AFTER RETIREMENT FROM KIOCL
My wife’s cousin was the Managing Director of a cement manufacturing Company in Gulbarga District of Karnataka. He held the majority shareholding in the Company. I was appointed as Finance Director of the Company on a monthly salary of three thousand rupees. To start with I wrote programs in BASIC to be run on PCs for financial accounting. I trained the
staff to use these programs to enter cash, bank and journal transactions and produce cash and bank books, journals, trial balances, balance sheets and profit and loss accounts. I also helped produce financial information for board meetings, bankers and the State Financial Institutions KSIDC and KSFC who had advanced term loans to the Company. There was a part-time company secretary and internal auditor who was earlier with the Deccan Herald, Bangalore as their Finance Manager. She used to come once in a week to attend to Company Law and internal audit matters. We used to visit the cement plant for purposes of internal audit once in six months. My second son was the statutory auditor for Rekha Cements and Chemicals Ltd. He joined Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited in August 1990 as Accounts Officer and was promoted as Junior Manager (Finance) in 1991. In October 1992 he resigned his job in KIOCL and joined Tata Metals and Strips, Navsari (Gujarat) which he left in January 1993 and joined Shanfari Automotive Co LLC, Muscat in April 1993.
The cement company was operating only at about 30% of its rated capacity because of various factors. It became a sick company and was referred to the BIFR. There were proposals for turning around the company but the parties concerned like bankers and financial institutions could not arrive at a consensus on the proposals. Finally the assets were taken over by the financial institutions on behalf of the creditors.
During this period my second daughter-in-law gave birth to a boy, my first grand son. I already had a grand daughter by my first daughter.
My second daughter passed Bsc (PCM) in II Division in 1989. She wrote the Common Entrance Test of Karnataka for admission to Engineering Courses but could not get admission under Government Quota. She joined Davar’s college in Bangalore for the secretarial course and completed the course by 1990. I was now looking for a suitable match for her. Her star was also Ashlesha and so the search was restricted to boys with only one surviving parent or no surviving parent at all. I had advertised in the newspapers specifying the star so that only those who were ready to accept girls born in Ashlesha need apply. We got the horoscopes matched by a reputed astrologer. In the meantime a couple of relatives of a prospective groom from Trichur contacted us and and painted a rosy picture of the joint family to which the boy belonged. They had two factories manufacturing Mangalore tiles. The boy, his younger brother and a cousin of his were managing the factories. We had in mind a boy with a good job, not one in business. In fact we were about to contact the parents of a boy working for an airline. However, the relatives of the Trichur boy persuaded us to consider their proposal. They had also matched the horoscopes. My wife, daughter and I travelled to Trichur by train and, reaching there in the morning, checked into a hotel. The boy and the girl saw each other. Both the families were present during this ‘girl seeing’. Immediately the boy or his family did not convey their acceptance or otherwise. We went back to our hotel and waited for a phone call. There was no response from the boy’s side. We vacated the hotel room and proceeded to the Guruvayur temple and prayed to the Lord. When we came out of the temple the boy’s cousin and his sister were waiting for us outside the temple. They said that they had telephoned the hotel but were told that we had vacated the room and were visiting Guruvayur. They wanted to go ahead with the marriage proposal. The engagement ceremony was to be conducted that day itself. All of us together went in their car. In a simple engagement ceremony the usual vows were exchanged and a date was fixed for the marriage.
Locating a suitable hall in Bangalore for the marriage celebrations was not an easy task. Unless you booked the hall months in advance of the marriage date you were not likely to get a hall to your liking. Hiring a hall with all facilities for the groom’s party was one of the major items of expense for the girl’s parents. Even the very modest halls charged not less than rupees ten thousand per day in addition to charges for the use of water and electricity. The premium halls with all modern facilities and fully air-conditioned charged up to one lakh rupees per day. Investing in a marriage hall was profitable business. Some cinema halls had been converted into marriage halls after the advent of television. For my second daughter’s marriage I had to book a hall for two days at a rent of rupees ten thousand per day.
The marriage was celebrated in September 1990. The bridegroom’s party arrived by a chartered bus the evening before the date of the marriage. They were received at the marriage hall which had been booked soon after the engagement. The groom was taken in a procession to the nearby temple where both the families exchanged vows. Marriage customs were different in different parts and for different castes. For us, smartha brahmins of Palghat, the main rituals are Kasi Yatra where the groom wants to go on a pilgrimage to Kasi. The bride’s father stops him and promises to give him his daughter’s hand. Then there is the ceremony in which the groom and the bride sit on a swing and women of both families go round the swing, some holding lighted lamps and some sprinkling water from brass vessels with a beak. The feet of the groom are washed by the mother-in-law. Women take balls of cooked rice coloured with turmeric and kumkum in their hands, rotate the hands around the heads of the couple and throw the balls in the forward and backward directions. Women sing songs specifically composed for the swing ceremony. Another ceremony is one in which each woman, by turn, gives in the cupped hand of the boy and the girl a spoonful of milk with small pieces of banana fruit in it. This the couple are supposed to lap up from their hands. The boy then takes the right hand of the girl (called panigrahanam, holding of hands) and leads her to the dais. The next ceremony is kanyadanam wherein the girl’s father gifts his daughter to the boy, mentally imagining that the boy is Maha Vishnu himself. Next comes the ceremony of mangalyadhranam. The mangalsutra is a cotton string, smeared with turmeric, and passed through two holes in a pendant-like object made of gold and bearing specific images according to one’s custom. The two ends of this mangalsutra is tied by the groom at the back of the bride’s neck. He makes two knots while the third knot is made by his sister. The next ceremony is saptapadi in which the couple go round the fire in seven steps, at each step they take a specific vow like to be faithful to each other, to be partners in all endeavours and so on. The marriage over, we bid farewell to our daughter which was the most difficult part. I was reminded of the words of Sage Kanva in Sakuntalam of poet Kalidasa where the sage describes his emotions on the verge of Sakuntala’s departure from the hermitage to join her husband Dushyanta:
Yaasyatyadya shakuntaleti hridayam samsprishtam utkanthhayaa
Kanthhah stambhita baashpavrittikalushah chintaajadam darshanam
Vaiklavyam mama taavadeedrishamaho snehaat aranyaukasah
Peedyante grihinah katham nu tanayaa vishlesha dukhairnavaih IV -6
यास्यत्यद्य शकुन्तलेति हृदयं संस्पृष्टमुत्कण्ठया
कण्ठः स्तंभितबाष्पवृत्तिकलुषश्चिन्ताजडं दर्शनम्।
वैक्लव्यं मम तावदीदृशमहो स्नेहादरण्यौकसः
पीड्यन्ते गृहिणः कथं नु तनया विश्लेषदुःखैर्नवैः॥
“The very thought of separation from Sakumtala fills my heart with grief. My throat is choked by the tears I try to hold back. My eyes have become inert as I am in deep anxiety. If this is the depth of sorrow of a forest-dweller like me because of my attachment, then how much will be the mental agony of householders at the prospect of separation from their newly wed daughters?”
Now my daughter will have to adjust to her new surroundings and relate to the members of her husband’s joint family. This may take quite some time and this happens in all arranged marriages. For some the experience is bitter, others manage to adjust themselves after initial struggles. Only for the fortunate few it is a happy experience. A mother-in-law is generally lukewarm, if not positively antagonistic, towards her daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law shares the love and affection of her son which was exclusively hers before the marriage. This is a natural psychological process. In the West where the son moves into a separate house with his wife the problems of adjustment are only between the two of them. In India they continue to live with the groom’s family unless, of course, the groom has his job in a place away from where his family stays.
In 1991 September my second daughter was delivered of a baby girl by caesarean section. The baby was quite healthy. We named her Aishwarya. My daughter had problems of adjustment with the husband’s family. The husband himself was non-cooperative and did not empathise with her. He was short on temper and used harsh words. His family was pressing for my daughter’s return to Trichur soon after the delivery. We wanted to keep her for some more time until she fully recovered her health. We exchanged heated words with my son-in-law and his family. Finally my son-in-law sent his relatives to pacify us. Reluctantly we left her at Trichur and returned to Bangalore.
While working with Rekha Cements and chemicals, a gentleman came to the office and introduced himself as some one who had come from South Africa and had lost his passport and his cash. He said that he had to go to Delhi to get a new passport and he did not have the money to buy a railway ticket to Delhi. He said that his son was in the Embassy or somewhere I do not remember now. I borrowed some money and gave him Rs. 500 for his ticket. He had taken my address and promised that he would send the money a soon as he got to Delhi. Leave alone the money, I didn’t get even a letter from him.
I had another sort of experience on a different occasion. While I was returning from Office someone stopped me on the road and said that he had met me at Tirupathi. I said I did not remember to have seen him. But he insisted that we had met at Tirupathi. Then he said that his mother had been hospitalised and she needed urgent surgery and requested for some help. I believed him and gave him a couple of hundreds which was all with me at that time. After a few days I saw the same person talking to someone and trying to get some money for the same purpose. Then only I understood that I had been taken for a ride. I was not averse to helping someone in need to the best of my capacity. On a few occasions I had met with people who had come to Bangalore and had no money to go back to their village. I do not know how they approached me for the bus fare but I was inclined to help in such cases and pay them the bus fare to go back to their village. I could empathise with their plight. About thirty years ago while boarding the train to Bombay from Madras someone had picked my pocket and I had lost the tickets and the money. One unknown passenger in the coach had advanced the money to pay for the tickets, though I had returned the money after reaching Bombay.
Towards the end of 1992 my nephew had come to Bangalore with his mother and sister and we wanted to visit Kudremukh where my second son was working as Junior Manager(Finance) in KIOCL. Prelude to joining Tata Metals and Strips at Navsari he had submitted his resignation to the Management of KIOCL. From Bangalore we had to take a train to Mangalore and from there go by bus to Kudremukh. At the station my niece and I had gone to the main platform to buy something. Before we could return to the departure platform we heard the whistle of the train indicating that it was about to start. My nephew was anxiously waiting for us and was about to make a request to the driver when my niece and I reached the platform panting for breath and got into the train. For some reason the train had not started moving as if by providence. From Kudremukh we travelled by jeep to Dharmasthala, Sringeri, Udupi and Kukke Subramanya and returned to Kudremukh on the third day. All of us returned to Bangalore by train from Mangalore.
In April 1993 I entered into a Partnership with a person related to my ex-Finance Director at Ranchi who was now Vice Chairman of Steelco Gujarat Limited. The partnership was for developing application software for SGL which had set up a cold rolling mill at Palej near Baroda. As per the partnership agreement each partner was to be paid a monthly salary of Rs. 4500.00. My partner handled all the Finances. We recruited four programmers to write programs to run on PCs connected in an arcnet. I wrote the design documentation and also wrote a few programs in Clipper similar to the dBase programming language. My partner and I took turns to visit Baroda every month and review the progress of work. For one full year I was paid regularly Rs. 5000 per month, Rs. 4500 as salary and Rs. 500 as conveyance charges. Then the payments stopped. As an equal partner I was entitled to fifty percent of the profits made during the financial years 1993-94 and 1994-95. Requests for settling my dues fell on deaf years. The Profit and Loss Accounts for the two years had been padded with expenses not actually paid. For example, though we did not hire any accommodation for carrying out this work a notional amount was charged in the accounts as rent. Similarly salaries which were not really paid were charged in the accounts. When all my efforts failed to produce the desired result I issued a legal notice to my partner. The notice came back with the remarks that the addressee refused to receive it. For many days I could not get proper sleep brooding over what my partner had done to me. Finally I executed a deed dissolving the partnership on 13-03-1995 and forgot the whole thing as a bad dream.
In September 1993 my sons celebrated the completion of 60 years of my life. This was called shashtyabda poorti in Sanskrit. Actually it should have been celebrated in 1991 but that September my second daughter had given birth to her first child and so it could not be done. The celebrations started with punyaha vaachanam which is sanctifying the water in a large brass or copper pot with mango leaves and coconut placed on the top. All the holy rivers like Ganga , Yamuna, Narmada, Godavari, Kaveri and Varuna, the Lord of the seas and the rains, are invoked in the pot. The main program of the celebration was the chanting of srirudram which contains mantras propitiating Siva who is invoked in the pot sanctified as mentioned above. Srirudram is at the very centre of Yajurveda and the Panchaksharam is at the very centre of this mantra. Srirudram is chanted 121 times, eleven pundits each chanting 11 times. Then there is the homa, offering of ghee into the sacrificial fire chanting mantras. Finally the one who is completing 60 years is bathed from head to foot in the sanctified water contained in the large pot. We had invited all our friends and relatives and the function was arranged in a separate hall hired for the purpose. Catering was also arranged on site and all the invitees were served lunch. My second daughter and her two daughters also had come for the celebrations.
During the year 1992 there was an advertisement in the newspapers inviting applications for the allotment of a few flats in Sena Vihar being constructed by the Army Welfare Housing Organisation for the benefit of army personnel. A few flats not taken up by army personnel were offered to civilians. My first son who was with TISCO headquarters at Bombay House applied for allotment of a flat. Though he was not in the service of the central government ( who had priority in allotment) his father (that is I) had served the central government and central government undertakings in all his service life. He was allotted a single bed room flat which was adequate for the two of us his parents. His idea of applying for a flat was only to provide us with a home without the botheration of rent payments and shifting of houses at the whim of the house owner. The flats were ready for occupation by February 1994 and we moved into the new flat on the seventh floor of ’M’ Block in Sena Vihar.
By 1994 my eldest cousin (my father’s eldest brother’s eldest son) had completed eighty years. It is customary to celebrate the occasion as satabhishekam just as the completion of 60 years is celebrated as Shashtyabdapoorti. Combined with the celebration was the housewarming ceremony of the new house built in Coimbatore by his second son. Both the functions were being celebrated at the new house. We had received the invitation and we made it a point to attend this function. My cousin and I were meeting after a number of years. He was 18 years older than I. He had gone through many trials and tribulations in life. His wife’s health had deteriorated after the birth of his two children. He had closed the hotel he was running near Anamalai because of continuing losses. He had joined the hotel business run by his wife’s sister’s husband at Thanjavur. His eldest daughter had died young after marrying. It broke his heart but he gave no inkling of his anguish. Undaunted he had taken everything in his stride. Now two of his sons were senior officers at managerial level in public sector banks. One was a consultant for energy conservation. The youngest, a daughter, was a teacher and was happily married having two children. His wife had regained her normal health and his Satabhishekam was being celebrated by his sons, daughter, grand sons and grand daughters, and relatives from his wife’s side. In spite of what he had gone through in life he never complained and, like a yogi, had taken happiness and sorrow with equanimity. He never explicitly expressed his feelings.
My second daughter came to Sena Vihar some time in the beginning of 1995. She was delivered of a baby girl on the 1st of June 1995. She had been told after scanning that it would be a daughter. For a few days she was not in a happy mood, she had been hoping for a boy for whatever reason. Finally she reconciled herself to the reality. This was her second child delivered by caesarean section.
After I dissolved the partnership, I joined the ex-employee of Kudremukh who had founded The Karnataka Innovative Systems, a software services company. The company had bagged a contract in 1995 to develop application software for a bulk drugs manufacturing plant, Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Limited, at Alathur near Madras. The software was developed using Visual Basic for the front end (user interface) and Microsoft SQL server for the back end (database). We covered financial accounting, Inventory management, production planning and control, quality management and sales and marketing. I wrote the specifications and user manuals for the programs and also wrote a few programs myself. A girl working on the project was the daughter of a KIOCL officer and had been accommodated in the project so that she could gain some practical experience. There was also another girl whose experience in the company enabled her to gain entry into TCS. Since IT and software services employed mostly young people my interaction had been mostly with such people. Working with young people made me forget that I was nearing my seventies. I was happy that they could benefit from my experience of more than 20 years designing and implementing business applications and my domain knowledge related to the areas for which information systems had to be designed.