Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Female Srikrishna

It was a slightly different version of an episode in the Mahabharat. There was the incessant rain. The gushing waters of the Yamuna deterred all but the brave or the very desperate.

Our Vasudev was carrying his child across the gurgling water. And the two were protected from the torrential rain by the black multi-hooded Vasuki in the form of an umbrella. The only difference was that the child being carried was a girl.

It was early morning. The pouring rain showed no sign of letting up. The footpath had turned into a rivulet with water flowing down at tearing speed. The school-bus was expected any moment. And the child couldn’t possibly risk spoiling the mirror-polish of her shoes by wading through muddy water. Dirty shoes would invite stern action by her merciless class teacher Miss Spic-and-spanwala.

The scheduled arrival of the bus was drawing nearer and nearer. The restlessness of the girl was growing further and further. In this trying moment what could a loving father do? He tucked up his dhoti which he was wearing like a lungi and asked the child to hold aloft the umbrella. In one clear sweep he lifted up the child, plunged into the water, crossed it and swiftly deposited her on the other side of the stream!

There was an anti-climax. This modern-day Vasudev lost one of his slippers. When he put a foot in water and lifted it to take the next step, the foot was bare! He hurriedly looked around for a floating slipper but there was no sign of it anywhere. The school-bus was now approaching its appointed stop; the child was getting impatient. So, without bothering about the slipper, the half-shod father soldiered on to reach the daughter to the bus stop. She boarded it in the nick of time.

Having accomplished the task, the father resumed his mission of searching for the missing slipper. He followed the current, examining every object floating along, with a hawkish eye.

Aha! He spotted the truant object not far off.

But his happiness was short-lived. The slipper belonged to a different pair. :(((((((

The desperate fellow trudged further down the road-turned rivulet and finally reached the mouth of the big covered drain into which the water was flowing. No luck. He cast an accusing look at the drain and started the return journey, eyes fixed on all floating objects. Still no luck. He reached home, still a slipper short. Letting out a sigh over his recent loss, he opened the gate and threw away the other slipper to the stream. Before shutting the gate, he cast a half-hearted look at the spot where he had lost the slipper.

Lo and behold! The elusive slipper was propping its tip over the gushing water at the very same spot!!! It had got firmly embedded in the underlying mud, by the combined weight of father and daughter. His face brightened. His smile was perhaps as wide as that of Alexander, the Great, after one of his victories. Retrieving the slipper, he ran down the stream to collect the other one he had thrown away and returned home. He stepped into the house and breathlessly poured out the story of his triumph over the unsympathetic and cruel nature before the lady of the house. But the LOH was no Devaki. Instead of congratulating her lord and master, she broke into a derisive and uncontrolled laughter. :(((((((((((

More was in store for our hero. He went to his Bank as usual. When he came home for lunch, the daughter had already returned from school. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the house, she said in a hurt voice, “Papa, how could you?” Then she said with an air of finality, ”From now on, never accompany me to the school-bus.” In the morning, her friends had seen it all from the bus-window!

Could a 14-year girl accept the role of 4-hour old baby-boy Krishna, that too against the glare, stare and giggle of her friends and school-mates?

But this blogger had no choice; the role of Vasudev was thrust on him by circumstance.

But look at the upside! Imagine the great Vasudev of Mahabharat losing and searching for one of his wooden clogs in the waters of the Yamuna!!!


This experience of mine was published in the ‘Punchline’ feature of The Sunday Economic Times of 21.12.1997


I find a lot of similarities between the pranks played by Balakrishna (the Child Krishna) and the antics of Dennis in the cartoon strip Dennis, the Menace by Hank Ketcham. Often Krishna's foster mother Yashoda would punish Krishna for his naughty pranks and Dennis's mother would punish him by making him sit facing the wall in the corner. But neither of the mothers can imagine her life without the pranks of the child. In one strip, fed up by the antics and the constant chattering of Dennis, his mother sternly asks him to stop talking as she wants some "peace and quiet". Then Dennis completely becomes silent. After a while, she can take it no longer. She hogs him tightly and says, "There has been too much peace; it has been too quiet!"

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Divided By A Common Language

When I type ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘programme’ or ‘practise’, my computer underlines these words in red, indicating that the spellings used by me are wrong. When I type ‘recognise’ ‘apologise’, or ‘offence’, sometimes the computer on its own, corrects these to ‘recognize’, ‘apologize’ and ‘offense’. As most of us know, in American English, these words are spelt as ‘color’, ‘favor’, ‘program’, ‘practice’. And my computer says that the word 'spelt' is to be spelt as 'spelled'!

It was George Bernard Shaw who had said that England and America are two countries divided by a common language. The basic difference between Ameringlish and Queen’s English (or King’s English, depending on whether the reigning Sovereign in Britain is a female or male) is that the American spellings are more practical and are more in tune with how a word is pronounced. This makes spellings easier to remember and saves time and space in e-mails, newspaper columns and other modes of communications, even if it irks purists. The American English guillotines extra letters in words like ‘programme’ and ‘travelling’ and prefers ‘program’ and ‘traveling’.

The differences are not confined to spellings. There are many other words and figures of speech in Ameringlish which appear bizarre to a person familiar with Queen’s English. Autumn is ‘fall’; lorry is ‘truck’ and trousers is ‘pants’ ( a shortened form of ‘pantaloons’). Football is ‘soccer’; chemist (medicine-shop’) is ‘druggist’; petrol is ‘gas’; taxi is ‘cab’; road crossing is ‘crossroads’ and tick is ‘check’.

Here are some other American equivalents of English words:

Biscuit-cookies, insect-bug, cheque-check, currency note-bill, car-automobile, bonnet-hood, pavement-side walk, railway-rail road, fly over-over pass, ground floor- first floor, fries-chips, potato chips- potato crisps, soft drink-fizzy drink, lift-elevator, flat-apartment, class (school year)-grade, aeroplane-airplane, bill-check,blue-eyed boy-fair-eyed boy, dust bin-garbage can/trash can, funny bone-crazy bone.

The word 'first floor' referring to ground floor would be more soothing to us Indians. The term 'level I' is more neutral and appears to be better.

Americans ‘speak with’ rather than ‘speak to’. To the question 'How are you?', Americans reply, ‘I am good.’ and not ‘I am fine.’ Often Americans dislike propositions and say, “Let’s meet Monday” and turn nouns into verb (impact-impacts).

Recently, business, travel, Internet and television have brought the old and the ‘new’ world closer and have blurred language-differences. The American style has triumphed over the traditional English spellings and figures of speech. One of the apparent reasons is that the U S of A has become the sole super power in world politics and economy. In the process, English is becoming ‘Globish’.


When television came to India, it was a government enterprise. In tune with the Sanskritised –and very apt- name ‘Akashvani ( literally 'Voice From the Sky' and officially, 'All India Radio') it was named ‘Door Darshan’ (literally meaning ‘view from a distance’). This reminds one of the word ‘doorbhash’ (talk from a distance), the Hindi word for ‘telephone’. There was no problem as long it was the only channel. When Indian air waves opened up and several privately-owned channels appeared, the generic Hindi term ‘door darshan” became a Proper Noun and the word ‘television’ became an adopted Common Noun in Indian languages!. Practically, there is no longer a Hindi equivalent of the English word ‘television’! 2: Francophones asked, "Why do Americans speak English?" The British would like to omit the first word and modify the question to: Do Americans speak English?

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Banker's Mantra

It was the Chinese philosopher Confucius who had said:

You ask credit;
I not give;
You get mad.

I give credit,
You not pay;
I get mad.

Better you get mad!

Most bankers (May our tribe flourish!) take this very sane advice as their mantra. Letting the other person to get mad rather than oneself getting angry is as sage an advice as the saying, ‘Tension leneka nanhi, deneka hai’. ( Don’t have tension; if at all, it is to be given!!!)

The American humourist Mark Twain defined a banker as a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining but wants it back the minute it begins to rain!

Twain may be correct to an extent but one must understand a banker’s plight. He has no money on his own; he makes money out of other people’s money. He is the custodian of other people’s money. He lends one person’s money to some other person in trust. He knows that if a depositor wants his money back, there will still be others who will deposit their money with him and he repays the earlier depositor with the money of the new depositor. He knows that all his depositors will not ask for their money back at the same time. Luckily for the banker, no depositor asks, or can ask, for the same currency notes or the same coins which were deposited by him with the banker. The banker has to return only an equal amount.

If a depositor has to get back the same currency notes or coins, it will not be banking; it will be ‘safe custody’, which is a subsidiary service provided by a banker under which system, a banker receives sealed packets containing valuables for safe-keeping, for a nominal charge.

A banker trusts that when his borrower has earned sufficiently by using the money borrowed, he (the borrower) will return the money with interest. Thus a banker is like juggler. Like a juggler, he throws up hats (lends money) and catches the falling hats thrown up earlier. Like the circle of flying hats, the cycle of money moves round and round. The interest charged by a banker is a little more than what he/she pays and he/she makes his/her dal-roti out of the difference between these two amounts. The poor fellow (banker) manages his money-shop by the inflow and outflow of money.

Another name of Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, is Chanchala – the eternally moving, never staying in one place. Like Chanchala, money never stays in one person’s hands; it moves and changes hands. Water, when not moving, becomes stagnant, stale and unfit for use . Like water, money remains fresh - and helps one to make more money - only when it is on the move.

At the railway station or the post office, some times another person, who has not brought his pen and needs one to fill up forms, asks for our pen. Many times and wherever feasible, we give him/her only the writing part, retaining the cap of the pen with us. We watch that person while he writes and after writing, if he does not return the pen, we ask for the pen back. The same is the fate of the banker. Coming to Mark Twain's banker's depositor's umbrella, if you borrow the umbrella and do not handle it properly, or forget to return it, the banker has to ask for it back. And if the umbrella is not used properly or is mishandled, it will get damaged and lost - lost not only to the banker but also to the borrower as well as the owner.

Human psychology is such that a borrower may - and is not unlikely to - forget to return the borrowed money but a creditor never forgets it, nor can he afford to forget while a borrower can merrily and blithely do that!


Shakespeare has famously said, “Neither a lender nor a borrower be.” But if everybody follows this principle, what will be the fate of the poor banker?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Letter From Daughter II

On completing her Intermediate (the so-called Plus Two) Course in a school in India, Daughter II won a scholarship by Singapore Airlines to study Engineering in Singapore. One of the terms of the scholarship was that after completing her studies, she would have to work for a Singapore-based company for 6 years. As I said in an earlier post, I had maintained 2 files titled ‘Letters From A Daughter to Her Father’ and ‘Letters From A Father to His Daughter’, respectively. Here is a letter preserved in the first file. It was an e-mail sent soon after she completed her studies, a month short of 10 years ago.

Monday, May 06, 2002, 7.49 pm

Dear Bapa and Mama,

I finally finished the last set of my exams and suddenly I am plunged into this new world which requires a higher degree of independence than was expected of me when I joined a University in another country. I can now easily distinguish the three phases in my life so far. One, when I was at home, and my only responsibilities were my studies, because I had home to run to if I faced any problem. I knew there was hot steaming food waiting for me when I came home from school. I scarcely bothered if I did anything to deserve the meal that was granted to me. Every aspect of life was taken care of by you and Mama, and I had no worries about what I was going to eat the next day or where I was going to sleep.

Then came Singapore, and abruptly the higher degree of independence and expectations struck me. Suddenly, I had to keep account of the money I had. I had to make sure I fulfilled all conditions of being a legal entity in a foreign country. I had to remember to eat my meal at times. I had to remember to wash my clothes and fold them neatly. I had to remember to run and take the clothes off the drying line if it rained! I had to remember to lock my room when I was going out. I had to remember to manage my bank account. I had to remember to fill up my bottle of drinking water. I had to remember that it was time to change the bed-sheets and pillow-covers. But one good thing was, we were all together, all my friends, and we reminded each other and did things together. I knew it was time for lunch because I saw others eating. There was this connection between us friends that made sure that we were all managing life o.k.

And now the third phase. I am going to graduate. I have a job now. I have to hunt for an apartment to stay in. I have to apply for Permanent Residence, I have to pack all my things and move them to my new place. I have to buy utensils and things to keep in fridge. I have to wrap up all graduation formalities with the Ministry of Education. I shall be working in a place where I will make a contribution, where the things I do will make difference. At University, I was responsible only for my activities; now I shall be responsible for my company. I am not just a student anymore. Suddenly, I feel so grown up. Two days back, it was my farewell function for my batch. I was voted the 'most creative person' in my batch, and also the 'girl with the best sense of humour'. I had juniors coming and telling me they will genuinely miss me. People wrote in my autograph book that I was the most amazing senior they had. Four years of life at NTU... it feels like long, long time, but I feel proud as I believe I have done good, I have managed my life quite well. I have been happy and I have been strong.

Today, I went to view a few houses. I shall be looking at a few more before deciding. I have a lot of plans about my home and how I shall decorate it. It is going to be different from my hostel-room. I won’t have rules telling me exactly what I can have and what I can’t. My home will be what I make it, it won’t be just another room that looks exactly like the room of a zillion other hostelites. I am excited about the responsibility.

I want you to plan and come here and see how I have settled. I want both of you to visit me soon.


I was struck by the capacity for introspection by a 22-year old.


Whose property is a letter? The sender’s or the addressee’s?

In the Banking System, a Bank Draft remains a property of the purchaser as long as it is in the possession of its purchaser. The moment the purchaser dispatches it to the payee, it becomes legally the property of the payee and the purchaser loses the right of ownership over the amount! This is the position even if the Draft is lost in transit or the payee does not encash it:)))))))))))))))))