I am blessed with some friends who do the unusual. One of them is Ashwani. He was reading Dan Brown’s Inferno and came across a number of instances of “Denial”. He pieced together a collage from that book and other sources, into a fascinating and coherent narration and sent it to me. Here it is.

“A subject that fascinates me – Denial.

The human mind has a primitive ego defense mechanism that negates all realities that produce too much stress for the brain to handle. It’s called denial.

People have heard of denial but don’t think it exists. But it’s very real. Denial is a critical part of the human coping mechanism. Without it, we would all wake up terrified every morning about all the ways we could die. Instead, our minds block out our existential fears by focusing on stresses we can handle – like getting to work on time or paying our taxes. If we have wider, existential fears, we jettison them very quickly, refocusing on simple tasks and daily trivialities.

A recent web tracking study of students at some Ivy League universities revealed that even highly intellectual users displayed an instinctual tendency towards denial. According to the study, the vast majority of university students, after clicking on a depressing news article about arctic ice melt or species extinction, would quickly exit that page in favour of something trivial that purged their minds of fear; favourite choices included sports highlights and celebrity gossip.

That’s why sometimes a situation/action that seems impossible is not impossible, just unthinkable.”

Thank you Ashwani.

Story 7. The Perquisite.

The Delhi that I visited recently is vastly different to the Delhi that I had lived in between 1980 and 1983. It is but natural, but one of the most cherished meetings that I had during my recent visit was to my old colleague and friend Jagdish. I actually took over from Jagdish as Regional Manager for North India and Jagdish stayed on in Delhi in a different position and was of great help to me professionally and in my personal life.

Jagdish can be recognised anywhere for his ready wit and sense of humour and great laughter. He and his equally delightful wife Asha had visited me in Pune last year and my readers can understand the bonds that tie the two of us despite the fact that I left the employment in that organisation in 1990 and Jagdish retired from it a few years later.

This story involves Jagdish and will give you a chuckle or two. During our meeting at Delhi, both Jagdish and Asha remembered this particular incident with great relish. Jagdish and Asha are real names and I do not have to hide their identity for the purpose of this post.

Our business was in the hands of some very old established firms of Delhi who were wholesalers. Almost all of them had migrated to Delhi from Peshawar which is now in Pakistan, at the time of partition and all of them had struggled hard to create a new life in India having lost everything that they had in Peshawar.

The Peshawari culture is characterised by its flowery language with great emphasis on politeness. Some of the phrases used are music to the ears of people who understand Urdu / Punjabi, which fortunately I do. Some typical phrases are peculiar to the Indian subcontinent where non blood relationships mean a great deal and a form of talking about them is almost poetic.

This story revolves around that kind of prose, which translated into English loses much of its charm but the humour will come across alright. I hope.

One of the Peshawari Sardars, insisted on giving a farewell cum welcome party at his home for Jagdish and me and we were commanded to bring our wives along. Jagdish informed me that this was something that I should not deny to maintain the good relations that he had so assiduously built with the Sardar over his long stint as Regional Manager there, and I agreed.

When we arrived at the venue, which was the Sardar’s home, it was to enter an old fashioned home with a front room directly opening on to the street, but on crossing which, one entered a courtyard with all four sides built up with rooms. As we entered, the Patriarch and his good lady welcomed the four of us in the anteroom with garlands and escorted us to the court yard where two rows of young Sardars and Sardarnis were lined up facing each other. At the foot of the lines three tables laden with fruits, dry fruits and a variety of snacks and one with the finest spirits and beer were invitingly arranged.

The Sardar indicated that they were his children, their spouses and grand children and then turned to Jagdish to invite him to introduce me to all the family. The subtle message being conveyed to me was that Jagdish was like a family member who knew all members of the family and that it was expected that I too would integrate myself with them in due course.

The beauty of the request was in the language used.

Sardar : Jagdish Saheb, please introduce the family to Rajgopaulji. (With a typical gesture with a flourish.)

Jagdish : Sardarji, they are your children, you introduce them.

Sardar : They are your children too. You do the honours.

Jagdish : Okay, if you insist, I shall do the honours.

Jagdish then took me by my arm and led me to each of the men standing there and without faltering even once, introduced me to each of them. Asha in the meanwhile was doing exactly the same thing with Urmeela among the womenfolk. This was and in many parts of India, still is the norm and it is only after a certain informality is established that the men are introduced to the womenfolk.

The Sardar proudly walked behind Jagdish and me and was very happy with Jagdish’s performance. At the end of the line, we were led to the three tables with the Sardar insisting on fixing the first drinks himself, and the women folk retired to their side of the house. As soon as I found myself alone with Jagdish, I asked him in all earnestness if this was part of the perks of being the Regional Manager, Delhi and Jagdish readily agreed that it was, but this was special as the Sardar and a few others will be happy to see the back of him and wish to celebrate his departure rather than a regular feature.

It was after the party was over and the four of us were in the car returning to our residences that Jagdish remarked that we would have a few more such parties to attend, one offering things better than the other. I again asked Jagdish about the perks when he finally got the joke after Asha the sharp one, got the nuance and explained in Punjabi to jagdish.

What You See Outside The Window.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

There is a field beyond all notions of right and wrong. Come, meet me there.
~ Rumi, poet and mystic (1207-1273)



A prayer that expresses what I wish to see outside my window.  Sadly, I suspect that it will remain just that, a wish.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, let the world awake.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore‘s Poem with slight modification.

The Mouse 2.

A friend of mine, also a classmate from the same class / school, who too knew Eli in his later avatar, called me up from Bengaluru this morning, after having read my The Mouse post. This is the same friend who had informed me in February that Eli had disappeared from sight.

Eli has not disappeared but what has happened to him is another story to which I shall come to at the end of this post. This post is to share another insight with my readers. The inspiration for sharing comes from a comment that my friend jokingly made this morning and the comments left in my post by Tammy. My friend suggested that I was the Mouse in the episode for not having gone for some fun and games that night. He hastened to add that had he been in my shoes, he too would have been a Mouse in that situation.

I have often asked myself why I did not go out with Eli that night. I have let imagination run riot with what could have happened had I gone with him. Sometimes, I have even regretted not having gone with him that evening. One of those events that will come back to generate similar thoughts again and again.

I have now concluded that the main reason why I did not go with Eli that night was fear. Not morality or loyalty to my marriage vows or fidelity, social standing, career or any such lofty ideals but just plain fear.

Fear that I may enjoy such an escapade. Fear what such enjoyment could result in, in the form of repetition and hankering. Fear of what it could do to my marriage, career, position in society etc.

It was not a carefully thought out response, but my instinct kicked in with the appropriate response for that stimulus. That instinct however was based on the basic cause, fear.

So, I rang up my friend and said that though he was being funny, I have concluded that I was indeed a Mouse that time. A more adventurous, tall man as Tammy called me, would have most probably gone for the ride crying whoopeeeeeeeee.

Coming to Eli, he had a stroke ten years ago that has left him partially paralysed. He now lives in Bengaluru where his wife has extensive family support. I don’t think that I will have the heart to go and see him in that condition when I go next to Bengaluru.

Would I have philandered?

Story 6. The Mouse.


Two indigenous financiers came into my life and both left deep impressions on me. One for becoming something totally out of character and the other for his tremendous character.

This one is about the former. My readers may find it amusing.

During one year when I was about seven years old, my parents moved out of Chennai and left me with my uncle to experiment if that childless uncle would be comfortable adopting me as his own. Quite a normal happening in India. That experiment was a failure due to no fault of either my uncle or aunt, but that story is for another day. My aunt was a teacher in a nearby school where I was enrolled.

Ilangovan was my classmate in that school. He was from the Chettiar community from Chettinad. His parents expected him to study well and become a modern young man and put him into that school because it was well known and had a hostel facility. By the time I met him he had already studied in the school for three years staying in the hostel. He was my classmate only for one year as I got transferred out to another school on my parents’ return to Chennai at the end of that one year.

Ilangovan was a shy and mousy character. Since he was mousy, his name got converted to Eli. Eli in Tamil means mouse. He never liked it but had to bear with it as by nature he just was not the disputing type. Like other such children, he was subject to much teasing by the others in the class and the hostel.

I lost track of Eli till many years later when I was working in Chennai in the early sixties and bumped into him a few times in restaurants and movie houses. He was still studying but in college and staying in the college’s hostel. He had become a handsome young man and was a little more confident of himself than he was in school. He would share a coffee and a smoke with me and express his envy that I was not studying and was independent whereas his parents were keen for him to study up to a Master’s Degree.

I left Chennai in 1965 and had no contact with Eli till 1988, almost a quarter century later.

I was flying home to Bangalore from Chennai and was at the departure hall awaiting the call for the flight when Eli kind of sidled up to me and tentatively asked if it was me. I recognised him immediately and greeted him effusively. Eli very firmly told me not to call him Eli in public particularly because he had some other people accompanying him. During that brief meeting I was able to gather that he had joined his father’s business of money lending. He was personally handling the financing to film producers in South India.

After exchanging visiting cards we promised to be in touch with each other. I wrote down my residential address for him on the back of the visiting card and he promised to visit me when he was next in Bangalore.

About a month later, I was in bed reading at about 9.30 pm when the door bell rang. We were staying in a big bungalow then and I had to come downstairs and open the door perfectly willing to let fly some expletives if it turned out to be one of my mischievous friends, to find Eli standing there with a big grin on his face. He was reeking of colon and whisky and looked somewhat like this.

I invited him in when he turned around to talk to another person standing there. Obviously a body guard, that man did not like to be told to go and wait in the car parked outside the compound. I intervened and said that the car could be brought inside the driveway and took Eli inside.

Eli wanted me to go out with him to have some more fun and frolic and would not take no for an answer. I went back upstairs, changed into some street clothes, told Urmeela about the development and came down to go out with Eli. When we came near his car was when I discovered that there were two women sitting on the rear seat. Obviously some film extras, almost asleep while being seated. I took Eli back inside the house and firmly told him that I was not interested and that he should go for his fun and games on his own, by which time Urmeela came down to see what was going on. I introduced the two of them to each other and all life went out of Eli. He paid his respects and took leave of both of us and scooted.

He called me on the telephone the next morning and let fly some choice expletives and said that I had embarrassed him by taking him back inside and introducing him to Urmeela. I quietly listened to him, and told him that I was not in the same league as he was in and asked him not to bother me ever again.

I haven’t heard from him since then, but discovered through some other sources that he is no longer in Chennai and has disappeared from view.

The Mouse had become a Tiger and then performed the vanishing trick.