Wednesday, October 21, 2015

                      Kinsfolk in merry meadows 

Kissan India cover

Enjoy these lovely moments of togetherness with Kissan, humanity in nature's lap at its awesome best!

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      The signals were fading and there were no visible mobile towers in the vicinity and in the horizon...I heaved a sigh of relief, all the gadgets were now dumb and nature had invaded the all pervasive device world, deaddicting and detoxifying human mind and rejuvenating his soul with abundant happiness, pleasure, salubrious climate, acres of green with sunflowers and daffodils in dazzling yellow lighting up our hearts. I turned up the volume of the rhyme

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 and the enthusiastic bunch, an eccentric mix of young and old tapped their feet and nodded their heads in unison and utmost glee and jubilance. The childhood memories were back with a bang...the arch lights had dimmed, the vehicles few and far in between, the dark sky crystal clear with a million stars twinkling making us feel that we were not alone on this lovely planet, the winding roads with air as if purified and we could smell God's creations in all its vibrant odours. As our SUV meandered in the village roads alongside the serene waters, the bubbling occupants relaxed in the lap of nature, soothed by the gurgling sound of the water body. 
              We woke up refreshed and bathed by the morning sun rays with cool breeze swaying the fringed palm trees. The white picket fence of uncle John's farm stood out in the green and blue with the gigantic mountains as backdrop, a sight to behold. The genial farmer in his jumpsuit was there at the gate grinning from ear to ear on seeing the effervescent city bred crowd longing to set foot on terra firma. The vineyard was a fruition of the farmer's hard work and the succulent violet and green grapes was too alluring. 
               Grandpa and grandma who normally take a long time to get down after a journey, were out of the vehicle in a jiffy and escorted by the caretakers into the farm house where a hot bath and aromatic coffee awaited them. We, the rollicking middle aged lively heads with a song on our lips along with the boisterous and cantankerous cousins headed to the river bank for a swim. The river flowed by the backside of the farm with steps leading into the sublime waters and all of us had a riotous time! Splashing water on each other to our hearts' content using the opportunity to take sweet revenge!
                 The orange orchard was delectable and heavenly and we ate the organic fruits till our tummies could not take in any more! We watched in absolute amusement how the Jersey cows were milked and then were treated to rich creamy fresh milk straight from the udder! The children reveled in climbing trees and made their four legged ancestors jealous with their hanging upside down skills. Antakshari was next on the cards under the shades of the mammoth banyan trees and the oldies churned out super duper hits with the middle aged beauties getting a kick out of the hits of the 90s. The cousins freaked out on the gen Y genre and it was a cocktail to relish! We painted the farm red with no interference from email alerts, whatsapp notifications, facebook likes and twitter 140, savouring the real tweets of sparrows with nature's orchestra!   

                      The lunch was a gastronomical delight and the connoisseurs licked clean the feast made from farm grown veggies free of pesticides! The great escapade wound off with a small trekking into the woods. Our hearts yearned for more but it was time to say goodbye to the luxurious indulgence, a rendezvous with nature's opulence which none of us would forget for a lifetime!  


Monday, October 5, 2015


August 30, 2003....The premonition...

The sky, grey and dull, clouds sombre, not a leaf fluttering, no chirping of birds, as though the whole world had come to a grinding halt, foretelling the story about to unfold...
                A posse of policemen accompanied by the officers of the Central Bureau Of Investigation stood before “Athithi”, house #26. The siren of the police jeep was wailing, and the intensity of sound getting amplified by the minute. Hosts of media personnel stood with DSLRs and mikes, ever ready to set the camera rolling and to give the breaking news. Curious onlookers on tree branches, on rooftops and on the street jostling with each other to catch a glimpse of the fallen hero and smacking their lips at the sudden action in their own adda!
               The cops had the arrest warrant ready when they knocked on the door. Amma was shell shocked at the unexpected visitors and muttered
“Look Police”... “Krishna, Krishna”...she called for divine intervention.
The officers were least bothered about expressions and reactions and with a swift wave of the warrant said
“We have come to arrest him and this is the warrant.”
Appa just followed them as if in a trance. The shutter bugs clicked nonstop to their hearts’ content, savouring each moment, covering different angles; some journos got sound bites from the officers in khaki who were only too eager to hog the limelight!
               Appa sat in the vehicle dazed. He looked at amma and gestured with the hand showing as if making a call and mumbled
      “call Ganesh and arrange a lawyer”
                  The neighbourhood was abuzz with all sorts of stories, each of them having a field day weaving tales of yarn, concocting stories and ridiculing my poor appa. A couple of good Samaritans had the courage to take amma inside and console her. Amma, brave that she was quickly composed herself and called Appa’s nephew Ganesh, who was a well known Doctor. He immediately plunged into action and arranged for a lawyer and the surety money as well as couple of witnesses. As this was being done, Amma called me and burst into sobs.
  “Vishalam....Appa has been arrested and taken to jail”
A bolt from the blue hit me hard and I was dumbfounded and “Whhhaaat” was all I could say. She started narrating the sequence of events....
          I pacified amma to the best of my ability as the situation first warranted that action, even as a million thoughts raced through my mind.
     “Everything will be all right, calm down, I am coming there by the next flight”. I also talked to her close friend, confidant and man Friday, who was like a “chithi” to me.
     “Lalitha Chithi...please take care of amma, I’ll be there as quickly as I can.”
                     The flight AC 107 screeched to a roaring halt at the Nedumbassery runway, rudely jolting me from my miseries, questioning mind and helplessness. The air outside was sultry and humid. I flagged a cab and reached home much to the relief of my amma. Hugging her in a tight embrace, we calmed each other. Choking with emotion, she recounted the dramatic turn of events in one single breath, gasping for air and her mouth going dry.
The CBI had arrested appa along with nine others, all former employees of CF ltd.,charging them with fraud and cheating, claiming that they had awarded contract to one particular vendor for transportation of liquefied ammonia for some benefit. They purported that these officers had intentionally approved the name of M/S XY barges and shipping co. and connived with the vendor for quid pro quo thereby cheating the company of many crores of rupees.
    “what nonsense”, I exclaimed and sat stupefied, here were the police arresting a set of people for an action that had been taken jointly with the approval of the core of ministers, way back in the 1990’s! My mind raced back in time, the floodgates of memories opened up and I reminisced the golden era of CF days! Nostalgia.....and really hurt!

April, 1, 1967.... Prologue....
          Appa, an all India rank holder in the ACA examination joined CF ltd., a huge public sector undertaking as a young accounts officer, overcoming the barriers of class, reservation, minority etc.etc..It was a humungous organization with over 8000 odd employees. Set up by a visionary, this company made fertilizers and chemicals and had multiple divisions such as design, engineering works and a caprolactam plant.

December 03, 1967...A milestone...
He married amma, a Bombay bred girl on this day, that marked a lovely innings of a city girl adjusting to the life of a small nondescript town in the southern part of India. But she quickly adapted to the new lifestyle like duck to water. I was born the next year much to the joy and happiness of appa, who simply adored me. I was the apple of his eyes and he my super hero!  Days turned into months and into years and we enjoyed the cocooned comforts of township life. Appa, slogged day in and day out at the office for all he was worth, burning the midnight oil during times of auditing and closing of accounts. He was dedicated, determined and faithfully carried out his duty to be worthy of the salary that he drew which was anything but princely!
         Soon, the family of three had an addition and my sibling was only too happy to share the unadulterated fun and frolic of childhood days! In the same year, Appa’s congenital heart problem resurfaced and he suffered from palpitation and shortness of breath. India, in those days, was not so medically advanced to treat his rare disease and we had to look up to the United Kingdom for surgery which was a very costly option. But CF ltd. came to dad’s rescue like a knight in shining armour and supported in every possible way. The company and his bosses were guardian angels and they left no stone unturned to give him a fresh lease of life. Thus Appa escaped from the jaws of death by a proverbial hair’s breadth! Rejuvenated and energetic like never before, Appa soon resumed his duties but this time more gratefully and working harder as a payback to the company that had done so much for him. He put in longer hours of work and soon climbed the ladder of corporate success. He ethically followed the “work is worship” concept while we children made merry at home, at school and at the club.
        The township was huge, spread across acres of land and had everything beautifully planned, laid out and integrated within. The magnificent gate manned by the Central Industrial Security Force was a sight to behold. The quarters, differing in size, but not in colour or shape, had colonial appearances and were homes to a mammoth 5000 employees. These bungalows had all the convenience one could ask for; free accommodation, free water and electricity, intercom facility, huge backyards with mango, jackfruit and guava trees that bore luscious fruits all year round. The gated community, a buzz word, these days was already there replete with tarred and well lit roads, parks with play things, playgrounds by the dozen, schools catering to different curriculum and boards such as SSLC and ICSE, a medical centre in a rounded building, a magnificent recreation club, guest house and the imposing factory at the centre of it all.
         My alma mater, the famed CF public school following the ICSE pattern was a home away from home, a knowledge hub with dedicated teachers who taught us the rudiments of learning and a grooming centre for sports, games, arts, music and dance and each of us excelled in these disciplines. I have spent the best days of my carefree life here winning many coveted trophies and sobriquets too!
         The recreation club was imperial and smashing and the English language is too dwarfed to describe this opulent heaven. It has a snooker and billiards room, a cards room, a swimming pool with different depths and a diving board, an open air stage, a fabulous badminton court where many a national level games were played, a superb tennis court of clay, ping pong tables, a video parlour and a food court. We have spent hours in the swimming pool with tadpoles for company and enjoyed the rocking music concerts of wood stock, the slapstick comedy of Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin brought alive on big screen much to the amusement of giggly gals and boisterous boys.
          The medical facility extended by the hospital in the premises was a boon to all the staff and their families and it came absolutely free.CF ltd. had made our lives happy go lucky! Free accommodation, free medical facility, free recreation and free schooling; what more could we ask?
         And it gave me my appa as a honest and upright officer who always walked the talk. Be it the use of utilities provided or the car facility with a driver or the gardener to tend to our lovely garden, Appa ensured that he never misused any of them and always led his humble and down to earth life. Even Amma sometimes got carried away with some of the facilities extended and at times, waited for the driver to open the door and wait on her much to Appa’s dislike. He always adhered to principles and upheld the high moral ground. His hard work paid him rich dividends and soon he was promoted as senior deputy general manager.

September 07, 1995....The core of the matter...
     The nine member standing committee headed by the director of finance submitted the report to the Chairman and managing director and the core group comprising of the group of ministers. This committee was instituted to be in charge of advertisement of tenders for transport of liquefied ammonia, receipt of sealed tenders, receipt of demand drafts as surety money, background checking and verification of financial viability and other key aspects that go into the requirements to meet the criteria. Among various bidders, M/S XY barges and shipping co. who had a good track record and had successfully accomplished businesses in similar fields and financially strong was shortlisted mainly for the quote of a tender price of Rs.1400/- per metric tonne of transporting the required quantity. The committee after further rounds of meetings called the vendor for negotiations.
  Standing committee (SC)   : “So Mr. Aziz, what is the best price you are 
                                                  offering us?”                      
   Mr. Aziz, (MD of XY)          :  “See, after careful consideration of the capital
                                                cost and working cost requirements, the
                                                final rate can be Rs.1200/-per MT but not
                                                below that as it would not be viable. 
Member, SC                       :    “what about night navigation?” We have
                                                received a no objection from the pollution
                                                board and the port trust for night
Mr. Aziz                              :   “I was about to suggest that, we could add
                                               night navigation as a bonus service without
                                               any additional rates.”
Member, SC                        : “All right MR. Aziz, let us discuss and get it
                                              across to our core group for final approval and
                                              we will soon let you know of the outcome.”  
Mr. Aziz                             :   “Thank you, Ladies and gentlemen, I shall be
                                              waiting eagerly for a positive response from
                                              the company.”
Mr.Aziz leaves the conference hall and the members discuss among themselves.
“Looks like it’s a fair deal, the price quoted seem to be ok but with night navigation included, the target of transportation on the required quantity can be reached, also new barges and containers have been acquired by them so safety is taken care of.”
“Anyway let us put this across to the group of ministers and get their inputs and feedback.”
               The committee then submitted all the relevant documents with documents to support and the demand draft for the final nod. The core group sat and deliberated and gave the final assent in a few days time and the contract was awarded to M/S XY barges and shipping. The decision on selecting this contractor had thus gone through the diligent process of all necessary approvals and there were never any quid pro quo benefits in this.
               It was business as usual and appa put in 38 years in CF ltd. , a dedicated yeoman service and demitted his office in the year 1998 as General Manager, corporate affairs. It was a sad moment for all of us, we had reaped the rich harvest of CF ltd. and the time had come to say goodbye to a life of goodness.
 The shrill ringing of the telephone jerked me from my contented past, to the appalling and scandalous present. Things had gone topsy- turvy and tumultuous; the man who had honesty and integrity as his second name was now behind bars, squatting on the hard ground – what an irony! The caller was my cousin, who assured me that the witnesses and the surety money had been arranged and that he was going with the lawyer to secure the release of my dear appa. Within a couple of hours, there was relief and optimism – we saw a faint light at the end of the dark tunnel. Appa was set free albeit with strings attached. He must present himself at the court every week for signing to mark his presence, and his passport was retained by the authorities so that he could not leave the country.
     Back home after the terrible ordeal to a man who knew no greed; we felt the worst nightmare was over. A stream of visitors came in like a swarm of bees, some lending a shoulder to him, a few keen to know about the conspiracy, the heroes and villains in the story. But some were as stinging as the bees with the sole purpose of rubbing salt on the wounds.
“Enna saar, did they serve you gruel in jail?” remarked this dastardly person and we were shattered beyond words. Appa took it in his stride and jokingly remarked,
“Yes Rajan, that too in aluminium bowl but I must say that the porridge was tasty!”
We all returned to our respective domains, continuing with our mundane lives and the hardship causing episode was forgotten. Appa took up teaching and became engrossed in his new avatar. However, the frequent ‘hearings’ on the case and the adjournments were grim reminders of the harsh reality. The exorbitant fees of the lawyers had drained his resources, the never ending summons and standing in the witness box had eroded him physically. A couple of his co accused could not bear the trauma and gave up, sacrificing their lives. But Appa endured them all and never faltered till the day of judgement.

May 22, 2015....Epilogue ....judgement day...
   The court had a packed house with the accused and their family members waiting with bated breath and finally the hour of verdict had arrived.
The High Court judge pronounced the verdict..there was pin drop silence, only the heavy breathing of the people could be heard. He read thus:
“The charges levelled against the nine ex officers of CF ltd. who have been charged with conspiring with the vendor to cheat the company under section 27 (d) of the IPC is baseless and there is no evidence to this effect. I pronounce all of them including Mr. Aziz, not guilty of any crime or wrong doing or fraud. There has been undue haste on the part of CBI in levelling the charges on the officers who have put their heart and soul to the company. ....” and he read on. There was a collective sigh of relief, a sense of euphoria and the family members cheered at the final judgement. I could see triumph on my appa’s face, his good action before prayers had been finally answered. I saluted my hero, applauded him from the bottom of my heart and felt immensely proud to be his daughter. Justice was given to a humble soul who had no enemies, no avarice, and no malice; who was transparent, open and contented. What lay behind him paled in comparison to what was inside him and   
      I recalled Martin Luther King’s famous words;
     “We must accept finite disappointment,        
           But we must never lose infinite hope.”


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy expressions with McCain!

                             Happy expressions with McCain!


                “You'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.” 
                           ― Charles Chaplin       


 A world of joy, happiness and warmth can be spread by a slight drawing up of the corners of the lips- smile and the world smiles with you and cry and you cry alone! The expression of the twitched up muscle is infectious and contagious and one cannot simply resist the temptation of reciprocating a smile.

                                Smile is a faculty that causes instant consciousness of happiness, joy, adoration, friendliness and mirth. It is a reflection of thought that repels negativity and creates an affable ambiance of cordiality and familiarity. An infant’s smile is sparkling, light hearted and cherubic,  


a teenager’s may be self conscious, coy or bashful and a school boy’s mischievous, impish and playful! A casanova’s smile is amorous, a young bride’s vivacious, a wife’s charming and exaggerating and a man’s crisp and abiding yielding a sum total of a genuine sense of warmth!
                           A pleasant start to the day just like the sun rise is brought about by the expansion of the facial muscles with the twinkling of the eyes and a glow on the cheeks! 

 Look around and we find smiley emoticons everywhere; on all social networking sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber, twitter and on inanimate objects like



 biscuits, cakes and pastries, bread and bun, doors, blinds, bed sheets and pillow covers, balls and balloons,


clothes, these lovely smiling faces are omnipresent! The ever so popular smiley was created by Harvey Bell, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts in 1963. This image is the most recognizable symbol of happiness, joy and goodwill! And I am overjoyed to present this post just after three days of the world smile day which is observed on the first Friday of October!


Snacks are the best ways to peoples’ hearts and what better way than to innovate on a crispy McCain Smile 

Chaats are always an all time favourite in my family and the folks are ever ready to binge on them! 
Here, I am presenting the Masala Sev Smiley with the exotic ingredients of sev, cucumber, capsicum tomato, onion, carrot, small papdi, cheese, sauce and the heavenly coriander green chutney.
Preparation of green chutney
Small bunch of coriander and mint leaves ground along with green chillies, tamarind, mango powder, salt, jaggery, asafoetida.

Preparation of papdi chaat

  Mix wheat flour and all purpose flour, add cumin seeds and carom seeds, rub in some ghee or vanaspati, add salt and make a dough. Flatten them as puris and prick small holes and deep fry these puris to get yummy papdis.

                       Method of making masala sev smiley

  •  Take a Mc Cain smile, apply some tomato sauce and grated cheese on it.
  • Then apply a little quantity of green chutney paste
  •           Top it up with cucumber, tomato, onion, capsicum and carrot 
  •              Place a small papdi on it



  •  Sprinkle sev

 Lo and behold, the lip smacking masala sev smiley is ready to be swallowed in a jiffy!

Thank you McCain  
for putting a smile on everybody's faces! And giving me the gastronomical pleasure of putting up the masala sev smiley!!!

                                 The rigours of life are conquered by the widened contours of the lips. Face is indeed the index of the mind and the sideward drawing of the mouth do give a sense of what is traversing in the complex human brain!      

Picture courtesy: