“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pencil and the Eraser

A friend sent me the following story today. I would like to share it with you. He said he got it from a newsletter of Sivananda Ashram.

Pencil: I'm sorry

Eraser: For what? You didn't do anything wrong.

Pencil: I'm sorry because you get hurt because of me. Whenever I made
a mistake, you're always there to erase it. But as you make my
mistakes vanish, you lose a part of yourself. You get smaller and
smaller each time.

Eraser: That's true. But I don't really mind. You see, I was made to
do this. I was made to help you whenever you do something wrong. Even
though one day, I know I'll be gone and you'll replace me with a new
one, I'm actually happy with my job. So please, stop worrying. I hate
seeing you sad.

I found this conversation between the pencil and the eraser very inspirational.

Parents are like the eraser whereas their children are the pencil.
They're always there for their children, cleaning up their mistakes.
Sometimes along the way, they get hurt, and become smaller / older,
and eventually pass on. Though their children will eventually find
someone new (spouse), but parents are still happy with what they do
for their children, and will always hate seeing their precious ones
worrying, or sad.

All my life, I've been the pencil. And it pains me to see the eraser
that is my parents getting smaller and smaller each day. For I know
that one day, all that I'm left with would be eraser shavings and
memories of what I used to have.


Balachandran V 26-12-2010, Trivandrum

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kitchen Zen

Mustard seeds spluttered on merrily for a while and then tapered to an occasional apologetic cough. I broke a few red chillies and threw them into the pan. Curry leaves, chopped garlic and ginger waited their turn. As a symbolic protest to the spiraling high price of Onion, I had left them alone in the shelf.

Home alone and too lazy to go out to eat, I was in the process of making ‘whole wheat uppma’ – I don’t know its English equivalent. I had scoured the ‘fridge and kitchen shelves for the embellishments that I usually add – tomatoes, cashew nuts, coriander leaves, green chilles - in fact, I don’t cook to a recipe - I innovate, adapt; I improvise.

As P was away for a few days, the vegetable trough in the fridge contained only a few sorrowful looking pieces - of cauliflower, a cabbage of uncertain d.o.b, tomatoes ready for trash and a mixture of others who had transformed into strange shapes. I salvage a few; a piece of beetroot, carrots who had left its birthplace long long ago.

Lightly frying the vegetables in butter (I love butter), I waited in anticipation; I was hungry. Finally the wheat uppma began to take shape. I scatter grated coconut over it. Using the spatula, I create a dome of the uppma in the deep frying pan. It looks like a pie. A spoonful of Amul butter is dropped on the uppma and like a mason smoothening the thick cement paste, I lovingly spread the melting butter (what an aroma!) all over the dome. The flame simmering, I cut a tomato in the shape of a lotus and place it on top of the uppma. I garnish with wilted coriander leaves forming a design around the tomato. I close the lid and light a cigarette.

Sancho looks up at me for a piece of butter; we share similar tastes.

Not bad, finally. With lemon pickle and tomato sauce, I make a meal of my uppma. Life, I tell my uppma, is like you. Improvising with the leftovers, I bring in whatever colour and taste to it that I can. Life, I muse, is all about making do with what you have.

My friends! Thank you for your patience and tolerance of my rambling thoughts all these days. You have been a comfort and an absolute joy. I have always looked forward to your comments; never a day has passed without someone among you dropping a word or two. For even those who did not leave a note, I am content by looking at their exotic locations that I see in the feedjit widget; thank you for noticing me!

Its Christmas time. K will be home for vacation day after tomorrow. I will take a couple of days off, just to sit with him and perhaps we will watch a movie or discuss life.

May I wish each of you great joy and happiness in this season. May the New Year bring you a lot of cheer! And peace.

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 23-12-2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Methodical Life

There is a method to starting a bike.

A deliberateness, a pause, before every step.

Keenly detecting flecks of dust, dried droppings

Of crows, of oil leaked and sticking like paste

Mixed, with the finest of grains

Wiping it all clean.

Flipping back the stand, inserting the key

And turning it right, assured of the green light,

You depress the lever; throttle closed,

Carefully pressing your foot down on the kicker

You pause – again, before bringing it down again

Gently, but firmly and swiftly,

Listening to the plug catching a spark.

As the engine sputters to life, you listen to the thuds, even.

With such intimacy, with almost love, you listen

To the throb; your bike is alive.

In the mornings,

waking up, unwilling to let go my dreams,

Listening to my breath,

I wish I had a method

A deliberateness, an awareness

Of my life

The way I started my bike.


Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 20-12-2010

Holiday Chores

Sunday- the day when you can be

Yourself- and not let be ruled –

A day to do what you wish to do

And not what others want you to do.

Sunday – the day one could read

Even the most insignificant ad

A day you need brush your teeth

Only when you want to eat.

I have a little duster, of soft

Synthetic bristles – to dust

The books, tables or the shelves

And an old torn shirt to swipe them clean.

There’s something about cleaning,

Dusting, tidying up and swiping.

A fleck of dust, a blotch of stain,

A crack that weren’t there before.

Today, I took on the showcase shelves

Souvenirs, scattered, of a life gone by.

A fan from China that my uncle brought

A medal my father earned for service with merit.

Glass flower vases, my mom’s valued prizes

Headless dolls my sister and I played with.

A bowl my granny used to fill with fruit,

Statuettes of dogs and such other stuff.

I clean them, dust them and keep them back,

Wondering what value they have.

What would they mean to my wife or son,

These worthless pieces, when I am gone.

In the stillness of days and nights

When I am gone, the winds would blow.

Specks of dust would settle and stain

White dustsheets would shroud my life.

Forlorn, forgotten, fritted away

My life, like a photo fading away

Where colours give way to meaningless grey.

Then one day-

Torn or crushed and swept away.

**************** Kottayam 27-12-2004

(Unpublished poem, now unearthed)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Secret Life of Balan Mitty

“That’s it! We are done for!” Dhoni’s voice broke. “7 wickets down, 30 runs to win in five balls! Good bye, World Cup!” It was the finals of the One - day World Cup - between India and Pakistan. All the big-hitting batsmen were gone. “Well, don’t lose hope, we still have Balan”, said Tendulkar who had been out for a duck. Dhoni caught the note of sarcasm in Tendulkar’s voice but didn’t reply.

There had been a lot of controversies for bringing Balan into the team at Dhoni’s insistence. “What do you mean, Captain, that old boozing has-been?” the chief selector had asked incredulously. But Dhoni was quietly insistent. “It’s a gut feeling. Balan saab has been always underrated by you people. He has never been given the opportunities he deserved, you know that well.”

Indian Cricket was rampant with parochialism. The southies, especially the Mallus, were always at the receiving end. But Balan, the veteran all-rounder, they could never ignore. They always looked out for the smallest reason to throw him out of the team. But, now into his mid-forties, Balan still astounded the Cricket world by his consistently brilliant performances – that is, until last year, when shattered by the loss of his wife, Balan took to drinking heavily. The cricket loving world mourned the loss of their greatest player; his rivals celebrated Balan’s downfall.

As final selection for the team for World Cup came to a close, Dhoni, who had learned the finer points of Cricket from Balan, fought for his inclusion – and won. But Dhoni regretted it now. Balan’s game in the matches that led to the final was lacklustre and far from inspiring. Dhoni knew well that he will have to answer many questions once the tournament was over.

“Wish me luck, Cap!” Dhoni looked up at the voice. Balan was tightening up the pad straps. ‘Do your best. Blast the Pakis,” said Dhoni.

Balan, walking up to the pitch, wryly smiled to himself, looking at the packed crowd that had gone silent. People were already getting up and leaving the stadium. ‘My countrymen never could take a defeat gracefully’, he thought. ‘This could be as well your last game, buddy’, he told himself. ‘You are a write-off. Well, let’s give the buggers something to remember, uh? Get ready for the swan song, old man.’

At the non-striker end stood the Sardar, frowning and shoulders slopping. The body language was sending out loud and clear messages. “Well, well, look at the old duckie wading in”, smirked Aamir, the Pakistan captain. Balan paused and looked at Aamir – and smiled. This boy! Balan remembered how once Aamir ran out of the crease, frightened out of his wits at the bouncer he had thrown.

As the Pakistani supporters roared and Mexican wave-d, the TV cameras zoomed in on the gloomy countenances of the Indians. Wasim Akram spun the ball, waiting calmly for the umpire’s signal – the signal for the kill. And then – Akram began the run-up.

As the crowd watched with bated breath, Balan stepped forward calmly. He stood there, like a colossus about to fall. As the ball reached him at 150 kmph, he swung the bat - as the stadium watched, the ball soared and soared, arching, as if resisting gravity and then fell deep outside the boundary. 6 runs; 24 to go.

And then new history was written in the annals of Cricket. Hitting, hooking, driving, slashing – breaking every convention in batting, Balan made mincemeat of –

“Didn’t that doctor tell you that you shouldn’t eat meat? You are eating too much beef these days, B! You should check your cholestrol. And when was the last time you went for a walk?” Before she could remove the plate, I grabbed the remaining pieces of the fried beef , rolled them into the last Paratha and bit into it.

Far away, I could hear the fading cheer of the Indian fans, as I walked slowly back to the pavilion, bat and a stump in hand, taking in the delirious joy of my countrymen… Balan, the living legend of Cricket, the greatest ever all-rounder of India...

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 16-12-2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Middle Finger Jerk

The screen suddenly went black. Power failure. My friend Rahul and I were sitting in the ‘Reserved’ class of the movie theatre. Reserved class is at the farthest end of the auditorium; behind us, the door opens to the hall outside. This was way back in 1977; Sreekumar Theatre was yet to have a standby generator, probably because power failure was not very common those days. It was an afternoon matinee show; the door behind us was flung open and people casually got up to stretch their legs, till the show started again. Sitting near the aisle, we could see our silhouettes on the screen. I raised my hand; in the white screen, my shadow too raised its.

We were in our early twenties; still in the shadow of our adolescence. Rahul said – “Dey, lets give a middle finger jerk! The arseholes don’t even have a generator. The entire audience will notice it; but wouldn’t know who did it”. I said – “No, that’d be crude; it’s indecent.” Rahul turned to me. ‘Don’t be such a prude! Indecent, indeed! You’re just scared someone would bash you. You and your f- ing principles!”. I retorted that it is not because I am scared, but I feel it to be wrong. It is lack of culture, like some bums, to show a middle finger jerk in public. Rahul started mocking me- “ You are scared, but instead of admitting that, you are bullshitting with your principles. You have been taught that you shouldn’t and you are just afraid to break the rules”. I said you are wrong; if that is our society’s values, I have imbibed it, because I too feel that it is wrong to show obscene gestures in public. Even if I am bold to do that, I wouldn’t, because such values are mine now. Thus ensued, one of our usual hot arguments over silly things.

Which came first, the fear of breaking society’s rules or making your own rules, whether they agreed with that of the society or not? What is decency and indecency? What is obscenity to you? Is it what you would not do in public only? Is it based on ‘Do not do in private what you would not do in public?’ Are we all, basically crude, gross human beings who are just kept in reins by the values and norms of the society? Or aren’t we intelligent enough to distinguish the dos and don’ts, aware of the limits of individual freedom and the requirements needed to be a member of a society? Where do we draw the line in morality? Does conformity to one thing indicate conformity to everything else too? Can’t we have our own set of rights and wrongs, what if some agrees with that of the larger world? Rebelling without a cause, what is it’s point?

This post is for you, Dr.Antony; thanks for your inspiration through your post, Yes Sir! http://heartbeatsandruns.blogspot.com/2010/12/yessir.html

Insignia commented : Profanity? Uttering it without having any intent is much better than not uttering but having the intention. I disagree. Restrain over one’s words is a quality of self-discipline; we owe that much to society. We mock at discipline, thinking that lack of discipline is freedom. Only a right blend, a balance of individual rights and individual responsibilities would make a good society; history has shown and continues to show how human society has fallen into decadance, not only moral, but environmental, cultural and political, whenever they have leaned too much, either way. The question as Dr Antony raised is not whether you should call your teacher by the person's name or address him/her as Sir/Ma'am. The question is how much respect you have for the other. It is an acknowledgment of order in human relationships, that is natural and necessary for harmonious co-existence.

*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 13-12-2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chaurasia’s Flute

Silly it is, I know. But sometimes I wish I were somebody else. There are certain individuals whom I respect and admire greatly; not the entire persona, but the attribute that is unique to them, the attribute of making others happy. That’s what makes me wish I was like Hariprasad Chaurasia.

I hold the reed pipe to my lips, my fingers grip it awkwardly, searching for the holes to cover. I take a deep breath. I blow. Nothing except a harsh noise of air comes out. No music.

Chaurasia-ji’s flute woke me up to Hindustani Classical music while in my teens. Long before I listened to him at live concerts, I had tapes of his music. The sound of bamboo flute has this magical quality of soothing your troubled mind, flowing over you like a gentle stream.

The friend opens his leather case carefully. It holds several pipes, of bamboo and steel. He picks up one gently; gazing at it with love in his eyes, he fondles the flute like a baby. I look at him with awe, watching his expression changing. There is a serenity in him that I could envy.

Today afternoon was sultry. In addition to that, the power was off. Our office, designed to be air-conditioned, but not, can be really unbearable in humid conditions. It was around 1630; I was winding up work while listening to Chaurasia playing Raag Malkauns. Then something strange happened.

In the banking hall stood a man, looking around vaguely. Thin, dark-skinned, hollow-cheeked, the whites of his eyes glared bright. I make my usual rapid assessment. Mid-30s. Bihari/Bengali/Oriya. Muslim. Labourer in Technopark? No, too emaciated for manual labour and too poorly dressed. What does he need? Banking hours are over at 1600 hrs. I notice the Cash Pay-in slip in his hand. I am sure our Cashier, a horrid, crass female, would send him back. I listen to the usual refrain – “Cash is CLOSED!” Then the follow-through – “ What do all these people THINK?” blah blah.

I beckon him over. I am always a little extra kind to people like him. They are poor and illiterate, barely managing to etch a letter or two in Hindi, presumably their signature. Far away from their villages somewhere in the Ganges delta, Kerala is heaven for them. Turning down the volume, I ask him – ‘Kya Chahiye aap?’ What do you want? (This is a regular opportunity to brush up my Hindi). ‘I want to remit some money, saab. I am living a bit far from here, so couldn’t reach before 4 PM.’ I take him in, his shabby but clean shirt, cheeks sunk in too deep, dark skin taut over his face. I check the account he want to send money to; it is somewhere in Bihar. The name is Saliman Khatun. I check the scanned image of the account holder. Two women, head covered, squint at the camera. The photo is very poorly printed, you can hardly make out the faces. Beside the photo, image of thumb impressions. Illiterate. I turn the monitor towards the man; it had the desired effect – his face lit up. ‘Who are they?’ ‘Amma’, he says, ‘Amma aur behn’.

Malayalees too call their mothers, Amma.

I tell him that I cannot send the money today. But he cannot come tomorrow, he says. I ask him what does he do here. He looks at me and says humbly – I sell flutes. I look at him for a while, silent.

Have you seen them in your cities? On a pole, the cheap reed flutes, stuck like a fan, spread like a peacock’s tail? The men would be playing a Hindi song, over and over. Pardesi, Pardesi, jana nahin, mujhe chchod ke, mujhe chchod ke, is one of the commonest refrains I have heard.You can see them wandering aimlessly, at the beach, at the zoological park, in the busy streets.

‘How much do you sell them for?’ ‘Ten, fifteen, twenty. I make a hunderd or two hundred rupees at the most, a day.’

Looking at him, I raise the volume of the PC speakers; Chaurasia-ji is on the Drut taal. The beats of the accompanying Tabla, reverberates. ‘Suna hai kya, aise bansuri vadan?’ I ask him if he has heard music like this. The man glances at the speakers and shakes his head. ‘Nahin’. ‘This is Hariprasad Chaurasia, mahan kalakar!’ He is silent, listening to the flute. I cannot play like that, he says. My reeds are of poor quality.

I play the music, while filling up his pay-in slip. I assure him, don’t worry, I will keep the money with me today and send it home, the first thing tomorrow morning.

The Bihari glances at me. Somewhere deep in his eyes, I notice the shimmer of gratitude.

Tomorrow, somewhere, in a dark dusty village in that medieval land called Bihar, the shame of India, an old woman would walk up to our bank, affix her Right Hand Thumb Impression ( Left for men) on a Withdrawl slip and with trembling hands, receive 2000 rupees. I wish I could be there, watching her happy face.

************ Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 11-12-2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There! I have lit a star

Beside your name!

I scroll down my Inbox

Where stars twinkle next to you

Every time, every time you wrote to me!

Every little message, every little word

You wrote

Is a thought – of me!

In this dark and silent night

I read you, over and over

And you light up, once again

My room, my lonely heart!

I wish I could make a garland

Of all the stars one day.

I will keep it ready

For the day you’ll come –

Though I know you won’t, ever...

******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 09-12-2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Flower and the Butterfly

Pause awhile, butterfly,

Alight here, on this wilting Rose.

Young flowers, I know, are beckoning you,

But stay with me, just for a while

And leave me with memories fresh.

There! Now you poise, ready to take to wings

You flutter – and a petal


***** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 08-12-2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When Youth is all about Dyeing

Fiona was all of 22; bubbling, attractive and with the British accent I love to listen to. She and her friend Rachel were with us for a month when they had come down to research on livelihood practices of the indigenous peoples of India. They stayed with us for a month. One day Fiona said that she envied us; even the very old men and women had jet black hair. Her jaw dropped in surprise and then she burst into a giggle when I told her that it was due to dyeing hair in black; not only hair on the head but eyebrows, facial hair, even hair on the chest.

You see them all around you; the old men and women with sagging, wrinkled skin, potbellies ( the most disgusting sight in the world is the old women who think they are very sexy, tucking in their sarees so low, revealing their balloon-y, ‘C’ section scarred, post-partum wrinkled midriffs with pothole-like navels) walking around in colours and designs that the real young would be embarrassed to wear.

This obsession with retaining youth is more evident in Kerala than anywhere else. Some have atrocious wigs (toupees) and they strut around as if they are still in their teens.

The other day when I attended a marriage, an old lady, a former colleague , appraised my bald head and wisps of grey hair and advised me with concern – ‘ Your skin is still good, Balan, you should dye your hair’. Being polite, I just glanced at her hair reeking black dye and said I am too lazy.

Why do we pretend? Nobody is fooled into believing that we are younger than our real age. I can understand staying slim and exercising; that is good for health, but this chemical paste that you apply on hair can cause severe allergies ; it can even be carcinogenic.

Age that we must; but let us do it with dignity and cheer. Let us not pretend and be an object of ridicule.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 05-12-2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Man with the Cane

If God is someone who hovers in my background and raps me on my mental knuckles with a cane whenever I indulge in self-glorification, then believe me, I am a believer in God. It has happened so many times in my life that I am inclined, albeit reluctantly, to believe in the existence of God.

Take today, for example. There was a heavy rush of customers and internet connectivity was down from 1000 to 1200 hrs. Irate customers, embarrassed colleagues, the tension of passing cheques without really knowing if there is balance in the accounts, pacifying the VIP customers, telephoning the chap who looks after the connectivity blah blah, attending to this that this that - the old machine was working smooth – too smooth that when I got a respite, I told myself smugly, ‘you old goat, you! Still can do it, uh?’ and felt quite good. Mind was sharp. Then connectivity was restored and whoosh, went the machine, fingers flying over the keyboard, pen shooting off a dozen signatures with élan (I am vain about my signature, the way it races across the drafts and papers), hands flying this way and that way, sending off directions left and right, rapping out instructions – yea, I am on a roll – or so I thought, till something happened.

The rap on the knuckles came a couple of hours later. I had issued 10 drafts each for Rs.100/-. The customer was a VIP (millions of rupees) so every thing had to be done as quickly as possible. I signed the drafts with a flourish and glowed in the ‘Thank you’ of the customer. The party went away and after an hour called to say that there is a mistake. One of the drafts was wrongly printed for Rs.400/- and I had missed it.

I immediately canceled the draft, made another one, sped away to the customer’s office 6 km away. But I couldn’t redeem my deflated ego.

It has happened many many times; when I pat myself after a spell of skillful biking, a pothole would appear from nowhere right on my path. When I stand back and admire a poem I have written, the next glance would show a glaring mistake. This old man who hangs around me behind me with a cane and waiting for the chance to pounce – sometimes I am grateful to him, because I have learned to be cautious and remind me not to be too happy about myself. Sometimes he is like Jerry hitting Tom on his head and hammering him down.

One of my blogger friends, Sreejith Thampi, has written an excellent poem on similar lines. (See http://huggingmyself.blogspot.com/2010/11/i-am-scared.html)

It is reassuring to see the old man’s shadow in the slanting sunlight of the evening. He is like the Guru that Kabir sings about; the guru and chela (disciple) within ourselves…

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 03-12-2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Yellow Line

In 2002 I went to Germany; my maiden visit to the West. I had to go to Bonn to attend a Workshop on organic farming.

Frankfurt airport. I hadn’t imagined the scale to be so large. Alone and awed, I got unnerved when I missed my baggage, a humble backpack. I had to catch a train to Bonn with a pre-booked ticket. I went hither and thither and without much further ado, was directed to the official who handled lost luggage.

I could see her, a Frau if I ever saw one, grim and blonde behind the glass pane. She was talking to a couple in front of her. I made the classic Indian blunder of blundering right up to the counter, opened my mouth when they shut their and looked at me. I said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I have lost my luggage, could you pl-” - I paused, because I could see the Frau turning her gun turrets on to me like a Frigate – and she fired her warning shot – ‘Arr you with thisss pepl?” I glanced at the young couple and totally lost, replied, “No, Ma’am, I- “– Frau turned to the couple – “Iss he with you?” “Naw, Naw” they cawed, with the typical shoulder shrugs and down-turned mouths and mocking expression in their eyes. “Then” – there was this inexplicable glitter in her eyes (maybe I am exaggerating) - I could see it coming – “then, you STAND OUT!” Totally flabbergasted, I looked around – out? Where? I was in the sea!

“There, (you primitive, pagan non-Aryan, black, likely an emigrant-sneaking-in-to-clean-our-toilets, piece of shit) BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE!”

And I beheld the Yellow Line for the first time in my life.

I have always liked things German; of course, the Nazis are an exception. I admired their discipline, their diligence, intelligence. I love Beethoven (I love the dog too), Boris Becker, Stefi Graf, Heidi Klum, Baron von Münchhausen , Grundig, Telefunken, Lieca, Mercedes and BMW. My dream car is VW Beetle. I had great respect for the Green Party and Petra Kelly. Max Mueller’s version of the Upanishads is my treasure; I always backed Germany next to Brazil in the World Cup. I still remember the West German Gerd Mueller’s picture, playing the 1974 World Cup. I love the name Beckenbauer.

The yellow line. I was reminded of our queues (?) in India. The innumerable incidents when I had to fight and make a scene, the time when I was threatened by a rowdy in Siliguri for asking him to step aside. Respect for Germans doubled in my mind. I hadn’t been to any other ‘civilized’ country before, so the yellow line was a great discovery for me.

Therefore I replied to the Frau all mortified and politeness – “My apologies, Ma’am!” She has no reason to know that Indians know only Red and Green – that waiting for others, respecting their time, giving them their due rights and opportunities - is unheard of in this country. Of course, politeness to foreigners (read non-Aryans – I am having a dig at you, you old bugger, Adolf!) is unknown to the Europeans too. All they knew is to rob and maraud the uncouth Asian animals. They never had the yellow line in the old days.

Later, in the airports and railway stations, I see the yellow line and stand behind it happily as if I am Herr Balachandran. I smoke at the end of the platforms, at the special area for smokers; I sit it the smokers’ compartment and enjoy my ride beside the Rhine to Bonn.

Yellow lines are necessary for orderliness. Yellow line has great possibilities! Yellow lines can be drawn in one’s life –‘Hey, look out!’ ‘Think again, buster, before making a move!’ One can draw yellow lines visible only to oneself. To obey the Yellow line, is to watch your step, buddy!

*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 30-11-2010


Among the spiritual philosophers whose thoughts I am familiar with, J Krishnamurti is the one with whom I identify most. Perhaps it is due to a long association with him, since 1977. By the word association, I imply only familiarity with his writings and talks. I have always resisted the temptation to meet or see such people in person, basically because I always see the person and his philosophy as separate. I do not want a further intimacy with them; I do not want to be a devotee or a follower. I do not want to possess them; nor would I let them possess me. They too are humans and sure to have their failings. But their thoughts, like ours, is what they aspire to be, like us. That is why I wrote to my son that he should not assess me by what I am, but what I wanted to be. That, I think, is the yardstick we should apply when we HAVE to judge people.

I have always liked to read Osho. Inside the colourful and controversial exterior, Rajneesh was a great scholar and a sensitive human being. Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic gives a candid portrait of the man behind all the sensations.

In my room, I have displayed two posters of Osho that I bought many years ago. They still adorn the wall; the words still inspire me. One poster is titled ‘Acceptance’ and the other, ‘Awareness’.


My whole message is: Accept the you that you are because God accepts it. God respects it, and you have not respected your being, yet. It is very rare to find a person who respects himself. Why is it so rare? Because you have been taught to imitate. From the very childhood you have always been taught to be somebody else. Nobody has told you: Be yourself and be respectful to your being. It is God’s gift. Never imitate. Be yourself; that much you owe to God.


I don’t teach you any morality. I don’t say: “This is good, this is moral, that is immoral”. That is all childish. I teach you a single criterion: Awareness. If in awareness you do something, it has to be right, because in awareness you cannot do something wrong. And without awareness you may be doing something very good, appreciated by everybody but still I say it is wrong, because you are not aware. You must be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Everyday, I see these words; everyday, every time I read Osho’s words, it is like wiping my mind clean and fresh. As a tip to living and surviving, there is nothing like Osho’s words.

Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 30-11-2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seeds of Life

Hawkers in our trains are an interesting lot. There is such diversity among them; from lottery tickets to books to cashew nuts of dubious quality and indefinable age, the hawkers entertain me in my journeys. And it’s the booksellers I look forward to. Uniformly priced at Rs.10/-, the books are fascinating; they range from Astrology and Ayurveda to zoological primers for kids!

Yesterday I had to go to Kottayam. The father of a dear friend was ailing. I had met the old gentleman several times when he was hale and hearty. Catching 0500 hrs Venad Express, comfortable at a single window seat, armed with a book on solitude and warmed by a cup of coffee, I settled down, only to snooze till Kollam.

As the train left Kollam, it was the turn of hawkers. The first one was selling vegetable seeds. In a little cellophane envelope one could see a number of seeds; the pink piece of paper inside the envelope gave the list – Amaranths, Lady’s finger, Tomato, different beans, pumpkin, snake gourd, green chillies etc. All for Rs.10/-. There was note of instructions too, on how to the plant the seeds. It said –‘Tie up the seeds in a little piece of cloth and soak in water for 24 hours before planting’. The water did the trick of bringing the seeds to life.

I tried to identify the seeds; I could, all of them. Looking at the seeds, I couldn’t help wondering at the marvel called life. This tiny seed of Amaranths which once fell off a plant and then dried in the sun only to be sealed in cellophane is a life waiting to be born. Is it dead? Is it just dormant? Is it in some of kind of hibernation? I am awed and humbled as I look at the seeds. A seed is like the 8GB stick I carry around!

I gazed out through the window. It has been incessantly raining in Kerala. Every inch of earth is covered by a myriad of greenery. Paddy fields ( whatever remains of it) lie flooded and sullen. The backwaters have swollen and lap the shores almost submerging the land. Shrubs and bushes crowd against each other like school children. Trees look like self-satisfied adults with a patronizing expression.

Back home I tell P about the seeds. Whenever I evince any interest in Botany, she puts everything else down and happily gives me a talk. So, as rains lashed outside and Sancho curling to a tight ball of fur at my feet, I listened to the wonders of Seed Dormancy.

Life is a miracle. It is an unending, exciting and rewarding journey if you embark on a tour of nature.

*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 29-11-2010

For those of you who might care to read about it, I quote from http://www.mishobonsai.com/seed_dormancy.html

The goal of this article is to present the different types of dormancy found in tree seeds. By tree seeds we also include shrub seeds.

Seed dormancy is a natural mechanism found in seeds to prevent early germination in non-ideal conditions for the emergence of the seedlings. It is a form of barrier till the ideal conditions are present to trigger the germination. Studies have shown that dormancy in a tree seeds show almost no sign of life. Biochemical test have shown that life symptoms are undetectable in the seed embryo.

Dormancy will differ for different types of plants. Vegetable have little to none dormancy in their seeds, while trees are amongst the most common type of seeds with dormancy. But again, dormancy varies between different species of tree seeds. Amongst tree seeds species, maple are some of the hardest while lotus and tropical plants are the easiest with very little dormancy.
Germination dormancy comes in many flavours and combinations. Some tree seeds have multiple dormancy stages that must be broken at same time or one after the other. Seed germination as often been simplified to three steps: Scarification, stratification and germination. But, it is more complex then this. Seed germination dormancy is mainly address by the stratification step of germination.

We will try to expose some dormancy definitions of the known type of seed dormancy. Seven different types of dormancy can be found in tree seeds. Here they are:

  • Physiological
  • Morphological
  • Morphophysiological
  • Physical
  • Physical & Physiological
  • Chemical
  • Mechanical

We will define characteristics of each dormancy type with a short descriptions.

Physiological dormancy

Physiological dormancy comes in three types with each of them having their own characteristics.

Nondeep Physiological dormancy

The first being the nondeep dormancy. This dormancy is an easy dormancy. It requires a very little period of prechilling to break the dormancy barrier. Germination will occur at temperature above 15 celscius degrees. Light can be a factor in germination. Some known chemical compounds, like ga3, can help and improve the germination of tree seeds with a nondeep physiological dormancy.

Intermediate Physiological dormancy

The second being the intermediate dormancy. The period of dormancy and prechilling required for this type of seeds is a bit longer then nondeep dormancy seeds. Anywhere from 1 to 6 months could be required the break dormancy. An excised embryo will still grow and germinate eventually. Chemicals will also help germination for this type of tree seeds.

Deep Physiological dormancy

The third and last of physiological dormancy seeds is the deep dormancy tree seeds. Contrary to the intermediate dormancy, an excised embryo will grow. But, one exception exist, the prunus seeds are still growing after being excised even if they are considered a deep dormancy tree seeds. Deep dormancy type of seeds are requiring the longest period of dormancy period which is usually anything from 3 months to even 2 years. Some studies have shown that these type of seeds could have 2 levels of dormancy barrier.


This type of dormancy is usually absent from shrubs and is mostly found in a few temperate and almost all tropical species of trees. This is a nonexistent barrier compared to other type of dormancy. The embryo is just undeveloped and under ideal conditions it will complete is development and germinates.


This third dormancy type is a combination of the first two ones. The name is self-explanatory. As morphological, the embryo is undeveloped. It needs to develop itself to germinate, but before or at the same time, a dormancy barrier must be broken. The type of climate needed to broke the germination barrier is either moist, cold or warm. Again, nondeep, intermediate and deep type of physiological dormancy can apply with this type of dormancy.


The physical dormancy type of seeds are seeds that contain an embryo that is usually large and already contains it's own food and energy to germinate. While it is consider a form of dormancy, the embryo is actually non dormant and no barrier whatsoever are present. Thus, germination can occur at any time given it is provided with moisture and warm temperature. It is most common in the flowering plant family, being the angiosperm species family.

Physical & Physiological

Once again, this one is a combination of two types of dormancy. It is the same as the Physical types of seeds but with an added germination dormancy barrier. The three types of the physiological dormancy do still apply with this type of dormancy. Dormancy must be first broken in order for the embryo to germinate. Prechilling is the best method to break the dormancy barrier. Hot water, acid or mechanical scarification are essential before prechilling for germination. Some excised embryo will still grow.


Chemical dormancy of tree seeds are characterised by the chemicals found in the seed coat, embryo and endosperm. A chemical reaction must be achieve, mostly between the embryo and the endosperm. At that time, germination is triggered once the endosperm releases food and energy to the embryo. Seed coat removal is essential to achieve germination. This type of dormancy is amongst the hardest to break as it is often combined with a physiological dormancy barrier. Germination could occur form anywhere to a few months to a few years. Abscisic acid will help germination if applied to seed coat and embryo.


The last of the dormancy type is the mechanical dormancy. These are usually seeds with a deep physiological dormancy. They will require a very long prechilling period to break the dormancy. These seeds exposed to a warmer temperature before prechilling can show improvement in germination.

Germination of tree seeds is not as easy as we can think. Natural forces can prevent a seed from germinating and ideal conditons are always the biggest factors to help your germination success.