March 4, 2015 3 Comments
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November 30, 2014 4 Comments
29th Nov 14
Today was one of the two mandatory days in a week for me to a session at the gym, part of a regimen prescribed by the docs in cardiac rehab. Going to the dentist to pull out a rotten tooth is any day a far pleasanter prospect, I thought.
As I was retrieving my track-suit from the cupboard, on a chance, I looked out of the window and spotted the old man settling down on the pavement just outside our gate. From the folds of his clothes he pulled out a small cloth pouch. I couldn’t see what he was doing with it.
Just then the watchman of the building across the street about fifteen feet away shouted:
‘What are you eating?’
The old man waved a sache at him.
‘Tambakoo? Who gave it to you?’
‘No one. I bought it from my own money. Five rupees it cost me.’
As I moved away from the window, I heard the watchman call him ‘bewda’ (a drunkard) – didn’t know what was the provocation – and receive a mouthful from the old man. Whatever else he might be, he is certainly not a ‘bewda’ as far as I could see.
Not an infrequent scene – these days I find youngsters passing by, tradesmen, courier boys, all taunting him for no apparent reason and the old man responding vigorously.
Meanwhile, my wife from the other room wanted to know why it was taking so long for me to get ready for the gym. Was I planning to skip the work–out?
I assured her the thought had not entered my mind and proceeded to share with her what I saw and heard from up here.
She already had it mapped out: ‘I told you time and again never to give money to these folks. You give him money and see what he does with it. If you feel like giving, give him something to eat.’
I know from first hand they prefer to receive cash that lets them buy food of their choice.’
For some months now, the old man, is a regular, squatting at a spot near the head of the street for a good part of the day. It is one of those places in his daily rounds he is likely to receive food.
Must be well into seventies, short and lightly built, dark complexioned, skin in wrinkles all over like a shrunken fruit, a face permanently set in a grouch, very live eyes narrowed by thick folds of skin, straight-backed though his neck bending forward a bit, clothed in traditional dhoti and shirt crumpled and a little untidy but without tear , trudging along with his thick stick, his chappals scuffing the tar underneath – this’s him. And top it with a booming voice that lied about his age.
Early on, he appeared to be a little more cheerful than what he is now. That’s when I ventured to ask him some personal questions without the fear of disagreeably receiving his stick. He told me he has a wife and a daughter living in the same area. They don’t take care of him, so he is on his own. I tried to counsel him softly it is unwise of him at his age to stay away from his blood relations. Of course I didn’t seriously expect him to change on my say-so and he didn’t. I left it at that.
Whenever I see him on my way to the market – that would be twice or thrice in a week – I give him ten rupees. Eases my guilt a wee bit. It started out as twenty rupees but cut back to ten once I added a few more guys to the list. Clutching the ten-rupee note, for a moment his sunken cheeks puff out in a hint of a child-like happy expression, closest to a smile – a sight firmly etched in my mind.
Resuming the narrative: As I hit the street heading for the gym, I saw him ahead of me plodding along tapping his heavy stick. In minutes I surprised him from behind and thrust his due that he has come to expect. This time, I broke my stride and asked him:
‘So you take tambakoo from the money you collect, eh?’
Tambakoo (raw tobacco leaves supplemented with god–knows–what is leisurely chewed especially among the poor) is identified as the chief cause for contracting oral cancer.
‘No sahib, with the money you give, I buy myself vada–pav (an inexpensive local burger–like snack) at the stall near the post-office. He gives me an extra pav (bread loaf), you know.’
He saw me waiting still for an explanation for chewing tambakoo.
‘Sahib, I know what you’re getting at. But that’s the only way to control my hunger for a few hours till I get something to eat.’
I moved on.
I wish I had not spoken to him.
April 30, 2014 3 Comments
Two Irishmen were sitting in a pub having beer and watching the Madam’s house across the street.
They saw a Baptist minister walk into the house, and one of them said,
“Aye, ’tis a shame to see a man of the cloth goin’ bad.”
Then they saw a Rabbi enter the house, and the other Irishman said,
“Aye, ’tis a shame to see that the Jews are fallin’ victim to temptation.”
Then they saw a Catholic priest enter the house, and one of the Irishmen said,
“What a terrible pity…one of the girls must be quite ill.
Credits: raykiwsp.wordpress.com and gif’s from the net.
March 29, 2014 2 Comments
Emperor Akbar was known to come up with whimsical questions that he would expect to be satisfactorily answered. This time he put this question to his court and asked Birbal to conduct the proceedings and find an answer:
‘Who is a man’s best friend?’
After a long silence and much encouragement from Birbal to speak up, a voice from the assembly set the ball rolling:
‘Well, I would say ‘Money’. If you’ve money, you’ll live comfortably.’
‘Is that money never leaves you or you never?’ Birbal posed.
‘Surely you have it to spend and if you spend, it goes.’
A young man ventured next: ‘It’s my horse. It’s always with me. I take care of her and she takes me everywhere.’
‘If you come across a river too deep for the horse and you need to get to the other side?’
‘Simple. I’ll get off my horse, secure it to a tree, dive into the waters and swim across.’
This time it was a man of action: ‘To me, my sword is my best friend.’
‘Well, what do you do with the sword in times of peace as it mostly prevails in our Emperor’s reign? Of course, you could cut fruits. And still no help in getting to eat them – a spoon does better.’
A round of muted laughter.
Then a man of god got up, puffed out his chest as he claimed: ‘My faith is my ever-abiding friend.’
Everyone was keenly looking at Birbal to see his response.
Birbal grabbed a walking stick from an old man as he slowly walked up to the man of god.
In a not-so-sudden flourish he swung the stick bringing it down on the man’s head.
There was enough time for the man to break the blow to his head with two hands. No harm done.
Birbal returned to his seat and with an exaggerated bow towards the man said: ’Thanks you, Sir. You alone got it right. Your friend truly stood by you in the face of danger. I apologize for the little bit of drama.’
The man of faith regained his composure once again puffing out his chest feeling vindicated.
Birbal summed up for the expectant court and a more-than-keen Emperor:
‘What stays with a man through all times, protects him from many a danger, helps him earn a living and eat his roti (bread), would you all agree that would be man’s best friend?’
The court saw no reason to disagree and chorused a loud ‘Yes’. Many already had their answer.
‘Of course it would be his hands!’
There was a flutter in the court ending in most nods than nays.
Needless to add the Emperor was mighty pleased with Birbal’s verdict.
Pls see here for an earlier Akbar-Birbal episode: https://ksriranga.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/an-akbar-birbal-episode-never-told-before/
Credit: indianchild.com for the image
February 26, 2013 4 Comments
Emperor Akbar was known to come up with whimsical posers for his court to find answers.
So it was this time too and his question was: ‘What is the most ‘beautiful’ sound?’ ‘Beautiful ‘ meant a sound that one has heard and would like to hear over and over again.
On the appointed day, the court assembled to discuss the Emperor’s question and seek the best answers. Besides the members of the court, the common folks too turned up in good number to watch the proceedings.
Once the question was announced, the responses came in fast and thick:
‘A mountain brook in frolicking flow.’
‘The call of a koel in thick of a mango orchard.’
‘The happy gurgle of a baby on sighting the mother after her absence.’
‘The jingle of gold pieces (currency).’
‘The early morning call of the temple bells.’
‘The tinkle of the anklets of a bashful bride withdrawing behind silk curtains.’
’The prattle of the Emperor’s grandson.’
The suggestions were wild, poetic, philosophical, romantic, humorous, fawning and some bordering on the ridiculous.
However the Emperor did not appear to be happy with what was coming to him.
One of the courtiers observed impatience writ the Emperor’s face and made an appeal: ‘My lord, we see you’re not pleased. May I make a submission?’
‘Your Highness, we observe Birbal hasn’t spoken a word. Perhaps he could address the question?’
The courtiers were jealous of Birbal’s standing in the court. They did not miss an opportunity to show him in poor light and cause him discomfort.
Akbar turned to Birbal: ‘Yes, I do see you unusually silent today. Would you know what is the most beautiful sound?’
Birbal was cautious: ‘Jahampana, clearly you’ve something more in mind than what you’ve heard here today. I request for some time to find and present it before you.’
‘Birbal, you’ve seven days and we meet again.’
In the following days, Birbal was seen to be busy more than ever. He scoured the city, met people at their houses, visited temples, gardens, palaces and markets and went to all places where people gathered.
When the court assembled again, it was a much harried looking Birbal taking his seat.
Akbar: ‘Birbal, we’re ready for you. And, hope you’ve not returned empty-handed.’
Birbal: ‘I seek your permission to present it before you, my lord.’
Akbar nodded his assent.
Birbal took a bow and turned to the footmen standing at a distance.
On cue, they marched a diffident looking young man right up to the front. Birbal held him by his shoulders seemingly to assure him everything was okay and the man had nothing to fear.
On seeing this piece of drama, a frown appeared on Akbar’s face: ‘My dear Birbal, we are here to hear your response to the question we had posed and you bring a man here…’
The courtiers perked up to see Akbar pulling up Birbal.
‘Jahampana, this man here lives in our city at the outskirts and is a carpenter by profession.’
The entire assembly went silent for a few moments feeling quite unsure of what would happen next.
The deep voice of Akbar broke the silence: ’We hope you’re not going to trivialize the subject or be flippant about it.’
‘No, I would never be emboldened to do so, my lord. I assure you this man knows what is the most beautiful sound. And if you kindly permit him to tell us…’
Barely concealing his impatience and fixing both of them in his stern glare, Akbar allowed him to proceed.
Thereupon Birbal in a slow soothing voice posed the question to the young man.
The young man bowed before the court, paused nervously for a moment and said:‘Sirs, the most beautiful sound I regard is my mother’s snore.’
The entire court was aghast at what they had heard. Birbal must have surely gone out of his mind to produce this man before the Emperor. The courtiers were secretly overjoyed to be a witness to Birbal’s certain fall from favor.
Akbar was visibly annoyed at Birbal: ’If this is some kind of a joke, Birbal, you know we’re not amused.’
Birbal in an assuaging tone: ‘My lord, please bear with me for a minute.’
Turning to the young man Birbal asked him to explain his strange response.
The young man said: ‘Sirs, my father passed away a few years ago. There are only two of us now – my mother and I. Unfortunately for several months now my mother contracted some unknown ailment that no vaidya is able to cure. I’ve called any number of them home to treat her, but to no avail. She has this intense pain in her stomach that does not let her do any work in her waking hours nor does it let her catch a wink of sleep. I’m unable to provide any palliative care besides helplessly watching her suffer. Occasionally out of sheer exhaustion she falls into sleep. And those are the moments I thank the almighty for and her snore at this time is the most beautiful sound to my ears.’
For a perceptibly long time the Emperor could not find his voice, nor the court.
About Akbar and Birbal
Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Akbar also known as Shahanshah Akbar-e-Azam or Akbar the Great (1542 – 1605), was the third Mughal Emperor. He was of Timurid descent; the son of Emperor Humayun, and the grandson of the Mughal Emperor Zaheeruddin Muhammad Babur, the ruler who founded the Mughal dynasty in India. At the end of his reign in 1605 the Mughal Empire covered most of northern and central India. He is most appreciated for having a liberal outlook on all faiths and beliefs and during his era, culture and art reached a zenith as compared to his predecessors (Wikipedia).
Raja Birbal (1526 – 1586) was the Wazīr-e Azam or Grand Vizier or the adviser of the Mughal court in the administration of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was one of his most trusted members along with being a part of Akbar’s inner council and most valued of nine advisors, known as the navaratna (Sanskrit: meaning nine jewels). Birbal’s duties in Akbar’s court were mostly military and administrative, but he was also a very close friend of the Emperor, who appreciated Birbal for his wit and wisdom, often involving humorous exchanges. These stories have become part of a rich tradition of folklore and legend. ,It also lead to the jealousy of other courtiers., they often trying to put him down in Emperor’s eyes (Wikipedia).
Credit: indianchild.com for the image
October 27, 2012 1 Comment
If Ronald Opus Case of the earlier post was imagined, this one is not:
People hurrying on Wall Tax Road in Chennai on Saturday noon got the shock of their life when they found the severed head of a man lying on the road.
Balavesham, a tricycle rider, said – around noon he found people gathered on the road, looking at something closely. “I thought it was an accident. Going closer, I found this ‘head’ breaking out of a plastic cover,” he said. Some onlookers like Murugaiah and Padmanaban said they feared it was a murder. “A gold merchant from Kodungaiyur was murdered two years ago. His body parts were scattered on the road side in Elephant Gate and Choolai areas,” Murugaiah said.
Panic-stricken people called police. Elephant Gate police arrived on the scene, pushed back the gawkers and took possession of the object.
The ‘head’ was observed to have sutures and appeared to have been preserved in a chemical causing it to shrink. The eyes were decomposed, but there was flesh on the forehead. It was carefully wrapped and taken to the police station as evidence of a crime that no one knew about yet.
Soon after the Elephant Gate police departed, a much harried sub-inspector of traffic police – Agoramurthy, driving by, stopped at the scene to inquire. He was greatly relieved to hear the object of his search finally had been found. And he promptly proceeded to the police station to claim his ‘lost property’.
It turned out the ‘head’ was on its way to the burial ground in Moolakothalam. The sub-inspector had records to show: An unidentified man was killed in a road accident on the 200-Feet Road in Villivakkam on August 30. According to witnesses, a van registered in Andhra Pradesh had hit the pedestrian and sped away. The traffic police sent his body to the Government General Hospital for autopsy which was done on September 19. Since the body was decomposed, they could not use any of the body parts for DNA mapping. Forensic experts hence removed the skull so that they could use it for superimposition of images, a known method of identifying faces with skulls.
Finally the ‘head’ was handed over to police on Saturday for disposal. How does one carry a ‘head’ that wasn’t fixed on a torso? Agoramurthy improvised – he bought a new plastic bucket and some plastic cover from a shop for carrying the ‘head’ from the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital to the burial ground.
How did the ‘head’ materialize on Wall Tax Road?
Well, as it happens in all cases of high intrigue, the explanation was really simple. The sub-inspector riding his bike hit – what else? – a pothole on the Wall Tax Road and lost his ‘head’ – it had rolled off in the shock from the bike’s carrier. He didn’t miss it until much later.
No further mishaps were reported involving the ‘head’ as it was taken to its final resting place by the police for a dignified end to the mortal remains of the hapless and unknown victim.
It is not known why the body did not go along with the ‘head’. Also, if the perpetrator was traced and brought to book.
Credits: The post is an edited version of a report dated 21st Oct 12 in timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/ and the image is from commons.wikimedia.org.