To Appachaikoch With Love

On April 1st 2009, one of the greatest souls that I have met in my lifetime, departed from our lives. Kalapilil Ulahanan Cherian fondly called Cherian Vaidyar, an ayurvedic practitioner, par excellence, and my grandfather, who specialized in treating patients for snake bites, free of cost, died at the age of 82.

This was a family tradition passed on through generations. My grandfather was a simpleton and valued treating the patients from their suffering, more than the ability to pay.

The whole village loved my grandfather almost as much as we as our family did. Some of the patients who came to the funeral narrated how hopeless they were, when the met Vaidyan after the doctors of modern science had given up and how the magical hands of Vaidyar had transformed their lives.

The people of this little known village, Piramadom (nesting between Piravom and Muvatupuzha in Ernakulam district of Kerala) still remember this caring and compassionate doctor who treated many a low-income patients. Patients thronged him from all over Kerala and visitation time, even the dead of the night. Even then all of them were always greeted with a big smile and a quick joke. He worked hard to provide the best quality treatment. He was proud of the quality service and medicines he provided, and the whole of Ernakulam knew it.

The biggest testimony of love and respect was exhibited, by the people of Piramadom, when about 5,000 who thronged to see his mortal remains in his ancestral house (tharavad), on the day of his death. What was surprising was another 5,000 thronged the church and house on day of his funeral, some of them from the remotest part of Kerala, wanting to show their last respects, after seeing the obituary column of the leading newspapers.

I am remembering fondly this man who meant a lot to me in the times of silence and memories for a lifetime.

When he was still quite young his father decided that he would be the one who would help him at home and his brothers – both elder and younger would study. He picked up the family tradition of treatment for reptiles and insects bite/poisoning and during other times helped his father in the paddy fields.

Smart for his years, in 1970, he had saved almost every rupee and brought an Ambassador Car to fan his passion to drive and visit places. During his spare time he would tell us about his adventures and places he visited. Bangalore the place, I am currently settled is one of his favorites too. My only regret is that I couldn’t bring him to Bangalore before he breathed his last at the age of 82.

It was in the year 2002 when Cherian Vaidyar decided to discontinue treatment because of his failing health, non availability of medical concoctions and herbs for preparation of the medicines. Still remember how the whole village had come together and convinced Vaidyar to retract from his decision. The young and old in the village volunteered to help collect and pluck the rare herbs for preparation of the life saving medicines under the able guidance of Vaidyar. The family tradition continues to this day, with my cousin Robin Roy deciding to do his BAMS and serve the people with the same passion, that the great of Vaidyar of Kalapillil did in his lifetime.

It was sometime during this time that decision was taken that Vaidyar will ‘charge for the medicines’. Though it was much against his belief system, Vaidyar ultimately heeded to the dictate. But he insisted that it would be only voluntary contribution. I still remember the day we put up the ‘collection box’ at our tharavad. But I have gleefully noticed that when local patients who fell on hard times and short on cash, Vaidyar would allow them to buy his service, free. “You still need to take care of yourself, just pay when you can,” he would say.

But for us, his grand children, Cherian Vidyar was Appachaikoch who insisted that all grand children spend their school vacations at Kalapillil tharavad. I still remember how as children we, my brothers and cousins used to start for Piramadom even before the “v” of the word ‘vacation” was spelt. All of us still remember how Appachaikoch will let us be and have a ball of a time, during the vacations. Not a mango tree, jackfruit tree and the tamarind tree in the Kalapillil tharavad would forget the naughty six and the next generation, who grew up around them.

My earliest memories of my Appachaikoch include times when, after a long hard day at work in the fields, he would sit in his favorite living room chair and listen to his old transistor radio. He would have his toddy (kallu) or Brandy (Honey Bee being his favorate) in his hands. As a small child, I used to love to sit and listen with him.

Though he was a great Football fan with the advent of televisions, Cricket became his favorite pass time. He became a Sachin Tendulkar fan and he would root for the Indian team with such passion. “That’s it.. GOOD” he would say when they would make a good play, or “come on now, you can do it,” he would cheer when the team might fall behind. My grandmother would be in the kitchen making dinner, and the house will be filled with love and the aroma of great food.

I still remember how the oxes and ox plow was replaced by mechanised tillers to plow the fields. And as young kids how we made our baby attempts at plowing, sowing and raising crops. As we grew up the plantations had slowly been taken over by rubber plantations. But through his life, Appachan was also a very hard working farmer.

Appachan had a big heart, an amazing sense of humour and an unmovable character. He was always quick with a fun story and, when you asked, provided sound advice. If Appachaikoch told you something, it was gospel and you could take it to the bank. Like if you are hurt while playing he would console you and recite his ‘naughty’ mandram “mandra kotta vaitti kotta, anjatu path kuuli kotta, ninak vellom vannal innik endadi valicha nadi… issuff…issuff..issuff ” and all the pain would ‘magically vanish’. I still remember his excitement when my daughter Sneha, his great grand-daughter, recited his magic mandram to him. He couldn’t take the smile off his face for hours.

Dealing with probate issues after a loved one dies is always difficult, and it’s particularly difficult for the children. Am sure it is very difficult my mom Thankamani Philip, his first child and her two sisters, Ally Joseph (Chitaunty) and Valsa Joy (Kunjaunty) and uncle, Roy Cherian (Maman) to cope with the loss. Of all the people who will miss his spirit of live is my grandmother Mariamma Cherian (Ammachi).

Last 2 years as we moved about the house after my grandfather died, the memories were so strong we couldn’t brush them from your face. Even today when we stand in the kitchen where my aunt and uncle would make the famous chicken  curry (Appachan Kozhi as we call it), a specialty dish that we all would playfully fight over every holiday. They were so delicious you couldn’t have just one serving. There are fights on who gets the privillage to mix rice and eat from the vessel in which Appachan Kozhi is prepared.

My grandparents house was the family center. Every holiday, relatives from far away would always make their way to Piramadom, and to my grandparent’s house. We would gather in the kitchen area or more appropriately the cattle shed area (thozhithind erayakam), and while my grandmother listened and prepared magic dishes. Appachaikoch, Chitaunty and Maman would entertain us all with stories that were so funny our cheeks would hurt from laughing, and my mom and all of us would almost pee in our pants from laughing so hard. It was the same every holiday, and no one ever wanted it to change.

When we were very young, with Appachans blessing the tharavad water tank, used for storing drinking water, would suddenly turn to swiming pool for us cousins to go skinny dipping. The living room where grandparents would sit at night and listen to the radio is especially memorable to me. The hallway (Naddu Muri) where my cousins and I would play football with a pair of rolled-up socks, and the doors at the end of the hall becoming the makeshift goal posts. We would play for hours, and every game was for the championship of the world.

My Appachaikoch is gone now and it hurts that I won’t see him anymore. When I get lost and feel beaten down by life, I’m lifted by thoughts of courage, humility, strength of character of this great man. We will all miss the love and guidance he provided, and I wonder how much better the world would be if we could learn to live a little more like him – happy and gay. Still can remember him saying “Eighteen till I die” and he truly lived that spirit. He worked hard, had the right priorities, didn’t get lost in materialism, and cared most of all about his family. As I write this dedication to him, we are a day away from the Cricket World Cup Final.

I hope there is a heaven. If there is, when I arrive, I’m going to find my grandfather, and pull up a chair. He will be watching Sachin Tendulkar play in his television or listening to the commentary on an old transistor radio, and rooting for the Indian team. And since it’s heaven I bet India will be winning.

That’s a time, Appachaikocha……….. I love you.

NaMo’s Lok Pal

Finally the Indian Parliament has passed the Lok Pal Bill and we saw a lot of grand standing and credit posturing by all the political leaders of the Congress and the BJP.

Something surreal and sublime was happening in the country. For we Indians, used to seeing all political parties dispatching newly elected MLAs and MPs to some impregnable forts, blatant horse trading to cobble together majority, and parliament/ state assemblies being stalled for the silliest of reasons, this was a welcome change. The only time we saw our parliamentarians display unity was when it comes to their pay cheque.

Suddenly our leaders became goody two shoes. Post the Delhi elections we saw the victor and the vanquished, begging, prodding, and cajoling their biggest opponent Aam Aadmi Party to form the government. Parliament was ‘debating’, yes you read it right, debating on the need for an ombudsman organization, state funding of elections, electoral reforms, food security, price rise etc. Leaders were making ‘astounding discoveries regarding engaging people’. Basic principles of participative democracy is presented as ‘a bold new idea’. Our political class was displaying a new sense of exalted virtue and political morality. And India sure looked close to becoming a ‘paradise’.

Suddenly the leaders from Congress and BJP were graciously congratulating Anna Hazare for his contribution to ‘enact the Lok Pal Bill’. This was the same leaders who shooed away Anna and his India Against Corruption Movement, the last time around, ie., 2011, saying they were duty bound ‘to protect against outsiders trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament’.

This time around, Anna, on his part, graciously accepted the ‘compromise Lok Pal’ offered by the government and called off his fast at Ralegan Siddhi. But, the most curious part was that all the leaders who spoke, conveniently forgot the contribution made by Arvind Kejriwal. But lost in the din was yet another important news – ‘Gujarat got its Lokayuktha’. And that brings me to the reason for writing this article.

ModiBut before we start I would like to take the legal meaning of ‘Ombudsman’ from which the concept of Lok Pal was born. In Government/Politics and Diplomacy, ‘ombudsman’ is a commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.

Gujarat passed Gujarat Lokayukta Act in 1986, but almost from the time Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Lokayukta, has not been functional.

In 2001, when Modi came to power in Gujarat, Justice RM Soni’s was the Lokayukta. Justice Soni was appointed during Keshubhai Patel’s rule in 1998 and his term expired in December 2003 and the post has been lying vacant since then. From then on Modi scuttled every move to appoint a Lokayukta and make the Gujarat Lokayukta, functional.

Finally on 25 August 2011, the Gujarat Governor, Dr. Kamla Beniwal, appointed Justice R. A. Mehta to the post of Lokayukta of Gujarat. Justice Mehta was recommended for the post by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court S.J. Mukhopadhaya in June 2011.  A miffed Modi accused the Governor of running a parallel government in the state supported by the Congress and demanded that she be recalled.

The Gujarat government then challenged the appointment in the Gujarat High Court, arguing that the Governor could not make the appointment without the State government’s advice. On 10 October 2011, the two-member High Court bench gave a split verdict and in January 2012, a third member upheld Beniwal’s decision. This was a major blow to Modi.

The Gujarat government then approached the Supreme Court, however lost the case. The SC upheld the Gujarat High Court’s verdict that though the decision on Lokayukta appointment was made without consultation with or approval from Modi, it was as per the letter and spirit of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.

The Gujarat government appealed against the SC verdict twice, but lost. Even after the SC upheld his appointment, Justice Mehta however desisted from charge of the office, citing 23 reasons. The controversy over his appointment, he said, had ‘denigrated the office of the Lokayukta and it had lost all the grace and dignity.’ (Read full text of his resignation letter here)

This was Modi’s chance. As is the norm in Gujarat, Modi wanted to appoint his man-friday for the role of Lokayukta, but he knew that this would not stand the scrutiny of law. So he now framed a new bill – Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013.

The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, was passed by the state assembly in April, 2013, but, unfortunately, on 2 September 2013, the bill was returned by Gujarat Governor. On 1 October 2013, the state assembly passed the bill for the second time. But this time Governor Dr. Beniwal was constitutionally bound to accept the bill. Thus finally Modi had his way and succeeded in subverting the Supreme Court decision on the appointment of Lokayukta.

Unlike the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986 the new bill provided primacy to the Chief Minister, over the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, in appointing the ‘ombudsman’. The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 empowers a selection committee chaired by the Chief Minister appoints the Lokayukta. The panel comprises the Speaker of the Assembly, a Minister, the Leader of Opposition, the State Vigilance Commissioner and a High Court Judge, ‘to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegium of five senior judges’.

The new Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any ‘public functionaries’ from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

Then we saw Jayaram Ramesh capturing headlines saying ‘Modi talking on lokayukta is like Asaram talking on rape’. Jayaram was spot on, but then you know that these politicians only put on a public show to deride each other in varying degrees restraining themselves only to varying degrees of their innate civility or belligerence as is their habit. But they go ahead and do what they want anyway – even change a law or bring in a new one to suit their whim and fancy.

Lokayukta is an ombudsman body which is supposed to look into irregularities brought to its notice against the decisions taken by the state cabinet and the administration. Then how can the Chief Minister who is the head of the state cabinet have supremacy in deciding who should be the ombudsman?

This not only belies fundamental logic and intelligence. To me, it is a travesty of the institution of the ombudsman, but also provides an indication of authoritarian incoherence and double speaks by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Heads up – the politicians win. Tails up – the people lose !!!

Cartoon : Courtesy Satish Acharya

Criminality in Indian Political System

For the first time, I had seen a ray of hope when in July 10, 2013 the Supreme Court of India upheld the 2004 Patna High Court ruling, which held that when a person in custody was disqualified to vote, he was also disqualified from contesting the elections.

This ticked the political parties in Parliament and they joined hands to amend the Representation of the People Act 1951 to negate the impact of the apex court verdict directing immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on being sentenced for more than two years in a criminal case.

Learned lawyers in Parliament like Kapil Sibal and Arun Jaitley introduced a provision to Section 62(5) which says “by reasons of the prohibition to vote under this sub-section, a person whose name has been entered in the electoral roll shall not cease to be an elector.” In effect treating a person in lawful custody in a criminal case as a voter and hence qualified to contest elections.

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The political parties of all hues backed the UPA Government on the move to amend the Act. To understand why this unity you need to understand the criminal antecedents of our elected representatives. According to an analysis done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW), the Lok Sabha has 30% ie., 162 members have criminal cases against them. 14% have serious criminal cases. Our State Assemblies put together has 31% ie. 1258 members have criminal cases against them. 18% have serious criminal cases. In a break-up of political parties, 75% of Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs since 2004 have declared criminal cases against them, followed by Rashtriya Janata Dal with 46% such candidates and Janata Dal (United) with 44%. The BJP and Congress were at 31% and 22%, respectively.

Now you should understand the urgency. The apex court passed the judgement on July 10, 2013 and the amendments to RPA was rushed through in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on August 27, 2013 and September 7, 2013 respectively.  The amendments to the bill were passed within about 15 minutes in both houses, after a brief discussion. Some members of course wanted an elaborate debate on the amendments but the overwhelming majority of the House, including Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal, Leader of Opposition in LS and RS – Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, pushed for its passage even without discussion.

Now the final nail on the coffin of this attempt to cleanse our Parliament of dirty politicians have been done by Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya.  Through their judgement they have effectively killed the collective hope of the people of India. It must be recalled here that in 2002 and 2003, two vital orders from the same Supreme Court had made it compulsory to candidates to file information regarding any or all criminal cases pending against them, their educational qualification as well as details of the combined wealth of the candidate and their spouses.

But I still have indomitable faith. My faith is in Aam Aadmi Party, for I find them as a few good men and women, who have taken a stand to clean the dirt in politics and I am willing to give them a chance.

My request to all my friends in Delhi is to go out and cast your vote for the Aam Aadmi Party and then we can build the movement to a credible alternative to these Criminal Politicians, across the country.

God Bless India.

PS : I am not a member of Aam Aadmi Party but just a Indian citizen tired of seeing the desperation of both Congress and the BJP. Both wants to make it a Presidential election showing a Pappu and a Feku. We know them, we have seen them in action. They have brought down the standard of debates in Parliament and election rallies to pits. We have also seen them both in action together in Parliament to scuttle the best opportunity to decriminalize the Indian political system.

Cartoon : Courtesy The Hindu & Copy Right Keshav

My Butterfly

This poem is dedicated to a little girl of 6 who is watching a beautiful butterfly soaring in the sky, spreading her delicate wings on an Indian Summer. The little girl wants to capture the beauty of the butterfly but the butterfly remains elusive, just beyond her reach. The poem is about the feelings that run in this little girls mind…

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I was sitting on the porch, gaping at the pristine blue sky.
Enjoying the colours breaking slowly, on an Indian summer.
My eyes fall on a butterfly in fluorescent elegance,
Hoping from flower to flower to collect nectar.
 
A delicate and beautiful butterfly, so full of life,
Quietly swirling in the breeze, hovering calmly.
I still myself and track her flight,
Trying to capture, the eloquence.
 
Breezy it is, as she flaps her wings.
I try lunge forward to capture her.
But she’s too quick and eludes me.
Just beyond the mesh of my imagination.
 
Towering in flight, scything through foliage,
Tricking me time and again, I chase to exhaustion.
The more I chase the further she flies,
More elusive she becomes, frustrating me.
 
I want her to know, I wouldn’t hurt her.
I just want to see her up close and personal.
Capture her everlasting beauty in my eyes,
To re-live the beauty with my eyes closed.
 
For from the start, I always knew deep inside,
That I would not be allowed to keep her.
I guess it’s hard to accept that, I will have,
To let her go and watch her fly away.
 
My Butterfly, for once settle on my hand and then…
You can test your wings and fly to the herd.
For you still decide when to say goodbye!!!

 

Photo: Courtesy flickr.com

My Sweet Addiction

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I am addicted to you.
There’s no other way to explain why,
my heart races and my knees weaken,
whenever I am with you.
And why I feel as though something is missing,
whenever we’re apart.

I yearn to see you.
Your dark tresses wayward on your shoulder,
your eyes like dew drops on a flower.
Your confidence makes even nature lose its senses.
In my dreams these glimpse will remain.

I ache to touch you.
My fingers brushing over your body like soft wind,
teasing you and making you shiver in delight.
I want to feel you twitch beneath my hands,
as I explore your sexy exquisite form.

I crave your kiss.
Whether it’s a tender hello or a passionate lip lock,
I need you beside me, filling me in with the heat of love.
The elation of  watching your body shudder in release,
for this is sweet addiction to you.

A sweet addiction is the only explanation…

Con Artist Arindam Chaudhuri

The Caravan Dec 2010 Coverstory IIPMWas watching CNN IBN debate yesterday and was flabbergasted to see the pony-tailed crusader of quality education, Arindam Chaudhuri at his animated best. The obnoxious creep who has made a fortune off the aspirations and insecurities of India’s middle classes and who believes that all his students should pay a fortune to ‘study’ at IIPM, has filed lawsuits against publishers Penguin; magazines The Caravan, Just Another Magazine and Careers360 Magazine; authors Siddhartha Deb, Maheshwar Pai, Rashmi Bansal and even Google India on charges of “publishing, distributing, giving coverage, circulating, blogging the defamatory, libelous and slanderous articles.”

IIPM had earlier filed a lawsuit against The Caravan seeking damages to the tune of Rs. 500 million, in Silchar, Assam. Not in Delhi, where both the IIPM and the magazine’s publisher, Delhi Press, are based, but 2,200 km away from Delhi, 300 km from Dispur, Assam’s capital. The IIPM filed the case at the Court of Civil Judge in Silchar district, through one Kishorendu Gupta, who operates Gupta Electrical Engineers in a Silchar suburb, and is the first plaintiff. IIPM is the second plaintiff.

On Feb 14th, 2013 IIPM managed to have a directive issued by a Court in Gwalior. In pursuance of the court directive, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued an order directing Internet Service Licensees to block access to 78 URLs from India, 73 of which contained such criticism directed towards IIPM, ex-parte, without any pre-hearing notice. As a writer I am shocked how IIPM was able to play and cobble together a bureaucratic system of dealing with the Internet much worse than the censorship in place in Peoples Republic of China and thought that it will be appropriate that I too should contribute to my views.

I seriously wonder how a fraud like Arindam Chaudhuri is able to bend the system like this. Am sure in the coming days questions ranging from whether the court has the legal authority to give such an order to purge websites, especially of official organizations like University Grants Commission (UGC) to whether the order is flawed from lack of fair hearing opportunities given to parties affected, will be answered.

The most important point that was missed in the boisterous debate was that one of the URLs mentioned in the DoT order was a public notice given by UGC, dated July, 2012 confirming the unrecognized status of IIPM.

Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri accept it, you can make glossy brochures but the fact remains that IIPM is not recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which is the competent authority regulating Indian institutes of higher education. You better not count your chicken before they hatch!!!

Picture Courtesy : The Caravan (Dec 2010 Cover Story “Sweet Smell Of Success”)

Capital Punishment For Rapists

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It is a really pity that the interminable discussions in electronic media about the bizarre episode of a 23 year old girl raped in a bus in Delhi could come of with only a tiresome theatrical of Young Indians marching in Gantar Mantar demanding capital punishment for rapists and a confused Government and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde coming out with some meek and incoherent statements in response to the  histrionics. This has also caught the attention of some elitist, sitting in the comforts of their office or home to share the gory picture on social networking sights and seeking support for the causes and signing petitions demanding death penalty for rapist.

But people who is demanding capital punishment for rapists should understand the criminal justice system in India before demanding harsher rape law. While death penalty is legal in India, it is rarely carried out. Since 1995 it has been used only three times, on Auto Shankar(1995), Dhananjoy Chatterjee(2004) and Ajmal Kasab(2012). Even imposition of the penalty is not always followed by execution (even when it is upheld on appeal), because of the possibility of commutation to life imprisonment. There have been at least four cases in the recent past where rapists who murdered their victims as well who were awarded death penalty by the Courts managed to escape the noose after the President of India commuted their sentence to life imprisonment.

It is good that the Delhi protestors to remember that, in 2004, we saw hundreds of people gathered outside the prison holding all-night vigil similar to what we see in Delhi today, to protest against the execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was executed in Kolkata for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl Hetal Parekh.

While I agree that rape is the most heinous of crimes on a human being and my heart goes out to all rape victims, but strongly feel that if the government heeds to the rising chorus to make rape an offense punishable by capital punishment and amends the law, the only thing we will see is that the conviction of rape cases coming down drastically. In my opinion what we need is stricter implementation of the existing laws but certainly NOT capital punishment.

If the Government is looking at stricter rape law, I am for castration and rigorous imprisonment of 10 years for rapists. Or 10 year rigorous imprisonment with weekly or monthly application of a paste of chilli on the rapists ‘weapon of mass destruction’ during his prison term.

Any suggestions?

All I Want

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I don’t ask for much
but what I want is something money can’t buy.

All I want is to wake up with you in my arms
to start a new day where the first thing I glance upon is you.

All I want is to gaze into your big beautiful brown eyes
to see your soul reach out to me in ways we’ve never experienced before.

All I want is to feel your silky flowing tress
to tickle my senses soaring the love within.

All I want is to feel your lips upon mine
to feel your tongue glide against mine fighting for domination I willingly give you.

All I want is to feel your heart against mine
to feel it beat out the same rhythm as my own.

All I want is to prove how much I love you
to show you our love goes beyond all reason.

All I want is to hold your hand
to let you guide me by my own hand, as well.

All I want is to worship you day and night
to treat you like the queen you are.

All I want is to dream with you
to dream of a life without pain.

All I want is to see your smile
to see you joyful and happy.

All I want is to make a life with you
to make a life where anything is possible.

All I want is to love you forever
to make my fairy tale come true.

I don’t ask for much
but what I want is something only you can give.

Artist : Brent Heighton

Painting Courtesy : Romantic Art Gallery. Paris-Rome-London