About Me

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The name is Selvamani.R. I was born in Rangoon, Burma now known as Yangoon and Myanmar respectively. I had my schooling in I.E.S. .Khalsa School there in Rangoon and came to Tamilnadu, India, did my Pre-University in Sir Thegaraya College,Chennai and M.B.B.S., in Madurai Medical College. Later did my Diploma and Masters Degree in the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Egmore, Madras Medical College, Chennai.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010



I had a friend in 2nd year who was also from Chennai.. We will call him “N’.
My father and I went and saw him. As I was late for admission in hostel there was no vacancy in any room and I was allotted common hall in A Block.
When we entered the hostel there were many first year students and a lot of seniors were enquiring about them, with some restraint as they, like me, were accompanied by their fathers.
I said that I had come only to see N and they left me with a curious look.
But at last I was trapped by one senior..
We were horrified to look at the senior hostellers. Their dress - if you can call that -with raised lungies, with an inevitable cigarette perked in the corner of the mouth, the language they used -were a revolt.
Father left for Chennai on the same day.

Regarding ragging everybody was cautioning me that it is the worst part and all that.
But at that time I was more worried about the fact that I have to be parted from my parents for the first time in my life. I felt so homesick that ragging was of secondary importance.
N gave me very good advice on how to face the ragging. ‘Be polite. Don't try to avoid them by going outside and returning late to the hostel. They will wait for you and catch you and will only make it worse. The sooner you know them the better. Most of them will become good friends and some will even protect you’.

In a way I looked forward to ragging because I was sure that I would meet some of my schoolmates from Rangoon, Burma .
Almost all my school mates there had ambition to become doctors or engineers and were from southern part of Tamilnadu.
So I dutifully narrated my schooling in Rangoon and this I think took off the sting as they immediately became interested and asked for details about Burma.
Some used to call me “Hi, Burma" when they saw me again.

N took me to the then local stalwarts, who terrified the hostel but were his good friends- One of them immediately took to me saying that I resembled his sister's son and ordered me to call him "Mama' [ uncle] all the time. He also said that if I faced any difficulty in ragging I should tell the persons that he is my Mama and I have to be in his room shortly.
Well it escaped me from some tight situations. I called him Mama all through and he always responded by saying "Marumagane" [son-in-law as per term but here means nephew]. Both of them were [are] actually very good persons and became my best friends.

Almost all students, even his classmates believed that I was his true relation.
I also began to take advantage of it when the ragging became unruly.
I always said that my Mama wanted me to come to his room and I was already late. True, some seniors resented but they were not bold enough to call the bluff.

Sometimes very good questions were asked.
One of them was whether the dog in “His Master’s Voice” Record was male or female.
When I was first asked the Q, I was taken back.
As they repeated the Q and asked me to use my brain- which was on the blink- it dawned on to me that the dog was male.
When I replied so I was asked to explain and I said that as it is His Master’s Voice it was a male dog.
The other common Q was whether “The Illustrated Weekly” was a monthly or fortnightly or weekly magazine?
Silly as it may sound due to the tension many missed the answer.

When the ragging was in full flow in a room somehow it was made out that I was good in English and studied in a foreign English school.Soon a gent entered the room and asked "Where is that convent boy?".
On seeing me he immediately blurted out “I don't believe you studied in a convent"[I must have looked very impressive!!].
Then after asking some Questions [in English of course] he was convinced a bit and said that he will ask a difficult Q and if I answered it correctly he will leave me.
Then he said the following very fast-
“The first of the first is the first of you!
The first of the last is the last of you!
And in between or two OOs !
That is you! Am I right?”
Then he glared at me.
Even in that circumstance I tried to suppress my smile as it was kinder garden stuff in our school. The usual retort is “No. It is you." But I was afraid to say it as he might get angry. He misunderstood my silence thinking that I didn't know the answer and started to ask it again. But I stopped him saying that I know the answer.
So tell me he said.
I said it will be impolite to say it is you, sir!
He became very subdued, shook hands with me and left.
Others were perplexed.
They have seen him talking tip of tongue English before and the same prank being played on the freshers and to their knowledge nobody has answered it.
So they asked me and I explained it patiently.
After hearing it they said “Is that all? Was he making such show for this little thing?”

It seems others were not happy with his toppity English talk and thereafter whenever he started the prank with a fresher they will say in chorus “Tell him it is you!”

Ragging as they usually say is bad. May be it is. But for some, especially me, it was good.
Good in the sense that many seniors were actually very nice people.
Once the ragging was over they became good friends. Whenever they saw me they called me by name and enquired about my welfare, my studies and about my parents.
When my uncle visited me, about 6 months later, he was surprised to be guided by almost everyone he asked.
“Oh! That boy from Madras, who did his schooling in Burma-he is in room number 99!”
My uncle was very surprised and exclaimed that I was very famous, as everybody seems to know me very well.

I stayed in the common hall for only 2 days as I was allotted room 99. B, two years senior to me who was in room 99 came and saw me.
The custom in the hostel was that you couldn’t stay in the room without the senior’s permission.
After the usual questions he said that I could come and occupy the room the next day itself..
There I met “I” who was also in first year but in A batch.
There were only 2 cots and I had to sleep on the table at night.
“I” and I became thick friends sharing all and keeping no secret.
He knew about my economic state, my friends and was a gem of a friend.
The ‘was’ is because he is no more now.

I met him after a gap of 30 years when he came to Chennai from UK for his brother’s son’s marriage at Tambaram..
He visited my home with his brother.
When he introduced him to me I forestalled him saying his brother’s full name [first, last and middle !]..
He was very pleased and tapped his head saying ‘memory-memory’ as I used to astonish him a few times with my memory power in the hostel repeating word for word what I read in the textbooks.
My wife lamented saying that I was always talking about my hostel friends and even went and saw room 99 in the hostel recently.
Hearing this he laughed, cast a knowing look on me and said that he also went and saw the room the year before.
His sons who accompanied him said to him that they could understand him visiting the room but couldn’t understand why he wanted to see the toilets also!!
I said I missed that part!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


In Burma there is a festival called "Yerappo" which is a water festival celebrated praying God for rains.
It is somewhat akin to the Holi festival the main difference being that only plain water is used.
The festival lasts for 4 days, the first three days being celebrated in increasing crescendo of water spraying on all the people who walk in the streets irrespective of age, religion nationality or sex.
The emergency taps meant for fire will be opened in all the streets and people mainly boys but lots of adults also will flock there armed with buckets, cans, water pipes of different sizes and other items.
Some will have water pistols loaded with scented water meant for the fairer sex. .
All the offices, schools, colleges will be closed. We, the boys will be longing for the festival and will partake in it with full vigor from morning to evening becoming completely drenched.
All the vehicles will be stopped, including buses and all the people will be sprayed with water. Some people will dodge and run and will be relentlessly chased. Usually nobody objects or gets angry.

Some people hire Lorries and vans and carry the people armed with the water pipes, and drums full of water often iced.
It will be stopped in all the streets and there will be a battle of water spraying.
The people in the Lorries or jeeps will be of a mixed lot with many ladies. They will jeer and ridicule the ground people. Many times they will sing Kana songs!

In its midst there will be a separate kind of celebration.
Lorries will come decorated of the kind we see here in Independent day parade.
There will be only a small hole for the driver to see and drive but then they are driven only slowly.
Nobody sprays water on them. The men and women will be clad in fancy dresses. Each street will have a stage decorated as in the political meeting here. As the decorated vehicles arrive one by one, each will stop in front of the stage and they will perform dances to the tune of their local orchestra. After that, the stage people will perform their dances, usually by the local teenage girls and boys! This will go on for all three days and nights...
The water spraying completely stops at 6 p.m. after which only the dances continue sometimes going on till midnight.
In the fourth day the water spraying also stops. Only the dances are performed and this time the vehicles will come and see whether they have won prizes assessed by the local judges.
The winners [there will be many] will again dance, this time with renewed vigor. . The stages will also be assessed by a touring group of judges and will be given prizes..
The vehicles [they would have won prize in one place or other] will pass through shouting and singing showing off their cups and shields. It is truly a wonderful spectacle!!

Water Festival-Rangoon

Water festival-Rangoon

Monday, April 12, 2010



Cycling is an integral part of every boy's life. Mine wasn't any exception. There was nothing unusual about it.
I started to learn cycling when I was in 4 th standard in 50th street in Rangoon. Being a precious child I was strictly admonished from cycling. I used to gape at my friends who used to ride on hired cycles and watch their feats in awe.
One day I could restrain no longer. There was a play ground two streets away and as luck would have it the hire cycle shop was just opposite. So one fine day I took the cycle for hire for the customary half-an-hour. My friends were around me, the teachers, the learners, the watchers, the ridiculers etc. I was hoisted on the cycle. As any hire cycle that cycle was typical; without brake, bell, and proper pedal. Anyway it had two wheels and it ran and that is what mattered. My friends were on either side holding the cycle and running alongside offering me last minute advice, look straight, keep your back straight, don't look down, don't lean etc.

The ground was very vast, often used to play football.
It had an iron pole on a side being one of the two used for tying the volley ball net. I stared at it and thought- “Oh God! Let it not come in my way!”
It was too far away and on one side and quite unlikely that it would come in the way, I said to myself. But as one must have guessed, to my and my friends' horror I made a beeline for the pole. In trying to avoid falling I was cycling faster and faster leaving my assistants well behind though they were trying their level best running to catch up with me.

I and my cycle collided with a bang right on target on the pole. I escaped with minor injuries. But the cycle had grievous injuries.
The front wheel was bent and the handle bar was also slightly bent. We were afraid to meet the cycle shop owner as he might [and rightly] demand damage charges. So a spy was dispatched to observe the shop, to report when the owner will take a break. When we learnt that the owner has gone inside his house we rushed to the shop with the cycle and handed it over coyly to his wife who remarked that we had returned the cycle a good five minutes earlier! That should have made her suspicious!!
Well we cautiously returned after a week to the cycle shop and to our relief found that the owner didn't remember the damage.
Emboldened we resorted back to our adventure.
But I couldn't keep my cycling feats secret any longer. Having guilt conscious, I explained to my parents that I have started to learn cycling. I assured them that I am cycling only in the ground and never on the road which was quite true. My father listened and passed the judgment. “It is all right so long as you stick to the grounds for your cycling". Then one day when I was cycling I saw him on the side watching me. He went to the cycle shop owner and asked him to let me have the cycle whenever I wanted to but see to it that I cycle only in the grounds and to confiscate the cycle if I venture outside.

A rejoinder. After we returned to India my brother had to go for work in a cycle. But he didn't know cycling. Hence my father and I had to teach him -running along the cycle and so forth and in his age and my father’s it was quite exasperating!
Running out of breath my father fumed and said “Whatever was he doing in his school
days without learning cycling?"
I replied chuckling “Paying heed to your words! Remember you were against us learning cycling."
My father glared at me." But you learnt!"
“Yes". I said. "That was because I went against your word. It seems at times it is better not to follow elder's words to the core!”
He glared at me again and seemed to retort something. Then he suddenly smiled and said “Well, you might be right, at that!!”

Sunday, April 11, 2010



I think everybody will have an urge to act [on the stage, I mean] at one time or other in his life.
When I was in 8th standard, I wanted to be on stage very much. So I contacted my classmate G who is a great Tamil scholar, orator and actor
He used to stage dramas every year in the Pongal festival and had already started preparations for his drama called "Ruzo" a Greek hero. .
Since I pestered him he agreed to give me a small part as a soldier who has to appear in only two scenes and had only scant dialogues. But I was thrilled and went dutifully for rehearsals which took place near his house.
Though it interfered with my reading hours my parents actually encouraged me.
Unfortunately I had fever and could not attend school or the rehearsal for a week.
When I attended the school again and contacted G he told me that he had removed me from the part and had given it to some other person.
Though I explained that it was not my fault he refused to accept it.

When I was lamenting about this in the USIS library to my classmate M he asked why not stage a drama ourselves. I replied we don't know anything about acting or anything connected with it.
At that time it was the custom to select a maximum of two dramas from one class. Already there was a drama about farmers, which was on full flow and which was a surer for selection. If we put forward a drama then it has to be better than the Ruzo to be selected.
We thought all about it and carefully and cunningly formulated a fool-proof plan.
First we selected a small English drama called "Romulus and Remus" from a book in the library itself.
It was about friendship between two heroes.
We made sure that there were only a few characters, few scenes, and small dialogues and most important the drama must be in English.
Then the master stroke of it all.
We went to our class teacher [who we knew will be one of the selectors!] and asked her to be the director for our play. She accepted it gladly.
The rehearsals took place in her home and she directed us while the other students, who have come for tuition, gazed helplessly.
The costumes were our teacher's sarees !!
Needless to say our drama was selected over Ruzo and we earned the full wrath of G.

The D-Day came.
We entered the stage with our hearts in our mouths, full of stage fear. Like well oiled machines we just rattled off the dialogues with stiff motions.
It was doubtful whether people could follow the dialogues but we were past caring.
The drama was at last over and there was thunderous applause mainly from our well wishing friends.
The climax came at the end with the Pongal drama securing the first prize and ours second mainly because it was the only English Drama and as the teacher said -"it had to be encouraged”!!

Our thirst for acting was forever quenched.
My parents were very proud of it and used to narrate it to the disconsolate audience whenever they could, much to my discomfort.

Ruzo was staged next year.

Hole In The Pocket

One day in Rangoon, Burma [I was about 13 years old then ] I went alone to a wayside pavement stall and took some Burmese dish.
It was a bit far from home and not our usual loitering place but I just wanted to try the shop.
After finishing the food the owner asked for money.
When I put my hand inside my pants pocket I was in for a jolt as it had a huge hole. I had lost my money and my immediate concern was how to get out of the predicament.

I tried to lie out of it saying that I have already paid the money. But he didn’t believe me and asked to whom I paid to.
I saw his wife a bit further off handling the food and replied that I paid the money to her thinking that he would let me go off with that.
But he called her and asked for confirmation.
She looked hard at me and said yes, much to my relief.

However my consciousness was bothering me and the next day I decided to go and pay the money.
I waited awhile till the woman was alone and approached her.
I gave her the money and told her the story.
She said that she knew that I haven’t paid the money.
She further said that I didn’t look like a cheater and has lied for some reason and had backed me up.
At that time the man has returned and wanted to know what was going on.
When she told the whole story he was very pleased. Both of them insisted on giving a free dish.
I ate in their food stall a few more times more as a thanks giving gesture though it was a bit far and every time they used to serve me with a large helping!!


In Rangoon during the week ends the boys lead by me, used to go to English films.
One day one of my friends J came to the film with us for the 12-30 p.m.[AN} show.
While returning he said that he had not obtained permission from his parents and asked us not to go via his house. We didn’t pay any heed to his plea and proceeded to march ahead. So he asked us not to tell them that he came for the film and went off in a different route.
We agreed to that.

When our gang was passing by his house his mother hailed us. We told her that we are returning from seeing a film.
She asked where his son was. When I said he didn’t come for the film she didn’t say anything.
The next day when J came for playing I told him about his mother’s query and asked him whether she enquired him about going to the film.
He grinned and said. “Since you said I haven’t been to the film she didn’t ask me about it. You see, everyone in our house says that you always speak the truth.”
On hearing it instead of being elated I was very much dismayed that I had lied to a person who has such high opinion about me.


An incident occurred in 7th standard.
In 7th standard in history period [ugh!] the teacher was teaching something
I was busy doing something by folding the paper [called Origami]. The teacher caught me and asked me to stand up [no, not on the bench- we were too old for that]. Then he proceeded to give me a thorough pasting.
He ended up by saying “I don't know what you are going to become?”
I have been listening sheepishly and was in half trance and blurted out instantly " Doctor, sir!”
This brought laughter from all of my classmates. But the teacher looked at me intently, waited till the laughter subsided and said." You have to understand the zeal in this boy" amidst the silence that suddenly transcended.
"He must be fiercely determined to say such thing like that spontaneously even under duress" He looked hard at me and said “Study well and I think you will attain your goal!".
I used to ponder over his statement often, as it was made under adverse circumstances.
I now look back seeing how farsighted he was and how accurate his forecast was.


I remember the first Tamil debate I attended ‘ Whether Hindi is required or not?”
One student , who spoke against Hindi imposition stole the show when he thundered
“ Kondavalai vittuvittu, kandavaludan thirivadha?” amidst loud cheering and thumping [translated it means why go after another woman when you have your wife].

The other debate was titled ‘Whether higher studies are possible in Tamil?”
A spoke for the team as ‘not possible’- saying that many words in English could not be translated properly in Tamil and gave ‘culture’ as an example.
He was severely back lashed by G, who said that ‘ Tamil astrologers had found out a connection between the stars and the people long ago which the westerners have started learning only now. He confided to me later that he gave that example as the Tamil teacher, who was presiding over the debate, was interested in Astrology.
He added that ‘Tamil is a vast ocean and it is not correct to say that there is no correct word to translate the word culture. People like A, who struggle to get pass mark in Tamil, should not pass judgment just like that.’
This brought loud cheers and a smile in Tamil teacher’s face. Though A tried to amend it in his windup speech, G won the first prize hands down.


I never scored a full 100 though my L.K.G. teacher encouraged me a lot. She was the one who encouraged me to draw and bring the artist inside me. I used to make some mistake in one sum or other.
In seventh standard in the Half Yearly exam we were given 16 sums to solve out of 20. The general complaint was that the time was not sufficient.
Few days later during the class I was surprised when the teacher called out my number. When I stood up he said "Why don't you read what is written in the Question paper first instead of straightaway barging and answering. You must spend at least ten minutes to read and reread the Q -paper. It's always worth it."

Then he turned to the class. “You all said that time was not sufficient for you to do 16 sums. Here is one student who has solved all the 20 sums.”
To the astonished class he continued “He has also put me in a sort of predicament. You see he has got one sum wrong and I don't know how to value the paper. Whether to take the correct 16 sums, or take the first 16 sums."
There were loud shouts from my friends who vociferously appealed that I must be given 100 or even more. The master was un-swayed and said he will think of something.
When the papers were given I was dismayed to see the marks calculated on a % basis and given 95. My friends objected but the master said that he has not calculated as for 16 but for 20 so the reduction was only 5. Further, he said it will teach me to read the Q-paper always well before answering.
It did. Thereafter I never misunderstood any Q in the Q- paper in my life!!
In the D.O. Exam some candidates mistook the question on Ptosis as Proptosis as the latter was expected.


In the10th standard- in Commercial Geography period we were suddenly asked to write the monthly test. I was caught unprepared. There were 2 Questions and I knew the answer for only one. It was about drawing the world map and marking some places. I drew the map and marked what all I knew and submitted the paper. After the test was over, my friends remarked that the teacher was standing just behind me all the time watching intently my drawing.
By this time everyone knew that I was her pet student mainly because of my drawing.

When the papers were returned after valuation I found that I got 9 out of 25 and I have failed, the pass mark being 10 [40%]. The usual custom was the concerned student who got the border mark will approach the teacher and she will invariably add the grace mark for pass. Sometimes even the students who got 8 marks will approach for grace marks and it will be dealt with according to the mood of the teacher.
A pass is important, as it will decide the ranking. At that time nobody else got 9 marks though there were 2 who got 8.
Everyone urged me to approach the teacher for the grace mark. As I was her favorite student there was never any doubt that she will add up the mark.
But I refused.
My contention was that I have not done well in the test and that is why I got 9 marks. The teacher knew me only too well and if she had wanted to she could very well have given 10.So it was her intention to convey that she was not pleased with my performance.
Since I did not approach for the grace nark the two students who got 8 and were waiting for me, lost hope and returned to their seats.
After the class was over the teacher called me and asked me to prepare the mark list for her to sign and give it to the Head Master the next day.
Good opportunity said one of my friends. Enter your mark as 10 and when you are getting her signature tell her, he said.
I still refused.
About half-hour later she came and called me from the class.
"I have to go on leave for 3 days urgently" she said." Have you prepared the mark list?".
I said "No."
“OK!" she said "I will sign a blank paper and give it to you. Fill the mark list and give it to the Head Master without fail."
She then gave me a blank signed paper. When I told this to my friend he was elated! Enter your mark as 10 and give it to HM, he said.
I, of course, refused, entered the mark list correctly and gave it to HM.
Three days later I saw the teacher.
I went to her and said I have handed over the mark list to the HM.
"Ok" she said.
Just when I was leaving she said "Oh. I forgot. You got 9 marks, isn't it?"
I concurred.
“I wanted to add 1 mark and make it 10. But I forgot. Did you make it as 10?" she queried.
”How could I, teacher! You never told me!” I said.
“But you will lose your ranking" she said. She knew the fierce struggle that goes on among the top 3 ranks.
“Shall I go to the HM and change your mark?”
“No, teacher. It doesn't matter. I will do well in the next exam."
She looked at me intently and said “ Mani, I am proud of you!"
The loss of one mark and fail cost me the rank and I went down in ranking.
But that hardly mattered considering the honor I had been bestowed!!
Welcome to my blog.
I started to write about the many good things that happened in my life, just for me to read through again and again and rejoice in reminiscence.
When I came to know about blogging I wanted to make at least some of it public.
However it is doubtful whether it will be interesting to the reader.
You might have experienced some similar moments in your life also and if you want you can write about it.
Well! O.K! If you find it appealing read on. You are welcome to post comments.
Though my identity is open I have not divulged any others mentioned in my blog.
All the incidents are true.
Many will be of self-boasting, and if you think I am blowing my own trumpet too often, you are right.
If I too didn’t, then who will?

The persons involved are given random Alphabets which have no bearing on their names.
If and when they happen to read my blog they might identify themselves there.
They are welcome to add anything interesting.
An attempt has been made to arrange them in some chronological order but there are bound to be jumps.