Judgement Risks and Paybacks

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Picture Source: http://aroimakmak.com/

The other evening, when we were walking near the Esplanade Theaters by the Bay here in Singapore, Akank and I stopped for something to eat. I wanted her to try the Thai coconut ice cream, a scoop of coconut flavored sorbet served in one half of a tender coconut shell, to be eaten along with the young coconut jelly. I had tried it once before and had loved it. They also offer a chilled glass of tender coconut water to go. It was a humid evening and anything cold and thirst quenching seemed like a great snack idea.

As we sat by the Bay enjoying the crystals in the sorbet, I noticed a man looking in the general direction of where we sat. In the twilight, it seemed like he was looking directly at us. He sat there surrounded by two huge plastic bags filled with cans and plastic bottles.  It was obvious that he was a trash collector. He looked about 75 years old not a day younger.  He had no footwear on, wore a shirt that was a few sizes bigger for his frame and he was absentmindedly munching on something. My gaze kept going back to the man. I felt unsettled as I looked at him, savoring the cold sorbet with the plastic spoon in my mouth.  I wondered if he longed for a taste of the cold ice- cream.  Instinctively, I walked back to the kiosk to buy another shell of ice cream.

I offered the ice cream topped with crushed peanuts to the old man and said, “Uncle,this is for you”. With a toothless grin that reached his ears, without speaking a word, he waved both his hands and refused the offer.  I deemed it important to clarify that it was a fresh cup and not the one I was eating. I even showed him the half eaten sorbet in my other hand, but he was absolutely sure that he wanted nothing to do with it, fresh or otherwise.  I imagined that maybe the ice cream was way too cold for him and for some strange old man reason he was refusing it.  I gingerly balanced both the fresh shell and what was left of my melting sorbet and offered him the chilled coconut water to drink.  He waved me away with renewed vigor and pulled out a brown liquid from inside an enormous plastic bag and indicated that he had something to drink.  I was flabbergasted.

What a great lesson

I gave up when I realized that I expected him to accept the ice cream just because I felt charitable, but it had back fired. The fresh sorbet began to melt too.

Before I made the decision to buy the ice cream, I had my daughter’s buy-in and support. Otherwise you can imagine what else I would have had to deal with! She however refused the second helping of ice-cream. At 16, she has better control over her needs and wants related to food than I do. I pondered for a minute if I should eat the refused ice cream and then realized that it will end up being a costly mistake to my weight maintenance goals. I visualized my coach’s disapproving looks and decided that I was going to march ahead to look for someone more deserving. I had to pass by the old man, who flashed me another toothless grin and waved to me as though wishing me luck.

I shortly found a 20 year old Bangladeshi construction worker who was dragging his feet after work towards the pickup truck that would take him home. Unlike the old man, the young man gladly took the ice- cream from me and sat down to finish it. I made small talk with him as he ate and found out that he had been here less than two months. I hoped that he believed that he is in a good place, hard construction work notwithstanding, that sometimes strangers you come across in a new country, can be nice.

Eulogy for a friend

Rest in peace, Prasad

Rest in peace, Prasad

Goodbye, Prasad.

I am glad I got to speak to you one last time before your time ran out.  It must have been providence then that prompted me to look you up on Facebook, when an email I wrote you bounced back undelivered.

It was on your birthday this year. As was the trend, we always wrote each other just that day of the year. A quick note to check if we were still in the same town, doing the same thing that we were a year back when we had connected on our birthdays.  Some ritual that. Do I regret not writing to you more often? No. It is not like we were old chums.

What were we then? Acquaintances, contacts, a connection, birthday buddies maybe?  It is funny how my mind reels back to a time, many years ago when we first came to meet. I was in Mumbai and in my first job as a head hunter. You, Prasad, were a job seeker with a resume in our databank, an active job seeker at that. You were unhappy in your assignment or maybe you were between jobs.  You came to my work place to meet with me before I set you up for an interview. We had talked briefly before that a couple of times, enough for me to know that you may be the man that the company was looking for. Yet, as was required, I wanted to meet with you to ascertain if my judgment of you was right.

You didn’t come across as someone who was aggressive and pushy. You always spoke softly with a familiarity that was endearing. You were the same age as me. That and the fact that you were a south Indian in Mumbai is all that it took for us to bond.  Although you didn’t make the cut at that interview, you took that in your stride.  I asked you if the HR manager looked as good as he sounded on the phone and without missing a beat, you asked me if I know of tall, dark, handsome men. Just when I began to widen my eyes in awe, you said,” He was all of that but tall and handsome”. I laugh out loud even today when I think of that follow up conversation.

Your  easy sense of humor, your laid back ‘ I-am-not-in-a-hurry- to- be- in- my- next- job’ attitude helped me line up a few more interviews that suited your profile and we stayed in touch between 1998 and year 2000. I recall speaking to you about many more job profiles. You didn’t want to jump from the frying pan to the fire, so we waited for the perfect job description.  Meanwhile, you found an interesting assignment with a tele shopping network on your own.  We stayed in touch because I told you that it pays to have a head hunter for a friend.

I relocated from Mumbai to another city a few years after that and we kept in touch on email. I cannot trace all the emails from those years, though I eagerly looked for them in my now unused hotmail account. I had switched to Gmail by then and had sent you an invite to start an account. It was year 2008, by then you had started a business on your own and seemed busy. Your once-a- year email always arrived on my birthday.

Three years later, you asked to connect on Linked In.  You wrote me saying you had forgotten my daughter’s name and blamed it on old age!  You also said something poignant in one of your updates then. You said and I quote “ .. still not done with my struggles yet”. I felt a pang of guilt wash over me. I had moved on to other things and other people and had never once wondered if you were okay and happy.  We promised to connect on Facebook that year but never really found each other there. Years went by.

It wasn’t until May this year I thought of you again. I sent you a birthday wish and the mail bounced back. I finally found you on Facebook. It had been fifteen years since I saw you. You had changed so much. You know of the tall, dark and handsome men we used to talk about? You looked like one of them.

My happiness of finding you again was short lived.  I learnt of your cancer and your Bone Marrow Transplant through the Angels for Prasad community.  When I messaged you on Facebook chat on that day, you replied almost immediately. The same old cheerful Mr. Nice Guy. You shrugged off my questions about your health and asked about me instead.

I am glad I called and spoke with you, Prasad. It may not have meant much to you, but to me, it made a world of difference. I wanted you to know that even though I hadn’t really been in touch, I have always been your well wisher. You told me that life had been good, that you did well in the insurance business; you travelled the world and even came to Singapore.  Maybe if we had stayed in touch, we could have met at Singapore?  Even though that thought saddened me, I was super happy that your career did take off.  Until your cancer was detected, you were a successful and happy man, you said.

Prasad, despite the best intentions of the world around you, you lost your fight to cancer. I wish you had lived longer. I wish I had been able to make that short trip to Mumbai to see you once more.

When I turn older in two weeks, guess whose wish I will miss this year?

Until we meet again…

Dog gone Orchard!

Maxx loves it when the plants are green and wet

Maxx loves it when the plants are green and wet

It is not often that I give the option to Maxx to decide which route we will take for our walks. Being the human, I pretty much decide the route or how long we will walk depending on the time I have on the said day. However, I do let Maxx have a say on days I feel indulgent.

Like today.

It was a rainy morning, as is usual for Singapore when the North East monsoon hits the island. Typically, I would request Siti, my helper, to walk Maxx in such weather just long enough for him to answer nature’s calls and keep the walking schedule with the intent of exercise for later. Siti however is away at Palembang to spend time with her family and that leaves me in charge of the family, dog et al for the next 30 days.

Both Maxx and I were going to miss her more than the others in the family. Maxx loves stepping out with Siti, who takes him out on the lunches and dinners with friends and makes sure he gets doggie treats.  For Maxx, walking with Siti is like a field trip. Slow paced walk, loads of time to sniff at interesting corners, an opportunity to hang out with other dogs, whose humans were friends of Siti’s, rest time when she poses for photos for her Facebook profile etc. I will miss Siti too, but for different reasons.

When the morning dawned, I knew it was going to be crazy. School term began today, Siti was leaving for her holiday and to top it all, it was raining. As always, Maxx lay on the floor, just outside the kitchen, watching me broodingly through half closed eyes as I busied myself fixing breakfast for the daughter and husband. A few minutes after Akank left for her school bus, he looked up at me expecting me to say, “Want to go for a walk, Maxx?.” I believe dogs can tell time. How else do you think Maxx knows that it is 7am in the morning and time for his walk? If I hope to enjoy a cup of coffee or read anything, I better be done before 6.59 am.

Knowing that I had no choice, I stepped out; umbrella in one hand and the dog lead in the other. Just out of the gate, Maxx decided to play tough. When he does not want to walk the direction I want to walk, he stands rooted to the spot. When I turned around and looked at him, he stared right back at me, defiantly.  No amount of tugging at the lead or coaxing him with endearments cut any ice with him. So I did what works every time; I had a conversation. Often times, I have noticed people looking over their shoulders, watching me talk to my dog.

 “You don’t want to go this way, Maxx? Defiant stare.

“Alright. Then you tell me what you want to do?” Blinks eyes.

“Do you want to go back home, Maxx?” Flares his nostrils, continues to stare without blinking.

“Ok. You show me which way you want to go and I will go with you, Ok? ” Usually this works. He either starts moving in the direction that he wants to go or wags his tail.

But today, he continued to stare back. He would not budge, move or trace his paw steps back home. I had to tug at the lead a couple of times to tell him I meant business.  Maxx sensed that he had no option and decided to walk along. Along the way, at the traffic lights he slowed down and leaned to the side of the road he wanted to go. I decided to humor him. I crossed the road and let him lead the way.  He cleverly chose covered areas which protected him from the constant drizzle of the rain. “Good boy, Maxx.” I kept the conversation going.

He seemed to know where he was heading, even though the route he chose was not a familiar walking route for me. He made me cross another street and walked towards a park. I smiled and continued indulging him and before I knew it, we were right on Orchard road, Singapore’s most popular tourist attraction!  Who knew Maxx was the ‘window shopping at malls’ kind?

It was very early in the morning and other than a few commuters, corporate people walking to their day jobs and night security guards that were stationed outside some of the malls, Orchard road was pretty quiet.  The huge television screens were live, blinking advertisements that fascinated Maxx and held his attention, he looked at display windows and mannequins and wagged his tail at some of them, and he peeked at his own reflection on the glass panes as we walked past. His tongue was out on one side and he looked happy. The best part of the route he chose was that he managed to stay dry in the covered corridors.

We turned at the Scape Youth Park at Orchard Link which is a colorful recreational park for young people. The rain washed grass looked green and by just looking at Maxx  sniffing at it, I can tell it smelt fresh too. We got back home in lesser time than it took for our usual morning walks but I can bet my last dollar, much happier.

I cannot wait for all the adventures that I will have with Maxx in the coming days.

Death- The last enemy

mailHave you ever woken up to bad news?  If you have then you will be able to empathize with me and the hundreds of people who did the morning after Diwali.

A few mornings back, or specifically the morning after Diwali, as was habitual, I accessed my inbox on my phone.  I was scrolling through the messages in my inbox as I fixed myself a cup of coffee to start my day. Technology makes sure we hear what is up with the World even before we open the newspaper or fire up our computers.

I stopped short at an email that bore the subject- Bad news.

The sender of the message was a colleague from work. In the fraction of a second before I tapped that message to read the content, my mind raced with the possibilities of what could it be about. I had just returned from a week at ‘work’.  All had been well when I left.  The message had opened by then.

The first line of the email said it all. It revealed that the bad news I was just about to read was going to be shocking. I could feel the pit of my stomach cave in. I dismissed the feeling and read on further.  The mail was written in short sentences of five words each. And the third line revealed the shocking bad news. My team member had lost both her parents in a tragic road accident.

I had to sit down to make sense of the news. How was it possible? Didn’t she tell me just the other day that they were coming over to spend Diwali with her?

The email outlined the scanty details that my colleague had on him at that time and that was enough to tell me that the accident had indeed been tragic. They were run over by a speeding vehicle as they were crossing the road, it said. I had to shut my eyes close to stop the world around me from spinning.

“My ma says that I don’t feed the baby enough. If only she knew how much my two year old eats! When she is here the next week, I will hand over my daughter and ask her to take care of her”, her laugh rang in my ears.

The email further detailed how the parents were headed to the younger daughter’s house. She was going to be a mother soon and they wanted to prepare for the valaikaapu function the following week.

I am planning to ask them to move in with me, Arthi. It will be so much easier then both for them and me. We are looking to move into a two storied house soon”, she had said determinedly.

And now they were both gone. Just like that, while crossing the road, because a speeding car that was not able to avoid hitting them, had hit them and caused head injuries that had killed them.

The rest of the day is a hazy memory. I was listlessly floating about, imagining what was happening in her world every minute. I was unable to function. I was filled with a sense of remorse and intense helplessness.  I hoped that she had said a loving goodbye to them when they left her that day. What was the last conversation they had had? Was she regretting that she had not said something she had planned to tell them? The whole day I stayed preoccupied with what might have been and what shouldn’t have happened.

I felt restless as the day progressed, and worse as the details of their accident trickled in. They were hit by a car while they turned around hearing the cry of a handicapped blind man across the road.

Could it be any worse?

I hate conveying condolence messages. I am bad at it. There is no right thing to say to someone who has lost a loved one or in this case, two; loving parents who had been killed in a tragic road accident.

I had to let her know that I had heard; that I knew she was broken hearted, not once but twice over. I had to send her my thoughts, love, prayers and strength. I had to remind her to eat, to be sane, to not fall sick. I had to remind her to be strong.

It has been only 3 days since the incident. My thoughts are with her, hoping that she will allow time to heal the wretched wounds from the nasty blow life has dealt her, that she finds answers to the questions she has.

For now I want to sit quietly next to her, sharing her grief, just being there if that can lessen the pain.

Hang in there, Kuppu.

Monkey business

One of the monkeys at the Nupura Gangai temple at Madurai

One of the monkeys at the Nupura Gangai temple at Madurai

I found out a few years back how Singapore did not tolerate crows, but that they have a general zoophobic attitude dawned on me now, from the events that have enshrouded my neighborhood in the past week- all after a pesky little monkey decided to stray into our condominium looking for food.

Monkeys aren’t a common sighting in this affluent country. Unless you live in the vicinity of a national park, you probably will never get to see one swinging from the trees. In India, any Hindu temple on a mound or a hill would be swarming with these primates so much so that parents convince children to go to the temples with promises of monkey sightings more than seek blessings from the divinity. We even venerate them as Hanuman, the monkey God.

A few days back, someone in the condo spotted a lone monkey hopping on to the balconies of some flats looking for food. The sighting triggered off a string of email exchanges within a span of an hour. My inbox was quickly filling up with emails titled ‘The monkey is back’. Rewind to a few months back, the same monkey (or one of his kind) had been spotted visiting the premises and a similar knee jerk reaction and a few email exchanges later, the excitement had died down.

Our condominium is in the close proximity of a National Park, which is part of Singapore’s heritage and pride and it is located on a hill- no less.  Add to that a Hindu temple in close proximity that has religious dos every week, with a lot of food being distributed for charity. There you have it – Two potent ingredients that a monkey finds too hard to resist while finding a piece of real estate suitable for dwelling. Unfortunately (for the monkey), the condominium has very few people to empathize with him. I may be the only support he has in all of the 187 units. I am far outweighed by the others who seem to be ganging up with their devious plans to evict him from the premises.

Even though I have lived in the same condominium for two years, I have had little opportunity to interact with my neighbours to find out their interests or what they do for a living. However, all these email exchanges about the monkey seems to throw some light on what they could potentially be qualified to do for a living and here are some of the conclusions (using my imagination) that I have drawn. ( Disclaimer:  This post was written in  light vein and not with the intention of hurting anyone)

Another shot of a monkey that posed for me at a temple in madurai

Another shot of a monkey that posed for me at a temple in Madurai

There is definitely an armchair primatologist  on a higher floor, who observes that the monkey  ‘is a fully grown adult but not an alpha male’ (Google much?) and he suspects that he has been ‘ousted from his troop and foraging for easy food’ (Eloquence!).

Then we have a wannabe behavioral scientist who from her sixth floor vantage point alerts the rest of us of ‘ frantic maids locking themselves up’ and of people ‘grabbing golf clubs and umbrellas’ to scare the primate away.

We have forecasters and psychics who by virtue of being stuck to the window watching every move of the intruder say, ‘the monkey will return at about the same time and leave when it gets dark”. ( Maybe you couldn’t see much when it was dark and you assumed that he went away while in reality he was having the last laugh sitting on your window sill?)

We have budding detectives who have spotted amateur photographers clicking pictures of the annoying pesky thief (The poor lost soul, has  earned his titles by wandering into our condo). There are Yes men who show their solidarity and support.  There are a few pithecophobics who ask you to be on guard against the ‘dangerous, aggressive critter’, because they ‘suspect that there is going to be an ugly incident if we don’t act fast’ and then there are animal right activists who want to remove the monkey as humanely as possible and relocate it back to its habitat.

So many proposals have been made by the group, ranging from hiring a ‘monkey catcher’, taking the help of the specialist pest controllers, the AVAACRES and involving the minister of the constituency.  What gets my goat is  when they bring a religious angle to it, blaming the temple for being its refuge. They have requested the officers from the AVA to counsel the temple management about the nuisance that they seem to be supporting inadvertently!

It has all culminated to a monkey trap being laid on the roof top of a building from where the perpetrator has been seen to let himself in. Informative flyers and circulars have been printed and distributed to the residents of the condo and notices have been pinned to the notice boards. We have been warned to keep our balcony doors closed to discourage the monkey from visiting.

More monkeys at a temple in Madurai

More monkeys at a temple in Madurai

The latest grainy video doing its rounds in the group email shows the smart monkey sauntering into an apartment, emerging with a banana and peeling it as he reflectively looks at the rain. The behavioral scientist has spotted the monkey carefully manoeuvering the trap that lay in wait for him as he approached the premise through another clearing.  He must have sensed something awry. You can never outsmart a monkey. It is not for nothing that you them clever.

As for me, I am waiting to see if the story fizzles out like the last time. And when I spot him, I will chant the hanuman chalisa under my breath and earn my brownie points. Will keep you posted on how it all turned out….. for the monkey!

 

 

 

 

Here is an update of the status as of the evening of 30th Sept.

The chap turned up at our house this evening when I was away walking my dog, helped himself to some mandarin oranges, walked into the puja, moved some flowers about and perched comfortably on the balcony railing and enjoyed the fruits of his labour.

The hero of the story

The hero of the story

Four short of a century – A tribute to my grandpa

My 96 year old maternal grandfather passed away this weekend.  He had a fall last week and was advised surgery. He survived the surgery and was strong enough to get upset with his sons about not being around him when he was recovering. The fact that he was in the ICU, was of no significance to him. My grand dad was the last surviving sibling of a family of five. He was the oldest and lived the longest.  One of his younger sisters passed away a week before his time came.

I was fortunate to have met him a few months back when I went for my annual visit home. I always made it a point to see him on the same day I arrived or within the next couple of days. Even If I could not, I would fudge the details of my arrival to make it look like I had arrived only then. Somehow it felt to me that he minded a bit if I told him that I had arrived earlier but had made time to come over to say hello only then.

As always, I spent some time with him, repeating details of my life that he was already aware of. He has been hard of hearing from the time I remember interacting with him. In my mind’s eye, I see him quickly pacing into his room, after acknowledging my arrival with a surprised toothless smile and a ‘wait ’ hand  sign, while he fixed his hearing aid and adjusted the volume on the little box that he later slid into his pocket. He would beckon to a chair next to him and then we would start the conversation.

He did not expect anything from me. Lately I had been carrying only bananas for him since that was the only fruit he enjoyed. He was keen to spend time with me, asking me mundane details of my life. He was genuinely interested in what I did, how I traveled, who cooked for me, where I stayed, how my in laws were.

It was typical of him to repeatedly ask the same questions that he had asked you in your last visit. Things don’t change that quickly in everyone’s lives to make mundane details sound interesting. But if you knew him well, you’d patiently wait for him to complete his list of questions.

So where do you live now? Singapore. Singapore! It is so far away! How did you come?  Flight. Airplane! Who came with you?  I came on my own. By yourself?! Not bad!

How is your child? (He could never recall her name). How old is she now? What grade? Wow!

How are your inlaws? How is your brother in law and his family? His kids? They must all be grown up now. Do they still live in Jayanagar?

How is your mom? Is she going back to Singapore with you? How long will she stay? 4 months! That is a long time!

Another thing he possessed about is for me to eat a meal before I left; if I couldn’t stay on for a meal on that day, then I had to promise coming back for a meal on another day. Invariably, I would eat every time I visited him. If I had to step out to meet someone else in the neighborhood, he would panic about where I was off to. Even after verbal assurances , he would wonder if I was going away without telling him. I would leave my hand bag behind and that assured him I was coming back.

And God forbid if I told him that I would be away for 15 minutes and I got delayed. He’d be at the gate watching the road till he spotted me.  You said you were going for 15 and you stayed away for so long! I was worried because the traffic is bad and I don’t trust any of these vehicles. When I left, he gave me a lot of instructions to drive safe and to call as soon as I reached home. And then he would sit right next to the phone until it rang and I spoke to my aunt to let him know I had reached.

As was customary, I always sought his blessings when I left his house. As soon as I readied myself to take his blessings with a namaskaram at his feet, he would stop me, quickly go into the puja, bring the turmeric smeared rice (akshathai)  in his hand to bless me with it and then would give me the go ahead.

Lately I had begun to give him a parting hug. I could wrap my one arm around him easily and I was careful not to crush his frail frame. He would feel very uncomfortable and protect himself by raising his arms to his chest. He liked shaking hands as a better parting wish. He shook hands with everyone. With me, with my husband, daughter. He’d be very English about it. A smart firm handshake accompanied by eye contact and a genuine smile that reached his eyes.

He walked with me till the gate, kept advising me to be safe and waved to me till I turned the corner of the street he lived in. As always I told him to take care and that I would see him when I came back next time.

I will miss him the next time at Mavalli. Rest in peace, thatha.

R Shamanna 1917-2013

R Shamanna 1917-2013
Leaves behind 6 children, 10 grand kids and 9 great grand kids

The God man cabbie

On my way back from Little India last evening, I expected to be stranded at the taxi stand since it was ‘shift’ change time. Cabs in Singapore are scarce between 4.30 and 5.30 any evening since that is when the morning shift cab drivers hand over the cars to the next shift drivers, so they are busy driving to their respective drop off destinations. That is the only time when a cabbie in Singapore may refuse to pick you if you are not headed in his direction.  In India, we are familiar with this treatment irrespective of the time of the day.

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The red trans cab that pulled up. Image Courtesy: http://www.carclipart.com

With these thoughts in my mind, I lugged the six plastic bags loaded with vegetables, flowers and sundry ‘Indian’ grocery , when this red Trans Cab pulled up  and the cabbie beckoned me to hop in. I thanked my stars for the good fortune to have found a cab without wasting time at waiting and gave him the address.  He heard the address and quipped if I was stopping on my way to meet the God fatherly first PM of Singapore, MM Lee.  Cabbies in Singapore love to strike conversations with you, especially if they sense you are up to one.  Now who doesn’t like a cabbie with a perfect sense of humour, especially when he also showed up just when you needed a cab. So I indulged. I mentioned that the gentleman in question and we were practically neighbours.

Ten minutes into the drive when he had warmed up to me, he said I wasn’t going to believe him if he told me who he really was. I sat up to peek into the rear view mirror to get a better glimpse at him. He was an aging bald man and definitely a local of Chinese origin.The only people I would have recognized were Jackie Chan, Donyen or Jet Li, even though I seriously doubt if these men were balding.  Incidentally, I had just read about Norway’s PM who was in the news and wondered if it was Mr.Lee Hsien Loong himself! He did not remotely resemble any of them. So I asked him to humor me.

My frame of reference

My frame of reference

“I am a God man” he proclaimed. I had the strangest conversation with the friendly, aging bald cabbie from that moment on.

He had just asked me about why I was carrying back fragrant flowers. I educated him about the daily puja ritual at home and that my husband was a religious man who believed in offering flowers to the Gods as a way of being thankful for favours received (If you have ever had to explain bhakti to a non Hindu foreigner then you would know my predicament). He frowned and asked me how I could equate offering prayers as religiousness. That was a profound statement if ever there was one.  He continued, while I was busy gathering my jaw from the floor of the car, if I believed in karma.  Now those of you, who know me well, would understand how these philosophical conversations confound me. I waited for the revelation of who he really was. My next question was to egg him to do just that – Are you a religious man, I asked.

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The Yin and the Yang of Taosim

“I am half Buddhist and half Tao. I have mastered the 18 sciences of medicine. I am not a college educated doctor. But I can cure diseases. Autoimmune diseases like Lupus. You know what I am saying?” He had this uncanny sense of knowing when I was looking at him directly in the rear view mirror. I nodded frantically.

He then told me about his visit to America to meet his Master. “I had to just see  Lake Calgary and I understood everything; everything about medicine.”  I was slightly in awe of him, while I wondered if Lake Calgary was in America. His eyes met mine in the rear view mirror. “Do you believe me or not?” If you have ever been asked by someone if you believe them or not while they stared into your eyes, you know how I felt right then. I nodded noncommittally, while I looked outside the window to see if we had reached destination.

I nearly jumped out of my skin with his next question. “Who is the God man who died in India recently? ” Saibaba?  I whispered meekly and he almost smacked the steering wheel , “Yeah, Uncle Sai. He was born to Indonesian parents and learnt from my Chinese Master”. Now, that was incredulous! I may not be a pious Sai bhakt but I would surely know if he was Indonesian.

By then I was almost home. I would have wanted to find out more if the ride had been longer. But as I got off the cab, I asked him who his master was. ‘ Maashaloo ’ he said. I quickly made a note on my iPhone and promised to look him up on Google. He gave me a thumbs up and drove away.

As soon as I got home, I set about finding out what I had heard from the God man, to establish the truths.

I found out that Lupus was an autoimmune disorder and there is a Lake Calgary in Canada and not the US. What was not true was Sai Baba’s Indonesian heritage.

And as for ‘Mashaloo ’ the God man’s master, I found out that it was Master Lu Sheng-Yen , The Living Buddha. Maybe the God man really knows something about Saibaba that the World is yet to discover.