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Glimpses from a decadal diary jotting (1987-1998)

S. BALAKRISHNAN

As another New Year approaches there is clamour for at least one FREE diary by everyone. They resolve to dedicatedly write the diary as Anne Frank, a Jewish holocaust victim, but like all other New Year resolutions this also vaporizes as days turn into weeks and months. Then the fate of the diary is just a rough note as the next year approaches. I was no exception as I got diaries FREE in our office without clamouring. So I inked my daily happenings (nothing historical, of course; maybe hysterical). As I settled in Madras (Chennai) on transfer from Sikkim in 1988, I decided to write in whatever Nepali I had picked up there. This served two purposes – One was that I could keep in touch with Nepali and another was secrecy! Of course nobody could read and understand Nepali in my circle; well, for that matter even a Nepali would find it impossible to understand my Nepali! Rather he would either kill me for murdering his mother tongue or commit hara-kiri.      Here are a few highlights from my decadal diary noting of 1987 to 1998, with ‘Nothing special today’ being the most repetitive comment. Well, what can you expect from an aam aadmi?
Let us go back to Sikkim of 1987 and see the cost of living– one litre milk Rs.4 or 4.50, egg 1 rupee each! Bread Rs.5 and gas cylinder just 70 rupees, coconut Rs.5 each and ½ kg onion also 5 rupees.
1988 - Sikkim experienced earthquake at 10.30 PM on 26th May. Listening to the local Nepali news I used to record weather condition. Weather on 27th May was Maxm. 24.10C, Minm. 15.80C, Rainfall 13.5 mm. On my mini TV I watched the Friday late night film ‘The Ballad of a Soldier’, a Russian movie with English subtitle. I liked it. Remember, Doordarshan (DD) was the one and only channel then! Besides a tremor on Sunday (29th) there was an earthshaking announcement by DD; the morning telecast timing increased by 15 minutes, to a total of one hour! A noteworthy jotting is of my belly measurement – 37”/94 cm. So I decide to start exercising (just for a few days only) from 20 April 1988. In all these 32 years, the circumference has increased just 3”! How glad am I!
Oh, well, I have recorded international events also in 1988 – Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan President, mysteriously killed in a plane crash on 17th Aug., was buried this noon (21 Aug.). After eight bloody years, UN ensures ceasefire in Iran-Iraq war. Dr. Nelson Mandela hospitalized (17th Aug.) due to T.B. after 26 years of imprisonment. Gorkha Hill Council tripartite agreement signed on 22 Aug., putting an end to 2 ½ years’ strike.  Indeed that was a great for relief for Sikkim as its lifeline road to Siliguri remained cutoff for several days continuously, increasing cost of living. The news was celebrated with bursting of crackers.  There was a major earthquake at 4.30 AM on 21st Aug., measuring 6.5 units with its epicenter on Bihar-Nepal border. I was thoroughly shaken. This was followed by several minor ones in the following days. Contract awarded to M/s Gammon India Ltd. for construction of a permanent RCC bridge across Teesta River for Rs.3.26 crores, to be built within 30 months. (Hope both the budget and time limit did not exceed.)
A turning point in my life was my transfer from Sikkim to Madras. I left Sikkim on Sept. 1, 1988 – sad to leave but happy to be with my new-born baby boy. After days of road closure due to landslides caused by rain, boarded the 12.15 PM bus that reached Siliguri at 4.30 PM. I was to board the train only on 3rd but fearing landslips I left on 1st itself. At Siliguri saw Qayamat se qayamat tak, Aamir Khan’s debut film as lead actor. It was interesting. A sumptuous dinner of 2 onion dosa and 2 idli at Ranjit Hotel cost 13 rupees only.
1991 – Bought Enfield’s Explorer two-wheeler (now out of production). Petrol was Rs.18/Litre!
1993 – July 21 – TN CM Jayalalithaa went on fast on Cauvery water issue. VC Shukla arrived today and she ended the 81 hour fast on Centre’s assurance to create a Monitoring Committee.  
1994 - Hair cut cost Rs. 12.   Now it has touched century (100 rupees) or even more, depending on the class of the saloon. For that matter, a flat of 500 sq. ft. in Chennai cost me 4.50 lakhs in that same year, which I had to beg & borrow from all sources.
1997 – 50th Independence Day (Golden Jubilee). Working in PIB, a Central Govt.’s publicity organization, it was a full working day. ISRO launches Insat-2. ISRO has now successfully reached PSLV and GSLV stages. A litre of Petrol has no reached 28.50 rupees. Emission certificate was compulsory for two-wheelers; valid for six months, the fee was Rs.15. For the first time I bought a Pizza (Margherita Veg.) Rs. 65. As a change from routine food, all the family members liked it but that was the end of it. Succumbing to my wife’s pressure, we bought a Godrej Semi-automatic washing machine for Rs.8,600/-
1998- My father’s death was another turning point. Despite the loss we ensured donation of his eyes; that was his wish also. Saw the movie ‘Titanic’ at Sathyam cinema hall. On first impression I did not like it much (maybe because I had to crane my neck as I could manage only the very front row seat for Rs.7/-) but slowly fell in love with that movie and saw it many times – in theatre and TV.
As life was mundane I stopped writing diary (Thank Goodness!). But 2007 was a tumultuous year because of two arrogant officers, the events of which were noted down by me in shorthand, a very secret way of writing, so much so that I am unable to decipher much of it now (So far so good)!  However, ultimately I won the battle against those idiotic officers, once again proving the victory of good over evil. So be the New Year 2021! Let the humankind win over Covid-19! And my New Year resolution is not to write diary again.
(krishnanbala2004@yahoo.co.in / 9840917608 Whatsapp)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi