TWENTY-FIRST MAY 1991 – A TRIP DOWN THE MEMORY LANE


Twenty-first May 1991 will remain etched in my memory for ever. Yes, on this day the most monstrous murder of Ravjiv Gandhi and several others by a suicide bomber took place in a Chennai suburb, Sriperumbudur. Such political murders have taken place in our country much too often. Rajiv’s mother Indira Ghandhi was assassinated by her own security guards. A year after he got us the independence, the Father of the Nation Mahathma Gandhi too was brutally murdered. That way Rajiv’s murder is one among the long list of gruesome murders and it shouldn’t stir up my mind every year. But there is a reason why this murder kindles my thoughts every year. Between 1988 and 1991, I was working at the National Clearing Cell (NCC) and was part of a team that worked between 10 PM and 6 AM on night shifts to manually sort the cheques in the clearing house. I hope you know how the clearing of cheques was done at the NCC, a highly automated and computerized entity. The hullabaloo and the commotion that was part of the Clearing House at the Annexe Building was history by then. The high speed sorters and the high speed printers had replaced the dust and din of the traditional clearing functions. Excepting on days when we confronted glitches in the automated system, the shift would be over by midnight or the early hours of the next day and we would be dropped home by the Bank’s van. We followed the procedure of dropping our sister-colleagues first and follow a route that encompassed the Bank’s residential colonies – PH ROAD, KK NAGAR and BESANT NAGAR. As we get dropped daily we had the chance to glance through the night life of Chennai. Since it was a team work and a team work aimed at closing early, there was absolute camaraderie amongst us irrespective of the cadre. There was seriousness and there was fun. There was humor and there was hilarity and there was harmony and there was dissonance. Those were my most joyous days and to me it was memorable mix work and pleasure. While I am unable to recall all the names of people with whom I worked and shared a healthy relationship, I remember few of them by name. M.Hariharan, R.Bhakthvatchalu, Wajihuddin, Rajavelu Mudaliar, Mani. Mahendran are the workmen staff and Kaza Sudakar, Ganesh, R.Gandhi are the officer staff whom I am able to recall as of now. Hope others will pardon me. I think I am digressing. I must come to the point why Twenty-first May 1991 will remain etched in my memory for ever. Yes on that day we were saved from the rioting mob by the brave, thoughtful and skillful driving of the Driver of the Vanl, Mr. Balasubramanian, an ex-serviceman. But for his skillful drive we would have been attacked and harmed by the mob which was protesting the murder of Rajiv Gandhi that took place few hours ago. As we left NCC around midnight we were aware of the sad news. Yet we ventured to get dropped without knowing the gravity of the situation outside. The first dropping point was KK Nagar quarters and as we passed through the Kodambakkam Over Bridge, we could see cars and four wheelers burning on either side of Arcot Road. This was a warning for us for not to proceed further. Yet, we drove down further for fear that our van would be mobbed and burnt if we choose to stop or reverse. There was the stone- throwing and torch wielding-mob right in front of our van threatening to burn down our van. But our driver Balu called upon us to duck for cover from the stones and missiles thrown at us and drove fast on the road taking a zigzag path to escape from the mob. By driving fast, he was able to scare the mob and move ahead of the chasing crowd. At the ‘power house’ bus stop a large boulder hit the wind screen and was smashed. A large casurina pole was also thrown into the van. Braving all these attacks, Balu drove fast and reached the Ashok Nagar Police station. At the Police Station there was none to take our complaint and the few cops who were guarding the station told us to drive away to a safer place. Perhaps Police Station was not a safe place then. Continuing our perilous journey we reached the KK Nagar staff quarters and took refuge in the premises of our Quarters. Thank God, all of us escaped unscathed. I remember the Gentleman who gave us the refuge. It was P.R.Srinivasan, the Khadi-clad Gandhian popularly known by his initials, PRS. At the dead of the night he entertained us with tea and snacks and we shared with him our escapade from the marauding mobs that went about destroying public and private properties that night. By all accounts it was a harrowing experience for us and I can say that we did escape from the jaws of horror on that night thanks to Balu, who drove the van skillfully and with presence of mind and saved our lives. I will be happy if someone who shared that chilling experience could throw more light.

– Mushtaq Ahamed

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10th OF MAY, A SIGNIFICANT DAY IN HISTORY


The rare moral leader since Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 
       One of the most significant things to have happened on the 10th of May in African history was the inauguration in 1994 of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa, following the first-ever democratic elections. Till then, South Africa was ruled by a system called Apartheid (an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’), which was based on the segregation of races. On that day Apartheid, in South Africa, was eclipsed into oblivion. Coincidentally an annular solar eclipse occurred on May 10, 1994
       Addressing the crowds at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Mandela said, “We saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict … The time for healing of wounds has come … Never, never again will this beautiful land experience the oppression of one by another.”
      Nelson Mandela stands as an icon of courage, justice, and perseverance to people in South Africa and throughout the world. Imprisoned in 1964 for treason, stemming from his activities with the banned African National Congress (ANC), Mandela maintained his dignity behind bars and became an international symbol of human rights. Throughout the 1980s the rallying cry “Free Mandela” resounded on city streets and college campuses everywhere.
                Mandela was freed in 1990, as a result of the tremendous economic and political pressure placed on the South African government by the international community. He resumed leadership of the ANC and, after a triumphant speaking and fund-raising tour across three continents, entered into talks with President F. W. De Klerk regarding the future of South Africa. The result was the dismantling of apartheid and the establishment of South Africa’s first multiracial elections. In 1994 Mandela became the first president of a free South Africa. He retired from that position in 1999.
                Nelson Mandela and F. W. De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating South Africa’s peaceful transition to multiracial democracy. After the ANC victory in the April 1994 elections, Mandela worked to ease racial tensions, court foreign investment, and provide services to the victims of apartheid.
       Being unjustly deprived of his freedom for 27 years could not prevent Mandela from forgiving those who jailed him as well as those who kept him there. Through the strength of character involved, Mandela led all of South Africa to a new peace, and a new forgiveness
       Mandela announced that he will not run for reelection in 1999, and in December 1997 Thabo Mbeki succeeded him as ANC party leader.
       Mandela retired from public life in 1999. He currently resides in his birth place – Qunu, Transkei. After retirement, Mandela is active as an advocate in numerous social and human rights organizations.
       What’s remarkable about Mandela is that he  successfully maintained his integrity and stature even after taking office when so many freedom fighters become dictators, intoxicated with power. Thus, he is hailed as one the great moral leader of our time.

The Mr. International Friendship !!


On January 17, 2012 Muhammad Ali, the former professional boxer turned seventy. Originally christened as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after adopting Islam in 1964.
Muhammad Ali was both idolized and maligned. Ali, who turned to boxing at age eight after a prized bicycle was stolen, brought unprecedented speed and grace to the sport of boxing. Muhammad Ali’s life and career have been scripted exhaustively as much on the front pages of newspapers as on the inside sports pages.
 Ali won the 1960 Rome Olympics light heavyweight gold medal. After defeating Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach to claim the world heavyweight title, the new champion announced he was a Muslim and was changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.
In 1967, three years after Ali had won the World Heavyweight Championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali stated, “I have no quarrel with them, the Viet Cong… No Viet Cong ever called me nigger” – one of the more telling remarks of the era.
Ali’s example inspired Martin Luther King Jr. – who had been supporting the Johnson Administration for its support of the civil rights agenda – to voice his own opposition to the Vietnam war for the first time.
Ali was eventually  arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges. He was stripped of his boxing title. His boxing license was suspended, keeping him out of the ring at what should have been peak years in his career. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years till his appeal, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, was eventually successful.
Nicknamed “The Greatest,” Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were three with rival Joe Frazier, which are considered among the greatest in boxing history, and one with George Foreman, where he finally regained his stripped titles seven years later.
Ali threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a ‘whites-only’ restaurant, and fighting with a white gang. He was given a replacement medal at a basketball intermission during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.
 
Muhammad Ali’s honours include:
• Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Century”
• BBC’s “Sports Personality of the Century”
• GQ magazine’s “Athlete of the Century”
• World Sports Award’s “World Sportsman of the Century”
Muhammad Ali , a leader and a statesman.
Muhammad Ali made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered desperately-needed medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba; travelled to Iraq and secured the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.
Muhammad Ali is a Humanitarian.
Travelling across continents, he personally delivered food and medical supplies to children in Cote D’Ivoire, Indonesia, Mexico, and Morocco among other countries.
For his humanitarian efforts, Muhammad Ali has been the recipient of countless awards. His recognitions include:
• United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998-2008, for his work with developing nations
• Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the United States of America’s highest civil award
• Amnesty International’s Lifetime Achievement Award
• Germany’s 2005 Otto Hahn Peace Medal, for his involvement in the U.S. civil rights movement and the United Nations
• International Ambassador of Jubilee 2000, a global organization dedicated to relieving debt in developing nations
President Jimmy Carter once cited Muhammad Ali as “Mr. International Friendship.”
Muhammad Ali is an Artist too.
Muhammad Ali has appeared in several motion pictures, and starred in television films including the big-screen adaptation of his first autobiography, The Greatest, playing himself.
His life has been the subject of numerous films, including the Academy Award-winning documentary ‘When We Were Kings’ and Michael Mann’s biographic film , ALI, starring Will Smith.
Muhammad Ali starred in the television film, ‘Freedom Road’, and has made guest numerous appearances on numerous popular television series ranging from ‘Different Strokes’ to ‘Touched by an Angel.’
Muhammad recently published a memoir entitled, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey, in which he discusses the meaning of religion, forgiveness, and some of the defining moments in his life and career. He is also the co-author of ‘Healing: A Journal of Tolerance and Understanding’ and ‘The Greatest: My Own Story.’
Muhammad Ali has nine children, Maryum, Rasheda, Jamillah, Hana, Laila, Khaliah, Miya, Muhammad, and Asaad. Whether promoting tolerance and understanding, feeding the hungry, studying his religion, or reaching out to children in need, Muhammad Ali is devoted to making the world a better place for all people. No athlete has ever contributed more to the life of his country, or the world, than Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali’s success as a boxer is widely respected, but his greatest triumph lies in his legacy as a champion, leader, humanitarian, philanthropist , social activist and artist. His work both inside and outside the ring truly makes Muhammad Ali “The Greatest of All Time.”