Saturday, December 24, 2016

Aahkshhooo! The Sneeze

My father was a rather loud sneezer.  And he has passed it on.  When he sneezed sometimes, my grandmother would get rattled and there was a comment from my mother or aunt. So he used to demonstrate [with an unreal sneeze] how his colleague Mr. Dastur's sneezed... just an almost unheard funny sound near his vocal chord!  That was another extreme.

In my workplace room we were three. My colleague Manju was my competitor which rattled the lady colleague who sometimes got angry but did not show it.  She would tell us "Why don't you tell me just before it was coming, cannot you control it?"  We always told her "I'd love to, but there was no time for that, Madam."  When my sneeze happened loudly most of the time, it would get the appreciation from Manju and when he performed better, I would praise him profusely and wait for the reaction of the lady.  At times she would not be there.  "She would have got really angry at that one!" we would look at each other and imagine. 

Yes, sometimes we know it is coming.  It develops slowly, but we are busy enjoying the beautiful work going inside the nostril - the moment cannot be missed.  Our eyes are half closed and the mouth half open - someone who is nearby can make out from the face that a sneeze is brewing up!  "A...aa.a.aaaa....."  But then, all of a sudden, it explodes ".... Kshooeee!  

I am on my scooter, when the 'Ahckshoo' happens.  People look in my direction with what-was-that-sound look.  There is that something that tickles that one tiny part in the nostrils.  There are mischievous youngsters who have troubled their room-mates in the hostel tickling with a piece of thinly rolled paper or thread in the nostrils while they are asleep! 

My other colleague Murthy used to present his sneeze whenever we wanted, free. We would ask for one esp. when we went out of the building into the sun on our way to the canteen, a furlong away.  Murthy used to say "Okay, wait, take this?" He would look towards the sun blinking in a funny way, his facial muscles contracting weirdly, then "Aksheeee", not loud, but a normal one.  Then a smile. He had this knack of getting the Sun to tickle that something in his nostril. I think we can do it too, it is somewhat psychosomatic! They say the sun can trigger a sneeze.  But nothing can beat Soapnut powder.  Just open a box of it and take the nose close!  

At home I also get comments on the loud sneeze. What to do, it is my nature, I argue!  "Can't you control yourself and let it out softly?"  There we go, same request!  I try to be musical dividing the sneeze into two sounds with different pitch and even end up with a long drag, but still they are not impressed!

The best and my most effective sneeze happened in 1995.  Our cricket team was traveling in a bus from Trichy to Kumbakonam. Most of us, including me were in the back seat where the door was.  All was well until there was a great explosion.  I still do not know myself from where it came and how it came, in such suddenness!  It was my sneeze!!  Our eyes always close the moment the sneeze happens and the moment my eyes opened, I saw people in front of me turning in the direction of explosion asking "Yenna, yenna adu?" in Tamil [What, what was that?]  My team mates who were near me were also aghast with a "What-happened-look."  The explosion had even shocked the driver who pushed the brake and almost stopped.  Everyone soon realized it was just a loud sneeze and not a bomb.  They told the driver "Vannu ille, vannu ille, po, po" [Nothing, nothing, go on, go on.].  My team mates started laughing but it was no laughing matter for me.  It was the first sneeze of tens that signaled the onset of a bad cold!!  Luckily, I played in all the matches [all six days of half day each] and even contributing well to the team's fine performance, despite the tiredness [being young] and the hot weather there. The cold ran its normal duration. My sneeze did not break the Guinness record for the loudest!  May be some other time!

At home when someone sneezed once, my grandmother immediately told "Shathayushi" [Live a hundred  years] and then waited for the second one to follow.  If it did, then she would tell "PoorNaayushi" [Full life].  Somewhat the equivalent of "Bless you."  One must bless the other with long life when the other sneezes!  `Dheergaayushmaan bhava' [Sanskrit].  The sneezer would say 'Excuse me.' as a show of 'good manners', a western tradition.  I do not know if the one who farts also asks for an excuse!

There are several superstitions the sneeze is tagged with.  One sneeze is 'bad omen', two is good and so on.  They say that a sneeze must not be prevented, but it can be controlled... if there is time! The funny feeling is when we know a sneeze is brewing slowly and is about to come but just wanes away! Then we give the nose a good rub! 

Wikipedia says: A sneeze, or sternutation, is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa. The function of sneezing is to expel mucus containing foreign particles or irritants and cleanse the nasal cavity.

The air from a human sneeze can travel at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more -- another good reason to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze -- or duck when you hear one coming your way.  

  Cartoons show dentures flying away on the sneeze!  Seriously, those who wear should be careful.

Enjoy this short video clip of my favourite comedians: 

AAAAH.........CCHHOOOOOO!!!
Bless you!

A tribute to Pillai, the Boss.

Hot-tempered, hard working, workaholic bosses are always a pain in the neck esp. for his subordinates in workplaces.  More so when the boss himself is a 'Yes Master' and a favourite to his superior!  One such, Pillai, headed our department for 15 years till he retired in 2001 much to the relief of many in our department.  But then the tiger in him had meowed, nay, mellowed a lot in his last three years in service, thanking and showing 'crocodile appreciation' even for simple tasks completed, gestures never seen from him before!  I was one of his targets to show off his official power, but this target was created by the cunning tale-carriers that lurked around!  We knew he was good at heart but was disliked for his 'tale-listening ears', tempers and showing 'seat powers'.   His ego was high that had prompted one colleague to nickname him as 'Stiffneck', which also went with his 'chin drawn back' postures. 


A pencil cartoon I had made of Pillai. My work is good if the 'stiffneck' is noticed!

"You take retirement and go." said Pillai to one senior colleague Srinivasa Rao during a tiff.   This aroused Rao who replied shouting "I will retire you from this world!"  This happened in front of the many of us.  Pillai then had 20 years of service, Rao had a few left and I was just a few years new.  Rao was very happy that he 'gave back' to him something, he being a 'blue eyed boy' in the dept.!  Many things like this used to go on.   In some years, he was to occupy the 'boss chair'.



But work went on as usual and these kind of incidents was fun gossip for coffee breaks.  He was a jovial person at times, when he was not at work.

There was a period of tense years where he had made me a target for trivial allegations - the background and something that followed when I felt being at a 'dead end' finds a separate story - in another post:  Click  here.  Freedom and some peace resulted, that changed my ways at the workplace.


Pillai settled in his Kerala home town immediately after he retired in 2001.

I had prepared a poem and had presented to him as a 'scroll' for that occasion.  The poem lists many of his qualities and was read out by my colleague.  Here it is:

THE PILLAI WE KNEW

Our Sri Pillai lays down office at the end of March,
To Sri Prabhu he will pass on the torch.

As spearhead of TT and B Development,
He brought laurels for the Institute's betterment.

His great virtue has been the art of conversation,
Which fully deserves our appreciation.

When there was no question of an agreement,
He outwitted the other in the argument.

His forte was his courage and wisdom in decision making,
The speed with which he did so was truly amazing.

Working with him had been mostly a pleasure,
The rest of the time it was pure pressure.

With the pen he was ever ready to sign,
Many a time, he had to 'draw a line'.

The bell switch will no longer feel his fretful finger,
But those typical "ting-ting ting-tings" will always linger.

The engaged telephone at the other end drew him nuts,
And his own, suffered from bruises and cuts.

When situations made us feel his presence,
We wished for his temporary absence.

Up until the time he crossed well over fifty,
He was the Chairman of Doorvas Committee.

Saviour faire had become one of his top attributes,
Also to all his other good ones, we pay tributes.

What we all usually saw was Pillai the taskmonger,
But the real Pillai happens to be a humdinger.

Le'im settle at Cochin, Calicut or wherever,
Let health and happiness be with him and family forever.

"Colleagues", 29th March, 2001
* * * * * * 

In May 2016 or dept. got the information that Pillai had passed away. He was 75.
May his soul rest in peace.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

N.S. Sitaram - tribute to a teacher

On Saturday 14th May, 2016, I passed very close to the house of my high school teacher NSS [N.S.Sitaram] on the way to the market.  There were thoughts of stopping by for a minute to say a respectful hello to him. But I did not. I had been longing to meet, pay respects and take his photo, but kept procrastinating.  Our houses are not very far apart, may be one kilometre.
The evening paper of 16th May had this to shock me:


It was terrible news considering what I failed to do just two days ago.  He had died on Sunday.

Sarada Vilas High School [for boys] is an old institution with a very fine reputation through its dedicated teachers who had moulded characters and imparted great knowledge and culture to its pupils, some of whom becoming famous nationally and internationally.  



2009 photo of our school. [Click to enlarge]

NSS was one among the great teachers who had served there for a long period of time and retired as Head Master.  My father and uncle were also students in that school around the mid 1940s, but it may be before the time NSS joined. When I joined in 1970, NSS was the Asst. Head Master. When I passed out from 10th, he had succeeded Sri M.N.Lakshminarasimhaiah as Head Master. His signatures are on my Admission Ticket as well as Marks Card. 



NSS came on his bicycle clad in a simple mull-cloth ಕಚ್ಚೆ ಪಂಚೆ [white dhoti], leather sandals, light gray 'close-collared' coat, old but neat, worn on a white, long tailed, full-sleeved shirt, the same length of the coat.  His headgear was a black ಟೋಪಿ [stiff cap] and he wore a wrist watch.  His fair-face had features one had to appreciate.  His eyes required a pair of spectacles for short-sight.  The costume was typical of the older generation Mysorean 'school masters'.  We were fortunate to have been students of this 'last batch' of them.  

I try to roughly show how NSS appeared.


[Or did he wear an open collared coat that exposed the two shirt buttons?]

The cardboard headgear used to be like this [without the dark band shown here]:
Click on the image for larger view.

It was a delight to see his writing on the blackboard, the letters forming neatly, equal in size and uniformly white.  He held his chalk softly and never seemed to apply any pressure as he wrote sum after sum.  It was also something as much appreciated as his teaching.

NSS' forte was Mathematics, but used to fill in with some English or Science subject occasionally when that teacher was on leave.  He used to take Algebra which most students remember for his fine method of making the difficult subject to be understood easily [I admit I was an exception!].

He was a very lovable and approachable teacher, mild mannered but strict.  When NSS walked in there would be silence.  He was never armed with a stick for lashing [like MRK], or needed to slap any boy [like KRK] if the homework was not completed or some sum was wrongly answered or someone was not attentive in the class.  He would correct it so that the pupil learnt.  NSS was never one to get teased or his dhoti pulled by mischievous boys, [we heard they did it to one VSS who also came in a dhoti] but was one who had commanded respect through his dignity and quality as a teacher.  Yet, on the lighter side, he had been nicknamed in Kannada for fun, like other teachers' initials also, as ನೊಣ ಸಾಯಿಸೊ ಶೂರ [Fly killing expert] to expand his initials of NSS.

The last I met NSS was about 5-6 years ago.  He had said "86" when I asked his age.  He had been on his walk on Krishnaraja Boulevard when I was on my bicycle on my way home.  I had the opportunity to walk with him pushing my bicycle along for a long way, while we talked on a few subjects, also of moral values, teaching standards and the teachers of my time.  I had told him I would take him on the scooter to his contemporary PV's house one day.  This never happened and PV also passed away last year.  He was our history teacher.

"Wow, our NSS", I used to mentally exclaim on seeing him walk leisurely in front of our house and along the calmer streets in the area, clad in his simple white dhoti and white shirt.   At times I went closer to be seen and bowed the head to greet.  He had mentioned why he had chosen the time for his walk which was an hour before noon - low density of traffic.  I remember him having mentioned of his normal health and kept himself active with a long walk daily.  He used to be in my thoughts often, because of some unexplainable, special admiration and impression.  He had known my grandfather also.  About 10 years ago we wanted to put our daughter for maths tution with him, but it did not work out.  I had gone to his house for this and had taken the opportunity to get his blessing by prostrating at his feet as an old student.
Another great old timer now joins light, aged 91.
May his soul rest in peace. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Doing a 'Krishna'

Brothers Krishna and Venkatesh lived [until recently] in their old house that faced the lovely Manuvana Park in Chamarajapuram.  It was across the road a hundred feet from 'Chandra Cafe', a popular landmark hotel which served tasty Masala Dosa and flavourful coffee.  Our connection since the early 70s was Tennis ball cricket.  We played for the same team later.  Our house was a hundred yards away, in the parallel road.  All of us are around the same age and so we had a good rapport that made us meet often.  

Venky is more fun loving than his elder brother.  The short temper of Krishna was well known. He has stopped tennis-ball-cricket matches a few times when he used to get angry in the midst of a game due to disagreement with the umpire's decisions and would walk out frowning, sometimes kicking the stumps in disgust and spoiling the spirit of others that led to abandoning games!  Hot blood days!

In our college days there was lot of time outside of 'study time'.  In fact, I cannot say if we had allotted a set hour for 'studies'.  In daylight it was some play or other and when it was dark, it was time for chatting, with friends.  This has given many enjoyable moments and memories.  It used to be in their house premises or ours.


Venky is in the forefront in 'bell bottom pants', a fad in that era.  Photo taken by me during our bicycle trip to Sommathpur in 1981. Krishna had not come.


Facebook grab of Krishna, a smiling one at that - after all, we mellow down with years!  I must never forget to mention that he was with me when the first scooter came home.  Two decades later he drove our first car home from the showroom, not to mention he was our wedding photographer as well.   
He used to meddle things, break, repair and learn.  I was fascinated by this because I am of this type!  He used to tear apart his bicycle to overhaul it.  When he had his scooter, he did the same and later his car.  So much was his interest in mechanics that he had a job related to it and continues to be in the same line, with distinction, in a reputed car showroom.  
So do not judge him just because he kicked the stumps and ran home! 

It was an evening, post dusk, in the early 80s.  Myself and Venky were sitting on the compound wall by the gate of his house, for a chatting session, which was very common in those days.  Inside, we had seen Krishna doing some work involving the strongest adhesive known to us, "Araldite".

After a long time, Krishna was done with his project.  It also meant we had spent that long there!  The gate and their main door were separated by a 30-feet walkway.  Krishna walks along here, holding a sheet of paper that was used for mixing the adhesive.  He was in a bid to dispose it off outside the gate.  He approached the left side of the gate to the low compound wall. We were sitting on the other side.  Krishna stretches out his hand well away from the compound, flicks his hand to get rid of the thing.  Since his fingers were also a little sticky, the paper did not properly detach instantly at the force of the flick.  It stuck that little bit longer, wobbled back and fell inside the compound, near his own feet!

Venky and I were watching this.  It was one absolutely funny scene, more because it was involving a character like Krishna.  The scene of him feeling annoyed and him having to re-do the act was a very hilarious sight to me and Venky!   Krishna achieved his goal, in slow motion as we started to laugh loudly almost instantly! This caused even more irritation to him. Krishna turned towards us and sprayed a few angry words and went back in to wash his hands!

We laughed and laughed so long that our sides cramped out and we gasped for breath!

Even now, after about 35 years, myself and Venky recall this scene and still laugh. I have to check with Krishna if he remembers it.
"Doing a Krishna": You throw away an object but it boomerangs only to fall back in, all in one action!

It has happened to me also many times esp. in my garden and I laugh at myself telling "I did a Krishna".  It is something like 'Doing a Mankad' [wiki link] in cricket.  It has become a mode of dismissing a batsman!

The Krishna scene is so strongly impressed that it seems impossible for it to fade from my memory!