Saturday, October 25, 2008

When memories come calling

Barath lost a dear friend at a young age. Reading his post was like experiencing a flash flood of memories rewinding themselves into my over-crowded, over worked, exhausted and weary brain.

But the memories were real. Like it happened yesterday.

A dear friend. A buddy.

Someone who never knew

How to say ‘NO’ to me


Those bike rides in the gullies of North Delhi

Or the four lane outer circle of CP

Cups of coffee at the IIT canteen (‘thaka hua’)

that I would compare to my ‘happening’ college canteen

And he would only smile serenely

Or garma garam chai at some roadside dhaba

at 4 am (or was it 5????)

After a nite of long partying with my crazy friends

(at some disco where we’d use him and his friends

“For entry purposes only”;

and dance the night away in wild abandon, flirting

with other men unabashedly)

While he would diligently escort us back

on bone chilling winter nights

I would be his pillion; (he always wanted me to….) 

to our barsaati, waving goodbye at the gate

never asking to be let in


He was the first buddy I made

Having had a sheltered ‘convent-strictly-girls’ upbringing

I was surprised that we could be ‘friends’

A real friend who did

not expect more…not need more

unlike some of the other ‘boys’ I’d known then


He was special, to me, to my friends

We could pull his 6 ft 3 inches long frame

and he’d still just smile and blush sometimes


He was always especially nice to me….

My room mate noticed, but I was blind somehow

because I’d fallen in love….with another man;

His senior…..


I didn’t see…the love and longing

the jealousy and the discomfort

Didn’t understand his feelings…..

As I basked in the glory of an over powering love and a

madness I never knew I was capable of


I left him broken hearted

said his friends angrily (wondering why I’d called)

as I beseeched them frantically on the phone,

tears streaming down my face

to tell me how he could die

so young, at 24


Those long nights of endless, ceaseless crying

the tears, the agony, the pain, the hysteria, the torment


Nothing brought him back to me

Nothing eased the pain


No phone call, no letters, not a word

He left me nothing but the guilt of knowing that

he died a broken hearted man


14 years have gone by

I wonder if he knows

that I cared too…and that I would do


for one day with him

to make my peace


And I know, in my heart

he will not say ‘NO’

just as he never could…


Friday, October 24, 2008


I received the following as a Forward from a friend. It espouses the cause of the Armed Forces, the only ignored community of our great Nation. It superbly expresses the anger we feel. 

The Editor, The Indian Express 

Dear Sir,


I write with reference to the article 'Chain of command, demand' by Shekhar Gupta ( Ind Exp 4th. Oct 2008).  Mr. Gupta has not only castigated the chiefs but also predicted dire consequences for them. Not difficult when your courage can bask in the knowledge that the armed forces cannot respond because of the various Acts. Fortunately, I also don't have to worry about these laws. Gupta has forgotten important issues and aspects of the whole affair. The present chiefs have less than 18 months to go. In 2010 you will have a brand new trio. If the chiefs were to go by what Gupta has implicitly suggested, three scenarios emerge.

Scenario 1: In the Golf Club at the 6th Hole (recall it is the 6th. Pay Commission). Says one chief to the others - what do we do now? The other says- arre bhai chodo na, ki farak pendha. We are out in 18 months and then we would be looking forward to becoming Governors/Ambassado rs etc. Let's sign on the dotted line. No one will remember this after one year.    

Scenario 2: Same place. The chiefs say - Hey, we are a democratic country remember? So why not conduct a poll through Indian Express by email/sms. All officers and men will vote on – should we accept the 6th PC or not? One lucky officer and one lucky jawan will get a prize – not being posted to Siachen at all. After all, being a democratic government, Raksha Mantriji will congratulate us. See how they keep on saying – people supreme, people supreme. So for us, officers and soldiers supreme, no?

Scenario 3: The chiefs accept the proposals so as to maintain discipline and supremacy of the civilian government, but resign to register their protests. Sounds corny, but do you like it?

What would 'General' Gupta choose?  Let us know. With reasons. Yes, the whole affair has been mishandled. But by whom? By the Defence Minister who was probably acting on the advice of his Defence Secretary. So let Antony start by booting his Defence Secretary out. But he can't.. As you have rightly stated a more powerful government and a defence minister who knows the difference between a human butt and that of a rifle may pounce on the services. But there also has to be an army then. Will we have an army in 5-10 years?  Why is the armed forces pay always in dispute? Because the establishment mafia which includes netas, land owners, owners of assets and media want the country to be defended as cheaply as possible with the lives of other people's children. How many of these categories have their progeny in the forces?  If MPs can decide their emoluments and civil servants theirs, why can't the armed forces do so directly with the political leadership?  Why not make the Defence Ministry independent with its own budget like the Railway Ministry. We the people would contribute what it wants and we will pay only the difference to the Consolidated Fund (or is it Fraud) of India .


You have hit below the belt by stating that the present chiefs are not a patch on Thimayya, Maneckshaw, Lal, Sunderji, Tahiliani et al. But time and fate are great balancers – the army got the chiefs needed to deal with stalwarts like Patel, Krishna Menon, Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram. Recall how Lt. Gen Thakur Nathu Singh asked Nehru how much experience he had as PM when the latter wanted Britishers to continue for 15 years after independence because Indian Generals did not have experience. That's why Indian Express also had a Ramnath Goenka during the emergency. Today, even a Major (sorry for the pun), let alone a General, is more than sufficient. We have a Defence Minister who will not last 10 minutes in a debate with a Powell or a Rumsfeld. The Chinese Defence Minister will eat him raw in less than a minute. Read the recent book by a former Expressman, Arun Shourie – Are We Deceiving Ourselves Again – of how an outstanding soldier – Mao - made Nehru look like a boy scout on his first camp. Even after 45 years the Henderson-Brookes Report has not been released.

In 1963, moving the first no-confidence motion after the Chinese debacle, Acharya Kripalani said 'I hope the Defence Minister can defend himself better than he has defended the nation.'  Today, for the sake of the country I hope we can get one who can defend the nation and understands the blood group OG.  Then he will have no necessity of defending himself. Has any babu spent 40% of his career in non-family stations? What happened to the grandiose plans of George Fernandes to send his secretaries to Siachen for a few days?   Look at how your own comrades of the Fifth Column have dealt with the subject. For every article in favour of the armed forces, there are ten favouring the netas and babus. Not surprising since the armed forces do not give you licences etc. Look at the insipid and inane polls your paper carries – 'Is Naveen Patnaik ineffective' or 'Is the Tata-Singur affair harmful to West Bengal '?  Perhaps the next important questions will be – 'Is the Ranbir-Deepika couple more romantic than the Saif-Kareena one' or 'whether Ganguly should be dropped'?  How about one which asks – Shouldn't our soldiers be paid more than our netas, babus and police?  Lastly, don't forget that the Chiefs are only fighting for scales from 2007, while the army has been short-changed from around 1957. So who is going to make up for those 50 years – Indian Express?

There are stated and unstated hints and fears that the armed forces have become too big for their boots. This morbid fear is because hardly any neta  has ever served in the forces. Assuming that the country is worth taking over, they already have. They have been forced to wear big boots.  They are fighting on the borders, fighting insurgency (police work) within the borders, handling floods, earthquakes, tsunamis (all civil work) and very soon will be asked to help in finishing the stadiums for the Commonwealth Games and even win medals. Where do you think the bands and mass parades/drills are going to come from? They run some of the best schools, best medical college (AFMC) and the best engineering colleges (one in Pune for their children and also the CME). Each of their institutions, from NDA to IMA to DSSC to AWC to NDC, not to mention HAWS and CIWS, is world class. Their cantonments have always been like Singapore , ie better than Shanghai . Last but not least, their daughters dominate Bollywood and beauty contests. Unfortunately the law does not allow them to get into media or they will beat you there also. They are effectively in charge without sitting in Rashtrapathi Bhavan or Race Course Road because the other arms of state have proved to be totally inept as epitomised by the Home Secretary who said on TV that he is learning and getting his on-the-job-training from every bomb blast. Perhaps the fees are being paid by the lives of the aam aadmis.

Gupta's article states that it is of national interest. I fully agree. I therefore reserve my right to send my response to the three HQs, the media and such other parties who are interested in national affairs. The present chiefs may not be Thimayyas or Maneckshaws, but let us see whether Gupta is a Ramnath Goenka, even when we don't have an emergency. Let's see whether this article is printed, even in a sanitized form.  

Yours faithfully, 

The Indian Express may not have carried this letter, but the entire community is in agreement with his views. Kudos Mr Ramaswami!

Monday, October 20, 2008

It was an innocent gesture that has left me wondering on the whys and hows of human nature.

On Sunday I was driving down a busy street to get to a Star Hotel where I was meeting the F&B Manager for a food feature I am writing for TOI these days. Before that I was to meet a friend and colleague at a bridge which flows over the famous Mula River in Pune (which is center point for both of us and where we have met several times to exchange documents/CDs and the like - work related stuff).

At a traffic signal, a gentleman on a motorbike asks me for directions to a certain landmark Mall. I explain it to him and as the light turns 'green' head my way, which is incidentally in the same direction!

At the next traffic signal, he stands a couple of vehicles to my left and gesticulates. I can see his destination and point it out to him. After the signal turns 'green' I speed off on my way.

After I park my car at the foot of the bridge and wait for my friend to turn up, the biker knocks on my window. 

Conversation ensues.

He thought I wanted him to follow me and so he does. He seems mighty embarassed that he did not understand the directions I gave him. I smile out of sheer politeness because I cannot (obviously) agree to his foolishness. (I mean, couldn't he read the sign boards screaming in bold RED?)

Nevertheless he introduces himself as the Manager of a Bank and gives me his VC. Again, out of sheer politeness I give him mine.

But wait. It is not just politeness. Ever since I have begun networking extensively for my newspaper stories, I have realised the value of passing on your VC to somebody. One day, I struck up a conversation with a complete stranger as the punctured tyre of my car was being repaired and exchanged VCs with him as well.

To cut a long story short, in a matter of one hour I received a long SMS from him, praising my direction giving abilities (How lame can one get!!!) with an invitation for coffee.

I sent him a curt reply asking him not to message me again.

Today he called me apologising for the message. I was curt again.

Something tells me he won't back off. 

I experienced something close to a stalking when a guy I'd interviewed for a job a few years ago started messaging me day in and day out, getting lewd and threatening all at once (if I didn't give him the job). For weeks I suffered until one day, my husband called him and promised to gather the Military Police (We were in the Indian Navy then) and have his limbs broken if he didn't stop messaging me.

I am feeling the same fear again. 

Harish has been guiding me on how to handle him if he dares call again. Else he will come to my rescue as he always has (in cinemas when men try to nudge or shove into parts of your body, in crowded places when men leer at you only because you are a woman, on public transportation...and the list seems endless......) 

I am also wondering why it takes the husband, father or brother to scare such people off. Why can't they take a "NO" from a woman as seriously?

Why won't they just LET US BE????????

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I'm not much of a photographer but here are some pictures I've clicked over the past few months.

At Purandar Fort, Pune, Maharashtra

This lady bug wasn't very photogenic. After several attempts, caught it in the right frame!

'Govt of TATA India' - Clicked this picture while driving. 

A houseboat in the merry waters of the Vembanad Lake, Kerala

Houseboat crossing a little habited island

Just found this scene very soothing

Outskirts of Alibaug, Maharashtra

Corridor in the Aga Khan Palace, Pune

Harish prompted me to take this gorgeous picture

Through the verdure - At Empress Gardens, Pune

Perhaps my best. Taken on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway

GPO Pune

Monday, October 6, 2008

Death of a dream

A dream died a silent death this afternoon

It was meant to happen.
Life was going too fast, too smooth
something had to break the momentum 
of happiness and contentment

Or was it inertia?
Was it complacency?
Was I content basking in today?
So satisfied that I did not think of tomorrow?

A dream died
And took with it
a chunk of me;
my optimism and faith
my vision of the future 
my hopes for tomorrow

A dream is dead

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An email I received this morning that has instilled a sense of purposefulness and reason in what I was pursuing simply as my "passion".

Dear Madam Ritu,

Thanks a lot for sending me "DNA" paper very promptly.

I really appreciate your spirit, personally driving all the way to Dapodi, to meet me though I am observing "Moun Vrat" to know the facts and figures of the case study.

As an experinced journalist, you had correctly drawn the real cream out of my feelings and emotions regarding my spouse's illness episode.

Your Article as published in the paper is very elabrote,informative and is an eye opener to the not only insurance and TPA Agents, but also to the public who are being haunted.In your article you have slashed them blue and red for the systems short comings.

I am so happy about the article and nothing can stop me without thanking the editor of DNA for selecting and publishing such an use ful article in the interest of public.

Best Regards,
This is the same family I'd mentioned in my post Dard ki nai paribhasha
The article in question can be read here on Page 6. 
Can there be stronger words of encouragement and appreciation?