TV goof ups

Smw Cartoon for Pinterest

Come winter, there would be ever so many  music and dance programs arranged in different venues. Some of them are telecast live on Doordarshan channels. Out of these, the music and dance festivals in Odisha are my favourites. These festivals, soaked in culture as they are, provide good dose of entertainment enough to last the rest of the year.

There is a certain pattern to the conduct of these festivals. There will always be two announcers- one to introduce the chief guests and artists and compere the program in Odiya language and the other to do so in Hindi and English. In fact, these announcements take away quite a chunk from the main program time.

This time in the Rajrani music festival conducted in the premises of Rajrani temple, the person chosen for Hindi and English was a seasoned announcer from DD and the one to do in Odiya was an academic obviously not acquainted with the TV procedure. The announcements in Odiya always preceded those in Hindi an English. But the portly, bespectacled academic would never know when the camera was on her; she would be looking here and there at the audience and the other announcer had to goad and prod her with her elbow and gesture with her hand to look at the camera and start talking which the lady academic would do with a blink and a jerk. It was hilarious to watch it on all the 3 days.

These gestures and movements when done in the programs recorded earlier in studios can always be edited and later shown with smooth beginnings. But an outdoor live program is nothing if not a charade as every single gesture is very obviously seen by the viewers.

In fact, in some live shows conducted in TV studios, it is pretty funny to watch the untutored artist nodding his/her head to the videographer’s cue, sometimes even making the typically Indian multidimensional movement of the head to convey to the cameraman that he/she had totally comprehended his signal.

When Bangalore DD was new, we could see the camera focusing on the non- speaking characters in interviews and plays while the audio would be from someone else who would be grudgingly missing seconds of their precious visual exposure.

This reminds me how the crowd scene in our teleplay ‘Choma’ was shot with a single camera in 80’s. We all had been asked to mention some dummy word before our ‘one-liners’, so that the cameraman would have time to turn the camera towards the speaking person and catch the   sentence from the beginning. Later, the dummy word would be edited making the presentation fluid.

It is really a pleasure to watch the present- day anchors and announcers responding spontaneously to the camera, something which they must have acquired after a lot of practice.

cartoon courtesy pinterest.



cartoon wedding: Wedding couple vector illustration.

During our times (and our fathers’ and grandfathers’) it was the done thing to get one’s daughter married to her own maternal uncle, probably to preserve the family property. In fact, it used to be the prerogative of the said uncle. If he were too old for the girl, then his sons would be the next choice. The uncle’s presence at “JAI MALA” was to signify his acquiescence to give the girl outside the family (which would be done after ritually offering the girl to 9 demigods). Likewise, a boy could marry his maternal uncle’s daughter or his paternal aunt’s, without inviting public censure.

All this intra-marrying would give rise to a lot of complicated connections. The most complicated was between Mohan and Jyoti. First  Krishnan married Kamala, a distant cousin. Later, Kamala’s brother Venkatesh fell in love with Krishnan’s niece (sister’s daughter) Padma and married her. The daughter of Venkatesh and Padma, named Jyoti (love) married Mohan, a son of Krishnan and Kamala. On painstakingly tracking the relationship by unravelling the tendrils of the family vine, we discovered that Mohan could be his own sons’ cousin! We gave up at this point and did not try to find out how Jyoti was connected to her sons apart from being their mother.

Well, what has been worse was marrying multiple times (of course one wife at a time) as our great grandfathers did! Going back 2-3 generations we are always able to find a link to any member of our community.  The computer family tree always compliments me as the most connected member.

Well, if such multi-links happened within families, it was no less when it came to extended families. It started when I married Ramu. Later, my sister Komala married Sathyan. Sathyan’s brother Prasad had already been married to Ramaa, a friend of mine. Couple of years later, Ramu’s sister Geetha married one Mr. Narayan, an elder brother to Ramaa. Since Ramu and Prasad were posted in the same unit, we had a roaring time flummoxing people- “Ramu’s sister has married Mrs. Prasad’s brother and Mrs. Ramu’s sister is married to Prasad’s brother!”

Communitywise also, there were tangles when my friend Sukanya married Ramu’s friend Gopal. The links carried on to the next generation and extended families too, quite clear to us but extremely complicated to outsiders.

The last one I cannot help narrating is a social one , that of Prema.

One day, when I was working in a school, I saw a young lady wanting to meet our Principal regarding a teacher’s post. When my friends saw me talking familiarly to the lady, they asked me “Do you know her?” Well, the young lady was Prema. I let go the litany breathlessly. “Prema’s father and Ramu were classmates. Prema was my daughter’s classmate in college. Prema married my son-in law’s close friend. Prema was a colleague of mine in my previous school in addition to being my friend Malini’s cousin….”. My friends let out a collective groan and put their hands up to stop me from going further expressing their regret for having asked me the simple question.

(Some names have been changed)




Brown haired man in blue collared shirt and black pants listening to a smart phone ring, right hand holding the gadget, left hand inside pocket

The extended-family trip to Melkote by road had been planned well over a month ahead. 14 of us had been scheduled to go. Rooms had been booked for overnight stay.

But as the day for departure approached, many changes had to be made in the program. The hosts consisting of 6 members decided to take a separate vehicle as the attendance of the other members had become doubtful due to unexpected family problems. Later, one more group of 3 separated itself and took a cab so as to visit other places too on the way.

Finally, six of us were left. Our plans were kept in abeyance till the very last as the weather had turned highly stormy and rainy due to the cyclone VARDAH in Chennai. Nevertheless, we decided not to go the previous night but to make only a day trip the next day.

An “Innova” had been arranged. I was the first of the group to be picked up and that too before sunrise- at 5.30 am! The driver of the Innova rang me up the previous evening to confirm the pick-up and to ask for the landmarks to my place. As I had to board alone and also as I did not want to be abducted by a strange vehicle, I asked the driver for his name (which I clearly heard as ‘’Illyaz”) and  the car number. In the morning at 5.25 he gave me another call to have specific directions to my house.

Though the drizzling continued, time passed quickly during the journey chatting.

During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that the driver’s name was Illyaz. But my sister-in law who had booked the Innova contradicted me and said the name was Dinesh. We decided to ask the driver himself when we stopped for coffee. But he turned out to be a highly reticent, “mumbliferous” guy whose scant lip movements did not throw any more light on the controversy. We discussed how people change their names to suit the conservativeness of their employers, like, Bobby would become Babu, Mumtaz would become Mamta.

Well, we reached the house in lower Melkote which was to serve us our breakfast. While having  Pongal, we suddenly decided that the driver was not with us. My sister in law said she had his number (which later happened to be the Agency number) and rang up but got no response. I took out my I-phone with a flourish and offered to ring him up as I had his number from two of his calls.

As soon as I rang up the number (unknown), a voice said, “Is that Vimala Ramu?” Impatiently I bawled out, “Elli hogbitri? Breakfast gay begaa banni (Where have you gone? Join us quickly for breakfast”) and put down the phone as the Pongal was getting cold. The person sitting next to me said , ’’I think it was a lady’s voice that answered you”. Not believing him I argued that the driver might be having a squeaky voice (which probably explained his reticence). But when he did not turn up, I rang up the same number. This time the voice did not give me a chance to extend the breakfast invitation. The voice said, “Mrs Ramu, I have been asked by the SBF people to contact you as I heard you have undergone the therapy successfully” and blah, blah.  Feeling like a dork with a capital D, I apologised to her and asked her to contact me two days later when I would be back home.

I then recollected that the driver had called me both times on my landline with no caller identity.

Later when I asked the driver to write his name and mobile number on a piece of paper he wrote “Dinesh” and gave his personal mobile number.

cartoon courtesy




Bheem Singh was more of a phenomenon than a house help. Those were the days when Pahadi(hills) boys forimagesmed an integral part of every household in Delhi. Just as the Gurkhas were known for their valour and loyalty, Pahadi boys were known for their adaptability and honesty. But unlike the previous generation, the present one was smart and literate.

Bheem Singh was a mere lad of 15 when he came from the hills and found employment with Bhallas. By the time he was 25, he had become literally an all-rounder! He had learnt to cook the food in the Punjabi way and serve his employers the way they liked. He would not only wash the car and keep it shining, he would also drive the old couple around the city. He could be trusted to pay the car insurance, property tax, Electricity, Water and telephone bills in addition to other bank jobs. He would keep a strict watch on the household staff by handling all the keys himself. His personal attention to Bhallas was remarkable. He would never ever forget to serve coffee/lassi/nimboo pani at 10 in the morning and a glass of hot milk in the night. With their sons staying abroad, Bhallas used to wonder how they would have ever managed if not for the God-sent Bheem Singh, more so as days passed, they had found themselves more and more tired which they attributed to their fast approaching old age (Both were in their 60s).

This legendary Man Friday of theirs was indeed the envy of their friends. Still a bachelor, his only outings used to be a week- end movie with his cousin who worked in a 5 star hotel, apart from the annual two week visit to his native place.

Once Bheem Singh had gone on his yearly holiday to his village- a little longer this time as he was getting married. Mrs Bhalla had to attend to everything at home. Though she had her maid to assist her, she missed the morning and night drink which Bheem Singh used to serve them without fail. But surprisingly, the house work seemed to energise her than tire her. Even Mr Bhalla had brightened up considerably. He was showing interest and enthusiasm in all his activities.

One day  before Bheem Singh was to return, Mr. Bhalla decided to go through his house papers to calculate the new property tax that was about to be brought in. When he put on his specs and opened the file, he found all his papers missing. He contacted the City Corporation office but was told that the house had been made over to one Mr. Bheem Singh! Alarmed, Mrs Bhalla checked her jewellery boxes. Sure enough, she found most of the pieces missing along with all the expensive sarees and dresses.

Totally at a loss, they rang up their nephew who stayed in another part of the city. The smart and efficient young man and took charge of the situation and lodged a complaint with the police who posted 24 hour security around Bhalla’s house.

When Bheem Singh returned, he was surprised to see a sentry in front of the house who would not let him go in. Even as he was arguing with the guard, a police jeep stopped in front of the house. An inspector got down with two constables. They hand cuffed Bheem Singh and took him to the police station. On employing the usual police methods, Bhim Singh confessed. He took them to his cousin’s room in the hotel  where not only all the valuables taken from Bhallas were found, (including the house papers) but all the cutlery, crockery, linen and other items, stolen by his cousin from the hotel were found secreted in a steel trunk under the bed!

PS- Names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

picture courtesy






















“Bangalore roads are not meant for constitutional walks. Try to take walks in your own compound or on some level ground.” Thus advised my orthopaedist when I complained about not being able to go for walks outside my house.

Fortunately, I had discovered that I had no problem negotiating the staircases. So I decided to go up two flights of steps, some 30 in all and walk on my terrace. It was a good decision. The tiled terrace not only provided me with level ground to walk, but it also gave me an unpolluted air with the fragrance of the ‘road mallige ’flowers which had profusely blossomed on the tall trees situated on the next road.

The houses were built back to back. So, at that altitude I could get a bird’s eye view of the terraces all around my house and thus I had a fairly good idea as to the general fitness and tidiness of the inmates.

On the back of my right side neighbours, there was the house facing the next road, whose members (let me call them ‘Joshis’) hardly ever bothered to come up the two floors, while their left side neighbours (let me call them ‘’Sharmas’’) seemed to be highly environment and fitness conscious. Sharmas’ house had been built to include a coconut tree. I would often see the lady of the house taking brisk walks on the terrace and the couple would often be seen making full use of their sunny terrace for activities such as making pickles and preserves.

But, coming to Joshis,there was a small cement water tank on  their terrace, which had been covered with a light corrugated zinc sheet and weighted down with strips of light wall tiles. In addition to this tank there were two covered ‘Syntex’ tanks also. From my vantage point I could not see whether all the three tanks were inter connected or not. So, I had no idea whether the water in the cement tank was flowing or stagnant.

One evening, I was shocked to see the corrugated sheet had shifted. I could see big chunks of scum floating on the surface, making it an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes. I had heard that an area of 2km radius around any stagnant water was most vulnerable and there was a great danger of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya affecting the whole neighbourhood. How to convey the information to the Joshis and ask them to cover their tank? I was not acquainted with them as their houses faced another road. With my arthritic legs, I could not negotiate the bumpy footpath to go around the block, locate their house and inform them. I was desperate. It carried on for 3-4 days like that. On the 4th day, I saw Mr. Sharma on his terrace. I was not acquainted with him either. Moreover, my voice would break if I shouted across two houses, which meant a distance of 80ft. So, I clapped my hands and managed to attract the attention of the gentleman. Using sign language and a husky voice, I managed to convey the situation to him and requested him to ask the Sharmas to cover their tank. He nodded his head and assured me that he would do so.

Next evening, I was gratified to see the corrugated sheet back in its place weighted with  more wall tiles. I heaved a sigh of relief that I could relax till the next gale dislodged the sheet on the cement tank.

video courtesy you tube.




Image result for picture of an Indian woman with Bindi


Our generation in India has had a strange dichotomy built into our psyche. While we were being taught Science in schools and colleges, our Indian films have been consistently and persistently nurturing our minds with superstitions.

Indian Hindu women have always sported a red spot on their heads to signify that their husbands are alive. So much so, in the sign language of the aurally handicapped, the bindi signifies India. This red spot was made up of a red powder called kumkum. People would display different shapes and sizes of the same, some doing it free hand and some using the copper coin with the round hole in it prevalent in those days for geometric perfection.

Later, stickers called bindis came into vogue. These used to have maroon coloured velvety surface on one side and a non -drying adhesive on the other side. Though dancers and teenagers used glittery, sequined ones to adorn their foreheads, the round, red stickers were more popular with the middle aged people as they came close to the traditional spot of kumkum.

The sticker bindis had one advantage over the traditional powder as they never got smudged. But  our filmwallahs continued to use kumkum on female characters, as  smudged kumkum  was a very handy symbol to indicate a rape victim or a new widow or a bride who has had successful consummation on her bridal night. Thus except for the third one, the smudge had always been associated with undesirable events. As a student of Science and later as a teacher of Science I never believed in this bunkum till I was jolted into confrontating a similar situation.

Ramu had been lying in coma in the hospital for 5 days since Sunday. We had not given up hopes in spite of dire prognostications by the doctors. My sister and I would come home every morning for bath and breakfast. Our kind son-in law would drop our daughter in the hospital to keep the vigil and bring us home and take us back to the hospital in his car after our hurried morning ablutions.

It was the month of March and very hot in Bangalore.

On Friday, I had my bath and was sweating profusely. I was about to light the oil lamps in the Shrine when I remembered that it was the day of routine Lakshmi Pooja. I also discovered that I had forgotten to stick my bindi on without which a Pooja would not be conducted. So I dipped my hand in the kumkum bowl and applied it on my forehead. As I was conducting the Lakshmi ashtottaram Pooja with more kumkum on the idol, sweat was pouring down my face and I had kept wiping it off.

As I came out of the Pooja room my sister gave an almost audible scream and asked me to look at myself in the mirror. I was shocked to see kumkum combined with sweat had spread all over my forehead in a bizarre pattern.

Two days later Ramu breathed his last never surfacing out of his coma.

Was my smudged kumkum a macabre portent or just a coincidence? It was almost as if fate had told me that I would no more have a right to wear one.

Whither my Science and Scientfic temper?!

(picture courtesy Pinterest)









The Weighty Come down

Vector illustration of vendor pushing vegetable cart.


Couple of years back one of my friends complained that the vegetable vendors visiting her road refused to sell 1/4Kg of any vegetable to her. She being a loner and not believing in storing them in her refrigerator lest they lose their nutrients did not want to buy more than a 1/4Kg of each variety. Thus she had to face the sneers and snubs of the vendors.

But now the prices have shot up so much- doubled, trebled, quadrupled…… that the sellers themselves have become aware of the fact that if they were to empty their merchandise they better dispense the quantity the consumer demanded. Earlier in their disdain, they would not only not carry the standard 1/4kg weight, they would even bring a stone from the roadside and claim it to be 1/4kg. But now it being a buyer’s market they are forced to carry one. While cucumber used to be quoted at 5 for Rs 20, they are now willing to sell them piecemeal.

I remember those good old days when vegetable sellers in Delhi would dish out freebies such as a handful of green chillies or a bunch of coriander leaves along with the vegetables bought. Of course, we never came across such generosity on part of the South Indian sellers. On the other hand we were rudely asked not to touch their vegetables more so with the left hand lest their sales suffered then on. If one were to dig one’s nails into a cucumber or broke the tip of the ladies’ finger (okra) to test their freshness or maturity, it would be calamity and a permanent full stop to the seller-consumer dynamics.

Now it is a moody market. If tomatoes are sold one day for Rs 50-80 per Kg, another day it would be strewn on the roads next to the village farms as the transportation charges to the town market would far exceed the price they would fetch there. Of course, the Spanish festival Tomatino is beginning to find flavor with India after the movie ‘Zindagi nahi milegi(a) dubaara’.

Another thing that has found flavor with Indians is Capsicum or Bell pepper as they are known abroad. When Pizzas were introduced in India, the farmers made a good profit out of the growing demand for the vegetable.

I have a vegetable vendor who takes a big load of fresh vegetables on his cart every day early morning without shouting his wares. In fact, he sneaks past our houses pushing his cart without making any sound as the vegetables are probably meant for a posh colony where he is guaranteed a better return for his goods. If I happen to see him and stop him, he dishes out the items with such a bad grace (as refusing to sell to the first customer does not augur well for his further sales that day) that I get a vicarious thrill making him stop and sell the vegetables to me.

Who knows a time may come when vegetables like beans and ladies finger also would be sold at a rate per piece instead of in fractions of Kgs?