Fortune, the Fair Weather Friend


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Sometimes we wonder about people who are corrupt but successful. Then, we feel tempted to go astray. When we succeed at such times, we gradually lose sight of our integrity and will have no qualms about repeating our misdeeds.

A story from our hoary past sums up this situation. There was a poor Brahmin called Hari Sharma. The pious man along with his family gained employment under a rich merchant, Sthuladatta. Life went on smoothly. The family worked very hard to make the wedding of their employer’s daughter a grand success. The Brahmin expected appreciation for his services. When he was neglected, he felt insulted. He decided to follow the path of deceit quite against the advice of his wife to teach Sthuladatta a lesson.

That night, he stole the horse carriage of the bridegroom and tied it under a tree outside the village. Then he instructed his wife to inform the worried Sthuladatta that he was a competent astrologer. When his employer consulted him, Hari Sharma extracted an apology from Sthuladatta before divulging information about the lost horse. This orchestrated act instantly shot him to fame. Even the king once consulted Hari Sharma about the robbery in the royal treasury.

The Brahmin was shaken by this unexpected test of his fake knowledge. He cursed his tongue aloud in privacy. The malefactor Jihva heard the curse and promptly pleaded guilty because Jihva in Sanskrit means tongue. Hari Sharma was dumbstruck by this unexpected coincidence that worked in his favour. The emboldened man dared to protect the thief for a fat commission and led the king to the remnant treasure.

The wise ministers found Hari Sharma’s accuracy dubious, prompted the sovereign to verify Hari Sharma’s expertise. Accordingly, they placed a frog inside a pot, closed it and invited Hari Sharma to reveal the contents. The terrified Brahmin who knew his game was up remembered how his father often called him a Mandookam or a foolish frog. He muttered his thoughts aloud. The court was dazzled by Hari Sharma’s brilliance and he was rewarded handsomely.

Hari Sharma realised that deception coupled with good fortune was a fair- weather friend who could desert him any moment. Hence he left the kingdom a reformed man.

Proof of My existence


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We, in the subcontinent, have been told that possessing an Aadhaar card will be an antidote for all regional, national and international identification purposes for about half a decade now.

The multiple uses of this card would prove to be a panacea and offset the need to have and keep track of half a dozen similar cards. It is considered to be foolproof and of world-class,  because it uses biometrics and the latest technology.

As usual, we the Indians, have mixed feelings towards it. The believers, the non-believers, and the in-betweens, who debate vehemently on the subject.

The first group queued up almost immediately at the assigned booths and went through the procedure through rain and shine.

They ranged from babies in arms to senior citizens. Loads of documents were verified and the denizens filled up e-forms. They were asked to wait up to three months to receive the magic wand. The believers encouraged the in-betweens to follow suit.

The ones who thought that it would be better to be uniquely identified, gave it a shot. They expected the serpentine queues in front of Aadhaar booths to have depleted with time. But they did not take our billion-plus population into consideration.

Nevertheless, they stood with the hope that their time and effort would eventually reward them.

Months flit past. The coveted card made its way to the doorsteps of the early birds. It pleased some. Others found that one or all of their details were misrepresented.

Meanwhile, a newspaper report mentioned that somebody in the then Andhra Pradesh received an Aadhaar card in the name of Sonia Gandhi. Pranksters and people with selfish motives had generated the coveted card for the dead.

The arrival of more such news reports made the non-believers gloat. The in-betweens who had by this time decided not to believe, got into the “I told you so!” mode.

Years have passed since then. The dilemma of letting the card be or not, continues. It has not been written off entirely. If technology could be done away with, then we could adapt the philosophy of Rene Descartes. Then, we could circumvent a lot of paper work and save the great Himalayan forests. Then Cogito Ergo Sum, (I think, therefore I am) could ideally become the new mantra and the proof of our existence.

Determinaton Vs Obstinacy


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Many a time people want to achieve their goal by hook or crook. Their very attitude is proof of the fact that they are not in a position to distinguish between determination and obstinacy.

When a person refuses to weigh the pros and cons of a situation and pursues his ambition blindly, he is not only likely to harm the people around him but will wreak havoc on himself both physically and mentally.

An episode from the Mahabharata unfolds the unfortunate repercussions of tenacity. Ashwaththama, the best friend of Duryodhana had promised his dying friend that he would ensure the annihilation of the Pandava family at all costs. He manipulated the death of the Pandavas and ended up killing the five sons of Draupadi. In hindsight, he realised that his mission would be completed if he managed to abort the foetus if princess Uttara who was carrying the posthumous child of Abhimanyu. That way he could effectively put a full stop on the continuance of the Pandava clan. Accordingly, he went to the princess and aimed a potent blade of Darbha grass at her womb. The petrified Uttara ran away in panic. When Ashwaththama chased the pregnant princess, he was intercepted by none other than Lord Krishna.

Krishna understood that the son of Drona was not in a position to distinguish the right from wrong, and there was simply no way he would tarry to listen to the Yadava king. It was then Krishna looked at the gem signifying human intelligence studded on the forehead of the Brahmin. He hastened to pluck it out and prevented the perpetration of foeticide. The mindless Ashwaththama could not focus on his evil undertaking. Thus, Krishna rescued the unborn baby. He ensured that the last scion of the Pandava family – Parikshit- the one who was tested arrived safely on planet earth.

When one examines Ashwaththama’s behaviour, it is not difficult to see that he was being faithful to his friend and true to his promise although his bosom pal was dead. All the same, it is apparent that he lost sight of human propriety in his zeal to redeem his promise. Had he realised that the means is as important as the end he could have spared himself of the ignominy?

The Ubiquitous Protector


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People, especially the city slickers do not have any reasons to exert themselves unless they make a conscious attempt to remove themselves from their comfort zone. All we have to really do is kindly breathe, eat and excrete because most of our needs and jobs are taken care of by machines and the rest by electronics and the help we employ.

Just when we are ushered into that idyllic world of doing nothing, there is an official declaration that most of the health problems of the present age stems from our sedentary lifestyles. So being the quintessential couch potato with matching chips alongside is no longer the most favourable position to be in. Those people who have pledged that they will not budge from their comfort zone for love or money will have to think again.

These days, even momentarily opened doors and windows happen to be ushering in winged creatures which are mostly mosquitoes. They breeze in and hum around our ears, settle on the exposed portions of our bodies and merrily quaff on our life blood.

As a rule, we humans do not resent the resultant itching or the sharing of half a drop of blood if it were not associated with a host of diseases. So we started using sprays, lights, coils and repellants with negligible results. Then, the brainier section of mankind invented the mosquito bat. All we have to do is place our thumbs on the button to activate the electrified battle-ready weapon and brandish it around ourselves and vanquish the bloodsuckers that dare to venture into our orbit. If we are lucky, our success is celebrated with some fireworks and we can slip back into indolence till the next beastly pest flies along.

Initially, the conscientious Samaritans were hesitant to indulge in conscious “himsa.” It took a few gurus and their disciples to use the implement in full public view to put across the message that the insects were probably wretched souls seeking liberation so that they could move on to higher planes. Then on, no one seems to have any compunction about using their bludgeons blissfully. On the contrary, they feel secure when they have one such racquet beside them.

The users of the bats will vouch for the fact that their arms have been strengthened while protecting themselves from some dreadful diseases. More enterprising batsmen and women also manage to burn a few calories when they scout for victims in the vicinity of their homes. In fact, a couple of engineering students have started working on the sports model of the bat which can keep scores of hits and misses quite on the lines of Pokemon Go!

Now that the power and position of the haloed bat has been established, the day is not far when the mosquito will be declared as an endangered species. True blue users of the bludgeon will understand that one of the sovereign duties of a desi is to safeguard the cesspools, potholes, garbage piles so that we have a never ending supply of offerings to the ubiquitous bats that each one of us possesses. After all, is it not our duty to protect our protector?

Shackled Capabilities


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These days, I cannot resist chuckling to myself when I pass a police station in Namma Bengaluru. The billboard in the premises triggers me into a muted convulsion. The writing in Kannada says, “There are chain thieves around. Beware of them.”

When I saw the impressive board for the first time, I read it aloud to my curious friend who could not read the lingo. Almost immediately, the driver of the auto in which we were travelling chimed in and said that truer words could not have been spoken. He added that the board spoke of the thieves ‘within’ the premises, including the catchers and the caught. His unexpected sarcastic wisecrack had us in splits.

Soon he turned serious and reeled out a dozen instances of chain snatching incidents which met their Waterloo in the area earmarked for public security. Although we were amused, we could not discount the earnestness that we detected in his voice.

We realised that the men in khaki largely fail to inspire respect in the general public. We were reminded of a family anecdote. When one of my uncles was selected by the police department to join as a sub-inspector, my straightforward grandfather categorically threatened to disown him, if he did take up the job.

We in the sub-continent seem to have little or no faith in our law and order system. That explains the reams of jokes on pot bellied policemen and their wayward ways. Our movies invariably picturise them rushing in the last leg of the climax and nabbing the culprits after the hero has bashed them up.

Recently, a news report in Deccan Herald published a story about 10 boys from Bihar, who worked as shoeshine boys in Kolkata. The boys had inadvertently come across a treasure chest which fell off a van belonging to a bank. They divided the spoils amongst themselves and went back to their native places, only to be nabbed by the long arm of the police and that too within a matter of a few days.

This incident is proof of the fact that our police system is perfectly capable of doing its duty efficiently in double-quick time. Perhaps, they were empowered to do so because there was no interference from political or financially sound circles. May be they did it because the perpetrators would not grease their palms. No matter what the reason, the mission was accomplished, truly and well. The incident holds mirror to the general opinion of the common man about our police.

Conversely, we as a nation also look up to upright officers like Kiran Bedi or H T Sangliana as the totem pole of integrity and duty consciousness. May their tribe increase!

What is in a Name eh?


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I quite marvel and also agree with everything William Shakespeare penned with the exception of one celebrated line. I always have a feeling that if he had just about peeked into our subcontinent, he would have certainly refrained from making a grand statement about the redundancy of names. It is obvious he was innocent about our penchant for a thousand names for most of our deities. The less important gods and goddesses who did not merit the haloed Sahasranama were assigned at least a 108 names.

The abundant populace of our country, who wished not to be left behind, traditionally gave a minimum of two names and a maximum of five names to their wards. The wards are named after the personal favourites in the pantheon, the family god, elders in the family, role models and even movie stars — sometimes complete with their respective surnames. Then, parents come up with an official name based on the horoscope or numerology hoping to realise all their dreams from the child bearing the lucky name.

At the end of all this exercise, each member in the family and neighbourhood comes up with a tacky pet name for the infant which almost always sticks for a lifetime. As if these names were not enough, children always invariably attract nicknames through schooling and college life. The girls, mostly, take the surname of their husband post marriage and are often renamed after the nuptials to match their spouses name.

Such being the case, when the police come for verifying details given in the passport application form, nine on ten people whose names have been given as referral will have to be apprised about the “official name” or the quintessential “daak naam,” especially if you happen to be of Bengali or Oriya origin. Then there is the other category of people who create aliases for their creative works, social media and international work desks.

As if these were not enough, our birth certificate, mark sheet, PAN card, bank account, Aadhar card and other documents sometimes have variations of the official name, and we Indians know such anomalies are a part and parcel of our lives. In fact, there is an entrepreneurial money-spinning industry out there which helps people to correct personal  data in the documents that matter, so that they reflect uniformity!

But how was the Bard to know all this when he wrote, “What is in a name? A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet!”

When Wit Goes Wrong


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/603531/when-wit-goes-wrong.html

Good humour is a very sensitive emotion. It succeeds only when both the perpetrator and the person or the people in the receiving end are both sensible and sensitive about the contents of their joke. In other words, a healthy joke will steer clear of vulgarity or exploiting a weakness of a person or a community. Sometimes, the most well intended humour can go awfully wrong creating resentment and even enmity for the humorist.

A tale from the Shiva Purana recounts how even the mighty Lord Vishnu was not spared for having played a practical joke on his dearest devotee Narada. Once, Narada was besotted by the beautiful princess Shrimathi. He wanted her to choose him during her Swayamvara. He realised that if he wanted his dream to come true, he must be the most attractive suitor. Narada was also aware that Mahavishnu possessed the most charismatic face in the universe. Therefore, he sought to be blessed with Harimukha (the face of Vishnu also known as Hari) for the Swayamvara. The amused Lord decided to play on the pun on the term Hari which also meant monkey. Narada’s visage was transformed to that of a simian, but he was unaware of the joke. He went along to the Swayamvara only to be laughed and jeered at.

When Narada realised that he had become the laughing stock at the court, he was deeply hurt. He cursed the Shiva Ganas who prompted him to look into the mirror and embarrassed him. He marched to Vaikunta and confronted Lord Vishnu angrily about the breach of trust. He cursed the very Lord he adored to experience separation from his spouse. Once Narada gave vent to his rage, Mahavishnu explained that he had made Narada the butt of his joke to make him realise that he had swerved from his chosen path of eternal celibacy. In fact, the whole episode was structured to awaken the sage from his disillusionment. Narada understood his mistake and made haste to retract the unreasonable words blurted out in a fury. However, Mahavishnu accepted the curse gracefully because it would facilitate him to play out his manifestation as Rama, but more so because he wanted to establish the fact that when humour does not go well with the recipient then things can sour up.