Three Women Under The Doctor’s Scalpel

Definitely” said the doctor, “you have to have  hernia surgery done, immediately.”

I panicked.

“Really, doctor? Immediately?”

“Yes. Sooner the better.”

There was no turning back.  I was admitted in a private nursing home and my surgery was completed without any hiccups.

In two days, the physiotherapist was coaxing me on my feet and making me walk down the corridor.

Now I became inquisitive about the others in the hospital and began to ask the nurses about the patients in the neighboring rooms.

The lady in the room to my left was young, beautiful and very wealthy. She was there for umbilicoplasty or belly button reconstruction surgery along with tummy tuck. Her husband did not like the shape of “things.”

So there she was making herself pretty for her husband and going through all that pain.

“Lucky husband” said my sister who sat with me at the hospital room for a few days.

“Lucky wife,” added my friend who came to visit me, “To have a husband, rich enough to fund that expensive surgical procedure.”

While the physiotherapist was making me walk down the corridor, I began to notice this sad-looking lady, often standing at the window looking down on the road down below. Obviously she was not a patient but a companion or helper to one of the patients admitted there.

Once I had made her acquaintance and began to talk with her, I asked her why she was at the hospital.

“I have been here for the past one month,” she said. I was shocked as I was not able to tolerate even my five-day hospitalization.

“My daughter is admitted here with burn injuries and she has to have skin grafting.  Her legs were badly burnt in a fire accident,” said the woman woefully.

I wondered if it was a kitchen accident.

No. Apparently it happened at a religious place where she was lighting lamps before the deity.

Her saree pleats had caught fire.

“She could have just removed her saree immediately and cast it off.” I said. “It would have saved her legs from getting so severely burnt.”

“Yes. That is what she should have done. But as there were many men around the holy place, she was hesitant about removing her clothes in public. She panicked and tried to beat the fire out with her bare hands. Worshipers at the shrine came to her aid and put the fire out. By then the damage had been done.”

I wondered at the victim’s mentality. What traditional values we instill in women in India. Even at the cost of losing life or limb, she would not jeopardize her modesty.

The old mother was sad beyond words. Her first fear was whether the skin grafting would be successful.

The next was, how long would it be, before the daughter would be on her feet to be able to care for her husband and eight-year-old son who missed his mom so much.

She also talked about how a little carelessness on our part can imperil our lives. She used a harsh Tamil word, “porati podum” to describe her daughter’s current situation which has no English equivalent but would imply devastate, mutilate or ruin.

By the time I got discharged from the hospital, the ‘belly-button woman’ had left. I said bye to the mother of the fire victim but never got to see her daughter.

As my son drove me home, I could not help wondering  at the situations, that put us three women on the same floor in a private nursing home – ‘the belly button woman’, the fire accident victim and timid me, so scared of an absolutely necessary hernia surgery.

Three Indian women from the same strata of society! 

But what a difference in our circumstances!

Story By Gulsum Basheer@talkalittledo

Photo Credit of doctor with scalpel :

Photo Credit of nurse holding syringe :

Photo Credit of doctor with stethoscope:

Posted in Sometimes Sad, We Indians! | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Raja Gopal, the King of Anger.

When I was growing up in a large traditional household in Chennai city, my father employed a man to drive us to school. The driver was short, stocky and had a prominent moustache which he was in the habit of curling upwards at the ends.

He was Raja Gopal. But we children called him Raja Kobam in private.

Kobam in Tamil means anger. That is what he was, the King of Anger.

He demanded respect and was an honest but a strict man. Quick to anger, he scared us kids with just these words, “Shall I tell your father?”

We could never do anything out of context, as he was quick to tattle to my father or uncle which earned us a terrible reprimand and sometimes a hard whack for the boys.

Then I joined college. My friends and I would beg him to drive us to a newly opened shopping complex near by, after assuring him that we had our parents’ permission to go there. When a whole bunch of us had loaded ourselves into the car, the next problem was how much we could talk while he was within earshot.

When we were up to mischief, we talked in a language made up of very little words and lots of spellings which we thought he would not understand.  My friends were scared of him too.

Like I said, he exacted respect and fear from everyone with just his demeanor.

After my graduation I got married and moved to my husband’s house. Raja Gopal left our services and settled in his hometown in South India.

Life moved on and we completely forgot all about him.

Some twenty years later, one fine day he landed up at my house.  He was an old man, decrepit and weak. I could hardly make out who he was.

Where was the King of Anger? Who was this man with shuffling feet and soiled clothes?

He told me this sorry tale, of how his only son had died of drug abuse and his daughter in law had committed suicide leaving a grand-daughter behind.

Raja Gopal and his wife had brought up of that child and she was ready for marriage. He was trying to collect money for her wedding expenses.

I felt sorry for him. I gave him money and a few silk sarees which had been relegated to the back of my cupboard, for the bride.

A week later, when we cousins met, we discussed Raja Gopal. My cousins scolded me for being such a fool. They were sure he was going to spend the money on alcohol. They warned me that he would keep coming repeatedly if he was going to get easy money from a softy like me.

Sure enough, a month later he was at my gate again. This time, sadder than ever before.

He said that he had conducted his grand daughter’s wedding and a week after that his wife had died suddenly.

Now he wanted money to do her last rites.

I felt so sorry for him that I gave him money AGAIN!

My family members were shocked when they heard this. They scolded and teased me in turns, for being such a fool. So I hardened my heart and was ready to send him away empty-handed if he came again.

He never came back. Never in these last few years.

Was his story true? Or did he spin a sad tale just to make me cough up some money? I will never know.

I thought about life and how old age and poverty had made a King (albeit of anger) to lose his dignity

I try to hold on to the image of Raja Gopal of my childhood, an honest man and a strict disciplinarian.

But all that comes to my mind is the infirm old man who cheated me of a few thousand rupees.

Or did he??

Story by GB . Written by Gulsum Basheer @ Talkalittledo – For Life is Funny.

Image courtesy of vectorolie@

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When Abramo Krishnan came to live in Tuticorin.

I must tell you the story of Abramo Krishnan” my cousin from Tuticorin told me excitedly, when I was telling her about my blog, Talkalittledo.

“Abramo Krishnan? Seems a strange name.” I said, getting interested.

Abramo was nine years old when he came down from California, to stay in his grandfather Krishnan’s house in Tuticorin, a small town in south India.

His father was Mr. Krishnan’s son. His mother was from Italy. His parents had met when they were university students in USA, fallen in love and married.

The Indian father had reluctantly agreed to their wedding.

Mr.Krishnan came from a traditional family seeped in old values. He was unhappy that his only grandson would not come to know any Indian convention or tradition.

When Abramo was nine years old, he persuaded his son and daughter in law to let Abramo stay with him for one whole year, so that he would enjoy his grandson’s company and also make him get acquainted with their heritage and culture. He especially wanted to visit all the temples with Abramo and tell him the story and mythology behind the Gods and Goddess of our land.

Luckily for him, his son, daughter in law and the little kid agreed to his request.

That was how Abramo came to live in Tuticorin in his grand father’s house.

My cousin who lived two houses away, was privy to all the tamasha that went on there.

 Abramo was such a loving boy that everyone, from the neighbours to the servants liked him and spoilt him thoroughly.

To top it, he was very good looking. My cousin said that he resembled Leonardo  diCaprio from the film Titanic, with his hair style and his blue eyes.

The boy was admitted in the local school in class four with special permission to skip the second language class, Tamil.

But the rest of the time, Abramo and Mr.Krishnan were inseparable. They visited all the temples, took part in religious functions, walked with the processions and bathed in the holy rivers. From marriages to funerals, the grand father gave his son’s child a taste of everything Indian.

In  the temple shops, the legendary weapons of the Gods, like the mace, trident and spear were sold in soft plastic. Abramo loved to buy these and would play with them on their open terrace, with the servants and his grand father pretending to be a King or a God. Also he would play with marbles and other games in the street with the neighbouring boys. The dust and heat did not affect him any way.

My cousin says, that he took to Tuticorin  like a native boy and he never fell sick like our children, who when they come from abroad, are always coughing or sneezing or puking.

My cousin was in the habit of going for a walk every evening. She would wear her black burkha (the conventional dress of the Muslims) when she walked on the road. Every time she passed Mr.Krishnan’s house she would wave to the boy if he happened to be outside and he would wave back shyly.

Once my cousin wanted to talk with the lady of the house. She asked Abramo who was playing in the garden, where his grand mother was.

What the boy shouted out to his grandmother made my cousin laugh.

“Paati, the lady who is always in BLACK wants to talk to you”

My cousin was amused that to the half Italian boy, she would always be the ‘lady in black.’

At the end of the stipulated year, the boy went home.

Everybody missed Abramo, especially his grand parents. The servants went about muttering the little bit of English they had picked up from Abramo. They would suddenly recollect something the boy had done or said.  They would laugh and then sigh. They would ask Mr. Krishnan to bring back Abramo to stay with them always, which the gentleman made them understand was impossible.

A year later Mr.Krishnan died, of natural causes. The whole town went to pay their last respects to the venerable gentleman who had been loved by everyone.

All who went to his house, could not help but comment on the numerous photographs of his grandson, especially the huge framed ones of the boy dressed up as Lord Krishna and the one of him with Lord Hanuman’s mace and tail.

A cute blond Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna, in a crew cut hair style and Titanic hero’s eyes!!

Photo Credit: Sativa

Story by Gulsum basheer @ talkalittledo

PS: Name of the little boy is changed in the blog.


Posted in Darndest Things Children Say, Sometimes Sad, We Indians! | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Why Ramesh always has a bald pate

Among my brother’s many boyhood friends, is one Ramesh whom everybody loves. He is a sweet person with always a smile and a friendly word for everyone.

But there is another reason why he stands out among my brother’s friends.

He has a bald pate!

His head is always clean-shaven.

These days many shave off the hair on their head to make a fashion statement and hide their receding hair-line. But it was an accident that made Ramesh go hairless.

By accident, I really mean an accident, a calamity, a mishap!

Before I narrate the story, let me make it very clear that this absence of hair, suits Ramesh perfectly and we cannot recollect him being otherwise.

It was during their college days that Ramesh and a set of his college friends volunteered to go on a trekking expedition to the Himalayas with a youth group.

All went well for a few days. Then when the group of boys were attempting to trek to a place 7400 feet higher, the accident happened.

A shepherd coming down their path told them that a herd of goats was crossing higher up and the rocks were loose. The boys took shelter under a cliff.

Sure enough, loose rocks came tumbling down. Then everything quietened down. Ramesh and a friend ventured out to check if the coast was clear

Without warning a boulder came rolling down, bounced on the friend’s backpack and hit him squarely on his head.

Ramesh fell down, bleeding and unconscious.

The other young boys stood stunned  and helpless for sometime. But they had to pick up courage to do the needful.

It was  the quick thinking of the adroit boys that saved Ramesh’s life that day. They wound Ramesh bleeding skull and carried him on a mule to the net camp.

The doctor in the camp down, where there was no electricity and no local anaesthesia, stitched up  the four inches long wound on Ramesh’s skull and rang for the helicopter which came a day late and took Ramesh to civilisation.

Ramesh needed hospitalisation, more medical intervention and of course all the prayers that his loved ones could offer, to get him on his feet again.

His shell-shocked parents and relatives prayed to every deity they knew. As is the custom in India, his parents and his relatives took  vows in different temples.

And what was the vow?

It was to bring their boy to the temples and shave his hair before the deity and offer it there.

So when Ramesh was back to normal, it began. Temple after temple, month after month, Ramesh was offering his hair in lieu of his well wisher’s vow.

Now this left Ramesh with a clean pate, for days on end. Soon he began to like his new look and he refused to grow back his hair ever again.

Of course this story about the temple offering is what Ramesh tells people who ask him about his bald pate,

But I don’t believe him for a second. I think the stitches on his head itch if he grows his hair back.

When my brother tells this story, he always adds that it could have been him (my brother) with a head injury instead of Ramesh. He had also signed up to go on that trek and he was the leader of the team.

It could have been his inquisitive head that had peeped out to see if the hurtling rocks had subsided.

But he opted out at the last moment, because my wedding was fixed for that week.

Well you never know what fate has in store for you!

photo credit:

Image courtesy of :farconville at

Posted in College Capers, Vintage, We Indians! | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

She Saw The Genius In Him .

id-100275260When I was in college all those years ago, I would spend my Saturday afternoons in my best friend’s house. Her mother whom I called Kasturi aunty, was a teacher in a school in Chennai, where we lived.

Kasturi aunty used to speak to us about some of her students.

One of her favourite students was a young boy, who was a wizard at playing the key board. She described his prowess at making soul lifting music on the keyboard and would always end her story of the boy by saying:

“Mark my words, this boy will go places.”

“One of these days, he is going to become a renowned musician.”

“He will become very famous when he  grows up.”

But after a few years, the boy discontinued from her school for unforeseen reasons. She later heard that he had joined another school in Chennai itself. She felt for the boy and wished him well in her heart.

In the year 1992, when my sons and I sat before the television watching a special telecast on Independence day, the lilting music of a song wafted across the screen and filled our rooms and our hearts with the song, “Chinna Chinna Aasai” from the Tamil film Roja.

A musician was born. No. Discovered!

My father called me from his house, even as the song was being telecast, “Are you watching TV? Are you seeing this Channel? What a song! Who is the musician?”

Soon “Who is the music composer of the film, Roja?” was on everybody’s lips.

Kasturi aunty jumped with elation.

“It is him. My student,” she said taking pride in a student as only a teacher could.

The young musician showcased his brilliance in  film after film and soon he became a byword in the music industry.

IN 2009, when he held aloft the two Oscars and said in all humility, “All praise be to God”, Kasturi aunty was not alive to witness the jubilation that rocked our hearts.rahman-birthday_sl_5_01_201

But I am sure, she would have been the happiest person in all of India, had she been alive, because she had predicted this a long time ago.

I don’t have to mention, that the person I am talking about is our very own music sensation, the Mozart of Madras, Isai Puyal... A.R.Rahman!

Jai Ho!

Story by Gulsum Basheer@talkalittledo

Image courtesy of cooldesign at


Posted in School is Fun, Uncategorized, We Indians! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

The hand of a craftsman is always pure.

img_20170126_072520Honesty is a much berated word in these times. But I have a story to share with you which shows that morality, integrity and trustworthiness exist, even todayOn my recent visit to my brother’s house in California, my sister-in-law took me to visit one of her close friends. The lady was an Indian, married to a well-respected Indian professor, the head of his department in a prestigious university in USA.

Her house’s interior was an eclectic mix of different cultures. A Rajasthani sculpture here, a Kerala elephant there, huge Arabian wall hanging occupying a prominent wall and a lacquer painting from Vietnam adorning her son’s bedroom walls.

The lacquer painting caught my eye and I spent some time admiring them. That is when she told me the story of how it came into her possession.

Her husband used travel to Vietnam for conferences quite often. Near the hotel where he stayed in Hanoi, was a crafts shop where you could commission the craftsmen to make a painting for you.  The professor paid a certain amount to the artist there and asked for a painting which was to be done in four panels. It was quite an expensive piece of work but the professor trusted the man and paid the amount. He left his card behind and said he would collect the painting on his next visit to Vietnam.

Few months later when the professor looked for the shop in Hanoi, it was no longer there. On inquiring, he got the news that the craftsmen had relocated to different places and no one knew about their whereabouts.

Being of stoic nature, the gentleman wrote off his loss as a bad investment and returned to USA.img_20170125_171015

It was almost two years after the professor had placed that order, that the artist called their home in the US. They had forgotten about the incident completely by then.

The professor’s wife was enjoying a peaceful afternoon at home, when  she got a call from an unknown person, speaking with an orient accent. The man wanted to know if the professor still lived in that address as he had a parcel to post to him. He recounted his acquaintance with her husband in Hanoi and explained that circumstances had made him quit Vietnam and that he was now living with his daughter in America. He said that he had completed the painting ordered by her husband and was sending it by courier that week.

My sister in law’s friend did not comprehend him fully and just did not take him seriously

But a few days later, a huge parcel was delivered at their home from a city on the east coast of USA. On opening it, the husband and wife found the beautiful painting that the professor had commissioned to be done for him.

It was perfect to the last detail!

The artist had stuck to his side of the bargain, across continents and across much time-lapse.img_20170124_072856

No one would have penalised the Vietnamese gentleman for not turning in the painting. In fact, no one would have discovered him in the vast expanses of America. Yet he chose to be honest to his profession.He had even spent out of his own pocket to mail the bulky panels all the way across America, from one coast to another.

When the lady of the house narrated the story to me, she said with awe in her voice:

“You know something… he could have sold the painting for a large amount in the US…It is that expensive!”

Before I left her house I looked at the painting one more time. I admired it all the better now because it portrayed not only the artist superb craftsmanship, but it also carried with it, the imprint of his honesty and righteousness!!

It had now  become that priceless!!

P.S: The hand of a craftsman engaged in his craft is always pure….Manu.img_20170125_170243

Story By Gulsum Basheer @ talkalittledo.

Photographs shown here are of the original paintings  that I admired  in the friend’s house.

Please leave your comments in the comments box below.


Posted in Tributes and Triumphs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Saving Her Husband


ID-100315567Muthu an agriculturist and his wife had fallen on dire straits because of lack of rains.
People in Muthu’s village were seeking employment in the Middle East as contract labourers. Muthu who was forty years old, also did the same. His wife sold her jewels to pay the agent and send him to Kuwait.

Forty is a tough age to make life style changes and Muthu hated it there. Within two months he became physically and mentally ill. When his wife Lakshmi heard of it from other men working with Muthu and she begged the agent to send her husband back. The agent refused her saying that it was not so easy to terminate his job and send him back to India.

Muthu’s condition deteriorated. Last week suddenly out of the blue, a worried Lakshmi got a phone call from the agent saying that they had put Muthu on a flight to India and he would arrive at the airport around 2pm that day. They did not tell Lakshmi on which flight he would be arriving.

Lakshmi hurried from her native village and landed in Chennai.For two days the poor woman hung about  the airport, both the international and the domestic one scanning the faces of the men arriving by different flights. Her husband was not on any flight arriving from Kuwait.Her desperate calls to the Kuwait agents went unanswered.

What could an illiterate village woman do?

She cried to police officers at the airport. Kudos to our gendarme, they did not ignore her pleas. They sought the help of the airport officials and looked up the names of travelers on flights from Kuwait in the last two or three days. Muthu’s name was not on any of the lists.

Even then, they did not send Lakshmi away as a troublemaker. Instead, the police were able to contact the agent in Kuwait and found out that Muthu had been put on a Sri Lankan airlines from Kuwait. He was to change flights at Colombo, which he apparently had failed to do. The Colombo airport officers were contacted and appraised about a possible middle age man lost in their premises.  A search party was set in motion and the officers from across the sea, found a deranged Muthu loitering around their airport totally clueless about anything.

The callous agents had put him on the flight hiding the fact that he was unstable in mind.The Indian airport officers and their counterpart in Colombo had to take Himalayan efforts to bring Muthu back.

At 3 pm two days later, when Muthu walked out of the international airport exit, Lakhmi ran to him, hugged him and cried and cried. And all the people at the airport who had come to know the story, felt happy for her and cheered her.ID-100450061

Our Indian woman, they never give up, when it comes to saving their husbands. Remember Roja, from the movie of the same name, who pleaded with police officers, army personnel and ministers to rescue her husband from his kidnappers.

Did not Savithri bring back her husband from God of Death,Yama himself?

Laksmi is of the same stock, right? Though illiterate. Though poor. The yellow  wedding thread round their neck gives them astounding courage right?!!

(A big salute to the police and the airport officers for helping Lakshmi to get reunited with her husband Muthu.)

Story from Thinakaran.(28/8/2016)

Written by Gulsum Basheer @ talkalittledo

Photo credit: Vectorolie at

Photo credit: free digitalphotos

Posted in From the dailies, We Indians! | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments