Sunday, 10 November 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 59 'Language Matters'


I just returned from a couple of weeks of sojourn in Indonesia and Malaysia. One of the tasks I had in Malaysia was to address the members of the ‘Telugu Association of Malaysia’ on the issue of  ‘Financial Sustainability of Families’ speaking in the language of Telugu, my mother tongue. The venue was ‘Telugu Academy’ near Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian Telugus are striving to keep the language, the customs and the rituals of the Telugus alive in Malaysia though they have left the country long ago and most of whom are now citizens of Malaysia. They have constructed the Telugu Academy to propagate the language, the customs and traditions. The building accommodates over 400 students at a time - all, for the love of the language of Telugu.

The current population of Malaysian Telugus are mostly third and fourth generation Telugus who arrived in the 19th and early 20th century” (Kwen Fee Lian, Md Mizanur Rahman & Yabit bin Alas, ed. (2015). International Migration in Southeast Asia: Continuities and Discontinuities. Springer. p. 119. ISBN 98-128-7712-6 & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_Telugu).

I know of many other Telugus who have left the Telugu speaking states in India to foreign countries, like central Asia, Africa, Mauritius and USA who are striving to upkeep the language and traditions.

I, myself, am a second generation Telugu speaking person whose family settled in the neighbouring state over six decades ago. All of us, in our family, including my siblings and our children, who are now third generation, speak near impeccable Telugu. Many a time, I proudly say, with confidence, that we can go back to our native state and teach Telugu to most of the people there.

When I returned to India from my sojourn and started catching up with the news papers (of those days when I was in abroad), two news items grabbed my attention.

The first one is about the Government Order (G.O.) passed by the Andhra Pradesh government that henceforth all government schools in the state will offer education to students 1st till 8th standard only through English Medium, with Telugu just as a subject. It was later reconsidered to offer the same from 1st to 6th standard, instead. Apparently, the government has concluded that eventually all children of the state like to and will have to be English speaking and by doing this, the government schools in the state can compete with the burgeoning private schools there.

Hmm… the issues here are; i) has the government decided that all the future citizens of the state will have to necessarily go for only servitude to work in offices? and 2) what will happen to those students passing out of 6th standard in English medium of learning, if by that time the government schools will not be in a position to offer the same from 7th standard onwards?

The sub issues are: a) is it not the government’s priority to encourage skill building and entrepreneurship rather than just make them learn everything only in English? b) are there sufficient teachers to teach all subjects in English, qualitatively? c) if so, does the government have time to recruit all such teachers before the system is adapted? d) what happens when the government changes? e) are they jeopardising the future of the children by such experiments?

Hope that the government has taken care of all these issue before rolling out the action.

My own personal experience says that, most regretfully, in both the Telugu speaking states, people who can speak good Telugu itself are in minority and perhaps are in single digits as a percentage. The various TV channels ensured the swift degeneration. Qualitative English knowledge is suspect.

But then yes, we the Telugus, for long, have had a great love for speaking languages ‘alien’ and ‘foreign’ to us just to prove our ‘prowess’ in those languages, especially in English, many a time leading to ridiculous and lugubriously hilarious situations.

A couple of years ago I was having lunch in a ‘popular’ restaurant in Vijayawada, considered to be a bastion of the Telugu language. During the course of my lunch, I had asked for ‘Pulusu’ the Telugu near equivalent of ‘Sambar’ or a ‘lentil soup with many vegetables’ to be served and the lady serving apparently didn’t understand it and said that she has only ‘Sambar’. After completing that course with ‘Sambar’, for the next course, I asked for ‘Chaaru’ which is the Telugu equivalent of ‘Rasam’, again a form of a thin ‘soup’ with herbs and spices, so to say (The etymology of ‘Chaaru’ in this context is the Dravidian word ‘Saaru’ meaning the ‘Essence’ – the Sanskrit work ‘Ark’ is nearer to it when you take the meaning of a medicinal salve or juice extracted from a plant to apply to open wounds). The lady couldn’t take it anymore and loudly called for the supervisor complaining against me saying that I have been asking her all those things that they don’t serve in the restaurant.

She had no problem in serving me ‘white rice’ though.

This anecdote is mentioned here to showcase how the Telugu language is losing fast. In fact, there is a dire need for the government to ensure that the language classified as a classic language doesn’t get murdered and shall live in its full glory.

If one loves languages, one understands how degenerative our generations are becoming in learning languages. I hasten to add that this may not apply to learning computer languages though, which our people now learn with a penchant.

The second news item that interested me much, around the same time, was from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, where the Tamil vocabulary is being added with 9,000 new words (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tamil-to-get-9000-new-words/article29919044.ece).

Here’s a case of Governments of two states - adjacent to each other; one trying its best to keep their language alive and nourish it and the other whose orders are promoting a foreign language and seemingly paving way for the slow death of its language; and around the same time too.

And then there are those, struggling to upkeep the Telugu language, the Telugu customs and traditions even while living in foreign lands and under foreign flags – What a contrast!

So will this new order be paving way for ‘Andhra’ Pradesh to become ‘Angla’ Pradesh? (‘Angla’ in Telugu means English)! Pray tell me!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 58 "Educated or Skilled?"


Two independent happenings triggered this blog.

The first one was a seemingly innocuous query by one of our relatives on my daughter seeking her education overseas. Recently when my daughter went overseas for doing her Masters in a subject of social sciences, the relative wanted to check what connection is there between the UG (under-graduation in Chemical Engineering) that she did and the proposed PG (post-graduation) she has planned for herself now and whether doing this course could fetch her a better paying job and quickly too! We politely responded that this is her aspiration as a part of her education plans.

The second one was where one of the Indian ministers from the central government who apparently said that there are ‘jobs aplenty but companies say North Indians lack skill..’ (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jobs-aplenty-but-companies-say-north-indians-lack-skill-santosh-gangwar/articleshow/71142317.cms).

The poor minister is being taken to task for stating a fact. I fully agree with the minister on this. My only disagreement could be on the geography. May be the rest of Indians, especially from south of India, could be a tad better, but, generally, the skills of most of the new generation of Indians can be safely said as susceptible. Between two ear plugs and crap in their hands, most of them are shutting out their brain and whiling away their precious resources – time and common sense and thus the ability to develop skills.

I know that immediately all those genuine and pseudo patriots (the later would make more noise and louder too) would take cudgels against my statement, but as a parent and also as a serious teacher, I am concerned with this development in the country. India, presently, is bestowed with the greatest wealth in the world – youth; and if that youth is going awry and directionless, shouldn’t it be a concern of any parent or a government?

Having said that let me relate an anecdote I had recently experienced.

I have been requested to undertake a teaching programme for students pursuing under-graduation as well as post graduation in social services. Their apparent final aspiration / destination is to plonk themselves in some Human Resources (HR) related job. And, all of them want the best of the companies to hire their services, well nothing wrong about that. But what was wrong is the casual approach they had for the learning.

My classes were for 24 hours, spread across 3 days with intermittent breaks once every session that could range between 1.5 to 2.0 hours each. There were about 60 students. Hardly 20% of them were attentive and maybe 25% (totally) were listening. For the rest of the 75%, it was a free way. Despite the clear announcement by me that I would welcome only those attentive and participative, all students used to come and turn to be a nuisance for the rest of the class. Their only need is the certificate they would be receiving from the institute for participating in the programme which perhaps they intend touting to wangle a good job. Caveat recruiters! Don’t get fooled by certificates! Evaluate before deciding!

I was agog that this institute caters to the need of people in the HR and social sector and if this is the attitude of the students, what development can be expected in either of these crucial sectors in the country, is anyone’s guess. If I am sitting in any of the evaluating interview panels, I, perhaps, would not be impressed by any of this ‘riff-raff’ in getting a job!

Very recently some interview with a western gentleman was doing the rounds on the social media where he was expostulating that the present educational institutions are redundant as new systems like Siri, Alexa and what else will do all work for you.

Perhaps our educational institutions already know that that during 2019-20 not a single Indian Institution is listed among the top 300 educational institutions in the world (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2019/world-ranking#survey-answer / https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2020/world-ranking#!/page/3/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/stats).          

So much to be said our systems and quality! The worst is lack of research inclination and a suitable atmosphere for the same in the country. It is so sad to note that the most of the research (yes, I cannot generalise, I know) is suspected not to be original. And one of the deterrents is mostly the lack of timely and competent guidance and the favours expected for the same, depending on the gender of the research scholar!

Even if we have artificial intelligence (AI) and robots for doing everything, someone needs the skill to create the AI and the robots that are needed to be evolved with times and needs. And for that, how does one get the learning and skill temperament? Or are we expecting a time like that depicted in the Magnus comics half a century ago where robots create themselves and only to eventually destroy themselves.

And if the institutions are not creating such conducive atmosphere, students continue to be disoriented and end up misguided.

Anyway I am digressing and returning to the point on hand, we should understand clearly what education is and what skills are.

Education is inculcating attitude of giving to society, helping, moral values and positive thinking, which could be formal, informal and non-formal, so that a person refines and re-defines herself/himself as a worthy human being. Education goes beyond earning degrees.

This is the most important factor about education that all Indians, who think that a degree is a passport for a job should learn, bear it in mind and acquire skills. In my professional life of over four decades I came across innumerable occasions when a person who cannot even express herself/himself demanding a job just because s/he has a degree.

Every human being should learn as many skills as s/he can. It is said that Emperor Aurangzeb used to support his family by making hats so that he will not take any money for himself or for his family from the government’s coffers (I have never seen Aurangzeb and so have to rely on hearsay for this)! Will our political leaders acquire this skill of avoiding taking money from the government and will the people understand the need to acquire some skill?

Skill is the ability to complete a task well and in time. Expertise is to do the task with finesse and so that there cannot be questions on the finished product.

While there are any number of job skills, there are at least eight major life skills that all human beings should either possess or acquire.

1)    Ability to work under pressure
2)    Adaptability
3)    Communication
4)    Conflict resolution
5)    Decision making
6)    Leadership
7)    Self motivation and
8)    Time Management

Honestly, if we take stock among the evolving generation of India, how many of them do you think would be having all or more of the above seven life skills? A puny size. If not, why do you think there is so much of conflicts at work place, among couples, more often resulting in suicides?

Both education and skills could be manifested in a person as a combination but need not necessarily be together. An ‘educated person’ (in Indian parlance) could be without any skills. We see them by millions. Skilled people might not be educated. Many of the Barbers, Cobblers, Potters and Weavers in India are exceptionally skilled but might or might not have been educated. Bargaining and negotiating are skills but being educated helps in there. There are any number of skills that are required for livelihoods and living, but most of the new generation seems to be piggy backing more on automation – both by doing and by brains. And systematically the political system, through populist approach is creating more and more lazy citizens making them useless over a period of time.

The biggest psychological block we, in India, have is that we expect a piece of paper called a degree to become a passport to a job. I have heard the lamenting of many saying that s/he is ‘qualified’ but not getting a job. Then they blame on reservations etc., etc. True, reservations are indeed playing havoc with the education system in the country where a certain section of people could be lulled into false hopes and not realizing the ground realities.

So this brings us to the question; ‘Educated or Skilled or both’?

We have to address this on a war footing and re-calibrate the entire education system in the country towards it while also factoring the current trends and future requirements. Coaches, Mentors, Teachers and Trainers need to be re-oriented. If not,  it could be too late to suddenly realise that the people in the country are so lazy and skill-less that they cannot defend themselves, the country on its frontiers or on its policies. To what use would such youth be, then?

Pray tell me!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 57 'The Time Stealers'


Have you ever come across a ‘time stealer’? No? Well, think again! I would venture out saying that 95% of our people are ‘time stealers’. Not convinced? OK follow me for the next few minutes.

The other day I was waiting my turn at the bank's counter patiently. After about some 10 minutes of waiting, my turn came in and I was explaining my issue to the bank’s lady staff member. Even when I am just about half way, a gentleman, well he has to be a gentleman, for he is wearing a safari dress, interrupted, no intercepted our business.

In India, if someone wears a Safari suit, he should either be a Police official, the secret type or the high echelon body guard type, or a person trying to appear as a gentleman. Interestingly most of the hunters do not seem to be wearing safaris in India, not that I encountered any hunter. I had always been the hunted type but psst.., please don’t tell my wife about me, being hunted. This is just between the two of us.

Anyway, this ‘gentleman’ (because he is wearing a safari suit) butted into my conversation waving an account passbook before the staff. Apparently the lady staff member found the figures in his passbook more interesting and started attending to him confirming very clearly that I am now past the age of being hunted any more. Their conversation took no less than 15 minutes, all the time while I was waiting, huffing and puffing and making protesting noises. The ‘gentleman’ in the safari suit just stole 15 minutes from me. When I pointed that out to both the staff member and the ‘gentleman’ (because he is wearing a safari suit) neither of them were apologetic at all and said just one word, ‘can’t you adjust’? Worst, the lady staff supported him. In fact they didn’t steal my time alone but also that of those waiting their turn behind me. The gentleman walked out nonchalantly and in fact, I suspect, triumphantly.

There are times, when you are standing in a long queue to buy your platform ticket at the railway station and have already unwound in the queue for about 15 minutes and the guy/gal at the counter closes the counter, just when you reach it, to run to the loo. After s/he returns you have noticed it was after about a 20 minute gap. S/he just stole your 20 minutes.

There are also possibilities of others putting their hands into the same counter by swarming around you in the queue and stealing all your waiting time. This used to happen in cinema theatres of yore but after online bookings came, this has significantly reduced. Only in India, our excellent discipline enables us form any number of queues in any whichever way, out of just one queue.

You go to the ATM and the person before you in the ATM doesn’t come out in a jiffy. One wonders what ever these guys ponder in front of those machines. There were a couple of times I had to tell the guys that these are ATMs and not fortune telling machines. You lose time.

You would see this happening in lifts in public areas. When you are law abiding or disciplined and are standing in the long queues in front of a bank of lifts in large complexes, people pushing you back and getting into the lifts is a common practice.

You are not spared even in the airports. When you are trying to organise your mobile, phone, belt, watch, laptop etc into the trays, suddenly someone snatches away the tray in front of you and gives you a nasty sheepish smile showing his one up-manship. Then if there is no stock of those trays, you need to wait till some are brought as replenishment. This means the guy with the sheepish smile has just stolen your time.

The worst thing and time to happen is when you park your vehicle and by the time you finish your work and return you see that your vehicle is surrounded by indiscriminately parked and locked vehicles when you need to rush out. This could happen to you in parking spaces, in front of your gate or even in your apartment / condo complex. Like the Murphy’s law, only when the security guard ducks his head, the expert ‘time stealer’ parks his/her vehicle haphazardly and vanish into one of the myriad apartments. After that a hunt is to be mounted to find the ‘thief’.


Some people casually park in slots allotted to others and walk away. In our own apartment there were people not at all belonging to our apartments parking in our spots. Especially those idiots parking in front of gates don’t even appear to be thinking that there could be a medical emergency and vehicles need access to the roads. Regretfully, most of the new generation kids do not even seem to be applying their minds as their mind is ‘viced’ in between two earplugs almost all the time.

One of these weekends, try to figure out how much time has been stolen from you by these undisciplined, unabashed wretches of ‘time stealers’ and calculate the same with your average earnings so that you would know how much you have lost in life so far. And also try to estimate the total ‘time stolen’ from all citizens in the country for a day. You will go bonkers, I promise without hesitation.

You would note that for a change I have not mentioned the havoc brought in by and time lost due to activities on the FAWNG (Facebook, Amazon, WhatsApp, Netflix and Google) out of which Facebook and WhatsApp could steal other’s time but the rest only their own time which anyway is their own business. I am sure that some smart alec would say that even tormenting with blogs is stealing time! While I have to reluctantly agree, one always has a choice of ignoring and saving one’s own time and senses so to say! J

These ‘time stealers’ are more dangerous to our country than the most hard-core economic offenders as due to this endemic, the time of the entire country’s citizens is lost. There are times when people missed their buses, trains, flights and lost their opportunities in a fraction due to such characters.Now tell me, have you ever come across such ‘time stealers’?

There should be stringent laws, I wouldn’t hesitate suggesting caning as well, against such indiscipline. Discipline, has never been an average Indian’s forte. It’s about time the scenario changes and people start identifying the value of their time first and the other’s time next.

My vote would be for such a party who not only promises but shall take action against such ‘time stealers’.

Well, what about yours? Pray tell me!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 56 'Bucking the Wastage'


Of late, I note, that every other time I fly out of or fly into Chennai Airport, the airport ground darsan time seems to be as much as the flying time in itself.

And so was the case again on the 28th August, 2019 when I was flying out of Chennai. The airplane was parked really ‘yonder’ from the main buildings of the airport and the bus ride from the airport’s buildings to the flight took literally over 22 minutes.

But then, hold it! My cribbing now is not about this airport darsan. I liked it, I have to say, because, there is no other way you would be able to see the airport so much in its vastness. I may like it for some time to come; till it becomes a habit and then the ‘diminishing marginal utility’ would be setting in.

No siree, my cribbing is not at all about this, but the wasting away of so many grounded airplanes. During this particular ‘conducted tour’ of ours, the other passengers and I could see at least 7 airplanes belonging to the ‘Kingfisher Airlines’ of various makes, steadily rotting away (at least they did look so) because of disuse and due to nature’s vagaries. A bit far away and tucked away into an almost ‘un-seeable’ corner of the airport, sat as many more flights huddled in disuse. Though I cannot swear, the insignia on these airplanes did look like to be that of ‘NEPC Airlines’ which breathed its last in 1997. They could also be of ‘Paramount Airways’ which ceased its operations in 2010.

And I am talking of just one airport. If we have to put together such airplanes jettisoned across all the airports in the country, imagine the amount of ‘non-productive assets’ (I am consciously mentioning them not as non-performing assets, though that phrase also should be adept in this case).

The point I wish to make out is that these airplanes cost a bomb and instead of laying them waste, can’t the government find a way to put them into use and thus save precious property and also foreign exchange?

For instance, if the government could bring in some sort of a legislation which could find a path between the promoters, new buyers and legalities so that assets would not rot and nobody has to suffer much in the process. A win-win-win situation is just waiting to be created.

In fact, we note that not only airplanes, but also several other types of vehicles seized on criminal cases etc., are found to rot on the roads, most of the times so badly vandalized that they cannot shed an iota of evidence for which they are seized and ‘preserved’ near the government establishments.

Is it not time to seriously sit, ponder and decide a way forward in such cases to buck the wastage?

Pray tell me! I have to confess that I am quite na├»ve in this type of matters!  

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 55 'The binding and the bondage'


                                                                         ‘Irunthaalum marainthaalum peyar solla vendum,                                                                                     Ivar pola yaar enru oor solla vendum…’                                                                                                                                                      
[Existing or departed, the name we should say; who is like this man, the town should say]                     --- Part of a Tamil song by lyricist ‘Vaali’ for the Tamil film ‘Panam Padaithavan’

(Excepting one, all the photographs are courtesy my brother and two sisters – thanks to them)


A chance conversation with an Uber cab driver poked the memories nest.

The months of June-July are significant in the lives of the school going students in India. For some of them it could be a new school, new premises, new classmates and new friends. But, for almost all of them the teachers and a new set of books are something inevitable and to look forward to.

I went down into my own memory lane of about half a century ago. Those were the times when schools did not yet become so nastily commercial where the books, the uniform and in some schools nutritious food, extra coaching are directly provided (match making is indirectly facilitated) by the schools and in the schools.

The schools I was attending, for my elementary classes, and later the high school, had a list of books – both text and note books - prescribed for the coming academic year and usually we were always directed to one shop to get them – Tirumalai Stores near Panagal Park in T. Nagar in Madras (now Chennai). Normally about a week time is given for the students to buy and to attend classes with all the books.

For me that one week of respite used to have mixed emotions. I was happy that for about a week the donkey load of books (regretfully most of the Indian schools, to this day, have not got out of this practice of over burdening the school going children with a lot of books; making them load donkeys if they study well and if not, literally asses) will be absent and I can go hands free excepting for my lunch box that my mother insisted I carry on all days – come hell, heaven or high water; and more happy after I had to take the new books to the school to show off (more of this later as the blog progresses, please).

The shop, Tirumalai Stores, was wedged in between the famous bakers McRennet and the then equally popular The Parklands Hotel both emanating wafts of confectionery from one side and condiments from the other. Sadly all three do not exist there today at the location, giving way to greedy mega-shops that have been systematically predating on smaller shops and not so very well doing businesses (if the government’s plans fructify, the lung space of Panagal Park itself may be extinct soon giving in way for a multi level car park, catering to the ever increasing greedy commercial establishments who have literally killed the joy of the residents in this area; forever).

It used to be like a jamboree at the book shop. Being a shop that used to cater to more than half a dozen schools in the vicinity, the evening hours during the June-July months used to be crazy with a mad rush at the place.

There used to be a large barred window where at one corner, a cashier used to sit and collect lists of books needed, from the students/parents and handover the lists to the helpers inside to fetch the books with one hand while collecting cash for the delivered books with the other. From the other corner of the window, the helpers used to deliver bundles of books by calling out the names and standards of classes.

Indians, ever since attaining independence, or for that matter even earlier perhaps had rarely shown any respect for orderliness or queues, I have to say. We are like the air and can be anywhere and everywhere. Where others form one queue we are capable of forming several – at least three or four.

So there used to be a melee at the window with parents and students jostling with each other trying to get the attention of the cashier and the helpers, all shouting at the same time. It was sheer madness. Yet, there appeared to be a method in the madness, for rarely did the shop guys err in any of their deliveries.

Those students who got their bundle of books and other paraphernalia (brown sheets to cover the books, black and sets of colour pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, those who are getting into larger classes getting a pen and/or a geometry box and a sheet of labels to paste on the books after covering them with the brown sheets), moved away from the window along with their parents.

If you are getting a ‘Globe’ Geometry box (Camlin entered the business arena much later) costing about Rs.5.00 means that you are from an affluent family. The rest of the guys used to make do with a normal box that might not have cost more than Rs.2.00. Getting a pencil with an inbuilt eraser is real fancy and which is very often prone to be knocked off in the class.

Getting a fountain pen for the first time, along with a bottle of ‘Quink’ ink (of Parker – later this brand was called ‘Chelpark’ but over a period this brand gave way to another one called ‘Bril’. But my first and last love for ink always had been for ‘Quink’ only) was a thrill that cannot be described in simple words.

The first time I am to get a pen, my father didn’t buy a pen at the shop much to my consternation, but he got only the ink bottle. When I reminded him he just smiled and did not answer. I was much disappointed and put up a sulking face till we reached home. There was no pen the next day, or on the following days. I was getting worried and was nagging my mother as I dared not ask my father directly. I loved him alright but I was more scared of him those days. Its only when I became a full fledged adult (hmm… some say I am still child like and some say that I am childish) that I became more and more closer to him.

My mother also religiously used to remind him and his answer was always a silent smile. His smile was the best in him as he was quite a handsome man and a smiling he, was a great scene to see.

Well, coming back to the book shop; after receiving the books bundle, the parents used to stand away from the issue window and keeping the books on the carrier of the bicycles, scrutinise all text books page by page for any missing or improperly printed/cut pages and the straightness of the wooden scale/ruler.

The students were always worried about the cover pictures of the note books and the designs of the labels. Every student wanted his / her books to be unique. I think the boys were more finicky about these than the girls. Either the girls, many of them, didn’t really care or didn’t find it important to vocalise their concerns in this regard.

If there are any pages missing or not printed properly, the parents used to immediately draw the attention of the shopkeepers and claim for a replacement and once issued with a replacement check that or those too for any anomalies.

The whole process used to take anything between a half hour and three hours. Some parents used to go the next day morning and take the books leisurely and in peace as the students were attending the school at that time   

I rue that I was too young to study the process as now, when I look back, I think that it was a great case study of a well oiled ‘Project Management’.

Now, while all the students used to have their books neatly covered by brown sheets, my books and later my siblings’ were always unique, thanks to our dear father.

He used to pedal his bicycle from his office, pick me up at my school from where we used to ride doubles to the shop and after getting all the books at the shop, pedal back home together.

He then used to take his evening bath (he always liked to bathe twice a day for a long time), offer his evening prayers, have dinner and start opening the books and start measuring the sizes and take notes.

Next day he used to visit ‘Swarnam Stores’ the textile shop, in Pondy Bazaar (since defunct and extinct), where we usually bought our clothes from regularly and get discarded thick card boards (which come as packing for rolling shirt and trouser cloth) from them along with a meter or a half of Calico and what is called as 'Gada cloth' locally, which normally is an off white, unbleached coarse cloth.

My father was working in the production departments for the film industry initially and used to stock at home what is called ‘marble paper’ which used to be available in pink and green colours with a lot of varnished sheen on the surface.

The next day evening he would cut all the cardboards to the size of the text books, cut the marble sheets, cut sufficient strips of the Gada Cloth for the spines of the books and ask my mother to cook some Maida flour (something like the cake flour) mixed with a little of Copper Sulphate (CuSO4). The CuSO4 is to ensure longevity of the books and to protect from predatory insects. No wonder our books lasted over 50 years or so.

He then used to select some good designed pictures from old calendars and cut them to the size of the front as well as the back of the book to form the inner layer – two of them for each book – one for pasting to the board and one for leaving as an attractive inner cover and then stitch the papers to the book firmly with good quality twine. Then he used to paste the strip of the gada cloth carefully to the already cut boards with the cooked maida flour which now becomes the glue and also apply the same evenly without any bulges anywhere to the sides of the front and back boards as well as to one of the stitched layers of the calendar paper on the book. Like this, he used to patiently bind book after book and keep all the books under a wooden plank and place a large grinding pestle on top of the plank and go to sleep.

 Grinding Pestle Picture Courtesy: Google Search Engine

The next day I could see lovely bound books.

The year when I had to start using a fountain pen and on the day when I started taking the new books to the school, my father called me and asked me what I was going to do for a pen. Angry that I didn’t get a pen and scared to ask him, I remember giving him a dreadful look with eyes bulging with tears. Then he laughed and took a box from the cup-board where he used to keep a choice of brand new unused pens as a collection and asked me to take one that I fancied.

I took a lovely pen and lost it in the school on the first day itself. Someone knocked it off from me. The next day my father got me an ordinary pen that cost something that was lesser than one rupee.

This book, perhaps, is about 50 years old now.

The Telugu Essay text book I must have used circa 1967-69 and still available in our house

It may be hard for many to believe, but in the entire city only I and later my siblings used to have such wonderful and colourfully bound text-books. A few students used to get their books bound by professional binders but those books clearly looked machine made and never had the same charm as those my father did for me and for us.

Most of my classmates used to wait to see what I produce this time every year. Yet, I realise today that my father never checked with me once as to what was the reaction of my teachers or my classmates to his fine handiwork. He wanted to give us books that would last long and that is all his objective was.

Later it became difficult for my father to get hold of good calendar pictures so he used to use thick plain sheets. He also started using whatever unused or discarded cloth was available in the house for the spines.


The good thing about his binding was that at least students of three to four consecutive years (those days the syllabus never changed so frequently) could use them in almost the same condition unless anyone wanted deliberately to be careless.

This book was first bound for my first sister, used next year by my cousin brother and 
the next year or probably two years hence, used by my second sister

He collected the children’s magazine Chandamama in Telugu language from 1963 till almost Chandamama stopped publishing in Telugu and periodically bound six books for one bound each. In the 1970s he helped a budding publisher who was our neighbour and who brought out a competing children’s magazine called ‘Bommarillu’ (which also came out in several Indian languages), collected them from the inception and bound them too. Incidentally my first earnings of my life of a princely Rs.5.00 was for contributing to this magazine sometime in 1972 if I remember well and thus my first paid publishing was also this.

 The ‘Chandamama’ series from January to June 1964 -
This bound book collection was rebound by the professional binder but the pink marble sheet used by my father when he bound it first still exists and shows from behind.

One of the attractions for children, friends of mine and my siblings, in our house was these children’s magazines and the comics that I had collected. But, as a policy, the books were never lent to their homes. They can read at our home as long and as many they wished to, though.

The other rule was, the local inmates, that is my siblings and I can read the magazine when it arrives in the month, but can read the archives only when we had quarterly, half yearly and annual holidays. I so fondly remember looking forward to the holidays to read the repository of stories through these books. As soon as I wrote my last test / examination every year, I used to rush home, have lunch, take a Chandamama bind from the oldest, lie down on one of my dad’s camp cots and start reading the book till it is the next meal time (today I use many of these stories in my training sessions; thanks to the efforts to preserve them by my dad).

Due to this continuous use, some of the books were becoming slightly dog-eared and apparently I had brought in a professional binder to re-bind them. I don’t remember this, but my mother and my siblings reminded me that I brought in a professional binder to get these rebound. My father did not much like the work by the professional binder and somewhere from mid 1980s or so he stopped the binding work at home.

I had learnt this art from my father and could have done the binding too but neither did I have his penchant nor his patience for the work and sadly never did the same for my children – not even once!

My father need not have explicitly expressed his love and affection for us; but what he left behind is enough proof for us, for eternity; that he cared for us and loved us, in his own way. The books he preserved by binding are with us but he left us off from the bondage.

It’s been two years since he passed away on this day, the 14th July. Hope he is resting in peace, but knowing him, he is not the resting type and surely can’t be idle for long. I wonder each and every day, as to where ‘he’ could be now and what ‘he’ must be doing there, wherever. For me it is an obsession; looking forward to meeting him again!

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 54 ''For every 'D' there should be a 'C'"


 ‘The south Indian’s preferred staple food is rice’                                                                                                     --- Statutory note J

Hmm… I guess it started about a decade ago; with the arrival of my sister-in-law, my wife’s elder sister for a visit to our home.

She was on medication and was supposed to be going a bit easy on the salt side. Apparently she was also on the verge of diabetes and so, in general, any food stuff that is white was to go against her health (though not on the palate). Well, is there a word for food racism, I started wondering!

For us Telugus, no food is considered real food if there is not adequate salt and an abundance of spices – you can bet your last dime upon.

Here I have to say two things – my dear wife is quite a culinary expert, who helped the puny me into becoming a mighty ‘he’ (an almost 40% growth in the weight index). But the flip side is that she is unnecessarily too health conscious. To make a long story short, my wife started reducing the salt quotient in all the dishes she started cooking from then on, not only for her sister’s sake but keeping the ‘wellness’ of the whole family in mind, she averred. This continued even after my sister in law’s short sojourn ended, leaving a long ordeal for us at home, in the wake.

The rest of us started cursing silently but, alas and at last, started getting used to the bland and mild stuff. After all no one in the world can survive going against the lady of the house. Over a period of time, yours truly also has been diagnosed for diabetes and the real food strangulation started.

Thanks to the food vigilantes in the house, the diabetic condition was almost reversed but now a new problem cropped up. Whenever I travel or visit friends / relatives, I have to dine outside and the strictures passed for food at home cannot be put into force in the other territories, naturally as the ladies of those houses have their own territorial rights.

And now even normal food outside started tasting too salty for me. So I have to add more and more rice to make the salt diluted and mild so that I can eat a few morsels comfortably. But now the use of white rice in excess, adds up to my diabetic condition and it has once again reversed from the earlier reversed state.

Whoever said ‘between the Scylla and Charybdis’ apparently never had rice and salt. Else I am sure he would have said ‘between the salt and the rice’.

In one stroke, I could understand in practice two important aspects, that I could not learn from Mr. Seshadri who was not only my lecturer but also my tuition guide for accounts, for over three years, some four decades ago – The ‘Newton’s law for accountancy’ ‘for every debit there should be a credit or for every credit there should be a debit’ and the importance of ‘reversal entries’. I also started understanding the double entry system of accounts and of Karma too better now. Sigh…

What to do except chanting;

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

and looking forward to better and spicier days! 
After all man lives and dies in hope!

Well, folks, what do you think? Please, do tell me! 

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic), Shukriya (Urdu), Bohoma Sthuthiyi (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai),Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish),Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (TokPisin of Papua New Guinea).

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy
Chennai, India