Monday, 27 January 2014

Hemantha Kalam - 13 'Matters of Regret'

Hemantha Kalam

Kalam - 13

'Matters of Regret'


When young (maybe upto about 30 years of age), I was a person who worried and brooded much and suddenly there was a change in my attitude and I stopped worrying or brooding - literally, practically and virtually. As a human being I erred many times, and failed many times thus causing reasons many for regretting. But despite worrying and brooding regretting was not my Achilles heel.

But then, hold on, hold on.., I am not a super human and I do have my share of some personal and professional regrets in my life.

My father is a good swimmer. When a boy, I have seen my father's swimming trunks in the house-those days when he used to dive into the swimming pools. As I grew on, I also saw him getting into our well of water and search for things that we used to drop into the well, inadvertently though, while drawing water. I have also seen him helping in de-silting the well. But none of his four children can swim and that includes yours faithfully.

Maybe it is still not late, but then there it is. During my expeditions across India and several countries, there have been many opportunities where I could have taken to the water. And nowhere it became more evident than the recently visited Erawan Waterfalls, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

But Hemantha cannot swim, saala (to borrow from a recent song)! This is one regret.

I had worked in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, India and even got my wife from there. But I never learned that elixir of languages, Urdu, which I could have learnt comfortably in Hyderabad. True, to some extent, I can speak and understand Urdu but I cannot read or write and this has been a regret.

When I was four to 11 years of age, we had stayed in the outhouse of a big house in Chennai, in T. Nagar. The owners used to stay in the first floor (as per many South-East Asian countries, this should be referred to as second floor) and there was Mr. R. R. Sajip, an architect who used to teach in the Engineering College in Guindy, in Madras (Chennai those days) occupying the Ground Floor (first floor). Being poor (my father was struggling to establish himself) we had occupied the one room tenement adjoining the car garage, in the backyard of the main house.

Call it coincidence or whatever reason, the whole compound had only one child, myself. The landlords did not have children, the Sajips had already a grown and college going daughter. Even, in our family, I did not have any siblings during that period. I used to be mischievous, mostly controllable but once in a way could be menacing.

During those days, one Mr. Vithal used to frequent the Sajips helping them with some odd jobs, a bit of indigenous shopping and generally being a man-Friday around, whenever he used to visit them. He was always friendly with me.

In those days, it was a practice of the school going children to sprinkle ink from their fountain pens on to the others' shirts on April First, every year on All Fools Day (glad that now children mostly use only ball pens and cannot sprinkle ink). So most of the children going to school on that day used to wear old shirts or try to avoid being sprinkled upon, which any way was a herculean task in itself. Over years, the children became more and more innovative in making concoctions to be mixed with ink so that the sprinkled patterns on the shirts would become indelible. and mind you the market was not filled with such detergents and wash ingredients as today.

One particular year, around the mid 1960s, I had ground the juice out of Day Queen seeds (or is it night queen?) and mixed to the ink which I had filled into a stout pen. Armed with that, I was waiting for my victim (any victim) in the compound from the first floor. I do not remember the occasion, but Vithal wore a brand new shirt gifted to him by the Sajips and was coming to show them the new shirt worn by him. I can see he was elated. and the devil in me worked. From the top on the first floor, I sprinkled the whole ink in my pen on to his shirt in all criss cross patterns ensuring that the whole shirt was re-designed. He looked up in such agony which I could not wipe out of my memory 50 years hence. He just walked in without uttering one word or shouting at me.

The landlords, who always liked me and gave a free run of their home, radiogram and the refrigerator, chided me when they came to know of this; the Sajips shouted at me and later my father thrashed me. Yet, Vithal never said a word and I was ashamed and also afraid to see him later. Thus I had lost a good soul who liked me. 

Over a period of time, we vacated the house, and started staying in our own house elsewhere and lost touch with the Sajips and Vithal. Once we came to know that Vithal joined some catering outfit and later we totally lost touch with him.

But not the memory of this incident which haunts me to this day and I am sure would plague me till my memory is in tact. I regret this sorrowfully, every day, but there it is-just to remain a regret.

My only professional regret was caused by an experience sometime in the year 2008.

The Managing Director (a British National) of a highly visible organisation fixed an appointment to meet me as a CEO of one of the units of a large NGO in India, and my boss the chairperson of my company at our office in Chennai, three months in advance, to discuss possible assistance to our organization. I did not have a dedicated secretary and relying much on my memory, I did not jot the appointment on any paper. I had informed my chairperson orally of the meeting.

As time neared for the said appointment, my memory failed and I forgot and on the specific day of the appointment, both of us were in Kancheepuram, 75 kms from Chennai, attending another meeting. Only when the PA of the MD called in to say that her MD was on the way to our office did I remember my folly and we tried to rush in. Despite maverick and neck braking speed we took about one hour to reach and the MD and his wife were furious (justified). I realized the blunder and even while we were travelling in the car, I offered my head on a platter to my boss.

Finally we reached office and my boss advised me to stay away from the meeting and only she met them. They were indeed annoyed and irritated and were in fact recommending to my boss that my services should be terminated forthwith. And at the concluding time of the meeting, my boss summoned me and introduced me to the MD and his wife. Though I could see their annoyance, they downplayed it on seeing me and shook my hands with a smile and took in my apology. But the damage was done. We could not get the help intended by them. My boss condoned and continued to retain my services, till I left on my own in 2012.

But, to this day, I regret this avoidable incident. I was hoping that one day or other I would get, maybe, another chance and explain for whatever it is worth and make amends.

But a look at today's news paper drenched all such hopes with cold water; for I read that Karl Slym, the MD of Tata Motors fell to his death from the 22nd floor of a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand where he stayed on an official visit. For, Karl Slym was that MD who came to meet us and at that time he was with General Motors, India.

My meeting with Karl was only for a few seconds, but due to continued guilt he was always there with me. And today is a very depressing day as Karl died at 51, hardly the age to die.

May GOD bless his soul and that he Rests in Peace.

If amends are to be made do it at the earliest opportunity-else that itself could lead to regret.           

What do you think? You tell me! :-)


Till then, 


Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Thanks (English), Dhonyabaad (Bangla), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai) and Asante (Kiswahili).


Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India

No comments:

Post a Comment