Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dad’s lessons – after death!!

If there ever is a word called ‘Telephobia’ it was all over me during the last weeks of December 2016. Dad was seriously ill at the hospital. The ringtone on my mobile (coincidently the theme music from the Good the bad the ugly) gave me the goose bumps every time it went on. 

The writing was on the wall when the docs told me and my brother that it was ‘a matter of a few days’ and I was steeling myself for that dreaded day. I was pushing myself to stay strong as I spent time with him during the last few days of his life as he battled his illness bravely – strong as a pillar, an epitome of grace, courage and faith – as he always was. At some points, I was not sure of how to cope up with the impending loss. The gloom was scary. 

That dreaded call came just past midnight on the 28th of December 2016. My wife who had stayed by his side at the hospital for four days along with my mom, called to break the news.

Yet, when it actually happened and the call came in, something inside me just snapped and flicked a switch. A sudden surge took over me – call it strength, responsibility or even emotions (or the lack of it - I really don’t know), and here I was a brave, strong son, taking over the mantle of the family. Even when I saw his mortal remains at 2 AM in the hospital with mom sobbing uncontrollably, I was calm and composed. Touching his feet one last time along with my brother, with a prayer in my heart, I turned to take my mother’s arms and lead her home (after her 4 days at his bedside at the hospital) and get back to the hospital, to complete the formalities along with my brother and my wife to take the mortal remains of my dad back home. Not a tear left my eye all through and even on the final moments when my brother and I stooped to light the Pyre, I was as strong as a hulk - devoid of emotions.

It is still a mystery on where that strength came in though there’s nothing that can compensate a parent’s loss. It is a larger blow in adulthood because you are at the point where you are actually friends with them and relish their presence – especially amidst your children. 

His demise has already changed me – kind of adjusted my place in the world, in my family and how I look at the world apart from the new found strength. 

- In an odd way it has made me a better son, brother, husband and parent (though not sure if Mom, Brother, Wifey and Daughty would vouch for it). 
- The small particulars of his life, the kind I barely noticed when he was alive, grow into great lessons or even revelations.
- I am acutely aware of what memories can mean to my family – especially my daughter and how I will impact her life while I am on this earth.
- I now realise the value systems of dad that people adore – much after he is gone, that money is just another brush in the canvas of life . . . I’m sure, there’ll be more as the years roll by. . . 

Every now and then, when his favourite music rends the air, or his favourite dish is prepared at home, or I spot a man with a familiar build or trait, or see a tennis game of his favourite heroes of yesteryears on TV, I feel a knot in the chest, and involuntarily turn to dad, a huge lovely frame adorning my drawing room wall . . . . his famous line “What man?” echoes in my mind, giving me a huge energy boost - to move along in life. . . . 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chasing the Brigand

For decades, Mr.Vijaykumar IPS, a decorated officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre has been the scourge of the law breakers in any form in the Indian sub continent. Be it the organized Maoists on the borders, the don’s of the city of Chennai or the poachers / smugglers on the western ghats – he was the omnipresent ‘Ghost who walks’ for them (in line with the various Phantom quotes in his book).

An autobiography of Mr.Vijaykumar IPS and a Biography of the iconic forest brigand – Koose Munuswamy Veerapan are the two distinct aspects of his latest book “Chasing the Brigand” – a concise summary of events over a few decades along with a virtual walk through of the last 20 minutes of the famous encounter “Operation Cocoon”. It is a captivating read of the life and times of the dreaded bandit, while at the same time it serves as an essential piece of truth-telling about one of the murkiest events in recent history - the death of Veerapan (though the politics behind his emergence, survival & growth continues to remain a mystery).

This short book is a fascinating blast of history - more rationale, plausible, sequential than the various versions doing the rounds in the media and websites. It is a thought provoking alternative to the hagiography served up in Vana Yudham – a Tamil movie attempt on the life and times of Veerapan. 

The most powerful chapters in this book concern the overall continuity of the hunt - from Mr. Walter Dewaram to Mr.Vijaykumar and every one in between – the likes of Mr.Sanjay Arora and the excellent team work along with the Intelligence, the forest department, the local police and not to mention the law enforcement agencies across the borders of Karnataka. His well researched comparative anecdotes go into a lot of detail on some of the finer points without ever getting boring. He is able to educate on comparable historical global events without you even realizing he has drifted from the main story. These actually set him apart from the run of the mill ‘friendly ‘neighbourhood cop and the ones that adorn the silver screen climaxes that we are used to and perceive as the norm for most cops – in real life.

The gutsy move of the dreaded bandit in using explosives at the Palar operations to the gruesome murder of the forest official (Mr.Srinivas), to the bold raids of police stations, right up to the audacity of kidnapping the Karnataka matinee idol Dr.Rajkumar speaks about the calibre of the bandit in pulling of major coups and his ability to plan, execute and deliver – key management traits – only in the wrong place.

Mr.Vijaykumar describes the folly of Veerapan’s ‘Lowering of guard’ during his last days, his clouding eyesight, his over dependence on his team and his counterproductive move of aligning with Tamil ultra’s both within the state and across the Sri Lankan islands – all of which, paved way for inroads to be made into his otherwise tightly packed unit, leading up to ‘Operation Cocoon’ which, as I said earlier, is a virtual walkthrough of those deadly 20 minutes. The icing on the cake is the narration of the final call with the CM during the wee hours.

The narration bolts at a good solid pace throughout. It achieves two things, which are rare lately in books, firstly, you are compelled into swiping into the next pages of your kindle (mine was a kindle edition) desperate to find out what happened and secondly you wake up with the kindle open on your bed on more than one occasion!

With nonstop action, intrigue and a fascinating plot Chasing the Brigand is an example of a biography-thriller at its very best. The issues raised concerning the politics of crime and the very real threat of violence in life will have readers thinking about Chasing the Brigand long after they have put the book down. A must read for lovers of intrigue, thrillers and for anyone who loves an exciting true life story with a complex timescale of events with twists, turns and a climax that would put a Hollywood thriller to shame.