Charming young ladies dressed in colourful attire danced and sang in groups romantic folk-songs befitting the occasion.

The hero was welcomed with flowers, perfume and music and invited to a room where he was served with milk, sets and various snacks.

The dinner began after the snacks; a “dastarkhana” (sheet) was spread on the carpet and water was offered a peculiar vessel—“tashnari”—for washing hands; ‘tramies’ (big plates) one ‘trami” for a group of four persons, formed without discrimination. There was a heap of rice surrounded by five varieties of meat preparations to start with – ‘kabab’, full fried chicken, ‘tabakmas’, ‘dhanephol’ and ‘meethe’

Dressed in new spotlessly white ‘pharen’ and ‘pyjama’ the ‘waza’ entered the room with a big vessel ‘deegcha’ containing ‘rista’. Four pieces were put in each ‘trami’. In the next round ‘aabgoosh’ was served followed by ‘roganjosh’, ‘kurma’ and ‘palak’. The different dishes were not served at a time—each was served in a separate round. In the last round ‘gushtaaba’ was served. After dinner water was supplied to all and sweet –dish offered in small plates individually as ‘bonne-bounche’.

Being a gourmet, I enjoyed the fantastic treat from the beginning to the end. It was indeed an exhilarating and unique experience to be one with the entire gathering breathing in perfect atmosphere of equality and camaraderie. I miss now not only the dainty delicacies of the Kashmiri Wazwan, but also the feeling of oneness and fraternity with the Kashmir’s.


The Hindustan Times, 4/12/1990

The craze for competition
By K. P. Shashidharan

The craze for competition is injected into the blood-stream and nervous system of a child at a very tender age by parents, and the mania chases him till the fag end of his life—in various ways. Before being even three years of age, the child is exposed to the ever-expanding horizon of competition. In a world, where Charles Darwin’s theory of the ultimate reality, the rule of any competition, whether to be a Kindergarten admission test or an entrance one to any of the professional or managerial courses, or the competitive examination for recruitment to any Service is—‘to do or die’, do your best by all means, either by hook or by crook-based on non-Gandhi an principles, namely that the end justifies the means.

Initially, the parents becomes maniac even before the child is taken to K.G. the recalcitrant child is tutored to parrot in the process of making him a model student in his class. The father and mother who had left school and university long back and thought that they had got it finally rid of, once and for all, the never-wrecking competition, finally have to compromise for the sake of their offspring and get pushed once again into another series of competition riddles.

When the boy’s examinations are nearing, papa’s blood-pressure starts shooting up—consequently, the boy is subject to constant forced intellectual incarceration, which is absolutely contradictory to his playful nature. He prefers to be among his friends like a little ‘Kapil Dev’ or ‘Ravi Shastri’ batting and bowling in glory, or to jump in excitement while seeing an Amitabh Bachchan action- packed movies, or to bewilder at ‘Spider Man’ or ‘He-Man type series in TV.

The mania of competition does not leave the teenager against all sorts of pastime and negative distractions of the age. Once in a while, perhaps, he may be under the influence or at the command of King Bacchus or be floating in the air, having a smooth sail, in drugged hallucination, with an insensitive blank mind. His perception may be romanticised with dreams of blossoming “moving flowers” or “butterflies” in bright, fashionable attire. But desire to be somet5hing in life acceptable in society bring him back on the right track.

The real battlefield- in-numerable admission tests and competitive examinations for jobs—always prey on his mind. Equipped with inherent brilliance and a master-cramming machine lime mind assisted by coaching centres, guide-books and tutors, all aspirants fight to the last. Most of them are eliminated in the first round, a few brave through and go for further round of “wrestling” in the competitive arena, where not muscles but the strength of mind counts more.

When various academic results are announced, a few desperate souls even and their life. They identify life with success in a particular competition. The parents realise their folly at an irretrievably later stage. Those difficult souls never bothered to open their eyes beyond their confined world.

No one who surrender his mind and judgment is a nerve racking competition mania realises, that after all life is just not for competition alone. It is like a bag full of fruits—some will be quite rips fresh, fragrant and mellifluous; others ripened or lightly decayed or under ripened and sour.

They will not be a square peg in a round hole everywhere.

Finally, what matters I s not the individual fruit but the sum total of it all.


The Hindustan Times, 17/4/1990

Sunset over Jhelum
By K. P. Shashidharan

Now that the “Paradise on Earth” has become the “Valley of Death” and masked gunmen stalk their prey even under curfew, my heart aches and a gloomy depression clouds my mind. Reminiscences of our stay a few years back in the Value of Kashmir seem like a distant dream.

In that first visit to the fabled land from the other end of the country, we stayed in “Hollywood” moored under the shady chinar trees on Jhelum river. The infant sun peeped out from the range of distant mountains crowned with glittering snow. The rising sun lent a medley of purple and indigo hues to the deep ravines.

We were savouring every moment of it in Bernier’s “Cachemire, the paradise of the Indies” where “saffron, iced waters and grapes which are rare even in haven are common”. The exquisitely craved walnut furniture, unique paintings and wall hanging, majestic chandeliers, beautifully woven woollen carpets and imported fine crockery added regal elegance to our houseboat.

“Shikara is ready sir,” said our boatman.

As we nestled against the soft spring velvet cushions of “Mehbooba” with its brightly canopied roofs and fluttering curtains, everything looked ethereal. The mountain ridges mirrored in the water faded away when the Shikara skimmed across the breez-ruffled waters of the Dal Lake, one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

We reached the floating gardens in the golden lake. The early morning vegetable market was buzzing with activity. Fanners emerged and canals with their flat bottom skiffs loaded with vegetables to gather in the open water-way to trade and barter from boat to boat. The first light of the early morning sun tickled the wild gardens of lotus-flowers with a delicate pink light. Kingfishers darted out flashing their azure wings and dived into the jade green waters in search of fish. A family of ducks paddled contently.

“Sahib hum logon ne kuchh bhi nahin dekha. Kashmir ki khubsoorti siraf angrez ne dekhi”. (Sir, we have seen nothing. Only foreigners have appreciated the real beauty of Kashmir).

The shikarawallah continued his monologue.

“Hum Hindustani logon ko siraf khana hai, peena hai aur aaram karma hai”. (We Indians want only food, drink and rest).

When the speeding boat followed by the man engaged in water skiing crossed us, our Shikara started dancing to the tunes of disturbed waves. Needle-nosed the water carrying flowers, fruit, vegetables, semi-precious stones, peppier matchboxes,, saffron, honey and a variety of artefacts.

“Mehbooba” took us all around the lake and finally we reached the floating shopping complex in the old city. On both sides of the board water-highway the floating shops sell everything under the sky.

In the soft gentle hues of sunset, the ring of mountains was bathed in richer shades of violet and orange, which gradually changed to rose and pink patterns over the snow. As the sun went down, the mountains looked ruddy crimson while the snows took on a creamy green hue.

Darkness descended on the waters and glowing points of light sprang up along the boulevard. The house-boats assumed the silhouette of a long row of welcoming lanterns. As days merged into nights in the enchanting watery world, the myriad sights and sounds began to weave a tapestry that still haunts the mind with memories of a lost world.


Indian Express, 7/3/1990

The presswalli
By K. P. Shashidharan

Rajkumari is dark, stick-thin, warped in a printed cotton sari, adorned with a maroon moon-like ‘bindi’, and endowed with an ever radiant smile. Any respectable passer-by can be sure of being hounred by her characteristic “namste” and her friends are welcomed with traditional “Ram-Ram”.

The service establishment of Rajkumari is adjacent to nay house and it started functioning even before most of us, the residents, had occupied in burning coal to be put in the iron or pushing the contraption meticulously on sahibs’ clothes.

Her husband, Rajkumari is the very opposite in his attitude and demeanour. He hardly works, but extracts his daily allowance for smoke and drink. Being an ardent worshipper of Bacchus, he keeps his spirits perpetually high, maintains an ever discounted countenance. He shows off his masculine fists, off and on, to silence his wife,

The offspring of the ‘royal’ couple exceed half-a-dozen, but the smartest of them is the real synthesis of the parents – Rajesh. A king in the making in has teens, he went regularly to school, and now helps mother in her work cycles all over colony, collecting clothes, and maintaining accurately the monthly accounts of the clientele. He keeps a high profile, like his mother, with an ever beaming grin.

Rajkumari also functions like an employment bureau exclusively for the unprivileged class. She enrols them for domestic work, ranging from washing utensils to baby-sitting and cooking in various houses in the colony. If anyone wants to outsmart her in judgment in allocating jobs in the area, she indulges in murky politicking, resulting in Mutually assured Destruction – a mad verbal warfare between the claimants and no job for the nuisance makers. Rajkumari takes a break from the hot- heavy pushing job by indulging in “gossip sweet and sour’ with ‘malice towards one and all’ with her friends.

As a multifarious information canter, Rajkumari’s service is invaluable. Whenever “Hijra” gangs make a legitimate hunt in the colony for any marriage or the cry of a new-born, the leader of the group calls on her diplomatically before the search. Whenever the postman is in search of an addressee who is not available, or a new-born, the leader of the group calls on her diplomatically before the search. Whenever the postman is in search of an addressee who is not available, or a new-comer is in search house and is lost in the number riddle of the flats, rajkumari helps them out.

The other day, while I was trying to locate a house I a newly-built, scarcely occupied DDA colony, a “presswalli” came to my rescue. He recognised me as the “babuji” living next to his mother’s “dafter”. On enquiry I came to know that Rajkumari helps not only others in finding a suitable job but also has assisted all her kith and kin in self-employment. Taking a leaf from the mother’s success, Rajesh, the heir-apartment is now drawing a blueprint for a dry-cleaning shop.


The Hindustan Times, 7/8/1990

To catch a thief
By K. P. Shashidharan

The unusual commotion in the neighbourhood disturbed my pleasant morning sleep and incited me to rush towards the balcony.

My characteristic nosey behaviour helped me to smell as to what had all happened to provoke a few vociferous ladies of our colony to ponder over aloud in the early hours of the day. Manju Bhabhi’s sari was stolen! She had attended a party the other day and came home late at night.

After changing clothes in the bedroom. On her return, she founded that a clack, lean hand was swiftly withdrawing through the window grill of the bedroom with her sari, pushing the curtains aside. She had a glance—a lean, tall figure disappearing in the darkness and fleeing in a bicycle.

Manju Bhabhi was narrating the incident to all ladies in the neighbourhood and cautioning them. According to her, the stolen sari was exquisite in design and unique in its colour-combination. The emotional and sentimental value of it was almost inexplicable.

The man in her life had presented it on her first wedding anniversary – the say which was written in golden letters in her life. The sari was reminiscent of the exuberance of joy and unforgettable novel experience she had shared with her life- companion during life without any inhibition doubt and taboos.

The next day, a theft occurred in board daylight I another ground-floor flat while all people were at home. Clothes were kept in the terrace for drying in the sun and, after the siesta, the lady of the house realised that sarees were missing.

The modus operandi was similar and the object of the theft the same. The womenfolk of the area were terror-stricken, exceedingly—apprehensive of the situation.

All husbands were given a last warning to act manly and book the culprit red-handed. As no chowkidar was kept in the colony, the husband of the two ladies whose clothes were stolen took the lead to mobilise well-intentioned men in the colony to patrol the area at night with long sticks and weapons till a regular arrangement for a chowkidar was made.

Two days later, while sitting in the drawing-room and browsing through the magazines in the afternoon, Manju Bhabhi heard strange isolated fearful ‘phut’, ‘phut’ sound descending down the steps from the terrace. She was all alone at home that time.

Equipped with an iron rod, she waited behind the door with a palpitating heart for the thief to appear before her to be horribly beaten and ‘woman handed’—to be damned for his lifetime. The sound reached the front of the door, the door opened in lightening action, an iron rod banged on the floor in quick motion. “Oh, my God!” Manju Bhabhi shouted in disgust and shame. A ram jumped away in a playful gesture.

The last follow-up action was to ensure that no such robbery should take place in the area in future. A few responsible men in the colony under the leadership of great Manju Bhabhi’s husband went with a written complaint to the police requesting to safeguard the residents from such a crime.

The chief heard the story and fast came the reaction. “Didn’t you say that your wife saw the thief? I wonder, why didn’t she catch him red-handed and hand over to us? Rest we would have seen?”


The Hindustan Times, 7/9/1990

Nicotinic talk
By K. P. Shashidharan

The antismoking campaign appeared in the newspaper with a man lighting a cigarette for a woman in an intimate aura of camaraderie. “With every puff you inhale over a hundred poisonous chemicals”, it stated.

Being a versatile chain smoker who started this august habit of inhaling tobacco smoke to the lungs to his heart’s content in early teenage from its multifarious incarnations like the bidi, cigar, cigarette and pipe, I turned over the page of the magazine and frantically searches for my fag.

To me, days begin and end in smoke, and during the course of the day I keep my spirit high consuming five to six packets of cigarettes. To enjoy a king-size cigarette , I take a full four minutes on an average. Three to four hours in a shree excitement while my smoke-tanned lips suck in and puff out smoke rings in the air.

“you’re like chimney fuming smoke all the time”, snubbed my wife. “Why’re you agitated, you’ve brand of yours”, I enlightened her. “You housewives don’t understand how much tension we , executive, undergo in office. Even lady executives need a puff to keep them fit to take decision. Why don’t you have a “MS”, my Mrs, and then see how efficiently you function as housewife.”

Being a determined species of woman, she does not take taunt just lying down. She initiated a multipronged strategy unleashing an anti-smoking propaganda campaign at home.

Don’t you remember what the doctor has said? You must stop smoking. Dark patches have been detected in your lungs,” she had medical evidence to boot, for which I have no defence.

Various posters have appeared at home in the evening, highlighting the harmful and dangerous consequences of smoking-“A roll of paper with tobacco inside, fire on one end and a fool on other end.” The fool tried to reverse the situation by turning the cigarette butt a way from him and possibly towards her after having his puff.

“Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.” I ignored psychological attack. After all it is her predicament to lick the ashtray, if so she desires. I pooh-poohed all her argument against smoking like inviting health problems, creating a nuisance by puffing out smoke in crowded public places and economics of non-smoking.

When I started smoking, I had believed that smoking adds charm, style, status and is an indelible element of the macho image. Whenever I am lonely, morose and mentally distressed, nothing but tobacco can relieve tension, enliven nerves, boost spirits and instil hope in me. It has now become a passion and a necessity to me come what may.

I leaned against the sofa with a cigarette packet. The statutory warning in small letters reminded me that “cigarette smoking is injurious t health.”

Damn it. I lighted a cigarette. Dark clouds emanated from my black dry lips, hovered over my head and spread around with its characteristic aroma.

I was lost in a smoke aloud forming a halo around my head. I was on the horns of a dilemma, like the Shakespearean character Hamlet – to be or not to be. When an adequate level of nicotine was pumped into my system and my blood pressure was sufficiently boosted to create a conducive environment in me to function at optimum – efficiency level, I told myself, “You’re a slave. You’ve no escape until you’re mentally strong enough to break the chains of bondage.”


The Hindustan Times, 16/7/1990

Changing times
By K.P. Shashidharan

All that kelappan knew about his parents was they were tillers of the soil, belonging to a landless tribal community and they die of small pox after his birth, when the epidemic spread in the collage like wild-fire. A compassionate relative of his birth, when the epidemic spread in the collage like wild-fire. A compassionate relative of his sold him later to the landlord as a bonded labourer at the tender age of seven.

He started his career as cow-boy. Clad in lion cloth and turban, he climbed up the hills every day along with a herd of cattle and retuned only in the evening. The herdsman bathed the animals’ everyday, rubbed their back in affection, pinched out blood-sucking insects from their body and milked the cows. Whenever any animal got fever or ate poisonous food, he administered medicinal herbs and roots. He pierced their nose to put the rein and could discipline and control even aggressive bulls locking horns.

In the evening, kelappan cleaned the cow-sheds, tied cows, oxen and calves at appropriate place, gave them hay in the manger. After attending to all sorts of odd jobs for the landlord’s family he got his food there the vessels allotted to him and slept late at night on the veranda somewhere near the Alsatian dogs.

The cow-boy, being loyal and hardworking, was given a promotion, in his career. He was trained in ploughing fields, sowing seeds, maturing and harvesting crops, climbing coconut and recant trees, carrying on head and over shoulders heavy weights, feeling trees, splitting wood for fuel and so on.

The man in him felt suffocated, morose and bored with life when he realized that there wasn’t any ray of hope and none was there for him to love and be loved and be loved by but cows and dogs. This was a turning point in his life. Putting on a colourful lungi and a banian and combing his wet oil-dripping curly hair, he started going to the market late in the evenings. He would spend his would spend his nights smoking biddies to his heart’s content, engaging in spicy gossip with friends over bottles of toddy and frequenting cinema halls.

The new lifestyle of the servant was vehemently disliked by his master. At this juncture, Kelappan’s friends enrolled him as a member of the labourers’ union and educated the new comrade in the Marxian ideology of class war, proletarian revolution and emancipation of the exploited. One night Kelappan ran away from the village to return after few years as a professionally trained and experienced trade union revolutionary.

The face of the village to had changed drastically. Trade unionism had grown in strength and sees of revolution were sown in the minds of the rural agrarian poor through regular study classes and political meetings. The state government came forward with land ceiling and tenancy regulations by which tillers of the soil became owners of the land they cultivate.

That was the beginning of the end of landlordism in our village. Kelappan was also compensated adequately for a life-long dog-like existence and absolutely dedicated service to his master.

The feudal mansion of yesteryears, once he symbol of power, wealth and domination, is now cobweb- ridden and crumbling. The unlucky inheritors of the landlord live in a safe corner and have already demolished part of the house and sold wood, stone and household articles for their livelihood.

Last time when I visited the village, I saw Kelappan relaxing on an easy chair enjoying his drink in the lawn of a beautiful bungalow constructed by his son who had brought petrodollars from the Gulf.


The Hindustan Times, 20/7/1990

Lonely eves
By K.P. Shashidharan

“Wife means worries invited for ever?” a void marriage if possible and if not apply formula ABCDEFGHI (age, beauty, character, cast, dowry, education, family, glamour, health, intelligence) while choosing your woman of life advised a married friend of mine.

Forgetting the mantra, I slipped into wedlock for life-long love incarceration with one of the lonely lovely intelligent hearts (HILL)—a Kumari Eve – in rare chance encounter.

It’s no doubt an abysmal state of affairs that no proper statistics are being taken of rapidly growing number of lonely hearts in the society.

This unhealthy sociological factor must awake even the least interested dormant eyes of the most incorrigible sort of male chauvinistic persons (MCP—no pigs please).

No wonder, what else can be the possible consequence of an Adam Dominated Society (ADS), where single unmarried men (SUM) always apply regressive traditional formulae for selecting life partners and believe in mercenary, crude primitive methods of bargain in the so-called marriage markets.

We see careful go-lucky guys going around shamelessly chasing poor helpless HILL for fun, flirtation, quick flings, affairs, anything short of marriage.

When the questions of marriage looms on the romantic horizon, the goody SUM show their true colour, quickly wriggle out and frantically search for new unattached lovely hearts.

SUM search in the marriage markets for selecting their life companions where lonely lovely hearts are dumped like unwanted commodities with a wide range of attractive rewards offered by their parents to the MCP who lift the burden.

Many a Kumari Eve is lovely yet lonely. In ADS the confident charming girl in her early twenties gradually hardens to be a cynical, sadistic, lovely tough woman, whom the MCP are frightened of.

She consoles herself finally; after all, marriage is not a panacea for all problems and singleness always a curse. The angel of yesteryears becomes authoritative, vindictive, power-hungry, career-minded competitor with males.

Many a lonely heart meditates over matrimonial columns in newspapers and sends applications with photographs and stands in lines before dating agencies or matrimonial bureaux, having even visions of being matched through a computer.

Potential brides venture to fill up even the silliest and most idiotic multiple choice questionnaire, imagining the prospect of picking the right man.

Oh dear lonely hearts; let us pray for new society based on freedom, equality and justice of the two sexes, to emerge from the existing decadent ADS wherein formula marriages are non- existent and marriages irrespective of caste, community, race, religion, region or nation – based only on sublime human values and sentiments, were the rules of the games, giving birth to world citizen as offspring.


Indian Express, 26/7/1990

The haunting look of hope
By K.P. Shashidharan

A few years ago when we were probationers at the national Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, we were sent on village visits in separate groups of five to six persons. Many of us had never seen a village before and our knowledge of rural life was no more than what we gained from films and magazines.

A village near an irrigation dark bungalow in eastern Uttar Pradesh was selected for our sojourn for a fortnight. The journey from the district headquarters to the village which is around kms away stared in the evening. After an hour’s drive, the jeep turned from the main roads and moved along dirt tracks at night. Soon., the jeep was stuck in a stretch of marshy land. We walked carefully along the edge of the rice field with a torch. An alert chowkidar rushed towards us with a petromax, and a few attendants.

We commenced our socio-politico-economic study next morning by interviewing the maximum number of families’ representing a cross- section of the village. We were distressed to see illiterate villagers leading a pathetic life in unhygienic hovels. Anaemic children with protruding ribs, pot – bellies and sunken cheeks were common sight. The village had neither a primary school nor a health centre. We were told that the funds allocated for rural development and welfare schemes were swallowed by the rural rich with the connivance of corrupt officials.

We could sense the excitement caused by our visit. The people were curious to know why ‘bada sahibs’ of the ‘sarkar’ had cared to camp in their village. Everyday they gathered around the dak bungalow. They came out with their tales of woe. Thy pleaded for the government’s help in minimizing their hardships. They were also co-operative in giving forthright replies to our questions. We completed our investigations in a fortnight. On the last day, the villagers were there in full strength at the dak bungalow when the DM’s jeep came to take us back to town. Their eyes appeared to be lit up with a hope that we will do something to rescue them from misery.

We had length discussions among ourselves on the conditions in the village. We prepared a comprehensive politic Scio- economic report. It was highly praised by our seniors. They were convinced that we had familiarized ourselves with “grass-roots problems” and “ground realities in administration”. The bulky report gathered dust in the secretariat for quite some time. Then, it fell a victim to one of those wedding – out operations which involve old records from time to time in government offices.

Our stay in the village helped u improve our carrier prospects. Perhaps the villagers do not know this.


The Hindustan Time, 14/8/1990

Kitchen War
By K. P. Shashidharan

I hate this ‘dal’ culture. Seeing the ‘dal’ and ‘subzi’, the usual verbal wresting begins over the ‘dining table arena’ with a punch from me, preferably a staunch no vegetarian husband to my wife—who is strictly a vegetarian.

Thereafter, a series of bouts are exchanged, some even hitting below the belt.
“Should I cook for you a live chicken or an ugly pig? How do you heartless no vegetarians hog seeing chopped pieces of animal body with bloodstains, nerves, muscles and bones in your plate like a cruel, dreaded barbarian? The civilized beings eat cereal, vegetables and fruits.”

“Then Ms Vegetarian, why do you drink milk? Isn’t it squeezed out heartlessly from the mammary glands of an animal, depriving its offspring of its birthright to have its mother’s milk for survival? All your so-called rich food is processed from milk and milk products, which is essentially a no vegetarian stuff. If you look at it objectively, even plants have life.”

“What rubbish are you talking Mr. NV? Milk is purely vegetarian, not like egg, having a living embryo inside.”

“Egg is like a capsule, you know, all essential nutrients are packed in right proportion. It keeps one healthy and the doctor away.”

“If so, why don’t you take a capsule instead of food, or eggs instead of medicines?”

“What capsule are you talking of?”

“A new food capsule can be invented, which contains all essential nutrients in required proportion. You just swallow one and go to work. Why do you kill living organisms in an egg?”

“Absolute nonsense Ms V Don’t you remember, how you relished pakoras in a friend’s house, which was in fact made of fish? Didn’t it taste damm delicious? Didn’t you enjoy, the other day in a party, sipping unknowingly hot chicken soup till meat pieces stuck in you throat? You like cakes and pastries, which contains eggs. Didn’t you eat mutton pieces in a relative’s house? You even praised that the nutria-nugget curry served was excellent mistaking for pure boneless mutton preparation.”

I have almost won in the verbal duel, but the anti-non-vegetarian propaganda affected me subsequently. When I think of non-vegetarian food, live chicken, goat and fish in my mind, getting butchered, skins peeled off, and blood-dripping flea chopped into pieces to be cooked. These ghastly bloody scenes start acting as a deterrent and the non-vegetarian in me is about to be knocked down by the vegetarian in me is about to be knocked down by the vegetarian in the last round of the wrestling, when enters the referee—our son, who relishes ‘tandoori’ chicken as much as ‘paneer’ and ‘rajma’. The referee whistles to stop the futile over food habits.


The Hindustan Times, 14/8/1990

Born rejects
By K. P. Shashidharan

While the little ones pranced around, the parents stood in serpentine queue, pushing and being pushed along. Our one-point programmed then was to reach the forefront of the queue and to collect the admission form for a few hundred bucks. The questions in the format were ingeniously engineered to weigh the financial might, position and over-all status of the family.

We moved from one elitist school to the other on specified dates to register the names of the children, undergoing the same ordeal everywhere. None of us wanted to leave any stone unturned. After all, admission to the Kinder Garten in prestigious schools is a gamble or at best a nerve-racking competition involving the intelligence quotient, hard currency, solid connections top placements and the like.

Once registered, we were assured of being called for the kid-cum-parents’ interview. Obviously we did our best to prepare ourselves and to metamorphose the little fellows to little masters, if not professors, to excel in the brain boggling puzzles. The prudent among us had already trained the offspring in preparatory feeder nursery schools, where the people running the show knew the ins and outs of the drill including expected questions and model answers.

A few of us, the go-getters, knew the art and science of result-oriented wire pulling. The money bags among us had no scruples, nor had any hesitation in donating buses or contributing to the building fund. Some of us needed no introduction, forms spoke themselves and the chair we occupied did the magic.

On the D-days, we folks, having done all the spade work and propitiated the deities, rambled across the corridors of the schools, with mounting blood pressure. Our little ones were taken always from us to solve problems and riddles. Some frightened little souls who screamed aloud before going lost the battle without even a fight.

Once the child’s intellectual faculties were graded in camera, it family-interview, we parents fumbled while explaining how our qualifications and positions in life would help complement the school input fostering the physical and psychological development of a growing child.

We realized that only ten per cent of the kids would get through those ‘pick the best of the lot’ tests, so continued to slough till the final round. Most of us were dumbfounded on declaration of the results. We didn’t know who all failed in each family I those multidimensional selection procedures—the progenitor, the progenitors, the progeny or all collectively and individually. The parameters of those new era. ‘bon-ton’ puzzles remained incomprehensible.

On further enquiry, we were told that our son could not be considered even on a special plateau as we were not products of those modern institutions nor were our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, witnessing an ‘ultramodern’ congratulating his daughter, “Hi! Baby, you made it”, my wife and I felt like crying aloud for being what we are and for having committed the same sin of Adam and Eve.


The Hindustan Time, 28/8/1990

My First Year
By K. P. Shashidharan

“My first year’ would have been the first chapter of the autobiography or biography of my little son who is to be one year within a few days.

I being his father, having had no such baby book wherein ‘my first year’ was penned down by Kid’s grand-father, firmly decided for that reason alone to write for his about his eventful first year, especially when he was presented a baby book by one of our friends, a few days after his birth.

His mother who wanted things to be done in a very systematic manner delegated this work to me. She argued that our boy who would grow over year to a young man, though was presented with many a gift item during his first formative year, might perhaps consider his baby book as an invaluable treasure.

Almost a year rolled by, the scorching summer weather is gradually fading into the cloudy humid pre-monsoon atmosphere, with soft, reluctant, tiny, dusty rain drops scattering once in a while.

It was no doubt a problem to me; his biography was to be completed in an autobiographical manner at least before celebrating his first birthday. The entire information barring a few details like date of birth and weight at birth had to be cooked up by my faint memory.

His scantily haired head of yester-year is now fast being covered by long brown hair all over; he lifts his body on his trembling legs with utmost effort and waves his hands in glee to express his overwhelming success of standing on his legs without anyone’s support.

The first few steps of the fearless independence are in the offing! When he laughs aloud showing all his budding sharp teeth cutting the gums, I just realize how fast one more year is washed off in time and its eternal current.

His birth was announced like this:

“I struggled out of my mother’s womb; gasping for breath and crying aloud. Droplets of tear rolled into my father’s eyes out of sheer excitement”. There I had to stop writing. How could my son who was just a few moments old that time see or experience the emotional outburst in his parents? I felt I was writing my own story.

I consulted his mother; she became furious and pounced on me like a starved tiger on its prey. “You failed to fill up properly his baby book you didn’t have to spare a penny for purchasing this most valuable and significant record of his life. At least you should have your normal sense which is at random present to write it correctly. It should not be an idiotic guess work of a senseless stupid father.
It went on and on… In that melee, I lost my pen, let the baby book on the sofa and had to rush to the kitchen to cool down my wife who had already metamorphosed into a ‘hot plate’.

The sweetheart became a bitter or terribly sour heart: it took all my energy to bring her back to normalcy. Totally exhausted, I came back to my writing desk.

On the floor I found my little fellow, for whom I had been struggling to complete his autobiography of his first year against all odds, sitting in wild excitement and tearing the baby book into pieces in unchallenged chivalry….

Finally the rains came without fail preceded with thunderous uproar, wild storm and twinkling light.


The Hindustan Time, 13/9/1990

Salutary separation
By K. P. Shashidharan

A faithful companion ever since the came into my life, my Padmini takes me around the city, demanding so little attention in return. There has seldom been any display of temper and never once has she ditched me midway.

Her most invaluable and regular service to me is the shuttle “between the devil and the deep sea”—boss in the office and boss at home. The interests of the two bosses always clash; the one in the office ensures that I reach home late and the lady of the house gives me urgent home work so that I reach office late. I fall back on her who enables me to render utmost service to these two quarters.

That day I drove her crazy in the morning and asked her to relax in the office garage till evening. I forgot her completely and delved myself deep into the heap of files. While striving to disentangle the proverbial red tapes, files start eating my time, energy and vitality.

Having undergone the regulation grind at office, I walked to the garage to take solace in Padmini’s lap and go home. She wasn’t there! Who had the audacity to tempt her when I was around? Some anonymous “badmash” must have played mischief by dragging her forcefully from her shelter.

My state of mind could be compared with that of mind could be compared with that of the mythical Sriram when he lost Sita while chasing the deer. I stared running hither and thither with spasmodic gesticulations and jerky movements, unable to believe that it has happened to me.

“Why don’t you lodge a complaint with the police”? Advised a passerby. Crossing the traffic island on the ring road, I rushed to the police station to file an FIR. Probably her abductor might be a criminal, a terrorist or a car thief.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when she eyed me from the backside of the police station, balancing herself precariously on three wheels on a garbage heap.

On enquiry the cop sitting in the ‘thana’ started terrorizing me as if I had committed a grave crime. I knew he couldn’t bully me, because I was facing only an identity crisis and he was perhaps trying to extract a few chips for himself. Flashing my identity card on his face, I went on the offensive. Under what laws/byelaws/rules/orders/instructions, if any, did he abduct from my office premises?

The cop changed the tune immediately. I was told that she was brought under police custody because she was found unlocked that day and therefore could have been an easy prey to criminals. The inspector, who came on the scene, explained how it has become the duty of the police to create awareness among car-owners and make them vigilant by putting additional locks, burglar alarm, etching etc. to prevent thefts.

While returning home late at night I wanted Padmini to sing a song to celebrate our reunion after the traumatic separation. I was shocked to realize that her vocal chords were removed by the police. The explanation preferred the next day was she was suspected of camouflaging a bomb there!


The Hindustan Time, 17/9/1990

Bitter Boss
By K. P. Shashidharan

MR BADGAYYA was my boss. In my 30 years of service, I never came across a boss as haughtily, whimsical, perpetually irritated and incorrigibly bitter as him. He was a roaring lion in his den where subordinates like cows dared not tread.

Though everyone knew his proverbial idiosyncrasies and temperament, nobody dared to say a word against him in his presence, but criticized his ludicrous nature behind his back. He hated rules, regulations, procedures and precedents in the office and feared that one day someone might question his authority or knowledge.

As he believed in getting things done in his own style, he scribbled in his illegible handwriting the two words “Please discuss” on almost all important files where he was to take decisions; without even undergoing the trouble or reading them.

His totalitarianism was absolute. Hypocrisy and sycophancy were the only ways available to the subordinates to survive under his arbitrary dictatorship.

Within no time I became a wizard in these arts and decided to butter the bitter boss.
One day, orders came from headquarters, and Badgayya was transferred. Everyone in the office was immensely happy and relieved but pretended to be very sad and so looked suitably pained.

It surprised me no end now because my bitter boss started developing a sweet corner for me in his eleventh hour, something quite unusual and contradictory to his character. He even permitted me to occupy a chair in front of him and to sip hot cups of coffees at his own expense.

My boss explained his problems. The transfer, though on promotion, was ill-timed and his children’s education would be adversely affected. They had to be in the city at least for another six months to complete their courses, and he was thinking seriously with whom he could leave them. “You know hostels are not so good, and quite expensive. Children get spoiled. My kids never stayed in hostel. Food will be nauseating and not up to their taste.”

I interrupted my boss’s monologue. “No problem, Sir, don’t worry. It’ll be a unique privilege for me and my wife, if you’ll leave your children with us till they complete their courses.”

A spontaneously beatific smile spread on the swarthy face of my boss. He whole heartedly agreed to my humble submission—for the first time—without any apprehension whatsoever, and had granted me generously and gracefully the honour that my wife and I craved for.

We would definitely cherish in old age, when we had no health to manage even our household work, dancing to the hundred and odd musical notes to be played by my bitter boss’s three children.

The knowledge of zoology that the lion gets only cubs and not calves ached my conscience and questioned my unwarranted hypocrisy which had trapped me unawares thus.


The Hindustan Time, 26/10/1990

Trip with Swami
By K. P. Shashidharan

CLAD in saffron robe and sporting a red turban and a rudraksha mala, a Swami appeared before me in my office. The aura of mystery about his smile was heightened by the overgrown heard, the predominantly silver grey mass of which was interspersed with black strands.

His body self, I was told, is not a wheeler dealer of international reputation nor could be construct a seventh heaven of orgasm on earth by selling his philosophy to the Yuppi mega-billionaires of the world. But he processed all the essential characteristics of a professional Godman, operating on the smaller sphere of the palm.

The palmist Swami handed over to me a bunch of certificate; some typed in letter pads and others handwritten but all sheathed in polythene. The certificates were from celebrities from all walks of life, vouchsafing the Swami’s extrasensory perceptions, occult powers, tantric skills, astrological expertise in reading the face and the palm.
Impressed by his credentials, I developed a spiritual urge to be blessed by the omniscient Swami and subject myself to his magic spell in unravelling my future.

The Almighty’s scribbling on my face in the unknown language was deciphered by him and read aloud for my benefit. His saintly eyes saw my past, present and future. “Close it in your left hand”, he said, handing over a piece of paper to me. Then he instructed me to write the name of any flower on another piece of paper. Marvellous indeed, the name of the flower had been correctly written by the palmist in the piece of paper already handed over to me!

“Your hand is funny”, he pronounced after studying it for a while. “It is full of lines, crosses, cross-bars, cuttings and islands. Don’t think too much, my son. Pray more; You have a strong Jupiter and a weak Saturn. You’ll live for more than eighty years and die peacefully at a holy place. At the age of fifty you’ll have “divyadarshan” and start hearing God’s voice as if you were conversing on phone.”

He drew a chain of zeroes and interpreted that to indicate that so far I was zero compared to the good days ahead. Presenting me a small conch shell he instructed me; “Wash this is rose water, milk and honey and worship it every day. You’ll get what you want—fame, wealth, happiness and peace”.

After the end of the séance, the Swami showed me a printed card indicating his charge for palm reading, ranging form a minimum of Rs 125 to 1001. He commanded me to write down on a paper the amount I wished to donate to his ashram at Rishikesh. My hands scrawled Rs 125 with a feeling of guilt at not being able to offer more.

“Your name is going to my guru. Write about me in your letter pad”. Thereafter he enquired about my close friends, their addresses and after showering his blessings on me made his exit.

Barely an hour after his departure I came out of my transcendental hallucination or hypnotic slumber when I got a phone call from my friend. “Why did you send this crook to me? He is a fraud and produces false certificates and cheats people. I hope you didn’t pay anything to him”.

I could only mumble a tremulous “no” and terminated the conversation before he could probe me further.


The Hindustan Times, 11/7/1990

By K. P. Shashidharan

After the great Industrial Revolution, the Green Revolution and the White Revolution, the microchip revolution is on! The omnipotent technology, which has revolutionized the western world is fast extending its tentacles in all possible gamuts of human activity in this country too. The computer matching is highly popular among the youth to find their life-partners. Horoscopes made by computer are really fantastic. Children are crazy for computer games and battle with monsters and devils to restore peace. The day is not for off when supercomputers start functioning through a satellite link, knitting all districts in the country.

Everyone talks nowadays in terms of computer terminology—input-output operation, software and hardware. The computer boys become blue eyed boys of managements. Newspapers bring out advertisements of home computers, personal computers, extended advanced and super advanced technology and software packages like LOTUS1, 2, 3 and BASE—3 and 3 plus.

A chief executive, at the fag end of his career, strove to breathe is computer culture and ordered to develop software for his exclusive use and to install a terminal in his chamber. It became a Herculean task for him to locate the key for the alphabet in his mind to give the command to the computer. He got annoyed at the whole thing and ordered for a terminal with A B C D E keyboard, which he thought, should be the most scientific way of putting alphabets in computer age instead of old fashioned type-writer Q W E R T pattern.

After witnessing the second generation or third generation gargantuan computer mainframe operating with lots of noise, executives get impressed but confused and interact among themselves like the six blind men who touched six parts of an elephant to assess prowess of the pachyderm. When teaching goes over the head, naturally, trainees opt to have a nice post lunch nap in the AC room prostrating before computers away from programmes, problems and heat. The systems engineer explains the subtle difference between software and hardware in a layman’s language—whatever one can kick of computer is its hardware and what one can’t is software. The programmer who fails to deliver results becomes panicky, talks about bugs in the software and concentrates in debugging.

The computer installed at the UNO for simultaneous translation into various languages translated the English phrase “out of sight, out of mind” into Russian as “invisible idiot”! the gentleman, who had the audacity to challenge one omniscient computer, shot his question straight ahead, “What is my father doing now?” Within no seconds CPU read all relevant records and the answer is displayed in VDU. “Your father is playing golf.” Rubbish! Damn with your computer! “My father died five years ago”. The man retorted furiously. “No!” the computer clarified more precisely. “Your father Mr ‘X’ is still playing gold at such and such place and the man who died five years ago was Mr ‘Y’. Such was the predicament the challenger had to swallow!

In the fast-changing computer scenario of the developed world where robots are programmed to play ‘piano’ and Japanese scientists are at developing the fifth generation computer with built-in artificial intelligence, unlike its father, grand-father, great-grandfather and great-great-grandpa, who were idiots, let us hope a Frankenstein monster will not be born.


The Hindustan Times, 22/11/1990

Battle of the bulge
By K. P. Shashidharan

Seeing myself in the bathroom mirror, warts and all, I gasped. Once a gracefully slender, smart person I had been transformed over the year into a pot-belied inactive, obese creature! Fat had accumulated around the stomach, buttocks, hips and thighs. In spite of my inherently intense self-love, I just couldn’t admire myself and envied Narcissus, the mythical handsome youth who fell in love with his own perfectly chiselled figure, reflected in water.

The misshapen-belly thrusting ahead of me and ‘Hottentot’ buttocks distorting my figure inconvenienced me so terribly that I found it almost impossible to bend to tie my shoe lace. My heart ached and I puffed and panted even while climbing up a few steps. All fashionable clothes were totally out from my wardrobe.
In tight dress I felt uncomfortable as the body puffed out and peeped through here and there. When I opted for loose attire to conceal the bulges, I looked short and fluffy. There was no other way but to shed the ugly flab, I decided, especially when the better half’s taunts on this account became more frequent.

I found myself too lethargic to do yoga as the body simply refused to budge. I decided to go for jogging, but it was awfully tiresome and I puffed and panted on the way; Oh! God, how could I melt away this fat? Gymnastics, callisthenics and aerobics were tough physical exercises and out of question for me. Morning stroll was relatively easy, but even walking fast was too exerting for me. Lying flat in ‘Shavasana’ posture on the lawn breathing in fresh air was marvellous indeed but it was hardly enough to trim my bulging tummy.

I finally sought expert advice from the professional dieticians and they prescribed nutritional diet programme regulating food intake according to calorie requirement. I had all along been hogging more food than I really needed and also taking more rest and doing practically no labour at all. I read about figure-conscious Corpulent Opulent Women (COW) who started ‘GRAZING’ or eating many small meals throughout the day. I tired hard to emulate those grazing COWs.

Entrepreneurs cashing in on the obesity business finally came to my rescue. They advertised and made me aware that there was no place for disproportionate physique in this figure, weight, beauty and health conscious modern world and there were instant modern techniques to shed ugly flab and churn out from my corpulent body a dynamic smart person. I joined a few of those slimming centres having ultra novel technology and equipments with separate programmes for ‘inch-loss’ and ‘weight-loss’, herbal breakthrough’ and methods of trimming by wrapping the tummy.

After undergoing the ordeal for a month, I found myself temporarily slimmed down but looked as if I had been starving. I was in a normal state when I was obese and the thought of al the delicacies I had to skip kept tormenting me further. The body cried for more food thereafter and I couldn’t resist the temptation for long. I acquired my body weight within six months or so.

Now again when my bloating belly is reflected in the bathroom mirror, with the folds grown bigger, I get dismayed. The money spent on all the reduction programmes has turned out to be a dead loss. But then there is a silver lining—if I am corpulent I am opulent too.


The Hindustan Times, 12/2/1990

Picnic at night
By K. P. Shashidharan

The hexagonal traffic island around the war memorial at the India Gate complex in New Delhi gets choked in the evening with incoming and outgoing vehicles. In the mad rush of homeward bound crowds, few can spare a moment to gaze at the magnificent monument, reminiscent of the Raj. Even the agitators camped at boat club would be packing up by then for sleeping off the exertions of the day’s protest.

A dramatic transformation comes about in the area later when dusk descends from the from the sky and the street lamps come to life inundating the surroundings with a diffused glow.

Down the Raisina Hills, roll down vehicles starting at India Gate with bright large eyes and get parked all over. Shouldering the pole strung, with inflated, multi-hued ‘He-man’ balloons, balloonists take up every corner surrounded by kids of all ages and sizes. The ice cream wallahs, peanut boy and cold drink vendors materialize from nowhere to take the evening’s pickings.

Horses are lined up for a pleasure trot and in return the horsemen know how to take you for a ride! The drum-beating male monkeys provide the background music as the female of the species dressed in colourful half-skirt present seductive disco dance. In the monkey drama some others enact, the male comes home drunk to be beaten by his sweetheart. Later they join in shedding crocodile tears condoling their aunt’s death before finally giving “namste” to collect Rs. 10 from the thoroughly amused foreign tourists.

Birds fly in circles above and under the tree, away from the crowd, pairs chattering in romantic unison. A few fresh air-breathers lie in “Shavasana” facing the well-lit sky. A man in Heiwneken Beer T-shirt with matching ‘stone-washed’ puffy trouser jogs with his Pomeranian dog as if for an ‘ad’ for “action’ shoes!

Mums and Dads get out of their Marutis with Pappus, Bubblish and Babbus carrying tape- recorders, footballs, badminton rackets etc. on the thick sheet spread over the lawn, they sit around the Tiffin boxes, enjoy “Oye-Oye” with “poori, engaging in cheerful jabber. Newcomers to the area can be spotted standing in veneration for a few seconds before the “Amar Joyti” and a few even make it a point to have snap shot in front of the flame keeping armed men on the sides.

Indian gate lawns to Delhitiies are like the Juhu Beach or Chaupati to Bombayites, a great centre of merry-making and fun that relieves the scorching heat of summer evening for a while. While the heart of Delhi – the Connaught Place – dozes off by seven in the evening, the prestigious night – picnic enter buzzes with midnight.

When summer recedes to mild winter, in the misty dusk, icy winds start chasing the picnic – goers. And as the cold mounts, the lawns become desolate with an occasional struggler braving the chill before he calls it a day.

Looking through the vacant canopy, for a moment, I felt the entire surroundings receding away from sight, replaced by a saintly aura around. It is bapu, the grand old man who faced the mightily empire with bare chest and salvaged the counter from foreign rule, meditating there for the future of the country.


The Hindustan Time, 12/11/1990

‘Middle’ march
By K. P. Shashidharan

Can anyone become a millionaire only by writing middles, the “literary-cum-humorous hotch-potch – published on the edit page of newspapers. Probably not and I certainly did not subscribe to this theory until the other day when a million – dollar suggestion was made by my better half.

A millionaire is usually a pragmatic soul – calculating, thoroughly materialistic and essentially pragmatic. As Aldous Huxley puts it, many of them substitute God by money for works hip. The occasional pen-pusher called the middle man lives in a dream – world, full of fantasy and hallucination. Shakespeare stated ages ago that writers, lovers and eccentrics are more or less in the same state of mind. Normally, “meddlers” are creative writers in their own small way and so, luckily to that extent, their madness is that degree less.

Being a ‘middle’ man meddling with words has become my pet hobby almost an obsession. Whenever the ‘middle bug’ bites me severely, I jump out of my bed at midnight and struggle to pour down on paper my emotionally coagulate mind, caring least for the inconvenience caused to those contented blessed folks who snore.

On occasions, agitated by my craze, the queen at home has reacted violently, “what the hell are you scribing day in and day out?” friends retaliate,” why don’t you write serious articles, hot –selling scoops or some novels? The chances of becoming rich and famous would be brighter.”

On holiday, instead of talking the family for a picnic or shopping spree, if not for window shopping or to a theatre, I prefer to sink irretrievably into my world.

When I reach home from office, the wife wants me to accompany her like a protective hubby for a stroll or to fetch some vegetables, fruits, coffee powder, sugar or to get a video- cassette.

When she finds me discounting her, pooh – poohing the mundane demands and at times engaging into a direct conflict, the family front becomes aggressive. The two-year old progeny moves ahead for a do or scream battle to a snatch away the pen and paper nad to portray his budding genius. The mother enjoys the ensuing tussle between father and the son.

When my articles see the light of day in leading newspapers, it inflates my ego, acts like a catalyst for my creative mind. “If those readers who enjoy your piece throw at you a meagre amount of one rupee” retorts the better but irritating half at home, “you would have become a millionaire by now.” Oh God! What a fantastic idea to be a millionaire overnight!


The Hindustan Time, 19/12/1990

Floating beehive
By K.P. Shashidharan

In one of the servant quarters in our housing colony lived a family whose life style and behavioural pattern resembled in many respects that of beets. As in any beehive, the nucleus of the family was the queen bee surrounded by a work force consisting of female workers drones who were active only in courtship.

Rani was the queen bee who ruled the hive, casting a vigilant eye on the active female brood. She was the biggest of all the bees, plump and indolent. Did no work except issuing commands t everyone in the hive. All the bees in the hive hovered about anxious to ensure her comfort and well-being.

Charan Das was the favourite drone who was always around in the hive. He was tall robust and handsome with an ever-ready smile. He enveloped his physique in mod ‘stonewash’ trousers and fancy T- shirts. He was chronically allergic to all sorts of physically Labour and an incorrigible Bohemian.

The only hob Charan enjoyed doing is womanizing and also bringing home affluent customers who craved for the services of the bess. Obsessed with good food, good clothes, exotic liquor and lot of fun, the drone used to fly away with queen t arrange rendezvous with eager visitors.

The queen negotiated with them fixed the right worker bee as per the requirements nad worked out the modus operand for executing the job in perfection.

The worker bees were seven in number, age ranging from 16 to 30, and all of them were endowed with alluring physical attributes and well-groomed for their profession. They dressed well and flirted audaciously as they were honey – tongued to sustain the interest of their victims.

The bees’ combined Labour for the collective happiness brought an abundance of “pollen” and “honey” in the hive. They continued living in style, with all modern gadgets enchasing their comfort.

The worker bees had enough stinging power too to keep at bay anyone who got suspiciously curious about the goings on in the hive.

If any passed by started at any female bee in the hive, the beehive used to gets stirred up. All the bees would come out of the hive in a swarm in a highly aggressive mood confrontation, using the choicest abuses. No intruder could stand it for more than a few minutes.

As the activities of the bees threatened to spill out of the hive, the residents of the area found it an intolerable nuisance. A trap was finally arranged to catch the queen bee in surprise police raid and the swarm of bees had to abandon the hive and follow Rani to pastures anew.


Indian Express, 1/3/1991

Right to work
By K.P. Shashidharan

“AMMA” was a septuagenarian – her wrinkled skin hung loose, hair and eyebrows turned silver grey, eyes almost fused with cataract, and ears, outliving their utility, remained as ornamental pieces. She used to appear at the back our quarter with a broomstick a few days in the month to register her existence and to have a hold on her legitimate right to work.

“AMMA” had been working in our government housing colony since it was built during the British days and she was appointed by a ‘gora sahib’ ‘jamadarni’ after her marriage at the age 15. she used to leave her ‘jhuggi jhopri” at “jahangirpuri” early in the morning to reach our colony so that she could complete sweeping, the backyards of all her 16 quarters, removing the garbage and clearing all the bathroom by noon.

She was very regular, punctual and exceedingly efficient in her work till her declining strength and failing health took their toll, “Amma” fell ill frequently.

During one of her prolonged bouts of absence recently, we tried to coax other “jamadarnis” of the area to do her job. But they all refused to so without her consent. “Amma” had no doubt become too old t work but she could not be treated like a devalued currency. She was the chief “jamadarni” the senior most in the profession in our colony we were told.

“Amma” had established certain codes of procedure and canons of propriety in job allocation and execution. She was a staunch champion of the right to work and believed that it was interlinked with her right to live and no one could try to take away another “jamadarni’s” birthright to work. If anyone deviated from these established rules, the matter was unfailingly reported to her through her network. And the guilty was not forgiven.

“Amma” last came to our colony two months ago. She could see hardly anything because of acute cataract and we gave her some money to get her eyes operated upon. Her son who was a “safaiwala” in a government office had been after her for selling her right to work in our colony. “Amma” had objected to the very idea and made it clear to him that she would continue to work till Bhagwan prohibited her.

We had no news about “Amma” till the other day when a young “jamadarni” turned up to work in our quarters. She informed us that “Amma” would never come again as she was no more and her son had finally sold her right to work in the colony for Rs 1,000.


The Hindustan Times, 1/8/1991

Eye specialist
By K.P. Shashidharan

The enfant terrible of the house became an idiot box buff. Having addicted idiot box buff. Having addicted to the electronic wonder box, he used to be glued to TV, enjoying vicariously the thrill, speed and fund of participating in a car race of skiing over snow and water or giving hard blows to the villain. Over exposure to the electronic glare blurred his vision and strained his eyes. We took him for getting his eyes examined.

Thoroughly impressed by the board – “Dr Bedi’s eye centre. Computer checks your eyes,” – we steeped in. a humpty – dumpty ‘sardarji’ sitting a corner surrounded by goggles, spectacles of multifarious shapes and shades goggled at us through his thick bifocal eye glasses inquisitively.

“Yes I’m Dr Bedi,” he proclaimed. “Do you want your eyes to be examined?” he queried.

“Not mine. This child’s eyes are to be tested” I replied.

Dr Bedi instructed the boy to sit in front of the machine on a stool affixing his chin on the equipment. Looking through the equipment, Dr Bedi adjusted and readjusted the machine and took readings. Dr Bedi couldn’t comprehend how the four sets of readings taken by him using his computer-based eye testing machine gave four varying result. Scratching his following beard for a while, he could solve the riddle by calculating the average of the readings and making a pair of eye glasses with those specifications he arrived at.

It was indeed a horrifying and head-revolving exercised for the little boy to wear the spectacles as he saw only bizarre bumps and ditches all the way. His eyes ached more severely and watered profusely. Indistinct dim objects of indefinable shapes scared him and he abandoned the spectacles.

I rushed to Dr Bedi who was at that time walking around his equipment which was being dismantled by a mechanic.

“Is your machine under repair?” I interrogated him.

“Repair!” he looked amazed and clarified. “Chance. It’s being serviced.

“I believe your machine was out of order for quite some time. It was giving false readings.”

“Incredible. It’s the latest machine of its kind. Most sophisticated and accurate in its readings.”

“If so the fault lies with you. Are you a qualified eye doctor?”

“Yes. I’m fully qualified and experienced Dr.”

“The spectacles made by you gives headache and pain to the child. Obviously something went wrong,” I argued.

“His eyes were checked by the computer.”

“Computerized eye-checking is the inching. Computer can’t be wrong.” He explained. “Dr Bedi, why don’t you check up his eyes manually and diagnose why he is getting pain when he wears the spectacles?” I tried to convince him.

“Not at all necessary. I can’t be more accurate than computer.”

“I want you take your spectacles and reimburse the amount” o insisted.

“No reimbursement. It’s printed in the receipt. Kindly read it. If you can prove my readings inaccurate I’ll get the glasses replaced” he promised.

Later, the child’s eyes were got examined by a renewed eye specialist who tested his eyes with machine and further verified and corrected by manual testing. The reading given by Dr Bedi were proved absolutely incorrect and false.

When I approached the so-called eye doctor for replacement of the spectacles he reasserted his infallible computer based eye test. I showed him the ophthalmologist’s prescription and blustered: “you’re only a slave to your damned machine, you many call yourself a doctor, but you’re not an ophthalmologist but an optician. Your job is only to prepare eye glassed as per orders given by qualified doctors and not to take your customers for a ride and test their eyes like a quack and turn them blind.


The Hindustan Times, 22/1/1991

Nature and the role of genes
By K.P. Shashidharan

Salute to the great grandma – the genealogical mother of everyone on each today – the hypothetical Eve unlike the Biblical one, who lived between 140,000 years and 280,000 years ago in sub – Saharan Africa! Eve, one ancestral mother of all humans on earth appears in everyone’s genealogy. The mysterious phenomenon of immortality of genes is established beyond any doubt by biologists after studying mitochondrial DNA (mt DNA).

When a baby is born, parents, grandparents and relatives conjecture which of the parents the child resembles more; mother or father? Each physical feature is subjected to deep scrutiny to find from whom the child has inherited certain particular characteristics. The colour of the eyes is ditto to father’s but large like mother’s the complexion is no doubt fairer than that of both the parents, might be resemble tree, shape of the nose is identical with that of grandpa except that it is slightly shorter; lips and mouth are exactly similar to that of grandma, but how come the texture of hair is solely different from that of all blood relations? Later when the baby blossoms into a grow-up individual, the personality traits, beg-behaviour, temperament and activities are closely observed and commented upon. Oh God from whom has his lady inherited his wild temper and aggressive nature? Is his father so hot-tempered?

The genes travel from generation to generation under-going reshuffling with each generation. Each newly-born child is a different person altogether, endowed with a unique genetic base as a result of the union of chromosome from both parents.

Only identical twins have the same characteristic. The resemblance in physical features and personality traits are generally indistinguishably similar in many cases. The identical twins who are separately reared after north for years were found leading eerily similar lives, like driving the same model car, chain smoking the same brand of cigarette in the same style, chewing fingernails and possessing the same kind of pets. Despite diverse circumstances, they have shown the same personality traits like flexibility, self-control and sociability.

The age –old controversy of nature versus nurture goes on with the pendulum moving towards the former. The influence of nurture on development of personality of a child is not so predominant as radical environmentalists lie Marx and Freud believed. Genes provide a rough sketch of life. Parenting has its limits as inherent qualities are far more important than upbringing, in determining personality. The genetic base of personality can-not be altered drastically though parents can make a child less fearful or less aggressive by improving the environmental factors but they cannot convert them to be brave, or clam, or brilliant, if it is contradictory to the given genetic base.


The Hindustan Times, 28/1/1991

Castles in the air
By K.P. Shashidharan

During leisure time, I indulge in an inexpensive and self-fulfilling hobby -- daydreaming. Let me unleash a thousand horses of imagination to gallop unbound and ride them to my heart’s desire.

My fantasy world is made up of desire in the conscious and subconscious mind. Having undergone bitter experienced of living in rented houses for years, I started nurturing an ambition to build a roof over my head. Building castles in the air thus became a crazy subject for my reverie.

I allotted liberally as much land I needed at the choicest spots in the city and went on constructing palatial bungalows one after another. All my dream houses were unique in architecture, marvellous in engineering and aesthetically appealing with futurist and ultramodern external and internal decorations and facilities.

My heart bled when all my visionary castles were demolished the other day. I fell down from the ivory tower and got brushed when I opened my eyes to the reality that I was the owner of a DDA flat.

The flat is locate d where the city border ends in the villages and has a dull exterior and poor layout. I decided to give an indelible impression of my personality to my possession and spent a substantial part of my savings to alter the face of the flat.

Keeping in view the security needs, I increased the height of the boundary walls of the ground floor flat, fixed newly designed massive iron gates, movable iron shutters on the balcony and sliding glass doors at the entrance with special Aligharh-made thief-proof locks. The front part of the flat finally gave an appearance of some sort of an animal cage with bars around.

With the assistance of consultants in internal decorations, I carried out cosmetic chafes with wooden panelling, additional fittings, marble flooring and panting all the walls to convert the flat to a sweet home.

But problems emerged with six months of my stay. In the rainy season all the doors and windows became inoperative, water seepage affected all the walls and the bathrooms got choked off. The stinking drainage and the massive canal in the vicinity polluted the environment and acted as a mosquito – breeding plants sending battalions of humming blood suckers. Fresh air feared to enter and daylight couldn’t creep in. from every window, drainage pipes gave an ugly depressing look and spread a repulsive foul smell.

Despite all these irritants, I was put on top of the world by a property dealer the other day. Owning a DDA SFA flat is a bonanza he said, it is the ultimate in the DDA scheme of things meant for only HIG, the High Income Group. All that I could earn in my three and a half decades of government survive is honesty and integrity which prevented me from enchasing my decisions, misusing my powers and amassing disproportionate assets. This DDA flat, being a ground floor corner one facing the road would fetch me four times its price as premium in black money.

The predicament of being pushed into the street with no roof above except the sky prevented me from nurturing such wild profit – making desire. The feeling of being one among the HIG satisfied my ego. Like the “Kothiwallas” on the other side of the road, I have now started looking down upon those lesser residents forming the Middle income and the Low Income groups.


The Hindustan Times, 20/2/1991

Audit missiles
By K.P. Shashidharan

Ram Babu alighted from the bus and walked fast towards the organisation assigned to him for audit. A stern accountant trained in the art and science of audit, he keeps his eyes and ears open. He is well equipped to detect even the slightest abnormal throbbing of the arteries of the organisation in the wrong direction.

The fragrance of blossoming roses welcomed the auditor. “we maintain our garden well. Look! There are so many beautiful roses,” remarked the employee from the organisation escorting him. RB gave him a chilling stare, “it’s half truth, mister. Why don’t you observe the sharp thorns on the plants”.

“Isn’t it an exquisite collection,” enquired the employee pointing at a brose statue of Buddha. The auditor went round the stature, glace at it from different angles, squatting, and standing on toes; tapping it with his knuckles and observed “at about degree from the horizontal plane parallel to the head of the statue if you look at it you can find structural defects. Besides it’s an avoidable expenditure.

The auditor found that no room was allocated to him and there was none attached to him. He presumed audit as an unnecessary evil and the auditor an unavoidable devil. RB created a ‘Hangman’ on the non- availability of records.

“Where the log books, personal files, T.A. vouchers are, purchase files and contract deals. Let me have all the records deals. Let me have all the records”. He roared “Mind you, auditing is my profession, fact – finding my mission, telling truth my duty and passion and scrutiny of records is my birth right and I shall have it”.

An agitated auditor is like a desperate army commander who’ll shoot at even civilian population. The organisation provided all him complete his arduous task without any more outbursts.

“Siding up to the Auditor sahib” when the coast was clear a disgruntled employee leaked out some confidential information relating to kickbacks involving big bosses. “You’re all welcome with inside stories and tips,” smiled the auditor. He looked through his bifocal spectacles, read lines and between the lines, investigated the genesis of certain cases, photocopied key documents, scribbled and calculated something on the paper.

“Mr Ram Babu, please discuss before finally making your report,” involved in suspicious deals that discussed their cases and sought his help. “I’ll lend you my ears. I’, a qualified and experienced auditor and I’ll lend you my ears. I’m qualified and experienced auditor and I’ll do my job without fear or favour, ill-will or affection. But don’t try to befool me.” RB warmed into his fertile mind and preceded the data like a human computer.

“Those jokers think the auditor’s role is that of mere watchdog of finance, destined only to bark and get exhausted. After all, isn’t it the sweet will of the dog to bark or to bite. I’ll expose them all and have the last laugh”. Either because he was reading too much Gulf war stories or the importunities of the operators put him in a viscous mood, General with all the high-tech weapons at his command.

“I’ll shoot my guns and launch AMs – Audit Missiles – one after another, to hit at fixed targets. A few of them might get intercepted by counter replies, but not all.” RB complete his well – documented report and despatched it to the chief of the organisation and waited impatiently for its impact.

When it finally came it was the auditor who was “Scudded”. For the main target he was after was too mobile to be pained down by his missile which misses its mark because of all the pre-launch noises made.


The Hindustan Times, 14/3/1991

Driving lesson
By K.P. Shashidharan

Gazing at the brand new chocolate brown Maruti 1000 in the portico for the bungalow, Ritu expressed her unsuppressed desire. “I want to learn driving. It’ll be damn exciting”. Conjecturing the new vehicle, to be subjected to the trails and tribulations of a beginner’s awful driving. I tried to discourage.

“What is the need, Ritu? I’m here. You don’t even go anywhere alone.” She strove to convince me. “Look, Dearing, when you go to office and there is some urgent work, I can do it. I can pick up our son from school when the driver doesn’t turn up. You need not be worried on official tour”. She paused, “you known all my friends know driving, sister and sister-in-law learnt driving. After all, what is the harm?

It was quite certain she would drive me mad if I failed to cure her driving fever. When the temperature of the fever rose beyond the safe limit, I consented. “okay, I’ll tell the instructor of any driving school to teach you. After learning sufficiently well, you can surely take our Maruti.”

“First keep the gear in neutral... Switch on the ignition and start… Press clutch fully… Put first gear…. Accelerate…”

The instructor of the driving school was extraordinary calculative and mercenary. He possessed an old noisy Ambassador with double brakes, double clutches and an additional hand operated accelerator. He picked up her from home, asked her to sit behind the steering wheel. He shrewdly manoeuvred the additional brake, clutch and accelerator and assisted her to put the vehicle on top gear for the maximum time possible, so that consumption of fuel would be minimum and his earning based on distance covered, the maximum.

The lady behind the steering wheel was cynosure to the passers-by. She sat so stiff breathed heavily, tightened her facial muscles and neck nerves, bewildering with partly separated lips and wide opened eyes, metamorphosing her otherwise pretty face into a frightening scene. With a funny awkward gesticulation. She applied her all strength to change the gear, gripping the steering wheel tightly. The inimitable blood pressure inimitable blood pressure driving.

That crucial day when I did not take the car to the office, bright, shining Maruti 1000 captivated and wooed my wife so seductively and decisively that she couldn’t resist the temptation.

Initially, the vehicle jerked violently and refused to move. More cautiously she endeavoured again and it jumped and moved spasmodically. While she concentrated on steering, other operations were forgotten resulting in unpleasant jerky movements and “Krrrrrr” zooming noise of the engine. When she regulated acceleration, brake and clutch, the vehicle propelled zigzag like a drunkard measuring the narrowness of the road.

While negotiating a sharp turn inn the junction the vehicle banged bullock cart just coming from the curved road. The cart was safe, but the front lights of the car were crumbled into pieces and the bonnet portion was crushed into a pathetic shape; the cart men roared.

“What the hell?” don’t you have eyes? The rich drives mad over the poor man’s corpse? If you don’t know driving, better don’t play with other man’s life.” The street goers became judges and mediators and decided that lady behind the wheel should part away a hundred rupee note to the cart driver as compensation.

Cursing all the way herself and feeling sorry for the car and its owner and praying to all the gods, she managed to bring the disfigured and revolting Maruti back at home.

Maruti with badly maimed face and blind eyes presented an ugly fierce look in the portico. Bursting with wrath, disgust and vindictiveness, I reviled my wife till my blood pressure subsided to normalcy. Then the cool cat seized me with claws, totally unaware. “you are always concerted about your car. You didn’t even bother to ask whether I was injured or not. What a fantastic, nice husband you are!”


The Hindustan Time, 25/3/1991

Pathless foray
By K.P. Shashidharan

I shouldn’t have ventured into the secret ‘galis’ ignoring his warning. He was a frail old man who was sitting outside sporting a ‘Ho Chi Minh’ beard. When he saw me , his hollow cheeks puffed out ‘bidi’ smoke in the air and his black thin lips started moving: “Sahib, it’s our duty to tell you; whether to heed it or not is your responsibility.”

It was a cloudy wintry morning that held little promise of sunshine. Wrong day to have set out for the exploration. And I compounded the mistake by persuading my better half to accompany me and later granted her freedom to tread her own way. I should have at least behaved like a protective father towards my naughty little son and not left him free to explore the place like David Livingstone or indulge himself in a hide – and – seek game.

The innocuous – looking path led me to a junction which branched into four different directions. Moving ahead, I climbed up to find a new track which again had four openings. I had already been warned that only one of those four would be the right one. I thought I chose the right one. I thought I chose the right path, but taking a few steps, I came to a subway to be lost in a no-way situation.

Befuddled and panic – struck, I cried aloud “Lathika, where’re you? Aaku! Aaku! Do you hear me, my son?” My voice echoed in the wilderness and re-echoed in my ears, making me all the more helpless.

Who was clapping hairs hands?

Who was striking match – sticks in the darkness? A mixed smell of bidi smoke and fragrance of incense wafted in through the air. The sound of tearing of paper came from somewhere. “Hello! Can you hear me?” the walls whispered. Have walls got ears and lips here? It a haunted placed full of spirits and ghosts?

I heard Lathika’s bewildered tone and the wild scram of my son from somewhere else. I ran up the stairs, rushed along those corridors to slip down again under the subway. Didn’t I make a horrible mistake by not listening path -finder had no job other showing the correct way to new –comers.

It was raining heavily. Darkness intensified and with that the eerie feeling that we were trapped. I had to wait for the rescuer. He would come like Jesus or Kaki the tenth incarnation of Vishnu to save my family. “Am I waiting for Godot?”

“Hello! Can you hear me?” the whispering wall continued, “there’re thousand and one ways and only one of them is correct, didn’t I tell you that we are hundred and fifty and we work in rotation. You could have taken assistance from any one of us”. The sound of boots came near and the man’s beard glowed in the candlelight. He breathed heavily. “It’s up to you to try endlessly and cry in panic in these secret galleries, searching the way out or given me everything you have and I’ll guide you out.” The deal was struck and all of us were out in minutes.

The mosque, Baoli, Rumi Darwaza and the Great Imambara of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula have remained as architectural wonders, consecrated to the martyrdom of the three Imams – Ali, Hassan and Hussain – in the plains of Karbala in Turkish Arabia. At a distance, the river Gomti flowed on placidly, a witness to the turbulent centuries gone by and the hordes of foolhardy people trapped in bhool – bhuulaiyan.


The Hindustan Times, 27/3/1991

Transfer trauma
By K.P. Shashidharan

The man in his fifties, holding a brief case in hand is running continuously after the city bus, with a palpitating heart, puffing and panting. With all his energy, he pushes through the people and gets inside the over – crowed bus.

To his agony and dismay, he finds that his new leather chappal is not embracing hi right foot and in a moment of confusion and worry, he hurries out of the bus, clinging his pair of spectacles with his right hand.

By that time, bus picks up speed, people rush in ; he hits a middle aged fashionable madam and falls flat in the centre of the road. The lady mutters abusive work at him while applying lipstick afresh and keeping her sari and bobbed hair in position.

The poor man has injured his knees, elbows and haws, but crawl in his fours, collects the letter-pad , papers, old magazines, lunch box, tables and broken pair of pentacles and put everything in his brief case and hires an auto rickshaw to the hospital.

The old man had come to the metropolis on promotion from a small town where life was easy to the idea of busy city life. Frankly speaking, he never expected this promotion in the evening of his career. He was happy at his small town where he had constructed his house. His daughter is employed there, and son studying for medicine. He cannot shift his family till his daughter is married and son’s education complete. His wife had to stay back with children and he came to the city all alone with a few essential things. He rented a small room paying through his noise and cooked and lived in crushed singleness. The polluted dusty and humid atmosphere in the city does not suit him as he has been suffering from chronic asthma.

Whenever transfer looms in air, you get panicky nervous uncertain and perturbed. When it actually strikes, your roots will be cut off or plucked out of familiar soil in process of being planet in some distant alien soil where you taken months together to get acclimatised.

If you are working at a chilly snow – covered mountainous area, you may have to descend from the peaks and sit on the lap of ‘Himsagar Express’ and move towards the roaring sea coast, or you may be sent to a hot dry descent area in a frying pan all the time. In case you are absolutely happy and contended in a small peaceful town, you are the right person to be transferred to the maddening crowd, where you have to be always on heels and wheels, spending most of your time in travelling.

Suppose e, a young man in service, having spirit of adventure and sense of humour, coloured with optimism and zeal, looking forward for challenging novel experienced gets ready for a cross country marathon transfer race. He takes it supportively and wanders like a gypsy from palace to place carrying all badly and baggage and thatches his tent and cooks his food. After undergoing the trauma, agony and exhaustion a few transfer, he becomes lethargic, imbecile and dreadens transfer menace for ever.


The Hindustan Times, 4/3/1991

Hair-raising vow!
By K.P. Shashidharan

Nita and Namita, five and seven years old pretty mischievous daughters of my friend, are always vibrant with energy and full of life. Their almonds-shaped large eyes reflect absolute innocence, insatiable inquisitiveness, unsuppressable enthusiasm and playful nature.

Whenever we visit them, the girls welcome us with a hearty smile. Their long black curly hair spread over their chubby cheeks. Within a short time of arrival, they put forward to uncle and aunt innumerable riddles. Our attempts to answer them quite often led to embarrassing situations, so we generally evaded questions funny incidents in the school.

One Saturday noon, when the door bell sounded, I was quite surprised to find the etui little sisters at the door, slightly worried and exhausted carrying their school bags on their shoulders.

“Uncle, uncle, we want to phone”.

They refused to come inside the house and said that they were let free from the school early that day. Instead of waiting for the driver to pick them up, they preferred to walk to home with a friend who knew the way, the elder one became responsible and decided to ring the mummy and inform that they would be coming walking.

“No need to ring, Nita. Please come with me. Let me take out the car from the garage. I’ll drive you home”.

Holding the hand of Nita, I was walking towards garage with the car keys-in my hand. Within a spur of a moment, I failed to believe my eyes Namita and her friend were seen running across the main road, without heeding call to stop.

The girls ran quite a distance and turned back to signal Nita to follow them. She also joined the group subsequently. Prudence demanded me to allow the kids to have their own way, without any interference, lets they run hither-thither dangerously along the main road, where traffic was heavy.

It seems that the girls were quite bored of monotonous daily bourgeois luxury of being driven to school in the morning and picked up in the evening by the driver. They desired to enjoy a care-free independent stroll along the busy road, gossiping and giggling all the way in their own inimitable, uninhibited style.

When we called on our friend, the next time, the girls were not seen welcoming us, as usual, with their innocent smile. We had to search for them everywhere before we founded then in the study room, totally bashful, coy and repentant. Their luxuriant, long curly hair was completely shaved off and smooth, white shinning heads reflected light.

“What happened? Why did you have off their hair?”

Why did you shave off their hair? “Queried my wife, anxiously, to their mother, who is very sensitive, emotional and God-fearing.

“It was offered to Tirupati Lord Venakteshwara. You know, that day they came home walking from school. Their father was out of station on tour. I was worried like hell. The kids were not reaching home for hours together. I swore to Lord Venakteshwara that I would offer their hair to him if they came home safe and sound”.


The Hindustan Times, 5/7/1991

Stream of life
By K.P. Shashidharan

Cast in different mould by the maker, my friend’s sister Kamini Nair knew where to draw the line with men. She was convinced that man is essentially selfish and brutish whereas woman delicate and compassionate. Am has been exploiting woman since the beginning – emotionally, economically and physically. Marriage is nothing but an institution created by man for pursing his selfish interests by woman.

Kamini’s mother, who become a divorcee even before her birth, unknowingly planted a seed of revelation against men in her psyche while bringing her up.. Kamini continued nurturing this idea till it grew into a gargantuan banyan tree, deep rooted in her fertile mind.

In line with Marx’s theory, Kamini held that exploitation of the weaker sex by the stronger sex is a sort of class war which has been going on for centuries through ingenious social institution and moral codes created by the male chauvinistic world. Religious teaching, physilosphy and literature are distorted and biased against the fair sex. In the ultimate warfare of the sexes, she wanted all the females to come out of the age-old slavery and male torture and fight for their emancipation. A new world recognizing equality and dignity of woman should be established. There is nothing to lose for the womenfolk, but the chains of bondage, dependence and penury.

Kamini would get furious at the mere mention of the word ‘marriage’. She felt terribly humiliated when men gazed at her in admiration of her physical attributes and overwhelming beauty. She wanted herself to be considered as a person and not as an attractive lady.

“to hell with marriage? What’s it for? – To be subjugated for life by a man? To mortgage one’s body and soul to an inconsiderate brute?” she retorted vehemently when I tried to draw her out on marriage. “Can’t a lady live alone in this male-dominated society? Is marriage the ultimate goal in a woman’s life? It is like opium to dupe the poor ladies into life –long incarceration and torture. I am intelligent, educated, well-placed, talented and rich. Tell me, why should I compromise my career and life for someone?

Cocooned in luxury and comfort, Kamini lived in her own world of career and friends, untroubled by any doubts or misgivings. In moon-lit nights, when the cool breeze carried the irresistible fragrance of jasmine flowers, she would go for long drives in her Merecedez. Her ferocious Alsatian dog ‘Sedem’ accompanied her during her long walks. She kept late hours, attending cocktail parties, going to discos, watching video films or browsing through novels.

But as the years slipped by, Kamini became aware of a void in her life. She found herself increasing assailed by an overwhelming feeling of melancholy and solitude, an indefinable sense of incompleteness of life. On such moments, she used to visit her boss’s family and spend hours in chatting and playing with his children. She found in her boss a compassionate and understanding friend with whom she could discuss anything under the sun without any mental blocks.

Who can divine the bizarre games that fate plays with people, changing their personality and the course of life? Proximity with the boss’s family matured in due course into a complex relationship which saw Kamini becoming the second wife of her boss and the mother of a little one for whom she had craved for so long.


The Hindustan Times, 21/5/1991

Mobile Problem
By K.P. Shashidharan

“Your head is condemned”. The self- proclaimed neurologist diagnosed. I gazed at him pleading mercy on me. He warned. “You may get into problems anywhere anytime. It’s better for you to change the head”.

There wasn’t any vacant bed in the automobile hospital; all of them were already occupied by seriously injured patients by accidents.

The ustad called aloud “Arey, Chottu! Come here!” a boy of around twelve, smeared with oil and grease, was lying flat beneath the dead engine of a Mitsubishi car and tightening the nuts.

Having served extensively the market, I purchased a cylinder – head and reached the garage next day morning. Chottu replaced the head and started the vehicle in a few hours. He was learned on hearing the thunderous roar of the engine.

“Ustad! Ustad! Gaddi pataka maati ha” Ustad’s grease – soaked fingers moved fast and opened the head.

“Don’t be hassled, sahib.” Wiping sweat from his forehead, Ustad advised the panic – struck owner. “After all, the gaddi is very old. We changed only the head. It can’t be, like a young athlete< I am here to repair.” Ustad admonished Chottu for leaving a spanner inside and also having forgotten to put the parts at appropriate places.

It was Ustad’s turn to start the engine, but his efforts were in vain. “Something’s is wrong with the electrical connection. Let me call the Sardarji, who is an electrician.” Sardarji removed the started and dismantled it. “How’ll it start? The you costing only Rs 1500”. I welcomed his economic proposition. To my sheer delight the automobile was brought to life again and I drove home happily.

A few days later, the starter failed and I had to seek the dhobi’s help to push – start my car. Before I could question the Sardarji, he started” Arey, Sahib, its electrical work. Nobody can guarantee. Hale and hearty young men get heart attacks”. Sardarji’s starter virtually became a non- started every now and then as it was nothing but a crude assembly of second – hand and spurious spare parts. His contraption had to be finally abandoned and substituted by an origin nil starters.

Within a few months, when the sonorous roar of the engine ached my head, I consulted the Ustad. He examined the cylinder head thoroughly and discovered to my dismay and discovered to my dismay and disbelief that the head I had purchased was only a reconditioned one. The duplicate head was then replaced by an original head.

“Arey Sahib! The Cylinder –head is brand new now; but what’s the use!” the Ustad observed. “Everything below the head – heart, stomach, intestines – I mean the piston and other vital parts of the engine are weak. Why don’t you get the engine overhauled? Doesn’t your car drink too much of petrol and engine oil? Once you overhaul, it’ll be like a new car.”

The words of the old man from whom I purchased the car a few months back echoed in my ears. “I’m so attached to my car. It’s like my daughter. I can’t sell it; in fact, Bete I feel that I’m sending it to my damd’s house”. The faultless painting, impressive exterior and beautiful upholstery sheathed a defective suspension and an over utilised inefficient engine, which had to be overhauled.

However, when I painfully realised that the so –called ‘janata’ car costs Rs. 1.42 lakh plus a premium of twenty thousand, I feel I should maintain my vintage automobile wroth perhaps only the premium of a new Maruti, with the assistance of the so-called automobile physicians and specialists.


The Hindustan Times, 30/5/1991

Midnight supper
By K.P. Shashidharan

He was our ideal boss, an embodiment of honesty and integrity, a walking encyclopaedia of wisdom and knowledge, a perfectionist at work and a disciplinarian.

He was a rare specimen of a efficient and effective bureaucrat who uses to roar in his chamber like a lion in his den. When he retired us all felt hat the golden era of our department was over, and decided to honour him by inviting him for a contributory dinner.

One of us became the key organiser and arranged everything on D-Day. The boss desired that all of us should assemble in his house for a pre-dinner drink. Exchanging pleasantries, he offered us the choicest collection exotic liqueurs.

“Friends, choose your drink. Have ‘Johny walker’ or the ‘Famous grouse’, ‘De Kuyper Cherry brandy’ or chilled beer, ‘Drambuoi’ or Conturau or Cognac.” We were taken aback finding him totally informal and friendly. We praised his style of functioning both in the office and at home while hurried gulping down peg after peg.

“it you all have finished drinking, let us move for dinner to Lajpat Nagar.” Announced the organiser, “I’ll take sir and family, you folks follow my car.”

The pilot car zoomed off followed by five Maruti cars, and the last one, a fiat driven by me. At a signal point, before I could dash ahead along with the cavalcade, the traffic signal turned red.

Lost track of the convoy, I reached Lajpat Nagar and solved to trace them in one of the restaurants there.

The time was 10.30 in the night; the shop all closed. Obtaining names of all restaurants in: PN I & II from ‘halwais’ and dhabawalls, I continued my extensive search, subjected to server nagging from my wife.

“How the hell are you fooling around? Only madmen and drunkards like you will venture out with his wife asking the names of restaurants at midnight? You’re a lubbard! Couldn’t even drive fast!”

I argued my case in semi drunk bravado, “Cheer up! I’ll find out! All those Jhonys had taken five to six pages, but I had taken only two. How can a half – drunken person drive amuck like toped up jokers?”

“If so, it’s better to be full drunk,” she retorted.

“Ours is a vintage model fait. How can it catch up Suzuki -800. no chance!”

“Buy a Rolls Royce, them who stop you”? She interrogated berating.

“When we are late, don’t you think, they should wait for us? Don’t you think the organiser should have given the address to everyone before we started?” I framed by question carefully.

We reached home hunger, physically and mentally fatigued, but pounced on each other like indignant cats. The servant maid informed that we had a telephone call from some guesthouse in LPN and a messenger had left a neatly drawn road map to reach that place.

All of them were waiting for us over glasses of chilled beer. “I’m sorry”, the chief guest said: “such a thing shouldn’t have happened, going to a party without knowing the address. I’ll show you all how to organise a party next time. Now let us have our midnight supper.”


The Hindustan Times, 5/6/1991

The hard nut
By K.P. Shashidharan

NANGLOO, my subordinate in the office is more than fifty, with twenty-five years experience in secretariat. An advising pot belly arching his backbone balanced by an equality protruding by an equally protruding back, nangloo walks awkwardly. Though with hardly any hair on his bald head, he is meticulous about combing his hair toad dignity to his personality. His double shinned cheeks are ever smoothly shaven and his beak-shaped nose carries thick spectacles.

As he regularly irregular in office, I summoned him one-day and interrogated him.

“Where do you stay Mr Nagloo?”

“Lodhi Road, Sir.”

“At 9’O clock sharp”.

“If so, how are you so late every day?” where do you go before coming to office? should I ask your wife about this?”

“no, sir, for heaven’s sake. She’ll fight with me.”

In spite of my best efforts to motivate and inspire him, practising all management techniques I had learned, Nangloo proved to be a hard nut to crack.

Whenever any urgent work is assigned to him, he goes to the section and leaves the paper on his subordinate’s table. He gives a lecture stating that nothing is urgent in the Government. The senior officers are unnecessarily hassled about small things, make a mountain out of a molehill, and create much ado about nothing just to harass the subordinates. For, they do not have a long fruitful experienced as he has.

Once a VIP case was unduly delayed by Nangloo. I wanted him immediately in my chamber with the file. Waiting for an hour, I became impatient and went to the section. He wasn’t there. His staff apprised me that their boss had gone to the canteen for his usual tea stating that nothing was more important than that nothing was more important than that. After tea, Nangloo came to my chamber, shouting indignantly at the top of his voice.

“That file is not traceable. There are no Very important Persons on the country, only Very Ignorant Person are here. What is the great urgency in this case”? he questioned me and asked his assistant to go he would deal with me directly.

“Why do you call my staff? I’m here. It’s my fault. Suspend me! Dismiss me ! Hang me if you please! Remember, I am not new to the Secretariat”. He advanced at me charging like an indignant bull.

I knew Nangloo is a chronic patient of BP and diabetes. One previous occasion, when I had to admonish him mildly, his BP shot up, he argued and fainted on the chair. If something happened to him, I would be the target for the union. I advised, “Naglooji, your health is not good. Why don’t you go home and take rest.”

Next day in the evening, I received a phone – call from nangloo. “Sir, pardon me for my mistakes. I wasn’t well yesterday. I was mad when I fought with you. I had quarrelled with my wife too Excuse me for all that I uttered. I’ll come with shoes in my hands= as I deserve to be beaten by shoes.

Next day, he came personally and apologised again and requested me. “Sir, I have given to your P.A. my Annual Confidential Report properly filled in. Kindly be gracious to grade me ‘Outstanding’. I’m due for my promotion next year.


The Hindustan Time, 17/6/1991

Bitterly sweet
By K.P. Shashidharan

Outside her home she sticks her husband like glue, shies away even at looking at strangers, a buxom, sheepish woman, she gives an impression to outsiders as a wife who dedicates her life at the feet of her husband, adoring him as her lord.

Cock – coo” is not her name, but I call her so as she vells at her husband quite often in her characteristic shrill voice which reminds me of cackling of hen especially after laying egg, announcing to the whole world her wonderful experience.

A year before when I shifted my residence opposite to Cocki – coo’s house, I didn’t know that there lived an agitated woman in the neighbourhood who nags her husband off and on like a woodpecker to a tree.

After a morning round of nagging, she waits for him until the evening. As soon as he arrives, an altercation slowly build up, reaching its crescendo all of a sudden like hurricane in the stillness of midnight or in the early morning hours.

Hearing her high – pitched ear-piercing vituperations in Oriya, accompanied by the orchestra of the clattering of vessels, spoons and glasses and the quick bang shutting and closing of doors, producing sound of thundering drums, we neighbours wake up and tune our earns in anxiety.

When she is ablaze is anger like kali the pacifying words of her husband just cannot torrent. She transforms herself into a ‘Durga’, forgets herself and the surroundings and howls at her husband, shouting aloud interspersed in English a few words like “idiot! You shut up! Ill for the benefit of non-Oriya speaking neighbours.

Whenever she explodes enraged in wrangle, her little son witnesses everything with melancholy helplessness and complete dilemma. He is too young to understand intricate man-woman relationship and the raison deter of their house quaking quarters.

An elderly woman in the neighbourhood volunteered out of here concern of the fighting couple – to mediate and sort out their problems.

The cackling hen vehemently retorted: “Auntie. It’s our internal matter and our way of life. You don’t have to interfere. We love more intensely after every fight. It’s the other side of the coin of life in our case.”


The Hindustan Time, 24/6/1991

Traffic bull
By K.P. Shashidharan

The bull on the yellow line is a traffic bull, supervising the flow of traffic like a cop. No whistling. No gesticulations traffic slows down by his sheer presence. Black like a cloud in complexion, majestic and robust in appearance, he is complacent and quite in expression resembling the mythical ‘Nandi’ bull of Shiva.

During the ay time, the bull prefers to sit in the middle of the road, keeping his body on both sides f the yellow line, in blissful unawareness of ceaseless two –way traffic flow. He is dowry most of the time, ruminates in occasions. Sometimes he lumber along the yellow line from one end of the road to the other ends as if to check whether any vehicle is encroaching the neutrality of the yellow line.

He is a self-recruited guardian of the yellow line who can surely stop any speeding vehicle to a screeching halt all of sudden. Nobody should be permitted to exceed the speed limits applicable in the city and drive in zig-zag, crossing the yellow line to overtake other vehicles. Like a huge moving bumpy speed-breaker which cannot be wheel over easily, he moves along the road to select his place of rest. Where he operates, traffic police need not resort to fix the temporary iron-fencing to slow down the vehicles when they sense anything sensational about terrorist activity.

The bull is a real bully to anyone who inhibits his activity. Come whatever may, honking DTC buses, trucks, taxis, police jeeps, fire engines, VIP vehicle; let the signal be indicating whatever colours; let there be traffic police or lathi- -wielding, slogan –shouting political procession sit – the bull is unaffected in his activity.

The bull on the yellow line was born and brought up in the city and is used to concrete jungle and zooming noise he graze in the park, survey the market and residential areas in search of wastage of fruits, vegetables and other eatables in ‘joie de vivre’.

Contrary to the timid enslaved village cattle, who are afraid to come near the main road and will run amuck with their life in panic if the happened to see an automobile the traffic bull loves to be amidst fumes, noise, dust, cacophony and crowd. Nobody owns him, he lives where he wants and the way he likes.

The bull fascinates me as I see him everyday while going to the office and returning home. Early morning he walks along the colony roads, munching ‘chapstis’ offered by liitle kids. While going for stroll at night, I find him relaxing and ruminating near the garbage depot.

The other day, there was an absolute traffic jam. On enquiry, I was informed by another bull-watcher that the traffic-bull was on one of his special operations accompanied by his partner. Seeing the bull in the middle of the road, a cow had gone ahead to join the bull. The bulls forget his duty and started chasing the cow hither and thither.

When she knew the bull was infatuated by her, she started jogging. A traffic police tried to shoo away the cattle couple. The agitated bull hit him down and in the melee the entire traffic was blocked till the bovine pair fled from the road.


The Hindustan Times, 29/6/1991

Family train
By K.P. Shashidharan

“What’s the problem? Yours is a double engined train and both the engines are of every high horse power. “Quipped my friend who identified himself with a single engine dragging three wagons attached to it.

“Call me a pony-carriage, drawn by two drawn by two drawn out Jerusalem ponys under the command of a Johny-come-Lately to the family” I repartee. “Compared to my ass cart, you are a rocket dashing to the heights in tremendous velocity”.

Being a single earning member of his family, my friends is overwhelmed by the financial advantage of my family having two earning member. Finance is only means to an end in itself; I argued drawing his attention to innumerable emotional, psychological and physical problems encountered by working couple in their struggle to make both ends meet.

“A working woman ends up as a half wife, half mother, half employee while shifting from one role to other, striving incessantly to fulfil her duties and obligation. She is a better half to her other half – man of her life who has wed locked her thinking that she will be a second engine to the family train or second animal yoked to the family and shouts at her demanding kids like an irritating mother,” Pohh-Poohing his double – engines concept. I propounded my theory of halves, challenging my wife, hitherto silent to champion the cause of working women.

“Hell with ADS – Adam Dominated Society!” Completely incited, she sloganeered and began her discourse. “You, -- men are self – centred, mercenary and calculative. Wife is treated like a machine, to do all sorts of work and beget children. She is an aid to add to man’s comfort and joy. Nobody knows the stress, strain, toil, tears and sacrifice that working mother is subjected to.”

Like a bolt from the blue, my friend’s wife jumped into the fray, taking my wife aback. “Working mothers push their children to t he mercy of servant – maids or dump them into crèche. It’s a pity that children do not get mother’s love and attention and grow emotionally insecure and psychologically deficient in their personality.

I agreed with the argument and added my specific problem to the general predicament of working lady’s husband. “Working wife acts like a boss at home and expects her husband to slog like a servant. She even suffocates her revered husband in the kitchen commanding his to execute her culinary instructions.”

Argument went hay were and the man who triggered the hot discussion gun by propounding his theory of double – engines enjoyed the verbal duel taking place between me and my wife was boiling with indignation and despair when she yelled at me. “Ungrateful lot! Absolutely inconsiderate and inhuman! Nobody appreciates a working women’s difficulties. You men are crooked, want to marry only employed girls, extract enormous money as dowry and have no scruples even to murder his wife if dowry is not enough and may try to hush up everything and get ready for remarriage.”

By the time the discussion developed into a verbal warfare, I imagined a train having two powerful engines positioned in opposite directions dragging it into derailment and disaster and brought out a ceasefire soon.


The Hindustan Times, 7/6/1991

Bluff master
By K.P. Shashidharan

He is afflicted by an-incorrigible disease of verbal diarrhoea’ – bluffing to one and all on all occasions for any reason or no reason. Being a lawyer by profession, he believes that he should excel in that art of lying and orient his talent in impressing others by artful bluffing.

Once an amateur satirist invited him to attend her performance. “I love music. I had lot of interest in childhood in instrumental music. I played eleven instruments during my secondary school days, but I had to abandon music later”., he said. Thinking that he is connoisseur in music, the satirist interacted with him further. He couldn’t even name eleven instruments!

He carries his bio- data with him. At the age of ten, he was the first in the world to pass the matriculation and his name should have been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records. The other day, he rang me up.

“Hulloo? Congratulate me?”

“For what, man?”

“I purchased a new Maruti 1000”.

“Congrats? Did you sell your old fiat?”

“That’s still with me. You know, yesterday, I went with saxena. I [purchased a Maruti 1000. Damn nice car! Like Honda or Today”.

“I would like to have a drive in your car”/ I expressed my desire.

“You know, Saxena had paid the money. He’s keeping it. I thought it should be in his name”.

I met the bluff master at a party. He was struggling hard to impress a few fashionable society ladies. When he was returning from Seoul after the Olympics, the lady who sat beside him happened to be Miss World. She caressed his elbow and exclaimed.

“Ho! Heavens? What a lovely tanned skin! I want to tan my body like yours. Why don’t you take me to India?”

He narrated later how he met Mr Carter when he was the {resident of the USA. He me t him at his farm house, Mr Cater threw a peanut bag to him and introduced to his wife. “Nancy, Here’s my friend firm India. Mr Kumar, a legal luminary”. In fact he had never nee abroad.

An arrogant civil servant who believes in showing off and ridiculing or belittling others in conversation asked.

“What’re you doing?”

The bluff master got irritated.

“Let me know what you’re doing”.

“I’m a civil servant”.

“Oh? That’s all. I ‘m a lawyer, although professional. A good lawyer earns a month more than what you people earn in your life time. Have you ever gone for round the world tour? By the way, what’s your hobby?”

Asked the bluff master.

“I play tennis. I was a champion in my university”.

“I don’t like tennis. It’s too dull and boring to me. I enjoy something more masculine than tennis; muscle –building and Karate. I’m a Black Belt” the Bluff master gave a small punch on his opponent’s belly in a jest to knock him down literally. “if so, Mr Black Belt, why do you develop a solid pouch?”, enquired the civil servant in amazement.

“Ha! Ha! It’s a sign of prosperity and affluence. Why don’t you support one for yourself? You’ll look dignified and there’ll be a marked difference when others deal with you.”

Being a man of fantasises and dreams, when the bluff master adulterates truths with beautiful lies, it is difficult for the listeners to discern the truth. He bluffs wonderfully even to his wife about his innumerable escapades and romances with models, film stars beauty queen and high society ladies. One day, what she believed to be a bluff turned out to be a bluff turned out to be truth which ultimately resulted into divorce.


The Hindustan Time, 17/8/1991

God’s man
By K.P. Shashidharan

“I came all the way to see you”, said the visitor. The old man had tonsured his head leaving a patch of ling silver grey hair in the middle of his head. It was like an oasis in the desert. Children playing around giggled murmuring that it was a tail antenna to receive direct transmission from heaven. He was dressed in “dhoti- kurta” with a conspicuous vermillion tilak on his forehead.

I knew I had seen him somewhere some time back but I couldn’t recollect his identity.

“Surprising! You forgot me so easily. I’m from bhagwan’s place.”

I looked at him in amazement as I couldn’t follow exactly what he meant. “I have your address, your ‘janm-kundli’, as well as your kids’. Didn’t narrate your family destroy from my records which was not even known to you? How can you forget me?” pausing a while, he pulled his sacred thread with his right hand and continued. “I’m Mahraj Keshav Das Upadhyay. You visited Gokul in December 1985 with your family. I arranged your accommodation in an inn. Don’t you remember I took all of you to Janamsthan and showed the jail where Lord Krishna was born? I accompanied you to ISKCON temple, Dawarkaji, Pagal Baba Mandir, Brindaban, Nandgaon, and Barana, narrating everything I knew about Bhagwan’s maya.”

I cursed my memory. I should have recognised him at first instance and avoided the embarrassing situation. He was the first ‘panda’ who welcomed us a t Mathura during our visit.

I could recall everything in a flash back; before taking us the temples in the banks of Yamuna, how the insisted that we should take bath in Ghat. He was absolutely absorbed in explaining how cattle use d to die drinking how water from the Kalindi during Mahabharata days. He gave an eye-witness account of Krishna’s dance on the hood of Kaliyan to crush the black Cobra’s ego till it agreed to flee form there ‘Gopis’ by stealing their clothes and sitting on the tree, eyes glued at them when they were swimming in the river naked thinking that nobody would be watching them.

“Maharaja, why are you in Delhi?” I enquired.

“You have to help me. My daughter’s marriage is fixed for next month. It’s my fate that I hate to depend on generous persons like you. You know my daughter was selected for a clerk’s post in the Treasury office but the post was filled by a Scheduled Caste boy who was placed much below in the list. We ‘pandas’ and ‘pujaris’ have no hope. More tourist visit temples nowadays than devotees and they treat us worse than beggars.”

God’s repetitive became very sad and depressed. Who cares hapless God’s representatives in a system where people’s representatives have become ‘gods’ now.


The Hindustan Times, 31/8/1991

The ‘bug – bite’
By K.P. Shashidharan

I am not one of those lucky guys who have been bitten by love – bugs and carol jolly we about their love saga. Of course, it is true that I have been severely bitten by another vampire sort of bug. It’s habit to bite me off and on, at any moment, be it day or night. Consequently, my condition was attaining to insomnia, somnambulism, reverie and nightmare all rolled into one!

It is not that notorious flat, ill –smelling, blood –sucking insect which makes any one jump on his bed in jitters ands spend the entire night bug-hunting. To some extent, I feel personally grateful even to those blood-sucking bugs who made during my hostel days and helped me keep awake mugging for the examinations.

Coming back to the original bug, I remember its forest big bite. I was on the sea – shore—Cape Comorian to be precise, where the land joins the ocean – looking at the farthest point in the sea. The hour was dusk and I was observing waves ceaselessly roll towards me, finally dashing themselves on the rocks and in frenzy foam. I experienced a bizarre emotional disturbance – a feeling of being chased or possessed or obsessed by a bundle of ideas just then. I felt almost crazy and eccentric at that time and forgot my surroundings, and everyone including myself. I was dragged into the world of hallucination, fantasy and total nonsense, out of which I struggled hard to make smoothing comprehensible to others.

Thereafter, this sort of bug-bites have become part and parcel of my life, especially when I have nothing special to do. Is it not true that the empty mind is the devil’s workshop? In my case, the devil is this strange bug. The most opportune time when it finds me helpless victims is the time before I fall sleep. It bites me then with all its fangs like some horrible blood – sucking creature, and makes me wriggle, to pour down onto paper my emotionally coagulated mind.

This bug bugs me to no end. I do not even think at this late stage to escape from its octopus – like tentacles. I know there is no escape from this incurable psychosomatic disorder. And since have, perforce, to my existence, it is not a problem for me any longer.

But those who snore under the same roof find it terribly uncomfortable when a crazy man is wandering around muttering at midnight. The agitated woman who happens to be my other half ridicules my dedicated endeavour. “What the hell are you scribbling at might”?

It pains me when I realise that my obsession bugs others too and no insecticide like “Tik20” exists as an effective against it. Had the mind been computer software, debugging some expert one possessed, no amount of witchcraft can succeed in exorcing me. When there is no escape from what cannot be cured, endure it is the only practical policy.


The Hindustan Times, 9/8/1991

The hawker jack
By K.P. Shashidharan

Beneath the frog – shaped nose, his lips curl unevenly, exposing tobacco- stained sparse teeth. A wholesome smile blooms, bringing a gleam to his squinted round eyes. A short frail man attired in ‘dhoti’, Nagalingam quivers while walking.

He carries a bucket full of ‘Sambar’ and a big vessel packed with steamed rice cakes, ‘vadas’ and coconut chutney. A mobile cafeteria on legs!

Housewives in our colony wait for the Idli – man so that they can escape the drudgery of morning cooking on weekends, with the exotic breakfast on the dining table at a throwaway price. The Idli – man is regular and prompt and the quality of his stuff is consistently good. Without any hawking efforts, he empties his vessels within an hour.

Born in Burma to Tamil – speaking couple, Nagalingam came to Delhi as refugee. Adept in may trades, he makes enough to feed his family and lead a decent life. He is a man who changes his colour like a chameleon getting into the stride of whatever he does to earn an extra.

Before dawn, Naga gets out of his hut for distributing morning newspaper. After breakfast business, he metamorphoses into a ‘Kabari – wallah’ and collects old papers and discarded things. Afternoons in winter month are spent in selling peanuts at bus stops. Fresh long cucumbers are sold in summer evenings.

When the cucumber – man incarnates as “balloons – wallah’ at India Gate lawns in the evening, he chooses colourful apparel donated to him by his well –wishers of all age groups. Mismatch is his innovative style. A crazy combination like a loosed red “T” shirt over a green printed pyjama or a “safari” shirt over baggy trousers!

Some days he prefers to launch toy parachutes in the sky. Producing thousands of small bubbles by blowing air into a peculiar liquid, the chameleon man can be seen walking like a clown surrounded by amused kids.

Recently, Naga has been trying to learn the ropes of a new trade by accompanying the ‘chat-wallah’ clanging the bells and pushing the cart. What made the south Indian delicacies – ‘Gol –gappa’, Alu-tikki’, ‘Dahi – bhalle’ and ‘Paperi –Chaat’? After sampling half a sozen ‘pani-Poori’ and a ‘Chaat’, I chatted with him to find out the answer.

He said he had entered into a contract with the ‘Chaat – wallah’ for exchange of technical know how in order to expand his business. Naga confide that he has been working like a donkey all along only for his daughter’s marriage. He has found in the enterprising ‘chaat – wallah’ a suitable match for the girl. Once he fulfilled this responsibility, he would relax and enjoy the rest of his life.

Obviously, the relaxation came a bit too late in life for him. For, when I saw the chameleon man last, he was lying outside his hunt, next to an empty ‘thekka-sharab’ bottle, oblivious of the fulminations of his wife and the reproachful look of his son-in-law.

The man who had brought a cheer to hundreds of housewives with his southern delicacies didn’t known the art of tacking the lady of his own house. He has to take a lesson or two from the ‘chaat-wallah’ on how to have his Sundowner and keep the wife in good humour.


The Hindustan Times, 27/9/1991

Tenacious teacher
By K.P. Shashidharan

A few year ago, when there wasn’t cent percent literacy in Kerala, Kunchiraman alias ‘Little Ram’ was born in a remote mountainous village called ‘Adakkathode’ or ‘arecanut stream’. During those days, the village was in its primitive stages of development and didn’t have, as at present bridge, parallel colleges, cinema theatres, banks, video parlours and so on. But there was a ‘temple of modern India’ functioning in a few thatched tents.

Trekking down the hilly tracks and crossing the river over the swinging spring bridge, Kunchiraman attended school regularly. Such was his dogged determination to go up in life, that he completed matriculation in flying colours. Kunchiraman had no problems in getting admission in a collage in the nearest town in any group but he preferred History. His ambition, as in the case of many a fellow student of his college, was to be a lecturer. He persevered and passed his M.A. with second class before joining the multitude of educated unemployed youth in job hunting.

Being only a book – worm all through, he knew that competitive examination was not his cup of tea. In the exiting educational scenario over there, the only way to get a teaching job is just to purchase it by quoting the maximum price for the post. Having sold his share of agricultural property, he approached the manager of a private college where there was to arise a vacancy in his subject through an influential politician and offered Rs. 1.25 lakh for the post. Mr Kunchiraman, the post is booked for you provided nobody quotes more than you in the bid and there is no candidate from our community” , clarified the manager. When the expected vacancy occurred a candidate belonging to the community of the management purchased it at the same price.

‘Little Ram’ had no other choice but to join as a lecturer in a parallel college in his village on a meagre salary. While coaching students to write privately for graduation and post graduation he continued his academic pursuit and obtained two more master’s degrees, one in Political science and the other in Malayalam.

Having exhausted all avenues for purchasing a teaching job in a college, he calculated that the second best thing he could aim at was to secure a B.Ed. degree and make a bid for High School Assistant’s job. Even for Kunchiraman, with a triple M.A. and B.Ed., landing a teacher’s job was nightmarish experience. Thanks to the successful family planning drive in the State there was a drastic reduction of students in educational institutions and a corresponding decrease in vacancies in teaching posts.

Years rolled by. ‘little Ram’ was fast reaching upper age limit for all government jobs. Though he had, by then, been elevated to the post of the principle – cum –manager of the parallel collage, his salary was much less than that of a clerk or a primary school teacher. Luckily for Kunchiraman, he could finally purchase a primary school teacher’s post for Rs. 75,000 in a God – forsaken village far away from ‘arecanut stream’.

Kunchiraman is now completely reconciled with his life. As he is placed in waiting list number five for the HSA’s post, he is optimistic that he would get the post when teachers superannuate in the higher secondary school under the same management. He has no regrets in life whatsoever, as he fixed his marriage with a lady teacher in the ultimate bargain where he would het a dowry good enough to make up for all that he spent on education and purchasing a job.


The Hindustan Times, 10/7/1991

Travel trauma
By K.P. Shashidharan

The railway platform was crowded with people. Kneeling under weights of elephantine trunks, jumbo bags and suitcases, porters were hurrying up, followed by baffled passengers carrying water bottles and jugs. It was indeed a do or die struggle for us to reach somewhere near the entrance of the compartment squeezing in and pushing ahead of everyone without discriminating men, women and children, we managed to enter the compartment.

The compartment was fully packed. In sheltering heat babies continued screaming and wailing, old and sick persons breathed with difficulty, robust men failed to control their blood pressure from shooting up and engaged in ding –dong push and pull battle with one another till all passengers penetrated inside with their kith and kin, bag and baggage.

A man with a cockatoo in a cage was sitting on an upper breath cursing the heat and non – working fan. A petty businessman dealing with bangles and toys had already stuffed his packets and himself on upper berth. It was a horrifying experience like being fried in a frying pan with clothes soaked in sweat sticking to body.

We thought we were wise people who had reserved berths in advance and would definitely occupy the seats meant for us. All our three reserved berths were already occupied. A middle-aged ballon-bellied woman while trying all her tricks to quieten her crying infant ordered me in an irritating tone:

“Uncle Ji. Don’t stand on my trunk”. Her repulsively painted lips, croaking tone and strategy of addressing me as her uncle to establish and younger image for herself irritated me, she was surrounded by her three kids and it was apartment that she was older then i.

“Auntiji. It’s my berth” I informed her showing my tickets.

“Bhai sahib. There isn’t any reservation in day time. Aren’t you seeing I ‘m with an infant? Haven’t you got mother and sister at hoe?” she interrogated me vociferously.

A Sardarji who was sitting besides her and enjoying her company championed her cause. An army man in uniform sitting over a gigantic trunk recited a nationalistic pledge for everyone’s benefits. “Civilians should be taught human considerations and fraternal feelings. We should pledge and consider all Indians as our brothers and sisters.”

“Please allow my child to sit on the edge of your trunk,” I pleaded.

The occupant of one of our reserved berths was snoring comfortably in blissful unawareness of everything around him keeping a suitcase unsure his head as pillow. I tried to awake him but all my efforts were in vain. At Aligarh station, a few persons alighted but lot more entered intensifying the density of the people inside. Among the new entrants a man with a jackfruit and a basket full of mangoes was conspicuous with his presence.

I waited patiently for the TTE but he came a few minutes before reaching Kanpur, the station where I had to get down.

The snoring man enjoying our berth merrily was awakened and questioned. Surprisingly he didn’t have any ticket to show. He pleaded that he was travelling to Patna for the first time and didn’t know that ticket was to be purchased before getting inside the train.

When TTE threatened to push him out, he went with the TTE and made some meaningful gesticulations signalling with his fingers and eyes mumbling something. Language of signs and expression was understood by the TTE and the ticket less passenger continued to travel in the same compartment.

Getting down at Kanpur was another Herculean task. Finally when all three of us alighted from the train we realised that one of our suitcases was lost during the traumatic journey.


The Hindustan Times, 10/12/1991

Sunset at Jaisalmer
By K.P. Shashidharan

The vast expanse of the sun-scorched sand is broken only by cactus, thorny shrubs and dried plants here and there. Flocks of sheep wander about feeding on the green leaves left. Languorous camel caravans move against a sky on fire. With its heat, dust and sand – storms the Great Indian Desert – the Thar – welcome us.

We were speeding towards Jaisalmer, after passing through Pokhran, the green belt of the Thar. It is amazing to watch concentric wind lifting a=sand in the sky in smoke – like formation to be deposited far away somewhere in the desert. Suddenly the vehicle screeched to a halt, as a newly – formed sand dune blocked the road completely. Women labourers in vibrant coloured skirts struggled hard to clear and removed the sand heap from the road could we proceed.

After driving for miles and miles one finds a village with a few thatched mud houses. “We drilled few tube wells for the villagers,” informed a co-passenger who happened to be a geologist, associated with seismological survey for exploring oil in the desert.

“Isn’t it strange to find the black gold on such an inhospitable area?” I enquired.

“Jahan Khuda hai, Wahan Khoon hai” (whenever God is, there will be blood”) he joked and explained how Jaisalmer formed part of the ocean once a dhow geologists rocks in the area where hydrocarbons are generally found.

A few kilometres before Jaisalmer, in the heart of the desert, we were once again held up, not by sand dunes, but stones placed on the road by students protesting against the Mandal scheme of reservation.

It turned out that communication and the level of awareness among the village boys being what they were, the ‘Rajasthan bandh” was observed one day later. We secured our release by explaining that we had nothing to do with job reservation.

The monolithic golden fort on the Trikuta hill appeared like a mirage on the shifting sands. Jaisal, the Bhatti prince, had built this architectural dream set in the lonely yellow silence of the desert. The hardly prepare you for the wonders of the hiveless and the Jain temples. With their superb stone cravings and filigreed work of breathtaking in-tricacy.

Sam, the area dotted with awe inspiring sand dunes, gives you a real feel of the desert. Wind creates fascinating architectural patterns in the sand hill weaving new designs and styles by the minute. Sounds of various trumpets and drums echoed in the ears. The managaniyar singer raised his voice and started singing some Rajasthan folk song. The setting became complete when dressed in a swirl of bright skirt, blouse and head –dress, with ghunghroos round the waist and ankle bells, a charming folk danseuse started performing Ghair dance along with her male companion.

With a cup of tea made of camel milk, we waited of the sunset at Sam. Far away, where the desert ends and appears to meet the sky, the sun looked like a deep crimson fire ball. The sky went up in flames and the night descended slowly and spread over the sand dunes like a coal black blanket.

Songs and dances ended, but the sound of trumpets, drums and ghungroos reverberated in the ear. While driving back from Sam I too longed and prayed for his onset of the fried but exquisite monsoon season of the desert like the Manganiyar singer. “Saavan aayore!”


The Hindustan Times, 29/10/1991

Trekking trophy
By K.P. Shashidharan

I knew him as a carefree adventure and fun-loving guy who met his wife companion on a trekking expedition to Amaranth. Physically tough and mentally strong willed, he assisted her to scale the mountains and reach the Adobe of Shiva in the Holy Cave in the Himalayas. They swore in front of the miraculous “Swayambhu” ice Shiva linga to be co- trekkers in traversing through life’s difficult terrain, involving steep climbs and dangerous descends.

I still remember how enthusiastically he showed his honeymoon photographs, praising his bride’s goodness and beauty. It was in filmy style: skiing over the snow – covered fairy land of Fulmarg; dancing on the rooftop of the houseboat in Dal Lake around a ‘Bhukari”; horse rides amidst pine forests of Yusmarg searching for Neelnag and Doodhganga rover; acting like Emperor Jehangir and Empress Noor Jehan at Shalimar Gardens, the Adobe of Love; having a siesta in close embrace in a ‘shikara’ afloat in the bluewater of Nagin lake.

He left for Bombay and I had no news fro him thereafter for years. The other day I met him at Connaught place. I couldn’t recognise him till he stared at me and called out my name. The past ten years had taken their toll. Rapidly greying long dishevelled hair, sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. He no longer remained in love with life and vibrant with energy and optimism as I knew him once. I heard his story patiently.

After the initial euphoria, their romance got trampled in the routine of life. I increased interactions led only to conflicts and fights and not harmony and marital bliss. Bombay’s fashion and glamour world influenced his overambitious and voluptuous wife who came out in her true colours as an irrepressible, aggressive champion of her own rights.

Sharing a small flat at Bhandup wit old parents generated irritation and derision in her. She was emptive and clear; “My foot! I didn’t know you are so poorly paid and living in these shabby conditions. I didn’t care for your parents – old fashioned people with bundles of problems and utopian ideas. Just because I married you, should I serve them at the expense of any carrier?”

She paused for while; “I have chosen a career of my liking – modelling. I have had enough of you and your parents. If you aren’t prepared to buy a flat and live separately, let us split.” Mobilising finance from whatever sources available, he purchased a flat in her name and did everything to please her.

Busy with her modelling assignments, she had no time or energy to spend at home. “Varash, why don’t you choose another career”, when he suggest once she shot back; “No chance. It’s my cup of tea. You wait; I’ll act in films too”.

“Let us have a baby”, once he proposed. “No man. Don’t be nonsensical. It’ll ruin my career and figure”. He was in tears when he confided in me that she is pressing him for a divorce to marry a producer with whom she is having a tarried affair.

He had been tolerating her like an overburdened pony destined to tread the difficult mountain track. He wanted to consult the ‘Tortured Husband’ Association’ for prevention of crime against men by women to known whether he would get any justice before the last nail to the coffin of their marriage is fixed. Aren’t we going to an age of the First Sex becoming the Second Sex or the Strong Sex becoming the Weak Sex?


The Hindustan Times, 19/11/1991

Whose fault?
By K.P. Shashidharan

I am a proud owner of an Olympus fully automatic camera. I believe in shooting with lens nature with its fauna and flora. Whether I am trekking in amazement a panther pouncing upon a deer in a wild life sanctuary or ridding on a camel in the Thar desert or on a cruising voyage in the Turblen Ocean. I make it a point to carry my camera with me.

Last time I was in a trekking expedition to Hemkund, the Valley of flower, Gomukh and Pindari glacier. The day I was to leave Delhi, I checked my camera. It wasn’t clicking but it couldn’t be defective. Might be the cell got discharged. This had happened to me once before also I rushed to ‘Palika’ bazaar for Lithium leak – proof cell.

The camera failed with the new cell. I was damn sure that I was cheated by the shopkeeper by selling a duplicate cell.

“This is a duplicate dead cell’, I uttered angrily.

“Please wait. Let me check it” the cell was fully charged and he tested my old cell and found it was also in good condition.

I had hardly one and half hour with me to catch the train. If it were a small defect, it would be possible to repair it within ten minutes. Hiring an authoricakshaw I hurried up towards ‘Cycle – wali’ gali opposite Moti cinema at ‘chandni – chok’ where all kinds of cameras could be repaired by experts.

It was indeed a blood – pressure shooting endeavour to reach somewhere near the ‘gali’. Road was almost blocked like a B.P. patient’s artery and all sorts of vehicles negotiated dangerously within the crowded lane.

“Please check this camera. I am in a hurry. I have to catch the train.”

The mechanic opened the camera and found that film wasn’t inside. I wanted to buy a new film and see whether the camera would function after loading.

‘No need of new film. I’ve seen and repaired so many imported cameras. I can run it with paper, you see.”

He inserted paper and started operating the camera off and on.

“It’s defective. I’ll repair. You go and have a walk in the ‘gali’.” He asked me. I wanted him to hand over the camera but he managed to evade the request. He managed to evade the request. He convinced me that it was defective and persuaded me to go for a while; but I stood there.

“There’s so no space here. You come after half an hour.” He was insistent.

‘I want to see.” I stood there.

“we don’t repair before the customers. If you want to see, you can see, but it’ll cost you Rs. 300 for the repaired. There’s loose connection and it is to be soldered.”

He soldered for a second and tested with an old film and showed that it was working.

“Give me Rs. 300 and take your camera.” He demanded.

“Why so much. It took you not even a minute. I don’t think the camera was defective. Ti didn’t run because there wasn’t any film” I argued.

“Didn’t you see, I soldered it. There was loose connection. I told you my fees before repair. I could detect the problem within no time, because I’m an expert. If you don’t pay, I won’t give you the camera. That’s all.”

I had to pay heavily for my own stupidity. Every mistake has a penalty. That was the penalty for my foolishness that day and rushed to the railway station praying that nothing would go wrong by his unwanted soldering.


The Hindustan Times, 26/11/1991

Marriage magic
By K.P. Shashidharan

Is there any magic power in marriage? Many persons who are depressed, crazy, wild and untamed transform drastically after marriage. To many, marriage acts like a panacea to all their physical weakness psychological imbalance and idiosyncrasies.

I knew him before marriage. A tall pale frail thin person, resembling more like a palm tree than a human being with long hair pointing in all directions like quills of a porcupine and a French goatee. He looked so haggard, hungry and hassled with his dishevelled hair and unkempt twenty per cent beard, growing wild like a reserved forest on his extra curved and pointed chin. He reminded me of one of the rare hit during the worst Bengal famine during the British rule.

He was seen extra concerned and bossed with his goatee. He considered it as his distinguishing feature, style and an inescapable part of his personality. I had seen him, totally lost in reverie and stray thoughts, sitting aloof and all alone, fondling, scratching and pulling his beard. I felt it was his curse; it looked so ugly and unwieldy like a bee-hive hanging on the chin of an impeccably white marble statue. As a well-wisher, I suggested mildly to him. “You look smart my friend, but don’t you think you would be looking smarter without your goatish beard?”

He didn’t like the idea. He frowned and curled up his lips “Rubbish! Nonsense! You fool! Don’t be ridiculous and uncivilised”. He started hating me thereafter. He had a joke at his expense on first April that you’re his beard was shaved off by his room-mate in public interest and in the interest of other inmates of the hostel. He was fond of P.G. Woodhouse but never knew that he could have been one of the Wodehouse’s characters, had he been spolted by the great humorist.

He didn’t change even after collage days and after joining government service. He remained withdrawn in himself, looked deeply depressed and confused with his goatee s before. He had certain psychical problems because of which he used to irritate anyone who interacted with him.

Sometimes he behaved like an infant, seeking protection and care and craved for something which he couldn’t define or identify.

He was married a year before. In fact his parents were absolutely right in diagnosing his ills and problems. Vivekananda had told long back man is incomplete without woman. Isn’t man or woman before marriage only a semi-circle or a hemi-sphere to be synthesised with the other half? Like Adam who wandered in the Garden of Eden, missing all charm, fun, mystery and mystique of life till Eve was created by god, my friend had lived companion to join him to unravel the secret of life, discover new avenues of joy and share sorrows and problems.

I don’t know how all that happened. He had metamorphosed into a gentleman. When I saw him last, a year after his marriage, I couldn’t recognise him. His goatee was conspicuously absent! His pulled in cheeks were full of flesh. He looked so different; well-fed and dignified person. His clothes no longer reminded me of those taken out of a narrow mouthed mud pot, completely crushed and wringled. Instead he was wearing a well-tailored fashionable suit.

I looked straight into his eyes; they radiated confidence, happiness and cheer and no longer reflected the haggard and hungry look of fox. I remembered the nursery rhyme, “Chubby cheeks, dimple chin… is that you?”

I shock his hand and compliment” Oh! You look so great.”

“Yes, I do it’s the magic of marriage.” He guffawed and winked at this charming wife.


The Hindustan Times, 14/12/1991

Last watchman
By K.P. Shashidharan

Mathura is an ancient town, known for the birth of Lord Krishna at Janamsthan, his childhood activities at Gokul and Nandgaon, adulthood, flirtation with “Gopies” – the women folk of the cowherd at Brindoban, and his romantic interludes with his consort, Radha, at Barsana.

After visiting all historical and religious places in Mathura, we went to Kusum Sarovar near Barsana, the solitary lake where Lord Krishna used to woo Radha. The deep placid water of the lake is surrounded by well – laid-out stone steps on all four sides. A dilapidated but majestic architectural structure, built by the Raja of Bharatpur, is on one side of the lake. We walked over the bridge leading to the umbrella like structure to have a panoramic glimpse of the surroundings.

A short stature old man with luxuriant silver grey beard growing wild over his face climbed up the stairs, meticulously supporting his stooping body on a sturdy ling stick. While panting for breath, he mumbled:” I’m the watchman of Kusum Sarovar.

During the reign of kings, the lake and beautiful building were properly maintained and guarded. His father and grandfathers were all employed by the king for looking the place and surroundings. Whenever the “Maharaja” of Bharatpur came for hunting in the nearby forest, he used to stay in the building along with his courtiers.

The old guard became sentimental and devotional while showing the feet imprints, made of marble of Radha and Krishna at the centre of a temple like construction “Krishna used to come with Radha for swimming in the lake”. The self – appointed watchman of the lake become involved in chronicling whatever he knew of the lake.

He lives by the side of the lake in a hut with his bed-ridden wife. When he was young, one day, the Collector who was an Englishman visited the lake and questioned him.

“Watchman, What’s the depth of this lake?”

“No idea”.

“You are the watchman of the lake and you don’t know the depth”.

The collector had sent a team on the next day with a boat. They rowed in the lake and measured at the centre by putting a weight on a string and found the depth. It was 275 feet.

“Nowadays, nobody is interested in protecting the lake surroundings. Now its water is not potable. We bring drinking water from five kilometres away. All people have left this place expect me and my wife”.

The old man spent all his life there and decided to guard the lake till his lost breath.” It becomes a dangerous place at night. Dacoits, smugglers and hooligans choose the place for fun, frolic and rendezvous. Drinking and dancing beyond midnight.” He gasped for breath and continued.

“During one such party, a Maruti car went down in the lake while it was being reversed”.

The old man loves on the generosity of the visitors. We gave him twenty five rupees as tip. Words gurgled in his throat.

“Sahib I’m the last watchman of kusum Sarovar. I don’t have any son to take over this duty after me”.


The Hindustan Times, 22/2/1992

By K.P. Shashidharan

It was Sunday, the day scored to the Sun God and day of Sabbath. I was browsing through the pages of an Australian magazine on hospital.

“See, the eight wonder of the world from the luxury of the ninth”. It was an ad for holidaying at the Great Barrier Reef. “Nowhere else will you find such a concentrated abundance and variety colours, shapes and patterns from the startling iridescent blues of the tiny puller fish”.

I rocked my garden chair, closed my eyes and feel into reverie in an attempt to enjoy the eight wonder, though I didn’t see any of the seven wonders of the world except the one dedicated by the great Mughal emperor to his beloved as an embodiment of his love.

“Hi, dad let us have a sun bath”. I was interrupted while windsurfing in the waters of South Molle Island. Of course, I had no regrets; for I had my round of gym, game of squash, golf, tennis, paddle boating and sauna by then. A;; my dreams were shattered when the little fellow shook me vigorously.

“Yes, my son. We too will have sun basking. Give a signal to your mum and let us all push off”. Where dad?” he was anxious.

“to the great meadows of the Sultans of Delhi”.

The good old ‘Padmini’ grumbled a little before starting. We packed her with all paraphernalia for grand picnic-cricket bats, badminton rockets. Football, food stuff magazines, blankets and the like.

On the sloppy meadows in front of the tombs of the Lodhi Sultans, life bubbles with enthusiasm.

Fun and frolic loving holiday makers were engaged in all sorts of games. Away from the maddening crowd, sit pairs of love makers lost in their world of dreams, romance and passion. The business minded peanut popcorn cola and ice-cream boys went on rounds, intruding into others privacy including those love birds, and did disk business.

The stereo music reverberated in the atmosphere. “Dekha hai pahli bar sajna ki ankhin mei pyar”. A little girl started gyrating her body in tune with the music. Her graceful movements expressive face and eyes aglow with delight remind of the celebrate cine-actress on screen. A large crowd, exuberant with happiness danced around her clapping and singing.

The joy of basking in mild sunlight in winter is not in any case less than sun-bathing on a sunny beach, clad in bikini or swimming in those exotic champagne pools on the beach. Time moved fast while merrily running after the ball, hitting mightily balloons vigorous towards the sky, bowling and batting to gallery. A sumptuous lunch in the own sky followed by ice-cream and coffee intensified drowsiness.

>After lethargically cracking peanutshells for a while, we enjoyed glorious siesta over the warm lawns under the hollow expanse of the sky.

We woke up hearing the engine sound of a fast running remote controlled gangantuan toy jeep. The Sun God was in a hurry to withdraw his rays and pack off after blessing the earth for the day. Somewhere atop in the sky crows were seen flying back to roost after a day’s wandering for food. We too returned home with a feeling of absolute rejuvenescence and prepared for another week of nerve wracking, hard work struggle and machine-like life.


The Hindustan Times, 24/2/1992

Canine intruder
By K.P. Shashidharan

The other day when my wife brought home a pup – an English Toy Spaniel – I employed all my persuasive talents to convince her that we didn’t need one. “Why should we keep this long – haired creature at home? This dog mania is good for those who don’t have children.

“You’re an old fashioned primitive country bum. It’s nice to have pets. Bringing up puppies is the fashion of the day- a growing crazy among the westerners and yuppies of our country”, she educated me.

“Darling, I’m neither a yuppie nor a puppy. Abandon this Spaniel and be happy with me and our son”, I pleaded.

“Do you think sincerely that you can substitute my pup? Our son will love him. He badly needs a companion”, she argued.

“He needs a brother or a sister. Not a pup”, I reminded her that the family welfare philosophy of ‘we are two and we’ll have two’ does not prohibit us from having another baby.

“Baby or no baby. I’ll have my cute bundle of joy”, she ran towards the barking whelp and started cuddling, caressing and kissing him increased.

“Where did you get this wretched creature from?” I questioned her.

“From the Lankhotias. You have to see our pup’s mum. The Queen spaniel”, she said, “I’ll take you to our pup’s papa and mummy”

“Don’t take me along when you go visiting dogs”, I gave her the red signal of my irritation. “My head will hang is shame to greet dogs, however great they be”.

“Don’t be dog-hearted darling. I promise you’ll enjoy it all. You know Manki of Golf Links. He has the Father of our dog – the king Spaniel”.

She had collected all information of the family tree of the yelping SOB even though she doesn’t know anything about her own great grandpa or grandma.

I was fuming with anger, but showed my incisors by opeing my lips in a forced smile and went on grinding my molars in indignation.

“Don’t your remember Lanki. He still keeps SOB’s grandma. “She was dogged in her determination to make me mad.

“Let your Lanki keep an old bitch. How does it matter to me?” I shot my question.

“It matters. We are invited for Zeenie’s birthday at his farm house”.

“Who’s Zeenie?”

“She is the grandma of our small pup. We all will go for the birthday.”

The woman of the house purchased a pretty woollen sweater for Zeenie as birthday present, a box of cahewnuts for the dog-keepers and we went for the B’day party. It was celebrate in style. While we, the dog – keepers gossiped, chewing chicken and paneer tikka, fried prawns and having the choicest drinks, dogs of varied breeds enjoyed yummy delicacies, waffling their tails in gratitude and occasionally barking at one other.

Next morning, my wife finalised the list of dog invitees for SOB’s first birthday. I was pained to see she had already converted my study rooms as a kennel.

This was too much for me. I told her count me out as I would rather feed less privileged human beings – those who struggle with stray dogs everyday to pick up food stuff.


The Hindustan Time, 26/2/1992

Invitation in style
By K.P. Shashidharan

Come home sometime invitation like this come often from acquaintances and friends, often the exchange of usual pleasantries, whenever you bump into them in markets, exhibitions, theatres and the like, in the Capital. Before completing the general sort of invitation, in the same breath they qualify the statement.

“Please do give a tinkle before whenever you come. Otherwise we may not be at home when you reach there.

Is this sort of general utterance an invitation? But almost everyone indulges in it.


Extending an invitation specific dates either for dinner or lunch is deliberately avoided, unless the person who invites is sincere and not merely mincing his words.

No doubt life in any city is hectic and busy, especially for working couples No one has enough time for himself, what to talk of visitors. The hustle and bustled of city life puts you always on your toes. You are on your nerves end, battling with office work, attending to household chores, and finally finding no time left to spend in quiet and peace with your family. Weekends are to relievers of day-today tension. No stress or strain. You can sunlight peeps into your room and rubs your eyelids. Lazy lethargic mornings you crave for, when nothing disturbs you from what you want to do, and you are not under any sort of moral, psychological or financial compulsion.

When we were transferred to Delhi, we were keen to socialize. Immediately after setting down, we invited all our friends and colleagues, turn by turn, to our home on specific dates either for lunch or dinner. It involved a lot of energy, time and money to organise such get- together. The problem with us was that we were more serious and sincere than required in our invitation in the beginning, and, as a consequence, we spent all the holidays of our first year sojourn in the Capital just in entertaining people.

We expected there would be a series of invitations for us from all those whom we feted and treated, reciprocating our hospitality. But, excepting a few, the majority of our hospitable treats remained unreturned. Those who enjoyed our dinners or luncheons profusely thanked our “goodness” for inviting them and praised the culinary accomplishments of my wife in preparing those delicacies. And at the time of departure after the treat, none of the quests forgot to extend that oft- repeated meaningless general invitation. “You are welcome anytime to our place it will be a pleasure to meet you. Whenever you happen to be in our area, please do drop in No. formality, just ring, that’s all.”

It is sheer joy and an absolute delight to be invited to get-togethers and parties, and just wonderful and exciting being invited for a sumptuous dinner complete with one’s family. Reciprocating treats at one’s own expense and with one’s own efforts is a hell of a job involving only problems and trouble for most of the Delhi- and avoidable in the extreme.

rally speaking, people treat only persons who ‘matter’. There is no need to be foolish or impractical anymore.

We have also become wise in due course, adopting the Delhi way of invitation. “Come home whenever you happen to be in our area. Please do give a tinkle, to make sure we are at home when you come”.


The Hindustan Times, 3/1/1992

Sovereign mod
By K.P. Shashidharan

READ in the newspaper the other day that there is a thinking to alter the arena of all agitations and rallies from the great Boot Club lawns to some other suitable place in the Capital city. Living in New Delhi, just near the India Gate lawns I have had the experience of being stranded on the road many a time, confronted by, the sloganeering sovereign mod.

Suspending all activities for a few day’s they come from all over the country to the Capital and register their protests against various authorities and power centres. The Boat Club become then an ocean of human beings, turbulent, stormy and volatile, with people flowing towards from every side like might rivers to the sea.

Those days of agitations lathi- wielded, slogan shouting, agitated villagers capture the city; stop the traffic for the day, and convert the India Gate lawns into a great village mela. If the mod is hungry, shop in the nearby get looted; if they are angry, vehicles get smashed and destroyed, office goers, students, sick persons get stranded on the way.

I had the worst experience on the road a few months before. To being with, coming to the main road, the car creaked over a newly built, extraordinarily convened speed-breaking mount. It was infect a “vehicle-breaker’. The suspension seemed to be suspended, but I continued driving. Traffic was completely jammed. A “chaka jam” Friday! There was a ‘mela’ going on in full swing in the traffic island at India Gate. All the water filled fountain tanks were transformed into large-bath tubs swimming pools. Villages swam like ducks and bathed like crows. Rioters at the boat Club attacked food whenever it was available.

Crossing bridges over the Yamuna, a fraction of the procession was seen crowing all along the road like an endless injured centipede. Thank heavens! I could cross the India Gate circle before it was completely choked. The sovereign people were on the streets lashing lathis, flashing political epileptic fits, and screeching slogans.

Amidst the cacophony of the rioters, sound of my car penetrated my ears. Profusion of smoke accompanied by burning smell of rubber made me sinew. My antique automobile was also agitated against the system. I endeavoured precariously to manoeuvre to park the car on the side. Vandals gathered to bank my car with lothis. Somehow I reversed and brought it to the centre gently rubbing a ‘Maruti’. It was like jumping into fire from the frying pan.

“Damn your bloody Fiat!

Take out Rs. 1500, I’ll not allow you to move. “The owner jumped out of the car and charged at me in rage like a bull ‘in’ action. I had no alternative but to seek police help.

Who says power comes out of the barrel of a gun, and strength of the lathi and creaky larynx of the mob? Are satyagrah, non-violence and ‘Ram Rajya’ obsolete concepts?

Is there any difference between a vote cast by a king and a beggar; a queen arid a rogue; an illiterate and a wise man? Let us hope democracy dose not degenerate into monocracy and’ gunda cracy’ a system which even Aristotle, the father of polices, could not foresee while classifying various forms of government in his political treatise.


The Hindustan Times, 17/3/1992

Spring revival
By K.P Shashidharan

Down it came like a bolt from the blue and burst on his balding pate. When the fire of anger was raging in him, he was treated to a few more water balloons from behind. Patches of vibrant colours made a mess of his Vandyke beard and splashed over his immaculate dress. Pleased with their handwork, those boys on the terrace laughed in sadistic excitement.

Looking up, the man hurled at them some classic vituperations against their parentage, ”Bura na mano! Holi Hai!” I consoled the agitated man. ”Thank your stars. They weren’t terrorist bombs”. The Holi brats came down from the terrace and caught both of us in the middle of the road with their ‘Pickaris’ and ‘water guns’.

This was my first exposure to the festival of colours. During those carefree years of pre-marital freedom, I too has played all kinds of wild Holi games. Once I was dragged away by a group of exuberant Holi players and made to eat ‘bhang’ and gulp down ‘thandai’ as part of the initiation ceremony. Prancing along the road, we danced ‘bhangra’ with gusto-clapping and shouting ‘Balley, Balley’ and smearing colours on everyone on the way.

Carried away by the double dose of bhang he had, the leader of the gang had visions of being smeared with colours all over his body by a seductive enchantress. His eyes lighted up when he encountered a group of teenaged girls. The next instant we saw him chasing the most winsome of them ,jumping in wild excitement. He smeared her all over in pink, green, maroon, yellow and black powders, pinched her chubby cheeks, rubbed her wavy hair with purple colored chemical granules and put them inside her clothes too.

“You brute!” she slapped him in the face with her footwear. People gathered around. Abuses were followed by quick exchange of blows. All the bhang I had vanished in a trice and I ran for dear life.

I stopped playing Holi for a few years thereafter. Bolted in my room on Holi days, I would peep out through the window to enjoy vicariously the festivity of colours. The withdrawn former player of Holi was forcefully brought back to the fray in the first year of his marriage at his in-laws’ place. The Holy-scarred brother-in-law was pulled out of the room and bucketfuls of colored water was purred down over the head. It was my second baptism to the festival of colours.

These days you get greeting cards for the great festival which signals the formal departure of winter and heralds the advent of spring. I was depressed seeing the choices available-the painted face of the tonsured devil of Oneida ad superimposed on a card offering a bagful of purple granules; the entwined pairs of KS fame holding a balloon to give a naughty twist to the, Holi game!

Six years into marriage, I will not allow a householder’s burdens and cares to cramp the style of my enjoyment this year. For the thrill of playing with colors on sublime ways in tune with our rich tradition and culture is unbound indeed. If Diwali illuminates our hearts with sparkling lights, sweets, crackers, Holi adds colour and charm into our otherwise dull lives.

As you let down your hair for a few hours once a year, forgetting and forgiving all animosities with ‘gulal tilaks’ an ‘gujiya’ , the years roll back and the child in you comes alive to savour the rebirth of spring. But the spirit of the festival has to be kept insulated from the assault of hooligans out to turn it into a licence for everything.


The Hindustan Times, 18/3/1992

Slips of tongue
By K.P. Shashidharan

See god’s man “ I egged on my lady at home to watch outside.

“What do you mean? Are you talking about Osho ?” For her God’s man means Godman like the celebrate yogi of orgasmic Nirvana.

“I mean he is a dog’s man and not god’s man. Sorry ,My tongue slipped. “I clarified.

“You should know Spoonerism; otherwise as professor Spooner puts it you’ll taste worms.”

“Have you gone insane as usual early in the morning ?

How dare you speak like that to me ?” She wanted explanation from me.

“You know ,honey, the sort of slips of the tongue which Dr Spooner used to commit unintentionally is his life is termed as Spoonerism. Haven’t you heared of his admonition to the students for tasting worms instead of wasting terms ?’ I tried to establish my innocence.

“When you don’t get morning tea, you start this sort of eccentricity. I remember a French film wherein the hero gets mad in the morning till the gets his tea. It seems sugar content in the tea does the magic. I hope you too will get sweet tongued after your tea. ”She went inside the house.
“Don’t go to the chicken. I’ll make tea.”

She refused to budge and brought my favourite morning cup of tea.”Have your tea and down with your Spoonerism”.

I enjoy tagging on the tea bag in the tea make it strong; put two spoons of sugar to raise the sugar content in my blood. Enjoying sipping hot doubly sweet and strong tea continued. ”What I was telling you was about our neighbour-the dog’s man. He is not the master of his dog but a servant or rather a slave to his dog. The man hears ’His Master’s Voice’ in his dog and takes the dog for a walk.”

She didn’t allow my monologue to continue.”Serving his dog is his hobby.He doesn’t have time to brood over like fools. “She started her lecture like a pedagogue. This becomes the habit of all lecturers I presume.

“Haven’t you read the US humorist Ogden Nash ? “She enquires. I was in fact taken aback. I tried to camouflage my amazement. “Don’t teach me. After all, I‘m a writer.”

She has only contempt for my ignorance, “You’re a crazy meddler-having no head or tail. I’m going to educate you anyway” , She threatened.

“Of course, Please do. “I submitted myself.

“The great Ogden Nash said in his ‘Doggerel’- I quote- ‘That are a higher form of life.’ My dog, my daughter and my wife. Inhabitants of a fourth dimension. Too mystic for my comprehensions.”
“Too mystic for me too. “I interrupted. “Have mercy on your husband and consider me too a higher form of life as pronounced by your Guru, Please hear what all I have to say about those dog’s men, “I pleaded.

“No, please. I had enough of you and your speech today. It’s time for office. You can start barking in the morning before tea tomorrow all about your God’s men. I mean dog’s men.”

“No problem, you can use ‘d’ and ‘g’ the way you want . I’ll make out. I know Spoonerism.”


The Hindustan Time, 27/3/1992

Dog’s ‘Man’
By K.P. Shashidharan

See, our dog’s man is going. “I called my lady at home-and showed my neighbour. He was being dragged by his master’ – the German shepherd dog in the early mooring.

The man was wearing a very old torn woollen sweater and the dog a new fur vest. The man’s hair was dishevelled and clumsy but the dog’s smooth silky and beautiful. The man looks dreadfully tried, lethargic, reluccctant and old, but the dog fiercely energetic, ebullient, determined, powerful and young. The man runs after the well-feb obese animal, puffin and panting, holding his loose pyjamas with his hand. They look like a perfect combination of a master and his slave.

“You’re a noisy neighbour, His dog has got first prize in the dog’s show. It’s great. “She was thrilled.

>“Don’t be excited by the dog. See the poor man. “I sympathised. “Anyway, he won’t get any prize. Old man may even collapse if he jogs like this. What’ll he do with his dog’s prize ?” I posed the vital question.

She poohoohed. ”You don’t is his prize. In fact, he has won the dog’s show. He deserves it. See the poor man. Absolutely devoted .Full of sincerity and care and of course with a dogged determination to win prizes.” Once she gets excited, she goes on the on. I must switch off her non-step nonsense.

“What the hell are you talking about? Comprehend the scenario.” I used a difficult phrase to impress her. “Let the whole world be obsessed with canine cornucopia. Let any number of dog’s men come. Let the best dog win in the dog’s show and let the dog’s man have the thrill of his prize. After all he is dog’s man – a slave to his canine. ”I thought she would be inundated and washed off in my verbal flooding.

“You can’t see the world as others see and you can’t feel as others feel. You can exaggerate, emote, distort facts, dramatise. After all you are paid for it, You are a pretty or pretty meddler of no consequence. “I interposed. “Darling, please stop here I’m your husband. Haven’t you heard about ‘Pati-Parmeshwar’ concept and the ‘Ardhanareeshwara’ symbol in our mythology? You shouldn’t be so ungrateful to me. “I pleaded.

“Damn with your Utopian ideas. I am neither Sita, Sati nor any of those Puranic heroines. Nor am I re-incarnation of any of them. I should teach you something about Kennel Club, pedigree of dogs and bringing up canines as a hobby. You can’t be so ignorant and stupid. “She gave a long lecture on various breeds of dogs, their characteristics, pleasures that can be derived out of bringing them up and the necessity of giving them bath and medical care. She concluded.

“I’ve ordered a cute little puppy. An English toy Spaniel baby, ”She concluded her speech.
“I thought you were grown up for a toy”, I laughed at her.

“Mind your words.”She cautioned. Dialogues ended. It was time for us to leave for office.


The Hindustan Times, 27/4/1992

Come easy, go easy
By K.P. Shashidharan

His head is like a coconut with husk, covered all over by hair resembling porcupine quills. His fluffy round face with a multilayered chin rests on a thick neck. He has a elephantine ears, owl-like eyes and a nice hooked like a parrot’s beak.

His reclining paunch showing him the way, Chaddhaji walks like a bull and is a big bull operator in the share market. I call him an Amazonian Bull.
I came to know AB only a few months back when my friend Guptaji, then a small bull aspirant, persuaded me to accompany him to the big bull’s office. It was late in the evening. Chaddhaji was in good mood.

“Guptaji, I’m excited over the booming sensex .Scripts are soaring to dizzy heights. Amazing bull power felt in all markets in the country. When the bull is charging ahead, I’ll offload all but the blue chips” AB paused for a while and inquired “Gupta, when are you joining the market? It’ the right time to start brokerage and make money. I’ll help my old class-mate in all respects.”

AB reads only about shares, thinks always about shares hanks always about scripts, talks only about allotments, dreams about stocks going berserk .He keeps abreast of daily trading prices of shares, earning per share, price earning ,debt equity per share, price earning, debt equity ratios, profit earning capacity, future expansion programmes, consequences of government policies and the like and speculates actively in share market dreaming that he would become a multi billionaire one day.

“Guptaji, don’t hesitate to have a golden handshake with your sick company and be a sub broker of shares. You know, my son-in-law recently kicked off his job in a reputed private firm following my advice. He made fortunes overnight after joining the market”.

AB looked at me and continued. ”You know ,Guptaji and I were class-mates. I was a school dropout, but Guptaji completed CA and became an accountant. He sold his intelligence and worked for the firm. He has to marry his daughter by heavily borrowing from his relatives. Am I not right, Guptaji ?”He laughed and his belly quaked violently.

While returning from the big bull’s office Guptaji narrated the amazing success story of his old class-mate Chaddha who was very dull in studies. AB had a video shop at Punjabi Bagh which he had sold for Rs 25 lakh and started speculation in shares. Within a short span of live years, he had amassed properties worth crores of rupees.

I didn’t know then that AB could convert his intelligent class-mate into a share broker. The next day after this year’s budget was presented in parliament, Guptaji has tingled me to invest in shares. He had already left his job and joined as a sub broker.

I was taken a back, the other day when AB stopped me at Connaught Place with a bundle of share application forms of new shares. He advised me to apply for new shares of cement, steel and fertiliser companies for quick money.

“Chaddhaji, how is your brokerage business? “ I enquired. AB burst out. “ That Gupta has outsmarted me in business within three months. He traded in kerb deals raking in huge profits and persuaded me to do so. But I was caught in the deal. Those who booked the shares didn’t pay. I’m broke now”.

The big bull operator had a cycle of good and bad times in trading scripts along with booming and dipping sensex and bullish and bearish shares.

“I’m very sad to know, Chaddhaji” I sympathised. ”Don’t worry. Market will go up again. I’ve mortgaged my wife’s jewellery and invested in a few scripts. I had been to Tirupati and Vaishnodevi and prayed. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth will bless me surely” said the former big bull while giving me a few application forms for new shares.


The Hindustan Times, 5/2/1992

‘Egg’ syndrome
By K.P. Shashidharan

“Honey, what’ll you have for breakfast?” The every day’s question looms large. My mind started swinging to and fro like a pendulum of an antique wall clock. It happens to me quite often even while taking a simple decision on a trivial matter of day – to – day life; I feel indecisiveness and I were born as twins. Otherwise how could the question of choosing the breakfast item push me into innumerable decision scenarios making me intensely indecisive.

The egg shell is a fragile thing. Why don’t I opt for an egg preparation? But, the decision to go for an egg preparation or not for breakfast is the first painful decision to take. Should I really be party to an embryocide of a bird and eat it too when there are innumerable, choice before me like hybrid’ paneer- masla dosa or a home – made Italian cheese mushroom pizza’!

I find no fault with me; not even with my mind or temperament. This sort of indecisiveness is the effect of my star – the planetary position and the Zodiac sign in which I was thrown into this world. Geminians are bound to be like me. The third sign of the Zodiac is the symbol of the twins – a constellation containing the two bright stars – Castor and Pollex. Can I say that mine is a case of split – personality – a psychological aberration? I am afraid of the neo – Freudians. They may not accept by audacity to interpret my mind but ridicule me for my ignorance of the science of mind.

The area of decision – making seems to be cast and the process intricate. However, I finally decide to choose that spheroidal body produced by the female bird especially the domestic fowl. Anyway I won’t be in a position to procure an egg of an ostrich or hemu or penguin. The choice narrows down between egg of a hen, duck or a goose. If hen’s egg is to be selected, what will enjoy more – the fertilised egg called the none—vegetarian egg, as considered by some egg gourmets or the so –called vegetarian unfertilized egg?

Once the egg is decided for breakfast, the question is to smash it or not – I mean have boiled or semi – boiled or row egg or breaking it and preparing a half fry or full- fry, or an omelette or just scramble it? If I opt to have an omelette or an egg scramble what are the ingredients I would relish? Should I go for a traditional onion chilli omelette or an exotic and specially made one mixed with tomato, coriander leases, capsicum, cumin leaves and the like which nobody even has ventured to prepare before.

The decision area converges the style of cooking – I mean in butter or in oil and if oil, in what oil etc. – and the amount of salt, pepper, ketchup or jam or whatever I would relish with it.

The abundant possibilities and permutations and combinations of having egg for breakfast or not make me eccentric. I try to pass it a little bit of my idiosyncrasy and insanity to my wedded life partner. I emphasize married partner to clarify our marital status as it is not that sort of living together and sharing life arrnagmetn. She should have been wiser before making a decision on her marriage -- a question of life and death significance. She has by now become diplomatic enough to get away from my egg syndrome.

“Your mind is like that of a monkey” she retorts. “You mean a monkey bent on scrambling on the canvass of the mind,” I muse.

“You are free to cook your egg.”

The agony of taking a decision on the matter finally fell on me.

My preliminary culinary art was put it test. I smashed two eggs, whipped them, stirred it with beer and had an egg nag. After having egg flip, I regretted – egg contains cholesterol. My deadly combination of egg a dolcohol may reduce a few micro or nono seconds of my life.


The Hindustan Times, 25/5/1992

Audit Dodge
By K.P. Shashidharan

Ram Babu, who was trained in the art, science and philosophy of audit, was assigned audit of a scientific organisation. RB studies and prepared a skeleton report. He then decide to meet Dr Ifson, a US-returned scientific who was heading the institute.

When RB entered the room, the scientific surveyed him from top to bottom with an expression which RB couldn’t make out was a frown or a smile.

“I’ve audited your project. There is a five –year time overrun and Rs 500 crore cost overrun” RB came to the operative part of his audit observation straight.

“Munimji, haven’t you heard of AIDS?” RB widened his eyes in bewilderment/ “Can any auditor proscribe and definite time- frame and cost estimates for finding a solution to the dreaded disease?”

Ifson arched his eyebrows, twitched his lips awkwardly and continued his monologue grinding his teeth to suppress anger. “Many an apple fell, but all scientists before Newton failed to formulate the theory of gravitation. Munimji may observe all scientist before Archimedes didn’t properly utilise their time in bathtubs as none of them ran out naked howling ‘eureka’ to highlight the discovery of a brilliant scientific principle. It’s foolishness to bind the scientists with time and cost parameters.”

Having spent more than thirty years, auditing practically everything under the sun, RB knew the sensitivity of his job and determined to carry out his thankless and delicate task as smoothly and tactfully as possible.

“We’re talking about applied science and technology and not pure science and basic research. My observation are based on your own targets and cost estimates”. He drank a glass of water and continued: I’ll subject your project to a horizontal, vertical, diagonal and if need be, a three-dimensional audit analysis.”.

“whatever you may do, you’ll do with a conservative, pessimistic and suspicious mind. You can’t conceptualise anything positive”. Ifson lighted his pipe, had a few puffs and said sarcastically: “I’m going to talk to you philosophy now. Have you heard of VFM?” asked scientist looked blank.

“Value for Money audit. It’s an audit philosophy and technique”, said RBI, adding, “hope VFM has nothing to do with my project. I heard auditor is a watchdog of finance, destined only to bark as he has no teeth to bite.”

The scientist and the auditor looked at each other like two charging bulls. RB said “I prefer to be compared to a mahout disciplining mightily elephants with his piercing rod. Most of our people are below the poverty line. We can’t squander away scarce resources. My skeleton report exposes all the skeletons in your cupboard”, said RB.

“Don’t victimise me. I’m sorry for calling you Munimji.”

“We don’t care for vituperations.”

RB left the room thereafter. Dr Ifson was upset and called the scientist working under him on the project and revealed his strategy.

“Mr Butson, we have to demolish this skeleton somehow before it takes the shape of a monster and spill our blood.” But that was easier said than done. Before the skeleton was finally given life, the scientist was shrewd enough to seek a transfer rather than face the music.



By K.P. Shashidharan

The other day, I found an issue of a slick woman’s magazine published from London laying in the drawing room. The glamorous model on the cover captivated me. Of course, I have always been a veracious reader, especially of exclusive female stuff, for i must strive hard to understand ladies, if not their entire clan, at least the one I have to live with. And, believe me, it is not an easy task – in any way – to comprehend the female psyche. Even Freud and the neo – Freudians didn’t succeed fully in their attempt to understand them.

There were a lot of interesting features, apart from the usual tips on beauty and how to be a super glamorous girl, hints for dressing, up cookery tips, and the like. There were stories on metal agonies of missing spouses, on ways of being happy without wedding bells – and about a psychological aberration called shophalosim.

After reading the article on shophaolics, I decided to give a massive shock treatment to my “LAH’, that is, Lady At Home, for shophalosim.

“You’re shopalic” i cracked.

“What? Alcoholic! How dare you!”

The tigress in her was adequately provoked by now to pounce upon her weak prey.

“I’m only ladies’ magazines?” she asked.

“Just simple; trying to understand female folk. Like you ladies read men’s magazines to understand us,” I explained.

“It’s beyond you stupid guys,” she declaimed.

“You can perhaps call me stupid ; but you have no right to categories all the guys enmasse as stupid.” I was emphatic.

“What is this alcoholism you were talking about?” she demanded.

“I was just complimenting you as a workaholic,” lied deliberately to avert another marital holocaust.

“I am sure, you weren’t. No sensible chap howls like you did while complimenting. “she was cocksure.

“If you don’t drag me to “CAMO” – the Cat and Mouse Syndrome – I can explain.” I mediated for normalcy in out man woman relationship.

“Don’t be super smart you’re not less than lion, rooring all the way before to poor deer,” she opined.

“Why do you always agree to disagree with me. I appreciate the role model of the scenario of fights you are talking about. She LADS’ – the Lion and Deer Syndrome – of family applicable in reveres in our case.” I argued like to pseudo intellectual theoretician holding for than personal conflicts.

“Damn your syndromes. Come straight to the topic. “It was an ultimatum.

“Shophalosim is the mania to shop beyond one’s means, and choplogics are those who spend recklessly as though they’d won the pools, when in truth they’re debt up to their necks and sinking fast. When they don’t have money, they may even steal for shopping.”

She listened to my pedagogies very seriously for a change. “You should know I’m not a shohaholic. I shop only what the household needs with full consideration. I don’t go bankrupt by shopping, “she defended.

“Most shopaholics are women. They have a tendency a treating themselves to betties of expensive perfumes and cosmetics, jewellery, garments, chocolates and what not. Whenever these sort of ‘treats’ become unnecessary and start mounting up, it may be time for the warning bells to sound. A shpaholic” I cautioned her.

“You’re a cantankerous man. Damn your alarm bells, I am not a shophaloic,” she asserted with an air of superme confidence.

Though i failed to categorise her as a shopaholic, the discussion on shopaholic, acted like an effective checks to her obsession for going on never – ending shopping sprees. Thanks to the woman’s magazine, I found probable shopaholic could be crude.



Service charges
By K.P. Shashidharan

“NAMASKAR Sahib”, the man grinned while saluting me. I had just stepped out of the car and was entering the house but he stopped at the door with ridiculous and comical expression and consciously clinking at me/

“We came to see you three – four times since the Holi holiday. We were told you went out of Delhi.” He scratched his head, wiped his whisker and informed making funny gesticulations. “Sir, my inspector has also come. We meant almost everyone into he colony.”

I couldn’t understand his jabbering. “I don’t know you. I can’t understand what you are talking about. Tell me without beating about the bush.”

He looked different and didn’t know how to come to the point.

“Isn’t your phone working properly? Isn’t it always alive to take your message? Isn’t it not giving any unwanted ‘beep’ sounds to disturb you talk?” He raided all sorts’ questions to battle me further.

“My phone is working well. It’s not dead.” I checked the phone and reported to him, “Are you from P&T Department? Anyway, haven’t complained? What’s the matter?”

“You phone is in excellent condition giving the best service. We’re working hard and mainting it well. Otherwise it would’ve played the devil.” He was eagerly staring at me in great expectation. I thanked him profusely.

“We went every house in this colony. Everyone was happy and grateful to us. We are happy and grateful to us. We are happy. All; of you are very generous and intelligent person. You know we don’t come every now then. We meet only on occasions like HOLI and DIWALI. Some gave hundred, others even two hundred. You may give only hundred. We’ll take special care that you don’t have any problems with your phone.”

I was about to lose my temper but controlled my feelings and explained softly.

“I have not heard so far such a service charge asked by departmental employees. Is this the charge for not spoiling the phone?”

He was determined to make me understand the circumstance.

“Salary is pittance, you know. “You can’t make both ends meet with mere salary especially when prices of essential commodities gallop and inflation shoots up. You can give even rupees fifty. We’ll be happy”.

I had an option to get inflamed in wild disgust, shouting at him at top of my voice and to humiliate him by slamming the door at his face or to threaten him that i would complain against him to his department; but pragmatism prevailed on me and i offered him rupees ten as tip.

“Didn’t tell you that me inspector has also come with me. He is waiting for me. These days, even beggars won’t be happy with Rs 10. Its value is like one rupee coir. You know, when “Chowkiddars’ knock a t my door, I throw Rs 20 at his face with pleasure”.

I replied with sarcasm. “Why, only twenty? You can give Rs 100 too to chowkidar. You’re collecting bribe openly from everyone.” I paused and asked him. “Give me your name and addressed and your inspector’s.”

He disappeared with my ten rupees immediately.

That day evening my phone gave a murderous alarm to everyone at home and went for deep slumber. I knew my phone had gone dead because service charge to maintain it in working condition was not fully paid.

My phone woke up to my surprise in the next day morning. Since that day I lift my phone several times in his day fearing it to be in deep slumber. That fear of phone going to a comma has found a place in my mind while my conscience pricks me for being a helpless party to the corruption.


The Hindustan Times, 26/6/1992

To ‘Sir’ with sorrow
By K. P. Shashidharan

A few years ago, when I joined government service, I was briefed by my friend who happened to be a very successful bureaucrat: “It’s like a master-servant relationship, if not master and slave. Remember. Boss is always right. Never argue with him, never disagree with him. Just obey.”

“When we feel strongly about something, I think, we should write it in the file. If superiors do not agree, let them overrule”, I said.

“You’ve in fact two options—either think and work the way you want and don’t be perturbed about the consequences, or work the way your boss expects you to do the job”, the friends summed it up like a mantra’.

I followed my friend’s advice and incessantly strove hard to be an outstanding officer. It helped me a lot. Soon, I was sponsored for training in a prestigious management institute in Canada. The man who welcomed me at the airport and escorted me to the institute turned out to be the Course Director himself.

“Sir”, I addressed him with awe and respect.

“Please call me John. It’s my first name, “said the director.

“No, sir. I beg to submit, sir. You’re my boss. How can I call my boss by his first name?” I maintained.

“We don’t believe in ‘sir’—dom or in ‘serfdom’. Ours is not a feudal society. You can treat me as an equal. What do you think?” he asked for my opinion.

“I completely agree with you, sir.” It had become my habit to begin and end every sentence with ‘sir’, besides inserting a ‘sir’ in between the sentence whenever possible.

“You needn’t agree with me blindly. You think over and say.”

It had become my habit not to think at all “I thought over, sir. You’re absolutely right, sir,” I persisted.

Despite my initial resistance to change, the Canadian training somehow did not pass without having its mark on me. When I returned from Canada and joined the office, one day I happened to call my boss by name.

“What? How dare you?” ”Aren’t you in your senses? You’ve no sense of proportion,” he started at me in irrepressible fury. “I’m twenty years senior to you. You should know how to behave with your seniors.”
“Seniority is a matter of coincidence. You were born earlier than me. That’s all,” I retorted.

I had to pay dearly for practicing all that I learned from Canada. When my turn came fir promotion, I found I was ignored. I consulted my good old friend whom I considered my guru in initial years of my service.

“I worked hard, met all the targets but I lost my promotion and my juniors went ahead of me,” I rued.

“I knew”, he said, “It was obvious that you would come to grief. Just by meeting targets, you can’t be an outstanding officer: You’re paid for doing your job. Outstanding is not given just for work alone. You’ll learn form experience.”

“I consider work as worship,” I explained to him.

“That’s true. But worshipping work alone is like ignoring the priest and worshipping only the idol. After all, ‘Pujari’ is also to be pleased by your devotion, dedication, sincerity, obeisance, service and worship.”

“But, don’t you think it reflects the personality of my boss too?” I enquired.

“Of course. Why not? But bosses can never go wrong. They’ve the prerogative to order you around. You’re paid so well for complying with orders.” He paused for a while. “You’ve offended your boss by all means. By the way, did you bring some presents, perfumes or saris for your boss’s wife, when you came from abroad?” he enquired.
“No.” I admitted.

“You can’t be improved,” my friend said in despair. “Working like a donkey is alright, but a donkey can’t be turned into a horse just by flogging.”


Evening News, 30/6/1992

Paploo’ game
By K. P. Shashidharan

DUMBOO is a lazy bum but seeded number one in ‘Paploo’ game—an indigenous version of the ‘rummy’ card game. His ‘guru’ is his father who had taught him the game of cards at a tender age. He mastered the game within no time and defeated everyone in the family, including his grandfather, the then reigning champion of ‘Paploo’ in the family.

Though the family has been playing ‘Paploo’ for generations, except Dumboo nobody played the game all the time. ‘Papaloo’ became a maddening obsession with him. Like the ‘Rubic’ cube, cards puzzle him, stir his imagination and exhilarate his spirits. It gives him enormous fun, delight and thrill.

‘Paploo’ all the time and no time for studies made Dumboo an invincible player but an incorrigible student. While playing ‘Paploo’ he had mastered the art of overseeing his opponents’ cards and this talent he perfected even to face the examinations. He would hide a few pieces of papers containing expected answers on his body; he was also adept in peeping into the answer sheets of boys sitting in the periphery of his eagle like eyes.
When other tricks failed he resorted to the strategy of frequenting the bathroom during the examination where he had hidden his books for a last-minute fast review.

Dumboo’s multi-pronged strategy of massive copying helped him invariably to score incredibly high marks in the exams and he passed his Board exams from a Ghaziabad school with astonishingly high marks.

It was indeed Dumboo’s good luck to get admission in a prestigious college in Delhi University for a B.A. Hons. course. Stay in the hostels helped him to form a gang of like-minded youth and to explore new avenues of seeking enjoyment and satisfaction apart from that of a ‘Paploo’ game.

With the horizons of his mind expanded he adapted to the new environment without losing any time. He discovered that the kick of smack goes well with booze which enhanced his mastery in the art of playing cards. Dumboo questioned the Shakespearean version of the world as a stage where everyone is an actor who plays his assigned role and disappears. He fantasised the world as a big Casino with wine, women, games and fun where he would be the unquestioned emperor of the ‘Paploo’ game and everyone would sing and dance keeping pace with the fast rock music and the titillating gyrations of cabaret dancers.

Unfortunately for Dumboo nothing worked in his favour. There is no national or international championship in ‘Paploo’ game. Had there been a Grand Slam in ‘Paploo’, he would definitely have a chance to be crowned as the king of ‘Paploo’. His strategies failed even in the exams. As he couldn’t wriggle out of the clutches of drugs, gambling and other bad habits, he was suspended from the university.

Dumboo has no regrets. He doesn’t have to study or work. It’s not his problem nor is his parents’ as they have already accumulated enough black money to squander away for generations. He can be a family parasite for ever and have whatever he likes—lot of good food, good clothes and abundance of money to purchase any kind of fun which fascinates and thrills him.


The Hindustan Time 28/8/1992

Birthday punch
By K. P. Shashidharan

Knocking gently at the door a swan necked lady with coiffured hair came into our house that evening, flashing her bewitching smile. The quantity of make-up material that had gone into making the apparition would have put a film actress to shame. When I was trying to identify the colour of her eye-shadow, her hibiscus coloured lips parted to say, “sorry to disturb you”.

The woman was accompanied by a bearded man who followed her footsteps like a shadow. “We came to invite all of you for Guddu’s birthday. Guddu is studying in the same class as your son,” she came to the purpose of the visit straight.

The birthday party was organized on terrace of their bungalow. The place was beautifully decorated with balloons and multi-coloured papers. Cacophony of the pop music was on. While the parents were enjoying their drinks children ran around laughing, shouting and merry-making.

The lanky bearded man with drooping eyes welcomed us.

“What cocktail would you like to drink?”

“Bloody Mary”.

“Sorry. We’ve tomato juice but no Vodka. No problem. I’ll get you rum punch”. The man was completely drunk and very delicately balancing himself while walking down he stairs.

“You’ll enjoy the punch. Even your Bloody Mary can’t satisfy you that much”. He seemed to be quite satisfied himself. “You see, doctor says my liver is enlarged and I shouldn’t drink. I’m practically scared of my wife. But I manage somehow a couple of pegs. There’s no fun without drink. I feel it’s the elixir of life”. He laughed aloud.
All the children assembled at the centre of the terrace. The birthday boy was dressed in a brand new “Double Bull” suit and was crowned with a big glittering cap. All the other children were given small caps to wear, balloons to play with and plenty of chocolates and bubble gums.
Wearing a fierce looking black mask, a lady started chasing the children pretending to be a ghost woman. Children ran amuck hither and thither and those who were caught by the ghost were treated as eaten away by the ghost. The child who managed to survive till the last got the prize. The next game of fun was to save one’s own balloons while pricking and breaking all others’ balloons. A few energetic ladies spent their time playing just like kids.

Menfolk were seriously discussing over a couple of pegs. “How did you get admission in that school? How much did you shell out? You know, I had to pay twenty-five thousand,” said a businessman to the host.

“I didn’t pay anything. My ‘chachi’ knows the minister. She managed Guddu’s admission,” said the bearded man.

“Come to my farm house some time. We’ll have a nice time. I’ve got a swimming pool, tennis court, guest house, bar and park there.” The businessman proposed.

“I want good booze. Preferably scotch,” said the host. The ghost woman, while removing her mask and wiping her face said, “I enjoyed more than the kids”. Two identical pretty twin girls sitting beside her giggled.

“Only I can identify my daughters. Even their father gets confused sometimes. So I cut short the younger girl’s hair,” said their mother.

“Uncle why don’t you join in the tug of war”? Asked the girl with pleats.

The tug of war was the last game of the day. The mother of the twins led one side using all her force. While the pulling and heaving was going on without any side leading, the birthday boy was seen vomiting. He had drunk a glass of rum punch taking it to be tomato juice.

“No problem. He’ll be okay”, consoled the father. “After all, it’s his birthday punch”. Rather, he should have said, the boy is his father’s son alright!


The Hindustan Times, 1/9/1992

Diverting stroll
By KP Shashidharan

On the boundary walls of the park, monkeys squat in line with babies clinging to their mothers and other scratching their head and licking their lips. The plantain seller has already arrived with a cartload of the fruit; so have monkeys and the monkey – feeder. While some smart monkeys try to snatch away whole banana bunch from the monkey – feeder, their leaders discipline them through howls and blows.

Inside the park, some pathetically malnourished human beings with protruding ribs sit with their towel spread in front, wailing aloud for help. They envy the monkeys, for the monkey- feeder doesn’t hear their cries. Begging is the only self- employment they believe in. Waking up at the crack of dawn, they reach the park before morning walker arrive and continue working overtime.

“Sethji, not eaten food for two days. Give me one rupee in the name of Bahrangbali.” One of the beggars requested the monkey- feeder while he was walking ahead towards the park after feeding the monkeys. “I have not got any money with me,” said the man politely. “if so, you’re beggar worse than us. Why don’t you join us,” retorted the beggar in derision and anger.

Parking the car neat the gate, middle –aged man canvas shoes, wearing white shorts and a red T-shirt, marched towards me. On his huge ballon belly was blazoned the inscription in bold capitals.

“IDIOT”. He arched his backbone to balance he’s stocky body and his legs inescapably followed the advancing pot tummy. Amused by his sell- proclamation of buffoonery. I read the writing on the bulging stomach. I shouldn’t have been so curious to read the incomplete sentence in small italics before the words in capitals “You’re an……”

Near the old dilapidated structure in the garden, a group of people are performing a sort of yoga combined with P.T. the well – built man looking like retired army sergeant, with his bald pate and brush whiskers, instructs his obese disciples on how to bend and touch the toes. Another group of old men sit in ‘Padmasana’ pose near the rose garden, chanting ‘Kirtans’ in chorus. The man in ‘pyjama’ and ‘kurta’ struggles to raise his body above his head placed on the meadow by lifting his legs carefully on the tree nearby.

A few ladies sit away from the P.T. classes, engaging themselves in cheerful chatting while their Pomeranians, Dobermans and Dachshunds sniff around. Animal feeders offer grain and wheat to squirrels, pigeons and sparrows and ‘rotis’ to cattle for gaining ‘punya’ Collage students stop their jogging when they find the peacock dancing to impress the peahen or spot their own kind in shapely tracksuits.

While a bare – footed middle aged woman is walking up and down over the sloppy meadows her bespectacled husband is blissfully unaware of the surroundings as he continues with his ‘suryanamakar’/ series of thunderous hollow laughter emanate from those trying to clear their throat and lungs to the consternation of those unused to this phenomenon.

I am too lethargic to go for morning walks quite regularly. But when I do I am impelled not so much by considerations of health as the sheer amusement and refreshment provides to the mind in observing MAN – a conglomeration of Man, Animal and Nature co – existing in perfect harmony.


The Hindustan Times, 9/6/1992

Walking strategy
By KP Shashidharan

It is hell of a job to be one’s wife’s chauffeur and one’s own drive too. I mean driving the wife to her office and get to your own in time then be at he beck and call when ever she needs the car.

I had been doing this precarious job till last year. When the new year come in I also mode a resolution to my wife any longer and to lease the car for her exclusively. I could get my office on my feet. No more hassles, no tension, no mechanical problems, and no more any time constraints.

This year the twice – devalued rupee has less purchasing power and prices of essential commodities are sky-bound, and the dearness allowance is frozen, I declared finical emergency at home. I have adopted walking to office as an economic strategy. We cannot afford deflect budgeting at home, for we cannot print notes like the government nor do we have any donor like the World Bank or the IMF. The expenditure and try to live within the means.

In the sort sun-rays, the mantle of mist thins down. It is sheer fun to walk across, with the cool breeze blowing about you and get to the office before everyone.

Being an urbanite engaged in a pen- pushing, file shuttling occupation, I have become a classic case of lethargy and idleness. Tied to desk, over-utilise my metal faculties and hardly use my legs. Normally the car takes care of my movement outside office and inside the office the elevator takes care of the stairs, providing absolute rest to my physique.

Unless of courses, one does some physical exercise, I realise that this could soon lead to physical immobility, blood – pressure, obesity, back-ache, stress, strain, tension and the like. If Darwin’s theory of evolution is to be applied to this sort of a case, the futurist homo – sapiens would appear as a thin big-headed monster! Walking to office is a marvellous cure for all those ills. It’s a healthy practice to keep a sound mind in a sound body.

A three-kilometre walk in the morning and in the evening pleasant. There is absolute time management too. Especially when I don’t have time for any other sort of exercise to keep me if! All sorts of Quebec and yogic exercise need extra time and strict discipline. Here once you are off the wheels and on the road, you have to walk. If you feel you need a little more exercise the option is open, jog a little on the way.

Since then, my wife lost her chauffeur but I gained peace of mind.


The Hindustan Time, 6/9/1992

Winged warfare
By KP Shashidharan

Waning Buzz followed by smooth operation, climaxed by repaid selling of cells, accompanied by a terrible itching! A demented scratching on all affected spots continued for a while. No, I wasn’t attacked before performing any classical dance, but, of, course, as a consequence of their multipronged assaults over the length and breadth of my person. I started performing a Bharatnatyam…. And in a supine posture!

Shooting them off forcibly was the only strategy being with, as I didn’t have any equipment of other than the ceiling fan to assist me in the task. Regulating it to maximum speed. I tried to drive them away before I sleep.

It was just after severe winter months, so I felt chilly at night. Repulsion was adopted as an alternative strategy. Broken pieces of green ‘tortoise’ repellent coils were lighted. The smoky warfare succeeded in wording the ‘enemies’ off until down, when they resumed the war with a vengeance.

In my third stage of defensive strategy, repellent warfare was further intensified by introducing a garish yellow non-greasy ointment as a ‘mask’ massaging ‘odomos’ on exposed parts of the body, I used to fall into a deep slumber. In the early morning, when the paste was rubbed off on the blanket and smoke was out of the room, those wretched female gnats come in a swarm and extracted as much blood they needed from my body.

In my next stage of defence, the repellent mechanism was more sophisticated; instead of lighting a conventional coil, a tablet was heated on an electric jet. Doors were closed. No smoke, no odour. A safe bet for goodnight and food sleep – and for only rupees two a night! Those bloodsuckers waited through the night outside the cordoned – off area till he tablet was inoperative, and then attacked with a renewed vigour right into the early morning hours. My days began with itching, scratching, irritating – bad mornings, to put it mildly.

The last battle – the battle of the Thatched Net – was based on withdrawn tactics. Having thatched a net over the cat, folding the lower portions of the net underneath the bed, I crawled inside and ‘closed the gates’, as it were. The scorching simmer heat was on. The searching summer heat was on. The water cooler and the ceiling fan rotated at full speed with a creak – creaking noise. Sleep was pleasant for a few hours. Then a few valiant female gnats, having their blood sucking proboscis right on target, manoeuvred to intrude into the net, and the combat began by a prolonged intensive shelling on all sensitive territory.

Switching in the light, I chased them in the net one by one and massacred them entirely. My blood oozed out from their ripped stomachs… and stained the net! After that bloody camage, I felt sleepy.

But, no thanks to the electricity authorities for an ‘unexpected’ loads heeding for the rest of the night! In a decisive turn of the war, all my armaments – fan, cooler, jet repellent, you have it – stopped functioning. I perspired profusely in the intolerable sultry heat and wriggled out of the net. A large battalion of their ‘army’ got a golden opportunity to pounce on the unshielded ‘prey’.

Intensive carpet bombings on all fronts! In the ensuing biological warfare, my enemies extracted my blood and injected malaria germs into my veins. I was completely defeated…. And subsequently hospitalised.
The tiny black wow –winged flies adept in blood sucking are in no case an endangered species. Nor do the environmentalists ‘crave’ for their protection; but they are spawned in the numerous open stinking drainage tributaries and rivers criss – crossing the Capital. I don’t mind even shedding a few drops of my blood for the cause of the female gnats, if they attack me without germs and deadening music, with its terrible itching.

After all, I don’t want to be deprived the blessing of Hypnos, the God of Sleep and Morapheus, the God of Dreams at night.


The Hindustan Times, 11/4/1992

Menace of begging
By KP Shashidharan

At traffic signal, when we impatiently wait for the red signal to go and green signal to come, they come in flocks; all are in worn out, tattered clothes, exposing their bony chests with fiercely protruding ribs; they come in front of our cars and start wiping the glass panes with a dirty duster and begging for money.

They are nobody’s children, growing as future citizens of the city. A thin lady, apple and exhausted, appears with her three- month- old screaming infant and begging for money. Here, the child is exposed to the begging profession as an infant! The mother might have been moving like a vagabond on the street and given birth on the streets.

On Saturdays, everywhere in Delhi, we come across beggars collecting in the name of “Shani Bhagwan”. Whether we go to the temple, church, gurdwara, mosque, synagogue or any religious place, beggars would be there to extract their dues.

They fight among themselves for strategic sitting places where chances of collection are relatively better. They exploit us psychologically and emotionally while asking alms for the health and well-being of our kith and kin for obtaining God’s blessing.

One of my friends elaborated a bizarre and crazy theory not-giving alms to beggars. “it’s a punishment imposed by God for their sins in this life and those committed in their previous births. If we help them we are in fact going against the will of God.”

Even in the remotest religious places like the glacier bound and snow-capped Himalayan shrines, beggars reach if the chances of collection are bright. I came across them in large number while trekking to Kedarnath, Badrinath and Amaranth sitting all along the trekking route.

When I was returning from the Holy Cave of Amaranth after paying obeisance to the great yogic God Shiva, I was encountered by beggars all along the step camouflaged in ‘sanyasi’s’ apparel with long beard and ashes smeared over the bare chest and forehead.

I heard them talking to each other in filthy obscene slang, cursing the pilgrims who didn’t give enough money to them.

The modus operandi of begging is interesting: In buses and trains, beggars sing popular songs beating their stomachs and chests rhythmically as a poor man’s musical accompaniment. After all they beg for their stomachs only!

A few of them give a ling speech on poverty, penury and their misery and also distribute pamphlets explaining their agonising story. Beggar’s metamorphosing into ‘Sanyasi’s’, blind, dumb and lame persons, palmists, tantriks and astrologers are also there.

If we do not take steps to rehabilitate the sick and diseased people and take measures to prevent able-bodied persons from adopting begging as an attractive self- employment and profession, social menace of begging will spread like a wild fire, especially when population grows along with unemployment.


Evening News, 16/10/1992

Artificial love
By KP Shashidharan

The auditorium in the five-star deluxe hotel was packed with people. All of us who gathered there were anxiously waiting, keeping our eyes focussed on the stage, holding our breath.

Melodious music flowed all around; dazzling started flickering; glamorous models dressed in gorgeous attire and wearing fashionable armaments made of sparkling white pearls and bangles walked across the stage. Their captivating gait magnified beauty of their well chiselled figure. Music changed, multi-coloured lights continued flashing on the stage. Amazing varieties of ornaments and bangles were exhibited during their captivating catwalks.

When the fashion show was over, I was driven out of the world of matchless beauty, sparkling jewellery, dazzling colours and harmonious orchestral melodies. How will I leave Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, without purchasing a few items for my wife as a token of my love? The annual international pearl and bangles festival was going on in full seeing. I was advice by my friend that I should go to the pearl and bangles bazaar surrounding the ‘Charminar’.

The four-arched monumental gate representing the tomb of Muslim saint Imam Hussain was illuminated impressively. People were moving all around the world’s largest talisman built in the 16th century to safeguard the city against an outbreak of chilera. The teeming lanes and by lanes surrounding the Charminar encompass one of the most colourful bazaars of Baghdad and the Meena Bazars of the Mughal. Tourists’ form India bargaining and selecting pearls, ‘Zari’ perfumes, and the like. The tribal Banhara women dressed in billowing mirror-work skirts and enchanting colourful cholis, adorned by chunky gun metal and silver jewellery and ivory bangles were doing brisk business in selling cheap variety of bangles and pearl ornaments.

I was excited over my purchase of a pearl necklace and a few typically Hyderabad bangles foe ‘my lady, at home. I was impatient to reach home and exhibit my ‘priceless collection.

“See, darling, what’ve I brought for you from Hyderabad?” Immediately after reaching home in Delhi, I opened my suit case to show the ornaments.

“I know, you must have bought a beautiful pearl necklace for me. I read about them in women’s magazines and saw the report on the International Pearl and Bangles Festival on TV. They have fantastic collections, so dazzling, and such attractive verities, very cheap too!” she paused a while and insisted:

“Show me what’s you purchased?”

I handed over the packets to her and paused like a king presenting an invaluable jewel to his ,queen. The delight on her face disappeared in moments and her characteristic frown of disapproval was quite obvious when she unwrapped the packets.

“Whom have you brought these dull artificial pearls ridiculously designed cheap bangles? Awful choice! Even banjara women won’t wear these.” The furious lady became emotional an dashed a few drops of tears: “Give these to any one you like. I can’t wear these. I know you love is dull and artificial like these worthless cultured, sincerity and depth in your heart. You’re indeed a shred hypocrite!”

And she flung the packet in a burst of uncontrolled emotion and anger.


The Hindustan Times, 23/10/1992

Desert Goddess
By KP Shashidharan

Since God is omnipresent, why make the pilgrimage only to mountain shrines and a riverside temples. I thought, and set out, off the beaten track, to Rajasthan. It was the abode of the Goddess of the Thar desert located on the remote wilderness of the wind-swept sands that beckoned me this time.

The pilgrimage started from jodhpur the city of the Sun-God, which is the gateway to the Thar. The long drive along the winding road that skirts the rocky barren terrain was altogether a new experience. Thorny plants, dried bushes, cactus, dear fed trees stand here and there in the cast ocean of sand, braving the scorching heat and dryness.

Herds of sheep and camels graze on the green patches left in the desert. People live in bizarre mud caves under the sand while the gambolling baby camels enjoy the heat and dust. The swirl of bright skirts and proud turbans lend a picturesque touch to the desert scene.

We were driving towards Jaisalmer, the citadel city founded by Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput king, in the twelfth century. Wind blows vigorously, obliterating old sand dunes in a could of dust and making new ones in fascinating architectural patterns. It was difficult to see the road through the sandy mist.

Driving over the sand was hazardous. We knew from experience that speed was the only way to cross the treacherous stretch. When mightily sand dunes blocked our way at a few points, we had no alternative but to wait for the bulldozer to come and clear the way.

The frontier fortress atop the three-peaked Trikoot hill appeared lime mirage in the shifting sea of sand. Its double – tiered bastions stand out majestically by the side of the Gadisar lake, like a ship in an ocean.

The dusty cast ness of the sun-bleached sand is festooned with forts, places, temples having exquisite craving and filigree work all over. Thoroughly exhausted, we halted the first day in the museum city etched in yellow sandstone which lends it a folder aura.

The Thar Desert extends beyond Jaisalmer towards Ramgarh, Kishangrah and beyond the borders in Pakistan till the Sindh riverbed. The abode of the Goddess of Tanot is about hundred and fifty kilometres away from the city of Jaisal near the border.

Heat, dust and sand dunes increased beyond the oasis of jaisal. A number of high observatory towers of the BSF line the border, reminding the visitors of the other danger of life on the desert land.

The temple at Tanot is small shrine, managed by the Army.

Next day the journey was resumed early in the morning. The desert conditions intensify beyond jaisalmer and population becomes very scarce. Water had reached the heart of the Thar at Ramgarh through the Indira Gandhi Canal, but it is too meager to change the landscape.
Water was aplenty from the tub wells. We drank the cold water which acted like nectar giving life and energy to our enervated body and soul.

An unusual sight at the temple is the collection of unexploded bombs. Kept in one of the rooms. During the 1971 war, these bombs were thrown at the temple exploded due, it was believed to theidvine powers of the Goddess. The local story also goes that two platoons of the Pakistan army came from different sides and fought a bloody war amongst themselves, thus saving the Indian army the trouble of engaging them.

Ringing the bells in front of the temples and offering articles for ‘Puja’, we stood in prayer seeking the blessings of Tanot Devi. Surrounded by the endless expanse of sand in a remote corner of the Thar and assailed by heat and dust storms far away from any traces of civilization, the people of the area need faith, faith on the benevolence of the Almighty to keep body and soul together.


Evening News, 27/10/1992

A dhaba story
By KP Shashidharan

“Why don’t have a dhoba in our colony?” asked the newly elected president of the residents’ association of our colony. We were not prepared to accept the idea, for we have a fantastic food plaza in our colony – restaurants named “mutton Inn”, “Have Chicken More” “Chawalajee’s Tandoori” selling all sorts of exotic cuisines. The president was, however, prepared to sell his idea.

“ the crying need of our colony is to have a ‘dhoba’ selling “tndoor roti”, “rumali roti”, “subzi”, samosa”, “jalebi” etc., on a cost plus basis. Housewives will have some rest; working wives will love it; menfolk will have some variety’ cheap home food at your door step...”

After listening to the president’s maiden speech we were totally convinced that we needed a ‘dhoba’.

While going to office next day I found the DMS milk booth expanded backwards – brick walls had been built with iron grill and doors. A tandoor oven was ready in the evening. A tent was erected near the booth for the “dhaba” employees to reside. A ‘dhaba’ had mushroomed within a day.

The ‘dhaba’ business flourished within a few days. Smoke started coming out of the grills from early morning and spread all over like dark clouds. People gathered around the ‘dhaba’ from morning till midnight. The ‘dhaba’ soon became a rendezvous for servants and jhuggi – jhonpari inmates in the nearby area. They talked and laughed aloud. People residing near the ‘dhaba’ now found it a terrible nuisance with its noise and pollution and some of them actively campaigned against the ‘dhaba’.

Petty, factional politics emerged into he association meetings. Two dominate factions were formed, one for “Yes - ‘dhaba” and the other for “No-‘dhaba” and an insignificant minority of “Yes ‘dhaba” men campaigned for the expansion of the ‘dhaba’ into a non- vegetarian one-selling ‘tnadoori chicken’ and ‘kabab’.

Allegations and counter allegations were raised in the association meetings. The president was alleged to enjoying free food from the dhaba as a kick back and the dhaba boys were working in his house.

A committee of selected members were asked to investigate the kickbacks. How could prime land have been allocated for the ‘dhaba’? how could a DMS milk both be misused? How could ‘jhuggis’ be constructed? What was the amount involved in the kickback? Who were the nenficaries?

The manger of the ‘dhaba’ went door to canvassing for the ‘dhaba’. A signature campaign was organised. Colony people were divided. Lobbying by the food plaza restaurant for dissolution of the ‘dhaba’ strengthened the “anti-dhaba” movement. The ‘dhaba’ – manger become panicky and sent packets of foodstuff to all committee members’ houses and pleaded his case.

While decision prevailed in the association meetings, the committee members pondered over the issue without coming to any conclusion. They couldn’t prove or disprove anything.

Meanwhile, an officer from the NDMC who had long watched the scene with interest for some time felt that his blessings had not been sought by the ‘dhaba’ manger. So with his orders came the ‘dhaba’ destructor. The ‘dhaba’ and the ‘jhuggi’ were bulldozed within a few minutes.


The Pioneer, 30/11/1992

The true prince of Abu
By KP Shashidharan

We met him for the first time at the Sunset Point, in Mount Abu on the Arrivals hills. The hillock was crowded with tourists. Camel-men, elephant men and horse-men were making brisk business, carrying tourists towards the base of the Sunset Point.

While we were hurriedly climbing up the hill, photographers chased us for taking a snap on the sunset. Fascinated by the moustache man dressed in bright colorful, bejeweled garments with a typical Rajasthani turban and a sword dangling on his waist, I stopped for a while gazing at him posing like Rana of Mewar.

I noticed him when he bowed before me mumbling ‘Sir polish’. He was frail and thin, hardly eight years of age, barefooted and malnourished. Clad in torn shabby baniyan and trousers with a white metal wire pierced through his car lobes, the boy was carrying a cloth bag on his shoulder.

Before dusk descended, he hastily polished the shoes. Though his rate was two rupees only and I couldn’t find any fault in his work, I was delighted in bargaining and depriving him of one rupee of his hard labour. Next day, while walking around the Nakki Lake, I saw the boy coming out of one of the rock caves. He insisted that I should get my shoes polished by him again as he couldn’t do the job perfectly the previous day. He did a through job, and with a smile of satisfaction and refused to take any payment.

“What’s your name?” “Namiya. I’ve four brothers. Bheema, Thoriya, Ramiya, Chaliya. We live in that rock cave. We all polish shoes.”

“How old are you?” I enquired.

“Twenty-eight.” “How is it possible?” I wondered.

“May not be correct. I don’t know”

“Are you a Rajasthani?”


“Are you Gujrati?”

“No.” He shouted for his mother and asked “Mother, What are we?”

A lady dressed in colourful attire, wearing white plastic bangles all over her arms came out of her cave home, producing ringing sound of her waist chain and anklets. Her mega sized ear rings pulled down her ear lobes and her nose ring vibrated when she replied. “We are Bheel”.

In the evening we were taking a boat ride. “It’s in fact. Nakni Lake, dug by a sage named Balam Rasiya with his finger nails” said the boat man.

I saw Namiya waiting for me, shivering in the chilly wind. “Isn’t it your purse. Your photo is there”. Having counted the money and made sure that nothing was missing from it, I reluctantly extended a hundred rupee note towards him.

“No, Sir.” Said Namiya. “It’s my duty. I earned enough for my humble living”.

The pecuniary consideration and petty bargaining had prevented me from giving him even the wages of his labour. The urban hypocrite in me was laid bare and I felt puny before the honestly, greatness and humility of the ill-clad, poverty stricken, hapless illiterate tribal lad.


The Pioneer, 17/12/1992

Ultramodernites only
By KP Shashidharan

The building was impressive. The lounged was beautifully decorated like a five-star hotel or the office of a multi-national company. The granite floor mirrored our embarrassed faces while we walked along with restrained steps. The extra-vigilant sweeper shadowed us, wiping off our footwear marks with a scrubbing brush.

When we, the progenitor, the progenitor and the offspring approached the PA and informed him that we were in for a family interview in connection with the admission of the child, to that ultramodern temple of learning, he showed us the way out, directing to go to the “back-side” of the building.

“Are you an ultramodernite?” Asked a stranger. Seeing me absolutely baffled, the man continued his psychological attack against me. “I’m an ultramodernite. My father is an ultra modernite and my grandfather was an ultramodernite. My wife is an ultramodernite.” The man laughed out of satisfaction and stopped his bragging. We were called in for a parents’ viva-voce. The elderly teacher who seemed to be the chairwoman arched her eyebrows in a disapproving frown and stared through her thick glasses scaring the student in me.

“What do you expect from the school?” I remembered all that I mugged up for passing the civil services’ test.

“Education is meant for an over all personality development of the child, both mental and physical. The school should provide conductive environment to bring out the best in a child, providing a harmonious blend of academics and extra-curricular activities like sports, music, dance, arts. I mean a sort of education prescribed by Plato for the philosopher-king.”
I thought she would be floored by my eloquence and erudition. She looked deep into my eyes like a psychiatrist, absolutely disapproving.

“What do you think of the home environment, contribution of parents for educating the child? Let your wife answer this question. When both of you are working, how will you give proper care to your child?”

“We will send him to a crèche or keep an ayah at home”, uttered my wife meekly. The young voluptuous principal of the junior school, dressed like a model, started her lecture in an American accent with a bewitching smile.

“Don’t you feel guilty sending a tiny tot to a crèche? Don’t you know that a mother’s affection, love and care are quintessential for bringing up a good child. If at all both the parents have to struggle for a living due to economic constraints, we prescribe that at least one of the grand parents should be at home to look after the child and take care of the home work.”

The ultramodernite consoled me. “Don’t be hassled about the vivavoce. Let me be frank with you. These interviews are all a farce. Just an eyewash. This ultramodernite school is for ultramodernite.” He continued his blabbering. “If you want to join this elite school catch hold of someone in the governing board, shell out half a lakh or donate a Matador to the school, or find an influential politician or a powerful bureaucrat who matters and who can put in a word for you.”

When the lists of selected nursery kids were exhibited, we were not surprised in not finding our offspring’s name. We saw our ultramodernite friends shaking hands with his ward and rejoining. “Hi! Baby! You made it.”



Wayside barber
By KP Shashidharan

His oval shaped head is crowned with a luxuriant crop of hoary hair. When the tobacco-tarred contour of his unusually wide mouth elongates further in a smile, others mistake it for weeping.

The lanky old man running the newly started open air barber shop in our colony excited my curiosity. The one hour I spent with him on a Sunday proved quite rewarding.

Laloo considers haircutting an art requiring the imagination of a painter and the precision of a sculptor. Like a professional photographer, he views his subjects from different, angles, assesses textures, quality and tinge of the hair and then decides the shape, length and style suitable to the face, taking into account the head, age and overall personality of the individual.

Having been in the profession from sixteen years of age, he has seen innumerable heads of varied shapes and mounts, shades and hues, both fertile ones with a thick mop of hair and infertile heads bald as a coot, when the scalp of a subject is endowed with abundance of silky hair, it is easy to shape it in any style; but when the head is balding with patches of hair like oases in a desert, the hairdresser’s talent and skill are really on test.

Laloo had the privilege of specializing in ladies hairdo for years, getting in delightfully many a lady’s hair and making theirs curl while keeping his hair on. Women’s hairstyles needed wonderful ideas, endless imagination, innovation and a creative mind. The artist in Laloo had enormous challenges and immense satisfaction in perfecting lady’s hairstyles, whether it be a feather cut, French knot, perm setting, swirl bob, boyish bob, Italian bob or Psyche knot. Ladies liked his cool temperament, unusual patience, innocuous appearance and preferred to subject their hair to be fondled and moulded by his artistic fingers.

Laloo’s career as a favourite Ladies’ hairdresser had to end quite ignominiously. Once a fashionable middle aged lady came to the parlour for a swirl bob hairdo to attend a new year party. While shaping her tuft, he mistook her hairdo for an ultramannish bob and cut all her curly locks and made her hair stand on end.

Shaking with rage she sprang on him like a tigress, scolding him and the owner of the saloon. Laloo cursed his diminishing eyesight, weak memory, trembling fingers and regretted deeply his mistake. Thereafter he started wearing spectacles and attending to only male customers.

Laloo continued working in a saloon as a men’s hairdresser for some time. One day, while clipping a soupn-strainer moustache of a tough army man, he made a booby cut on his upper lip, which made the man gyrate on the chair, bowling with pain.

The results were more disastrous this time. He bashed Laloo down on the floor. Laloo’s spectacles crashed, and his head shook with pain and shame. And he walked off from the parlour for ever with wounded ego and pride.

Now, the old man knows his days are almost over. Despite fading eyesight and waning health, he should wield the scissors for his living. Having been abandoned b his children, he decided on self-employment by fixing a mirror on the wayside tree.

“My scalp has hardly any hair to cut. I won’t pay you two rupees”, said the slum-dweller after having got his hair cut. Laloo said nothing while pocketing the one rupee coin flung at him. He sat gazing at the leafless tree and the sky above him.


The Hindustan Times, 17/2/1993

Feat of feathers
By KP Shashidharan

The morning sun filtered through a thick mantle of fog at the Keoladeo National Park. The vast expanse of marshland with an abundance of floating vegetation and aquatic insects was dotted with islets of herbage, and bushes and babul trees stand in the shallow waters.

Noisy fluttering of wings, throaty grunts, sharp chirrups, loud clattering, whistling and all sorts of calls, notes and songs enlivened the abode of birds. “Bharatpur has about 450 species of birds, out of which 200-odd are migratory birds,” the guide informed us while fixing the pair of binoculars on the stand.

It was a mixed colony of storks, ibis, spoonbills, cormorants, egrets, darters and herons. I focused the binoculars on a painted stork standing hunched up and motionless with its heavy yellow bill. It made a fascinating sight with its waxy yellow face and delicate rose pink feathers near the tail. A white ibis was feeding its fledgling on a tree-top nest.

A flock of pale rosy white flamingoes were sailing up in the sky with their long sinuous necks and scarlet wings bordered with black patches. Grey Pelicans swam in semicircles driving a shoal of fish into the shallows, vigorously flapping their wings.

“Where’re the Siberian cranes?” I enquired. “Last year only six of them came. Not even a pair has been spotted so far”, informed the avian expert “Don’t worry I’ll show you a couple of Saras cranes. They pair for life and their marital loyality is admirable”.

The boatman rowed the boat amidst water weeds. In his glistening pied livery, a magpie robin sitting on the twig of a leafless tree sang a torrent of joyous songs. Beyond the embankment, from the other side of the lake, came collective high-pitched musical notes “aang I aang” and panicky squawkings.

A flock of purplish blue moorhens with bald red foreheads and short red bills sauntered over floating lotus leaves in swampy reedbeds constantly flicking their tails. It was fascinating to observe a male purple moorhen ludicrously dancing, chuckling passionately and bowing to the female in an attempt to offer a waterweed to her. The female bird took her time in accepting the delicacy.

The guide narrated how varied species of birds indulged in courtship. “The peacock dances to impress its mate whereas parakeets posture and show off their brilliant plumage to the females, standing first on one foot and then on the other. The female baya chooses as mate the bird whose nest appeals to her fancy.

“You know, the female of pheasant failed jacana is polyandrous,” said the birdwatcher focusing the binoculars on one of them. “She mates, lays eggs to be hatched and the chicks reared by the male, while she is busy finding new males for mating in succession.”
Before bidding us goodbye, the guide remarked; “Here, feathers, wings and beaks find a heaven. If you’ve fancy for feathers, you can spend your life observing birds, learning their habits and behaviour. In the kingdom of birds, believe me, even time takes wings”.



Ambushed at midnight
By KP Shashidharan

Having matured into a big clerk. I am at present posted in the “corridors of power”. Assuming myself not less than a think-tank, I prefer sitting in my AC chamber from 8 am till midnight.

On that fateful Sunday midnight I was exhausted but busy in delving deep into the whirlpool of complex issues. I was in fact experiencing pangs of giving birth to a Cabinet paper on the changing security scenario.

Ironically, I was absolutely unaware of the security environment around me. The presence of those hooligans who cared a damn about me should have cautioned me a little. After all, their clan could create terror even in those days when the British were shaping the destiny of the country.
They had been there for decades, belligerent and aggressive. Their tribe believed that the whole place belonged to them. We, of the pen-pushing, file-disposing tribe, were apathetic, frightened and subdued. Our favourite files were anathema to those greedy food- snatchers. Those of us who enjoyed nocturnal file-pushing were considered by them as intruders of their privacy and were in their hit list. Guerrilla warfare was their strategy.

We were divided into two groups, one for them and one against. The anti-aborigine advocated strong action against them like shoot-at-sight, forced them to flee en masse and conquer the place once and for all. The sympathizers adventured to befriend them, feed them and even worship them.

However, there was a consensus at last. In view of the increasing security environment, Rapid Overaction Force was deployed with airguns. Accustomed to the sound of harmless shooting in the air, these terrorist started ridiculing us, making mimicry of the sound. I didn’t know that my destiny was going to land me in a do-or-die confrontation with them. I knew they were having a gala time outside. Then the door banged open. Followed by a daredevil commander, a battalion of them pushed in.

Terror-struck, I screamed for help. No one was around. Even security men had vanished. Not even a soul was there, what to talk of trained black kittens and rapid action brown tigers, etc. Destined only to be maimed but not butchered, I somehow wriggled out of their clutches, ran down the stairs and reached home.

Unable to suppress her indignation even when blood oozed from my wounds, my old darling mumbled: “I pity you; my old man. You work like a donkey. You can forget your family and children but why do you deprive the monkeys of sleep?” she said. “Isn’t it better not to become a big clerk than to become one and get bitten by monkeys at midnight?”


The Hindustan Time, 17/5/1993

Pining for Jhelum
By KP Shashidharan

I met her first in the ‘Vale of Paradise’, the eldest of the five daughters of her celebrated mother sindhu. She looked quite different from what I had imagined when as a schoolboy I had to cram up the names of Indus and her five tributaries—Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi and Beas. The rest of the rivers I could see in later years were also captivating, but the two years spent in close proximity to Jhelum produced in me a special fascination for her.

A few years back, when I landed in Srinagar on transfer, the first day itself I noticed her—flowing majestically, curling and crawling all along the Kashmir Valley, carrying life-giving water to the people. Thereafter, during my sojourn there, I would cross the river by one or more of her bridges at least once daily.

Living alone in city, I would let my streams of thought flow along the Jhelum, feeling the pulse of the river, the intensity of its currents, the colour and mood. Many a time, my eyes got entrapped in the whirlpool under the cantilever bridges as I sat on the banks contemplating the vistas ahead.

Known for its dream gardens and blue-green mountains, the glacier ponds and lakes, the valley owed its sustenance to the perennial Jhelum. The backdrop is made up of the melody played by the gushing waters of Lidder river in the thick pine forest of Pahalgam, the pathetic screams of the river Sindh falling and rolling on the rocky terrain of Sonmarg and the bubbling effervescence of baby Dudhganga in Yusmarg. It surprised me to no end to see how all these sparkling crystal clear springs and rivulets turn into a dull stinking waterway after flowing through the valley.

I decided to see Jhelum in all her purity and sublime charm. Witnessing her emerging in a deep blue spring from the womb of mother earth, below the mountains of Verinag, was indeed a breathtaking experience. Amazed at the depth of the octagonal tank made at the source by the Mughal emperor Jahangir, I stood there absorbing the sight for a long time. Legend says that Lord Shiva desired his consort Parvati to appear in the form of a river and he struck his strident deep into the earth to give birth to Jhelum.

She loses her purity, youthful vigour and vitality, becoming sluggish as she flows slowly towards Srinagar. A city of ‘kadals’ or bridges, Srinagar lies sprawled on both sides of Jhelum, connected by seven cantilevered bridges—Ameera, Habba, Zaina, Ali, Fateh, Nawa and Safa KAdals.

Those bridges along with modern ones like Zero and Badshah indeed bring together the thickly populated urban centres. The hanuman Mandir, the Gurudwara, the Kanoah of Shah Hamdan and many abodes of the Almighty all stands on the banks of the Jhelum as symbols of a rich cultural heritage and religious harmony among the people.

Even as the river has been flowing unchanged, the face of the city has been transformed beyond recall over the years. Those thickly populated bylanes of the city have been deserted. Many of those multistoreyed old fashioned wooden houses built on both sides of the river have been abandoned by their owners out of fear.

And the ‘Value of Paradise’ has virtually become a ‘Value of Terror’, spilling blood in the waters of Jhelum. Amidst its plethora of bridges, Srinagar is yet to reconstruct the bridge it has lost—the real bridge of understanding and friendship of camaraderie, love and concern. Will I ever get a chance to feast my eyes on the sparkling face of Jhelum as I had known it before the tranquil life in the valley was torn asunder by blood and tears?



Career-tuned Yoga
By KP Shashidharan

Years ago, when we were probationers at the National Academic of Administration at Mussorie, we were introduced to Yoga as part of the Foundation Course. Since the training programme was specially designed to lay sound foundation for a successful bureaucratic career, Yoga was must for the physical and mental resuscitation of the new entrants to the ‘steel frame’.

There was of course an alternative to Yoga—good old PT; raising hands horizontal and perpendicular to one’s shoulders, thumping vigorously one’s feet on the floor and the like as per the roaring commands of the tough PT trainer. In the beginning, the majority of the probationers opted for PT. the lukewarm response to Yoga disheartened our Yoga teacher—a saffron-clad tonsured yogi, radiating enormous spiritual prowess and divinity.
He addressed us all explaining the merits of yoga as a way of mental physical discipline and how it developed an inner harmony of body, mind, intellect, will, senses, emotions, feelings, desires and thoughts. Some of us were impressed enough to give Yoga a try.
The Queen of Hills becomes icy cold in winter months. During the first week of the FC, some of us were staying at Kateswar Castle, atop the hillock overlooking the academy buildings at Charliville. In the early morning, when bells tolled in the temple in front, the inmates of the castle would wriggle out of the bed kicking off the clinging quilts. We would get ready hurriedly, putting on white canvas shoes, knickers and T-shirts and jog down the hillock to reach on time for yoga.

Swamiji used to conduct his Yoga classes by chanting vedic mantras in a mellifluous voice tuned to varied postures. We performed asanas as gracefully as possible without cracking our bones and overstraining our muscles. Even lethargic persons found Yoga ideal to their nature; for Yoga is smooth and has abundant scope to avoid intense physical exertion which is unavoidable in PT.

With some ‘asanas’’, we had to be cautious, though. If an unbalanced physique is balanced on forearms posing like peacock in Mayoorasana, there is of course a danger of smashing the forehead on the floor. All of us liked to be in ‘Shavasana’—lying flat in perfect corpse posture, breathing in and out in complete relaxation.

Swamiji was a strict disciplinarian. He refused to permit anyone coming late in his class. Once in a while when we overslept and missed Yoga, we would receive notes asking for explanation. We knew the answer and managed to get a medical certificate from the extra-courteous and kind-hearted doctor.

Gone are the glorious days of the disciplined and active life in the Academy. During the course of the career, we all became cogs in the wheels of the antique administrative machinery. Pen-pushing, file shunting and evasive disposal of problems became the mission in life for us. Rhythmic control of the advancing tummy was neglected. Awkward forward arching of the backbone like a parabola and balancing protrusion around the hips became a reality for most of us.

Taking stock midway, I thought I should start practicing Yoga once again. This time, I approached a guru who was an expert in the New Brand of Yogic Power. Under my Guru’s experienced guidance, I do practice now to salute the Rising Sun, touching his feet, blending the inflexible backbone and crushing the ego, prostrating myself before the power on the chair, seeking blessing in utter subservience and absolute humility.


The Hindustan Times, 20/3/1998

The tattoo King
By K. P. Shashidharan

I MET Boo a year back when I was living in London, undergoing a training programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Since I could not get hostel accommodation, I had to find a studio apartment at the white City. The land lady introduced me to Boo, who happened to be my first floor neighbour. A middle-aged man of six and half feet height, with an impressive head towering above a massive chest and robust shoulders, Boo almost resemble the World Wrestling hederationChampion ‘British bull Dog’ in physical stature.

Bet Boo! He is the richest of any tenants”, said the land lady with his asymmetrical bright dangling metallic earnings, several pyramid-shaped ‘hair-cones’ coloured in parrot beak pink, peacock green violet, yellow, blue and red he used almost all the colours of the spectrum to add dazzle to his personality. Having not been used till that day to the western punk culture, Boo was a cynosure of my eves eliciting an irresponsible feeling of awe and delight at once.

Boo shook my hand with a friendly smile; Aren’t you an Indian. I had been to your country. I liked Taj Mahal. It’s marvellous like a love song engraved in marble-a dream suspended in the horizon. I like Indian curries, too. You call it Tandoori1 Yeah1’’ He laughed aloud , demonstrating a novel wild brand of laughter worth emulating by any member of a laughing club. He crushed my hand vigorously and shook his thorny, crowned head permitting those bizarre pair of carryings an opportunity to dance crazily.

“But you know, my friend, I tell you frankly I don’t like the way the common men live in your country. Not dredge drink; no holiday; no pair, no dance; and no fun! What’s life then?”

After the first encounter, I seldom met him but I always felt his presence. In the evenings, his friends-mainly girls-used to come regularly to take him to the pub or night club. At midnight they would all return fully under the command of Bacchus and dance merrily in the first floor flat, switching on the Dolby stereo music system at its maximum volume. The midnight dance at my roof top was occasionally interrupted by loud pitched arguments, spiced with suitable dozes of choicest epithets, sound and fury of domestic violence, accompanied by creaking noise of breaking glasses and vessels.

Whenever the landlady came to collect rent she used to praise him all the while. Boo a was divorcee having three kids. When he wanted to live like a free bird, he found wedlock practically pushing him into suffocating incarceration. So he said goodbye to his wife and children and also walked out of his job. The state failed to provide a suitable job for him, included him in the list of the poor and continued to pay rent for him apart from welfare grant to meet his other expenses, including a few bucks for a couple of prints of larger. Except him, my landlady had only students as term that Hatton struggle both ends meet within the limited amount of scholarship. Boo being a man of versatile talents occasionally undertook many an odd job, unknown to the authorities, and he enjoyed his life up to the hilt.

When sunlight emerged in the portico one summer morning, I noticed Boo clad in briefs, busy polishing his Harley Davidson motorcycle. I was aumbiounded in finding his massive paper white hairless physique absolutely used like a canvass by an imaginative tattoo artist, who might be comparable with Van Gogh or Picasso in painting. His body was fully covered by exotic paintings in blue depicting mysterious do-or-die battles between dragons, love-making scorpion couples; spider webs extra –terrestrial creatures performing some sort of a cosmic dance.

“ Hi Shashi, You know, I’ve been selected informally as the tattoo king of the world in a fierce competition in the Big Apple with great tattooed men and women on the planet Earth.”

Boo showed me a tattoo magazine published from New York. The magazine was full of tattooed men and women of all ages, sizes, shapes and shades. At the centre spread, I could figure out Boo in his birthday suit with a young female who was also in her birthday suit, exhibiting their muscular physique, covered all over by bizarre pictures of other wordly characters.

“I’ve married Tanya, the tattoo queen”. When he was selected as the representative of the UK tattoo club for contesting in the New York tattoo competition and finally won the crown, I had no doubt, that he surely deserved the queen of tattoo too.

What made my heart ache subsequently, however, was the contrasting variation between poverty in the developed world, and that in the developing countries. The unforgettable impression of millions of malnourished half-naked people back at home, exhibiting varied tattoos of pathetic and tragic tales of hunger, starvation, malnourishment, disease and misery in all shapes, shades, forms and ages flashed into my mind and drowned me in a sea of sorrow and depression.


The Times of India, 5/12/1998

Alive, but dying within
By K. P. Shashidharan

Subjecting children to the flesh trade is one of the worst forms, of violation of human rights in any society. Children are defenceless, both physically and mentally against such inhuman crimes committed against them at a tender age Innocence, lack of exposures to the outside world; helplessness and inadequate care contribute to their vulnerability. It is estimated that in Asia alone more than one million children are subjected to prostitution. Sexual abuse of young girls has been made socially acceptable by practices such as the devdasi system in Andhra Pradesh, Kamataka and Maharashtra. That minor girls are initiated into life long slavery as prostitution by social sanction speaks volumes about the value system of the gender discriminatory society in our country.

The mental truant and agony of prostituted children is best described by Rence Bsidet, an eminent alive, they are dying within. The Allahabad High Court judgement on the Uttrakhand agitation, while determining the quantum of compensation to rape victims, treated rape as a crime equivalent to murder, considering the psychological onslaught. In case of child prostitution, the victim is innocent, helpless, having no right to his or her own body, right to his or her own body, right to childhood or right to a dignified existence. There is no question of consent as in most of the cases. The child sex industry brands children’s as commodity for sale and purchased. Sex trade thrives by trafficking in girls in urban centres and even across the borders of the country.

The sexual exploitation of children is generally associated with problems in Indian society such as poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment caste and class decisions as well as customs and traditions discrimination against women in a male dominated society. In a study on prostitution of girl children in kamathipura in Mumbai, it was found that most if the families of these girls are abysmally poor, rural –based and illiterate. Most of them come from large families where either the father id end, unemployed, and alcoholic or had deserted the family. In some cases the girl’s mother or sister is prostitution. Most of the were subjected to prostitution before 18 years. In Maharashtra about 50per of the prostitution started as devdasis. Some of these girls were hoodwinked by promises or marriage or employment in cities and gradually pressured to have a life virtual slavery mote or less skin to death.

Certain tribes consider prostitution as a socially accepted occupation for girls in their family. Girls from Rajnat tribes of Rajasthan adopt prostitution as a way of life puberty whenever a girl of this tribe reaches puberty it is customary to auction the right to her virginity to the highest bidder in ceremony. Tribes such as Dehrehar gandharva, Bedias, Kanjuras traditionally consider prostitution as a legitimate means of live hood. Religion, tradition and customs thus become powerful instruments of organised suppression, subjugation and victimisation of young girls.

Child prostitution has received encouragement through the spread of tourism. Reports of escapades of foreign paedophile tourists have appeared increasingly in the media. Though Southeast Asia is considered as a favourite hunting ground of paedophilias, it is widely believed that they are increasingly turning their attention towards India because of the absence of clear legislation to prevent child abuse in the country. Poverty compels children to fall easy victims at cheap rates.

Paedophilia or child rape, like all other crime is grossly under –reported in India. The official figures indicate only the general trend rather than giving all accurate estimate of such incidents. The government of India’s latest crime statistics stoic that child rape is registered by the police at rate of least two per day. The number if child rape victims has been increasing over the year. While paedophilia accounted for 4.5 per cent of total rape cases in 1992, it increased to 5.6 per cent in 1944 and 5.4 per cent in 1995. In 1995, 750cases of paedophilia were register all over India. The number of cases not reported to the police will inevitably be much more than this figure.

Talking about jurisprudence of juvenile justice former chief justice of India, Krishna lyre, points out that though children have clam to legal protection as per the canons of international justice, the welfare of children is given a low priority in the agenda of state action. This social problem can be solved only by promoting integrated all round socio – economic development. Efforts made by the government, NGO social and legal activists, police and the media. Sensitisation campaigns should be organised all over the country giving adequate attention to those intensely effected regions and communities in order to create awareness among the people.


The Hindustan Time

Fasting for spouse
By K. P. Shashidharan

That day was’ Karvachouth’ festival, the day all married women were to fast for longevity and well-being of their husbands- and perform ‘puja’ and wait for the moon to appear in the sky before breaking the fast. In the tradition-bound male-dominated Indian society, fasts are prescribed for women to observe for the benefit of husbands and sons.

While I belong to the matriarchal Nair family of Kerala, my wife belongs to a tradition-bound orthodox family from Varanasi. We don’t have many common festivals or ceremonies.

There is absolutely no question of male dominance and female subservience at least in our family. Both of us share more or less equal responsibility in running the family and attending to all sorts of domestic chores.

“Do you want me to observe “Karvachouth?” asked my wife.

Well, It’s up to you. If you so believe that it will benefit me and you want so, of course, you should; but I’ ll also fast for your health and well-being .” I expressed my views.

“It’s preposterous for husband to fast for wife. ‘Karvachouth’ is not meant for husband’s fasting’ she laughed at my idea.

“Why not, as far as we are concerned, it’s a fast for mutual benefit. A fast for the spouse,” I clarified.

“You know, we have a separate fast for mothers to observe for the benefit of sons called Deegh”, she informed.

It seems women are meant for living for others and not for themselves. The great law-maker Manu had declared long back that woman does not deserve freedom at any stage and should be disciplined and controlled by father till marriage, subservient to husband in youth and dependent on sons thereafter.

That day in the evening I observed ladies in our colony dressed in bright colony saris, with made up faces gathering in park for puja and listening to the ‘Karvachouth’ stories. I was told, once, a devoted wife had to break her fast when the anxious son who was worried about mother’s health lied that the moon appeared in the sky, but her husband fell unconscious as a consequence.

While talking to her Gujarati friend, my wife wanted to know whether her friend was observing ‘Karvachouth’ that day. No, of course my husband asked me to fast for him. How many times do I fast for my lord? You know, we have ‘Savitri’ fast in Gujarat and I observe it every year.

Why can’t he fast for me, this time? I retorted. If he so insists I told I would observe ‘Karvachouth’ too but I Should get a Banarasi or Kanchivaram sari of my choice for that. He didn’t want me to fast, then”, she guffawed.

That day both of us observed fast for a change. We realized that giving rest for a day to the over-burdened, every busy digestive system is good for health. If at all the fast further strengthens our marital life or benefits us mutually, that is definitely welcome.

However, we did not have the strength to continue starving till the moon appeared in the sky; we were completely exhausted and felt we would fall unconscious if we would wait for the moon before breaking the fast. So ended our fast for spouse that day before locating the moon in the sky.


The Hindu – Business Line, 8/2/2010

Audit of public sector enterprises
By K. P. Shashidharan

Recently in the context of discussion on quality of audit, serious concern has been expressed on the issue of independence of auditors in the private sector. While adjudging the quality of audit in private sector and that of public sector enterprises (PSEs), it is well acknowledged that “there is a creditability crisis in auditing profession in respect of audit of private sector” because of deficient system of appointment of auditors and the audit of public sector enterprises is of far superior quality because of established system of checks and balance to ensure independence of auditors.

The poor quality of private sector audit may have various root causes inherent in the system including criteria of appointment of auditors, influence of the dominate shareholders, fixation of remuneration, non-rotation of auditors, absence of joint audit system, ad-hoc selection criteria and, most importantly, lack of oversight mechanism.

In order light of accounting and governance scandals, both domestic and international and prevalent environment of creative accounting in corporate sector, the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (C&AG) reviewed its audit methodology and practices, and further geared up its oversight functioning to ensure better accountability, transparency, probity, equity and fairness in the audit of PSEs.


In order to select the right firms for the right job, the C&AG follows a transparent, objective, well-structured, web-based registration system, computerised empanelment process in consultation with ICAI and objective and transparent system based on predetermined acceptable parameters, adjudging competence, experience and suitability.

Initiatives to ensure independence: The statutory auditors have a fiduciary duty to provide independent, professional opinion on the financial statement of the company audited by them. Independence of the statutory auditors is ensured by appointing joint auditors for major PDEs and listed companies, rotating the auditors after a term of four years subjects to case to case evaluation of certain non-audit assignments. The statutory auditors with unsatisfactory performance are either cautioned or debarred for allotment of audit.

Direction: Before commencement of audit, expectations from the auditors are spelt out explicitly by issuing general and industry specific directions.

Financial Statement: Preparation of financial statement by the management and audit thereof by the statutory auditors procedurally is similar to that of the private sector.

Supplementary Audit: the certified account along with report certified accounts along with report of the statutory Auditors are reviewed and paramenters, a decision is taken whether to conduct supplementary audit of financial statement of PSEs. The supplementary audit carried out independently is limited primarily to the inquiries of the statutory auditors and company personnel and a selective examination of some of the accounting records. Bases on such a supplementary audit, significant audit observation are reported under section 619 (4) of the Companies Act, 1965, to be placed before the Annual General Meeting and in certain cases financial statement and auditors reports are revised.


An intensified, innovative, focused and result – oriented new audit methodology to financial audit called “Three Phased Audit System” was introduced from the accounting year 2008-09 in 78 selected central PSEs falling under the categories of listed, navratna, miniratna Government companies, and statutory corporations where C&AG is the sole auditor. This methodology has been widely appreciated by the CEOs, CFOs and statutory auditors of these PSEs. Therefore, this has been extended to 114 CPSEs for the financial statements of 200-10. Further, instructions were strengthened for independent third party confirmation of balances and reporting results.

Thus, there are adequate checks and balances for ensuring independence of auditors through the system of their appointment, putting restriction on taking non-audit assignments, issuing directions to the auditors and overseeing the work performed by them.


The Hindu Business Line, 11/3/2010

Brainstorming for quality audit
By K. P. Shashidharan

As pronounced in the latest auditing Standard (AS - ) – Engagement Quality Review (EPR) – issued by the regulator, the public Company Accounting oversight Board (PCAOB), the fundamental audit objective is striving to achieve Six Sigma quality standard in audit of financial statements, though an error of even one in ten thousand instead of three in ten thousand as stated in EPR may not be accepted in the current global environment.

The issues relating to selection of quality auditors by implementing acceptable objective criteria arrived at in consensus with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) for available CPSE (central public sector enterprises) financial audits have been discussed earlier including the significant aspects of ensuring their competence, independence and adherence to integrity, professional standards and ethics. One of the prerequisite for eligibility for CPSE audit is that the audit firm should be peer reviewed as per procedures followed by the ICAI.


Research finds that creative accounting techniques such as aggressive revenue recognition ahead of time, booking fictitious sales, shifting expenses, cash modulations, related-party transactions, unacceptable prior period adjustments are prevalent in corporate accounts.

CPSEs are governed by a number of regulatory bodies – Ministry of Corporate Affairs the Department of Public Enterprises and the Administrative Ministry, SEBI for listed PSEs, RBI for non-banking financial PSEs, and CERC for power sector PSEs.

Each of these regulatory bodies issues directions and guidelines in its area of operation. To ensure the consistency in the directions issued by various regulatory agencies there is need for effective co-ordination.

These studies establish that there is an increasing need for regulators to gear up their machinery to curb the unethical creative accounting tendencies, unprofessional conduct of auditors, non-adherence to corporate governance tenets and fraudulent transactions, furthering corporate governance principles in their functioning,


For qualitative transformation in the audit process and methodology a change in the mindset of auditors is needed, with innovative strategic transformation in the audit approach. Quality audit is target to bring value addition usefulness, credibility, transparency, visibility and acceptability.

Realising the need to strengthen the financial reporting system of CPSEs and thereby help implement internationally benchmarked best corporate governance practices, the CAG of India has taken various innovative measures. The ‘Three Phase Audit (TPA) approach is one of them.

The new initiative has been introduced in more than 100 CPSEs from 2009-10.

While the new TPA approach realises the importance of brainstorming for resolution of conflicting accounting issues, the fact remains that no oversight body, accounting standard – setting institution or stakeholder alone can have the monopoly of all wisdom in giving the finial word on complex accounting and audit issues specific to certain industry sector or business do-main.

Therefore, in the TPA approach in addition to explicitly stating the expectation from the statutory auditors in audit of financial audit of CPSEs by issuing directions, the CAG auditor steps in to attest audit functions much before the finalisation of accounts.

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