Pay it forward

Sacred Games


Uma leads my projects team at NalandaWay. A bouncy and generally a very happy person. I have known her for over four years now, and someone who has become very important in our work with children. She has a warm personality and it is very hard to catch her without a beaming smile.

On one hot sunny afternoon in Chennai, both of us were getting out of a school in Mylapore. We were slightly relaxed that the review of our programme had gone well with the trustees of the school. We had been anxious about the review for over a week.

“How old are you?” I had always wanted to ask this question to her. She has had long years of corporate experience behind her but always carried a youthful exuberance.

“Never ask a woman her age,” she said and gave her characteristic smile.

More than anything else, what is most noticeable about her is the total absence of cynicism in her attitude to life that usually comes with getting older. Both of us were walking towards my car and I noticed she was dressed rather festively for a school visit.

“So going for a wedding or a concert later?” I was curious.

“Nope,” and in a shy voice continued, “my husband had gone out of the country for the past ten days and I am meeting him for coffee now. Thought I might dress up for him,” and winked at me.

For my turn, I was now smiling ear to ear. Apparently love is real.

Uma is a fan of crime thrillers and I gifted her, “Sacred Games” by Vikram Chandra.

‪#‎PayItForward #‎GiftABook‬ 22/100

In medias res

Happily married

Overheard at a cafe.

“So your wife doesn’t know that you smoke?”

“I behave as if i don’t even know the existence of a cigarette and she pretends as if the odour in my clothes came from a French perfume. Our secret to a happy married life.”

In medias res

Start up

Next to my table at a restaurant in Chennai.

Two twenty somethings were animatedly presenting their new business idea to two uncles. The young fellows were on the edge of their seats. One uncle with his hands folded to his chest patiently heard them with a knowing smile. The other gentleman wore a worried look.

After they finished their presentation, all the three looked at the smiley uncle with bated breath for advise.

The knowing uncle stopped smiling, took a deep breath and in a louder tone, “start-up la irundha paithiakaaran kooda ponnu kudukka maattan (Not even a mad man will give you his daughter if you ran a start-up).”

Both the young fellows are stunned at the unanticipated feedback.

In medias res

Don’t give up

“How is it possible to lose both the kidneys, all of a sudden with no prior symptoms?” I was worried.

He gave a detached but measured smile. We were waiting for tea at the street corner tea shop (‘nair kadai’). It was a blistering Chennai day and we moved under the shades of a rundown mechanic shed to escape the direct afternoon Sun.

He works for an international non-profit that works with children and I have known him for over seven years now. Several months ago, rather freakishly, both his kidneys had failed completely. I was taken aback when I had heard the news.

How can a person in his early forties, who does not smoke or drink, basically no bad habits; very physically active, suddenly develop a life threatening complication?

How have his wife and two kids taken the news?

He has to undergo dialysis three times a week for his entire life till he finds a transplant.

What would his aged parents be going through?

He was the primary bread winner; would he be able to continue in the job? Would his employers be considerate?

“Well, doctors have no clear answers as to why my kidneys failed. Yes I was devastated. It was tough. I suddenly felt like I was locked up in a glass chamber and all the air had been sucked out,” and he slowly sipped the milky hot tea from the glass tumbler.

“But I have to pull myself out of it. I can’t wallow in self-pity. I cannot crush the dreams of my children. I will not let them down. Giving up was not an option.”

“It was tough. My boss was very supportive. My wife was my rock of Gibraltar.  I made sure I took the treatment seriously. The dialysis would make me very tired. My family stood by me 100%.”

“I am now back to travelling 10 to 15 days every month from China to Chile, America to Andamans. I now use a self administered potable dialysis system that does not curtail my travels. I have taken my family for two vacations already this year. I want to spend whatever available time with them. I want to make sure that my children get the best experiences that this world can ever give. What they make out of it is not in my control?”

The heat and humidity had gathered up dark clouds in the sky and winds were blowing up the dust on the road.

“God is good!,” he smiled like a Zen master.

Rains were on the way.