Proceedings of the Conference on ReCognition

The nth biennial conference on ReCognition was getting underway. It was a fine bright morning at the venue which happens to be a well known satellite institution in the country which specialized in such mysterious areas of research. Having a beautiful campus tended to by a dedicated team of gardeners, suitably granite floored halls, stately whispering academics, suitably dull receptionist, an astute finance officer and above all a Director with a lofty and correct attitude of detachment. It had all the qualifications for holding a conference of this type.

At the venue is our reporter who managed to cadge not only an invitation to attend the opening function but also a lunch ticket (very hard to come by due to the aforesaid finance officer). This invitation he got through a senior academic of the institute. A mild mannered young man, he knew his job, but not wishing to push himself forward, chose to stand on the sidelines watching the proceedings.

The scene presented a grand spectacle of distinguished elderly and youngerly(!) academics attired in the traditional conference dresses. Baggy suits for the elderly, retired Directors, Generals etc., silk sarees for serving women professors, Jeans and T-shirts for the errand boys and girls also known as research scholars. There were also the usual mic adjusters, photo takers etc.

The entire assemblage seen from above presented a series of clusters. The senior most and the loudest and also the most powerful (Fund allotters) and their eager proteges formed the central cluster. Hesitantly trying to touch the central cluster as it were was the second cluster – middle level professors, and the like. Predictably the central cluster was not talking academics but about people, juicy bits of gossip who got promoted, who got extension. Also shamelessly asking, “ did they pay your fare?”, “where are you being put up”, etc. There was even an inner small group which conversed in whispers about confidential matters.

Suddenly, there was a mild commotion and the cause became evident soon. In strode the great Sundar Rao, also known as SR, former Professor, former Chairman, former Advisor, former etc., and current hopeful (of what?). He was very neatly dressed in a suit with a bright red tie. Closely following him were his disciples, one of them carrying his briefcase. In fact one of them was actually walking ahead of him like a pilot in a motorcade. Immediately the central cluster opened and the babel of voices rose by a decibel or two. The disciples respectfully stepped back. SR breezily and jovially greeted everybody in the central cluster. Loud and harsh, SR’s voice broke into occasional laughter. All the while he was staring around the room idiotically with a grimace-like smile on his face. Prof SR’s vacuous grimace is not to be commented upon and so also his loud laugh that spake the vacant mind. ( But who knows?)

Prof Sundar Rao had furthered many an academic career by dropping the necessary word at the necessary place. This was the reward he reserved for the faithful who faithfully did all his research and faithfully put his name in the research papers as the corresponding author. In case you do not know what this implies let me tell you. The corresponding author is the boss. But woe to any researcher who dared to differ from SR. Mercilessly he threw the person out in the metaphorical snow, relegating them to the fringes of academic society (his).

Back to the conference. Prof. Sundar Rao was going to deliver the key note address which he knew by heart as he had delivered it about eighteen times of which, six have been in the same venue. If ever he hesitated during his address, the paintings on the walls could help him out, since they also knew it by heart.

ReCognition was a subject in which Sundar Rao excelled. He could recognize at a glance all the great ones and all the ones who had to be ignored. He could spot at a glance a willing slave or a troublesome maverick. Not for nothing he had been the head of many institutions. In his long career he had killed – metaphorically speaking – many a promising scientist, thus making sure that his path was always lined with sycophants.

When Sundar Rao was ready, the conference began, though it was already an hour later than the stated time. No matter, SR had to greet all his cronies you see. As usual a sly sycophant (ss) gave the welcome address.

This was a well trained welcomer. He welcomed everybody, including the cool breeze from the air-conditioner. His welcome to SR was freely studded with words like most respected, most eminent, internationally (Maldives, Sri Lanka?) known. He stopped short of touching the great one’s feet and saying ‘Pranam’.

Then came the Director of the institute who owed his present position to long years of faithful service to SR. Naturally he tried to out do SS. With heroic effort he rose to the occasion and called forth all sorts of superlatives praising the great one. It seemed from his assertions that the sum total of all knowledge in the world resided in SR’s head. Oh, what a head! Bald and shining, perhaps due to the hair being blown away by the power of knowledge within, round and big since it was stuffed with so much knowledge, a face suffused with pride, (who would not be, given his position?). Bulbous eyes, staring out challengingly and to top it all, a big and powerful mouth which was soon going to thunder out the mysteries of the science of ReCognition.

Back to our man, the Director. Having done full justice to SR’s glory he crowned his efforts by placing a garland round the neck of the great one. Just in time, he restrained himself from touching his feet. The audience applauded, as Prof. SR moved to the microphone to deliver his well known keynote address. We don’t have to know what he said. They are available in the archives of institutions of A to J and from the years 1980 to present time. The beauty of it is that we can choose any one of these at random and get the pearls of wisdom.

The keynote address was followed by after note, by a faithful who delivered the vote of thanks which also had been said in the same hall many times. But not being of SR’s stature, this does not find a place in the archives. There quickly followed a series of presentations and not a moment too soon the morning session was over and lunch was announced.

There is our reporter going towards the counters where a sumptuous buffet lunch spread is seen, nervously clutching his lunch ticket. He wondered whether it was first class ticket or second class ticket and whether he would be permitted to take the Kashmiri Pulao or not. Remember the finance officer? Our reporter had heard that on occasion the finance officer had been known to snatch the very plate from the hands of an offending luncher and drive him forth like the angel Gideon did, with his flaming sword. Timidly he grabbed one ordinary looking Paratha, moved on to dal and Dum Alu. Became emboldened by not seeing any hatchet men of the finance officer, went on to Palak Paneer and becoming very cheeky indeed took the Kashmiri pulao and even went so far as to sample the ice cream. Exhausted with the mental and physical effort he slowly tottered back to a corner table and sat down.

After lunch the sessions reconvened. Prof. SR was still there, but not to speak or listen. He was there to sleep and snore and perchance to dream. He had put himself in a convenient posture in the front row so that he could stretch out his legs and since the neighbouring chair was empty he could put his head there. All this he did with aplomb. As the afternoon wore on, and speaker after speaker “ReCognised”, SR blissfully snored on, the snores providing a resonant background to the dull voices of the speakers.

Soon there was tea time, and somebody thoughtfully woke up ‘kumbakarna’ Rao and quickly led him to cakes, biscuits and tea lest he gobble up some human.

Our reporter is nowhere to be seen. May be he took powder as the American gangster would say. One presumes that he was too overwhelmed by all that he had seen and heard and rushed back to his office to collect his thoughts.

The post tea session was not to be graced by SR’s presence as he had to rush to Delhi where the next day he was going to keynote again. What he would say there, we know already, right? So, I leave you at this point to guess how the conference ended.

Thus Prof. Sundar Rao. And unlike Abou Ben Adhem – May his tribe never increase! Pray to the angels.

Parkers Unlimited

Not Parker pens, the bygone status symbol, not even my TV serial hero Jason Statham, but simple (?) Parkers of this world. But the simple Parkers of this world also come in various categories such as, the ones who park their two wheelers and their cars in front of your apartment gate and then there are the multifarious people (self included), who frequent the municipal parks. Also included are those who park their asses (forgive my Americanism) on your sofa and some more types. Now you begin to understand. Their categories can easily exceed P1 to Pn where n is a large number.

Well, what about them, you ask and thus start me off on this. Let me introduce the ones who frequent public parks. In fact, it is mostly these Parkers I want to write about. So here we go. For safety sake (mine) I give them only a label.

Well, there is this Parker P1, shall we say, who enters our local park at 7 30 AM everyday. He jogs slowly and flaps his arms like some winged creature. Very entertaining but for the inconvenience. You cannot overtake him – he will knock you down with a swipe of his arm. When overtaking old people he scares them stiff though he is dexterous. Sometimes he even can insinuate himself flappers and all between two walkers. Luckily he flaps till 8 AM only and then flaps off presumably to flap around in his office.

Now, no less bizarre is P2 who walks backward, yes, backward because some fool of a doctor told him to do so! This backward guy also advises people while he is backing. This bizarre picture I leave to your imagination. However, not to be outdone is the other half of the world (you know whom I mean) in the form of a team P3 to P5. They clip along briskly, spanning the walkway. No one, not even this thin old man can slide past them. If you happened to come close enough behind them you could hear words like” rando sugar”, “ you must add some ginger” etc. Luckily they start early and finish early.

Watching all this, unmoved and phlegmatic is P6, an old lady of ample girth who starts walking only after doing toe stretching on a bench. This P6 is my favourite, one whom I admire and you shall see why. When P6 starts walking she weaves from side to side and thereby defeats even P1 and thrills my heart. Once he was stopped dead in his tracks and afterwards had to quietly manoeuvre past her.

One last sample Pn and I am done with the inside of the park.

P7 is a retired general manager (GM) of XYZ company turned physician in his old age. He parks himself on a bench and dishes out prescriptions like green juice, water intake, dangerous eye rotation stuff not to mention obscure homeo drugs. All these are supposed to make his patients healthy and fit. His clients are mostly hapless old ladies. That they survive till today is by the grace of God. Then there is also the nosey parker who with his hundred and one questions elicits all details of your personal life while giving away nothing. Truly a great Parker. I could go on and on till Pn (n=100) but I shall desist as I have the outside of the park to describe.

I now invite you to come out of the park to see other Parkers – two wheeler Parkers, three wheeler Parkers, four, eight, eighteen and so on. Outside you immediately spot the autorickshaws with their macho drivers (uniform khaki, unbuttoned) standing with a casual alertness or alert casualness beside their vehicles, oblivious of the big city bus, whose driver tired of horning desperately manoeuvres his leviathan around these toughies. A truly indestructible species, these auto drivers. Armed with every trick in the book of survival not to mention the book of devilry, they park on the side of the road adjacent to the best laid stretch of pavement complete with a small Anjaneya Swamy box (cannot be called a temple), broken bench stolen from the nearby park – a bench for them to sit, relax and chit chat. Hang the regular pedestrians, they can walk on the road, can’t they? Only, the road is already perilously packed with flying vehicles. But that’s not all. There are those who sit in their autos feet jutting out so that you can trip and do namaskara to them, or sit in the auto and wait for a friend to draw up in his auto and start the chit chat.

If you thought auto parking is the limit, just watch the two wheelers. From the muscled macho young men on their Honda or whatever to the teeny unlicensed girl rider they all have a unique culture – don’t worry about the inconvenience to others. With sublime indifference they sit astride their vehicles in a busy road and conduct low voiced important conversations on their mobile phones. But the wonder is, again the BMTC bus hesitantly waits behind – perhaps with the memory of too many senseless bus burnings.

Undoubtedly the stars of the Parkers are these two wheelers who whether they are sixteen or sixty are uniformly lawless, reckless and brainless. They dash up to the pharmacy or the wine shop or whatever, stop and jump off their vehicles almost as if they are abandoning them. This is parking at its best. From my balcony I often see a zigzag pattern of two wheelers carelessly parked.

But I am digressing. This was not really an example of parking. The actual parking is much more impressive. Along the entire length of the road on both sides is their privileged position. And there are hundreds of them occupying every nook and corner and centre and shop front and house front. Oh! The very thought tires me and I shall not mention the other Parkers , namely the hand carts selling everything from idli and chaat to vegetables to plastic miscellany.

Lest I become uncontrollable and write on and on, let me put down my last word on Parkers. The king of the road with eighteen wheels and weighing 40 tonnes is parked on the right side of the road facing oncoming traffic. There, that’s King Parker.

Wait for Waiters!

Desperate Middle Class

Desperate to earn a decent living.

Desperate to dress decently with priced clothes ( not quite succeeding).

Desperate to give their children a decent education but finding it ruinously expensive!

Desperate to appear educated and cultured- but not knowing how.

Desperate to have a house in decent surroundings, but finding it beyond their reach.

Desperate to give their children nutritious food but not able to afford it.

Desperate to travel and to do so comfortably but not able to.

Desperate to have that modular kitchen so that cooking becomes like they show on TV but not having the money and more importantly the necessary large kitchen space.

Desperate to have the maid to do all the drudgery- sweeping, mopping, dusting, dish washing but not being able to pay the necessary big salary.

Desperate to have a car instead of the rattling old scooter – but not being able to afford the EMI.

Desperate to have somebody stand respectfully at attention and say “sir”- but not being high enough, cannot discourage the familiarity of the office attendant.

Desperate to not appear Middle Classy!

In short Desperate, Desperate, Desperate!

The Mirror of Neelakesi

The young girl in the street who was coming opposite smiled. Being an old teacher and myopic at that, I assumed that the smile was for me and that the girl was my student. I smiled back and politely said hello. Immediately she frowned and then only I realised that she had been talking into a microphone attached to her mobile. No chance to say sorry, she quickly whirred on. Probably she thought I was an old child molester. I resolved never to smile again at anybody in the street.

A while later another young person came opposite. This one had a large mobile phone in his hand and was doing intricate things with it, all the while nonchalantly striding briskly through a whole stream of moving vehicles. A visibly alarmed me thought he was going to cannon into me since he seemed oblivious to everything around him. I stopped. He didn’t cannon into me. He merely passed within a millimetre of me, hardly noticing me leaving me thoroughly shaken.

I chose these examples to illustrate how fast and to an-old man how bewildering life has become.

More. There was this young fellow, back pack and all seemingly idling at the street corner with his mobile in hand. It looked liked a small hand held mirror. I was vainly trying to flag down an autorickshaw. Quite suddenly one drew up. I thought it was for me. But, without a word being spoken, he got in royally and was driven away. Turns out that all the while he was Ola- ing or Über- ing on his mobile! Forgive this unauthorised phrase.

Now I learn that they , the savvy folks, young and old, do everything from this mobile phone. This ubiquitous device, I would like to call Neelakesi ‘s mirror. I will explain this later. Let me express my layman’s wonder at this device. For the young this seems to be their all in all. Nowadays they don’t sit in the drawing room watching the big tv. They don’t stand near STD booths( where are they now?) trying to make phone calls. They don’t, like in olden times walk in a leisurely way to the next street to chat with a friend. Instead they do whatsapp , Facebook, Twitter, FaceTime, and what have you. Their music? It is all their in their mobile. In addition there is this peculiar coloured tooth ( mine is reasonably white) which does things remotely. I understand it can switch on music somewhere, it can share photos etc. etc.. Given all this it is not a surprise that short of breathing, eating through it, drinking and you know what – they can do practically everything on these mobiles.

Somewhere I have heard the word which has often left me perfectly puzzled namely virtual reality. Remembering our good old school physics of geometrical optics, I always thought that virtual means the opposite of real. Can anybody explain to this ignoramus what the phrase really means?.

But why all this agony, you ask. Yaar, it looks like not only these youngsters but an old dull dog like me also has to learn these new tricks. All of a sudden everything is digital, everything is online. There is this dreadful and again ubiquitous and perhaps very useful thing – “Apps” they call it. Oh yaar, please educate me how to do APPS? Sounds almost like a doddering old man wanting to dance the samba whatever, isn’t it? However, I have help at hand. For example this piece I am writing would not be seen by all of you dear readers but for my better half who is thank god tech savvy. My life partner has become an expert in online rail ticket booking, hotel bookings and can Ola and über with the best of them (these adorable youngsters)!

How many young fellows today even run businesses with just their mobile phones? Yeah, Whatsapp, movie watching, book reading, banking, business transactions, the list is never ending, it looks like.

In fact the smart mobile has become very popular with all other oldies except poor me. Why yaar. My older sister in law thrives on this diet and zaps people with her continuous forwards (not backwards). So too do my friends, my good old classmates as also the shuffling old men of the park, the retired GMs, my own 83 year old brother. They know to whatsapp, can send videos of grandchildren to other acquaintances, can madly keep forwarding what they imagine is sage wisdom which are actually pratings of some old fool who thinks he can atone for his past sins by these.

More, when people have this divine little screens in front of them in their hand, they are oblivious of anything said to them. My life partner for example, absent mindedly nods, when I from the kitchen ask “ shall I switch off the stove”? She has forgotten that there is a concrete wall between us literally and figuratively. So, I come out and ask again. She says “ I gave yes, long ago”. In the interest of domestic peace I hold my peace. There you are, that’s how powerful this device is.

Now to the title of this piece. Who is Neelakesi? What has Neelakesi and his mirror got to do with these? Simple, in the olden days of Chandamama stories, there was this magician Neelakesi who could see everything that was happening in the world in his mirror. For example, Neelakesi could see in his mirror the hero riding towards the cave where Neelakesi has kept a small bird in which he had secreted his life. Neelakesi also could see what the heroine was doing as she is struggling to free herself from the ropes that bind her to the tree.

That was fiction. Today our modern hero himself possesses a Neelakesi mirror but of a different type in which he can keep tabs or track as the word goes, the Ola cab in which his girl friend is travelling. It turns out she can keep track of his whereabouts too. But the most innovative use of this mobile is what my niece and her husband do. They whatsapp each other while sitting in the same room so that their child sitting with them and watching cartoons cannot overhear their conversation. Hurray for technology!

The Kai Pavai

O, ye! This is the second in the series of masterly delineations ( so, I would like to think) by the great writer ( you know who). First, Kai Pavai is Tamil and translated into English is Puppet. Now on to her description.

She is old but doesn’t look it, so vigorous is her walk. She has a low key guttural voice. She has a quick eye for sizing up people. In one glance she knew my dreaded, fiercely fighting ( hey, what is this, don’t divulge the next delineation already) neighbour guy is the powerful one to kowtow to. In another glance she knew that this thin myopic hesitant figure was to be used if not subdued.

But who is she? You want to know her identity. Much as you may, sheer cowardice prevents me from divulging it. I can disclose this much she lives in our neighbourhood.

When she moved in many years ago she arrived with great fanfare. She had a host of relatives attending on her. She even conducted a grand Grihapravesha. Unknown to her the Eye was watching. After the dust settled down by means of the aforesaid penetrating glance she discovered who the boss of the block ( self styled) was. For all her aggressiveness she is extremely clever and knew where her advantage lay. So, ever since she discovered the boss she has been his faithful puppet. He too on his part knew where his advantage lay. He knew the value of an informer. You see, he is forever alert about the threats to his empire. So he treats this informer well. He is very courteous with her, gives outward deference as it suits his image, such as he thinks he has.

In return she waylays other neighbours and cleverly extracts all their secrets from them – major and minor – by means of seemingly innocuous questions. Oh, what a consummate artist she is! Effortlessly she pours out question after question and the helpless victim simply answers them as though it were a government questionnaire. Perhaps she would be even very effective as a police interrogator. Ok, she now passes on the information to the Appropriate Authority (A.A). But what does she get in return? I am tempted to speculate.

Suspicious low creature that I am, I am tempted to think that she gets exemption from the Great Tax levied by A.A. Which we all have to pay.

Now, to more about our Kai Pavai. Kai Pavai has a large circle of elderly relatives who flock around to help her. People older and feebler are also on this list. In fact there are many to do her bidding. Did I tell you that Kai Pavai has a very pleasant and devoted junior O.L ( old lady)? This state of Kai Pavai may seem enigmatic – puppet on one side and queen on the other. However one cannot call her a puppet queen. When she is queen she is queen and when she is puppet, she is puppet. Get it?

Back to a recurrent theme – her unbounded curiosity. I remember once a close friend of ours, a lady, was visiting us. I had gone to the railway station to pick her up as my wife had gone to her office. So, when we arrived home (friend and I), the curiosity antenna was extended to the maximum. Here was a sight, wife gone to office, man bringing home a lady. What a delicious scandal.

The friend and I after alighting from the cab got into our apartment where as it was lunch time we straight away sat down to eat. We had a leisurely lunch, chatting and laughing. I think Kai pavai must have been in a real ferment. “What”? She must have thought. First, the brazen arrival and now this conversation and laughter. OMG! Is this man the ultimate Casanova? She couldn’t control herself. In no time she was at my door and then inside and then conversing with the lady to find out all about her. I don’t know whether she realised that her suspicions were unfounded! Wisely, she didn’t talk to my wife and ask her questions. If she had she would have got such a rebuff that she would have lost her job as Kai pavai for chasing wild geese!

So, friends, there she is the inimitable Kai pavai, serving her master in myriad ways. I must stop now. I can hear her listening!

Disclaimer: All the characters mentioned in this article are imaginary! No offence meant Saar!

Incidents At The Staff Meeting

There was an expectant hush in the school staff room. The lights had been switched on and all was set for the meeting. The Head looked up in his usual way and stared at the invisible sky through the concrete ceiling. We all interpreted the signal correctly. He was going to say, “Shall we start?” I often wondered whether the Head shared Alexander’s disease if not his greatness. Every body put on serious stuffed frog looks appropriate for the occasion.

P secretly wondered if the rumblings in her stomach produced by the evening’s awful bonda were audible to everybody. Nearby D who had, no such sensitivity let out a burp unashamedly and patted his stomach. Everybody could tell from V sir’s grim straight look that he was going to hit the Head verbally. M, (Macchiavelli) sat with his legs outstretched gazing as though he owned the place. Probably he did too, considering that he held the purse strings of the school. Z, the Great Child and the favourite of the Director walked in breezily, looking for a place from where she could catch the eye of the Director.

As usual, the meeting started without any verbal punctuation. All of a sudden, we were into some vague topic. The Head pontificated aimlessly and the Approvers eagerly leaned forward and calculated their chances of saying their approved pieces.

Suddenly the beautiful dull endless non-challenging monotony was broken as V sir fired his salvo. The Approvers vainly tried their patriot missiles but V being what he was the salvo came like a scud missile. I forget what it was but I think vaguely it was something about a bulletin board and freedom of expression. The Head tried a clever dodge by saying that articles could be whetted by the senior staff members and then put on the board. This gave the chance to an Approver to suggest that the Head himself could be the Editor and thus earned his (Approver’s) keep. However, do not underestimate our V. He would not be deflected. He stared childishly and child like-ly at all of us and pointing to the Head said, “ he can’t be the Editor. Teachers are afraid of him”. A notable truth this and only V Sir would be brave and foolish to say this. He got suitably snubbed of course.

Then there was a brilliant stroke by the great child Z who introduced an entirely different topic and so the freedom of expression topic was dropped into the abyss where it belonged. Thus, the long evening wore on. The unintelligible Foreigner spoke at length about various matters but no one paid any heed.

A clatter of tea cups announced that Chotu to whom all these things were bagatelle had arrived and was making tea for the staff. J looked across the room at L and speculated mentally what L’s earrings would have cost and what L’s husband did for a living. She knew that they were filthy rich and she often also wondered about the state of their relationships – that is L’s and her husband’s. She saw that N as usual was sitting too close to L. Shameless she thought.

Thankfully, it was time for tea break. Any one not familiar with the tea ceremony here had missed a great educative experience. The ceremony far surpassed the much-vaunted Japanese Original. Actually, it went some thing like this. First, there was a blocking of the route to tea by the high and the mighty – the Head, the Director, the foreigner, the finance man and of course all the Approvers in their correct pecking order. The ordinary teachers fell in line and looked wistfully at the distant horizon of tea like the mariner looking for a landfall. The second block was done at the Sugar Bowl where one had to add sugar to the tea served by Chotu. Don’t underestimate Chotu. A stocky build, a determined face, a steady look in the eye are the features that describe this man. Nobody knew his real name, nor did he volunteer it. If M could be called the pillar of the school, so could chotu be. A small pillar if you like. Chotu never took any nonsense from anybody and showed each person his or her correct place in society. He knew to whom to give the tea first and could distinguish to a nicety between the Head and the slightly more powerful Secretary. He knew how to handle the situation if both appeared before him simultaneously.

But I am digressing. Back to the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl stance was perfected long ago by the rulers and nobles of the school. Briefly put, what they did was to cluster around the Sugar Bowl table and having taken a spoon of sugar from the bowl they would hold it poised in the air and talk deliberately and slowly about other powerful nobles in the sister schools.

All the while P was desperately trying to decide whether the rumbles of her stomach would increase if she took tea. The incorrigible D actually was going to let off some thing else without saying excuse me. This was his way of getting even with the management.

There was a sudden commotion. S had as usual in his purblind fashion tripped over the outstretched legs of M. The as yet unsugared hot tea spilt on M’s beautifully tailored trousers. Now, here was a piquant situation. Who should apologise? S for not having seen M’s outstretched legs or M for having stretched out his legs beyond the decent distance? S spluttered something indistinctly – it could have been damn you or sorry but you were in the way. S by the way was the unsuccessful stickler for Justice. M retained his cool, while privately vowing revenge. He knew he could order large unspecified deductions in S’s salary and S would not know what to do about it. He smiled at S and reassured him with aplomb that the damage to his trousers was minimal thereby making it appear to the bystanders that the fault was S’s.

If you looked farther than the Sugar Bowl (it is very difficult to do so, occupied as one was with the arduous task of getting tea before the meeting resumed) you could see the great B bending down at an odd angle to talk to the squatter R who disdained chairs and sat on the mat instead. Not for the first time J thought that B need not display so much of her curves (front and back). She wondered how or rather where R could keep his eyes. Elsewhere Z was busy buttonholing the Director to ensure his favours.

The meeting resumed. Suddenly we were into a mundane discussion on punctuality. The most unpunctual T wondered with unmeant irony grandly how anyone could be late. Then some body brought up the issue of the clock being not punctual and following its own vagaries. Chotu – the bell ringer in his spare time- was also not spared. It was recalled that two weeks ago on a fine morning, the 9:55 bell was not rung at all leading to great confusion. Actually, it was Z who brought it up. She had the discomfiture of standing before her students with nothing to say. Inspite of a chronic verbal diarrohea, she ran out of matter that day in the class room. Eventually the truth came out of a reluctant M that he had sent the bell ringer on an errand minutes before the bell. There was a perplexed silence. Who could fault the great M? Not the Head, who did not enjoy financial power, nor the Director who needed M’s help and certainly not poor S whose salary could be cut off entirely and so it was decided to put the blame on Chotu. “Why did he not inform M that he had the bell to ring?”, asked an Approver. “How was M to remember the duties of Chotu?”, he continued. M assured the assembly that he would ‘speak’ to Chotu. One could see the Director heave a sigh of relief. It was another matter of course that if the reprimand was not suitable in the proper sense of the word, that Chotu would leave and plunge the school into chaos. No better bell-ringer, tea-maker, general factotum could be found at so low a salary. You get an idea of Chotu’s proper standing, if you knew that he was known on occasion to deprive the Director of his tea.

By now it was eight o’clock. It was time to wind up the meeting with the usual abrupt graceless words of the Head “I think we will stop now”.

I think we will stop now.

The Wanderer

The Wanderer

Who doesn’t know Ulysses, the great wanderer? He was also known to cognoscenti as Odysseus and hence the word Odyssey. After Ulysses there have been a great many wanderers in history. The great Chinese wanderer with the unprounceable name ( in my mother tongue ‘ Yuang Swang’), did wander all over the world- without taking care of his health! ( meaning he died early!). Then there were Marco Polo, Magellan Columbus, some religious saints to name a few who all wandered.

All a bit heavy and history text bookish, what? So, I introduce here , in a light hearted vein, my own favourite wanderer.

He is all of five feet two inches, portly, bulging stomach, no exercise, a moustache to frighten little children, tight fitting awkward uniform besides. The uniform is that of a watchman but that doesn’t describe him fully, man of many parts that he is! Of course he watches over the welfare of the stray dogs in our street, he watches our apartment interestedly the whole day, he watches the proceedings when the garbage lorry arrives at the hospital. Did I mention that he is attached to the hospital opposite? He even lends a hand when patients arrive at the hospital in an ambulance. More – he actively participates in the parking of cars for the rich and powerful who may come to the hospital. In this task he uses a WHISTLE persistently, steadily and through out the day. He pushes elderly pedestrians onto the road so that the cars may park on the sidewalk. He effectively frightens the weak and the old with his whistle and hand gestures. The hand gestures are worthy of the guys who guide airplanes on the runway!

Of his whistle whole poems can be written ( if I could). Not being able I am content to give him a label. I could call him a “maestro of the whistle”, but for the stiff competition from the garbage trucker, who younger, has more breath.

But what of wandering? Aren’t you digressing? you may ask. No, my dear reader, I am not. This watchman in his small sphere can out do even Ulysses. Full hundred times a day he cris crosses the street in his wandering. No sooner has he watched a fight on the other side, than he has to cross to this side to participate in the argument developing at the tea shop. Immediately afterwords he has to cross again to watch the pharmacy and then on to the end of the street to watch the municipal truck and so on. Thus to my mind dear readers, he is the greater wanderer than Ulysses. It breaks my heart this poor fellow doesn’t even have a stool to sit on and seems to wander forever.

I can only hope that his mind won’t start wandering along with his body!!