Monday, 12 February 2018

First time

Dammam  bala

Hi Aakash and Ashika how are you guys doing? In life there is always first time in life for every thing. This is first time I am writing a letter to you both.

Remember the days since 1997? The first time you guys came to dammam with Radhika. Since then until early 2010 we lived in one house as one family!

Again this is the first time we are away from each other continuously for more than three years. Also the first time me and Aku didn't meet each other for more than an year.
Even though we had been close to each other in the past, I had to be busy in office as well as you both were not old enough for open and meaningful discussions.

Now for the first time I feel the necessity for opening my heart with you. Just to share with you a my few first time moments with you in a chronological sequence.

It will give you some idea from where to where I have travelled these 47 fruitful tough years.

From 1965 to 1970 I have only sketchy memories. Let me count  and capture those after this period.

1970- First time I joined school that too directly in 1st standard. It was a small town school, my dad has been busy with office I guess. An old uncle who was a retired bus conductor put me in the school. Date of birth was adjusted, to match academic month from Nov to June. Lost 6 months of service this way. Never mind, joined school an year ahead and gained any way!

1975- I completed primary schooling in Konganeswara and joined Kalyana sundaram (KHSS) in 6th standard, jump from Tamil medium to English medium. The year ended shattering our family for ever; accidental death of my only brother Radha krishnan by drowning in the near by lake :-((

1976- First time I visited Chennai in my life. Technically speaking 1965 & 1967 I had transited Chennai on my trip to Bhopal, but never have gone out of the railway station. Just imagine I am 11 years old to visit my state capital. Visited Mr Kalyanam & Siva families in triplicane. Had my first darshan of a black and white TV. Watched tamil song sequence, that comes once a week. Still remember few songs like Vaan Nila nila alla & naan oru muttalunga. I forgot those Friday song sequence name.. Radhika help me on the name please!

1977- First time stayed for months away from parents for more than months. Joined school in Aduthurai a village near kumbakonam at periyamma’s place. It was a decision taken due to my not doing well in the school. (1970-75 I studied in a tamil medium temple school. 1976 I joined English medium, could not cope up. Also family underwent hard times due to my brother’s tragic loss.)

1978- I returned tanjore, joined the same KHSS school  in 9th but this time in Tamil medium. Started tasting success first time in records, with merit card in English as school first.

1979- the first ceiling fan arrives our family brand name khaitan. The other gadget we ever had was a transistor radio.

1979-82, the firsts started continuing with 10th first time with 400+  and plus 2 with 1000+ in our family. First time to join professional course and stay away from family for 7 years!

1985- First time my parents move to a house with separate bed room and attached modern toilet.

1986- My first job in my life. After finishing BE in 1986 April, after six months waiting, I joined as lecturer in Angalamman Eng college trichi for a monthly salary of Rs 900/-

1987- First in our family circle to work in IIT Madras in projects, salary went upto 3700/- then took up ME in PSG Coimbatore again with my direct juniors.

1988,89- First tape recorder bought in Chennai. First television I bought was these years too. It was 14” black and white weston. Then we got a 20” colour TV but no remote.

1990- First time I went to Bangalore and took up job in STUP consultants. Stayed there with mom there up to 1992.

1991- I bought my first automobile in my life. A TVS-50 my first petrol vehicle.

1992- First time to settle in Chennai with mom joining ECC- L&T and was in porur and then Adambakkam. The same year went to see a girl to marry for first time. Any guesses, yes Radhika my first girl friend as well as first official love :-)

1993- First time to got married in life. I remember our rented house in Nanganallur. My first fridge came. But no air conditioner at home at the time. I also remember my first flight to Bombay and Ratnagiri on official visit. First time riding powerful M80 –courtesy Radhika darling.

1994- First kid, rather first son in life. Aku you came in my life. Believe me you were 2 weeks baby when I got my first overseas chance to Nepal(!) to Kathmandu and Trishuli Devighat. Celebrated first wedding anniversary away from Radhika. This year August, thanks to motivation from Radhika and Subu thatha, bought my first home in Nanganallur.

1995- First birthday of Aku celebrated; first time my photo comes in Hindu paper as advt for our builder as a customer. First international job and first time to Saudi Arabia. Radhika six months pregnant with Ashika. My first girl baby comes out in Jun after my leaving India in April.

1996- My first vacation back to India. First time meeting my children after one full year. While Aku recognized me, for Varu I was a stranger by all means.

1997- First among my colleagues to bring family to Saudi. Had no money for that, had to take a 5000 riyal chit at 3800 riyal. A clear 1200 riyal cut. Was the first to get family status by the end of the year. First time failed in life this year in driving test. Took an year to redo the test and qualify.

1998- First car in life, Cressida 82 model arrives. First computer for home (not a lap-top).

2002- First home with land purchased. Radhika joins victory school and then IISD.

After this period, whatever happened, I am sure you guys were old enough to notice and remember.

You may be wondering why to re-cap things at this moment; for the first time in my life, I am thinking that I will be turning 50 in a couple of years in 2015. I have spoken, written and shared my experiences with many, but did I do the same with my kids? I am not sure!

God has been kind enough to me to provide success in anything I aimed at or aspired so far. Why not with my kids, to try the same trick? Guys, have you ever thought what we will do or where we will be, 5 years down the line from now?

Like we travel in a bus or train or air-craft, life is a journey with time as our vehicle. We need to plan it, choose the direction/destination/vehicle and buy the ticket today. What we do today decides tomorrow, the week, month and year to follow. When I took my studies, career and job whatever it is, there was no one to guide with prior experience.

Now it is time for the firsts for Aku and Varu. Your college life shall see the firsts in ranks, scores and knowledge. Your masters degrees in your chosen profession should by your passing through competitive exams, if you wish to get educated abroad, you need to find out what and where it is.

Start to plan/prepare and pass it when the time comes.
In short, please spend a few moments during every week end to write to me, the happenings over the week; your experience, your studies and your progress.

 Aku why don’t you share your subject list for last two years and available grades to follow by Ash for the same?

Let us see who is first to respond to this. Remember Varu’s second telling prior to Aku’s first telling?! Radhika be our moderator and pitch in to add value to this discussion.. 

After all we are a part of an educated family dears!!


12th Aug 2013

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Accidental Toastmaster

“Bala, what if you visit any country in the world map and at the airport, there are twenty friends of you, waiting to receive you?” was the question posted by Sanjay to me.

"Listen and silent are made of same set of alphabets but slightly rearranged to convey different meanings". Most of us are under the impression that verbal communication means just talking. On the contrary, communication is seldom one way; it is a two way track with a continuous flow of words, expressions and minute gestures which often go unnoticed in an unsuccessful communication.

We have trained ourselves for a long and extended period of 12-15 years in schools, colleges and universities to handle written communications. Questions are put in front of us on hypothetical situations and answers drawn from us either in a descriptive manner or objective type as held as the basis of our knowledge, talents and capabilities what-so-ever.

Having crossed the rings of fire also called as tests and examinations, the ultimate challenge of real life is encountered. It is nothing but "Public Speaking". Written communication is like our comfortable movement on the land or earth, such a solid ground wherein we can walk, run, stand, sit, rest and sleep anytime without any difficulty. But speaking or verbal communication is an entirely different ball game.

Speaking to a group of small group of people in a company meeting or a large social gathering of people or even a simple one to one communication every day is similar to swimming in deep waters. There is a continuous flow of words, pauses, variety of pitch and tone, naturally and at times intentionally varied by the speaker, conveying a spectrum of emotions across the mouth to the ears.

Again, a piece of write-up would mean precisely what it was meant for. But the speech is delivered by the speaker with certain motives, not necessarily be the same way to appeal to the listener. The challenge in front of the leaders of today is to convey the message to his audience in such a way it is construed and understood by them, exactly the way the speaker intended to do so.

Passion for speaking and singing had been a hidden agenda for me since birth. But neither of them could receive a training or mathematical approach to convert into a finished product from the crude raw material. After many years of rudimentary and stereotypic work style, I could sense a bit of stagnancy in my thirties.

Staying with same set of individuals at office for 12+ hours every day, discussing the same subject of evading salary increments, promotions and the dream of a non-existing job satisfaction could be a energy drainer and ultimate soul killer. It was the same moment; I realized the lack of any hobby or pastime to replenish the cluttered and confused mindset arising out of mechanical and repetitive jobs, more or less matching with Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”

Language has its roots in cleansing the mind and encouraging fresh and fruitful thoughts. Tamil has ever remained as my language of thinking, talking and assimilating the ideas since birth, whereas English has taken the place of business related communications.

Dammam Tamil Group gave me ample chances to revisit my Tamil speaking and singing skills with nostalgic memories of the past, peaceful glorious days in Thanjavur, my home town. This transformation then lead to regaining the energy levels, with the offshoot of fresh branches, leaves and flowers of thought process, like a green twig emanating out of a dead log of timber.

The real twist in this tale was Toastmasters. What is the meaning of toastmasters? If you are interested to know, please do visit but wait; not now. After you complete reading this piece of writing, you may proceed to visit this website if at all you need.

“Bala, what if you visit any country in the world map and at the airport, there are twenty friends of you, waiting to receive you?” was the question posted by Sanjay to me.

This happened at a family gathering consisting of we parents, whose children happen to be classmates and buddies in the Dammam Indian School; not to mention the mothers were teachers/ colleagues too. We fathers had no other option than to join the majority.

Sanjay, Pooja/Poojit’s dad was introduced by our common friends Raji & Govindarajan couple. In the group of we so called camels, Sanjay stood apart with his glowing eyes, bright and compassionate smiles and his outstanding energy levels and brimming positivity implied a lot about the person and there should be some secret behind this man, I thought at that very moment.

Yes, Sanjay was an accomplished toastmaster by that time. He drew me like a magnet in year 2005 into the Toastmasters fraternity.  Leaders, managers, engineers, doctors and workers; every type of profession is equal inside the toastmasters meeting room. The club of twenty odd members runs an imaginary office, parliament, speech-craft training all in one place. 

In Toastmasters, everyone gets a chance to stand on the stage and express his ideas in a pleasant way, with plenty of facial expressions, body language. To entertain and enterprise the audience and get encouraged in the process by their applauses unlimited is Toastmaters.

More and more I will write about Toastmaster in this series, in due course of time.

Until then have a great time at work and home my dear friends!


Dammam Bala

Sunday, 1 April 2012

“Nostolgic Namaste Hanoi”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 25, 2012 NEW
Nostalgic Namaste Hanoi

As an Ex-pat Indian working abroad for more than 15 years, the first thing I ever sacrificed and compromised was the food. Gone are the days of steaming Idlies, crispy Dosas and hot coffee with milk! When I moved from middle-east a couple of years ago to Vietnam, I was told 'watch out veggie, you are entering into a strictly non-veg. zone'.

They were not totally wrong until I re-discovered my taste buds after a long dormant period, back in Namaste Hanoi. The first thing that strikes positively in Namaste is the ambiance. The dining halls with different Indian themes of places, dance etc give a momentary feeling as if I am back home in India. Neatly arranged clean tables with bold and bright lighting welcome us in Namaste.

Name it, a north Indian delicacy or a south Indian special, you are granted with a spectrum of menu. Most of us have the habit of ordering 'repeat items' or simply fall a prey to 'other table syndrome' to instantaneously copy the fellow dinners.

Mr. Gopi the owner and a pioneer for Indian restaurants in Hanoi, is there to guide us through a wonderful experience of 'random choice'. Surprisingly, he has a mental database that could compete with a super computer in storing your 'past eating records'. He chooses your menu like 'Google feel lucky'. Also you are protected from 'over ordering' your food, given the number of people joining you that day.

The food you eat is fresh and Masala or the spice does not feel refrigerated or long-stored any more. Sambar with onion tastes quite authentic south Indian. I tried a variety of items over my frequent visits to Namaste and added them to my favorites list.

This ‘Fine piece of Food industry' has still got a big room for improvement at any given time. Any big or small happening on every visit can change the situation momentarily and elevate or spoil the mood. If at all I have to suggest some improvements in Namaste, there could be a few in a positive sense.

Firstly Mr. Gopi can't be there practically at every table doing his miraculous service. Hope his staff pick his 'street smartness skills' and emulate him and relieve him to concentrate on further developments of Namaste. Of course any new restaurant will have the same issue for the staff to grow along with time and mature.

Other visible thing is the quantity of side dishes for food items, the variety of chutneys look merely smeared in mini-cups. While any requests for re-fills is never discouraged or demanded for extra cost, some shy customers may not venture to ask in the first place. Another thing is the beverages like juice/ rose milk etc. The satisfaction from sumptuous salivating food does lead to higher expectation for equally matching drinks and hope this will be taken care in future.

All said and done, Namaste Hanoi makes me feel nostalgic of my childhood days of tasty Indian food. Thanks to Namaste for keeping my Indian side alive with week-end doses of palatable Indian delicacies!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Dammam Times


Its more than an year I left Dammam, Saudi after 15 long years of harmonious and happy working together in Zamil Steel. I am posting some snaps of 'parting party' in remembrance of those glorious days. cheers!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010



By Dammam Bala

Friends, this is rainy season in Tamil Nadu. It all started with tropical

depression JAL and followed by heavy rain and subsequent floods in the south.

Its our usual complaint that Cauvery is dry due to Karnataka's denial, Mettur

dam could not be opened for irrigation and all. For a change, it was different

news in TV this time. They said people are happy to see the Sun after a week,

especially the road side merchants.

When it comes to clouds, they are often attributed as a metaphor for confusion

or unclear situation. They call as war clouds, a cloud of worries etc. For an

optimist, the cloud is a natural umbrella against scorching sun. It is god

driven `metro water lorry without wheels. His motto is `Be positive' in his

outlook towards all happenings or at least to look into the positive side of

every incidence.

This can be put in short as B+. As usual, I pondered over this B+ and got some

strange connection over words, they entirely change meaning with B+. This is

totally an uncontrolled thought sequence and I thought of penning it down for

your glance.

B1. Most of us keep complaining that whatever we have is less. Say less money,

less resources, less support or mostly in common very less time at our disposal

(as if Hon. Man Mohan Singh or Obama have 48 hours a day as a special grant!) Is

there any way to make this less as more? There is!

Less + B = B + Less = Bless (ing in disguise) !!

B2. Day and night, dawn and dusk, dark and bright, dry and wet, high and low

time we all have. Are you feeling low? Don't worry, you have Vitamin B for your


Low + B = B + low = Blow (it over)!!

B3. Remember paper roast? The dosa that is wafer thin and those varieties of

salivating chutneys! Not only to read, but also to eat with the magical additive


Read + B = B + Read = Bread(mummy, mummy modern bread!!)

B4. Is life taking you for a ride on those sinusoidal roller coasters?? Here is

the remedy in B..

Ride + B = B + Ride = Bride (yourself or for you, gender dependent)!!

B5. Well known ring.. the wedding ring.. is it giving suffering to you? No

problem, beat it with B…

Ring + B = B + Ring = Bring (happiness from inside out)!!

B6. Life is a puzzle. Let's solve it meticulously. Look for the missing links

and put the Bead B in its place..

Link + B = B + Link = Blink (ing is a sign of life, right?!)

B7. Life is utter waste.. says a pessimist. Open your mouth and utter any word

and I will kill you using it as a weapon against you, says your boss. Is there

any way to make this utter, a bit better? B complex can help…

Utter + B = B + Utter = Butter (your boss at home at least :-)

B8. Feel you lack something, add B…

Lack+B = B+ Lack = Black (is beautiful, white is waste)

B9. Can't figure out what IT is? Soak it in B..

It + B = B + It = Bit (by bit things will become clear!)

B10. Ever feel ill? It is to B or not to B situation?

Ill + B = B + ill = Bill (doctor's bill as well as US $ bill.. equally


Some more…

B11. And + B = B + And = Band( listen or face the music)

B12. At + B = B + At = Bat (man or Batsman, the choice is yours

B13. Estimate + B = B + Estimate = Bestimate (a new English word coined by me



B14. Alas, we never say in any situation, since the equation goes as

Alas + B = B + Alas = Bala's

My spate of discoveries and inventions on B+ end here (temporarily at least!)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Chitapa                                                            For listening the audio, please click here

By Dammam Bala

While English has generalized the term ‘uncle’ for father’s as well as mother’s brother, in tamil it is unique. Uncle or mama refers in tamil to your mother’s brother. Chitapa is the other term.

Your father’s brother is your chitapa by default. However, as your mother’s sister is Chiti, her husband also falls into ‘Chitapa bracket’. Many a times the latter could be more affectionate to you, by the very basic rule, he needs to like what his wife likes!

This episode is about my ‘Narayanan Chitapa’ He married Ramani Chiti, my mother’s younger sister in 1975. Their marriage took place in 1975, when I was in grade 5. It took place in Bangoor chattiram, at the vicinity of famous Mamangulam (remember, the Maha maham or Mamangam that comes every 12 years?)

The marriage is memorable to me, because of our Bhopal thatha and family coming down all the way from North to do the ‘Kannika dhanam’ Having 5 beautiful daughters, it was my thatha’s pastime to combine annual vacations with marriage plan in tamil nadu.

The fact that my Ramesh mama, left me in the chatiram and went to Hindi movie ‘budda milgaya’ makes me remember the episode until today I guess. We also had Ganesh mama, who was two/three years old and keep running behind my Ramani chiti, shouting ‘Ammi, Ammi’

At that time of Ramani chiti’s marriage, we had most of our marital relationships in sondham. Mostly its like a unbroken magi noodles to name the relationships as we call in tamil as ‘Idiyaapa Sikkal’. Narayanan chitapa was also distantly related to my father and even before marriage, he was my ‘Ondru vitta chitapa’ and got promoted to my ‘Direct chitapa’ after marrying Ramani Chiti.

He had great respect and love for my father, calling him Anna and he visited us in Tanjore few months after his marriage. He was working in Pvt Firm in Coimbatore by then. Though chitapa had to truncate his education due his father’s early demise, he had a good job and looked pretty fashionable. In fact when he visited us, he had brought with him a fancy memento.

It was a hemispherical hollow glass piece, filled with water and some shiny particles submerging a Taj Mahal minature model’ and it was a night lamp. When my brother Radha said it looks beautiful, instantaneously chitapa presented it to him. (After many years only, he told he bought it for personal use and since kid liked it, he gave it away!)

Our relationship with our chitapa grew stronger as we keep visiting each other in Coimbatore and Tanjore. We travelled together to Kanchipuram, Chennai and Rameshwaram too. Narayanan chitapa had special interests towards English movies; but he genuinely admitted that ‘too many conversations sometimes make a movie, incomprehensible’ During my annual leave visits to Coimbatore , he took me to the famous Enter the Dragon and Invincible Six.

He was a pioneer in usage of electronics in our family; the first one to have a ‘Jumbo size- Panasonic Tape recorder’ (just a mono, but state of art technology of 70’s). He had a hand held mini projector, viewer to watch spider man cartoon movie. He decorated his house with beautiful things and he did influence me in many ways to become a gizmo later.

After schooling, I joined PSG and started my first year as a day scholar from Ramani chiti’s house. Even after moving to college hostel and subsequently to GD Naidu’s I kept visiting them during week ends. Chitapa paid great attention to my studies and kept paying my college fees even before funds arrive from my father’s side. One time he even paid my senior Cheenu’s college fees to support some unexpected delay.

What I like with my chitapa is his positive attitude and self confidence. At times he faced career reversals, but took them as challenges to make a come back every time. He kept learning by self and mastered ‘Tally and other accounting practices’. He could be found very strict and blunt with people in transactions and even in normal conversations. But to me, he was exceptionally kind and it was my week end responsibility to do massaging to him.

He stood all the way with me at my difficult times too. My dad was severely ill during my college final and went into critical condition during my masters. Chitapa supported as physically, mentally and financially all along those dark days. If it was not the case, I could have easily become as one of the drop-outs!

Chitapa galvanized my mindset and taught me to face the world. Once we took a house for rent and changed soon to another one nearby. The house owner kept dogging us without returning our advance money. Chitapa, guided me to put a second lock to the house, the owner came running to us to settle the amount, the very next day.

In the past 25 years, Chitapa has supported me in my decision making including my marriage with Radhika. And all these years I stay outside India , we keep visiting them during annual vacations. Chitapa has extended his love to my son Aakash and he keeps chatting with him, Thata, thata which makes me happy too.

He keeps telling that me the employers abroad are very clever. ‘The pay you a good salary, but they make you spend a lot of money in their own country by making you live there maintaining a good standard of living’. We keep visiting our Family Goddess temple in Karur, travelling together backed by Chitapa’s meticulous planning and excution right from Lodge, Puja items, ticket booking to every single detail.

Narayanan chitapa is 63 years old now and yesterday happens to be his birthday. In my busy firefighting in office, I missed to greet him yesterday. I no longer attempt to do massage to him at this age. But just a random thought on him, makes me think.. ‘Responsibilities are NOT to be given, they are to be taken!’


Bala G(ot to thank Ashok for inspiring me to write on my Chitapa :-)