My Anand

We saw him dying each day once we came to know that his cancer was untreatable as it’s origin was undetermined. We knew him as a reserved, shy and reticent person, but he was strong willed and there was no doubt about this quality of his. For most of the times, he took his terminal condition in his stride, which was, in any case, openly discussed realistically amongst his sisters, wife, children and mother.

But he had his weak moments when he clearly wanted to live and not die. He was especially attached to his collegiate daughter with whom he would once in a while share his “ Man ki baat”. So, he readily and willingly agreed to undergo extremely painful chemotherapy and radiation in spite of doctors clearly declaring his strain to be incurable. He underwent alternate therapies that came along with extremely restrictive food regimens. For months he gave up his favourite foods to be on the recommended diet.

And then as unlockdown started slowly, he went back to his native to wait for the inevitable. He deteriorated much faster than expected and after battling with cancer for close to 15 months, he succumbed during the auspicious Ganpati festival. Ganpati, also knows as vignaharta or remover of all vignas or obstacles or problems, whatever you may call them, bestowed deliverance upon him, ending his pain, misery and bodily life. The only solace in this entire agonising moment was the presence of all those who mattered to him by his death bed.

Anand by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and starring Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan in lead roles is one of my favourite movies. Here Anand, a last stage cancer patient comes to Mumbai to stay with Dr Bhaskar Banerjee on a common friend’s recommendation. And both of them are different like chalk and cheese – Anand is boisterous, friendly, outward types while Bhaskar is serious, silent and inward type. Anand, knowing full well that his end was just a few days away, tried to live life king size and in the process taught Bhaskar also the art of living life. Towards the end, of course, Anand develops a deep bonding with Bhaskar and doesn’t want to die! And the scene of Bhaskar’s disenchantment in his ability to save Anand is heart rending.

The protagonist in my Anand also comes to Mumbai for his treatment, knows that he only has a few days to live and faces all the realities with great strength and aplomb. Of course, he’s not open like Anand but reserved like Bhaskar, but nonetheless he has inner strength like Anand and zeal to live life just before dying.

Only difference is unlike Anand of celluloid who is a fictitious character, the protagonist of My Anand is a real life character, whom like Dr Bhaskar, I helplessly saw him dying each day but not before he taught me the meaning of life!

As they say good stories are those that come out of real life experiences. Hope my readers like My Anand.

Heart in hands

The woman in the picture with a smile is Salwa Hussein..! The woman without a heart 💔 in her body, a rare case in the world, as she carries her artificial heart in a bag. The British newspaper “Daily Mail” reported that Salwa Hussein, aged 39, is the only one who lives like this way in Britain. She is the mother of two children, the bag that carries her heart is in her lap, its always with her with a device with two batteries weighing 6.8 kg, which is an electric motor and a pump, The batteries push the air into a plastic bag in the patient’s chest through attached tubes, for blood circulation in her body😔 By God Grace all our personal problems and worries are nothing infront of her confidence and her SMILE.

While wishing Salma all the best for a long , happy and healthy life, the incident actually opens a floodgate of emotions and myths attached to various human organs. Image of heart in hand is associated with charity, whereas Salma actually has her heart in hands and there’s nothing charitable about it . It needs motors and battery to run it and pump and purify blood. Another feeling associated with heart is wearing heart on one’s sleeve, which is representative of a true romantic. We all must have heard of from the bottom of my heart, eat one’s heart out, have a heart, my heart bleeds, I have lost my heart to you, you stay in my heart, heart of gold, heart to heart talk, to know something by heart, pour your heart, with a heavy heart et al. So much romanticism, symbolism and glorification of an organ that’s vital to survive yet ugly to look at- like any other internal organ – gory, bloody, beating and ghastly- is more to do with human’s thought process and poetic leanings and nothing to do with anatomy or actual physical constitution.

Privileged are we who lose heart to our beloved, eat our heart out, have heart to heart chat, have a heart in adversity, have a bleeding heart on seeing human misery, pour our heart out to give vent to our emotions. For Salma, the challenge is to keep her heart in hand perform it’s basic functions non stop and take care that battery is always sufficiently charged and motor operates defect free. And if she can smile at the life, we, to whom heart offers so many other emotional options, should be celebrating each day with gratitude.

A true romantic wears heart on his sleeve,

Pouring one’s heart out reduces one’s peeve;

Eating heart out is a bliss,

We pray so that heart beat is never amiss;

Such a little organ and so many emotions,

Exercise and eat healthy so that heart never loses its motions!!

Rain rain stay, let Covid go away

After a hiatus of couple of days, when it seemed that monsoon season for the year was going to be over, we have woken up today to dark skies and lightening and thunder. It’s as if rain is saying, “don’t get complacent; I am not going anywhere too soon. Let the mankind, the nation and the city quench their thirst for water as much as possible.”

And it’s true that we are having another season of bountiful rain and farmers are rejoicing by making use of this bounty by bringing more and more land under sowing. In fact, in these dark Covid times, farm sector is the only sector making positive contribution to the country’s GDP and keeping its wheels moving. God bless the farmers of this country and let’s also express gratitude to heavens for their generosity by giving bountiful rain in what otherwise could have been even a more difficult year.

There’s an old poem that my daughter use to sing in her nursery days that read –

Rain rain go away

Don’t show your face again

Little Johnny wants to play

Rain rain go away!

Today, while we don’t mind rain staying for a few more days, but wish that it should take Covid away with itself. Like it cleans mother earth of all its dust and dirt, making it verdant green, let it also clean this earth from this pandemic that’s assuming monstrous proposition. With a count of 80000 being added each day, india overtaking US to be the biggest affected country does not seem too far away. More frighteningly, Covid that first entered the country, then city, then locality is now entering home and family i.e. getting too close for comfort:

Covid Covid go away

Never show your face again

Nation wants to grow again

Covid Covid go away!

A respectful ode to teachers


गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु र्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः
गुरु साक्षात परब्रह्मा तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः

So everything is changing. The status given to Guru in our ancient scriptures, where a Guru is equated with the Trinity of the creator, the preserver and the destroyer in the form of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh respectively no longer holds good. And I would say fault lies on both the sides – Guru, the giver of Jnana or knowledge as also the shishya, it’s recipient. And to stretch the point further, the fault actually does not lie with either but with the objective of gaining Jnana or knowledge ! Today knowledge is not acquired for becoming a better human or to understand the deep nuances of the reality of this world , but to acquire quickfix bookish knowledge for material gains! When the entire objective is materialistic, it will be inappropriate to view this entire issue from a spiritual angle and hence the lack of relevance of the above mantra in the context guru shishya parampara or tradition.

If there are no Guru Dronacharyas, where are the Eklavyas? If Ravi Shankars are not being born, where are Baba Allauddins? In fact, the electronic music seems to be gaining so much popularity that in near future, we may not see a pianist, sitarist, violinist, guitarist but only one playing synthesiser, who with the touch of a button would reproduce sound of any of the aforesaid instruments. In sum, today the only thing that counts is the convenience factor and people want to acquire everything – money, status, sedan, house as also skills – professional or artistic- overnight! And we expect Tapasya of Eklavya or Ravi Shankar kind or the patience of Dronacharya or Allauddin kind!

And thanks to our social media, creativity really runs very high in thinking through posts that range between outright hilarious to ludicrous! So we are receiving posts with a garland around a bottle of Teachers whiskey as also an incense stick and a coconut offered to the biggest new age guru – Google! No doubt Google has made all information available at a click of a button, but I don’t know why do we mix up information and knowledge. Mere obtainment of information is not knowledge; imbibing or emulating that information in our day to day lives is salvation, for which Google baba is not competent and we may either run to our scriptures or to Sri Sri, Mahatria and Shankaracharyas ! And the teacher of the bottled variety offers salvation only for that evening, making us wake up with a big hangover the next morning!

We all know that each individual is a unique divine creation and the acts of kindness by the God almighty actually get executed through one of his divine creations only, who comes to us as a manifestation of God himself when we are into neck deep trouble!

While the above examples of Guru Shishya tradition and lofty goals of salvation are far fetched, all our day to day benefactors are our Gurus. From whomsoever we learn or get solace or gain anything from material to spiritual, they are worthy of being our Gurus. And he or she need not only be a teacher or parent or a superior authority. All ordinary mortals qualify to be our Gurus who touch our lives positively in any manner and these could be our juniors, peers, seniors, guides, mentors, benefactors et al. In today’s dark Covid times, who can be the bigger guru than Corona warriors- our doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, police, public transport operators, armed forces etc all working tirelessly and selflessly to keep us safe.

Let’s bow before all these gurus!

Happy Teacher’s Day!

Catch 22

How often do we all use the above phrase that represents or is reflective of dilemma! The best example is the chicken and the egg story – which came first – the egg, who laid it if the chicken was not there – the chicken, how it hatched without the egg? And there are number of examples of this dilemma, the popular lore being a candidate appearing for a job that required work experience! He was flummoxed, “ If each job giver has this precondition, how will I gain work experience?”

The inspiration of this blog has come from eponymous book of the same name that was penned by Joseph Heller in early 60s, but that retains its popularity and interest till date, lining it up along side classic works. In fact, as the story goes, the author could have named it anything and actually originally coined it Catch 18 to finally name his book Catch 22 at the suggestion of his publisher.

As aforesaid, catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations that’s best described by the following flow chart:

The entire book that’s 450+ pages is a satirical take on wartime politics, where number of combat missions are continuously increased and those who want a break find themselves in a Catch 22 situation.

It’s a difficult book to read. To prove the point, I started this book 10-15 years ago, but couldn’t go more than a few pages, and if you look for personal reviews of this book, many readers have echoed similar experiences. It’s not sequential, is repetitive, entails use of very complex words et al.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog on Hollywood blockbuster Saving Private Ryan that was a gory and macabre take on world war 2. Coming close on the heels of the above classic movie, the classic book is a satire on world war 2. However, as also observed in my aforesaid previous blog, the individual soldiers sacrifice their lives and attain martyrdom, but there are so many under currents that are not necessarily in the similar serious vein. This is tragic. In the matters of sacrifice for the nation, all stakeholders must demonstrate the same sincerity, seriousness, valour and chivalry that our troops facing the enemy demonstrate. At least in such matters of supreme national interest entailing supreme sacrifice, no stakeholder should shortchange and this is one of important learning from Joseph Heller’s classic.

Come September

Like the start of April is associated with April Fool, the onset of September immediately brings to mind that classic Hollywood movie “Come September “ starring ever handsome Rock Hudson and ever charming Gina Lollobrigida. And who can forget the every popular “Come September” signature tune composed by maverick Bobby Darin that’s played to date by wedding bands and orchestra.

There’s another song “Come September” whose theme is rather sad, but it’s catchline says –

Come September
Everything wrong gonna be alright
Come September

In these dark Covid times, can there be anything more soothing than the line “ Come September, Everything wrong gonna be alright?”

Actually, September has its own significance. It heralds start of autumn after sizzling hot summer and muggy rainy season. The climate takes turn to be more pleasant, with nights becoming cooler. Earth awashed by departing rains is green, clean and beautiful. Festive spirit starts manifesting itself in the atmosphere. In short, there’s hope all around.

Let’s dance to the evergreen Bobby Darin’s tune “ Come September” and sing the above lullaby that assures that all wrong are going to go away, once September comes!

Come September

Everything is gonna be alright

Because this dark and gloomy Covid tunnel is coming to an end

Leading the humanity to shining bright light!

Come September

Even the season is undergoing a change

There’s no reason whatsoever

Why Covid will not go out of our range?

Come September

Man has survived flus, plagues and catastrophes

Don’t show him covid

He knows all the tricks and all the ropes!

Forces on the border

Came across two disturbing news today. In continuous firing by Pakistani troops on Indian positions, we lost a JCO yesterday. It was also mentioned in the news item that this was 7th case of an Indian personnel dying in these border skirmishes with Pakistan. It doesn’t imply that we are taking it lying down; our response is very fierce causing extensive damage and casualties on the other side.

Second news is another showdown at Indo China border. One version is that China was once again moving its troops to front position to resume construction work, Indian forces foiled the attempt. Chinese version is that India has been asked to move back its troops to de escalate tension. In either scenario, it indicates renewed tension at Sino Indian border.

The above news items have mentally disturbed me more strongly in view of my day old fresh experience of having watched world war 2 drama Saving Private Ryan. The film directed by celebrated Hollywood director Steven Spielberg is a very brutal and raw depiction of war action. The story relates to martyrdom of three brothers in action, the high point being that even 4th brother is also in action fighting German troops. Chief of staff General Marshall sends a crack team to the field of action to bring back home the 4th brother so that the entire family is not wiped out. Private Ryan comes back home safely, but not before six out of eight members of the crack team are martyred. Also, the scenes of war and suffering are agonising and heart wrenching. And don’t we come across such incidents in our own context where we see multiple martyrdoms from the same family – father first then son or two sons, in another case a wife joining army as replacement for her martyred husband.

When will the good sense prevail in humans that negotiated settlement is the only civilised way of resolving issues. War is destructive. And this I am talking of 40s when the weapons were still not as lethal or destructive as they are now!

Let’s pray for peace, safety of our troops and prevalence of judiciousness and prudence in the minds of governments. Isn’t Corona pandemic causing enough suffering that nations like Pakistan and China are finding it difficult to just hold on to agreed positions of LOC and LAC respectively and fight pandemic instead? Praying for and preaching peace are not necessarily cowardliness! Our forces need not necessarily have to make more sacrifices to prove their valour.

God bless our country and our forces.

Covid love story

They met in the month of February and developed an instant likeness for each other. Actually, their meeting was incidental. He was waiting for the bus, while she was on her two wheeler, which seemed to have had a flat tyre. In a place like Mumbai, where everyone is in a hurry to reach his or her destination, chivalry is rare, but he was chivalrous by nature and he helped her change the tyre. In turn, she offered to drop him to the nearest station, which is also rare in Mumbai where pay back gift is at the most a polite “Thankyou”. Of course, he didn’t accept the offer but came to know the name of the company she worked in. He found the board number of her company and gave her a courtesy call the next day to check whether she had reached home without any further ado. She was really smitten by this kind hearted Samaritan and they decided to meet one of the days post office hours. However, this meeting was not to be as in a few days time the nation was under completely lockdown in view of the Covid pandemic. Luckily, as they had exchanged numbers, they could call each other up and have conversations. Their conversations changed from impersonal to personal and they had started planning for their future. She largely liked his background, job and demeanour and he of course was totally smitten by her.

However, this story was not to have a happy ending. Girl’s parents received a very good match for her from a Dubai based boy of the same community, in fact a boy from the neighbourhood, who had come to Mumbai on a short break, but had got stuck up in lockdown. Now that flights had resumed, his parents didn’t want him to go back alone, but get married and take his bride along! Boy had seen the girl and had generally liked her. The prospects of a simple, no fuss, no expense marriage on an immediate basis suited girls parents eminently as they had 3 daughters all marriageable and marriage of at least one and that too to an overseas boy in a simple fashion was too good to be true. She also couldn’t say no, seeing her parents’ delight and dim prospects of furthering her relationship with that stranger, whom she had net only once, though dreamt of living lifelong with him!

When she informed the boy of her immediate marriage and repatriation to overseas, the boy was crestfallen! But being a true chivalrous, he ………

There are two options to end this story – (1) the boy asked the girl to escape, meet him and elope with him by marrying in a temple or (2) the boy hanged himself to death.

Actually he did nothing. He took it in his stride, wished her a happy married life and moved ahead, waiting for the pandemic to end!

If a non story teller like me can fabricate a quick story in Covid background, no wonder that Bollywood producers are lining up registering names and rushing to make movies with Covid background. The above story has also another dimension for the boy who had come from Dubai. He got stuck up here but went back with a bride and that too of his choice.

Covid is a pandemic

But it can be an opportunity too

There’s so much to learn from it

And so much to do !

Western Moral Story

My old time friend Sunil Babbar, who is very active on social media, sometimes sends very meaningful posts of lasting value, like the one he sent today on the legend around truth and lie.

In nutshell, the folklore goes around the meeting between the Truth and the Lie one day and the Lie telling the truth about that being a nice day. Though sceptical of taking the Lie’s claim on the face value, the Truth herself looks at the sky and finds it to be a beautiful day indeed! After that they reach a well and the Lie suggests that they should take a bath together. They undress and enter into the water. The Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of the truth, carries her clothes to be disposed of and runs away. Truth comes out and searches the Lie everywhere. The World, seeing the Truth naked, turns its gaze away, with contempt and rage. The poor Truth returns to the well and disappears forever, hiding therein, in shame. Since then, the Lie travels around the world, dressed as the Truth, satisfying the needs of society, because, the World, in any case, harbors no wish at all to meet the naked Truth. There’s also the world-famous painting- “The Truth coming out of the well” by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1896, which is considered a classic.

It’s a simple fact woven beautifully in a simplistic story and immediately reminds one of our own folklore – stories from Panchatantra that were simplistic and yet had a deep moral message at the end. Whether it’s grapes are sour or unity is strength, we have all grown up imbibing wisdom from these folklores.

However, there’s one clear difference between Western legends and myths and our own folklore. Our folklores always end on a positive note to drive home the message. It’s always about the victory of the truth over the evil or good over the bad! In the above story, there’s no option given to the poor Truth to ever come out of the symbolic well and expose the Lie! The Lie dressed up as the Truth seems to be eternal!

If it were a Panchatantra story, a virtuous Prince would have come and stopped by the well, where he would have noticed the naked Truth. He would immediately give his shawl to cover her up, take her out and accompany her in search of the Lie. After a short war, the virtuous prince would kill the Lie, married the Truth and rule the world truthfully like Ramrajya.

Thanks Babbar sir for sharing such priceless nuggets that provide me with an opportunity to share such good thoughts with my readers.

97/100

When the Board results were recently announced, we anxiously called up our cousin in Pune, whose daughter had appeared for the exams. Our cousin sounded low and down. On being prodded further, she informed us about her daughter crying inconsolably and uncontrollably since the declaration of results, the reason being she having scored only 97 out of 100 in mathematics. I tried to good humour the girl by making her believe that 97 out of 100 was indeed a big score and that in my times forget 97%, scoring even 50% was considered a big feat. I can’t really say , when the poor kid swam out of ocean of grief, but the incident had a great learning for me.

We don’t celebrate 97 things, achievements or assets that we possess, but lament about 3 that we don’t . We lament not having reached to the top of the organisational hierarchy, but don’t celebrate having reached number 3 position against heavy odds. We don’t enjoy Maruti Baleno that we have, but remain mired in envy of the neighbour having a BMW! And this applies to everything we possess and don’t possess!

Actually, golden words by Mahatria shared every morning by a friend of mine is now a major source of inspiration for my blogging. Today’s thought by Mahatria is not only the inspiration for this blog’s title but the entire blog. The thought immediately transported me to my early days when what we all have today was simply unimaginable. By those standards, I shouldn’t be in the category of middle class or upper middle class but super rich! But the million dollar question is whether a marginal first division holder, an ordinary student, a child from middle class family is happy with today’s distinction and even something much higher? Am I happy with 97 out of 100 or still lamenting about the three beyond me? His today’s thought reads:

We always complain about the 3 which we did not get, instead of celebrating the 97 which we already got.”

Such a powerful message put so succinctly is Mahatria’s strength.