Mother of all Jokes!

Two Middle East mothers are sitting in a cafe chatting over a plate of tabouli and a pint of goat’s milk..

The older of the two pulls a bag out of her purse and start’s flipping through photos. They start reminiscing.

This is my oldest son, Mujibar. He would have been 24 years old now.’

Yes, I remember him as a baby’ says the other mother cheerfully.

He’s a martyr now though‹ the mother confides Oh, so sad dear’ says the

And this is my second son, Khalid.He would have been 21.’

Oh, I remember him,’ says the other happily, he had such curly hair when he
was born.’

He’s a martyr too’ says the mother quietly.

‘Oh, gracious me . . . ‘ says the other.

‘And this is my third son. My baby. My beautiful Ahmed.

He would have been 18′, she whispers.

Yes’ says the friend enthusiastically, ‘I remember
when he first started school’

He’s a martyr also,’ says the mother, with tears in her eyes.

After a pause and a deep sigh, the second Muslim mother
looks wistfully at the photographs and, searching for the right words, says

They blow up so fast, don’t they!!!

The Wildest Thing That I Did In My Youth.

Welcome to another post of the Friday Loose Bloggers’ Consortium when eleven of us post on the same topic chosen by one of us. Today’s topic has been chosen by Gaelikaa, who must be pleased as punch with the fix that she has put me in. Please do visit Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Anu and Ginger to see ten other views on the same topic. Some of these bloggers may be preoccupied with examinations, family problems and/or romance, so be a little indulgent in case they do not post or post late.

The topic has been chosen by my Rakhi Sister Gaelikaa about who I am still learning and I eagerly look forward to what wild things she was up to in her youth. In my case, to rank one as the wildest thing I ever did in my youth would be an impossibility. There were so many!

The first one that readily comes to mind is the time that I almost lost my life. I was just about 13 starting my terrible teens, when we went on a mid sea picnic on a catamaran. For my Western readers, the catamaran that I am talking about is the original. Simply a few logs tied together. In Tamil, it is kattu for tied and maram for logs. Even today, it is used by Indian fishermen for inshore fishing with a single sail. This is what catamarans here look like.

Our family had some salt pans along the Tamil Nadu coast and our Patriarch was quite friendly with the fisherfolk of that area. He organized the mid sea picnic for us and we set out on two catamarans for a few hours of unusual outing. We had a mid sea lunch from packed food that we had taken and all in all it was an exciting and interesting experience. We were sitting in water and none of us were dry throughout the voyage.

On our return, as we neared the landing point, about 200mts from the shore, the older boys, who had had a lot of experience swimming in the sea in that area, dived off the catamarans and started to swim towards the shore. I was a reasonably good swimmer but my experience was restricted to swimming in swimming pools and just bathing in the sea. Seeing the older cousins swimming as though they were just in a swimming pool, I too dived off and found that I was being pulled in all kinds of directions by the waves and the tide. I also lost sight of the shore in the waves and started to panic. I could vaguely hear the girls in our catamaran screaming and before I could drown, I was held up from the back by a fisherman who calmed me down and told me not to panic and he gently swam me back to the catamaran. That I am around 55 years later to write about it is due entirely to that anonymous fisherman, who was rewarded by my uncle. The same uncle rewarded me with some not so affectionate clouts to my ears out of relief that I did not drown.

From the time I was old enough to get driving license, I have had some sort of vehicle or the other either owned by me or available for my exclusive use. I started off with motorcycles and scooters and the first one that I owned was an LD model Lambretta scooter.

MIne was white and black and was promptly named by me as “My Love – Chiquita” written on the inside panel. Here is another photo of me on my scooter with a great friend of mine Partap Singh on his Red Indian motorcycle.

We were a bunch of wild Hyderabadi young men with plenty of hard earned money in our pockets with a passion was motor cycle racing. Mind you, I am talking about the years 1961 and 1962 when no one wore helmets and you could count the number of scooters and motorcylces on the city roads in your two hands. Partap was and to the best of my knowledge continues to be an amazing mechanic who could tune and hot rod two wheelers into performing like jet planes. We would buy, refurbish and sell for profit motorcycles for a side business and while waiting for sucker buyers, race on week ends at an abandoned second world war airstrip out of town.

We raced Norton, Triumphs, BSAs, Indians, Harley Davidsons, BMWs AJSs, Royal Enfields and souped up Lambretta scooters. Who do you reckon was the fastest? It is a no brainer. I would simply, quickly get into top gear, open the throttle to the fullest and sit. I have had a few falls and it is again divine intervention that I am alive today to write about those wild days.

The next wild and perhaps the most dangerous of all that I had experienced till then was the next episode. Fate made me relocate to Chennai, then known as Madras in late 1962. I had my younger brother Arvind living there, also with his own Lambretta scooter. He was more sedate and would not race for fun or money but was game for some stunts. Since the scooter was meant for mounting from the front, the two of us decided to see if we could change our status from rider to pillion rider while the scooter was being driven and we succeeded. The few moments when both of us would be on either side of the scooter, one moving forward to sit and drive and the other to move from the driver’s seat to the pillion, were the highest adrenalin pumping experiences I have ever had. Mind you, this had to be done on a fairly busy main road, mostly on the road running parallel to the sea shore where the road was wide enough for such stunts.

There were many other wild things which I have done in my youth and given an opportunity, would do again. A sample on water and a few on land given here, but alas,nothing in the air! Regrets? No, not any.

Post Bomb Blast Pune.

Gaelikaa suggested that I write about Pune after the Bomb blast of the 13th February and I had promised her that I would.

The death toll has gone up to sixteen. Some more are still in critical conditions in some of Pune’s hospitals. Some sixty people were injured and a final tally is yet to be announced. The most significant development post blast was that all the city’s blood banks got many volunteers to donate blood and now there is enough stock to meet a few more blasts.

As always is the case, the authorities lock the stables after the horses have bolted. The German Bakery and the Chabad House both have barricades and surveilance. The Osho Ashram has been provided with sand bags for reinforcement of their walls. In the meanwhile, the bombers have in all probability gone back to Pakistan. At least that is what most Punekars believe.

One politician came up with the most admirable suggestion. He suggested that all politicians give up their security detail so that the police force can go back to do what they are supposed to do instead of providing cosmetic security to the politicos.

The top police honcho of the city, wanted women to stop covering their faces so that all the surveilance cameras can catch their true identity. Pune’s women scooterists look like this specimen:

Apparently this is so that pollution does not affect their complexion. No ban has yet been announced and you can still see these ladies all over the place. Some of them may well be Metrosexual men too! Who knows?

There are also some other ladies who look like this one does:

These are not seen on scooters but quite why the top cop and other worthies have not said anything about these ladies is a matter for another post.

Some candle light meetings to promote peace and harmony were held by representatives of all religions with some short distance marches. The usual platitudes were spewed out.

Apart from these little snippets, nothing significant has happened. Life has returned to normal and partying in earnest has started over the last week end itself.

The Punekar is resilient. Does he have a choice?

Flipkart And My Adventure With Them.

Flipkart is an online book seller that I have been patronizing for the last ten months and have always had a very high opinion of their service and efficiency. I must have bought over thirty books from them so far. For the first time since I have been dealing with them, I received a book in a defective condition and I emailed them as well as spoke to them on the phone about the condition of the book.

I was advised by them that they will immeditely replace the book which they did and on my confirmation that I have received the replacement copy, they have arranged for the defective piece to be collected from my residence.

I am very impressed with their service but have decided not to patronize them in the future. The reason for this are two mails received from them. The first one about which I raised an objection started my annoyance with them. I wrote about the annoyance to them. I received a response from them in the same format for the mail from me to which I finally responded that I have decided not to deal with them any more. I had also used their “Contact” form on their website to convey my complaint and I received a response from one of their people to which I responded postively but after that there has been total silence from their end. I had also sent the complete thread of exchange of mails to one of their promoters who too has decided not to respond to my mail. I copy paste below the relevant mails. The last mail received is on the top and the rest lead up to it.

Dear Mr. Rudrapatna,

It will give me great pleasure to give you as much time as you want. I am available on my mobile phone xxxxxxxxxxxxx, or landline xxxxxxxxxxxxx
As far as I am concerned, there is no unpleasantness. There is simply a decision taken when I was insulted twice by Mr. Kanth.


Ramana Rajgopaul

From: Tapas Rudrapatna
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2010 19:18:45 +0530
To: Ramana Rajgopaul
Subject: Re: [~19947]: [Contact:Other Questions and Comments] – Poor response to mail from customer

Dear Mr. Rajgopaul Sir,

I understand that a few of the exchanges between Mr. Premkanth and Yourself have led for a certain degree of unpleasantness.

While that is indeed unfortunate, I will attempt not to interfere with the how, what, when and why. Nor am i writing to persuade your loyalty and all that it entails. What is more critical for me to understand is how individuals and organisations are perceived. As you rightly mentioned, it’s the “corrective steps” that will be my focus.

Sir, I will be highly obliged if you can spare me some time. I cannot speak for Flipkart (the organozation), but your thoughts will indeed be valuable to me as an individual.


On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 6:58 PM, Flipkart Support wrote: Posted on: 21 Feb 2010 5:30 PM

Customer contact received:

Date: 2010-02-21 17:25:18


From: rrajgopaul

Subject: [Other Questions and Comments] Poor response to mail from customer

Message: I had addressed a mail to you on the 13th inst as follows:
“Dear Mr. Kanth,

I am glad that you will replace the book and also appreciate your apologies.

I do however wish to take issue with you on your addressing me as Ramana.  I am 67 years old and am reasonably sure that you cannot be older than my son who is 39. I am very likely older than your parents.  Our culture, to which you belong, extends more respect and regard than the Western model where strangers can be addressed by their first name.

It would be a good idea to be sure that such familiarity is with permission before first names are so casually used.

Shall we say that it is an one man crusade to ensure some semblance of formality in communications?

Ramana Rajgopaul

I have sent another mail today as follows:

“Dear Mr. Kanth,

I have already mailed to you yesterday that I have received the replacement copy.  You may arrange to collect the defective piece at your convenience with prior appointment as I need to be at home to hand it over to the courier.

I thank you for the prompt action taken and really appreciate the service rendered by you.

It however saddens me to advise you that you have just lost a what I would consider, ‘good ‘ customer.  I shall henceforth purchase my books online from other online sellers. You might like to check your records to see what it translates in terms of turnover to your organization.

Ramana Rajgopaul

I may not be a very important customer, but you might just like to find out why even a small customer chooses to opt out of a good online seller and take corrective steps.

As a business, it is Flipkart’s privilege to do business with me or not. It is at the same time, mine too whether to do business with them or not despite their excellent service. The point however is that a good business model basing itself on a method of communication that is totally un-businesslike in the Indian context, is a sad spectacle.

Or am I being archaic and not ‘with it’?

Pakistan And The Taliban

Here are two news articles which show something that has been obvious to Indians for long and only now being brought to the knowledge of the general public of the West whose tax money has been spent on Pakistan for many decades.

The conclusion that I come to after reading both is that the establishment in Pakistan, or at least a very influential part of it, is fully aware of and supports the Taliban for its own strategic reasons. This has of course meant that India has been at the receiving end of terrorism but more importantly for my readers from the West, their soldiers in AfPak theater are losing their lives due to the shenanigans of a force supported and encouraged by elements within the Pakistani establishment.

The first one is from an eminent Pakistani columnist Irfan Hussein.

The next one is by Dexter Filkins of the New York Times.

Hospitality In The USA And India

My blog friend Lizwi from South Africa had this to say in his comments on my post “Visitor”. “Wow! I feel greatly honoured. I can assure you that what you say in this post is exactly what you always do to us, your online visitors. I doubt if my visitors (online and offline) can say the same about me. I really need to work on my social skills. This is a challenge I must accept. What do you think about US hospitality after the 09/11 event?”

I responded -“Lizwi, thank you for your very kind words.

I think that I shall write a post on the hospitality of the US after 9/11.”

Having given that undertaking I have been trying all this while, two weeks, to get some information on the subject and in the meanwhile got hit with Pune’s own 13/02. All indications are that the Pune blast was the handiwork of islamic militants and now, I am in a quandry.

I have made no secret of my anti terrorist sentiments and have also said that at various times, my islamophobia shoots up. As I write this, it has not come down after the Pune blast as, the rhetoric from across our border has gone shriller.

Some soul searching is called for. A close relative of mine chose not to sell his used car to a Muslim despite being offered a higher price because, he could not take the risk of that car being used for some nefarious purpose and being traced back to him. Land lords are not willing to let out accomodation to Muslims and Housing societies in India are not prepared to transfer ownerships to Muslims.

On an average, I get three emails everyday from Hindu organizations and sympathizers about Hindutva and anti Muslim propaganda. Others say that they get more. My Muslim neighbour applied for renewal of her passport and had to undergo indignities that a fellow Hindu neighbour would not have had to.

Everything that seems odd to non Muslims gets highlighted, even by me. Just see my post on prayer time and HE The Ambassador

So, Lizwi, post 9/11, Indian Muslims who go to the USA including some famous actors and politicians have to undergo stringent immigration checks and since the officials in the USA do not know the difference between a Hindu, a Sikh and a Muslim from his name, as long as he is brown, he is subject to indignities there just as the Indian Muslim in India is finding it difficult in India today. So much so that many things are being written about the problem, and slowly the Indian Muslim intelligentia is taking courage to come out openly against the extreme forms of Islam that is being brought into India by wahabi schools financed by Saudi Arabia. Among the recent writings, I found one by Najeeb Jung very interesting and you can read him here.

Before the Pune blast, we had our Mumbai carnage 26/11 just over year ago. Many guests to our country lost their lives. In our Pune blast, injured/dead guests included 12 foreign nationals -five Iranians, two each from Sudan and Nepal, one each from Yemen, Taiwan and Germany. As an Indian host, what should I tell these guests and their families?

Truth be told Lizwi, hospitality everywhere, including in India, is becoming selective in an atmosphere of violence and intolerance being spread by forces beyond your and my control and understanding. Everyone says “better be safe than sorry.” So, if guests in the USA are finding it difficult, I can understand why the hosts are being difficult.