Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The irrepressible Shahsi Tharoor

Mr. Shashi Tharoor does it once again! Once again, he has chosen to air his views on official matters on twitter. This time it is about the government decision regarding visa.

The very act of doing it once again, knowing fully well the repercussions and impropriety of sharing in the social networking site his personal views on an official decision, cannot be dismissed as the super diplomat having once again got his foot in the mouth.

Is this modus operandi a strategy with him? If it is so, he had better watch out. The congress party is not going to be happy about its party men washing dirty linen in public, or having to rush to damage control moves whenever Mr. Tharoor’s creative fingertips tap out truncated controversial remarks for his fans and for all the world to see.

The Minister of External Affairs has sent out the warning to Tharoor loud and clear. “The broad policy parameters are dictated, decided by the Minister in-charge of External Affairs of this country and everyone will have to fall on the same page," and he goes on: "If there are any perceptions, they should be sorted out within the four walls of the two ministries”.

It is not insignificant that Tharoor has not come up with an apology. The media, which followed him around in the exhibition stalls after he inaugurated it, was greeted by that charming Throorian smile only.

What’s brewing, one wonders.

The government, it is reported, is considering reviewing the two month gap policy in issuing visa. Whether it is on account of their eyes being opened to the commonsensical wisdom of Tharoor’s tweet that the 26/11 terrorists had no visa, or because of the protest from the US and UK, it is not clear. Probably both.

So, is Tharoor using the twitter to bring pressure on the government to see wisdom, or pay heed to his views?

Is this the style of functioning of the new breed of Indian politicians?

Smart, if he can get away with it.

Speculations. Speculations.

In the meanwhile, I cannot agree with Tharoor’s argument that 26/11 terrorists had no visa, and therefore visa restrictions won’t help. The truth is, 26/11 was made possible, made so easy ‘cos of the ground prepared by the comprehensive spade work effected by Headly and his likes who could move freely within India.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tsunami – On a personal note

I am one of those who become temporarily dysfunctional at the news of a disaster, natural or man made, leading to huge loss of life. Bhopal gas tragedy, Orissa floods, Lathur and Gujarat earthquakes, mass killing in Kosovo, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Godhra have all caused me a lot of sleep and peace of mind.

Hitler's holocaust happened before I was born. But when I first heard about it, studied about it and and then read books about it I looked up at the abode of the God of Israel and asked WHY, WHY, WHY? DO YOU KILL US FOR YOUR SPORT?

In my twenties, thirties and forties, I watched movies, read novels with Jewish themes, with a heavy heart. I watched Doordarshan's serialized telemovie Escape from Sobibore. I think the episodes were shown on Thursdays, when I would wake with an unidentified, vague tension which would soon grow into an anxiety which followed me like a nagging companion during the course of the day. Finally, when the time came around for the serial, I waited and watched for it to begin with a deadly calm poised precariously on the edge of depression, horror and infinite sadness.

"Just decide not to watch the serial. Who's forcing you to do it? Why torture yourself?' asked my mother when she noticed how agitated I used to get while relating the episodes to her the next day.

I had to watch it. I had to go through that torture, and feel the pain of a people who had nothing to do with my life confined to a small area in South India. Guess it was my way of getting it out of my system. Confront pain. Sweeping it under the carpet might cause you to trip and fall. Sweeping it up and trashing it was the best way to deal with emotional burdens, I must have thought. I could have decided not to watch that serial. But I felt compelled to do it.

But now I am a changed person. I don't watch them anymore. I can't. My mother's practical advice makes sense. It took a lot of persuasion from a friend to watch Schindler's List, which she described as the story of modern day heroism and sainthood.

But I find I'm not alone in this response to the horror stories of the shameful and painful chapters of life. My brother with whom I share similar inclinations in the movie watching habits too told me the same thing just the other day. He too can't stomach them any more.

Guess it has something to do with the weakening of the emotional intelligence which happens when one enters the fifth decade of life– a weakening of that capacity to manage the emotions which results in an auto suggestion that you don’t have to put yourself through an avoidable trauma over an issue that doesn't concern you.

Why am I indulging in such a lengthy dissection of myself and my responses to this pain filled world? Today is the 5th anniversary of the Tsunami. I remember as I sat watching the terrible visuals of the disaster and the spiraling figures of the numbers of the dead scrolling at the bottom of the screen, I felt numb. But it was not that self acquired defense against emotional trauma that I spoke about earlier. It was on account of another tsunami of emotional upheaval that had descended on me on the Christmas day of 2005.

My eldest brother, a priest, was brought home from the USA in the terminal stage of the deadliest disease of the century. There is nothing worse that watching a loved one fight a loosing battle for life. The pain is so tangible that it chokes you and clogs all those channels of emotion that let in lesser emotions.

Lesser emotions? Thousands of my countrymen in the neighbouring states swept away by giant waves into the land of death from whose shores they'll never return. Is that a lesser tragedy than the death of one loved one who though still young, lived a fruitful life, and was ready to meet his maker?

I must confess that the sight of concealed pain, the denial of it, and the awful knowledge that he'll not be around any more - - - it was too much for me. The tsunami on the TV screen failed to impact me the way news of disaster usually did. I couldn't FEEL. The horror and tragedy did not penetrate into those regions of me from where was born all those qualities which made one a sensitive feeling human being.

Now, the very mention of the word tsunami always triggers off mild waves of guilt in me - a feeling as though I have let down my fellow human beings by not feeling enough for them, for not including the victims of this disaster in the experience of pain that I reserved exclusively for a sibling who, ironically, had provided space in his concerns for those in need and pain.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Halleluiah Chorus

When Mathew asked me if I'd be interested in going for the concert, I said WOW. YES, YES AND YES.

It was to be in Carnegie Hall!

It was Handel's Messiah.

Now, I must admit that my exposure to classical music – both western and Indian – i s next to nil. But FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN, WORTHY IS THE LAMB and of course HALLELUIAH CHORUS, I guess, are items that one listens to and absorbs sometime or other in the course of a lifetime.

Five years back, my husband and I decided to attend the midnight mass at Don Bosco church in Mumbai 'cos the local church choir was to perform the Halleluiah Chorus as the grand finale.

So I guess it's true to say my excitement was about listening to the Halleluiah Chorus being performed by a professional group. It'd be different from anything I'd witnessed.

As we walked into the Hall, Anita and I joked about the various theories on why people stood up during the rendition of Halleluiah Chorus.

"Well, I'm not going to stand up. It'd be an effort for me. What difference would it make?"

"Your wish", said the ever understanding Anita.

The performance began. I must say I was impressed - the fascination of a novice. About something very fundamental. About how ninety voices could sing with such coordination, how 5 cellos and sixteen violins could play in such perfect unison and produce the effect I was listening to. No sound engineering this. It's harmony and beauty that are born of human discipline, hard work and inherent sense of music.

As I sat there, I thought of that miserable day some 40 years back when I was sent from the school to attend an audition for the Pondicherry choir group, and was rejected. That particular group always closed their Christmas performance with Halleluiah Chorus. And I had already begun to imagine myself standing right in the front row of the group, my mouth opening and closing like a goldfish, my eyes looking at a nonexistent point somewhere in mid air with great concentration – and the final bowing low from the hip in acknowledgement of the thunderous applause to which I myself had contributed the previous two years.

All dreams had come crashing down during the audition before I could get even half way through the number that was given in advance!

And so I sat there on 23 Dec, 2009, and UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN was sung. I listened fascinated and excited, 'cos it was familiar.

Soon I started dozing. What a shame, you must be thinking. But dozing off is not a conscious decision. Each time I woke up guiltily with a start, I saw either Mathew or Anita or Jen having a little bit of fun at my expense.

Finally, I blurted out.

"I've had a long day. Wake me up when the Halleluiah Chorus begins"

And I didn’t voice the thought that came to my mind. "I hope I won't snore!"

I must have dozed off for quite sometime. No. doze is not the word. I fell into a deep sleep – a talent I have for performing at the most inappropriate places.

And then, I became vaguely conscious of a tap on my knee.

And it happened.


It exploded into my consciousness – all levels of it. I threw off the great coat under which I'd been snuggling comfortably, jumped up onto my feet without any helping hand and stood there as the ninety voices accompanied by the orchestra rent the air with a superb praise of divine majesty.

And the entire audience was on its feet too, I noticed.

As I stood there, I was goose bumped all over. And tears started streaming down my face!

No, it was not arthritis that made King George stand up during Halleluiah Chorus.

I wonder if I too saw the face of God!


[Here's the mail Anita sent after she booked tickets for the show for us:

Wikipedia has an interesting entry about Handel's messiah. try and read. I thought this part (esp the reasons why king george got up) was hilarious.

The most famous movement is the "Hallelujah" chorus, which concludes the second of the three parts. The text is drawn from three passages in the New Testament book of Revelation:

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.. (Revelation 19:6)

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

In many parts of the world, it is the accepted practice for the audience to stand for this section of the performance. Tradition has it that King George II rose to his feet at this point. As the first notes of the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus rang out, the king rose. Royal protocol has always demanded that whenever the monarch stands, so does everyone in the monarch's presence. Thus, the entire audience and orchestra stood too, initiating a tradition that has lasted more than two centuries. It is lost to history the exact reason why the King stood at that point, but the most popular explanations include:

  • As was and is the custom, one stands in the presence of royalty as a sign of respect. The Hallelujah chorus clearly places Christ as the King of Kings. In standing, King George II accepts that he too is subject to Lord of Lords.
  • He was so moved by the performance that he rose to his feet.
  • He arrived late to the performance, and the crowd rose when he finally made an appearance.
  • His gout acted up at that precise moment and he rose to relieve the discomfort.
  • After an hour of musical performance, he needed to stretch his legs.

There is another story told (perhaps apocryphally) about this chorus that Handel's assistant walked in to Handel's room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response. The assistant reportedly found Handel in tears, and when asked what was wrong, Handel held up the score to this movement and said, "I thought I saw the face of God."[9]]]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Come Christmas – and the Resolution of Conflict

I love Christmas.

As a kid, I think what I loved about Christmas was that it made God available to me. Made him come within my reach.

During the advent season, the image of a huge old man in a great flowing robe and long white beard who pulled out his trump card weapon of thunderbolts to vanquish Lucifer and his rebel legions, who threw Adam and Eve mercilessly out of the paradise, who punished the erring Israelites through ages, was replaced by a very human and vulnerable god lying on a piece of cloth spread over hay among cows and sheep. The idea of Mary and Joseph knocking from door to door to find a place to deliver none less than the son of god himself, the pictures of the baby Jesus in the Xmas cards, the little figures in the cribs at home, the bigger ones in the churches - all these humanized the almighty who, I believed, dwelt in some remote, inaccessible regions. Making crib was a regular practice in my home. It was high excitement time for us. My siblings and I used to roam in the house, in the compound to pick up items that’d form part of the little crib. It used to fill me with a sense of making a home for the baby God when he arrives

I must say, in my mid fifties, I still get a somewhat same feeling when I make a crib, when Christmas comes around. That part of me has not grown up still.

And then there were the carols. We loved them. They fired the imagination, and created a feeling of joy shot through with a sense of awe at the enormity of the god becoming man event. Rudolf the red nosed reindeer’s story convinced us that this little guy lying in the manger is a God of the underdog. These songs celebrated the triumph of love with tumultuous joy, the reconciliation of god and man and the love of god which made him come down and teach an erring civilization to turn away from its brutal ungodly, inhuman ways so as to bring peace on earth and goodwill among men. The three kings of orient with their gifts of gold, myrrh, frankincense bestowed an aura royalty and exoticism to the nativity scene.

As a kid, how I loved Christmas!


Of late, I find myself discussing certain issues which I normally avoid, with people with different views on them. I wonder why I do it, why I’ve finally decided to face these issues which I had hitherto avoided, in order to be politically correct, or to maintain an image of myself which was not exactly an honest one. Turning the question over in my mind, I now realize that there comes a time in the life of every human being when certain things have to be sorted out and not dodged each time they surface.

Can a virgin become pregnant and bear a child, as prophesied in the Old Testament, and stated in the Gospels?

My mind says, well, why not? If, today, man , with the aid of medical technology, can impregnate a virgin without male physical intervention, why should it not be possible for that extra terrestrial creator of the galaxies who has been micro and macro managing his creations for billions of years?

Do prayers and rituals make sense?

Well. Who are we to say no? Prayers and rituals are our medium to communicate with that celestial force whose existence man has never been able to deny, or eliminate from his consciousness, despite the rationalists’ efforts and the scientific debates. Isn’t that reason enough to prove the existence of a controlling force? And we need to communicate with that force. And we do it through prayers and rituals and religious practices. I once had an argument with a scientist who ridiculed me for resorting to structured prayers.

“The very idea of god bewilders me” he said. “Imagine the mind blowing nature of his creation. How can your puny novenas mean anything to him?”
“How then do you pray?” I ventured.
“I think of Him, the enormity of his performance, and then I can’t pray. I feel inadequate.”

Well then, I’m better off, I thought to myself, but I didn’t respond to him then. But today, I’d be more vocal. A force which is able to create on such a massive scale paying attention to trillions and trillions of minute details, isn’t he capable of deciphering the puny jumble of sounds emanating from none other than his own creatures?

To my scientist friend I can now give this answer. Any form of communication raised to the almighty will not go wasted. We humans need to raise our thoughts to the eternal regions. My way or style may not make sense to my neighbor but it’ll make sense to that power above which gave us that capacity to raise our voice to him. If my way of communicating to god gives me the satisfaction of having communicated (it comes in the form of a peace: “I give you peace, my peace I give you”), that’s enough.

Who is anyone to say that the arduous pilgrimage to Sabarimala, or the tulabharam at Guruvayur, or the novenas to our lady or the way of the cross or the haj are exercises in futility? That’s our way of reaching out. The human way of communicating to that unknown God whose presence continues to be experienced in the human heart after millions of years of life on this planet.

And so, I am not apologetic about celebrating the birth of God this Christmas. The conflict has been resolved. The almighty can choose his ways of reaching out to us. How foolish of us humans to rationalize his ways applying our inadequate intellectual yardsticks! Aren’t there truths that lie beyond our rational faculties? Is the mighty creator so limited that he can be contained in our cerebral space?

Enough that I raise my voice. The great and mighty creator of this vast cosmos would sort out my jumbled sounds in his way, in his time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Star Power

Meera Jasmine, the actress from Kerala who enjoys great popularity in the southern states, was for a brief period, a student of the college where I taught. I was on leave while she was student there. So I haven't even seen her. But I took a lot of pride telling people that she is the student of Assumption College where I taught. Of course, I was careful to leave out the all important fact there I have never taught her and I wasn’t there in the college while she was there and have seen her only in films.

It so happened that I had to stay in a bank’s training college in Hyderabad for a few months. Those who served us at the dining table were very deferential to the guests, and, since both my husband and I believe in treating them also with deference, we called them by their personal names and maintained a good rapport with them.

Once, at the dining table I suggested to my husband Sunny that we go for a Telugu movie. So I asked Sridhar who was laying the table , for his suggestions. He mentioned the name of a movie which’d been running houseful for sometime.
The actress is Meera jasmine from Kerala, he said.
Pointing to me, Sunny said ”Meera Jasmine studied in her college.”

Sridhar’s eyes rolled in wonder and ecstacy.

Really? Was she a good student?, he asked.

I saw Sunny opening his mouth to say that I hadn’t taught her .I quickly cut in in my broken hindi that she had been a very good student. I wasn’t lying. I have heard my colleagues say that she was a good student.

Excitedly Sridhar went about laying the other tables in the room while we watched with amusement the beatific look on his face.

Normally, I had my lunch alone on weekdays as Sunny would be away at work ,and I’d usually wait till the trainee officers rush in the mess hall subsided. That afternoon, I saw Sridhar,s face light up when he saw me. I started my lunch and reached out for the gravy to go with roti. Suddenly Venkat appeared from no where, grabbed the dish befor me and was serving into my plate. He wouldn’t stop even after I repeatedly told him that I’ve been served enough. And then I was surrounded by Krishna, Muruga and four others, all vying with each other to serve different dishes into my plate.

I was perplexed, ‘cos I’d forgotten the Meera jasmine episode. I was squirming with unease at the unusual attention I was getting. I always like to be left alone while eating, and five to six young men standing around and watching me put every morsel into my mouth made me self conscious. So I looked up and around at their faces and told them “I’LL manage”. I spoke in English ‘cos I didn’t know how to say that in Hindi.

And then one of them blurted out’ “Madam, You taught Meera Jasmine?’

I was caught off Guard. To lie or not to lie was the question. So I managed to lie and not to lie. I smiled from ear to ear at him.

All on a sudden, all of them were asking me questions – some in Telugu, some in Hindi (they knew I knew no Telugu).

The first question that was thrown at me was a dangerous one. An honest reply would have dampened their enthusiasm, besides taking the newly acquired Meer Jasmine halo away from me. A dishonest reply would endanger my soul for violating the 9th commandment.
“For how long was she in your class?”

Perched between the horns of the dilemma, my mind worked quickly.

Hindi nahi samchey. Thoda thoda maalu. Aap kya bole, me nahi samchey.

He put the question in Telugu. Telugu? nahi malu. Kab nahi maalu.

I’m street smart, no? I’d managed to snatch my soul from the clutches of falsehood without endangering the halo that was bestowed on me for being Meera Jasmine’s teacher.

I quickly finished my lunch and escaped before they discovered someone who knew Malayalam or Tamil.

After that, during lunch, I withdrew into myself after the initial greeting smile, and had my lunch looking blankly into a book I had finished reading.

And basking in the glory of an unachieved distinction.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Triple Century In The Blogsphere

This is my three hundredth post, in alone. My first blog was an accident, in the sense it began as an attempt to post a comment on Shamuel Tharu’s post in INSIGHT JOURNAL, the link of which was sent to me by who exactly I don’t remember. Being a novice at blogging and being an absolute technoignoramus (Which I still am) I created a blogger ID because I understood/misunderstood that comments were allowed only by bloggers. My first few attempts at creating a blog failed but I soldiered on. Every failure made me more determined. And finally Http:// was created. And wonder of wonders, the comment meant for the Insight journal appeared as my first blog!

It was from my son that I first heard about blogs and then I started reading them. I found them very exciting ‘cos there was an honesty in the blogsphere that we don’t find in any other form of writing that occupy public space. I read blogs voraciously for sometime, not for the quality but for the peep it afforded into the life and ways of people of all age groups, all walks of life from across the world. It offered a window to the other cultures, a window which opened out to a view not available hitherto in the pages of fiction or nonfiction, or research writing or even in movies. There are many many bloggers who create a virtual world which comes very close to life as it really is - without pretensions.

And then I started blogging. I’ve always loved writing but for some reason couldn’t really get down to it - possibly on account of a lack of confidence in myself, of a feeling that I didn’t have that spark in me which converts writing to journalism. Suddenly I realized that here, in the blogsphere, I am the supreme empress. Can write what I like, how I like. Didn’t owe anything to anyone but myself. And so I wrote, paying little attention to everything about the English language that was a pain in the neck.

Soon I realized that blogsphere, alas, is not my domain alone. People who read my blog expressed displeasure at my not crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. My husband was the loudest critic. Being a perfectionist, he admonished me for the typos, the lower case after the period, the errors that creep in when the only editing one does comprises a quick running the eyes down the post.

I hate editing and spending too much time over a piece once it is over. And I found here in blogspace, I could bring out a reasonably acceptable piece, once it is put through a spell check.

My advice to blogger (having written 300, I think I qualify to do it) – if you want to be a prolific blogger, don’t be obsessed with a finely chiseled piece. A spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions sometimes results in rambling, or unusually strong emotions and feeling. Let them be. Don’t pare them down. Spunk and truth might get pared off as what you perceive as trivia. The soul of the piece might get lost.

Soon I had regular blog visitors, about each of whom I formed my opinion. I looked forward to their comments everyday. Some of the most insightful comments came from my daughter who sometimes startled me delightfully with her honesty. All my blog visitors had something new to add to my post, and often opened my eyes to aspects I had been blind to. Yes. The interaction in the blogsphere was an education of sorts.

And I had the pleasantly strange experience of meeting my blogger friend in flesh and blood. Crisgirl or cris seetha. She was everything I thought she’d be. And more. A a petite, smart and soft-spoken girl who created an online community called is now contributing her mite to keep the Trivandrum city clean by sensitizing the people about the need to minimize littering. I attended a meeting she and the Tidycity members conduct in the Museum every Sunday. I was impressed by the commitment of this young group to a cause. And crisgirl is the brain behind it.

Finally, what has blogging done for me? Has it changed me?
I guess so, for it provided a platform to debate and sort out issues which you turn over and over in your mind and can’t get away from. I find that once I have posted a blog, I move on. Even if no one chooses to comment, it’s ok. I’ve got something out of my system.

And it gives me immense happiness that I can share the lighter side of life with my blog friends. Not that those post will go down in the history of cyber literature as works of art. But if they bring a smile on one face, it’s mission successful.

I discovered with some surprise, that despite being a regular blogger, I’ve revealed nothing of the real me. I‘ve let the world know only what I wanted it to know. The real me is scrupulously kept out. Will I get the courage to write about it? Why am I so hesitant about demystifying myself?

Perhaps I’m afraid it’ll be like peeling an onion, and the loser would be none other than myself!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tiger Woods and the Squealing Women

Pity, that women should do this. They go to bed with celebrities and then go to the press, or write memoirs or threaten to reveal it all - all to make a fast buck. I think they do a great disservice to their gender.

It appears as though the bed is the shortcut to making millions. The more deep and dark and intimate the secrets these women reveal or threaten to reveal, the greater the treasure waiting for them.

I am beginning to think that commercializing a liaison is no different from what a sex worker does.

And with a lewd public out there to lap up the sleaze, and media to gratify its smutty cravings, looks like this tribe of women will increase.

Guess I should be ready for brickbats from those of my own sex for letting down women. But man or woman, there are certain codes of decency that should be observed in human relationship and behaviour. Women, after having consensual sex with a celebrity and then brandishing that liaison and its sleazy details before the world to get cheap publicity and big money – well, hardly dignified, eh?

Washing dirty linen in public is not what a self respecting human would do. And talking of self respect. Do these women have any of it? What does a woman, as for that matter, any human being gain if he/she gains the whole world but loses SELF RESPECT? Can a Channel 5 or Clive Christian or Armani designer perfume override the obnoxious stink of the dirty game they are playing?

What’s the new set of values emerging?

Guess I sound like an antiquated voice from some remote, irrelevant past!

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Coconut Tree

she was five
when sitting on the step
of the veranda
behind the kitchen
she bent her little head
at right angle
to see the top
of a coconut tree
and the branches
swaying in the wind
beckoning to her
to join the birds
and the crows
disappearing into it
or flying out of it
and soar into the sky
soft in the dying day
and wished she were those birds
and could fly high
and wander into the heavens
and say hello to the angels
and then return
and disappear into the coconut palm.

Now five decades later
she looks down the eleventh floor
of a high end apartment
in the capital city
at the riot of coconut trees
at her feet.
Watches the birds
playing hide and seek
among its branches
and envies the birds
and the crows.

And when she roams
in lands without coconut palms
her heart swells
at the colours of fall
at strange trees that flourish
in softer climes
and looks for birds
and crows
and feels stirrings in her heart
and mind
and her whole being
and looks for her coconut trees
in vain.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Road Rage

I am angry. Furious. And if I don’t write while I’m still fuming, I’ll not write about it at all. Without blinding rage, the whole episode will look too silly to write about.

Ok. I just got back from the vegetable shop round the corner, in front of which I was insulted by a gentleman, probably in his forties, driving with his wife beside him and children behind.

I had ‘looked to the right, then to the left and then to the right again’ as I was taught in small classes before I crossed the road. I saw this Tata Indica coming but it was sufficiently far to permit me to cross unhurriedly. Now let me make this clear. Gone are the days when I made a cheeky dash across the street putting a speeding driver in a dilemma. Today, I crossed the road leisurely because i could afford to do it, and any fool who noticed my pace would realize that walking fast is a difficult proposition for me. This Indica started honking long before it reached anywhere near me. I didn’t realize all that noise was meant for me. I crossed the road and was waiting for the person who stood in front of me to move away so that I could place order for the vegetables when I heard this car honking insistently behind me. Turning around casually, I was shocked at what I saw. The guy had stopped the car just behind me, and was leaning across his wife and scowling at me through the window on her side.

“Chevi ketoodey? (Are you deaf?)’, he snarled. “Chumma erangi nadannekua (you don’t have your wits about you when you walk on the road)”

I was too shocked to react. Before I could gather my wits and retort, the car shot off.

I felt terribly insulted. The vegetable vendor and his assistant tried to shout back at him, but the car had driven off by then.

Why on earth did he behave so viciously? Was he annoyed at my unhurried pace when I crossed the road? Did he interpret my slow movement across the road as lack of respect that was due to his apparently new acquisition?

As I walked back home, I felt like kicking myself for letting him get away with such barbaric behaviour. I thought of the many things I could have told him if I hadn’t allowed myself to go numb with the shock.

“Where is it written that you can insult people once you get into a car?”
No. That was too mild.
“Shut up you upstart” would have been ideal. I tried to imagine his expression at this insult. And then, my imagination took off from there. I saw myself walking around the car, opening it, grabbing him out of his seat by the scruff of his neck and socking him on the nose. I smiled at the thought - and found a passerby returning the smile! I hastened my steps.

This is not the first time I’ve seen Malayalees behave like this when they get behind the wheels. Once in the car, they behave as though they are the lords of all they survey. To be fair, this is true not about males alone. Once in a way you come across women too who behave like this – but it is very rarely.

What’s the psychology behind this behaviour, I can’t help wondering? What is it that makes them think that a driving license is also a license to insult pedestrians, or splash water over them on a rainy day? Does driving a car give them a sense of superiority over them? Does it give them a sense of importance and power?

I just can’t figure it out. But I 've figured out something. Wealth and car do not make a gentleman.