Rabidus Mahadevomania

by Mukund Veeravalli

Reading a Ramesh Mahadevan article is like eating one salted peanut. You just can't have enough of it. The first one, you hesitatingly browse thru the first few lines and just about halfway through the second para it kicks in! What starts out as a snicker, breaks into a giggle, gathers speed into a series of HA, HA, HAas and ends with a rollicking finish into guffaws! Life is pretty good. The long submerged memories of the first coming to this country are re- surfacing. You find yourself and recollect acquaintances in situations who did exactly as what RM writes about. Pretty soon you are all mellowed and get set with joie de vivre to sing "Joy to the World...." and all that.

You shift mental gears and get back to the task at hand. You tell yourself, your job at hand, that irate customer, the schedule to meet is more important. You think you can make it. Guess again! You find yourself frantically logging into the internet again, browsing newsgroups for another article by RM and find nothing but the usual.....

You are hooked, my friend.

You consult your Dr. Deshi, who has been around for a long time, and he tells you with a grave look on his face that it is a case of acute "Rabidus Mahadevomania". Nothing is listed in his well-thumbed "Physician's Reference", but from what he has found out from previous cases and from a small circle of afflicted individuals, is that it particularly affects only a small group of individuals from the five IITs (irrespective of their grad year), a larger segment of the populace whose cultural upbringing comprised of a potpourri of languages, and finally anyone who enjoys the music of the English language and has a sliver of a funny bone in his body!

The symptoms usually are, he cautioned, a wild gleam in the eye, a tendency to have a proactive look at everything in the hope of someday writing about them, and lastly develop the odd habit of recollecting particular phrases at odd moments and bursting into laughter. This third one particularly has estranged me from several acquaintances who invited me to boring parties and has got me strange looks and almost in trouble at business meetings. The wife says I have just confirmed what was always a vague suspicion in her mind!

The only cure, he continued, was that a) to wait patiently for the next article to appear b) to continue to seek the rest of the articles in frantic browsing of the net with search engines c) go to the source of the problem and write to "THE Ramesh Mahadevan" himself and try and get more fixes......

I chose to go with the third option.

I have been afflicted with this bug during the past couple of months. It all started innocently enough by reading the first one posted by someone named THATHS, responding to a request for past e-mails of RM. I wondered why some one would want to read the old e-mail of someone else. I dismissed the whole thing as probably an old chum trying to do his bit of social service for a langoti dost.

That's how I got to read the first one.

Well, the rest is history as they say. I got a polite note with pointers from the 'enfant terrible' (trying to picture how he looks?! ) who rocked the SCI/SCIT newsgroups with his keen sense of humor, astute observations, pin-point accuracy of our own failings as desis, sometimes with a dash of poignancy often mellowed with sensitivity in the end, laced with "this and that" and finally a well balanced palette of offerings.

I started surfing the net and found odd references in IIT(M) homepages, recognized a small cult following and finally hit pay dirt by going to the mother lode. Yes, THATHS Home page, the single source of RM's offerings posted over the course of many a year. What with writings on life in Yankland, sambar and aloo mattar recipes, swami mamas and matunga mamis, the inimitable Ajay and his pals Bala (cubed) from IIT(M), and to the non-initiated, the gentle intros to Karnatic music. Yes, siree, thaar is gold in them hills!

It has been peanuts galore since then. A 'Bada Khana' a.k.a. a gourmet feast. The side course benefits were discovering PREM! and Kamala Anupindi. PREM! for humor in the same vein (wonder, where the mother lode is?), Kamala for her hyderbaadi-telugu (telangana?) laced reminiscences about life in Hyderabad.

What is it which draws one, again and again, to read and reread them? Perhaps a bit of nostalgia? Perhaps for things best expressed in their pristine state that we all long for in the memories of India and the carefree days of scholarly pursuits? We did not wear masks then. Or, better still is it because you always remember the first time ? The first time you were in the campus, the first time you landed in this country or the first time you gathered all your friends to go shopping at a K-Mart or drive to New York over the July Fourth weekend?

Perhaps it is all of this and that. Oftentimes, we need to rejuvenate ourselves from the middle-age blues, by diving deep into the well springs of youth and get in touch with the single pointed focus and unbridled enthusiasm of the naive and open outlook on life. The creative juices need to start flowing again........

Recently, after a new (and long overdue) article by RM, the second coming so to speak, it has been deja vu all over again!

Thank you THATHS for the painstaking collection.

And Thank you Ramesh Mahadevan.

Yes, the pleasure is mine. SANTE'!

Copyright (R) Mukund Veeravalli, October, 1995