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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

unsung hero

It was early in the morning ,there was a soft knock on the door ,
she went and opened the door ,she stood there stunned ,
Brigadier Khanna her husbands best friend !
for some time nothing registered .and then it all flooded back ,
memories of twenty long years !
her eyes welled up in tears ,
she realized she should have called him inside ,
he too knew ,she was shocked seeing him after all these years
he was quiet and sad .
his dear friend Major Bashyam,they were together for long ,trained together , fought together and now he was alone in the army 
he was a senior officer now 

All these years he had dreaded this moment to go and meet his dear friends  widow ,
to tell her what happened on that day that fateful day in the remote Tawang valley in Arunachal Pradesh in the north east corner of India 
 but he had to tell ,he could not put it off forever .

please come inside Brigadier ,Iam sorry  ,it was a shock to see you after all these years
can I get you some tea ?
thats fine he said
he braced himself ,he  needed all the time he could get before he could tell all
she brought him the tea
he asked about her daughters they would both have grown up a lot
the elder one was just two years when it happened and younger one year ,now both above twenty
shes joined medical college in Chennai 
yes I heard so
he always wanted his daughter to be a doctor ,good
younger daughter is in college Khannaji
he would be  happy
and how are you Babhi ?

Iam going on ,
God has been kind to me
 My family ,his family ,we all  stuck together and we fought it bravely our loss 
 but for his being not there and not knowing what really happened we managed
but the truth has always evaded us
we ache to know what happened on that fateful day when he left us
you knew ?

yes I knew all along but I could never face you

she remembered
she was  just twenty three then married just three years back and with two small children
he had gone back to the front just a month back  to distant Arunachal pradesh and then the war broke out 
China invaded India 
those days it was all Indi china bhai bhai ,both ancient civilizations were thought to be good friends 
Pandit Nehru the Prime minister of India was at his height of popularity
 He believed he was the statesman the world was looking upto
 China his dear China with those great socialist ideals,he was left oriented .
what a great country with as hoary a history as his own India !
Panditiji had a lofty vision ,he admired socialistic countries 
He was lost in his dream of utopia 

There were whispers of China planning a campaign against India surreptitiously ,their army was being strengthened and closing in near the north east borders but none  believed that the Chinese would invade India

The defense minister Krishna Menon never heeded to warnings from the Indian army 
senior officers  were getting intelligence reports from the borders of an imminent attack 
India was ill prepared for any war specially in the hills of Arunachal pradesh 
they lacked good supplies winter clothes weapons and the morale of the soldiers were low as it was a hardy life with few comforts  ,
There were warnings from the army that China was  angry at India for its Tibetan adventure 
The Dalai lama was living in India protected by the Indian government and the Chinese never forgave India for this slight .

 And then one fine day the hills of Tawang woke up to a cold morning 
The  marching Chinese army highly trained and strong swept in ,the forces of defense were few and far between ,unorganized and scattered away at the onslaught ,
the invasion was swift and furious the Chinese advanced quickly with their well trained and equipped soldiers
it was child's play for them to drive in an unprepared poorly equipped army ,
it was no fault of the Indian army as they fought bravely against all the odds
it was a failure of the people who governed the country who played fiddle while Rome burnt and before India could bolster its strengthen and gather their forces the enemy  had made great strides into the country !
many perished many retreated
it was India's shame

she used to pray all the time those days
he was in the very place the war was on as a major in The ninth Punjab Regiment 
he wrote to her once during  the turmoil from the front 
he was safe and would come back
his dream to become a doctor would be fulfilled by   his daughters he wrote  then !

she never felt the danger,she was sure he would be back !
The days flew by and finally the Chinese  stopped their onslaught  after giving a bad lesson to India
they started going back 

It was then that she heard there was news of her husband missing in action !
he just disappeared 
 was he wounded or captured as a prisoner of war ?
 did he die?
 no one knew !
it was torture not to know !

After many days  a sad letter from the prime minister himself was received by her

We regret to inform the missing of your husband in the battlefield ,presumed dead in action 

how cruel !
a few matter of fact words had  just snuffed our her future her life her love and her hopes 

 the death knell for her
that day would be marked as terrible forever in her life always 
she felt all alone though her family and his family were there to comfort her 
but days went by and they never got any news nor his the body
India slowly limped back from its shame
Panditji died a broken man sad and sick 
India moved on 

The widow was strong ,she knew she had to be strong for her poor children ,she knew she had to study more become independent ,she could ill afford to brood over her loss ,it was her pay back to her husband who had loved their family but loved the nation more and gave himself for his country 

Do we Indians ever think of these great men and women of our great army who are fearless ?
,filled with love and pride for the country ,willing to sacrifice all for their nation !
how much can we do to pay our gratitude to these heroes our warriors our protectors !

she was bent on studying and she left her elder daughter with his parents younger one with her parents and joined Queen Marys college in Chennai to do her further studies ,
went on to do an MSC in nutrition  and became a qualified dieticin and served in many medical colleges in the state .
She rose up her career ,was in social activities and led a busy fruitful life 
Her children later stayed with their uncles and then  joined a convent in chennai and still later into a classy boarding school in a hill station .
with time her elder daughter got into medical college and younger one into college for completing her Pg and Bed 

And now after so many years his friend has come
 after twenty long years
 what was he going to tell her ?
a faint hope in her glimmered
was he somewhere ?
 I dont mind not seeing him ever but I want him alive  somewhere
please my God

it was not to be

The brigadier  softly whispered 
it was almost the end of the war  when it happened
the straggler Chinese army was going back after teaching India a lesson
The  battalion led by Major Bashyam  was fighting to the end and were giving back to the now retreating Chinese 
there was intense  firing the major and his soldiers fought bravely
the Chinese also  shot many
Major Bashyam was wounded but refused to retreat and go down to the field hospital but insisted on saving all his boys he went forward doing that thus saving many ,but a fatal bullet hit him !
if he had left  he would still be alive as much as I am now 
tears filled the Brigadiers eyes 
he was last seen  being shot and falling down 
they knew it  but in the thick do the battle  they could not get to him 
the air was full of fumes the weather was cold and heavy snowing gave poor visibility 
they never found his body as the snow was deep in  winter and it was all white

oh no it was all black she thought !

so he had left them , but she had to know yes the truth it was important even after two decades
A closure is always needed 
Two decades of a hero who had died for his country

this  is the story of his  brave widow who was the right partner for a brave officer

The country lives on by such sacrifices 
one among the many untold stories of unsung heroes 
The nation is proud of them and grateful to them .

Friday, May 13, 2016


what will we doctors do without you ?
Nurses and doctors are like the sun and the moon,
each needs the other to do their job well,
on this nurses day I thank all the efficient sincere and caring nurses I had worked in my 33 years of being a doctor .
During early medical college days they were foreboding and told us medical students to keep to our place and not touch anything in the OT ,
Internship days they were our masters as in a Government hospital their work was mostly ours and even to get a syringe we needed their largess,
slowly when we had our own  clinic ic  for two decades we had about five nurses working with us most sincerely  ,then they were more than family to us and our children grew up with their attention too as clinic was part of our house ,
In Lakeshore Hospital Cochin I always remember many sisters in the oncology department Sister P……. was very experienced and I still remember her encouragement during my first central line insertion and during all those bone marrow punctures , plural taps or lumbar punctures which became easy slowly ,
the sisters stood by us stolidly ,
in times of emergencies they were quicker and smarter and responded well ,
Many times i had admired at the care they give to inpatients their wounds their love in the bedside, feeding them, cleaning them and changing their dressings offering a consoling shoulder!
in  pain management  the nurses offered great support ,
Working in UAE in a John Hopkins hospital I came across nurses from seventy countries ,
most were loving and sincere and became friends.
 it was all a learning process getting to know them ,
Here too in Brunei when I see how they work quietly and efficiently and go about their jobs I really appreciate them .
on this nurses day I wish all nurses the  very best

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Rufus Uncle
If today my son is the captain of his college football team or if to him football is his passion one of the most important persons responsible for this would be the legendary uncle Rufus of Fort Cochin .

Uncle Rufus was an excellent sportsman in his youth , a bachelor he turned into a coach with time and had coached many who became part of the state and the national team too .
He was particularly keen on coaching younger boys aged around 10 to 15 and even at a ripe age of above seventies a robust Rufus uncle would be in the Fort Cochin parade grounds come rain or sun without fail to train his wards every evening .
He is now in his eighties and i hear he still continues .

Shyam too had gone to his classes for more than three years ,Rufus uncle as he was fondly called was a fatherly coach he never chided the boys but loved them but was also strict with their physical fitness and football skills ,he made them play in heavy rain soaked to their skins or in blistering heat ,many of his older students would never fail to visit him when in Cochin and also help out in training others
Shyam too got an opportunity to see his favorite Rufus uncle recently .
there is a small side story in this
shyams mother always gave him the right amount of money for the bus fare and not a paisa more as he used to travel alone to his football coaching .
once in a while when i was free i used to go to pick him up ,
once he asked me if he could have some fresh cakes in the bakery hotel in Fort Cochin famous for its soft pastries ,so we both went there .
A waiter came grinned widely looking at Shyam and said
"hi shyam didnt see you for long time " ,
my son immediately looked at him and fiercely started nodding at him and pointing at me with his eyebrows ,but i caught it and asked the waiter so he comes here often is it ?
"of course shyam is a regular ",i looked at a sheepish shyam
" and what do you come here for ?
" well to have some pastries " ,
but " where is the money after all your mother gives you just enough for the bus "
" most of the bus crew know me well and take only half the fare so i use it to buy this "
,i was laughing inside but i acted angry and told him if he wants to buy pastry or eat anything he needs to ask and not do things on the sly .
one more lesson he learnt while learning football

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Diwali in Varanasi

I have been lucky to visit this ageless city on the banks of the holy Ganges many times as my son studies there now .
read my previous post on the city .

This post came about after I saw a documentary in the Discovery channel on the Diwali period in Varanasi yesterdy .
Diwali is universally celebrated in India mostly for two to three days .
in Varanasi it goes on for more than a month.
The Ramnagar ( place of the Varanasi Royal family ) Ramleela is more of an interactive long term Enacting of the great epic Ramayana as written by Tulsidas .
Mostly enacted by adolescent boys who are called Swarups or those who become the character when they act it and are venerated by the faithful for it ,the audition of these boys is itself an event and even the king takes part in it ,generally certain roles traditionally belongs to certain families .
With the formal procession of the king the event unfolds ,it has several stagesand venues  and is over an extended time limit ,the audience moves with the performers to different venues and the whole mass is in itself a part of the big play .
Ramnagar is on one side of the river Ganges ,the Ram and Lakshman and Sita Swarups move from places called Ayodhya down into the forests and later cross the river to the place really called Lanka where the Benaras Hindu university is situated and where the effigy of the villain Ravan is destroyed as the climax and with good winning over evil the leela folds itself to renew its act after an year

Every single day the crowds follow the drama with copies of Ramayana called Manas  in thier arms and reading it meticulously ,the priests who read it out for them are called Vyasa
the people literally  live their roles .
this certainly is an amazing theater event unparalleled .

Diwali the festival of lights is celebrated in every temple ,house offices of the city where Lakshmi the Godess of prosperity and wealth is welcomed ,the festival of lights light up the city of the soul in resplendent glitter as its populace indulge in their sweets and savories .

The Dev Diwali is another event in Varanasi a few days after Diwali itself and as its name suggests it is for the Dewas or the Gods ,truly a treat for the Gods the Ganges is lit up with thousands of floating diyas as its Ghats shine bright by the lighted wicks of many earthen lamps and the Aaarathi on its banks shine into its waters a feast for the Dewas themselves .

The Nag niyatha or nag Diwali has Krishna leela to fall upon ,
not very far from Varanasi is Mathura where Lord Krishna had lived his childhood ,enacting as Lord Krishna an adolescent Krishna swaroop climbs a kadhamba tree planted on the banks of the Ganges in front of a very large crowd and falls straight into the river to kill the mythical poisonous snake kalindhi and dances on it saving people from its venomous nature ,

the felling of the tree in the dawn and its transportation to the ghats and erection there supervised by the high priest of Sankat mochan temple Shri Mishraji  is an event by itself and the crowd adores the child Krishna swaroop as he is carried on the shoulders of his devotees .
 Another Diwali ends with the fading of the earthen lamps and the stillness of the Ganges flows for ever !!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ho Chi Minh

In continuing with my desire to visit nearby countries when in Brunei I thought of Vietnam when I had a few days off ,but this time i wanted a leisurely holiday and so just opted for one city ...Ho Chi Minh once called as Paris of the east and known as Saigon  .

The Royal brunei airlines just ook less than an hour to fly to Vietnam from brunei but it reached late that day and by the time I could reach the hotel in the very famous touristy area it was almost 9pm .
I took Vientanne taxis recommended as good thoguh a bit more expensive ,everything was in American dollars as Vietnamese money did not have much value and one needed to pay huge amounts
on reaching the hotel I was pleasantly surprised to find the lady travel agent with whom I had booked a trip to the Chu Chi tunnels the next morning still around ,she said Oh dr hari you were late so i cancelled tomorrows prograame ,would you still want to go ,Yes I said ,so she made a couple of calls and got me back in the tour ,mornig after an eary breakfast be ready we will pick youup and wished me a good nights rest and was off

It was a meld of colour tastes life sadness in past and hope for future .A country burnished by fire a people sensitive and cultured who have forgiven thier opressors and are looking to a bright futureThe 1969 to 1975 Vietnam war was at height of cold war era 
Ho chi min of north vietnam or vietcong was in a civil war with south vietnam 
N vietnam being in communist bloc was helped by Russia and china hence USA helped south vietnam 
USA directly entered war in 1969 as north was winning and they wanted to contain communism from spreading .
USA had superior air power thier army had good weapons enough supplies unlike the viet kong or north viatnamese 
But viet kong used guerilla tactics
They were aware of American air superiority and land power hence in border near cambodia around 250 sq km they built tunnels like a spider web
There were three levels of tunnels
It had storehouses kitchens meeting rooms and false entrances
Some were narrow one had to crawl
Some were deep
Entrances were tiny holes viatnamese as small made could slip into a tunnel with ease Americans were huge and had dificulty to trace
Deeeper tunnels had noxious gases no oxygen
Vietcong lived in such conditions they mostly ate tapioca or even spiders worms snake etc
They laid clever traps for Americans to fall and kept sharp spikes below tinged with chickn shit to infect American wounds
They would allow american soldiers to advance then emerge from closed camouflaged tunnels kill americans and slip back into earth
Like dangerous snakes one never knew from where viet cong will come
Americans used chemicals like agent orange for defoliating forests causing harm to many over three generations .
They used sniffer dogs to smell vietcongs in tunnels
The trained dogs did find tunnel openings
Viet cong used american shampoo to divert dogs
Like this they demoralised and crippled American army
Finally America left vietnam and it became socialist republic of vietnam
Ho chi minh is father of nation
Chu chi tunnels are to be seen and experience
They allow one to get into tunnel and crawl to next
I felt claustrophobuc hence didnt do it

Saturday, April 02, 2016

My Grandmother

what can I say about my favourite amamma (grandmother )
Valliyil karthiyayani amma ,
she was gentle ,loving , pious and had a soft corner for me I think for the moment I landed in Parappanangadi she would yell
"Chozhi Harikku kayavarthathu kutiyappunde peedigennu vedicho !
( chozhi was our man friday ,buy banana chips for Hari from kuttiyappus shop )and till the day I returned to Madras I would have stock of my favourite kayavarthathu ,those days a slimmer me could afford to gorge on that but the addiction still holds and contributes a lot to my paunch !
My grandma had her routine .
she would be up in morning and after bath endowed in a spotless mundu she would walk gracefully to nearby pishariyakil ambalam and return with our favourite thrimadhram,(offering of ripe plantains mixed with coconuts and jaggery ).
In the temple she would meet her friends and do some small talk ,while returning many would greet Karthiyayani amma , some as thamburatti ( her higheness !! it was the habit those days for older ladies of bigger families to be so adressed )
she would talk to them all and as she had a bit of hearing problem she would ask entha paranjadhu ? ( what did you tell ? )and adjust her hearing aid a bit ,
she would always enquire the old embrandhiri ( the temple priest ,
embrandhiris are namboothiri brahmins from north Kerala they spoke malayalam and Tulu ) about his many children who were all my summer vacation friends ,most of my days would be spent in embranthiris house playing and spotting me she would ask me to come with her for breakfast and go again ,I would plod alongside her holding her hands tasting the thrimadhram,
My grandfather the doyen of the samorin family of calicut
Vasco da Gama had first met the samorins when he came and had long fights with them .
Padinjare kollothe Manavedan raja or PCM Raja would be spotted in the most unroyal feats of gardening or dragging the cow ,he was happiest during these moments ,while amamma would ask him ee thambrannu onnu chennu kulichude ,( can this man take a bath ? )
he would grunt a reply and they understood each other perfectly well .
Once in an evening I tried some filthy word taught by my many friends in Parappanagadi on him and he chased me angrily , I found solace in amamma and cried ammamma adikkunnu ,( grandma hes beating me ) she hugged me and said enhtinna kuttina adikkunu ?( why are hitting the child ? ) avan paranjadhu arayyo ( do you know what he told ? ) and told the forbidden word upon which she caught me steady for him to give me a couple of blows while I whimpered and learnt my lesson !
Amamma was a dictator in the kitchen ,with Nambiar our main cook she was sort of friendly and they shared a long friendship from times of her childhood when Umamma ( great grand uncle ) was alive ,Nambiar too was the main chef and directed the other assistants
Madhavi the rolly polly one who would later churn our turmoiled minds when we became older !
Amamma would make it a point to yell at her once in while and she would mumble her inannities and amamma would ask her endha paranjadhu !( what did you say ? )onnumille ( nothing madam )she would reply .
Unnuli was different she was the cleaner cum helper and Chozhis sister was always very subservient to thamburatti and so she sort of had an affection for her ,these were all people who were loyal to our family for years and were considered as part of the family .
Breakfast mostly would be soft white idlis with red hot coconut chutney needless to say rice for idlis and coconuts were all from our lands there would be my chips of course and also sweet mangoes or jack fruits .
Our return to madras would put amamma in a flurry with her directing all of them to make delicous chakka varatiyathu with ghee and jaggery fry our own cahew nuts which we cousins used to barter away for biriryanis and films at local jayakerala talkies .
My grandfathers routine made him walk to the railway station every day at 10 am in the hot sun a distance of more than five km with a tent like umbrella in his huge bush shirt ,amamma would give him a leestu of things to do like post letters , buy lacotu or envelopes and such things , the provisions parts were done by chozhi who would at times join the trip , I too would drag along but mostly put it off as the sun was tiring ,my attraction was the nannari sarpath my grandfather would get me in the market .
Amamma would doze for some time in the afternoon , by evening she would take bath wear another spotless white mundu and go to temple while the young girly in the family then would light the deepam chanting deepam deepam which was a call for us to start the sandhya naamam but me and my cousin Babu were known for thinking everything other than namamms ,
we would wait for amammas thrimadhram and then dinner and finally a warm glass of fresh cow milk , from yes our own cows sweetened by sugar and amamma would hand it over personally , I still dont think any milk has ever tasted so nice in my life than that .
As we retired to sleep we could hear amamma and amachan talking rather amamma shouting as she couldnt hear and thamburan grunting and then they would go to sleep .
and another day would end in Parappanagadi .

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mutation document

In medicine mutation is a very common term and means some change had taken place  in the basic structure of a gene which affects the body 
mutant genes cause many illness 
 I never imagined there are mutated documents in land registry department ,torn worm eaten missed documents are very common but mutated document was new to me .
Recently while trying to sell off my house in Cochin at the last minute the lawyer of the buyers bank providing him a loan for buying the house threw a spanner in the works declaring the mutation document was vital .
there was no way one could go ahead without the said document and the onus fell on the seller to get the document ,in fact it should have been got by the owner the time he bought the land and built the house ,that was around 25 years back ,so the lawyer raised his bushy eyebrows to ask so why has it not been done yet !!
 The past came to haunt us .
but India is one country where time is relative and the past can be brought to the present by knowing the right people 
so we found someone who could make things easier and get the said document in time as the running around needed was considerable ,
The process started at first with a visit the village office with the original document which would be scrutinized by the clerk concerned and later he would give a date to visit the site ,
one had to take the clerk to the site and he would meticulously measure the land and house dimensions and give a location document ,
this document needed to go to the to the Revenue Divisonal office for further scrutiny which in normal standards would take a couple of months but one could physically taker it in an hour or so and confirmation the document is brought  back to the village office .
Then the mutation document is issued ,
it was afternoon and Cochin was fuming with heat ,there had been no electric power in the office since morning and the dark interiors showed the officer ,clerks and computer operators working in humid atmospheres
even in the heat they did their job diligently as they checked the documents with care and also the computerized version ,
the idea of making it online is to dispose off the paper based documents but now both are being used 
we really appreciated the work of the Government offices in India as we signed off our house in Cochin

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