Cinema – My Bodhi Tree



When I married my husband and moved to the US, my husband was in the last semester of his M.S. He used to go to the lab to work quite late in the night, and I would accompany him not wanting to be left alone in our apartment. I made use of the time there to study for my GMAT test, and then took the test two months later. But I actually enrolled in a college only five years later, and that too mainly because my GMAT scores were in danger of expiring!

My husband graduated from the University of Texas but work opportunities were slim pickings there. So we moved to San Jose, California. He got a job and we settled there. I could have joined a course immediately but we could not afford my education as we had my husband’s student loans to repay. Moreover the tuition fees are higher if one is a non-resident and without a Green Card. So we decided to wait. I started working in my husband’s friend’s office. My visa status did not allow me to work but he paid me in cash, though a little less than the market value.

Our next decision was about having children. We decided not to postpone that and so we had our daughter and then after two years our son was born. In the mean time we had gotten our Green Card and I was working part-time.

We decided that it was better that I do my course at San Jose State University itself as it would entail less of a commute. My son was two years old and very naughty. He was extremely annoyed that I was reading all the time and not playing with him. I still look back and wonder how I managed to finish my studies 🙂

I had enrolled in college six months earlier and done a pre-requisite course just to keep my GMAT score valid. Later when I enrolled in my MBA programme, I finished it in a year, just three semesters, fall, spring and summer. My GPA was 4.0. My husband graduating with me with the same MBA degree (Executive programme) from the same University on the same day was a very happy coincidence. Since he was travelling all the time he had breaks and though he had enrolled earlier than me we both graduated at the same time 🙂

When I was in my last semester all my classmates were frantically looking for a good job. I prepared my resume and passed it to many of my friends to give it in their offices. But in my heart of hearts I was not really looking forward to taking up a full time job. My in-laws had come to stay with us to help me out during my course but I was worried about how I would handle the situation of my children after they left. It was a crucial time for a serious job search and here I was wavering and worrying constantly of what I should be doing after I graduated.

It was very important that I took up a position soon after I graduated and any delay would only mar my chances of ever getting a good position. All my friends, very impressed with my marks, were pestering me to look for a job seriously as they were very sure that my chances of getting a good job was pretty good.

We had a Guru, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swamy in Hawaii, whom we respected a lot. ( He was a white American and would freely answer any question posed to him either spiritual or otherwise. He had come to their temple in Concord, California where we visited him. I asked him about my quandary and sought his help. He said a mother’s place is at home. She is the anchor of the family. But what I say will not hold good in today’s world though that is my answer to your question.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swamy

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swamy

It was imperative that I take up a full time job knowing our financial situation. I also looked around and saw all these awesome Indian women doing a fantastic job of balancing their careers and families very well, and yet here I was not wishing to do that. I had wanted to study, spent money on it, and then I could not handle the peer pressure that said once you get a good degree you have to work.

Then one day I happened to watch a film called City Slickers on the television. ( It changed my life in a minute! It is a story about three friends facing different problems at that point in their lives and getting really frustrated. They go on an adventure sport which is to herd cows from one place to another. So these city dwellers from New York go to New Mexico to herd the cows to Colorado. There are others who also have come from other places to join in this game. An important character is Curly who is the trail boss. He is the one who makes them realise their potential.

City Slickers Poster

City Slickers Poster

The three friends encounter a lot of difficulties in herding the cows, given their inexperience and age. But finally they do it. The film falls under the genre of comedy. But the three guys learn a valuable lesson. We all love one thing the most in our lives, and that should be our primary choice and therefore our only focus. Happiness automatically follows! They go back to New York wiser and happier.

I then realized that my “one thing” was my family. I decided to only take up part-time positions and such jobs which would not hinder me in any way from giving my full attention to my family. I conveyed this to my husband. I took up a teaching position in an evening college in Santa Clara and also taught on weekends when my husband used to take care of the kids. After moving to India I have not taken up a job. Back here I had the additional responsibility of taking care of my parents and my husband’s parents.

Hats off to those women who can take care of their family and perform efficiently at work as well! I really applaud them. But I knew that I was not cut out for that. I do not regret my decision and in fact can honestly say that I am happy I did it. I absolutely have to thank my husband and my family for their support in this matter.

தாய் மண்ணே வணக்கம்! A.R.Rahman concert


What an amazing experience! It was both unbelievable and awesome. Today I realised why Rahman is God 🙂 He is so vibrant, energetic, full of love and a perfectionist!

The start was not great. It was raining the whole day making us wonder if we will even attend the concert. But with some relief from the rain in the evening, we went to the concert with great hopes that it will not rain. We stood in slushy mud for an hour before a commotion started by the restless ticket holders and eventually we were allowed to get in. There were not enough chairs. To add to all this woe it started raining, initially lightly and then quite heavily. But I saw how undaunted Rahman fans are. Not one budged. Then Rahman arrived on the stage as to the recital of the poem உடல் மண்ணுக்கு  உயிர் தமிழுக்கு இதை உரக்க சொல்வோம் உலகுக்கு!  and the audience burst into a frenzy and all was well 🙂

He had picked such lovely numbers that made the show a grand success. All songs were in Tamil. He started with the patriotic song from Swadesh. The second number itself was from Kadal, Elay keechaan! All songs from Kadal were sung, every one of them beautifully rendered by the original singers. Mr and Mrs Mani Ratnam were present as also Rajeev Menon and director Shankar. Hariharan and Mano sang a medley of his hit songs. Unfortunately Hariharan made a faux pas. He forgot his Tamil lines for the Roja song and switched to the Hindi words 😦 Through out Rahman was present on the stage either singing or playing a musical instrument which was such a joy to behold. Every instrument that he handled, he handled with ease and poise. His wardrobe was exceptionally good. Who ever designed them did a good job and he did a costume change five times I think.

There was an unplugged session with a new instrument which sounded like the Veena but was like a synthesiser. He played beautifully, though he said he was just learning to play it  and Chitra was awesome with him. There were a host of singers including Karthik, chinmayi , Benny, Neeti Mohan and others. Rahman belted out each song with so much enthusiasm and joy that the whole one lakh audience were just enthralled. The dancers in the background were very good, quality of production to be really applauded. People just sang along with the singers for Mustafa Mustafa , Adiye, Jai Ho and Vande Maataram.

The ads in between were quite annoying and the concert seemed a little short but I felt it was worth the money spent! I haven’t enjoyed this much in any event in recent times 🙂

Marriages are made in heaven!

Marriages are really made in heaven. It is so surprising how we each find our own partners in life whether it is through falling in love or accepting a partner through an arranged marriage. My father was a very distant relative to my mother. He arrived from Calcutta by a train which was twenty four hours late due to heavy downpour in Madras. So his friend who was supposed to pick him up had gone back home after an indefinite wait at the station. My mother’s brother was in the railway station to pick up his friend who’s train was also delayed but met my father instead who was stranded in the station. Being a relative known to my uncle he picked him up and brought him home. He was to join a new job in Chennai and hence stayed for a couple of days in their house before he could find an accommodation of his own and moved out. My grandfather became mighty impressed with him in the two days that he stayed with them and decided to give his daughter in marriage to him. My father has also told me that he had liked my mother very much when he saw her for the first time and was blown away by her aristocracy 🙂

My uncle and aunts marriage is another story. My uncle, an exceptionally brilliant man could not use his right hand due to polio attack at a very young age. He was avoiding getting married as he was not sure about a woman’s reaction to marry him willingly. But of course my grandfather was trying to find a girl in the usual channels that was prevalent in those days. My aunt’s family received his horoscope and wanted to proceed but my aunt was not interested.  After a period of six months her uncle went through my uncle’s horoscope and told her that he would make an excellent match for her and that she would live like a queen! 🙂  This did impress her and she agreed to see my uncle who was in Delhi then. She in fact went to meet him in Delhi with her brother which was not a common protocol then.  My uncle removed his shirt to show her his hand and asked her if she did not mind living with a man with this handicap. My aunt was so touched by his gesture that she immediately said that she would be his right hand as long as she lived 🙂

Of course my marriage to my husband was decided by us with a short meeting of minds in just over an hour and we got married within a week of meeting each other. I moved to the US trusting my husband whom I barely knew 🙂 Then there are my two friends who fell in love and got married, one after a long courtship starting from the school days and another meeting her husband in her work place. The former’s wedding was conducted by her parents and the latter eloped with her boyfriend.

One cousin of mine married his high school sweetheart who was a girl from another caste as always love is beyond colour and creed. He was such a quiet and proper boy that we were surprised when he made the announcement. There was opposition from the girl’s family and the girl tried to commit suicide (a doctor herself by profession) and to prevent any further heart ache my uncle arranged and conducted the wedding. Her parents were gracious enough to attend the function.

Another cousin met his wife in his MBA class and she happened to be of the same caste and hence the wedding was conducted with all the fanfare! Then there is this cousin who refused to find his own match how much ever his parents pushed him to. He said amma please find me a girl to marry! But they did not. The girl found him instead. She happened to travel to the US and meet him there and fell in love with him and also told him of her interest in him. But of course he said my parents have to approve. So she waited patiently for a year before he came to India and formally met her with his parents and officialized the wedding.

There is a cousin who married his neighbour but within our community. Yet his parents refused to attend his wedding as he made his choice without giving his parents a say in the matter! But again I have a cousin who married out of community and a boy from a different state. My cousin’s parents went to the boy’s house in Calcutta to seek their blessings for the wedding. The boy’s father outright refused his consent for the wedding and politely bade them goodbye. It was a big shock to my uncle because he held a super post in the society and was really bewildered that somebody in this day and age would refuse his brilliant daughter citing caste and community as a reason.  But the boy prevailed on his parents or so to say faught with them. The father agreed for the union if they would not meet or speak to each other for six months period after which if they still liked each other he would give his blessings! Mind you, the parents lived in Calcutta and the love lorn couple was in the US.Yet the father trusted his son with this condition. Six months passed with out incident and the father gave consent as promised and they are happily married now 🙂

My baby cousin has just announced that he is marrying a politician’s daughter, who is of a different caste, from a different state. Well, this combination is a first for our family 🙂 He met her during his graduate studies in the US.

Now I am waiting for my children to get married. But my above narration is only a reassurance to myself that matches are made in heaven. Don’t know from where my son and daughter in law will come but that surprise element is what keeps our lives interesting!

Life throws a curve ball at you


An expectant mother (model)

I graduated from San Jose State University with a MBA degree in 1991. It was an adventure by itself. My daughter was four and my son two when I went back to school. Luckily my in laws stayed with me through out the duration of my studies. I finished in three semesters with a 4.0 GPA (not bragging please) My son would bang on the door and would create a real ruckus when I tried to study or do my assignments. He would hide my books under the bed so that I would spend time with him and not with the books, but that is not the point of this post.

This post is actually a eulogy to a dear friend of mine named Krishna. My classes were in the evening between six and nine. I used to park my car in one of the side streets as getting a parking spot in that part of down town area was very tough. When I was in the first semester Krishna was in his last. He was my friend’s brother. We were in different classes, but after class he would accompany me to my car, wait for me to start the car before he left as he was always concerned about my safety since that part of the down town was not well lit and not a safe neighbourhood either.

He was a very soft spoken person and he had come to US through the sponsorship of his sister, so already had the coveted green card. Even before he finished his degree he found a good job and very soon got married to a lovely girl from Chennai. When we moved to Singapore he took most of our furniture as he was newly set upping his home. His wife was a very sweet person. When we left for Singapore they were expecting their first child.

Six months later we get a phone call from San Jose informing us that Krishna is no more. He had drowned in his apartment swimming pool. On that day both of them had attended the Seemantham of one of their fiends. He had picked up his wife from office during lunch time to attend the function. After lunch when they returned home he complained of heaviness and told his wife that may be a swim would help and went down to the pool. He was found floating in the pool minutes later by somebody. Being a working day and late afternoon there was no body else in the pool when he went for a swim. So there was no way of knowing what happened to him in his last minutes. He was a fairly good swimmer. His wife was due in two weeks. Post mortem revealed that he had died due to drowning.

One month prior to his death he had told his wife that when he was doing the internal audit in his company he had found out that his colleague had embezzled money. He wanted to inform his superiors but his colleague was begging him to give him some time to make good the theft. He was a Middle Eastern guy. I do not know how an American would have acted during such a situation. But Krishna being the compassionate type and may be in India we tend to bend the rules a little to help others, probably felt that it was okay to wait for a few days before informing his superiors.

No money was coming from that fellow and the day he was going to inform his boss about it was the day of the Seemantham. Unfortunately his boss was on leave that particular day and he could not have the meeting with him. The same morning this fellow came to his desk and offered him coke in a glass, not a can, not a bottle but a glass which he brought from his cubicle. Krishna was in no mood to drink anything offered by him. But his colleague had told him that he was really sorry for what he had put Krishna through and was ready to face the consequences.He said that he did not object to him informing his boss about the embezzlement. He had apparently told him that he would be happy if he drank what he offered and so Krishna did and left office a little before lunch time. Once he reached home he had told his wife that he was not feeling very well. He also told her about the soft drink he had in a glass offered by his colleague.

So during police investigation the wife told all this to the investigating officer. His sister also vouched for his swimming abilities and felt that no way he could have drowned in an apartment swimming pool. But the post mortem results did not reveal any kind of poison in his body and the case was closed shut.

You can imagine the plight of the wife. She had no will to live even. She was unconsolable. My husband and I visited her in San Jose just before she went into labour. Her sister in law and another dear friend were her coaches and begged her to co operate and made her have a normal delivery. Krishna and his wife did not want to know the sex of the child before the baby was born though there is an option in the US to know before hand. She was blessed with a baby girl and was given the name chosen by her husband.

Krishna’s mother in law stayed with her daughter after attending the funeral but her father had to go back immediately to India. On reaching Chennai he went to Vellore to meet a “medium”. He was quite naturally very upset about what happened to his daughter. But he was more upset about the possibility of  foul play in his son in law’s death and the irreverent attitude of the local police department in the US regarding their doubts. So at the behest of one of his friends he went to meet this person who was able to talk to the spirits who had died of unnatural causes. I believe Krishna’s spirit came on to that man and started telling his father in law about what happened prior to his death. He told him that he felt very dizzy in the pool and swooned and eventually drowned. The spirit told him that definitely he was drugged by his colleague. It must have been some kind of slow reacting poison. It also told him that they would be getting a girl baby (the child was not born yet) and also requested his father in law to get his wife remarried.

The father contacted his daughter in the US and told her about this experience. Her friends and relatives dissuaded her from giving this kind of information to the police which they would not in any case believe and would in no any way help in the investigation.

She came back to India after a year and after a few years got remarried. She has a good family life. But to this day she believes that her first husband did not die of natural causes.

Singapore – A Model City/Country!

Classic Singapore

Singapore is a small country. In fact the size of Singapore is almost the same size as the Chennai metropolitan city. What struck us most when we moved to Singapore from the vast land of the US was the tiny size of the country. We lived in Singapore from 1993 to 1996. In the US the residential suburbs were filled with sprawling single storey houses. But Singapore was a vertical city 🙂 The high rise buildings housed the population. Being a small city there is not much to see in Singapore. The main entertainment is shopping. They have amazing shopping malls which carry everything under the Sun. The creativity of the government is revealed in the way that they have turned the Sentosa Island into a top notch entertainment centre like Disney land!

The highways and roads are not broad but the quality and cleanliness of the roads will make you fall in love with that country at first sight. The economy of the country is very much dependent on tourism. Hence the government gives importance to any and all things related to encouraging tourism.

I have read stories of writer Sujatha where he would talk about incidents happening in the year 2512 (or so) in futuristic cities which were very robotic in nature. We saw the shades of such a city in Singapore in those days itself 🙂 I am certain that the government has fine tuned its activities to make life simpler and easier for its citizens than before and the people have everything delivered at their door steps now!

It is a very safe country. A woman could go out alone at 2 am in the night wearing jewels and yet be have no fear for her safety. I speak about this out of experience when I had to go out alone one night out of necessity. In my opinion, fear of severe punishment if caught while committing a crime is the main reason for such good behaviour. Caning is a very common form of punishment along with jail sentences and fines. I have heard that a mere two strikes by cane on the buttocks of those found guilty will be remembered by them with fear for the rest of their lives. When we were there an American teenager was caught and found guilty for painting graffiti on some public property. If the same thing had happened in the US he would have been slapped with a fine and some hours of community service. But in Singapore he was to be caned for this crime. The American family tried their best to take him away from the country before he was caned. I remember Bill Clinton appealing to the Singapore government. But the government did not budge and he received his share of caning as ordered by the court and only then was he allowed out of the country.

Taxi car’s registration numbers, driver’s licence numbers and their mobile phone numbers are all registered with the concerned government departments. So if we lose something in the taxi or if the driver misbehaves we can lodge a complaint and the authorities can easily track them. Hence the taxi drivers also behave nicely towards us. Metre rates are only paid and the balance change duly rendered! The government stipulates the rate per kilometre which is reasonable enough tube accepted by the taxi owners. The night time taxi travel is one and a half times the rate that we normally pay during day time. The drivers are well trained and the city is so well planned that all you have to do when you get into the taxi is to give the address and we will be dropped in the right place. Ninety percent of them speak English and even the remaining ten percent do understand and follow instructions.

We used to have two cars when we were in the US. The three years that we spent there we did not buy a car, due to two reasons. One was that, Singapore had a wonderful public transport system, air-conditioned busses, speeding metros and reasonable rates for a comfortable taxi ride. Trains and busses and taxis were clean and functioned efficiently. The other reason was the exorbitant prices of cars. If the cost of the car was Sing$30,000, there was an additional tax called COE which varied anywhere from Sing$20,000 to Sing$70,000 or so as it was based on a demand and supply model. This was imposed by the government to restrict its people to curtail the purchase of cars and they were able to have a control on the number of cars on the road every year. This COE was also valid only for ten years after which you have to pay again. That way they made sure that old cars were not on the road thus controlling the pollution levels in the atmosphere. The payments for car parking in CBD(business districts, equivalent to down town area in the US) was also very high making it a deterrent to office goers to own a car. If the government wanted to increase the sales of cars they would lower the COE. They ran the country in the same way a CEO would run a company.

My children weren’t very happy over the fact that we did not have a car, especially my son 🙂 The moment we stepped out of our house he will extend his arm to hail a taxi on the road! They both had school van/bus to pick and drop them. It was such a breeze to get admission in schools for them. All we had to do was to submit an application to the education ministry and they allotted the school that was close to our home address. When we were there a shift system was followed. First and third standards had the afternoon shift and second and fourth had the morning shift.

Everything and everybody has to follow a regimen there. The government was a benevolent dictator. It provided its people with all the needed comforts. Their housing board which was called the HDB provided flats at a very reasonable rate to permanent residents and their citizens. A taxi driver and a street vendor would be a house owner in that country. Additional benefits were allotted to citizens of the country. They had the right to buy brand new HDB flats that came into the market and loans at lower interest rates etc, to name a few.

It is very common there for both the husband and wife to hold jobs there. Another special feature of that country is the availability of live in maids. They are mainly hired from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan. They have a separate visa. This has its plusses and minuses.

High rise buildings!

The country is devoid of any natural resources. Even water is imported from Malaysia. But the government functions with a superior visualisation of its future needs and makes provisions for every conceivable contingency. It is such a tiny country but it makes military training compulsory to all boys who finish their high school there. They are allowed to continue their college education only after they have completed the three years of mandatory military training. But once you finish that in flying colours, the government provides the students with financial aid to study in their own top universities or even helps them go abroad for their higher studies. But if you do not take up this training you are thrown out of the country. Your PR(equal to American Green Card) is revoked and have to leave the country immediately. If in case you want to visit the country later you may get a visitor’s visa for two weeks at a time. So many Indian parents living there who do not want their sons to under go such training leave the country when their child is in the ninth or tenth standard and move to US or Australia or back to India.

Schools are equally restrictive. There is no room for creativity. Further, they even monitor the weights of the students. They are paranoid about having a future generation which is obese. So such kids are given counselling by doctors to eat less and they are forced to jog several rounds in the school playground before or after class.

My daughter is a very creative and sensitive person. She became stifled by the rules and regulations in school. More so by the racial discrimination that she felt was shown towards the Tamils/Indians by the majority there, the Chinese. Moving from a place where there was enough freedom to a place that was claustrophobic she decided to move to India to live with her grandparents and go to school there.

We had no option but to follow her 🙂 I was quite happy in Singapore during the days that I lived there. But it is highly doubtful if I would have been happy if I had continued to live there and made it my home. I am too averse to interference in personal freedom and thrive only in a unrestricted society.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

There are plenty of Hindu Temples in Singapore. Perumaal Kovil and Vatapathra Kaliyamman Kovil on Serangoon Road, the Chettiyar Murugan kovil are quite famous. Thai Poosam is celebrated with so much fan fare and devotion. It is a sight to behold to see the Chinese and the Malay people side by side with the Indian devotees carrying Kavadi and milk pots on that day.

Serangoon Road, Mustafa, Kalyanasundaram mega marts, Komalas restaurant and Little India are all so much part of our Tamil culture that we will really not miss India that much and it is only a four hours flight to Chennai as well. The best part is the three races of Indian, Malay and Chinese do co exist and live in harmony there. The government has to be commended for that.

It is a very peaceful and comfortable life there. But do people have a life there? That is my question!

Co-existing races

“Chennai is the greatest country ever!”

…..a little boy squealed inside the plane as the flight landed in the Chennai airport. I turned and looked at him in astonishment. Here was someone like me! 🙂

Picture by Niyantha

I was born in Pondicherry and brought to Chennai when I was just five months old. I’ve been a Chennai-ite since then.  I was told that I was cranky and a cry baby when I was in Pondy and became all happy and cheerful once I landed in Chennai. I think my adoration for Chennai started even as a baby 🙂 I have visited many cities all over the world and lived in a few for several years. But no place has given me as much happiness as Chennai has!  Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam, be it ever so humble there is no place like Chennai 😉

My parents used to live in Mylapore, but for some reason took me all the way to Vadapalani temple for my first birthday. The priest somehow immediately assumed it was my birthday and garlanded me, even before my parents could tell him anything. Perhaps it was destiny, as I became an ardent devotee of Vadapalani Murugan from a very young age, and even today I live close to the temple 🙂 I believe in those days there were only stretches of paddy fields all the way from where the present Kodambakkam flyover is to Vadapalani and beyond.  In fact the bridge came much later.

Photo by Keerthi

We moved near Ram Theatre in Kodambakkam shortly after. I am sure that was again through the grace of Lord Muruga as this enabled me to frequently go to the temple on my own even as a young person. I would go to all the nearby shops without any adult accompanying me. I used to be in and out of all my neighbours’ houses having fun playing with kids my age and with those older than me too.

Summer vacations used to be so much fun! We kids used to gather together in the street and make “kootanchoru”. We made a stove with three bricks, collected twigs from under the trees and cooked rice in an earthern pot. Mixing a little buttermilk with the hot cooked rice, we ate it to our heart’s content to the accompaniment of five paise pickle packets. No chef from any five Star Hotel could whip up something more delicious than that 🙂

We used to stage plays as well. Once we staged a play about Kovalan and Kannagi. I donned the role of Kannagi (I was 7 years old). The guy who directed the play was probably fifteen years or so. He used to efficiently manage us kids, make us learn our lines and conduct rehearsals during the hot summer afternoons. When I found out that his son was my son’s classmate in Padma Seshadri, it was such a happy coincidence.

My brother was younger to me by five years. He used to take part in every game of the season with full zest. He was good in carrom, “goli”, “pambaram”, an expert in flying kites and of course our national game cricket! There would always be a gang of boys in our home sharing the loot of mangoes plucked from neighbours’ trees or running in the streets to get hold of a loose “bana kathadi”. I am pleased to say that I am still in touch with his friends.

I did my schooling and my college in Kodambakkam. Going to movies was as great form of entertainment then as it is today. I have seen so many movies with friends especially in the Sathyam Theater. We learnt Hindi by watching the same Hindi movie repeatedly.  Standing in queue eagerly waiting for our turn to purchase tickets was fun by itself 🙂

I have a very strong belief in God. This helped me through tough times when my family encountered many problems when I was quite young.  I owe my strength of mind to Vadapalani Murugan. We have no control over many things in life. But a strong belief in God helps you tide over the difficult times with courage. My prayers are always conversations with God. I learnt a lot of my life’s lessons at an early age. I should say that this was indeed a blessing. I became a very responsible person, capable of judging people and situations. Patience and perseverance were the other by-products 🙂

When I moved to the US, I really missed my temple and my Murugan. But He is so compassionate that He showed me where He was housed In San Francisco as Palaniswamy. It was a small but beautiful temple. Life was great in the US. Lots of friends, a lovely place with all the comforts one could ask for, no interference from in-laws… yet I missed Chennai 🙂

Then we moved to Singapore.  It was the best of both worlds, the confluence of the east and the west. Every thing was available in Singapore that was in the US, and we could even afford hired help, and the temples there made you feel at home. But still it was not Chennai 🙂 There were too many rules and regulations and the government interfered in the private lives of their residents. They even monitored the weights of the school children and took action to make sure that they did not become obese. Above all one did not even have the freedom of throwing a single piece of garbage on to the street 🙂 At the first opportunity we moved back to Chennai. We owe a big thanks to our daughter for hastening our return.  She was just 9 years old, and told me and my husband that if we decided to move out of the US, we should not have chosen a place where we were again a minority. She in fact moved to Chennai first, even without us. All we had to do was to follow her!

People of Chennai are like the jack fruit. They may sound disrespectful when they speak but have a heart of gold in welcoming others into their fold. The medical facilities available in Chennai are unparallelled. Public transportation is great. Compared to other metro cities, Chennai is definitely an affordable place to live.

Photo by Niyantha

I love the Marina beach. Soon after the tsunami the sea was rough for quite some time. Now it is back to normal. Marina beach is such an integral part of any Chennai-ite’s life! The sea breeze and the salt water is sure to wipe away the restlessness of one’s mind. All that is needed is a single visit to the sandy beach.

My friends! They are the secret to my youthfullness and vitality 🙂 We owe it to Chennai for our frequent getogethers and interactions. We used to live in different places but all of us now live in Chennai. Now as a group we travel to different places together starting from Chennai!

It is not surprising for one to love the city one is born and brought up in. But it is really a joy and an honour that my husband, who was brought up in Bangalore, loves Chennai the same way I do 🙂

Lakshmi Kalyana Vaiboghame!


I want share some happy memories of my wedding on my wedding anniversary 🙂 My husband came to see me on May 20th (1984). Their family agreed to the marriage on May 21st at 9pm. The next day was Tuesday, and therefore not an auspicious day to start any work on wedding preparations. So my mother tied money in a yellow cloth for Srinvasa Perumal at 10pm on Monday night, and technically started the wedding process on Monday itself :-))

Ten days later, we were married!

As soon as my wedding was fixed my maternal uncles were informed. Two of them went to interview my husband in his home immediately. Both of my uncles had lived abroad for several years, and my husband was a student at The University Of Texas at Arlington, doing his masters degree in mechanical engineering. Luckily for him (and for me) my husband passed the test conducted by my uncles with flying colours! I was a lecturer in Meenakshi college at the time of my marriage. The photo of me that was given to my husband’s family was actually a group photo. There I was, along with my colleagues from college. My husband happened to know one of them  since her brother was his former colleague. He mentioned this to us when he came to our house to see me. So we got a lead to make enquiries about him through him itself. 🙂 We also found out soon enough that his family was very well known to one of our relatives. Our marriage was definitely based on blind faith!  The marriage preparations were vigorously going on even as the enquiries on my husband were being made. Logically the enquiries should have preceded the preparations. 🙂  

One request from my husband’s side was to conduct the wedding at the earliest, since he had to return to the US very soon. So right earnestly on Tuesday morning the astrologer was visited and the muhurtham was fixed for June 1st. Realising that Wedding Chathirams will not be available at such short notice we decided to conduct the wedding in a hotel. This was a controversial thing at that time! In our community many in the older generation would not eat in hotels. 🙂 So a separate cooking arrangement was made for a few of my husband’s relatives. Home-cooked food along with paayasam and other sweets were brought from home and served to them for every meal during the function.

The owner of Kanchi Hotel had taken tuition lessons from my father-in-law. That proved to be an advantage to us. There was less resistance from my in-laws to conduct the wedding in a hotel, due to this connection! Thank god that man was poor in studies. :-))

The wedding hall was actually only available for the previous evening’s Nichayathartham. So for the Muhurtham and Reception a shamiana pandhal was installed on the lawn and our wedding was conducted there. When Crazy Mohan, Balaji and their family arrived for the function, my relatives were thrilled. They asked us how and why these celebrities were attending the function. We then came to know that they were my husband’s first cousins. Such was our hurried wedding that we did not have time to enquire about the extended family.

Printing invitations, sending them by the Indian postal service and actually seeing all relatives and friends at the venue on our wedding day was nothing short of a “medical miracle”! All my sarees were purchased in Nalli within a matter of two hours! Come to think of it, it is still unbelievable that we managed to get Pattappa, The Cook, not only to cater our wedding but to make the bakshanams at home. To top it all, Sudha Raghunathan performed at our reception in the evening. It was her first concert after the birth of her first child. She was a close friend of one of our relatives and that is how the concert was arranged. Later in the day we came to know that she was also related to my husband! 

I am ever so grateful to my parents and to the helpful hands of my brother for conducting my marriage in style, at such short notice, arranging for the finances and other things with such precision. I guess it was meant to be!

RTI (Return To India)


My marriage took place in June of 1984. My husband was a student at the University of Texas at Arlington doing his Masters in mechanical engineering. As it was easier for the spouse to join the husband when he was still in a student visa he came to India to get married in his last semester. Ours was an arranged marriage. Already a week of his vacation had elapsed when their family came to see me . We met and spoke for an hour. We spoke about just the important issues. The one thing that we both strongly agreed on was, our wish to return to India after living there for some years. We decided to get married on May 22nd and got married on June1st! I don’t know if marriages do happen like this any more 🙂

We lived in a studio apartment with a very meagre income. It was very difficult for my husband to get an opening in Texas and so we decided to move to San Jose, California, in search of better opportunities. We travelled in a very old car for two days non-stop and reached San Jose with just $400 in our pocket. A distant relative had agreed to put us up and we stayed with them. My husband landed a job when our savings on hand was down to $20. We stayed with them for one more month, waited for his first pay check, to pay the advance for a rented apartment and then moved out. We are ever so grateful to that relative for the timely help they provided us. When we lived with them, their friends became our friends too. They were all older to us by at least fifteen years. So we could see how their kids were behaving. More over I started teaching those kids spoken Tamil and also to read and write. So I got to move with them closely. One thing I observed was that they were all coconuts, brown on the outside and white on the inside! They may look like Indians but certainly behaved like Americans. Our resolve to go back to India only deepened after seeing those kids. We knew that if we decided to stay in the US we had to change our line of thinking . The children born there will not.

I was a lecturer in a college for a year before I got married. In the US I was on a dependent visa and hence could not work. I could not pursue higher studies immediately as the non-resident fees was quite high. So I was able to go back to school only after both my kids were born. My husband and myself graduated from the same university with the same degree (MBA) and on the same convocation was a very happy coincidence 🙂 

USA teaches us a lot of things. It makes one independent. It is definitely a land of opportunities and once you land a job it is heaven, and of course only until you lose it. My college days in the US were one of my best. The curriculum and the method of instruction were so much different from that of India. It gave importance to practical knowledge and team work.

Some have quite a few relatives in the town they live in or in the neighbouring city. In that case they do not miss India. For some even if they do not have any relatives, the comforts that the country offers is more than enough to compensate their home sickness.The greatest plus point about living in the US is the abundance of freedom one gets while living there. No one interferes in the day today life. No parental control/advice! Pollution free atmosphere, importance given to cleanliness, respect given to knowledge at the work place, corruption free lifestyle, idyllic locations, the ability to own a nice car and a house within a short time of moving to that country – a combination of all these wonderful things makes one wonder about the logic behind moving back to India!

In most families both husband and wife go to work. Hence their kids are left in day care. The children soak in the atmosphere in which they grow. They are comfortable with the American food and their methods of disciplining. They eat a little of the Indian food and listen to a little of their mother tongue at home. The parents are also influenced by the culture they live in due to their proximity to their colleagues at work and soon adopt their methods of raising kids. This is because conforming to an existing pattern is easier to follow and allows you to become part of the mainstream. After all being a Roman in Rome makes it much easier!

Every thing is hunky dory as long as you are healthy! Once you fall really sick all hell breaks lose. For being such an advanced nation and everything, their method of dealing with the sick is not so great. Yes, they do follow a system here as well. First of all to get an appointment with the doctor it takes a week and then he will ask you to do all the required and not so required tests as every thing there is ruled by the fear of lawsuits. Then patiently wait for your test results. If they find something a little alarming, they go into extraordinary detail to fill you in about the worst case scenario of that disease. Then they would tell you about how it can be fixed, give you a prescription, again narrating the full side effects of the drugs that you would be taking. Yes, you will miss your home then 🙂

In India doctors with their vast experience, diagnose the disease with the symptoms and medicate you to bring the problem under control. Simultaneously they order a battery of the required tests to be done on you. Ninety percent of the doctors here say encouraging words to the patient and make you feel better just by their demeanour!

Even a cup of coffee or just hot water would not make by itself and requires your effort. That is when one misses the family very dearly. But friends are a real substitute for family in a foreign land. But again it all depends on one’s luck to get good friends.

I had taken full time employment before I had my kids and again worked full time when either my parents or in-laws were with us. But other times I have worked only part-time since I did not want to leave the kids with a baby sitter or in a day care. That was of course my personal decision. I worked as a lecturer in an evening college and taught classes in week ends as well. My children did no know to speak in English until they started pre-school. We only spoke Tamil at home. When they started going to school both had difficulty adjusting due to the language problem. But both picked up English within a week. To prevent the children from being stamped as different most parents send American food only as lunches to school. Macaroni and cheese, sandwiches and burgers are the most favoured type of foods by the Indian kids who grow there. So our food like idli, thosai and tomato rice become alien to them, as a result of which they do not relish them even after they grow up.

Some times Indian kids get to have Indian kids as their friends in school. But this is not common. Most of the time Indian kids tend to make friends with American kids. When they go on a play date to their houses they observe the behaviour of the family there and consider it as de facto family behaviour. The customs and behavioural pattern in Indian households are certainly different. For example we do not wear shoes inside the house, light a lamp in a Puja room and follow certain other rituals. All this seems unnecessary or unacceptable to them. The kids born to Indian parents ask a lot of questions. If we do not give them satisfactory answers they begin to think that we are not conforming to their standards. Then during the teenage years they have huge arguments with the parents regarding dating. You may ask if parents in India do not face such problems. No, parents here do not face problems created by cultural differences, of course they do face problems which arise due to generation gap which has to be faced by them in any country.

My husband worked in various good organizations in the US. But there was this glass ceiling which prevented my husband to go higher than a certain level. There was always a subtle racial discrimination at work. May be it has changed now. Though he was very good at what he did his inability to climb the ladder was causing him mental agony. He also lost his job in a reorganisation at his work place. The fact that he lost his job though he was a high performer, came as big shock to us. We had bought a big house with a big mortgage payment. We had two cars and two car payments as well. For nearly five months he was without a job. That was when we seriously thought about going back to India. It was 1993. At that time there were not many openings in his field of work for him in India. So we decided to move to Singapore. As luck would have it he got a very good job offer in Sun Soft, Singapore. But as if to test our resolve about leaving the US, he also got another offer from a very good company in Mountain View in the Bay Area. But we decided to take up the Sun Soft offer and move to Singapore. The main reason behind that decision was our children’s ages. Our daughter was six and son four. If we waited for another opportunity to move out of the US, the children would have grown that much older and established their roots that much stronger. It would have been harder for us to uproot them.

But our decision was not welcomed with cheer in our friends’ circle. Anyone would give their right hand to move to the US and you guys are going back was their snide comment. A few even said that it was foolish of us to do what we were doing and made of list of the negatives in going back to India.

After my husband left for Singapore I stayed back in the US for nearly five months for my children’s and my school year to end. We had also put up our house on the market for sale but we could not sell because of the economic down turn in the US then. We decided to rent the house and were able to sell it only after two years.

On the day when we were leaving the country, my friend had arrived to give us a ride to the airport and I was about to lock the house. My daughter relinquishing my hold on her ran to kitchen and hugging the oven started crying loudly,”This is my home, my country. Don’t take me away from here.” Even at that age the bonding to that land was so much. Just imagine how hard it would have been for us to make the move if we had decided to do it after a few more years.

We lived in Singapore for three years and then moved to India. Our stay in Singapore also has quite a lot of stuff to be retold but in another post and for another day 🙂 One of the main reasons which hastened our move to India from Singapore was our daughter’s bold decision to move to India on her own, as she was unhappy with the discrimination showed to Indians by the Chinese. At the age of eight she decided to live with her grandparents and go to school in Chennai.

I stayed with the kids in Chennai and my husband in Mumbai for about three years, only after which he was able to find a good job for himself in Chennai. Our children adjusted very well in India. Every day, after returning from school my son will go out to play in the streets only to be back after it was dark. That joy alone was enough for us to validate our decision about moving to India. Our in-laws stayed with us. In the US Indian kids attended Bala VIhar or Bala Vikas on Sundays and what they absorbed there was only a mere introduction to the Indian culture. But in India no effort on our part is required to imbibe the cultural values to the kids. It just grows on them. Normally in the US we buy so many toys and other stuff that the children ask for. But in India even losing a cricket ball is made a big deal and children learn responsibility, ownership and the quality of sharing at a very early age. They also realise how fortunate they are by looking around and seeing the less fortunate kids here. These thing cannot be taught in a class but only be learnt through observation. Festivals like Deepavali, Pongal, Vinayaka Chathurthi and Navarathiri are still celebrated with pomp and religious fervour in India. It is also a time to rejoice. In the US it is just another day. If any of these festivals falls on a week day friends get together on the week end and have a grand meal. The significance of the festival is totally lost there.

My children now live in the US. I do not know if they will come back to settle down in India. There are many reasons to come back as there are many reasons to stay in the US itself. It all depends on our priorities. Surely we can say that we have brought up our kids well in the Indian soil. They are close to their aunts, uncles and especially the cousins. Soon after we came back to India, many of our friends who were visiting here for their vacation would ask us,”Tell us, honestly are you guys happy here? With all these mosquitoes, horrible roads, water clogged roads during monsoons, how can you really be happy here?” Yes, whatever they said was true about India. When we came back it was so difficult to get a telephone connection, a ration card and a cooking gas connection. Another hardship that we faced was trying to get admission in a good school. You cannot expect America in India. Only if you are mentally prepared to accept life here as it is can you make your return here a success. Our country lacks nothing now. Everything is available in the retail market. When we returned to India in the mid nineties even Kellogg’s corn flakes was not available and my husband would buy them for our kids and bring them back when ever he travelled to US officially 🙂

When children come from there for their vacation it is like visiting a foreign land for them. There is no attachment to this country. Sometimes a lot of enticing gifts and other forms of bribery by the parents only make them come to India and tolerate their stay here. Once they become much older, that is in their late twenties or thirties they see no reason to come to India at all. They get married to somebody living in the US and the first generation parents are only too elated to get a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law of Indian origin. Even otherwise they learn to accept a person from another race into their family. Once the older generation are mentally prepared for such a life then they are happy in that lifestyle, no issues.

After going there we begin to appreciate the work culture that prevails there, the wonderful opportunities, the generous nature and the welcoming attitude of the Americans. We will then wonder why those things are lacking in our country. All I can say is that those who have lived there and returned can try and share that experience with our brethren here. That is a start! 

Sri Venmani K.Kumar


My guru is Sri Venmani K.Kumar, lovingly called guruji and more often just Ji! His life so far has been an amazing journey which I would like to share with you.


He was born as a fifth child to his parents among their twelve children. His father was uneducated and through some chance found employment with the then Madras Telephones and brought up his kids with considerable difficulty. His mother for her part worked as a construction worker to supplement her husband’s income. His father was a strict disciplinarian and a God fearing man. He wanted his son to get good education since he did not have one. But my guruji was very averse to studying. He was an atheist as well. Being a very argumentative person as a teenager, quarrelled with his father and left home. He took up all kinds of odd jobs to survive. He had a flare for writing plays. Even as a young lad he had written and staged a play in school. So he took refuge in Kodambakkam. He was an errand boy, a courier, a copy writer, an assistant director, struggling to make a mark in life. He had an opportunity to go to Union Motors on some errand and applied for a job there. As luck would have it he did get a job with their sister concern Hydraulics Limited. This was a turning point in his life. His status immediately improved as he had a permanent posting. His father waiting for such an opportunity immediately found him a bride and got him married.


Finding just the right life partner is a great blessing. His wife Kalaivani was exactly who he needed to steer his life in the right direction. He lives in Nungambakkam in the same place where his father lived. He reconstructed his father’s humble abode into a concrete construction for which he had to take a big loan at that time. His wife ably managed the household expenses with the meagre amount he gave her after his repayment of the debt every month.


He successfully staged a single act comedy play during an office cultural event and earned the praise of his colleagues and superiors. This boosted his self confidence. He was fearless, frank and always spoke the truth without ever mincing words. He grew up in a poor neighbourhood where people did not realise the value of education, were addicted to bad habits and were petty and quarrelsome. But he owes his good character to the strict upbringing by his father. He is ever so grateful to his father for having raised him in such a fashion. To bring up some one with clean habits may not be a difficult task for a parent who belongs to a middle or upper class but it is a monumental feat for some one who lives in the poorer sections of the society.


In Hydraulics Limited he found a mentor by name Sri Mannu Perumal. He considers him to be his first guru. Sri Perumal used to arrange group trips to Tirupathi. Sri Perumal made sure that my guru did not fall into bad company and made him interested in spirituality. My guru has mentioned that in a fraction of a second he became a believer from a non believer. I do not know what exactly brought about this transformation but he transformed. One who was engaged in spreading the teachings of Periyaar by speeches on stage, found true solace in Lord Krishna. He started his spiritual search and this quest took him to established institutions like Chinmaya Mission, Ramakrishna Mission and Iskcon. When he did not find the right answers there he also went in search of individual gurus and sidhars in forests and hill tops to get their advice. His love for Kannan is akin to the love displayed by the Azhwars.


His motive was social service but it started as a religious service. He lives near the pottery sale section on Kodambakkam High Road. His first priority was the upliftment of the kids in his neighbourhood. Due to his great passion for the language Thamizh and his unadulterated love for Krishna he learnt Thiruppavai and then Naalaayira Divyaprabantham. He then taught this to the kids in a way that they would understand. He would offer snacks to the kids to entice them to attend his class. Yet it was difficult to retain them. But through hard work, perseverance and helping those around him he earned the goodwill of his community. His work started reaching those whom he intended should benefit.

Guruji with his guruji

Sri Easwaran, a devout Saivaite is another guru who taught him several scriptures and is till today instrumental in encouraging him to do the social work that he is doing. He is responsible for unearthing the hidden talents in my guru. I have met him. He is a personification of simplicity and compassion. Though my guru’s heart and soul was filled with Lord Krishna he learnt the Saivaite philosophy and various religious teachings under his tutelage. At that time he wanted to give his teacher guru dhakshana and was wondering how he was going to do that. He happened to mention to his guru that there was a Ganesha temple near his house which was totally dis-functional and in a state of disrepair. His guru immediately told him that he should take up the responsibility of running the temple as a form of guru dhakshana to him. My guru could not but obey his orders. So in addition to his regular work, he took on the responsibility of maintaining and running the temple as well.


The temple was in a really bad shape. The idol of Ganesha was covered with bugs and insects. The temple’s ceiling and walls were also covered with crawling creatures. With great difficulty he cleaned the temple premises and also got rid of those who were using the place as a gambling den. But it was putting a financial pressure on him as the upkeep of the temple was eating into his income. But good work never goes unrewarded. Mr.MGR’s brother-in-law (Mrs Janaki Ammal’s brother) who used to pass by that temple everyday saw the transformation done to the temple by my guruji and made a monthly contribution of Rs.200 towards temple expenses. This was very helpful to my guru. As devotees started patronising the temple and a small collection started trickling into the Hundi, it also attracted the bad elements in that place. They wanted to take away the contributions received by the temple. But my guru is a very strong personality and will never bow down to unjust pressures. He made them leave the money alone and used it for temple expenses. Sri MGR being the chief minister at that time also helped my guru to keep them at bay.


He started learning Bhagavad Gita from Parameshwara Prabhu of Iskcon. He then went on to his next guru Sri Ramakrishnan. Sri Ramakrishnan was professionally in a very good position when he tragically lost his only son. He and his wife were so heart broken that they locked themselves inside their home in grief. A Swamiji from Sri Ramakrishna Mission took the initiative to give them counselling and made them come out of their shell and start doing service to the society. My guru along with a few others started learning Gita from him. Initially it was quite difficult for him to follow Sanskrit and many times Sri Ramakrishnan would offer explanations in English which was also hard for him to follow. But my guru is endowed with amazing perseverance and through the grace of the Lord and his guru mastered the essence of Bhagavd Gita. This is not very surprising as it was the wish of the Lord that my guru become the teacher for many others.


Looking at him singing Bhajans on Krishna and chanting stanzas from Prabandham in front of Ganesha, a devotee one day took him to Mahabalipuram to one of the sculpting places. He made him choose a Krishna statue among the many there and bought it and brought it back to the temple. All this happened in a matter of few hours. My guru then found another sponsor to construct a small sanctum sanctorium inside the temple. Within a matter of ten days Lord Krishna was duly installed and consecrated. The priests from The Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane volunteered to do the idol installation in the manner that is to be done as per the Hindu temple tradition. My guru did not have enough financial resources to do any of this and yet everything happened with perfect precision. This is not only a miracle but a show of love and acknowledgement on the part of Lord Krishna towards his ardent devotee, my guru.


Even as a child he could never see others suffer and go his way. He always helped others in whatever way he could. He would share his food with the neighbouring kids who did not have any. While working as an assistant director he would share his food with two others like himself. But some how tragedy strikes people who are already going through a difficult life. There was a lock out in his company and the management retrenched hundreds of employees. He was one of those who lost their job. He was only forty two years old then. At the same time his wife was diagnosed as having a severe heart ailment. Her valves were not functioning properly. It was a big blow to the family. He has two daughters and one son. Understanding the gravity of the situation he quickly conducted the marriage of his eldest daughter to his wife’s brother’s son. His second daughter is the one who is taking care of his wife round the clock till today.His wife has been admitted in the ICU several times in the past ten years in very critical conditions, yet came back home recovered. This is nothing short of miracle through the grace of Lord Krishna. But she has to be on oxygen 24/7. So other complications ensue. She has been bedridden for the past ten years. This has not deterred mu guruji from his service to the society. In fact it has only increased during this period.


He has been conducting sloka classes, bhajan classes and moral value educational classes for children for the past ten years. He goes to various places and conducts classes to groups of children. He has created a trust called Sri Gokula Bhatha Bhajana Sabha. He conducts yearly competitions in Thirupavai, Prabantham, story telling and fancy dress among children. This competition attracts more than hundred and fifty participants every year. He has also instituted a rolling shield to be given to a child who is an all rounder. He conducts BalaVihar classes in Bala Mandir on Sundays, a home started by Sri Kamarajar for children who have lost their parents. He will provide them with new clothes and good lunches when ever possible. He is a strict disciplinarian but while teaching to kids he will play with them, bring himself to their level, and make them learn with ease. The children there just love him. He has truly dedicated his life to the upliftment of children.

At the fancy dress competition

He has gone by foot to Tiruppathi fourteen times. Every month he visits Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh on Lord Lakshmi Narasimha’s star Swathi. He does not go alone but takes with him a group of people who are interested in going to such temples. Of the 108 Vaishnavaite Divya Desams he is yet to visit only three more temples. I pray to the almighty to bless him to complete it. He has done all this, while taking care of his invalid wife. He is not affluent. After he lost his job in Hydraulics Ltd he has immersed himself in service to God and children and not taken up any other job. His son now works for a multinational bank in a very good capacity. He is to be married soon. His other daughter is yet to be married.


He has not passed SSLC. But he has widened his knowledge by reading the books of great writers in Tamil. He is a great admirer of Kalaingar Karunanidhi for his prowess in Tamil literature.He will quote from memory excerpts from various writings. Such is his passion for the language. He learnt all the songs in Nalayira Divya Prabantham by his own effort. His love for the language and Lord Krishna made him master the Azhwar’s pasurams sung in chaste Tamil. When he starts explaining he can speak about a single word or a single line from the poems for more than an hour uninterrupted. Such is his knowledge and talent. He is a little different from the other spiritual speakers in that he does not give word meanings to spiritual verses but relates the present day life style to what is stated in Gita which Krishna spoke in Dwapara Yuga and azhwar pasurams which was created several hundred years ago. He lives among the poor and down trodden and works for them. So he expresses himself in simple ways so that people around him feel free to seek his help and benefit from his knowledge. He can assess one’s spiritual level just by seeing or speaking to them. He avoids unnecessary confrontations with other factions which shows his spiritual maturity. He has a captivating voice which will awaken any soul which is drowning in a quagmire of worldly desires. It is always interesting to listen to him as he will narrate events of our every day life as a part of his lecture. This capacity to lecture is a boon given to him by Krishna. Rain or shine he will be present to conduct classes. This brings pleasure to him as he sees Lord Krishna in this service.


When he talks about Saradha Devi and Andal his eyes will well up with tears. He has such compassion. So many spiritual leaders, knowledgeable teachers have graced our land. How many have taken it upon themselves to walk through the poorer sections to help the down trodden and enlighten them? My mother and myself belong to the Brahmin community. We first learnt Prabantham from him and now we are learning Gita. We are his devoted students. He does not belong to the so called upper class but the knowledge and integrity he possesses makes him a cut above all. I am mentioning this just to make a point that caste does not make a man superior or inferior. It is only the character which makes a man gain respect in a society. He would mention about how Sri Ramanujar stood on top of the temple wall and announced the Thirumanthiram Aum Namo Narayana to the world, regardless of the fact that he could go to hell for doing so. He would add that if Sri Ramanujar had not done that for the benefit of people like him, how would he have known the value of the divine mantra and the benefits of following Vaishnavism. Sometimes such candid remarks by him drives a point deep into your heart to really understand the caste system. I join my guru in singing Pallaandu to Sri Ramanujar.


He always says that Veda is nothing but our life’s experience. According to him Dharma is doing one’s stipulated duty. This simply leads to salvation. He will answer with absolute ease any difficult question posed to him. Most importantly he will make us think. His advice to his students is to be always independent. As per his guru’s instruction, if a student does not attend his class he takes the iniative to go and find out the reason for his absence and also find a solution to the problem which prevents the child from attending. Teaching is not just a job for him but his life’s mission.


His temple is in Kakkan Colony in Kodambakkam High Road, Nungambakkam. Though a small temple it will always be spotless. Krishna and Ganesha will always be beautifully decorated and Puja done regularly. All festivals pertaining to Krishna and Ganesha will be celebrated with love and sincerity. He always gives importance to Annadhanam in all festivals. Food is the only God to a hungry person. Purattasi Saturdays, everyday in the month of Margazhi, during Navaraththiri  and even during the hot summer afternoons he provides food and buttermilk to people in his neighbourhood as Prasadham. He is around fifty six years old now. Many of his students are in good position now and help him during festivals. You see young girls and boys surrounding him during such times calling him anna and doing all the work for him. It is nothing but the return of pure love.


He is very adept in bringing out the talents in his students. He follows the path of truth. He loves his wife very dearly. She is the source of strength for him. Even though he has studied the Gita and is teaching the same, he is saddened to see his wife go through so much suffering. Those who know him will agree with me one hundred percent regarding what I have written about him.


I want every one to know about him. Even in this Kali Yuga we are lucky to have people like him around us. My mother and I are so blessed to have him as our guru. I only pray to Lord Krishna to bless him, his family, his community where he does service, his students and all those with whom he comes into contact with. In fact it is Lord Krishna’s duty to do so.


Aum Sri Gurubyo Namaha!