Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chitra’s Wedding,

Wedding Season. Come November, the weddings in India start in right earnest. The numbers increase in the month of December and finally taper off in January. One good thing about weddings during this period is the ‘Good Weather’. Breezy and bright afternoons followed by pleasant evenings make a perfect setting for weddings.

On 09 Nov 12, Chitra, daughter of my course mate and a very dear friend Rags and Meera got married to Bobby. It was an excellent wedding and more importantly all the important elements of a good wedding stood out – loudly proclaiming ‘Look guys, this is how one should get married’. Their wedding was solemnized by a pastor in a very dignified manner to be followed by rendition of ‘Vedic Hymns’ by the father of the bride.

Figure 1 - I Do

It finally ended with the ‘Oonjal Ceremony’- One of the most beautiful rituals in the Tamil Wedding. It has multiple small rituals embedded into it. The couple is seated on a swing (Oonjal in Tamil). The swing is decorated with flowers and ornaments and is made to swing back and forth. Married women stand around the Oonjal and sing songs; the most popular of them is Laali Laali song. The ceremony epitomizes the ideal state of mind for the married couple, forever fixed with harmony throughout the ups and downs of life.

Figure 2 - Oonjal Ceremony

Figure 3 - Chitra looking absolutely gorgeous

The wedding was one big fun – the parents, the guest - young and old, and more importantly the newlyweds enjoyed the wedding to the hilt. The wedding followed by an evening reception on 10 Nov was full of mirth and merriment, filled with bonhomie. A large number of course mates and friends from the Army Navy and Air Force attended the marriage. A wonderful tradition which has developed over time, where in the course mates from far and near attends the children’s wedding without fail.

Figure 4 - The Tri Service Element

The wedding was followed by a bit of ‘Elbow Bending’ with the near and dear ones. The mild afternoon sun, with whiff of constant breeze and the beautiful atmosphere of ‘Para Regimental Centre’ lawns - all joined hands to create an excellent ambiance for a bit of ‘Gin and Tonic’. Sufficiently fortified with the elixir we all departed to have delicious lunch. A very fine afternoon indeed.

Figure 5 - Proud and happy parents with Chits

Figure 6 - Great place

The next day evening was the reception. There was lot of dancing and good music. My niece Karin with her melodious voice and friend Jai Chako on the Clarinet set the mood and the evening was on. Every one enjoyed the party. The best part - all of us knew each other. It was a select crowd.

Figure 7 - Kari and Jai

Chitra’s dog ‘Bella’ was there all through the wedding. What a lovely sight.

Figure 8 - Pleeeeeese take me with you!!- Bella 

The entire essence of the wedding has been captured in this, one single photograph. It says it all -wedding is undoubtedly a very sacred ceremony – at the same time, it is time to enjoy and seize the moment – it comes only once – let it remain so. Once again all the very best to Chits and Bobby.

Figure 9 - Bobby floating in the air. 

Good show dear Rags and Meera, Bravo Zulu
All photographs - Courtesy George Seemon and studio Velveeta Photography


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Random Thoughts ... Old age, Cooking, Mating of Cats and other things

Late Mrs Lalitha Shivaram Ubhayaker started a group called ‘Ashwasan’ which means ‘assurance’, a voluntary organization established in 1993 to reach out to senior citizens, the aged and the lonely. With nuclear families most elders find themselves marginalized, thin on resources and failing in health. It is left to people like us to help them get back their self worth and dignity. To bring them out of their shells of loneliness and revive their sense of belonging,” she had said earlier on.

Today, it has over 1000 senior citizen members in Bangalore. The JVV branch held their 18th anniversary on 24th November 2012 in the Air Force Navy School at Jal Vayu Vihar. The function was attended by more than twenty ‘80+’ residents of JVV. They had put up an entertainment program which was followed by lunch. The skits, songs and the games were very interesting and what stood out was the enthusiasm behind the whole program. Everyone made it a point to participate in the function wholeheartedly and for a brief moment, all their little aches and pains  were forgotten. The school premises reverberated with sounds of laughter, constant banter and frequent clapping. The very senior citizens showed the way throughout and drove home the message –‘Age is no barrier, if one is determined’. A lady who is 90+ was insistent that she needed no help to move around, to serve herself food or to eat.It was an afternoon well spent in the company of JVV old timers. The credit also goes to the organizers, especially to Ms Yamini a twenty four year old volunteer, who has been associated with the organization for the last eight years. A lot to learn from them. One day all of us………

JVV has a good share of elderly gentry with the spirit of teenagers. Recently, I went and had a glass of beer with a 92 year old retired Sq Leader from the IAF. He told me that of late he has started having a glass of wine in the afternoon and quickly added, “It is cardiac supportive”. There are a number of officers from the air force and the navy who are into their eighties – fit and fine – with regular walks and visits to gym, golf, tennis etc. Whenever I see elderly people who are active and full of life, it gives me immense pleasure.

Cats in JVV have become a big nuisance. I had blogged about them in It is mating season now and the whole colony is agog with cats running around and making the weirdest of noises. Near my cluster there is one Molly cat and there are three suitors. Tom White, Tom Brown and Tom Stripe who are on the move impressing the lonely Queen. Cat communication includes a variety of vocalizations like meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling and grunting. Regardless of day and night the fight is on and one has to bear all the deafening cries, shrieks and cat calls. It is extremely frightening to be woken up in the middle of the night. Some of the Tom cats are very adamant and refuse to budge even under intimidation. So the problem of 'who will bell the cat?' persists.

Alternate medicines.During the last ten years or so, I have tried every kind of alternate therapy for diabetes but all in vain. All my efforts start very earnestly and go on for a few months before it is completely forgotten. Perhaps the results are not visible or the effort is not habit forming – whatever the reason – I have not been able to continue for more than a few months. I have tried having Fenugreek or Methi in many forms – powder, sprout and whole – fresh Aloe Vera juice; nothing is more disgusting than this gooey and tasteless liquid early in the morning on an empty stomach. Ladies fingers soaked in water over night- to be had the next morning. This terrible concoction competes with Aloe Vera in ‘Repulsive’ quotient. Next in line was cinnamon powder with honey – a drinkable combo. I have many ‘Insulin Plants’ (Costus Ingneus) in my garden. The green leaves are to be chewed early in the morning – it is tangy and tastes like raw mango. Amla and Jamun seed powder have also adorned my medicine cabinet. I  even tried ‘Ginseng’ when I could ill afford it. A large number of e mails are sent in Google groups asking us to practice one therapy or the other. Nobody knows the veracity of such mails. In spite of all this, we continue to have many alternate medicines in good faith.

Who Cooks in the House? Ever since humans became ‘Homo Erectus’ the concept of work sharing has been in force. The man went out to hunt and the woman stayed behind with the children and gathered food around her habitat. She also cooked. This division of labor suited her role of reproduction and child care. Then, agriculture arrived, ending hunting to a large extent. Since then a variety of factors have come to play and has blurred the role of man and woman – the fine line dividing the two is slowly disappearing. Today we have a number of options – ready made food, ordering out, eating out, hiring of cooks and so on. To add to this list, we also have refrigerators, mixers and grinders, microwave ovens, induction heaters and so on – making cooking easier. More importantly, women have started working and bringing in the much needed ‘Moolah’.

In some houses, the man has entered the kitchen; whether it is  by force or by choice, will remain a mystery. The other day we went to Sampath and Saroja’s house for our monthly get together. Sampath had prepared excellent biryani – the texture, taste and  mix was simply wonderful. Men entering the kitchen are on the increase. My son cooks regularly and so do I.

Believe me, cooking is extremely therapeutic and is a great hobby too. Cooking is a stress buster and teaches you – patience, sense of proportion, is exhilarating but often results in deep disappointment when you burn the food or add excessive salt and so on. You are sure to earn some brownie points from your wife for all your efforts .The extra time spent on the golf course or elbow bending with mates is sure to be forgotten by the wife if she is served ‘fresh salad with basil, lime, olive oil and Parmesan cheese’ with ‘cream of celery and onion soup’ and hot homemade bread.

Ask my children and they are sure to say – Dad is no longer the sole breadwinner. But he is the family's only bread-maker”. Meaning, we have a bread maker and I have cracked the code and make excellent bread.


Especially after the World War II, men came home as trained cooks and took their skills to market. Masculine power lent credibility to the job and the role of a “chef” took on an elevated status, paving the way for restaurant culture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We Went To Sakleshpur

Sakaleshpura is a hill station town and headquarter of Sakleshpur Taluk in Hassan District in Karnataka. The city is at an elevation of 3113 ft. The town lies in the Malnad region of the Western Ghats. Sakleshpur is listed as one of the 18 most diverse spots in the world in terms of flora and fauna. It has a temperate climate surrounded with lofty green hills full of Coffee, Cardamom, Pepper and Areca Plantations. These crops which contribute mainly to the economy of the Taluk are grown in the surrounding villages and entire taluk are brought to Sakleshpura city for sale. The town lies on National Highway 48 which connects port city of Mangalore with capital city Bangalore, of Karnataka state.

I have passed through Sakleshpur – also known as Munzerabad, many times on my way to Mangalore. I have always wanted to spend some time in this misty town which heralds the entry into the mighty Western Ghats. My brother passed away on 06 Oct 2012 and the event had taken a heavy toll on the family –especially on his wife Vishala and daughter Chitty. To provide a change of scene and for a bit of rest and recuperation I planned a trip to Munzerabad Club along with Jai Vishala and Chitty. The club is affiliated to WGC. A close friend of Chittu – Mithali, came along with us. We left Bangalore early at 0645AM and reached the club at 1030AM, with a halt in Kamath for breakfast.

Munzerabad Club is 118 years old having been established in 1894 by the British plantation owners for their families. The Brits had come to Sakleshpur to start Coffee Plantations in the area. The club takes you back in time – my childhood memories of visiting coffee plantations in Javali and Koppa in Chikkamagaluru District along with my grandparents, came back vividly. Huge bungalows guarded by ferocious dogs, incessant rains, mist, endless stretches of greenery – life ticking away at a slow pace – not to be dithered by the ordinary hum drum of life. 

Figure 1 - Entrance to the club

Figure 2 - Munzerabad Club

Figure 3 - Claim to history

Figure 4 - Wet view from our rooms

We spent three lazy days relaxing in the club and enjoying the ambiance and the facilities the club offered. As it was raining in the evenings all of us made use of the gym extensively – it was a must after all the heavy eating one does during holidays. Breakfast was at hotel Surabhi conveniently located just outside the club. After a sumptuous BF, we used to head out into the open with packed picnic lunches and return by 3PM to catch a spot of ZZZzzzz. The drive on NH 48 is very exhilarating especially in the ghat section near Sakleshpur. Upto the city, the roads are in excellent state. We did not venture out further on NH48, but I am told the road is in a very bad state. We however went on a local road in search of the elusive ‘Bisle Reserve Forest’ – a stage reached when there were no roads or any sign of people. After a bit of misplaced adventure we gave up the pursuit and returned to the club. 18th Nov, TOI reported an incident wherein a taxi driver who was walking along a track near this area in search of a petrol station was trampled by an elephant and killed. Thank the Lord.

Figure 5 - Dense forest enroute to Bisle

Figure 6 - Picnic Spot

Figure 7 - Photo op

The evenings were well spent in the club. The sun sets early and darkness descends on the hills like a blanket.The stony silence suddenly envelopes the entire club only to be broken by chirping of birds returning home.The club has a very well appointed bar named ’Cock and Bull’ what an excellent name .The bar is well stocked and well appointed. The bar man Mr Poojari is always ready with a smile to dish out your elixir. 

Figure 8 - Only the Brits could have thought of a name like this – Cheers

Figure 9 - Inside of Cock and Bull

Figure 10 - In the club verandah – a wild boar with its tooth

One day we went across to Muzerabad Fort – derelict remains of Tippu Sultan’s fort. The fort was used mainly as a look-out post because of the clear view from the hills around. The fort is in a state of neglect and the ‘Archeological Society of India’ has done little to protect the place – a sorry state indeed.

Figure 11 - At the entrance

Figure 12 - View from top

Figure 13 - Looking refreshed

Figure 14- Equally refreshed

At the end of three days all were rested well and Sakleshpur had done its job. The stay gave an opportunity to all of us to relax and unwind. The food in the club was good and their akki roti (rice chapati) was excellent. Swamy the attendant looked after us well.We went to the local market and bought some spices - they are good. Sakleshpur offers a very good opportunity for a quick getaway from Bangalore. Take a break and travel away from your home and do exactly the same things that you would have done at home – it will still be very enjoyable and comforting. The very thought of going out, drive and the company will make the mood. There are many home stays in and around the Sakleshpur meeting the bill.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MV Sudheer in Memoriam, 1960 – 2012

In 1959 I was 10 years old. Three of us – Baba, Amma and self stayed in a house in Shankarpuram. My grandparents stayed close by in an adjacent locality – Gavipuram. Prior to shifting to Shankarpuram, my parents had stayed in Gavipuram for a long duration in a joint family. At one point of time, our family decided to move to an independent house and the three of us shifted to Shankarpuram in 1956.

One fine day in early 1960, my mother along with me shifted to Gavipuram. My father continued to stay at home. After some time I realized that my mother had shifted, to be close to her mother – she was pregnant.

While waiting for my mother to deliver, I had a ball in my grandparents’ place and elsewhere. The degree of supervision was generally low and the fort was not guarded well. As long as I did not attract the attention of my grandfather, all was well. Unknown to all the members of the family, I used to sneak out and learn swimming in a lake and a well.
I was once lowered into a huge unused drain near the house by my GF, as I was pestering my mother to permit me to go to Nandi Hills with my elderly cousin and his friends.

While all this was happening, my mother was admitted to ‘Jai Hind Nursing Home’ in Vishveshpuram and she delivered a chubby boy under the supervision of Captain Dr. Sharada Devi INA 0n 03 apr 1960. Her husband was also a doctor and part of INA. Their only child Late Subash Chandra was my classmate in MSS. A few days later the boy was named ‘Sudheer’.

Why this gap of 11 years between me and my brother, I never understood, nor did it occur to ask my parents, as to why they waited so long, it may have been some unplanned event or a planned strategy – these were thoughts that crossed my mind as I grew older. Due to this rather large gap in age we grew up differently in almost all aspects of life. There was almost a generation gap between us .We had different friends, tastes, professions, likes and dislikes. Even to this day I have a touch of regret for not being sufficiently close to my brother – all due to disparity in age.   

When Sudheer was seven years old, I left home to join the NDA. Thereafter I visited Bangalore once a year during annual leave. Under these circumstances I did not watch my brother grow up. My memories are restricted to very few events that happened during my stay in Bangalore. If I were to add all my memories about him in one bag – the recollections would be…...

1970 - Sudheer at 11

Sudheer was a very healthy child and grew up to be a tall, strong boy. His physical attributes came from our maternal side. He played club cricket as a reasonably good ‘Medium Pace’ bowler. To maintain a good physique, he developed a more than ordinary interest in good food – which was in plenty and my mother ensured that all his cravings were met – she pampered him a lot – she also loved cooking and excelled in it. All this resulted in a number of gastronomical binges. Like my parents, he was a pure vegetarian. For some odd reason, he did not take up to curd - the food of the Gods - for all South Indian Brahmins. I remember concocting a story when his daughter ‘Chitty’ was four years old – I told her that when Sudheer was a baby he fell into a cauldron of curd – similar to ‘Obelix’. Our neighbor’s son ‘Ramu’ – though in the same age group, was very thin and looked pretty undernourished for his age. Once, their family doctor told Ramu’s mother to feed him exactly what was being given to Sudheer. Over the years he developed a penchant for good food and was very particular in what he ate, how it was prepared, ingredients and so on. He was fond of cooking too.

Sudheer 2nd from left with his childhood friends on a Guava tree - Shankarpuram - 1973

During his school and college days, he took active interest in the theatre. Under ‘Kappanna’s tutelage, he acted in plays such as ’Kakana Kote’ and 'Tughlaq'. He travelled to many cities with the troupe. I vividly remember attending the shows and later on hosting a dinner for all his friends in Delhi and Mumbai.

Nandi Hills - 1978 with Father, Aunt and cousins
His friends’ circle was small, but it was a very tight knit circle. Even after all these years they remained close and met regularly. Like him, all his friends were also non smokers, teetotalers and vegetarians, to boot. All his friends became my friends too and would visit me where ever I was posted. Even to this day when I meet them, we slide down memory lane and vividly recall the wonderful times we have had. I remember asking Sudheer and Tatappa to be the ‘Barmen’ for a ‘Scavenger Hunt’ in Wellington, during my Staff College days. During the course of the party, Carol, wife of my colleague, Cdr Rick Pharoah Royal Navy, breaking out into terrible rashes. Later, it came to light, that Tatappa was diluting dark rum with ‘Sikkim White Rum’ thinking it to be plain Aqua and dishing it out to Carol.

Close friends in Srinagar - 1986
My course mate Vijay Shankar landed up in our house one fine morning in Shankarpuram from his ‘Ganga Yatra’ way back in 1971. Sudheer and our cousin Madhu, both, all of eleven, were alone at home. Not knowing which hospitality route to take, they closeted themselves in the dining room for some time and came out and offered him ‘Rum’ at 9.00 in the morning!

Soon after his final B’com results were declared in April 1980, our cousin’s husband Mr Hemmady asked Sudheer to help him out in their new restaurant ‘Shanti Sagar’ in the Majestic area. This was the first of the Sagars in Bangalore. Sudhi took up the job with great enthusiasm and plunged himself into the work. Soon thereafter, he joined ‘Tata Tea’ and remained with them till 1986.Later on he joined‘Titan Industries Limited’.

He was very caring, reserved and simple in his ways. Barring his culinary fetish, he very rarely demanded anything else. He found a partner in Vishala, who would share his style of life and be a source of company and strength to him. She complemented him in many ways and filled up the little gaps that he may have had. They were married on 19 Feb 1988 .The apple of their eyes, Nivedita, was born on 14 may 1990. He doted on her. ‘Chitty’ as she was nicknamed, in return lived up to all his expectations and more. He was a caring husband and a dear father. As a brother, he admired me for the kind of person I was and loved me unconditionally. Though we had little in common, the strong bond of brotherhood we shared would last till the very end.

During their honeymoon in Kodai - 1988
Chitti with her doll - 1992

His commitment to his work was total. As the saying goes ‘Work is Worship’ – he practiced this form of religion to the very end. He had no vices – no distractions and his entire focus and attention were directed towards his work. Even whilst standing outside the sphere of his work, I could feel the intense loyalty he had towards ‘TITAN’. At work, he was a Titan, a larger than life figure, who would go out of his way to fight other’s battles be it someone’s well deserved promotion or someone else’s troubles and whose voice would resound all over the office when he got upset about delays that cost the firm. Above all, his strongest quality was integrity, which I am very sure was singularly responsible for his rise in Titan  He had a great future ahead of him in Titan.

With CMD TITAN Mr Bhaskar Bhat after receiving the award

He was extremely helpful to others. He went out of the way to help deserving people secure jobs, give advice, bailout people from difficult situations and so on. There are a number of people who have benefited from his benevolence. He brought in a very high standard of honesty in all his dealings in and out of his work place. He promoted fair play with zeal. In return he gained a very large measure of good will, which was amply evident when he was not well. A surge of volunteers to donate blood whenever it was needed, endless offers of help to the family, calls from places as far as China to find out his condition, constant support from the office, where some of the expressions of gratitude to him.   

During his period of sickness and after his demise 'Titan' has been a pillar of strength.The entire staff of Titan rallied around his family to provide support and solace.Sympathy and understanding shown by Titan has been exemplary.Titan is undoubtedly "A company with a soul".

Happy family- At Balehonnur - Apr 2006
Somewhere along the way God had made other plans for him. The last one year was extremely critical and he went through a series of medical complications. He fought bravely and was very keen to get back to work. Destiny had its say and he passed away very peacefully at 1515h on 06 Oct 2012.

His entire adult life has been summed up in a memoriam written by Mr Harish Bhat , former COO of Titan.

M.V. Sudheer - In Memoriam
Sudheer’s tragic demise yesterday, at such a young age, is a very big loss for all of us.  Titan ran in his blood, and was in his foremost thoughts at all times.  As his daughter Nivedita tells us, he was thinking of Titan all the time, even when he was seriously ill during the past few months.  Even his last evening alive was spent in a meeting with Lokesh, his deputy.  No wonder we admired him, even though, I admit, we sometimes took his presence for granted. 

Sudheer spared no efforts for the Company, and gave himself no quarter for slack, either.  During the many years I have worked with him, I do not ever recall him saying “No” or “This is not possible”.  He always said “Yes, Sir” or “I will make this happen”, and in virtually all cases, he delivered without fail.  He put in significant personal effort in making things happen in the procurement & materials area that he led, directly taking up challenging matters of price and delivery with hundreds of vendors across the world. 

His forceful negotiating skills – sometimes addressing vendors frankly on our cost challenges, at other times browbeating them into agreement – were complemented by his ability to reach out to them, and help build their businesses to viable and prosperous levels.  He was fiercely engaged with them, and the several superb vendor meets he organized over the past few years, which I had the privilege of participating in, were tribute to these high levels of engagement.  I am told that, throughout his long drives to Hosur and back, he was always on the phone, resolving one matter or another.

Not once during the years I worked with him did he ever represent to me a personal cause.  Not once did he dwell on his promotion, or remuneration, or some facility that he was not entirely happy with.  On the other hand, every conversation and discussion he had with me was about work, about addressing a specific issue, or expanding the vendor base, ideas for new sourcing or getting costs down.  That is rare, and I salute him for his unconditional commitment to Titan.

Of course, when he did get promoted to General Manager two years ago, he was over the Moon in joy.  HGR mentioned to me the next day that Sudheer received his promotion letter with tears in his eyes, and that his spontaneous reaction was – “Sir, I will do anything for Titan.”  That was always his philosophy.

HGR, as the Head of ISCM in those days, had absolute trust and complete reliance on him.  So did the heads of brands and businesses, who silently but surely relied on his capability to get things done.  Despite the tsunami that struck Japan two years ago, disrupting completely the production of Honda and Toyota cars in India, Sudheer ensured that he got us critical Japanese components, including batteries and movements, with little or no disruption in supplies.   

At Hosur, you could hear his loud, booming voice from a mile away; often shouting at some stubborn vendor who had incurred his wrath, sometimes calling his teammates into energetic action, at other times even singing a song or two with them.  His love of life and food was well known, including getting tasty home-cooked fare for his colleagues.  For our materials and procurement team, he was leader and friend, captain and colleague.  For all of us, he was the Materials Department of the Watches business.  We should be proud of all that he achieved, even as we mourn his untimely loss. 

Our thoughts go out to his family – in particular, his wife and daughter – whom he doted on.  We will remember him forever, as a totally committed professional, a man of impeccable integrity, a role model in his workplace, and a person whom all of us genuinely liked very much.  We pray to God to give his family the strength to cope with this impossible loss.  May His Soul rest in peace

"It's Not How Long You Live; It's How You Live" - Anon