Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Life's 84th Year !

Life's 84th Year!

Belated thanks to all my friends on Facebook, EF on Amitabh Bachchan's Official Blog and others, who greeted and wished me on my 84th birthday on Jan 25. I could not respond in time because on the day I was flying back to USA after our extended trip to India for over two years and thereafter the extra long jetlag. God bless them all.

When I was getting their greetings I was reminded of the similar occasion about 10 years ago when I called my dearest brother Prith in Washington D.C. to wish him on his 84th birthday. His spontaneous response really made me speechless for a few moments - “Thank you Tilak but you know what the statistics say, most elderly people passed away at the age of 84 years.” And he started giving examples of some well known global celebrities who died during their 84th year. I cannot recall all the names he then counted from a long list of such people but as far as my memory goes they did include Thomas A. Edison – inventor, Gloria Swanson – actress, Greta Garbo – actress, Red Skelton – actor, George Montgomery – actor, Tony Randall – actor, Pope John Paul II – Pontiff and Andy Williams – musician. As soon as I gathered myself to continue the ongoing conversation after being overwhelmingly shocked by his response, I replied, “Oh brother, by no stretch of imagination you can include yourself amongst the people you just named because none of them could ever match your physic you have always been proud of and you are definitely not going to die in your 84th year or even many many years thereafter. My brother did survive his 84th year hale and hearty and died eight years later at the age of 92 years, when he was still healthy and in very high spirits. Remembering him today, I know for certain that his response was just a reflection of his style of speaking which made the other person simply surprised or sometimes even shocked and not from fear of any untoward happening in his 84th year. He was never scared of death and kept smiling till the last moments of his life. Only a day before his death he sent me email congratulating me on release of my book “Bless You Bollywood!” This email is the most precious parting gift from my great brother, who was always my most favorite amongst the five of them, all elder to me.

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
- Steve Jobs

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Back On Line!

Back On Line!

After our prolonged trip to India for a period of over two years we are back in California to live the life everyone is expected to live today – On Line! Before leaving for India we had decided to do away with internet during this trip and live the natural life we lived all our life. And what a thrilling experience it was to be with old friends and family members back home who had never felt the need of social networking to nurture their old and everlasting relationships. We let all human emotions flow freely not letting the present day 'on line' life rushing us through our reunions with old relationships. We soon realized that it was no waste of time to seek personal touch simply on the possibility that as many more contacts can be created and maintained keeping oneself on line.

When we took the flight to India it was for our usual trip to spend some time on the sacred soil we had spent most of our life with so many beautiful memories all around. We had never thought it would turn into a prolonged trip for over two years which we could not curtail as things kept happening on which we had no control. As soon as we arrived in India we got the news that our best friend, MD Sb as we call him, living in Jaipur was critically ill. He was the one who actually made me move to Alwar from New Delhi in the eighties to manage the most modern foundry he was setting up as a joint sector project with Rajasthan government in Alwar. It took him many months for doctors to declare him out of danger and it took us all this time to be concerned for him and concentrate on all that we could do to see him out of his serious health condition, mainly praying for him at many temples in which we had faith. Thank God, ours as well as his family members' prayers were heard and the miracle happened. We were happy to leave our dear friend driving on the fast lane to recovery and recouping. I may mention here that ours is a unique relationship which started purely on professional basis, he as my boss being MD of the company and I reporting to him as GM. The company did wonderfully well in the initial years and the factory was fully occupied executing orders for tractor engine parts with 300 workers and over a dozen engineers working three shifts a day. But the good times did not last long and it all came to a stand still with 100 percent power cuts for the factory due to failure of the atomic power plant at Kota which was the only source of energy to the industrial area of Alwar where the factory was set up. The nuclear power plant never revived nor did our factory come to life again. The company closed down and all parted company, engineers as well as workers, except two of us, me and my MD. During the few years we worked together we had developed such a relationship that both our families had become the best of friends and come closer and closer for over 40 years since the closure of the factory and there is no doubt whatsoever that we will remain close for ever.

We were now ready to receive our most favorite and ever smiling niece, from my wife's side, to spend some exciting time with us at Alwar which she was always the first to do during our every trip. Her visit this time was first delayed because we were busy dealing with our dear friend's serious health condition and thereafter due to her daughter's marriage which we had to miss for the same reason. Now when all the wedding ceremonies were over and we too were free, we were expecting her call any moment to inform us when she was arriving to give us the lightest moments of our life with the inbuilt laughing machine her beautiful body was made of. The expected call came without making us wait much but from her husband - “Bittoo cannot come, she passed away last evening while going through surgery....”. The rest of the call could not be heard properly partly because it was drowned in her husband's cries at the other end and mostly because Jeet, my wife, was too shocked to hear any more of the message. It turned out that our dearest niece had been suffering from some severe kidney problem for some time but had asked his family to keep it a secret from us till the surgery was over to avoid spoiling our trip. She had rushed through her daughter's wedding ahead of the scheduled date to oversee the ceremonies before going for surgery. Such was our Bittoo who would never want to upset anyone whatever the cost to her, even if it was her life as it happened at last. We are sure she must have changed the mood in heaven with her infectious smile and ever happy spirits.

The above are just two examples from the many incidents that took place during our trip which prolonged our stay in India beyond the plans. Elaborating on all other incidents may become too boring so I would like to conclude here my feedback on the trip but not before making mention of the finest lady we were lucky to befriend towards the last few weeks of our trip. We met her for the first time in November last year around Guru Nanak's birthday. Mr. Gill, who had recently retired as senior bank manager and was now managing the neighborhood Gurdwara, introduced her as his wife. Mr. Gill knew us since Baisakhi celebrations at the Gurdwara last year when we made big donation for the Langar on the occasion. Jeet was instantly attracted by her simplicity and sincerity and they both bonded like they had been life long friends. She soon brought her beautiful daughter Priyanka to meet us. She was studying in Noida and and had come home to spend winter vacations. Mrs. Gill's selfless love and affection was so obviously visible when we both became bed ridden being victims of some virus that had spread in the city. Mrs. Gill not only visited us everyday to render whatever help we needed but also would feed us daily with her delicious home made meals which she cooked keeping in mind our health condition. This continued for more than a fortnight till we were fit enough to take flight to USA. The mother daughter combo even came with us to New Delhi to see us off at the airport. We will always remember Mrs. Gill as a God sent angel who suddenly appeared in our life to see that we left India fit and fine to be with our children in America. God bless her.

All said about the wonderful experience in India living life without the internet, the best thing is we are back with Alok and Ranjan, our most loving and caring son and daughter-in-law and, of course, that I am back 'On Line'!Back On Line!

Monday, November 04, 2013

RIP Reshma!

Music lovers all over, particularly in Pakistan and India, were saddened by the death of legendary Pakistani folk singer Reshma in Lahore. The singer of the classic sad song “Lambi Judaai” has gone giving her fans literally the longest 'judaai' (separation) which will remain unsurmountable for ever. But they will be able to bear it, I'm sure, by playing again and again their all time favorite from Reshma, the “Lambi Judaai” - a link to the song:

Reshma always remained amongst my most favorite singers from Pakistan. When Susan Boyle suddenly appeared on the global scene and created a sensation as one of the greatest singers, I wrote the following article, featured as a blog in the U.S. April 18, 2009, which I'm posting on this august platform as a tribute to the departed singer:

Susan Boyle, the Reshma of Britain!

Last weekend, Susan Boyle was just a face in the crowd. This weekend, clips of her singing on Britain's Got Talent have notched up almost 50 million views on YouTube. Her face appears on the front pages of papers in Britain and beyond. Hollywood agents and talk-show bookers are jostling for a few minutes with Susan Boyle. The rise of the 47-year-old spinster from Scotland has been a true global phenomenon.

On Saturday's season premiere of " Britain's Got Talent," from the moment she stepped onstage, was perhaps the most unlikely star, until she started to sing. Boyle, who had some limited previous vocal training and then mostly in church choirs, shrewdly picked "I Dreamed a Dream," a heartbreaking ballad about unfulfilled dreams from the hit musical "Les Misérables." A few bars into the song, as her earthy, pleasing voice took command and soared over the auditorium, the crowd could be heard letting out a collective gasp, then starting to cheer raucously. Her voice confounded all expectations - the judges' eyes bulged, the crowd went wild and Boyle became an instant star. Ever since, the "fairytale" has travelled the globe. It is the story of a talent unearthed. Boyle has shattered prejudices about the connection between age, appearance and talent. She has proved that you don't have to be young and glamorous to be talented, and recognized as such. The YouTube millions have cheered on the underdog, and seen in her the possibilities for their own hopes and dreams.

Boyle's story resembles that of Reshma, the mesmerizing folk singer of Pakistan, who blazed a fiery trail in the firmament of Pakistan’s music galaxy. Born in Bikaner (Rajasthan) and raised in Pakistan, Reshma’s voice has a distinctive, rustic Rajasthani touch. Reshma’s gift for singing was discovered during one of her frequent performances at the shrines. Much of her childhood was spent performing at shrines of saints in Sindh. It was at such a performance when Salim Gilani, Director in Pakistan's radio station, heard her and asked her to perform on radio. The wheels of her illustrious career were thus set in motion, and soon Reshma had become a household name. Immortalizing songs such as Oh rabba do dinan da meil, thay phir lambhi judai. the songstress touched millions with the haunting melody of her songs. Reshma’s voice is that of Mother Earth, coming from deep, deep within the bowels of our consciousness, echoing hauntingly through the cold, dark, empty void of the universe. It is a voice unlike any other. Truly it is the voice of the desert - unending in its breadth and unrelenting in its depth, making listeners believe not only in passion, but experience all its manifestations – the torture of waiting for a beloved, the ecstasy of union, the sharp pain of betrayal, the sadness of loss.

Both performers are classic underdogs, non-threatening people who, in pursuing long-held dreams, managed to triumph over easily understood disadvantages. They both did not have any formal education and training in music, however they sang from their heart in churches and shrines before they were discovered for the world of music. And when it happened, the world stopped to hear them. They both have a voice that comes from the heart and the one that always touches the heart. Their voice possesses that rare quality that is often aspired to, but attained by only a chosen few – what one might almost call the sublime catharsis of the soul.”

RIP Reshma

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Stolen Hour!

Good Morning and Happy Diwali!

It is 7.00 a.m. of Nov 03 here in California while you in India must have already done the Diwali-puja. We still have a long day ahead, actually longer than usual. Due to Daylight Saving Time setting the clock back earlier at 2.00 a.m., we have 25-hour Diwali day today. Interesting, isn't it?
Daylight Saving Time is one of the West’s great mysteries, like who really killed JFK. It was one of the things I assumed I would never understand. But thanks to widespread knowledge gathered from Google, the mystery is more or less solved for me, and may be for you also if you don't mind my breaking it to you here.

Daylight Saving Time dates back to the good ole’ days when we did everything based on when we had sunlight. Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam, so too we discovered a simple way to get more from the sun when Benjamin Franklin suggested we all get up earlier to save money on candles. It was a major blow to all the unhappy, unhealthy, and unwise people who love to snooze - early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise!
The practice wasn’t formally implemented until World War I, when countries at war started setting their clocks back to save on coal. Daylight Saving was repealed during peacetime, and then revived again during World War II. More than 70 countries currently practice Daylight Saving Time, because they think it saves money on electricity (in the U.S., Arizona and Hawaii have opted out).

Daylight Saving Time is the practice of advancing clocks during the lighter months so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted toward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in autumn. Although an early goal of DST was to reduce evening use of electricity for lighting, modern cooling and heating usage pattern differ greatly and research about how DST currently effects energy use is contrary. Studies show that Daylight Saving Time actually results in a one percent overall increase in residential electricity. And that it messes with sleeping patterns. Oh, and also it may cause heart attacks, according to the American Journal of Cardiology. So it’s no surprise that more and more countries are reevaluating whether to hold on to this relic from the past.

DST complicates time keeping and can disrupt meetings, travel and sleep patterns. By resetting all clocks to be one hour ahead of Standard Time, we wake an hour earlier than we would have otherwise, and complete daily work routine an hour earlier and will experience an extra hour of daylight following workday activities. Most of the United States begins DST at 2.00 a.m. On the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November. 'Spring forward, Fall back' is the formula. Phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved, Daylight Shifting Time would be better. But who cares, what comes from West is the best – right or wrong.
Widespread confusion was created during the 1950s and 1960s when each U. S. city could start and end DST as it desired – 23 different pairs of DST starting and ending dates were in use in Iowa alone. On one Ohio to West Virginia bus rout passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles. The twin Minnesota cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are considered a single metropolitan area, but they had one hour time difference due to different DST time settings, bringing a period of great time turmoil to the cities and surrounding areas.
In Antartica, there is no daylight in the winter and months of 24-hour daylight in summer. But many of the research stations there still observe DST anyway, to synchronize with their parent countries.
While twins born at 11.55 p.m. And 12.05 a.m. May have different birthdays, DST can change their birth order – on paper anyway. During the time change in the fall, one baby could be born at 1.55 a.m. And the sibling born ten minutes later would be recorded to have born at 1.05 a.m. In the spring there is a gap when no babies are born at all from 2.00 to 3.00 a.m.
As with the U.S., Great Britain had a checkered past with DST or Summer Time as it is known there. In the early part of the 20th century citizens protested at the change, using the slogan, “Give us back our stolen hour”!

Saturday, November 02, 2013



I'm sending you greetings from the U.S., where the first ever Diwali festival was celebrated at the U.S. Congress on Tuesday amidst chanting of Vedic mantras by a Hindu priest. Over two dozen influential lawmakers along with eminent Indian-Americans gathered at the Capitol Hill to lit the traditional “diyas”. The event — the first of its kind at the Capitol Hill — was organized by the two Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Congressmen Joe Crowley and Peter Roskam in recognition of increasing presence of the Indian-American community. The occasion was also used to highlight significance of India-US relationship.
“I have come here to say Happy Diwali,” said Nancy Pelosi, Leader of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. “United States owes a great debt of gratitude to India. Because our civil rights movement was built on the non-violent movement in India. Martin Luther King studied there, spoke there. We are blessed not only by that legacy, but also by the presence of so many Indo-Americans in our country,” Pelosi said.

Many schools, community groups, Hindu associations, Indian organizations and corporate businesses get involved in celebrating Diwali. Politicians, including governors and past presidents, previously made public announcements expressing their greetings and well wishes to Indians on Diwali. Some communities organize firework displays and states such as Utah have proclaimed Diwali as one of their state festivals. Indians, while living here in the U.S. and participating in public celebrations of the festival nearest to their location of residence, have their hearts in India and enjoy sharing with their loved ones, especially their children born and brought up here in the U.S., who have remained far removed from their roots in India, the nostalgic memories of how they celebrated the festival back home:

Diwali is also known as Deepavali, the literal meaning of which in Sanskrit is 'row of lamps'. The highlight of the function was filling little clay lamps called 'diyas', with oil, mainly mustered oil, and wick and lighting them in rows on the balconies all over the house. The tradition is still maintained by those who have the means, otherwise by and large, diyas are now replaced with candles or electric illuminations. Before the celebration begins, every nook and corner of the house is thoroughly cleaned and the house is white-washed or painted well in time for the festival. On the day of Diwali, the entrance is especially made colorful with lovely traditional motifs and Rangoli designs, and the front door decorated with flowers to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Lamps are kept burning all through night or as long as possible as Lakshmi could come any time, even late at night. Lakshmi-Puja is perfomed in the evening when the tiny diyas are lighted and the 'thali' full of traditional as well as the choicest sweets is offered to the Goddess and thereafter to everyone around, family and friends.

Movies have also become a major part of the festivities, though may not be on the Diwali day due to pre-occupation with preparations for the Puja and other related funcions by the families. Still, movies in India have catered to the escapist masses much of its 100 years long existence. And what better place than the darkened cinema hall to bring alive those fantasies – and again what better time to share the sheer joy of movies other than on a festive occasion like Diwali. The festival of lights has traditionally been the best time to celebrate release of the biggest movies starring marquee actors.It was a guarantee that the movies would release to a packed audience because the festive mood would extend from people's homes into the movie theaters. Thus, while decades may have changed generations, the fact remains that Diwali and Bollywood have remained entwined together ever since Mehboob's Mother India was released on Diwali, or even earlier when Zohrabai's “Aayee Diwali Aayee Diwali” and Amirbai Karnataki's “Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali Hai” had become a rage. The industry has been quick to realize the potential of the all-pervading sense of happiness in the country and has traditionally vied to release its best movie during this period. Who can forget the late Yash Chopra's romantic movies that were a mandatory feature of the festival since the eighties. His son Aditya Chopra set a new benchmark for Diwali releases when he released Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1995. The movie is said to be still running at Mumbai's Maratha Mandir theater and its record run is unprecedented anywhere in the world. More recently, Karan Johar's “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” has the most impressive Diwali sequence with the ultimate title song “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” by Lata Mangeshkar, followed by the “Shava Shava” song and dance number that truly fits the festive mood for Diwali. The best movies to release during Diwali are the traditional masala potboilers. For example this year's Krrish 3 is a perfect Diwali release because it's an established franchise film with a great cast.

May the Diwali illuminations brighten your homes and Lakshmi-Puja bring riches and prosperity in the house … Happy Diwali !

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"A Pain In The Neck"!

“... and I often wonder where that expression 'a pain in the neck' originated from ...”
- Amitabh Bachchan (Blog DAY 2022)

I too wonder, though I used the expression, perhaps for the first time, in 1996 in one of my 'Letters to the Editor', published in San Francisco Chronical, the largest circulated daily of Northern California. We had just ended our long jetlag after moving to USA to be with our son settled as software engineer in Silicon Valley, the Mecca of computer industry. The first thing our son did was to make his mother feel that he badly needed her here to be of help to him in multiple tasks which only a Mom could do. He brought all his shirts with the request to remove all the tags stitched inside the neckline as he found them very annoying constantly rubbing against his neck. While his Mom immediately started unstitching the tags, I did what I love to do and had been doing back home in India for a long time – wrote my first 'Letter to the Editor' after landing in USA:
Calling All Clothiers
Could you kindly tell all clothiers not to stitch on that nasty tag inside the neckline, It really is a pain on the neck.
Tilak Rishi
  • San Francisco Chronical - Feb 18, 1996
I don't know if my letter caught the attention of any clothier, but I know for sure the editor liked the idea as he prominently published the letter in a box, attracting endorsement from many of its readers in their follow up letters.
As for the origin of the expression, even Google was of not great help, except for vague information:
'A pain in the neck' is a more polite version of the original 'pain in the ass' which originated around 1900. It started out as just 'a pain' as “He gives me a pain”, first used about 1300 from Old French 'peine', from Latin – condition one feels when hurt.”
I wonder how much this information works to quench the curiosity about the origin of the phrase, but the search itself was interesting as I came to know fascinating facte about some other popular phrases:
Caught Red Handed”: a person who is caught red-handed is discovered in the middle of committing a crime or doing something wrong. It is usually related to stealing. This idiom originated in the 14th century when the act of killing another man's animal and selling the meat was a common crime. If a person was caught with the blood of a freshly killed animal on his hands this was considered proof of his guilt.

Raining Cats and Dogs”: It means it's raining heavily. The phrase originated in 17th century England. Very heavy rain would occasionally wash dead animals through the street. The animals didn't fall from the sky of course, but the sight of dead cats and dogs being washed down the street with the rain caused people to joke it must have been raining cats and dogs.

Under the weather”: If you are 'under the weather' it means you are sick or unwell. This idiom originated in the British Navy. When a sailor became sick, he was kept under the deck or 'under the weather' so he could get well.

Money doesn't grow on trees”: The expression means that money does not come easily or without effort; you should be careful how much money you spend because there is only a limited amount. It seems to have come from a Japanese proverb that states, contrary to the above idiom, 'money grows on the tree of persistence'. In other words, if you keep trying and never give up, money will come to you.

We may hit a treasure of stories on the origin of so many phrases if we start digging as there is no dearth of information on the subject on Google and other search engines, but I doubt if it is worth the trouble till we wonder about the origin of another phrase. Then, of course, it will be a pleasure to put in all the effort to extract information on a particular phrase as I did for “A pain in the neck”.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy With High-tech Lifestyle?

The romance and the effervescence, the aroma, of the delicate art of letter writing, now encapsulated on a 'hard disc'. And the most beautiful part of the exercise – the wait – that look of anticipation at your door for the postman. To study from the expression whether he has something for you. The dejection when he does not and the elation when he does.” (DAY 338, March 27, 2009).
... I have never found an apple store, not crowded... our future lives are going to be a scream … that is conclusive, and the desired material required for this to be accomplished is going to come from such stores that tempt us with an half bitten apple … cool!” (Day 1979, Sept 15, 2013)

Here is a delayed response to Big B's above thoughts, which define our lives today and will always remain relevant. My first reaction on reading them was to instantly take a trip to the nostalgic pleasures of writing letters and receiving letters from our loved ones, handed over personally by the postman with a huge smile. The memories of those exciting moments are still fresh when we sent our 17-year son to USA for studies and would wait for his long hand written letters narrating his first encounters with the western culture, far away from home. Postman then used to be part of your private world and riding on his cycle he would wave to us from some distance with a broad smile, giving a hint that he has a letter from our son for delivery.

Not all tools given by modern technology, however magnificent they may be, can replace conventional methods which in many cases are more reliable, colorful and effective. This was amply, though inadvertently, proved at the world's high-tech capital, the Silicon Valley in California, USA. A college there, preparing to reopen after long summer vacations, continues to employ a contractor every year who brings his herd of goats to graze on the wild growth of shrubs, for days till the grounds are cleared of the wild growth. In the same high-tech Silicon Valley, a sewage-line plumber relies on the smelling power of his pigs to locate the leaking spot in the underground sewage line. Donna Karen, the world renowned fashion designer, has her home-gym in New York equipped with the latest high-tech fitness accessories, but the exercise she enjoys doing is to send her car and driver to office with her bags, while she walks to work. Indeed, there are innumerable examples where men and women have access to numerous high-tech gadgets, but they are happier doing things the traditional way. Can a pullover produced on the most modern knitting machine match the warmth and beauty of a hand made sweater, knitted with love and care by a loved one? Fax may be the fastest way to send your communication, but it is certainly not meant for men who make reading and writing a romance of life. Hands and human endeavor cannot be obliterated by computers, microwave ovens and the rest. Let us put gadgets properly in their place before we become all too willing slaves to them.

Wires, cables, gleaming metal and blinking lights – these are the tapings of the modern office. As much as I love my brushed steel Imac, however, the cold lights and white cords can feel cold and sterile. Without doubt many gadgets are great, even if they make life stressful. Cell phone is almost a necessity now, but then it makes you available 24x7, no matter what. Handheld devices give you access to email anywhere – why? Email is a communication device and can wait. Same for internet access on handhelds. A young scientist in India has now come up with a device that puts on your palm all that you had on handsets. Don't be surprised if very soon you see people reading their palm on the roads. There was a time when I felt very concerned for the man on the road who was talking aloud to himself. Poor man, I thought, must be under too much stress or worse still, a victim of nervous breakdown. No more concern or compassion for the man now. Not that I have become callous or insensitive, but because I know for certain that the man is not sick, he is only using his cellphone, discreetly designed to be invisible to others. And he has company, most others on the road doing the same thing, talking to themselves while walking or driving. To them it is the best way to shorten the distance to their destination, even if it may shorten the life of others on the road. A survey conducted in California (USA) concluded that cellphone users made a major contribution to road accidents and a bill was passed to ban the use of cellphones while on the wheel. Still, we need to be careful from those who delightfully defy such laws out of arrogance. Ironically, most of the time we all talk to ourselves when talking on 'phone. It is because of the prevailing trend not to pick up the phone, but to let the caller keep talking to the answering machine or record his voice in the voice-mail. Incidentally, answering machine is actually a 'no answer machine'. It loses its voice after the beep. You may keep talking into the machine but without expecting it to answer your queries. The right to answer rests with the owner of the machine, who may respond to your call at his will, or may not call back at all, depending on your identity as a caller. Unlike simpleton servants of the old times, who would pick up the receiver and respond, “Sahib kehte hein weh ghar par nahin (Master says he is not at home)”, the modern day answering machine is too smart to give a hint that the called one is very much there and listening to the caller's message on the machine. Gadgets like this motivate the modern man to play games with another man, rather than have the joy of reaching out to him with a warm response. But then this is how the world works today. Those others like me are likely to be left behind, who pause to ponder if the modern machines are a bane or boon.