Dr JS Rajkumar, chairman

July 31, 2014

ODE TO KUMBAKONAM

Filed under: Religion And Philosophy — Ashok Raja @ 6:31 pm

ODE TO KUMBAKONAM

 

There’s no noise of little voices here

No happy patter of tiny feet

Only the smoky smell of fear

And the presence of death in the summer heat

Creaking to and fro is a window, shattered.

A frightened and mute witness to the carnage…

While only a stone’s throw away, like leaves, are scattered

Charred pages of books, once hopes…now garbage.

 

In hushed voices, clumps of visitors huddle

There hangs over this school a cloud of gloom

Where nearly a hundred of our young ones

Were sent, unsuspecting, to a fiery doom.

 

Agonizing truths surface from the firemen..

Of trapped and frenzied little ones at a locked gate,

While the duty watchman was “out for tea”

Tortured thoughts arise, bitter and black as bile,

Which will surely be with me through eternity.

 

A slipper here, a tiffin box, a red ribbon there…

Each object with a terrible story to tell;

The charred stench of finality in the air

Where tiny hearts were stopped by a premature death knell.

Devastated, I struggled with a thousand inner questions…

Unable to comprehend the cruelty of the divine hand

Why these pure little ones?  Why chop these little buds?

To the end of my life, I will never understand.

 

More surprises and unpleasant shocks awaited…

For, gathering like flies to a corpse bloodied,

And pumping information from the ill fated,

With vanloads of media men, the streets flooded.

 

When the twin towers fell,

Nearly two thousand perished

But not a single body was aired on television,because

Dignity took precedence over sensation

And America protected the rights of her own.

But what happened in Kumbakonam ?

Our poor, burnt little ones?

Robbed of their dignity in life…

And stripped of their dignity in death

Displayed to the world by our own media

 

As a torched and sorry little heap…

While the world castigated our system

We must beat our breasts, my brethren,

We must cry in shame, as a nation

If we must to fire feed our little children

And make the news a global sensation.

 

I fled from Kumbakonam. I rushed…

My spirit and emotions utterly crushed

And impotent against the forces that be…

 

I write, not in ink, but in blood

And weep…

For the souls of

Ninety four crushed little flowers.

-Dr.J.S.Rajkumar

December 15, 2009

A NIGHT ON THE TRAIN

Filed under: Experiences — Sripriya @ 7:11 am

Nice guys aren’t always nice, you know. I was reflecting on some of the not so pleasant or Samaritan acts I have indulged myself over a long and exciting life, and one incident sprang to mind, I am painfully aware that discovery of this dark act will considerably bring me down in my venerated father’s esteem, to a place normally reserved for the likes of Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler. But the die has been cast, and I am going to sail into my story tonight,my brain retelling the account as my fingers hammer out the event on the keys of a laptop, several thousand feet above sea level, traversing the skies towards another conference.

Well, my little episode takes us back to 1995, a year when the infotech boom was just dawning on a nascent Indian youth, the horrors of religious fundamentalism and terrorism were just raising their ugly heads in an attempt to tear the very fabric of a secularly woven post Independence society. However, the prevalent mood of the country was definitely upbeat, as the financial swing of the pendulum was decidedly towards a healthier future. Infosys and Wipro were then spoken about with tones of reverence, as the upstarts who took away the business from the American giant and brought it home to Indian shores,

Cell phones then cost an arm and a leg, and a visionary from Mumbai, the great Dhirubai Ambani, was planning to price a phone call on a mobile at less than 50p, which was the cost of a post card.

A new development in surgery, called laparoscopic surgery, was taking the world by storm. In principle, it replaced the conventional vicious long incisions with small stabs, called keyholes, and long fishpole like instruments permitted us surgeons to access internal body parts, and then to remove or repair them as needed.

Today, almost everyone knows about these advances, but those were the early days.

During this period, a group of visionary doctors from a town called Kumbakonam, a quaint little town in the Cauvery basin, known for a profusion of breathtaking temples in its vicinity, as well as for having birthed the mathematical genius Ramanujan, contacted me and requested me to go over and operate on their patients once a month, and I gladly assented. This gave us an opportunity to bring hi-tech surgery to the villages and towns, and the friendliness and affection of my doctor friends remains indelibly etched in my heart to this day.

Anyway, this tidy arrangement resulted in exciting monthly visits on Saturday nights,boarding the Rameswaram Express around 8pm, to reach Kumbakonam at 5am, operations from 7am until 7pm, and a hasty departure by the 8pm train, or on some occasions the bus, hitting Chennai at 5am on a Monday morning, dog-tired but happy…How I slogged through the rest of the week is another story, but let’s just leave it with a statement that yawns and sunken eyes have been the legacy of many of us surgeons..

It was one such evening when I alighted on a pre-Lallu train, replete with the flaws of

The Railways, but heart-warming in its sheer volume of effort. Too often, it is deemed fashionable to blame all public sector services, an attitude that is to be strongly discouraged. How many of us are aware, for example, that the Indian Railways is the largest single employer of personnel in the world, looking after the welfare of 1.7 million families? The compartment being a second AC one, the blissfully airconditioned cubicle housed 6 of us. Within seconds of entering the compartment, I saw him, the most obnoxious fellow passenger I have ever come across.

The demeanour of this otherwise unprepossessing gentleman was one that suggested that the entire world, all citizens included, functioned for the express purpose of satisfying his every desire. The other pronounced property of his was the strong signal of omniscience . If he did not know something, it was not worth knowing.

It was amazing , how quickly he antagonised everyone of us. The details of at least three of the others remain identifiable in my memory, and they were a middle aged couple and a retired headmaster, lovely people , and quite harassed by the unceasing soliloquy of self selling that our protagonist was busy with.

We learnt that he was working in the Electricity Board, was an electrical engineer by profession, and was in an “important “ post, which undoubtedly meant that he spent a lot of time doing nothing or making sure others successfully did nothing. I remembered the joke about the patient being advised rest for his system, and when he said that he was a Government servant, he was told to go back to work as soon as possible, because the maximum rest was to be obtained at his office, and not at home.

Back to our nauseating dreg of humanity, and his antics on the train. He had obviously mastered the art of insulting several people at the same time, and , fully aware that the retired principal sitting with us was a Brahmin, launched into a vicious attack on his caste, simultaneously decrying the educational system. The governance of the state lacked imagination, which he had, of course. It is said that there are a number of people who know exactly how a Government should be run, up to the minutest detail, but unfortunately they are all busy, either cutting hair at the saloon, or driving taxis.

When he heard that I was a doctor, a violent tirade followed against all doctors and their ilk,Of course, the present company was excluded, he said,it was only the rest of the doctor fraternity he was talking about. He thought Kumbakonam was too crowded, and Mayiladuthurai was dirty, Chennai too large, Villupuram too small , and so on.No city was good enough, no minister wise enough (sotto voce, he implied to us that he was actually the decision maker in the Electricity Board) and no judge was clean enough.

At this point of time, he brandished a new cell phone,bringing out gasps of appropriate admiration, admixed with more disgust when he said that it was a “gift” in return for an “under the table “ favour he had done for another Government official.In short, he sickened us with each passing minute with a new revelation about his successful but sordid life. Indeed, when the adequate astonishment was not displayed, he even evinced annoyance.

Fortunately for all of us, the time soon came to sleep, and after a series of acoustically resonant belches that made the lady in our compartment dive for cover, our hero announced that he would sleep in the lower berth. Initially, the rightful owner, the husband of the belch shocked lady, feebly protested, but citing the doctors’ advice about a slew of terrifying diseases, the humble servant of the Government of Tamil Nadu browbeat him into acceptance, quickly grabbing the berth.

And then came the unkindest cut of all…. We all had a twenty minute lecture on his new Bata slippers! Treatise followed, on the leather content, how shiny they were, and how nobody else in his office could afford a pair of slippers at that price.To emphasise his point, he was waving his slippers around , showing off various hues in the leather, etc.,something that the headmaster, in particular, found very offensive, probably because his face and nose were the closest to the waving slippers. Two belches later, he grabbed the poor fan mounted on the ceiling, and twisted it towards him. When I protested, he said that he would allow repositioning of the said instrument after thirty minutes, confident, I was sure, that we would all be asleep by then. I told him that it was unfair, and that he could have the direction of his choice after the first thirty minutes, but the lady, who was the affected one, intervened quickly,and requested me to not make an issue of it. I backed off, and was further angered by his mutterings about “ doctors who should keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.”

Anyway, I retired after that, to the quietness of my berth and the companionship of Wodehouse, my fellow traveller during those travelling years.

The night’s peace was once more rudely interrupted by Mr.Nasty talking on his cellphone, and neither the decibel level nor the content of the conversation was remotely close to pleasant.

I was woken, by the helpful train attendant , to the strains of beautiful music, announcing our arrival at Mayiladuthurai, a few minutes from Kumbakonam. Quickly, I got my stuff together, and walked to the door, to await the arrival of the station. The stopover time usually being four or five minutes, that was the norm, to stand at the exit. The loud snores of the sleeping electrical engineer made me glance at the fan. Sure enough, it was working for him only, pointed in his direction.

The evening’s events with this distasteful man replayed themselves in my mind’s eye.

A gleam of wisdom shone through. Purposefully I strode back into our compartment.It was a moment to act, not think of the consequences. I gently

Turned the fan towards the lady. No reaction from anywhere. Time flying by. Heartbeat hammering. I bent down, and like Bharatha of yore, lifted one… yes, one new slipper, and carried it to the door. Prudence and upbringing formed a coalition- the order of the day, I guess…. And protested at this act.

Now time stood still.A quick battle of ethics raged on inside me, should I really do this? Or should I once again be the class monitor in DonBosco school , the carrier of moral values?A decision made, I turned towards the door and opened it, allowing a cool whoosh of morning wind to rush against my face. Quickly, with an eye on the corridor scanning for approaching passengers, I chucked the gleaming slipper out towards the fields that rushed past.In a few minutes, the hospitality of lovely Kumbakonam had enfolded me in its arms. The day swamped me in a blur of passionate speed.

The years have passed by, but I am unable to ever think of the little temple town without a flash of memory of the incident chronicled here, and , despite the decades of value systems driven into me, I must end by saying that strangely, I am never contrite about what I did. Actually, the thought of the gent concerned scrummaging around desperately on the floor of the train compartment, and bemoaning his lost slipper,undoubtedly to the delight of his fellow travellers, always brings a smile to my face.

I told you… nice guys aren’t always nice.

September 22, 2009

Photo Gallery

Filed under: Gallery — Admin @ 7:25 am

Dr Raj and his mentor…Dr J R Sankar (his father)

Dr Raj and his mentor...Dr J R Sankar

At home within the hospital…Dr Chitrakala making sure her husband eats his food !

Dr Chitrakala making sure her husband eats his food

Dr Raj and his daughter…a tender moment together.

Dr Raj and his daughter

Dr Raj and his son Anirudha..joy in the father’s eyes.

Dr Raj and his son Anirudha

Dr Rajkumar With S.V.Sekar

Dr Rajkumar With S.V.Sekar

September 18, 2009

A U M

Filed under: Medical Stuff,Religion And Philosophy — Sripriya @ 2:55 am

In a modern world

Which rewards abbreviation

Test matches become 50 overs

And these shorten to twenty

Decreasing time equals incressing interest

And encapsulation of ideas

SMS, MMS, ATM, IIT, IIM

It is essential for us to know

That……..

All that ever was,all that is

And all that will ever be

Is described in a single word

A word that describes

But defies description

A word common to every India

Binding Aryan and Dravidan

Saivite and Vaishnavite

North and South, Sand and Water,

Sun and sea

One all-inclusive mantra

OM !

On a sunny morning in 2004

I faced the surging waves

Of an incandescent Bay of Bengal

From within the walls of a temple

Sparkling Thiruchendur

Monument to a triumphant Murugan !

A helpful priest directed me

Towards a centuries-old gap in the wall

Placing a ear to it

I was struck dumb with amazement

When I heard a

Rhythmic, Resonant, Crystal clear

OM !

My life has been dotted

With split second moments of realization of deep truths

Known as Epiphanies

On that sun-kissed August

By the Thiruchendur seaside…..

I had an epiphanic eye-opener

On the mantric vocalization of Om

I Just Knew !!!

The Upanishads, that have

Suckled me the milk of wisdom

Talk of four states of existence

The word ‘OM’ the books say is really

A U M ……

‘Aa’ as in “heart”

Intoned from the back of the throat,it

Represents the waking state of humans

A state called Vaishvanara

In Vaishvanara, one responds to

Every stimulus and in every direction

The ‘U’ also intoned from within

Represents Taijisa

Dreamfilled sleep during which time

Humans respond to past actions

And present desires !!

The ‘M’ as in “Maa”

Stands for Prajna

A wonderful, deep, dreamless sleep

That all of us pass through every night.

While passing through the

Prajna state of sleep

The jeevatma inside

Resonates with the Paramatma

The central Godhead

Or the source of Brahman

It is tragic however

That we are unaware of this resonance

Like the man seeking treasure

Actually buried under his feet…..

When A, U, and M come together

In the echo of “AUM”

The sound represents

The ‘fourth’ state of existence called “Turiya”

Which is conscious Taijisa….

Can you be aware of the Godhead in you ?

That awareness

The ‘fourth’ state

Is the highest point

Of human existence

And chanting “AUM”

Permits us to run through

The previous three levels

To reach…..and remain

In the “Fourth”

With love to all those who read this

I bid thee farewell

Hoping to meet you in Turiya

THROUGH “AUM”

Life beyond…

Filed under: Religion And Philosophy — Sripriya @ 2:51 am

In the last few years I have wondered to myself, thousands and thousands of times, where does life begin and what happens after death. Probably the best commentary of death after life and life after death is given in the Kathopanishad as a conversation between Nachiketha and Death. Reading the Kathopanishad opened my eyes to the curtains and life beyond .

It is said that man’s foremost obsessions are love and death (Eros and Thanatos) I think this is really true, for these two subjects have occupied the two halves of my life, in succession!

It is my firm belief that rumination on death and talks of death cleanse the mind, and prepare us to face each day. I begin each day by thinking to myself that this might well be my last, and this gives me a lot of peace at the end of each day, as I try to finish off all the emotional and physical commitments up to date.

The following Poem, AUM gives you some of my thoughts on AUM and Religion. Allow me to pick your brains to learn something about spirituality and wisdom.

September 1, 2009

Thirty minutes with the Sankarans

Filed under: Literature — Rajkumar @ 4:50 am

Its another mad day in my life

Don’t know if I can sustain this

Maniacal outpouring of energy

That each patient and each procedure

Requires of me…

I take a break and run for peace,

Not to the neighbourhood temple,

With its rush of warm memories,

But to meet the Sankarans

And bask in their love for some time.

Their cosy little flat

Is so typical of their way of life.

No Ming vases or Hussain paintings here.

Instead their pastel shaded walls

Have, punctuating them, photographs of

Their children and their little ones.

A joyous calm engulfs you as you walk in

Through their open door,

And their hearts , like their doors,

Are always open to help any of their neighbours too.

The tell-tale scrawls of a

pencil loving grandchild

Compete for space on the dining table

With an assortment of medical journals,

Tamil magazines, and wedding invitations.

Not quite the Inside Outside interior, this,

But every time I go there,

I understand that a house is built with bricks,

But a home is built with hearts.

By the time I sit down at their table,

I am a hapless captive

In the bonds of their love.

Mrs Sankaran swoops down on me,

And, magically, all that I like to hog

Appears on the table in minutes, like out of the

Arabian Nights’ tale.

Here the efficiency is mind boggling,

As it is powered on by love.

Between my gobbling,

I enquire about their health.

But unlike all my patients,

Who often worry about the smallest

Changes in their gas patterns

Like the world was falling painfully

And surely

Right on their heads,

The Sankarans are always dismissive about their own health

And are always hassling me about mine!

I constantly think about his heart problem, but

He is absolutely unconcerned about any changes

In his ECG,

More troubled about the IPL matches….

When I check out his wife’s health,

It’s even worse,

As I get a barrage of queries about

The bags under my eyes

(Like a drunkard)

The hollows of my eyes

(Will hold a cupful of rice)

And my sagging voice

(Too many mobile calls, young man)

And I retreat, bruised and battered from the assault..

The minutes whiz by

As I recount the past week’s events,

And they are so keen on my every word.

Before I know it,

It’s time to go.

Bluff and cheery,

I promise to be back,

But my heart is heavy

And my tread slow,

As I walk away from the home of the world’s

Best parents.

Mine.

August 28, 2009

Belting out music

Filed under: Experiences — Rajkumar @ 4:25 am

I have enjoyed many years of strapping a guitar on and belting out songs on stage during my Madras Medical College days. Although our range of light music and western music was very limited those days, we still had a lot of fun. In the past few years I have visited, as Chief guest or as a judge, several colleges for their cultural festivals. The talent is terrific, the innovativeness is terrifying, and the music thoroughly enjoyable!!!.

All I can say is, we would have not picked up half as many prizes as we did if we had been competing with these boys!!!. Like my reading, my music listening tends to quite eclectic. The pan pipes of Andes fascinate me as much as the heavy metal rock and listening to MS Subbalakshmi sing Bhaja Govindam is as much a pleasure, as listening to the Mantras as the background music of the Matrix movies.

Guys, girls, if you have any tips on really Good music Albums ,please pass them on all to me. I will be very grateful!!!.

Renaissance Painters

Filed under: Experiences — Rajkumar @ 4:09 am

Art in all forms is one of the reasons to live life. Fine Art like painting and sculpture as well as the performing arts are extremely addictive to me.

I have always enjoyed the Renaissance painters Botticelli, Caravaggio, da Vinci ,(I guess one has to say that!) Michelangelo, Rafael etc. and I have enjoyed the company of these artist at the Louvre and at several other major art galleries in Europe .

The Flemish masters, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Reubans , etc are also the favorite subject of mine, and the light shadow interplay, especially of Rembrandt and Vermeer have always caught my gaze. There is a fantastic Picasso Museum just outside Paris which shows you the entire gamut of his talent. Do visit it some time.

I think contemporary Indian Art is not far behind.I recently saw some paintings of one Uma Dhayanidhi, and I was stunned at her color choice, sharpness of the edges and the precision at the centre. I don’t know whether she is exhibiting, but she is fantastic. Do give Uma’s paintings a try!

Please do feed in and talk to me about art, would be a pleasure.

Images compete

Filed under: Literature — Sripriya @ 3:47 am

Through the wilderness of my mind’s landscape

A thousand images compete for space

A snapshot of a section of this pictorial chaos

Unfolds before you.

The exhilaration of a summer day

Freshening, virginal rain shower,

A thin veil of cloud-mist crossing

A shy full moon, ushered along by

A tender breeze from the deep south.

A beggar’s tatters, oversewn with stitches of poverty and pain

The searing agony that accompanies the plight of a dying child’s sigh

The jubilation of an operation well done and the grateful tears of a loved one,

The quiet joy of basking in your parents pride at a life saved.

The tearing feeling of witnessing the progressive rot of a human body

Its innards by cancer flayed ……

Award functions and medals, a Mother’s smile

The heartache of seeing a Dad walking a foot

Like it was an entire mile.

The pure bliss of my first born’s gurgle cutting through the crisp May air ,

His Mother’s wan and tired smile after child birth

A rare and precious memory !!

The flame and heat of the cemetery

My grandmother’s bones lie bare

A thousand stars twinkling at me.

From the pitch black Maldivian sky

The indifferent face of the American diplomat,

Blaming six hundred thousand Afghan children’s deaths

On “Collateral Damage”.

Five Amish couples giving a large portion of their donations

To the widow and children of

The mad man who shot and killed their offspring

Before turning the gun on himself.

These……….

And a thousand other images

Compete for space

Through the wilderness of my mind’s landscape.

August 25, 2009

Night on the Train

Filed under: Experiences — Rajkumar @ 3:25 am

Nice guys aren’t always nice, you know. I was reflecting on some of the not so pleasant or Samaritan acts I have indulged myself over a long and exciting life, and one incident sprang to mind, I am painfully aware that discovery of this dark act will considerably bring me down in my venerated father’s esteem, to a place normally reserved for the likes of Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler. But the die has been cast, and I am going to sail into my story tonight, my brain retelling the account as my fingers hammer out the event on the keys of a laptop, several thousand feet above sea level, traversing the skies towards another conference.

Well, my little episode takes us back to 1995, a year when the infotech boom was just dawning on a nascent Indian youth, the horrors of religious fundamentalism and terrorism were just raising their ugly heads in an attempt to tear the very fabric of a secularly woven post Independence society. However, the prevalent mood of the country was definitely upbeat, as the financial swing of the pendulum was decidedly towards a healthier future. Infosys and Wipro were then spoken about with tones of reverence, as the upstarts who took away the business from the American giant and brought it home to Indian shores,

Cell phones then cost an arm and a leg, and a visionary from Mumbai, the great Dhirubai Ambani, was planning to price a phone call on a mobile at less than 50p, which was the cost of a post card.

A new development in surgery, called laparoscopic surgery, was taking the world by storm. In principle, it replaced the conventional vicious long incisions with small stabs, called keyholes, and long fishpole like instruments permitted us surgeons to access internal body parts, and then to remove or repair them as needed.

Today, almost everyone knows about these advances, but those were the early days.

During this period, a group of visionary doctors from a town called Kumbakonam, a quaint little town in the Cauvery basin, known for a profusion of breathtaking temples in its vicinity, as well as for having birthed the mathematical genius Ramanujan, contacted me and requested me to go over and operate on their patients once a month, and I gladly assented. This gave us an opportunity to bring hi-tech surgery to the villages and towns, and the friendliness and affection of my doctor friends remains indelibly etched in my heart to this day.

Anyway, this tidy arrangement resulted in exciting monthly visits on Saturday nights ,boarding the Rameswaram Express around 8pm, to reach Kumbakonam at 5am, operations from 7am until 7pm, and a hasty departure by the 8pm train, or on some occasions the bus, hitting Chennai at 5am on a Monday morning, dog-tired but happy…How I slogged through the rest of the week is another story, but let’s just leave it with a statement that yawns and sunken eyes have been the legacy of many of us surgeons..

It was one such evening when I alighted on a pre-Lallu train, replete with the flaws of

The Railways, but heart-warming in its sheer volume of effort. Too often, it is deemed fashionable to blame all public sector services, an attitude that is to be strongly discouraged. How many of us are aware, for example, that the Indian Railways is the largest single employer of personnel in the world, looking after the welfare of 1.7 million families? The compartment being a second AC one, the blissfully airconditioned cubicle housed 6 of us. Within seconds of entering the compartment, I saw him, the most obnoxious fellow passenger I have ever come across.

The demeanour of this otherwise unprepossessing gentleman was one that suggested that the entire world, all citizens included, functioned for the express purpose of satisfying his every desire. The other pronounced property of his was the strong signal of omniscience . If he did not know something, it was not worth knowing.

It was amazing , how quickly he antagonised everyone of us. The details of at least three of the others remain identifiable in my memory, and they were a middle aged couple and a retired headmaster, lovely people , and quite harassed by the unceasing soliloquy of self selling that our protagonist was busy with.

We learnt that he was working in the Electricity Board, was an electrical engineer by profession, and was in an “important “ post, which undoubtedly meant that he spent a lot of time doing nothing or making sure others successfully did nothing. I remembered the joke about the patient being advised rest for his system, and when he said that he was a Government servant, he was told to go back to work as soon as possible, because the maximum rest was to be obtained at his office, and not at home.

Back to our nauseating dreg of humanity, and his antics on the train. He had obviously mastered the art of insulting several people at the same time, and , fully aware that the retired principal sitting with us was a Brahmin, launched into a vicious attack on his caste, simultaneously decrying the educational system. The governance of the state lacked imagination, which he had, of course. It is said that there are a number of people who know exactly how a Government should be run, up to the minutest detail, but unfortunately they are all busy, either cutting hair at the saloon, or driving taxis.

When he heard that I was a doctor, a violent tirade followed against all doctors and their ilk,Of course, the present company was excluded, he said,it was only the rest of the doctor fraternity he was talking about. He thought Kumbakonam was too crowded, and Mayiladuthurai was dirty, Chennai too large, Villupuram too small , and so on.No city was good enough, no minister wise enough (sotto voce, he implied to us that he was actually the decision maker in the Electricity Board) and no judge was clean enough.

At this point of time, he brandished a new cell phone,bringing out gasps of appropriate admiration, admixed with more disgust when he said that it was a “gift” in return for an “under the table “ favour he had done for another Government official.In short, he sickened us with each passing minute with a new revelation about his successful but sordid life. Indeed, when the adequate astonishment was not displayed, he even evinced annoyance.

Fortunately for all of us, the time soon came to sleep, and after a series of acoustically resonant belches that made the lady in our compartment dive for cover, our hero announced that he would sleep in the lower berth. Initially, the rightful owner, the husband of the belch shocked lady, feebly protested, but citing the doctors’ advice about a slew of terrifying diseases, the humble servant of the Government of Tamil Nadu browbeat him into acceptance, quickly grabbing the berth.

And then came the unkindest cut of all…. We all had a twenty minute lecture on his new Bata slippers! Treatise followed, on the leather content, how shiny they were, and how nobody else in his office could afford a pair of slippers at that price.To emphasise his point, he was waving his slippers around , showing off various hues in the leather, etc.,something that the headmaster, in particular, found very offensive, probably because his face and nose were the closest to the waving slippers. Two belches later, he grabbed the poor fan mounted on the ceiling, and twisted it towards him. When I protested, he said that he would allow repositioning of the said instrument after thirty minutes, confident, I was sure, that we would all be asleep by then. I told him that it was unfair, and that he could have the direction of his choice after the first thirty minutes, but the lady, who was the affected one, intervened quickly,and requested me to not make an issue of it. I backed off, and was further angered by his mutterings about “ doctors who should keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.”

Anyway, I retired after that, to the quietness of my berth and the companionship of Wodehouse, my fellow traveller during those travelling years.

The night’s peace was once more rudely interrupted by Mr.Nasty talking on his cellphone, and neither the decibel level nor the content of the conversation was remotely close to pleasant.

I was woken, by the helpful train attendant , to the strains of beautiful music, announcing our arrival at Mayiladuthurai, a few minutes from Kumbakonam. Quickly, I got my stuff together, and walked to the door, to await the arrival of the station. The stopover time usually being four or five minutes, that was the norm, to stand at the exit. The loud snores of the sleeping electrical engineer made me glance at the fan. Sure enough, it was working for him only, pointed in his direction.

The evening’s events with this distasteful man replayed themselves in my mind’s eye.

A gleam of wisdom shone through. Purposefully I strode back into our compartment.It was a moment to act, not think of the consequences. I gently

Turned the fan towards the lady. No reaction from anywhere. Time flying by. Heartbeat hammering. I bent down, and like Bharatha of yore, lifted one… yes, one new slipper, and carried it to the door. Prudence and upbringing formed a coalition- the order of the day, I guess…. And protested at this act.

Now time stood still.A quick battle of ethics raged on inside me, should I really do this? Or should I once again be the class monitor in DonBosco school , the carrier of moral values?A decision made, I turned towards the door and opened it, allowing a cool whoosh of morning wind to rush against my face. Quickly, with an eye on the corridor scanning for approaching passengers, I chucked the gleaming slipper out towards the fields that rushed past.In a few minutes, the hospitality of lovely Kumbakonam had enfolded me in its arms. The day swamped me in a blur of passionate speed.

The years have passed by, but I am unable to ever think of the little temple town without a flash of memory of the incident chronicled here, and , despite the decades of value systems driven into me, I must end by saying that strangely, I am never contrite about what I did. Actually, the thought of the gent concerned scrummaging around desperately on the floor of the train compartment, and bemoaning his lost slipper,undoubtedly to the delight of his fellow travellers, always brings a smile to my face.

I told you… nice guys aren’t always nice.

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