Black friday & Mozhi

Both were wonderful movies and watching them, the last weekend speeded by.

Black Friday

Meticulously crafted by Hussein Zaidi and directed by Anurag Kashyap, the movie has KayKay Menon doing the whodunit with his outfit of five. With Kaykay’s restrained acting the movie is taut and suspense filled even though many have been following the real life story over the last 13 years. The makers have not strayed away from the storyline, nor have they been hesitant about naming and going after the perpetuators. The movie completed 3 years ago, has just been cleared for screening after a court ban for fear of biasing the court verdicts. Don’t give the movie a miss, if you can’t see it in a theatre, see the DVD….It is very good.

For those who are interested in knowing if the perpetuators have been brought to justice, three of the main kingpins Dawood, Tiger & Yakoub are still on the run. Tiger was
spotted in Dubai recently inaugurating a restaurant. Dawood was probably around for his daughters marriage with Javed Miandad’s son… They are somewhere in Pakistan these days, according to the press. But you know how geopolitics is…Nobody really gets to tracking them down like the Turks tracked down & captured the Kurdish leader Apo in Kenya..

Rakesh Maria played in the movie by KK is presently the IG of Mumbai police..KayKay is
just perfect for the role, and thinks it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but believe it or not, the two have never met. The real story is recounted by Maria himself in these two articles.

It is tragic that this write up on Black Friday has its ties to the next which is about a lovely movie Mozhi starring one of my favorite actress’s Jyotika. (Jyotika’s sister Nagma is allegedly
Anees Ibrahim’s paramour &Annes BTW is Dawood Ibrahim’s brother).


How sad, this is going to be Jyotika’s
last movie. She was so good both to look at and watch, this chubby, round faced, big eyed and bubbly actress. Oh! Nobody uses the politically incorrect term ‘actress’ any more, female actor, I believe -bah!

Mozhi – the foursome and all the supporting cast are fantastic, brought together by director
Radhamohan.. Who are the four? Prithviraj, Prakash Raj, Jyotika and Swarnamalya. I wondered as I was seeing the movie, if Prithviraj ever thought that he would get into movies while he was studying to get into the armed forces, at my alma mater Sainik School Kazhakootam….Maybe yes, as his dad and mom are actors. Well, he did and he does well as I can see. He has acted well, so has Prakash Raj and Swarnamalya, but the movie belongs to Jyotika who plays her role to perfection, even without having to speak a word. A good review plus the movie’s own impressive website.

A must see that any family would love to watch…with glorious
music, the song Katrin Mozhiye sung separately by Sujatha and Balram is one that will remain close to your heart for a long long time…

But then, I could connect better than most with this movie as I remembered my college days. We had a friend whom we met every week end, another friend’s cousin, a guy just like any of us, but he was, like Jyotika in this movie, deaf and dumb. That was how I learnt sign language. A strong chap he was, he was mobile, active, happy, optimistic always and we could converse with him as he enjoyed life just like we did…sitting at the beach, ogling girls, doing all kinds of things wandering around Calicut…He used to travel India on his own, going for meets where others like him congregated…

In India we learn the BSL or British sign language which of course is different from ASL or American…At least here I had hoped that there would be a universal sign language, but not to be. By the way, ASL uses only one hand, BSL normally requires both.

One thing was clear, Jyotika (and to a lesser extent, Prithviraj) did learn a bit of BSL before she did the movie and I commend the director for the attention to details that make this a great watch… I also read that after seeing this movie, BSL (or parts of it) is a rage amongst youngsters in Chennai, to convey their feelings!!



I started hearing this usage some years ago – probably three. It means ‘in any case’, but all and sundry are now legitimizing this usage….Of course, these things happen, it is, I guess, cool….but then…as Tina Blue says,
This is going to be short and simple.

Do not say or write "anyways"--not ever. The word is "anyway."

The form "anyways" is found in some dialects in the United States, but it is not standard English, and it should never be used in any situation where you want to be considered reasonably well educated.

That's all there is to it.

There are some who want to get to the bottom of this, if so read on….

As ugly and juvenile as it sounds to these ears, which had almost never heard the construction until, perhaps, a decade or two ago, anyways now seems to have taken hold as common usage among the current generation of youth and young adults, at least where I live (New England). My guess is that it is a "juvenilism," like, you know, retained into later years by today's subliterate culture. I'm curious to know whether it was ever a generally accepted regional form anywhere, or anywheres, and if my cringing impression--that it is effectively and universally replacing anyway--is correct. Any ways you might devise to answer this would be appreciated.

It's not just youth who are using anyways; a quick search of the news from the last month turns up citations of everyone from a 7-year-old girl to Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada. What is clear, though, is that nearly every citation is either from direct speech that is being quoted, or from Web sites that are not edited. Anyways is still not accepted in edited prose--and my word processor's spell checker will also not recognize it.

You may be hearing anyways more often simply because of modern media, especially television. When print was the primary medium of mass communication, dialectal differences tended to be edited out. Television and radio now broadcast unedited speech from people from all over the world, and so perhaps anyways is being picked up from there. However, it is being used exclusively in its logical position--as a conjunctive adverb--and not as a substitute for the determiner-plus-noun construction of your last sentence.

Anyways, often spelled any ways, is a dialectal variant of any wise, 'in any way/manner', and as such is recorded from the 16th century, in such august tomes as the 1611 King James Bible and the 1560 Book of Common Prayer: "All those who are any ways mind, body, or spirit." As an adverb, its formation from any way by the addition of the genitive -s is perfectly regular: we got always from alway in the same manner. This use of anyways, along with the use of any wise/anywise, is now obsolete.

However, the use of this genitive form instead of the more usual conjunctive adverb anyway still survived in certain dialectal uses, among them New England dialects. Opinions about the use vary; the fact that Noah Webster recorded anywise as "sometimes used adverbially" in 1828, but did not record anyways, may suggest that he disapproved of anyways, although it's also possible that he never heard it used or chose not to focus on the obscure dialectal variant. The 1914 edition of The Century Dictionary records both meanings of anyways, and calls them "colloquial in both senses." The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary calls the conjunctive use "dialectal or illiterate" (the same harsh judgment you levied).

So we're left with the fact that the use has actually been around for quite a while (at least the late 19th century, and likely to be much earlier), and that it has never been considered standard. However, as a dialectal variant, it is not incorrect; it is simply a less frequent use. I have my own theory, completely unsubstantiated, that there's a Cockney connection lurking in there somewhere. If you've ever heard anyone with that accent, you'll know that anyways is pronounced like anywise. There just has to be a link between the British settlers of New England and the regional pronunciations of their mother country.

A movie and a concert

Hariharan at San Diego

We have not been to too many live concerts, but I have been to ones performed by Yesudas, Chitra, Janaki, MG Sreekumar etc and we have watched a number of others on tape – Ilayaraja, Gangai Amaran, SPB….. So when Hariharan was scheduled to visit nearby San Diego, we jumped at the chance and joined the
Raag & Taal academy here. It was worth it, Hariharan is one of those audience friendly singers, and the audiences truly appreciate and acknowledge the fact. He could easily get the mix of old and young going and singing with him, clapping with him. The Neurosciences institute auditorium was as Hariharan himself put it, a very good concert hall, acoustically. He regaled us last Sunday evening with some great numbers, Ghazals, Thumri’s, Hindi and Tamil movie songs. Chandrayee who accompanied him was passable, but then it was Hariharan’s evening – singing many of his popular Ghazals, movie songs like Tuhi re, Roja jaane man…Ennai thalattu varuvaya, Yadein, Woh Lamhe and many many others….and of course the crowd favorite Krishna Nee begane baro…His range and the ease at which he moved across the highs and lows – phew! What a singer!! On the keyboards was the young Stephen Devassy, so perfect on the chords…not to say that the others like Liyaqat ali khan on the Sarangi were any less, but Stephen easily stood apart in his dexterity with his Roland machine..

A little known fact – Hariharan though brought up in Mumbai, is
originally from Trivandrum (he still likes Mohanlal & Mammotty films, Yesudas and did a bit of acting himself), born there and nowadays a rare visitor, mainly to the Padmanabha Swami temple….His wife Lalitha (pictured with hariharan above) was born & brought up in Calcutta (She braids his long hair!) and his kids both the 18 and 12 year old chaps want to grow long hair like him. How he ended up with long hair is another story, read on what he has to say about all that. I have been at close quarters with him once at the Mumbai airport, in adjacent telephone booths – a passing moment, once thing I noticed was that he is relatively short in stature…but on the stage, well, his stature is unmatched.

If any of you get a chance to go to a Hariharan concert don’t miss it, we enjoyed the evening, but did wish that somebody had served some good Vadas and Sambar, though…

Hari does have a sense of humor – Upon audience request he was trying to find the song in the many lyrics/chord files that he had brought along and joked – I thought I will never have to lug files along after I completed my LLB and decided to take the musical career, see now – I still carry so many files!!!

The China syndrome

The day before the concert, we saw a remarkable movie -‘
The China Syndrome’. What a master class in acting by Jack Lemmon, supported by Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda. This was a movie made in those anti nuclear days, trying to tell people that when something goes wrong, if it does, in a nuclear power plant, the situation can quickly become uncontrollable….what they call a core meltdown like in the much publicized ‘Chernobyl’ disaster. But the real stunner is not that, it is the fact that 12 days after the movie was screened and pooh poohed by the nuclear lobby, the Three mile island reactor in Pennsylvania had a core meltdown. The movie is gripping and beautifully crafted, well worth a watch, though made way back in 1978.

OK – So what does the title mean? It was a joke that started with the movie - a severe core meltdown in a US nuclear power plant, left uncontrolled, may burn right through the earth all the way to the other side of the globe i.e. China – This of course is falsehood and in reality, the slag can only bore down less than a hundred feet, not many miles.. What would happen is that the slag will hit the water table and an eruption would take place, creating nuclear fallout. Nowadays there are (?) safeguards to prevent such a meltdown.

But well, the movie was a hit following the Three Mile Island accident. If you are technically inclined, read this
critique. For those who wonder what happened in the core meltdown at Chernobyl, the molten core flowed in a channel created by the structure of its reactor building, e.g., stairways and froze in place before core-concrete interaction. In the basement of the reactor at Chernobyl, a large "elephant's foot" of congealed core material was found.

The Meisterstück

I saw a wonderful video on NGeo a few days ago about the new Ferrari 599 and how they test it on their racetrack before delivery. Well, that has always been a desire – owning a Ferrari, but well, I own a number of bright red Ferrari micro models though, now consigned somewhere to storage boxes in the garage, for want of display space.

People have many desires in life – and I have my share of them. Decades ago, I carried this ‘so very true’ saying always in my wallet – wishes are desires, be careful of what you desire, you just might get it. (Remember the Midas touch story?)

Well, I desired a foreign sojourn, I got it, too much of it actually, I wished for many things like a Mont Blanc, Jaguar etc that I got…a few remain like the Ferrari, the space ride, skydiving, piloting a plane and so on..Who knows….But for now, I will pen a little on the Mont Blanc.

Lets start with a Fun Fact - Montblanc pens are tested by hand in absolute silence; their craftsmen listen for the "melody" of the pen's nib on paper. And a rumor - Mont Blanc gifts Amitabh Bachan a special pen every year on his birthday. ...I don’t know if that’s true though.. If you have one, check for authenticity – check the ring that holds the clip, you will find a serial number embossed on the ring.

Now a question: On the nib of Mont Blanc fountain pens there is a number, 4810. What is its meaning? Answer: It is the height of the Swiss mountain peak, Mont Blanc, in meters; the Mont Blanc is the highest mountain peak in Europe

Meisterstuck – is German for masterpiece, the name of MB’s most popular range. The first pens came onto the market under the name ‘Rouge & Noir’. In the USA MB is also popularly known as the ‘Power Pen’. The company started business in Hamburg around 1909 as the Simplo Filler Company; a couple of years later, Simplo adopted "Montblanc" as a trade name. Their first products were safety and eyedropper pens using hard rubber barrels and caps and US-made gold points. After WW II, they had to resort to steel nibs for a while. Famous users include Johnny Depp - Rolling stones, Anne Frank – she wrote her diaries with a Mont Blanc, John F Kennedy, E Hemmingway…the list goes on.

Airlines have a policy of offering upgrades if available, selectively, and well, the better dressed you are, the higher the possibilities. If you have a Mont Blanc in your shirt pocket, well you may be in luck. Those who travel alone, are smartly dressed,
carry quality luggage, and belong to that all-important frequent flyer scheme stand the best chance. People who have "Rev" in their passport, or who fill out documentation with a Mont Blanc pen are also likely to be favored.

Well, I have a Mont Blanc fountain pen, the
Meisterstuck, with a platinum trim, gifted by a dear friend; I have a ballpoint Mont Blanc as well. But if you ask me which pens I like writing with, I’d say it is the US made Sheaffer Steel Targa (I was always enamored by the Sheaffer nib), the German made Diplomat and the extra heavy Rotring Lava…On the other and, the pen I have used the most - My trusty green Parker 21 (a pen launched in the 50’s in USA, the $5 pen) – once used by my dad (I think he got it in the 50’s when he passed his MBBS exams) and thence gifted to me – I must have written many miles of text using this pen, I still have it, though it has been retired. Those days, I used a color of ink that only one other person, I know of (my friend Venu) uses – the color being turquoise blue – I don’t know if Parker makes that color anymore.

There was also a time when the Chinese hero pen ruled the Indian roost, Alas, i never had one to savor.

Ah! Well, talking of inks – I was at the Office depot asking for a bottle of ink and the guys helping in the aisles there had no clue whatsoever as to what I was talking about. They had fountain pens for sale, but using ink cartridges. It was different in the UK, there ink and ink fillers were always available. Here, they showed me cartridges and I kept saying ‘no, no, a bottle of ink’, attracting quizzical stares back – and I thought, am I from the Stone Age or what? Eventually the manager was summoned and he said – ‘we stopped carrying ink years ago, suggest try some art shop’ – I did exactly that and got a bottle of Sanford (A Parker Company) ink – made in India…

One happy MB user states - I must admit it is very durable. Mine has been "lost" in a car for several months in 100+ degree weather (so has been baked for a loooong time) and worked fine, except for needing a refill. Recently it went through the washing machine (thank goodness not the dryer) and again, all it needed is a refill.

In Octopussy James 007 Bond has a Mont Blanc fountain pen - Contains a mixture of Nitric and Hydrochloric acids, and an earpiece listening device that works in conjunction with Bond's wristwatch

Did you know that there are pen hackers – I didn’t know what that lofty term meant, until I found out that it meant, putting a MB refill in a cheap pen and you have the decent results, and that reminded me of the college days when we used to fit 555 filters to Charminar cigarettes, but that’s another story though.

People say an MB is usually a status symbol, it writes no better than a $10 Parker pen etc, well, in a way all that is OK, because today, 99% of your work is tapped away on a keyboard compared to a couple of decades ago when it was laboriously and legibly (handwriting maketh a man….remember what our parents said?) written on bond paper. Those were the real hey days of Mont Blanc. Today; what would an executive or a president do with a fountain pen? Sign a cheque or a peace treaty at best?? Or just clip it to adorn his shirt pocket? This is all beautifully explained by Dejan Sujic in the linked article, be sure to give it a read, because, it is a classic, in writing style & text compilation!

Pranay Gupta has a great article, and he calls the Mont Blanc, hand candy….
An oft repeated rumor – Montblanc pens have a trademark on their caps of a finely-crafted white star. It is said that the Montblanc pen was designed by a Jew for Adolph Hitler so that, without knowing it, Hitler carried the Jewish Star of David in his pocket.
Refuted though as - The Montblanc Company is a German company that was founded in the early 1900's under a different name, and then became Montblanc in 1910. According to "The Montblanc Diary and Collector's Guide" written by Jens Rosler, the first pens with the white star on the cap were produced in 1914, long before Hitler's rise to power. The white star represents the snow-capped mountain Montblanc which was also, black at the bottom, white at the top and the greatest among its peers." It does resemble a Star of David, but we have found no evidence that the resemblance is intentional. The famous star or "snowflake" motif on the cap derby was also meant to be identified with the peak of the mountain.

MB and India - For the deskbound there's nothing like owning a classy writing instrument. And Mont Blanc has always been aware of this. "Exceptional things are limited, without limits, life would have no exception," proclaims the first page of the Mont Blanc brochure. In India, the company is represented by Entrack, owned by former Test cricketer Dilip Doshi. Entrack is the sole distributor of Mont Blanc pens and has exclusive outlets in top five cities in India. Says Rashmi Asnani, manager, Mont Blanc, "We don't see Waterman as real competition because Mont Blanc is a lifestyle brand while Waterman is exclusively pens."

You buy - we fly

The last issue of Life had a very nice article -- order a pizza, but the dominoe's guy who comes by car is not the one at the door, you pick it up instead at the nearby airstrip - Believe it or not !the pizza is airlifted to you, (but not in LA or other places) a story from Nome, Alaska. Life in those parts of the world can be pretty tough, but the world adapts... A pretty nice read

The text in the picture
Please dont tip the pilot
When a call comes in to Airport Pizza, in Nome, Alaska, for three large pepperoni pies going out to Savoonga (pop. 648), chef Matt Tomter, 41 responds much as Domino's would: He takes the order, pops the pizzas into the oven, and' sched­ules the next available delivery. Nothing unusual there, except that Savoonga is 150 miles away as the crow flies-flies being the operative word.

"Nome is just like any other little town in America," explains Tomter. "It just happens to be 500 miles from the closest city with a road." Most would see that as a delivery obstacle; Tomter and his wife, Jeri Ann, who owns the pizzeria, saw an opportunity. Now, when folks in the Alaskan bush get a hankering for a 19-inch reindeer-sausage pie ($31 with free delivery), they can call the only pizza place with the motto "You buy! We fly!"

Airport Pizza bakes its pies halfway, then, through an agreement with Frontier Flying Service Inc., loads them onto regularly scheduled flights out to surrounding villages. "When people call in, we say 'Do you want that on the twelve o'clock flight or on the four o'clock flight?' says Tomter. Customers pick up their pizzas at the local airstrip, then pop them in the oven at home to finish the cooking process. Tomter has delivered orders as far as Barrow, 500 miles away.

With dozens of toppings to choose from (including Thai chicken and blackened halibut), Airport Pizza's selection is expanding along with the business, which recently upgraded to a new, larger location. Of course, in a place with bru­tal winters (Nome's average temperature in March: 9.4°F), it's really no surprise that Tomter's idea has, well, taken off. Even if a blizzard occasionally delays delivery for a few days.


If you want to order one of those pizzas, visit this site

VK Krishna Menon (Part 2)- The reluctant politician

Some months back, I started on a difficult project, trying to understand a forgotten luminary from the Indian political scene of the 50’s and 60’s, VK Krishna Menon. For a while it became a mini obsession, I read hundreds of articles related to him; I read autobiographies written by Janaki Ram and Madhavan Kutty and I discovered a man who was hated by many, liked only by a few and I wondered, why so? It is a tragedy actually; a great man who did so much for the country, only to be undone by the very politics he entered into…Because, in his lone quest for moral righteousness, he voiced his mind and started fights that he did not have firepower to fight with and lacked back up. Many a time, the finesse that he showed when he spoke on great pulpits like the UN, deserted him when he faced subordinates. The subordinates became his enemy.

Part 1, I introduced him; in Part 2, I cover some matters related to his defense ministry days, the infamous jeep scandal and the latest MI5 files.MKB Nair introduces the protagonist perfectly - V. K. Krishna Menon is one of those who are not lost in a crowd. His face is attractive in a Mephistophelian way. Piercing eyes, an aquiline nose, broad forehead and disheveled hair, his face has a fanatical glow. His restless face mirrors the quick thinking that is going on in his mind. Even more expressive are his long fingers which can emphasize a point to supplement his precise words. Rough-hewn masculinity is the instantaneous, impression. When he begins to talk, a fanatical restlessness comes alive which is the result of deep convictions hardened in the rough and tumble of a hard life. He may be liked. He may be hated. But he can never be ignored.

New Delhi in the 50’s - It was a macabre setting, like a fine Shakespeare drama theatre or a Roman colloseum, with the guys in the middle comprising the protagonist, his dear friend, and a number of villains. The arena had onlookers who contributed little, joined by many hounds baying for blood. The air was thick with political talk, north/south divide omni present, rumors of an impending military coup, enemies at the north and west borders. In the middle of it all the lone sufferer, the protagonist, supported by only his only friend, his boss.

The protagonist was VK Krishna Menon, and his lone friend – Nehru, with Menon fighting his own and Nehru’s proxy battle with the powerful army HQ and the many officers who hated the very sight of this arrogant civilian giving them daily dressing downs. He was not the typical meek, submissive and cowering south Indian clerk type appointed by the Raj, which they had been used to in the past; here was a sneering, well educated, eloquent speaker, who argued like no other. The baying hounds were the anti congress politicians comprising Morarji, JP, Kriplani and many more. Pressures flared up, so did tempers, files were thrown around and during temporary retreats, both parties sat sulking & scowling, important work suffered.

VKKM was living contentedly in UK, but the jeep scandal and Nehru’s insistence that he come to India to help him out resulted in VKKM’s appointment as India’s defense minister – and with it commenced his many failings and achievements. Actually Menon wanted to start a reporting career in London at 21g per article.

It all started against a poignant background - Nehru hated men in uniform. Menon usually carried out Nehru’s wishes and this time around, he walked into the defense ministry with that idea and started his turnaround plan – at the same time putting his own stamp on it – making a self reliant military. He hated the very British sounding & pompous military brass, guys like Thimmaya and Maneksaw, but (unfortunately!) favored Nehru’s nephew Kaul. He hated decorum and the military way of doing things ‘by the book’. And, Menon wanted the non aligned moment and the Panchsheel to survive. Geo politics in the meantime took its devious paths and resulted in a whole bunch of disappointed people, China, Tibet, India, USA, Pakistan…the list goes on…Menon stuck to rebuilding the military much to the chagrin of the generals, he wanted arms and armaments locally manufactured, he had learnt from his arms deals while at UK, whereas the brass possibly wanted the latest from the west.

Nehru in the meantime was quite unhappy over the loss of Tibet to China and wanted the Chinese to withdraw from all disputed territory. The Chinese would have none of that and eventually the word was given by Nehru, ‘throw them out’. Incidentally, the final order to 'throw the Chinese out,' was given on September 22, 1962 by K Raghuramiah, then minister of state in the defense ministry.

It is debatable that Indo China skirmish resulted in a horrible loss for India, I think the real fact was that we held up against them on some fronts, though we lost on the Aksai Chen (North Ladakh) battle– This was largely due to the mess created by Kaul in redirecting a brigade who had just finished duty in the East, carrying just blankets and minimally equipped, to secure the Aksai Chen area… result lives lost, battle lost…retreat & humiliation. Menon’s strategy was to fight the Chinese on the low grounds as we were not really equipped for high altitude warfare, he was quickly branded a traitor for trying to let the enemy in, resulted in our taking on the enemy at the heights with 303 rifles and a handful of ammunition – and the loss..

Why the lack of preparedness and equipment? Why were the factories making cookers & kettles? Because of an ongoing tussle between the defense and finance ministries and because Morarji Desai the FM never cleared the money for defense budgets!! Also during peacetime days, Krishna Menon wanted his ordnance factories to work to capacity and support the growing nation.

But there is so much of conflicting information and ‘spin’on this put out in the press by supporters and detractors, even today; I don’t know what to believe. All I know is that Menon would have gained nothing by doing what other say he did – going to war without a care, or for that matter the unprepared-ness of the
military (Actually Menon forced the defense budget up to 2.5% of the GNP from 1.4% in the past) when the day to day running was actually by the Army HQ!! So is it right that Menon howled and the Brass sulked when an enemy was at the border with guns poised? Well if that is the case, there is more than Menon to blame.

Malgaonkar concurs- Krishna Menon didn't possess an independent power base and drew his power from his proximity to Nehru. Menon probably would have done better as foreign minister, but he proved to be a bad boss for defense. He disliked the set army procedures and tried to short-circuit them at every stage in every matter. He had a bad habit of treating his subordinates as if they were children.

But well, as minister, Menon took the blame, uttered not a word in his defense, resigned and retired from public life. He did not pass the buck or blame his boss. He left behind a legacy, the various institutions he created, forming a solid base for self reliant India, a major reason for success in border wars that followed. However, he was not necessarily a good leader - Menon lectured his highly decorated subordinates, scolded them viciously, and mocked them when they came out with outdated strategies and proposals. But, having said all that, let us look at some of his good work

Krishna Menon wrote in 1971, “…The building of a modern India needs the purposeful channelisation of the entire energies of her people towards well defined goals.” This was his underlying principle. Menon brought in the concept that the defense system should have its own industrial base and should not be dependent upon imports. From recovery and reconstruction of condemned equipment lying in military depots to raising the salaries of defense personnel, he brought about several changes. He initiated extensive defense production programs, much to the detriment of the private sector.

And he helped create (the list is not complete), organizations which gave our defense structure, direction & momentum. These below were the some of his activities Army HQ never supported and dubbed as ‘play-things’ of VKKM.

Sainik Schools & Compulsory NCC, Ordnance factory, Heavy Vehicles factory Avadi, Bharat electronics, HAL at Bangalore, Armed forces medical college, Hovercraft production, Avro production at Kanpur, SLR – Semi automatic rifles production, Shaktiman truck production, Leander frigate development at Bombay, DRDO Bangalore, ADE Bangalore, Missile (SWDT) development at DSL N Delhi

So here it is for you to see – judge the man by his actions and his legacy, not the people he fired or got upset, not his failings and aberrations. I agree with his detractors that he did have failings and I am not simply supporting him as one from his state (look at Indians today, when somebody like me makes a comment in support of VKKM, quickly comes a rejoinder, you are from his state & blindly supporting him). I should even add here that Menon had little to do with Kerala ( he always proposed a Dakshin Pradesh & not individual South Indian states), he forgot Malayalam after his years in UK and refused initially to contest for elections from Kerala, on the grounds that it was unfair & that if he was a good candidate, he should get elected from other constituencies. He got elected from Bombay.

VKKM said often - controversy chases me and I always meet it halfway, he had a very large share of controversies actually…the most notorious being the Jeep scandal.

VKKM, the UK high commissioner was asked by the Army to help procure a large number of jeeps (just after WW-II) at a very limited budget for deployment in the Andhra & Kashmir regions, for law & order enforcement. The army also sent a Brigadier as advisor for this purpose, which Menon disliked. The need was urgent (the Brits were also trying to source jeeps), so with great alacrity, Menon found agents (Cleminsan) who could source a number of used Allied forces (the hounds called it the WWII condemned lot) vehicles and he procured them without much ado. This blew up into a major scandal in India, as the local Brigadier had been bypassed. The sulking army brass initially refused to accept them even though they were Lloyds certified. The situation was muddied further by the hounds who stated that Menon did this all for personal benefit (ridiculous, it is said that he drew only Rs 1/- as salary when he was the UK-HC and occupied only a small corner room for himself), and that the jeeps were not roadworthy, were never delivered etc.

How sad, this one man, who had no interest or use for money (nor did he have any vices that needed monetary support) in his entire life, now being accused of accepting money for it. What the anti Nehru lobby wanted was Nehru’s key man, weakened, the usual political move, and the plan executed with Macbeth’ian precision. As for the jeeps, well, they were in put into service and remained in service for a decade thereafter (Source – Janaki Ram’s book). End result, a miffed army HQ and the sullying of the reputation of this fine man plus his losing the HC post in London. The real error in all this, Nehru’s summary closure of the case without proper explanation – that raised a furor and made the case smell like hell, like it does even today.

Another issue was also related to UK, Menon as High commissioner ordered two Rolls Royce’s for HC use, which nobody appreciated, in India. It was termed a waste of good money (MI5 states that they were financed by the jeep & other deals). Unfortunately Menon had a purpose; he wanted young India to be viewed in the right light and on par with all others, not as a country of beggars. Menon hardly possessed the virtues of patience and humility, and when questioned, he replied, rather snapped "I can scarcely hire a bullock-cart to call on 10 Downing Street." But well, was a Rolls Royce required to prove the point? Probably not…It only helped build a tougher anti Menon lobby, just as he was headed for home.

R Venkatraman rightly said – Menon was arrogant but only to those who tried to denigrate his country. His words were acid and bitter but only when he tore the mask of hypocrisy and laid bare the truth. He was harsh because he could not suffer mediocrity. Intellectually he was a giant and had the best in an argument and it is the habit of the world to compensate the loss with abuse.

The MI5 files on VKKM released on March 2nd,2007.

I was just planning to post this when two articles came up in the Indian press. A report by
Times of India, and another by Rediff. Initially the reporters based everything on highlights provided on the UK MI5 intelligence organizations, website. Unfortunately, they like the MI5 teaser just reported the scandalous bits. Intrigued by the accusations, I myself had a quick read of all the pages in the MI5 ‘Menon Dossier’. I can provide a quick summary, for those interested.
1.The first few files primarily focus on Menon’s relations with the British Communists. MI5 initially concluded that Menon is a communist and monitored him, attending his speeches and thence opening & copying his personal mail.
2.There are some opinions on KM’s moral standing provided by certain individuals. One of them writes that ‘it is common knowledge in Indian circles’ (now, you decide if that is reliable intelligence) that Bridget Tunnard, the Indian league secretary was Menon’s mistress. That’s it, one sentence.
3. I could not see at first look any reference to Menon’s recreational drug use. However I do know from various articles that Menon used Luminal for arthritis (or was it some kind of epilepsy?). MI5 files mention that he was sick often and probably had heart problems and TB.
4. A couple of files are entirely on the Jeep deal and other Indian arms purchase deals.
5. In later files and in a reply to the US state department, the MI5 state that Menon was originally using the Communist party as a prop for the purpose of Indian independence and that after he became the UK HC, he distanced himself from them. They also clarify that in the Jeep deal, Menon’s actions were irregular, but not illegal or meant for personal profit. They go on to confirm that he lived frugally and he took no salary, but they insinuate that he spread that money around to help Indians and other Indian organizations in UK like the India league.
6. While reading the files, it becomes quite apparent that the investigators had little knowledge of the Indian mindset, habits & differing ways of viewing things. From page one they are anti Menon and only in one matter do they support him, it is the fact that Menon always insisted on India not straying from the commonwealth.

I found the MI5 dossier full of innuendo & many contradictions plus lack of depth & precision, but I guess that the way they are, clinically documented text for others to tailor inferences as they chose. Personally I am quite apolitical, so most of the stuff & views in those files were of little interest to me.

Mannadey - on his muse

‘Zindagi kaise hai paheli’, what a riddle this life is sang the great Prabodh Chandra dey – a.k.a. Mannadey (Song from the movie Anand), that was the number the car CD had picked up at random, just as I was ruminating about the vagaries of life…one has to agree, what a great song, tuned by the superlative Salilda. A song that was originally a background song as composed for the movie. Rajesh Khanna after hearing it wanted it to be picturised on him and thus the beach scene was added.

Which of course made me think about and drift to Mannadey’s other great number, a memorable one for us Malayali’s, ‘Maanasa Maine varu’ from Chemmeen (1965), a song that Manndey had to practice over & over before he went on to sing it in his own inimitable style. Mannadey comments fondly about the song, "Even if there is one Malayali in the audience, he will insist that I sing that song"

So what is behind the man and the song? The man is famous, there is plenty of writing about him on the net, Google will provide lots of links including Wikipedia, or try
his own website. How did he get to singing that song (BTW he sang a second Malayalam song later though not great, Chemba Chemba for Nellu), a song that remains in every Malayali heart and one that brings pictures of two stars Pareekutty- Madhu and Karuthamma- Sheela, to our minds, standing on the seashore..or reminds us of the many mimicry artistes who mimicked Mannadey’s accent & rendition, be it at college festivals, on radio or TV…especially the ‘varu’ part.

Mannadey was in Bombay in the 50’s, grappling with Hindi & Urdu diction, struggling to rise above the great threesome of Mukesh, Kishore & Rafi and feeling quite morose. He wanted to leave but did not, he explains

"But you know the real reason why I stayed on in Bombay? I met Sulochana, my wife." Manna Dey's face still lights up when he talks about his wife. "She has been my beacon light. But for her I might not have stayed. She changed the course of my life. She was a master’s student in English Literature from Bombay University. Though she is from Kerala, she has a great love for Rabindrasangeet and that's how I met her on a platform at a Rabindra Jayanti function. She encouraged me that you have to go to the top. She knew what material I was made of."

Mannadey was in charge of a program to celebrate Tagore’s birthday, in 1949. “I taught her the songs we planned for the evening - that’s how I came to know her well. I also taught Talat (Mehmood), Lata and Geeta Dutt - they also came and sang that evening!”Sulochana Dey Kumaran laughs as she remembers, "He taught us Rabindra sangeet for that function. And I remember I was awed by how proficient he was and yet how modest. And when he sang, that awe turned to worship. You know, from my childhood we always had Bengali friends and I used to admire everything Bengali, from the way they dressed, to the songs."

Yes, she is right there, there is a lot in common between the people of Kerala and Bengal, the inclination to rice and fish, the love for hand-woven cotton saris, the love for good music & literature, the sharp interest in politics and personal liberty…The list goes on and from early British days, many a Malayali landed up in Calcutta for gainful employment, staying on there… (Another connection we have - the great Baburaj, of Bengal descent, his father was Bengali).

Mannadey is now settled in
Bangalore with his wife, near their daughter Sumita - close to Kalyan nagar, Banaswadi, and he says the following in an interview with Kerala Calling - Dey reminisced that it was Salil Chaudry, who introduced him to Malayalam cinema. “Ramu Kariat, Vayalar Rama Varma, and Salil Da came to my house. I could not refuse the offer. My wife Sulochana is from Kerala. My daughters are well versed in Malayalam. They taught me Manasa mainae varoo, word by word. It became a smash hit. I could not believe” he said. He adds that he is a fan of KS Chitra & that Chitra’s voice is sweeter than honey, well, well, from somebody like Mannadey, that is one fantastic compliment!!

Back to ‘maanasa maine’, he continues about the same song in a
Rediff interview
Many people complimented Dey for not only putting his soul into the song but also for pronouncing the Malayalam lyrics adeptly. "The pronunciation has improved since then as I have been singing it at many concerts," he says, laughing. He remembers the day he went home with a tape of the song after the first rehearsal, and one of his daughters asked him what language it was. It is Malayalam, he told her, surprised. His daughter wouldn't believe him, and insisted that her mother listen to the song and confirm that it was in fact sung in the language of Kerala. Not many people know that Manna Dey's wife Sulochana is a Malayali. "She made sure I got it right," he says, adding on a grin: "Well, almost."

And this about Bangalore & his courtship with Sulochana, from a
Hindu Interview

The singing legend laughs as he recalls: "My association with Bangalore is 50 years old. My wife's family lived here and I got married in Bangalore!" The marriage was solemnized at a ceremony held on Kenchappa Road, but not before Lalbagh and Cubbon Park had witnessed the couple walking hand in hand, lost in each another. "I used to love going to the Green House at Lalbagh", reminisces Manna, as he talks about the prize-winning roses his wife took from here and planted at their home in Mumbai. However, he laments that those days are gone and, like a true blue Bangalorean,
grumbles about the traffic and crowds. Manna Dey and Sulochana's bonding with Bangalore had happened way back in 1950s during their courtship days which culminated in the marriage. Sulochana, a native of Cannanore, was based in Bombay where she was a member of the Bombay league club. Music brought them together with Dey frequenting the club to participate in the musical shows and the friendship blossomed into love. For some years, Sulochana's parents were in Bangalore and Dey used to frequently come down to meet her. Finally, they were married In Bangalore at a private function.

There is an interesting story of how he was challenged to sing together with Bhimsen Joshi, he was appalled and wanted to sneak away from Bombay, Sulochana was the one who convinced him to go ahead..

The story behind his duet with Hindustani maestro Bhimsen Joshi is now part of film lore (‘Ketaki Gulab’ for the film Basant Bahar). In the film the hero (for whom Manna sang) defeats his rival (for whom Joshi sang). “I told my wife, ‘How could I possibly sing with Bhimsen Joshi? He is such a great singer, and I actually have to defeat him! Let’s abscond from Bombay for some time and come back after the recording is over. She said, ‘of course you have to defeat him, you are singing for the hero’.” Manna asked Shankar-Jaikishan for extra time. “So I practiced with doubled vigor, and when I recorded that song, I still remember Bhimsen Joshi telling me I should be a classical singer!” laughs Manna.

The woman behind - Manndey says there were times when he wanted to quit Bombay. “I wanted to join an ashram and sing bhajans, because I was struggling all the time. But she was so calm and always brought out the best in me.” Perhaps if not for Sulochana, we might have lost Manna Dey to some fortunate ashram! Sulochana, however, has little to say but this - Mrs Manna Dey is reserved, reticent and rather shy. She shies away from publicity so much that she has hardly made any public appearance so far. She fell in love with his incredible singing and their friendship grew so quickly that when he sang she could feel he was singing to her and for her only. Just as they had found each other, Sulochana’s parents shifted out of Mumbai. The two couldn't bear to part. But after a year of separation they got married. It’s been 45 years since they became husband and wife but Sulochana claims with misty eyes that it has been such a wonderful marriage that they were obviously meant for each other. “Ours has been a marriage in which we have had a lot of communication and contentment. Right from the time we met, nothing has marred our relationship,” she says. Though she would never acknowledge it, Manna Dey says with a Taurean reserve that “it was her faith in me that encouraged me to move on in life when my faith in myself was dwindling. There have been times when I wanted to opt out of singing but she always told me ‘remember what you are capable of...”’

They have been together for 45 years, May they live another 40 years, happy in their togetherness….

Both their daughters did not follow in the music line though Sumita has cut a few discs.

50 years from now, Mannadey’s songs will continue to fill our minds & ears….and many a lovelorn Mallu soul would hum

Maanasa Maine varu, madhuram nulli tharu…
nin aruma poo vaadiyil nee, theduvathaare, aare…