Saturday, October 21, 2017

October unforgettable moments

I live alone, except on morning walks I hardly meet anyone in the day. So I really treasure moments of connections that any human interaction generates.  October has been a bumper harvest for unforgettable moments
Ramesh: He was one who suggested that I conduct a workshop as he reasoned: In today’s world one needs two or three streams of income. For you to sit at home and await freelance content assignment is being unproductive and optimistic to the extreme. I dithered for I am more a man of words than speech, Ramesh reassured, “ Sathya, I will market the course. We will find a venue.” And after that there was no looking back as Ramesh helped me with the design of the workshop poster and he actively markets it in his contacts circle. I ran the course content with him as he exulted, “ Sathya, this is good stuff and once we get started this will have many re-runs. It is reasonably priced and the content is fantastic.” Another common friend Prithvi writes in, “Ramesh has thrown his full weight marketing this workshop. Sathya, things may get delayed and not derailed.”
            I contacted my ex-clients, ex-colleagues, ex-friends and anyone in the contact lists in gmail on marketing the workshop and no one responded. When I told Ramesh, “ This looks a non-starter,” his response serves as a motivation, “ Sathya, when my wife started the Montessori School for kids, we had two kids enrolled in three months of marketing – my cousin’s daughter and then my own daughter. Only after three months we found takers for this school. Once you run one WORKSHOP then word of mouth gets around and till then it is only friends and relations to the rescue.”
Prithvi: I met Prithvi last year when I was battling depression at AVG clinic where he had come to grow hair on his scalp. Prithvi is younger by three years but on looks and energy he looks a decade younger. He saw me at my own worst and yet when I announced the WORKSHOP he responded like a dream, “ Sathya, I am enrolling my son. I want him to be your first student. I am certain that you have in you for mentoring young people.” He transferred 6 k to my bank account as fees and reassures me, “ Sathya, my son will also try to rope in couple of friends. Don’t worry about the delay. We will aim for at least 10 people and we’ll settle for 6 at the least. I am positive that you will find your feet in training.” This WORKSHOP was supposed to start on 8th October and I feel guilty that I kept postponing with just Prithvi’s son’s enrolment. As for the man he is least bothered on delay, “Sathya, I want you to train my son on communication on par with yours.”  Prithvi is a cheerful optimist and his positive energy spills over. After any interaction with him I feel energized and redouble my efforts – he sure is a hero material in Indian films whose favourite heroine is Anushka Shetty! This is a pet domain we get our laughs for a conversation opener.
Shyam: I sent a PPT of the WORKSHOP to half a dozen contacts and Shyam called last week saying, “ Sathya, if you don’t mind I want to sponsor the venue costs. This will give you more time to put your efforts in enrollments and take some weight off your shoulders.” I said,” Thanks, I will take your help.”
            Shyam has been a great friend and well-wisher in the last 4-5 years. He used to say, “ Sathya, I feel sad each time I read your blog posts. People with one-tenth your abilities earn ten times more.” On another occasion he rang up to compliment me on my Damien bosses posts saying, “ I came to office in a dreadful mood. I read these posts and within 10 minutes I was rolling in laughter.”
Arun:  He called me on Sunday and said, “ I will meet you tomorrow at your place in the evening on my way back from work.”  So on 16th Oct, Arun lands at my place and hands me over a gift. It is a T-shirt just bought at Reliance TRENDS. I am floored and lost for words. I refused to take the gift as Arun insisted, “ You stay so alone that I had to give you a gift. Actually it makes me feel better.”
            Arun works in Ramavaram which is 20 kms from Besant Nagar and his residence is in Tambaram and again 20 kms in another direction. So to gift me this T-shirt he spent 30 minutes at my place and over 4 hours on the city roads in peak traffic on my account.
            I met Arun in a job interview at Kaar technologies in 2013 where he was the interviewer. We shook hands and his first response was, “ I read your Linkedin page and you write beautifully. I wish I can write 5% of your level.” Since then we have been friends. He calls me on weekends as a concerned well-wisher of a terrible recluse. And talking to him is a breeze given his intellect and humour and above all, concern. Seriously for me Diwali 2017 memories will always be this T-shirt gift.
Varadan:  I meet Iyer mama and Varadan on my daily walks at the Beach. I told them a week before Diwali, “ I hate to be alone on Diwali with all the festive noise. I am planning to go somewhere and escape this noise.” Varadan immediately suggests Pondicherry saying, “ Sathya, I know those people and they have a fantastic guesthouse.” Not only that, he booked a room against my name. On 17th October I get a call from him saying, “Sathya, when did you reach Pondy? Is the room comfortable?? Did you get the food coupons??”  That call left me feeling nice about myself that I am wanted and cherished in my very limited circle of friends.
               Then there is Bala I turn to advice on “Whether I should sell this apartment or not?? Or at what possible price?? Manikandan says: I have posted your COMMUNICATION WORKSHOP on a HR forum. Anyway I am meeting you this week with Diwali sweets. I know you stay alone and you have not tasted these goodies.  I also lapped up to Ashish’s message on my Facebook: Happy Deepavali Satya dear. May you continue to light up the mankind with your insightful writing. Loads of happiness and wish that you have not a single dark moment in your life. Safe travels my friend and look fwd to hearing back from you soon. 
                 Truly friends lighted up this Diwali for me with these unforgettable memories.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Portrait lessons

Profiling “people” who left their mark on me was something that came intuitively. Actually it was in May 2006 when I wrote a profile of 14 characters that convinced me that writing is one vocation I should pursue no matter the returns at the box office.  Writing is a lot of fun activity for me and so any money it fetches for a middle-class existence is okay.
            All I was striving for was to paint these characters on a palette but since nature has not endowed me with any skill with the brush, I used words as tools. I tried to capture the mood of the person, the circumstances and the times in which they lived. Then a funny thing happened – the more I thought about them the more I was finding an insight about me. This bears repetition: The more I contemplated on each of these characters, the more I was learning about me. Truly every person who comes into our life is mostly not our choice but they come to teach life lessons. Destiny is infinitely kind and looks after you as a mother to a new born kid. Everything happens in perfect time, space and sequence and where none of your silly fantasizes and wet dreams need apply.
            I am making this post for another reason; I have over 65 Portraits and I want them in one page.  So here we go:
Portraits (Family); There are two posts of my father (Appa and Appa's greatness), one on Amma, and siblings. Writing on Viji and Latha were difficult – they were not considerate to me but theirs are hugely successful lives as they have built wonderful families for themselves. So even as I wrote on them, I was more than conscious that their stint on earth has more meaning and depth than mine. This family section also pays homage to dead members: Paati, Rajamani, Durai, and Prakash. I have not left myself either with “Being Sathya” and “My Upanayanam Images” of a bye gone era.
Portraits (Bahrain): There are four posts that captures one of the shortest, sweetest time period of my life. Ajit made me worldly wise, Mona and Mariam were two Bahraini women who made a strong impression in my mind and Usha of course was a jackal of a manager. But those three months – September, October, November of 2003 – were indeed rich and memorable.
Portraits (Friends); Here again I pay homage to those who passed over: Ravi of my school days, Brig. Mehta was perhaps one of the most complete human beings who I was fortunate to chance in my walks at Theosophical Society gardens and Sarada Mami without doubt a human being with a lot of compassion and a mind as sharp as a scalpel.
            Working on Ishita blog taught me one thing rather reinforced my stance. PW was both a ANGEL and a DEVIL and where she failed was in the morality department. Serious to god and no sour grapes, you can live either with a ANGEL or a DEVIL but you can’t live with one who waxes and wanes like the moon, Slippery character this. Jekyll and Hyde types. 
           P Whorewani (2009) and Endless Suffering (Jackal) in June 2017 are posts that capture my thoughts on this very devious sub-human. A PhD with 25 years in social sector and history will remember her as a dubious character from these writings is sufficient punishment.                
            There are friends like Balakant, SDP, Dr. Rajaram, Mani, Vinod and Priya for loud banter and lots of fun moments. They made me feel young without a care in the world. Then there are reliable friends who held an umbrella when the storm got intense like Ranga, Vivek, Manisha, and T H Iyer Mama.  I also did blogs on Thangam and Meera who helped me in the kitchen for a decade. Seriously they served me daily and on sheer utility rank on top of the heap.
            Now I am left with Dauntlesssathya posts. There are 36 posts here. The difference between thinksathya portraits and this is not the intensity of familiarity but these are mostly profiles of people who came to my life and exited for a short duration – mostly office colleagues and bosses, distant relations, school teachers kinds. I don’t scorn at these posts rather take as much pride in them and the efforts that went into Thinksathya ones. I divided these profiles into three categories:
Sattwic: Fr. Kadavel, Lucas Indra and Mark  from my school days at St. Patricks, office acquaintances Desikamani, Badri, John Kuruvilla and some truly memorable encounters with Navneet at IMT, Vijay and Parvati Mami at TS, Meena at distant China and Krishnan who is a sailor and a terrific person on zest and humour. And my chanting guru the venerable Venkatakrishnan Mama
Rajasic are those characters who did not particular leave me with fragrance but they were moments and this is mostly the bosses crowd: Vijay Iyer, Narasimhan, Sriganesh, MinnieSonny, Umita, Bimal Nair, Karthik, Devarajan and one with a slight romantic possibility in Lakshmi.  Friends like PR Venkateswaran and family relations like  AthaiVisalamRajamaniRamani, Srinivasan and PozhichalurAnd finally Tamasic ones who brought nothing but sorrow and turbulence as in Sanjay in Triton, Krishna Kumar at Percept, Ramesh and Swami
            I still have a list of over 20 profiles pending on Dauntlesssathya which I will attempt to complete before 2017 draws to a close. I take these portraits damn seriously, more than looking out of the window they show up an aspect of me.  
         I also learnt an important lesson: you don't come down with a hammer on your friend's foibles at times. You learn to grin and bear them when there is still a long term projection to it and this leads to another breathtaking insight: You treat yourself kindly and also the people who matter regardless of wrinkles and creases. Oh, the mind can play such tricks though you may be blessed with the wisdom of a Solomon - truly destiny as a factor in my life has been a towering shadowing presence. Not complaining, just observing. And waiting for it to write a better script.

Friday, October 6, 2017

My Ortho troubles - Part 3

One of the disciplines I bring to blogging is LABELS so a story can be added to existing ones without background explanations.  But let me do a prĂ©cis here even if you miss the LABEL at the bottom of the page:  In May 2017 my knees had reached the outer limits of endurance and went on strike. I consulted an orthopaedic and he gave me no satisfaction jumping to “Total Knee Replacement” for a solution. I hate surgical options and I am certain that I would refuse one even if my existence depended on it; I had one heart surgery in my life and that is more than my mind can go through again. The second part of “My Ortho” post described my experience with Dr. Ramnarayan who recommended a simple daily chore of “hot water dabs with Volini thrice a day” with a promise that my knees would dramatically improve. That was towards the end of June, 2017. Now we are on track for Part-3 as the story progresses on the timeline. 
            July and August I went through the regime of “hot water dabs thrice” with a discipline of a soldier. On most days, I would get it on par but even on lean days, I never went below twice. This exercise became as regular as daily baths and three square meals. I knew that I cannot take a day job or if fortune knocked at my doors with a Dubai job; my knees were not up to it. So I had to address this crippling arthritis with a sense of urgency and purpose.
            The daily dabs with Volini got them alright. There was a marked improvement and I could move about a ONE kilometre distance without much discomfort. But by the end of August, I instinctively realized that I needed something more.  Enter Sukumaran.
            I have known Sukumaran, a master healer, who uses acupuncture, Ayurveda and Siddha for healing stubborn ailments and even chronic ones.  I first consulted him when my depression was at its peak last year in June and this man really cared treating it with an unmatched dedication. What’s more he did not even charge me a penny for his expertise. 
            Now a year later, I called him with no higher motive than a simple thank you: “Sir, how are you? I am still alive and kicking. I feel healed of those nagging depressions in decades thanks to your efforts and my chance discovery of Mindfulness.”  I met him with sweets in the last week of August, 2017 and an excited self-congratulatory ring when he observed, “Sathya, your knees are really bad. I will treat you but this time on cost basis. “ Sukumaran had recently rented a new premise for the clinic and he needs money to pay those bills. 
            He explained, “There is a herb which must be plastered to the knees. I guess in ten sittings you will be able to run and spirit.”
            I said, “Perfect.”
My only irritant is the distance for Annanagar is in other end of the city. As for his expertise, I knew he is a healer without comparison, nonpareil. How many times have I seen, right before my eyes, treat cases successfully when the surgeons mess-up at Apollo Hospitals? Sukumaran is a third generation healer in traditional medicine; his solutions are always simple – like using turmeric or basic herbs or acupuncture points – and he gets amazing results. He seems to have two or three options for each disease.
We started in the end of August when his assistant Ibrahim – another character I am well acquainted from the 2016 phase – said, “Sathya, the medicines will cost Rs. 7 k a daily massage at Rs. 300.” I knew these rates were very reasonable and I did not waste a second signing up. 
I said, “Sukumaran Sir, I will pay 10 k straightaway. Please see to it the course of treatment fits into this budget. I really can’t stretch beyond this.” I had a retainer sort of arrangement with a Delhi firm and it was so frustrating that I walked out in the middle of July despite the uncertainty. Point is, financially I am down to my knees, whatever little drizzle of earning even that had dried out. 
So effectively the treatment began in the last week of August.  Ibrahim was the person who handles the timings and appointment and I was livid when the appointment on 1st September for my third session was cancelled. It is like this: for a 4:30 pm appointment I have to start at 3:00 pm and the bus would almost do a pradakshina of the city. One trip to Annanagar and your day is gone; you come back home dog-tired and an exhaustion that spills over to the next day.
I even thought: Why all this way to Annanagar? Recently Sparcc Clinic was opened in Besant Nagar and they have built of a reputation of successfully treating stubborn arthritis. So my mind always tossed around: Sukumaran at 5 k was alright but at 10 k meant that Sparcc was closed to me. My savings were wafer thin and I had already spent over 30 k on the water motor and knees in the July – September time period.
I spent that week most miserable debating in my mind whether I should ask Sukumaran for the advance back. Always a dicey thing considering how much of a support he had been last year.
But when I met him on Monday, 4th September, I was convinced that he is the one who can set my knees right. The treatment consists of massaging my underfoot with an electric massager and it tickles the hell out of me. This part is usually done by Ibrahim while Sukumaran would mix a herb after it has been grinded to a paste and wrap a bandage once it had been smeared in the knees. I came back much chastened and congratulatory that I did not erupt.
There is something about Ibrahim that sets off a human mind to explode. They cancel the appointment and he’ll put the blame on me!!! “Sathya, you should have called before starting out.”  
But one of the gains of MINDFULNESS is that I am able to recover after an emotional hurt and I am also able to hold my anger than burst out. But seeing Sukumaran’s cool demeanour the next day, I warmed up immediately.  Later even S agreed, “Ibrahim is  a pain and every patient complains about him.”
I said, “Be careful Sukumaran Sir. One fellow like that and that's more than enough to drag your name to dust.”
The following three weeks were regular- Monday, Wednesday and Friday- I would take a bus from Besant Nagar and visit his clinic near Anna Arch. It is a squalid neighbourhood in one of the busiest junction points of the city.       
I would leave home at 3:00 pm, reach the place at 4:15 and spend half an hour on the polymer bed there for a massage and a herbal paste wrapped over tightly on a cloth, back to the bus stop at 5:00 and back home by 6:30. I HAD to rush to catch a bus before 5:30 for once the evening peak hour office crowd starts then the journey is not 90 minutes but over two hours and choc-o-block. In India who is not used to being crammed worse than sardines packed for export?
We got friendlier too in these sessions. Sukumaran is very quiet person and uses his words carefully. He is one of those chaps who speaks each word as though they are charged on a word basis over a telegraph line. He is friendly but a bit intimidating too like one of those military men. But we get along. Those days I was super heavy on documentaries and I would bombard him with tales of Alexander the Great or on China. He is all praise for me, “ Sathya Sir, you come from Besant Nagar so punctually that it is a treat to have you as a patient. Very rarely have I seen a patient who complies with every instruction and is always ahead of me for the consultation.”
Besides "herbal bandages" I was taking those herbal tablets thrice a day – four in number each time – and my knees were growing strong. I started to visit the Beach on alternate days and even friends at Eliot’s assured me that my strides were getting a lot straight and firm.
Three weeks and 9 sessions went without a scratch. I would have a coffee or a samosa bite on the way. I was pleased with the way my knees were coming around until 22nd September. I reported to the clinic and it was locked. I called Sukumaran and he instantly apologised, “I completely forgot about you. I am taking my kids for Dusherra holidays and going out of town. Can you please come tomorrow?”
I was too upset to respond, instead said, “I am too tired now. Let’s meet on Monday.”  Twice in the course of this month I was bitter and mentally railing against Sukumaran for cancelling the appointment abruptly. 
The next two weeks Sukumaran never came on the line despite half a dozen calls. I even thought: it’s is okay even if the treatment has reached a dead end. I have definitely profited. Sukumaran even prescribed allopathy medicines for a patch of white skin on the face and a potion for my swollen finger.  Both the face and the finger showed dramatic improvement. So in every which way, this was a satisfactory transaction though I would have wished for a better end.
Sukumaran called yesterday, 4th October, at 6:00 in the morning, “Sathya Sir, can you come today at 10:00 to the clinic?”
I went.
There are some people you can never take offense to.  He treated me and I did not mention this two weeks unexplained break. Sukumaran also advised me on my tooth problem too, “it may need a cap. I will put you on to my contact at Savita Dental College and they will do a free treatment.” S’s personality is such that the moment he smiles at you, you forget these inconveniences of missed appointments and missed calls and ready to make peace.   
I came home yesterday and this thought never left me. Sukumaran is 1976 born which makes him seven years younger to me. I wish I can develop such a personality – he is too composed and tranquil and he deals with the world on his terms. Once he said, “This clinic is just to pander to my hobby and help people. I don’t make anything at all.” He has a day job as a pharmacist and he says, “I earn a salary of 55 k and I don’t want to operate this clinic full time though I am sure I can earn much more.”
I advised, “We live in times where a stable source of income should not be put in jeopardy. Two hours in the evening should be fine to pander to a hobby.”
To anyone reading this blog, I can attest: Sukumaran can treat any ailment in the body. I have seen him do wonders. What medical science cannot do, he cures them with consummate ease. I have seen him handle women’s issues and stubborn knees and even set right a damaged neck. He is a natural healer with three generations skills in his blood.
On a rare moment Sukumaran became human and cribbed, “I cured a patient who spent 12 lacs in Apollo Hospital on a damaged liver. I treated him and now he is up and running. My whole treatment cost 38 k and even then some people find it hard cough up.”
I tell him, “Sukumaran Sir, you are still young. If I was any good as a marketing man, I would have built a chain of hospitals for you. But still, I am sure someday someone will.  You are a genius healer.”
As for me, my knees are almost back to 70% operational efficiency. S tells me, “Take those medicines for 3 months. We only have couple of bandage sessions more and in the meanwhile do some thigh strengthening exercises. I am sure you will be back to your jogs before the year ends.”
All I can say is INSHALLAH. I have no doubt in my mind that my life is blessed considering the quality of people who engage and befriend me. From mercenary Dr. Velayutham in May or human Dr. Ramnarayan in June and a genius in Sukumaran in August, God's grace does seem to have a linear pattern. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

September Insights

I have not spoken to my eldest sister for couple of months now and this looks a total estrangement. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  But there were some insights:
- The family did not give me ONE festival moment since my dad’s death in 1989. For a Tambrahm at least these four festivals are observed with a lot of piety and gaiety: Pongal, Diwali, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Dusherra. Rama Navami is also a big draw but these four are sine quo non. Besides I must have invited my eldest sister at least a million times to Besant Nagar but then she has compiled a dictionary of excuses. Now for the twin insights I learnt in these months:
a)  With Besant Nagar apartment tethering meaning hanging on fragile ropes, this insight stumped me with the force of hurricane Irma: The very possibility I will lose Besant Nagar from my ineptness is a testimony of my sister’s indifference. Such a relation is not worth saving or entertaining. We might as well die on earth and avoid them on hell.
b)  I often think of death; I certainly would like to die in the midst of loved ones. I realized that both my sisters will not make it to the hospital when summoned citing excuses like “I have arthritis” or “I am expecting a call from Fort Collins”. I went through this phase of abandonment when I had a heart surgery in 1998 and in the two decades our hearts and minds have turned even more into stone and rock. So when you know that these relations are not even worth a mental crutch of a raving optimist; you realize the wisdom of throwing those out of the window. As Robin Williams says: I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.
(These two thoughts: wobbling Besant Nagar apartment and no good when the white sheets are drawn made me re-cast the WILL. I finally realize this: You may have all the good intentions of wanting to be a good brother but when it hits a brick wall, you walk away. I don’t see this family ever reuniting unless both the daughters realize their errors which no North Arcot woman is congenitally capable).
            Then there is this insight which did not spring up this month but something that has lived in my bones for a while. I hate to ask anyone for job assistance but when I am driven to despair I swallow a lot of pride and attitude. I know asking for a favour is nothing better than a beggar with a bowl – one is for coins and another for livelihood and in essence no difference.
            I wrote to a Facebook friend and an IMT alumnus requesting “if you know any content or writing assignment please do involve me in.” That mail got no response. Earlier I used to delete the email id from the contact lists so as to prevent “begging in distant future”. Now I take it in stride as an affirmation that the world we live is indeed a hard and cruel place.
            September was also a month in which Gayatri, a distant cousin, took a crack at me and I came down so heavily that my words of censure would be lifelong scars. I realize this all too clearly: I will not hurt another human being, already my present life is burdened with past karmas of sin. But when anyone comes throwing stones, I will use an howitzer and blow them away. I reside alone and no emotional outlet and this is just a defence response I am not proud of but I cannot help it despite tons of MINDFULNESS literature.
            Yesterday a Sanjaya's* boorishness at Vishranti was beyond my tolerance. He sits on the restaurant table and lords over me. I was reduced me to running errands for his “strong coffee with little sugar” from the counter, then order a vada and get it parcelled. Knowing his disgusting dominant streak, I complied but when he asked me to carry his “vadai parcel” to his car, I protested. I said, “I hate to refer this but I couldn't stomach your rude behaviour at FOSWL meeting last Sunday. In the name of discipline you are reducing others to menial servants.”
            Sanjaya had no grace saying, “Of late, you are developing such ill thoughts of me. I consider myself as your GURU but if this is your attitude then I will cut you off.” I had a foolish grin for a response and quietly walked away.
            It did upset me. I have known this person since 1998. He has been my most vocal supporter and even sole well-wisher in 2015-16 periods. But even in the best moments of intimacy I was aware of this “control freak” nature and reducing others to serve him. I have not met a more narcissistic person. Even when I praise Alexander the Great or Charles Darwin, Sanjaya would not allow an opportunity slip and forcibly thrust himself: Actually I am also famous for achieving impossible goals as though competing with the Greek Invader or pitting himself favourably against the English naturalist.  None of my friends – Ranga, Manisha, Rajaram, SDP, Mani, Vivek – have ever walked out on me was the thought I used to console myself with.
            That leads to the INSIGHT of the month: Don’t hold on to a relation that no longer serves. When it brings ill-will or makes you feel small, just walk away. LET GO. I also realize this: Very few people in our age know how to disagree and even fight. We can all have our differences and yet not lose friendliness when there is a disagreement to an event or a misplaced expectation as long as there is no deliberate slights to the ego.
            All this leads to but one road: YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. LOVE YOURSELF, TRUST YOURSELF. Be comfortable in your own skin and always bat for you. The world outside is cold in these times of climate-change.
"Don't worry if someone does not like you. Most people are struggling to like themselves." ~ Karen Salmansohn from Mindfulness literature just about sums up my learnings for September. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Compliments 2017

Suresh Kumar K R: Your writing is too good to be ignored. Perseverance will bring rewards. Positive approach is the need. I am sure your workshops will be a great success. September 16
Ashish Bansal Very well written. I'm truly enjoying each of your posts. You make it all come alive. Keep writing. Satya you are super talented, my friend……August 20
Deepak Mehra: Hi Sathya, I enjoyed reading a few of your blogs. You express very well...language of the senses!  July 18
Deepak Mehra: Sathya, you are an accomplished and a prolific writer. I am impressed by your style of writing. Very inspiring. August 29
Ramji Ramasubban: Sathya, so moved by your brilliant narration. What a way to characterise. I am able to see and experience your dear dad as if he is in front of me.  August 07
dr achla gupta: I totally agree with you A Sathyanarayan.During the journey of life Dr Vivek Banerjee proved it to me that he is the only person who cared when I got in trouble... And in the end, problem solved... September 04
tymkyn: In your inimitable style of writing you have portrayed me as a demi god. What a meticulous analysis drawing attention to qualities that I am not even aware. While I feel honored and cherished I must say that I am only a human with the usual feelings. Thank you Satya for reposing this immense confidence in me.             July 23
tymkyn: Heart rending. I wouldn't wish even on my bitterest enemy to experience this living hell. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. I hope and pray you find peace and happiness. As a literary work it's a masterpiece.  June 28
Sankaranar Raman: WOW! Sathyam Narayana!  You have become a Legeend dear brother! Convey my appreciation to the author for the True Narrative…August 01
Rema: Lovely piece of writing... Iam so thrilled to read the article and every bit of detail he has written... kept me reading on till the end in rapt attention! Jai ho Sathya ⌣  August 07
Anju Kamal: What a painful experience that was Sathya. You deserve happiness..... 21st July, 2017
Sudha Iyer: So well written, capturing every detail of Appa. Thanks for sharing will treasure the blog for all time to come! Cheers..... 18 September
H P Zaidi: Dear Eagle,
Contrary to your belief, I have been reading your blog posts - albeit in a rather unusual manner ! I save your blogs on my phone and read them on long haul flights, sifting carefully through each word and trying to understand the meaning behind it all.
Needless to say, you write well. I see dashes of anger and melancholy every now and then, but I assume that's the staple of all writers.
It must be noted that Eagles cannot escape their destiny. They are to forever hover miles up in the air and forever observe the carrion and insects on the ground, swooping down as and when necessary.... Being up there is always lonely my friend....
Keep writing. People are reading and taking note. Not many may say so.... that's the way of the world.
Eagles should feel no shame... they are meant to just spread their wings and soar higher - to be able to observe what none others can.
You are a kind a generous soul, with all the earmarks of royal blood. To me, the most important word is kindness, which is what I always attach you with. Kindness, of course, has a cost which you almost revel in paying. Obviously, not everyone has the wealth like you have - to have the ability to pay this cost each day, every day... forever... (in a mail dated September 12)
                I thank Jissy Thomas, Shabd Darbari, Sandeep Lakina, T H Iyer, Siddhan Subramanian, Arun Kumar and so many who "like" my posts and kind enough to comment. Trust me, for a writer this is oxygen.
Thank you. I am a servant of each one of you. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A nasty kick from nowhere

Last week a paternal uncle S K Moorthy came on the line to enquire, “All well, how are your knees?” kinds for a social call. 
            After my estrangement with my eldest sister for an entire mandalam now – forty days – I gushed forth like a dog gifted with a bone in my affections to the uncle. 
           In the midst of the chat, he said, “I was asking Athai for Prakash’s snaps. She keeps promising.”
            I volunteered: I have couple of his images downloaded from his Facebook pages. 
           For those new to these posts, Prakash is a cousin who died unexpectedly less than three months back.
            I asked, “Do you have a mail id or should I send to Gayatri’s mail id.? 
            Gayatri is his daughter who stays with him.  Something like ‘veetu mapilai” (how do I translate this? It means “Ghar ka Jamai” in Hindi and “son-in-law lodging in the bride’s house”)
            Telephone call over and I lost no time in sending couple of Prakash’s Jpegs to this Pozhichalur uncle (they reside in Pozhichalur, a Chennai suburb) to Gayatri’s email id. Besides I also sent ten web-links of my Portraits posts that contained images of the entire family beginning with my grandparents as a bonus. That was what I meant as excited as a dog that found an unexpected bone!  That enveloping enthusiasm was misplaced as the plot progresses
            This week he called me again and I enquired, “Did Gayatri show you all the images?”
            The Pozhichalur man at 76 is not overtly bright and quick of grasp said, “ Thanks I saw two Prakash’s pictures.” When queried whether he has seen my upanayanam images of 1979, he lost speech. He muttered a hesitant NO and I visualized that if I had seen his face now, it would have shown a dumb look and head shaking for a negative.
            The foolish Sathya still gushing enthusiasm said, “ I will sent those images again to Gayatri and this time not as web-links but Jpegs.”

            I sent a second mail with these Jpegs and forgot all about it till the daughter writes: I understand you are being nice to my father. But I prefer you not to email or call me. My father will be fine if you keep away; in the meantime sort out your own life.” 
          I read this and was swamped by waves of hate. Even if Buddha had advised me to take it easy he would not have succeeded in stopping this intuitive response: May you rot in hell. Get your facts straight for it was your father who asked for these images. Come under the wheels of a MTC bus and don’t inform me when any of you kick the bucket or any woman delivers another genetic garbage.
            I read this hate mail on a Friday night at around 8:30 pm and felt drowned in vortex of hate and misery with each passing minute. The import of Gayatri’s response was clear: She is close to Viji and maybe taking it out on me after reading my blog posts. Or was Viji and Latha spreading poison about me in the relations circle? Or is it just the priest getting angry when the Lord himself is cool and relaxed when a devotee switches loyalty to the other side? My composure was fast crumbling.
            One part of the mind said: This is a good time to practice mindfulness. I just had this thought: Why shoot myself a secondary arrow after a primary one has been shot by Gayatri? I allowed my mind to listen to this wisdom and concentrate as a palliative to the strong currents of negativity. Believe it or not, I found the mental storms abate and within an hour I was back to my normal countenance.
            I slept that night without this baggage.
            Next morning, I spoke to my cousin Arun who has become a Facebook buddy as he “likes” all my posts. I told him the entire sequence of events and he responded like a dream, “Gayatri is high-strung and given to throwing weight. But anna, your response is a bit heavy. It’s like shooting a nest with a Bofors gun.”
            This fresh insight on Gayatri further improved my mood. I have no contact with this woman; she is four years younger to me whom I only chance in family weddings and cremation. We briefly met at Prakash’s death and as we rushed to offer our condolences to the aggrieved family at Mylapore.
            I kept telling Arun, “I am a total recluse. I don’t call or email others out of turn. This is such a wild allegation as though she was waiting to insult me.” 
         Women in our family wear trousers and the first thing they do after brushing teeth is to practice war cries. All of them carry such strong baritone as to fell a tree and even a fort. I can’t think of any woman in this family who stored any value for modesty and reserve; every one of them from the fishing markets.
            In the evening Pozhichalur uncle kept calling and I refused to answer. I switched off the mobile and learnt a wonderful lesson: Just because I stay alone, I don’t need to gush. This was an instance of an over-enthusiasm backlash.” I also thanked my stars: Being alone is heavenly for there are no Gayatri kinds prowling the house. I now understood why women with virulent tongues can make a man rush to jump off the building or hang from a noose.  
            This lesson is so wonderful that it needs repetition: Just because I stay alone and no opportunity for the speaking mouth, I should not be lavish in my affections when people come contacting. Two, staying alone is a huge blessing I have not given myself enough credit.
            I narrated this incident to Srinivasan, my maternal cousin saying, “I furnished drinking water to a thirsty man and instead of being grateful, the fellow spits on the face.”
He said to a reassuring response, “It happens to me all the time. Maybe we are born under lousy stars.”
Ranga who came in the evening gave an expert’s take: Sathya, welcome to the real world. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

August friends

I love Besant Nagar for this reason alone: I run into old friends. I used to walk in the Theosophical Society for decades for a huge haul of friends but in last three years my arthritis knees can no longer do 4 kilometres.  
            I ran into Rao garu and his sister Varalakshmi in the middle of August.  Mr. Rao has a face with the largest grin and that makes the other loosen up instantly. We met in years and exchanged hellos.
            I said,” I need a spell in the Gulf to set right my finances. Besides I have this M90 flat issue where a corrupt doctor is driving us nuts.”
            I explained all about SYNAPSE clinic and Vara, his sister broke in, “Please don’t get into a fight. Just sell and go,” and even went on to furnish a real estate broker’s name.
            She reasoned: Your apartment on Seventh Avenue has a big problem. Keep your gob shut. You are desperately trying to sell; don’t lose sight of the fact that they are people who are desperate to buy an apartment in Besant nagar.”
Varalakshmi made it convincing with a vivid imagery: It is like a man who is desperate to divorce his wife and there is another ready to grab her. So never de-market your flat with your big mouth.”
            I turned to Rao garu and said,” God, I never knew you had such a wise sister.”
            The lady was in devastating form and in a zone; Sathya, when Shiva cut off Brahma’s fifth head, HE had committed Brahmahatti dosham. The head remained stuck in Shiva’s head and after years of penance and expiation, HE found a way to get rid of the face. Each time he dipped his hands in the Ganges, the face would sink down. But the moment he took his hand off the brook, the face would attach itself. Your problem is like that; get rid of this flat and you’ll find your retirement days lighter. This is no time or place for heroics. You don't stand a chance taking on these political heavyweights.”
            I loved the fable and Rao garu must have seen the impact of the tale on my mind as he joked, “My sister is too wise for all of us.” Both Rao and Vara were people I used to meet in my good old TS walking days.
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Then in the Eliot’s Beach, I narrated my SYNAPSE troubles to TNEB retired Krishnamurthy. At 70, he has a rich crop of hair, ready smile and instant likeability especially as he greets us with “Loka Samastha Sukino Bhava”.  
He advised, “Sathya, this is no time to take on politicians for we have all passed into the age of oblivion.”
Then he told me a lovely story: in 1997 I used to teach in Anna University and would take a bus at Besant Nagar terminus to Guindy. As I was getting in, a college going boy rushed out so forcefully that I was thrown off balance and I fell on the road. What made it worse was the driver ran over my knees! Others shouted as the driver applied brakes. I was badly mauled and one set of passengers suggested that we take the bus to the police station and register a complaint. There was another office going crowd that felt that I should not delay the bus, instead rush to a hospital. I found that those who suggested the Police were in no mood to help me; the poor bus driver had leaked in his pants. I told the crowd that it is definitely not his mistake; while the terrified college boy ran for his life as soon as he saw me hit the ground. I took an auto and went to the hospital; it showed a cracked bone and I spent a week as an in-patient and months recuperating.  Now tell me Sathya, what could I have done any different? Sometimes we find ourselves in hopeless and desperate situations, take it in your stride, don’t mop and lament. On your M90 issues, sell and go and buy peace for yourself.”
            I shook his hands in genuine warmth and respect saying, “You have strength of character I can never reach.”
What made it impactful was Krishnamurthy’s narration; the smiling face never frowned and not a shred of malice in his voice as the word flowed with a smooth flourish.  
             Still smiling and eye gleaming, he rubbed his hands as we sat on the promenade wall with the sun rising at Eliot’s Beach behind our backs saying,” Consider that you have gifted the FREE COMMON SPACE to Synapse and not as a land grab. The mind is a funny thing; give your troubling thoughts a good spin at least for the sake of your emotional health.”
            I came home and wrote the words “pass into oblivion” and “Yes, I donated the FREE COMMON SPACE” and at once felt good positive vibrations flooding the mind.
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I had a lousy retainer arrangement with a Delhi based company on social media content for the first half of 2017- 20 k for half an hour work is not morale crushing but I don't break-even.
              This arrangement went for 6 months before I felt the strain. The man I work is  a prized jerk - he is a rabid BJP baiter to the point of participating in dharnas and stone-pelting besides he piles on guilt at every opportunity.  I don't even have a voter ID and politics is the last thing on my mind. I am more like that song in Tamil: It does not matter whether Rama rules or Ravana; my prime focus is to light at least a 40 w bulb on my doorstep
             I worked with Ramesh on content before and when I approached him for work, he said," Sathya, forget content writing for a while. We live in times where we need to have couple of streams of income. How about corporate training? Your spoken English is good and I am sure you can hold your ground on this domain."
            I was not so optimistic though," If I can't succeed in the area of my expertise, it feels too heavy a burden to convince the mind I can do better in a new one."
           Ramesh laughed, " We will, when you are forced to adapt. Sathya, step out of your comfort zone for once, you might discover new talents in you."
          And so I agreed and he said, " I will help you out on venue and gather a crowd. From there it is your show."
          I came home and did a course schedule and course fees; I get 10 participants and the show should hit the road. I spoke to Prithvi, a common friend who said, " Ramesh is marketing your communication workshop. I intend enrolling my son who is in engineering final year. Knowing you, it will do him a lot of good." Strangers are friends when they see your virtues even when you don't. I am moved by Prithvi's enthusiasm and Ramesh's marketing efforts for a vote of confidence I don't store much on myself. 
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Suloch is my neighbour; he resides right under on the ground floor while my quarters is on the first. Before going to Africa after his monthly annual vacation, he said, “Lord Jesus has a miracle for you. By the time I come back in 2018 you would be rich, happy and I foresee a girl in your arms.”
            I said, “A simple earning of 50 k earnings a month from home is good enough.”
            “Sathya, you don’t know your worth. Mail me your resume, I have friends in Dubai. Let’s cast our nets, anyone would be lucky to have you as a writer.”
            We have been neighbours for over two decades and now we address each other as “Brother Suloch” and “Brother Sathya.” He started the brother thing and I love the sound of it; be it in mails or as a waving goodbye.
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Then how can I forget the 70 year old Chris. He said, “Sathya, how about a holiday to Thailand, Veitnam for a sex tourism?”
I said,” Love to but no money in the wallet now. Long drought in earnings.”
Instinctively he said, “I know, you bum. I am a millionaire many times over, be part of my entourage and I will give wine, women and air-tickets. Your job is to give me company, just bring your humour along.”
I laughed it off. You bet, I will never enjoy a holiday with another man’s purse.
August has been richer with these moments. So a blog post for a store of good memories, so few these days. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Seeking Mahaperiyava's blessings

Last year when everything seemed one step to the grave; my train had no energy left and vultures hovering around for scavenging, metaphorically of course, so dire was my broken spirits. T H Iyer mama would encourage in his own way, first he said: try Vinayagar Agaval chanting.  The next month he said, “Go to Kanchipuram and seek Mahaperiyava’s blessing.”
            Mahaperiyava is the venerated Acharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham who lived to the ripe age of nearly 100 before he passed over in 1994. My family – every Shaivite Tamil Brahmin family is either attached to the Kanchi Mutt or the Sringeri Mutt– is attached to the Kanchi mutt, meaning our ancestors regarded the Kanchi Acharyas as our family gurus for source of guidance and inspiration. This is not a small thing, almost every year we met our Acharyas and pay respects.
            So somewhere in July or August, 2016, I went to Kanchipuram for a pradakshina around Mahaperiyava’s Samadhi eleven times fervently praying for my redemption. I was dying a slow death and smell of the other side at the nostrils; so when Iyer mama suggested this visit it felt natural and “maybe I should exhaust this source too”. My life miraculously turned around over the last 6 months – thanks to MINDFULNESS studies and my mind after two years of SLEEP pulled itself up and found renewed vigour and purpose. This is a miracle beyond my power of words to convey.
            In the last week of July, 2017 I had this “thanksgiving” visit idea pop in my mind almost to a divine call. Like this thought flashed and I immediately said: let me go to Kanchipuram.
I chose 1st August, 2017 for the date.  I left Besant Nagar at 6:15 and took a bus to Kanchipuram at Tambaram Sanatorium Mofusil depot; the fare is Rs. 38. We left Tamabaram at 7;20 and reached K at 8:45. Travelling through state highway, you get a glimpse of the picturesque Tamil land; school girls in pleats on  oil dripped heads with jasmine (malipoo) and you feel all is well with the world.
            At the Mutt, I bought a rose garden for Rs. 50 (those people are an animated lot and good souls). Walked 12 rounds around the Samadhi; wonder of wonders got an opportunity to speak to the current Acharya Vijendra Sarawathi.
With hands folded I said: I am Sathyanarayanan from Chennai.”
He asked: What do you do? I am content writer.
He still persisted: What do you write on? I said feebly, “Mainly a creative writer, I worked in Times of India but that was some years before.”  
It does not feel right to say: I am unemployed right now and I have come for your blessings or rewind the tape, “Last year I was drowning and thanks to Mahaperiyava’s grace I have sufficiently recovered.”
As Iyer mama suggested, I told the Acharya, “I am a friend of T H Iyer mama; he stays in the same neighbourhood.”
Believe it or not, Sri Vijendra Saraswathi said,”Yeah, I know German Iyer.”
He gave me vibhuti and kum-kum for prasadam packets as I prostrated falling with the burdens of a massive body and super heavy arthritis.
This was sufficient for a Mutt official to wait on me as he led me to Sowmya Arvind Sitaraman.  She is a middle-aged woman in 9 yards and a face that shone with lustre for a bright round face and large bindi.
She asked, “What do you do? What are the topics you write?”
Again I don’t answer such questions well except a meek, “I am a creative writer, I used to work for Femina, then Tattvaloka.  My last assignment was in a gulf as an editor to a Health Magazine.”
I found Ms. Sowmya quite aggressive; the nature of questioning felt more like an interview than two strangers having a small talk. She talked about different types of chanting before introducing herself, “I am author of this book “An introduction to South Indian Festivals” and a documentary film producer.” One look at her, the accents and you’d think: this woman must be either from USA or Europe. Later on, I found that she was a person with some claim to worldwide status. 
She asked about the purpose of my Kanchipuram visit and I said, “Last year I was down in the darkest depression and I came here for Mahaperiyava’s blessings. It worked and this is my thanksgiving trip.”
Then we got into a tangle, something provoked in me as I needlessly went on a counter offensive, “Actually I am more a Buddhist than a Tamil Brahmin. I don’t perform daily Sandhya Vandanams and monthly tharpanams.”
            The worldwide fame of “An introduction to South Indian festival’ reacted like a spring coil, “By not doing the tharpanams, you are making your ancestors go thirsty.”
            If I had an ounce of wisdom, I would have beamed, nodded wisely, and shrank away. But I am a 48 year moron as I rallied forth on a tennis court in which I was sure to lose the game, “Please don’t give me this guilt trip. I have settled my personal debts with those alive and dead.”
            This interaction spoilt the mood a bit though I continued to be high. I was in a pious mind for the 11 pradakshina around the Samadhi and the current pontiff spoke to me. So on balance, this was more than I could have bargained for. 
            I came out of the Mutt an hour later and got into a share auto. The fare came to Rs. 5 and my wallet had just one note: Rs.500. I shrugged my shoulders for apologies and the driver said, “it’s okay sir. Maybe next time, you will get into my auto with the correct fare.”
            Had a sumptuous breakfast at 10:30 am – my tummy was fast filling with gas for I have been hungry since waking up at 5:00 – and the Rs. 500 note changed. Hailed a bus to Chennai and this went through Sriperumbudur, Poonamallee, Madharavoyal and Koyembedu.  Each time a bus enters Chennai, they take a different route. I went to Kanchipuram in under two hours in the onward and now it was four hours for me to get back to Besant Nagar. A personal car would have covered the distance in 90 minutes. Maybe, for next year’s thanksgiving I have this toy too was a remnant thought of a good productive day.