Just finished reading “Two lives” by Vikram Seth. As with all books that deal with that pain filled period in recent history – the Nazi regime and the holocaust- it has taken me two days to pull myself together and talk. No,the book is not all about the holocaust – well of course, with all the press publicity, even those who haven’t read it know what the book is about. It is part memoir and part biography dealing with the lives of Seth’s grand uncle Shanthi and his wife Henny, a German Jew who escaped to England but whose sister and mother died in Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt .

Writing a biography limits a writer from using all the skills in a writer's repertoire but Seth emplys his skills in this book in piecing together the biographic material in an interesting and gripping fashion, except for the last part when it gets a bit tiresome. But that cannot be helped as he has to report that phase truly for us to know the man about whom he writes. Considering that he has had to recreate his aunt’s side of the story entirely from her correspondence with her circle of friends who remained in Post war Germany, there could have been many tedious repetitions and chaotic movements forward and backward. But Seth is a master story teller and the story unfolds without rough rides or tangles. It is almost like the story was waiting to be written – otherwise how can you account for his aunt keeping carbon copies of her letters to her friends during this entire period?

The book is about two people most unlikely to be united in a relationship. An Indian student whose fate took him at the age of 17 to Berlin to study dentistry and a German Jew who was apprehensive of him and told her mom not to take him in as a boarder - "Nimm den Schwarzen nicht [(Don't take the black man].' But as Fate would have it, he would be her companion for the rest of her life. Theirs was a not a “passionate romance but it was a deep and abiding concern.” A man who lost his right hand while serving in the medical corps in the war but with sheer persistence built up a successful dental practice. And a woman who had lost all her relations during the war. “Both Shanthi and Henny were in the broader sense exiled; each found in their fellow exile a home.” “Beset by life, isolated in the world, in each other they found a strong and sheltering harbour”. And in the rest of the book, Seth masterfully unfolds how they lived out their “fractured lives” for five decades together in absolute compatibility in spite of all the differences and inner scars. There is no need for a relationship to be perfect for people to be happy. “What is perfect? In a world with so much suffering, isolation and indifference it is a cause for gratitude if something is sufficiently good.”

Occasionally Seth treats us to his prose like this when he reflects on the historical facts or throws in an extra perspective on the course of events. Otherwise he stays in the background as the invisible third braid letting the events speak for themselves. Particularly poignant is his narration of what Henny’s sister Lola would have been through at the Auschwitz on the day of being gassed. He just states the information derived from sources recorded elsewhere by survivors without excessively dramatising any of it but the final effect of it all leaves you speechless and with tremendous pain at the extent of “man’s inhumanity to man”. Reading them in the history of the period touches you lesser than when you read about the actual details of the incidents happening to ordinary people.The horror gets multiplied manifold. But you also see how shared suffering unites people and brings out the best in human nature in the way some of the non Jewish friends try to help Henny’s sister during the Nazi reign of terror ; in the way Shanthi and Henny send gifts of food and other basic clothing items to their German friends suffering from complete scarcity of these in post- war Germany, even though they themselves were not very wealthy and things were rationed in England too. Perhaps it is all this goodness and kindness of the ordinary people that has kept the world going in spite of the many tragedies perpetrated by politicians and militia. Every person who has lived through these periods in history deserves to be looked upon as a hero, their ordinary lives as an epic saga.

Being a memoir, it allows one a glimpse of Seth's real personality - his attachment to his family, the values he looks up to in people etc. Particularly touching is the moment when he talks about his anger against anything German, including the language, after his research into the details of the holocaust. You feel closer to the author after the book.

“Two Lives” is not one of those books that comes to an end at the last page. It stays with you for a while as a feeling and leaves you with a lot of thoughts that need pondering. Two days after closing the book, his last few words are still ringing in my ears:
“ the context of an evil century past and a still more dangerous one to come. May we not be as foolish as we are almost bound to be. If we cannot eschew hatred, at least we can eschew group hatred. May we see that we could have been born as each other. May we, in short, believe in human logic and perhaps, in due course, in love.”
He stood near the bed and took the frail hand in his. She opened her eyes and on seeing him there was a glimmer of light in those dull eyes and her lips lengthened into a smile. She asked him to sit by her side and gently pressed his fingers while asking him if he was happy in the new job.

Dear old Nani, always concerned about the happiness of others. His eyes brimmed with tears as he told her not to exert herself. The nurse came in to check the IV fluid.
He sank into a chair near the bed and his thoughts went back to the times when Nani was young and strong.
Nani who was his refuge whenever his parents punished him for his childhood pranks.
Nani who would kiss his bruises and make the pain go away.
Nani who told him stories from mythology.
Nani who undertook a severe fast when he was admitted to the hospital with a severe viral attack.
Nani who would save up on her pension to buy him books for his birthday.
Nani who wrote to him every week when he was in the hostel and homesick.
Nani who only knew how to give and to love and to help.

He heard footsteps and looked up. It was his uncle and aunt who held a cup of coffee for him.
“It costs us about 10,000 every month, the two nurses and the medications,” the uncle said..
This sounded bizarre to him. “It is your mother,dammit.” he wanted to scream.
His wife went one step further and said how she could not go to stay with her daughter as she was saddled with Nani.

He wanted to take them out so Nani would be spared of hearing these but it was too late. He could see the tears in her eyes. She had heard it all. She knew she was only a burden for them. But what could she do?
He wished he could take her to his house and take care of her as she had done to him in his childhood. But he worked 2000 km away and Nani could not be transported. He knew she had a very little of life left in her. He only wished people would be patient and be kind to her in her last days.
“It won’t be for long”, he told his mami.
“Even Dr Sharma said the same thing 6 months ago.” There was frustration in mami’s voice. And he hoped for a word of reproach from his uncle but there was only a passive nod in agreement..

He wondered if there was anything sacred for human beings anymore in this age of materialism. Even relationships are valued only as long as they are convenient and useful? In his profession he had seen poor mothers beg him to save the life of their children. He had been taught that if he could prolong the life of a person by a day it was still worth all the effort needed. But here he was not able to sit and take this anymore.

He told them to leave the room to allow her to rest. He sat next to her on the bed and stroked her hands and her cheeks and wiped her tears. He kissed her on the forehead and whispered into her ears, “I love you Nanima. You were the best part of my life.” She asked him to bend and kissed his forehead and feebly whispered ,”And you are of mine beta. I am proud of you.”
Tears streamed down his cheeks as he sat holding her hand and stroking her head as she fell asleep.

Then Dr. Amit Kumar got up, opened his emergency kit, found what he needed and added it in the IV fluid. He touched her feet and told her “Nanima, I wish I could kiss you and make the pain go away but this is all I can do to ease your pain.”
He came out and quickly took leave of his uncle and aunt, went down and sat sobbing in his car.

He knew they would call for him soon.
There is a beautiful poem from the sangam period in Tamil literature ( about 1 to 3rd century a.d) translated by A.K Ramanujam which goes like this:

"What she said:
dont they really have
in the land where he has gone
such things
as house sparrows

dense feathered, the colour of fading lilies,
pecking at grain drying on yards
playing with the scatter of the fine dust
of the street's manure
and living with their nestlings
in the angles of the penthouse

and miserable evenings,
and loneliness?"

The image is of a young girl perhaps in her late teens whose husband has left for distant shores to earn wealth looking at the house sparrows symbolising home and togetherness and yearning for companionship. "miserable evenings - and loneliness?"
Why is loneliness most miserable in the evenings?

Solitude is peacefulness.It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings -it is satisfying and rejuvenating as you can even draw sustenance from it. It replenishes you after having devoted so much of energy for looking after the needs of others. Now is the time to set aside the cooking, cleaning etc and put one's feet up with a nice book, or whatever other hobby.
But as the afternoon grows into evening, and you watch school children bursting out like butterfiles from the giant yellow cocoons, and a little later adults returning from work - dragging their weary feet but smiling at the thought or sight of home.Birds suddenly become active in their hitherto lazy perches on trees, quickly take in one last breastful of air, flap their wings as a warm up and then they rise together like school children aroused by a whistle and quickly hop into empty slots on their flight patterns for their journey home;Cows and sheep cast a final glance about for any crisp grass for a quick evening snack and then amble back home with a contented look. Even the Sun is ready to go home.
It is then that the solitude grows heavier into one of loneliness. Evening is a time when you want the house to be filled again with family members and friends - doors are left open so people may walk in,kitchen warms up with the heat of fire and the smell of fresh food. A time for incessant chatter about the happenings of the day, laughter and play, happy meals together.It is the time that fills one's heart with gratitude for yet another day of joy and togetherness, sharing and caring.

Loneliness is a cruel thing to endure in the evening of the day; and also in the evening of one's life.
"In the dream where you show up to school naked, why do you never go swimming?"
That is the question on my blogger profile. I think it requires a special kind of brain to think up these questions. From where do they get these? My three best guesses are:1. from some drunken teenage party game 2. from a questionnaire at a psychiatrist's clinic or 3. from some translation software ( which usually gives you completely grammatical but totally meaningless equivalent for what you fed in).
Now for the answer I had a choice between fact number 1 that I would not have a swim suit and fact no.2 that I do not know how to swim. While I was seriously considering these choices, the minor detail that I would have shown up to school naked completely escaped me.Yes, NAKED!
Apparently it is very common for people to have dreams in which they find themselves naked. A doctor friend explained that this kind of a dream signified one’s fear of being exposed and that it is a reflection of one’s vulnerability or shamefulness. Well, if any of you have actually had such a dream (not of your favourite actress or model showing up naked and I am told that is "perfectly normal" for males between 13 -100 ) but you yourself show up naked, you know the reason now. You have some “ia”, “ism” or “yxis”.
Whatever this fear is, I not only do not have it but I do not even have the fear of having it because I cannot remember most of my dreams and I never remember to have noticed any details of anyone's attire in the dreams.
I think things happen with great clarity only in the dream sequences in films. Real life dreams are less colourful and more suggestive like photo negatives. Of course I do know some people who describe dreams to the last detail including the accessories and the brand of perfume used. I have a vague suspicion that these people just have a vivid imagination that fills up the details after they wake up.
Or I must be suffering from some kind of a dream blindness for I can never see faces or forms but just a vague impression of some incident occuring and I get a sense of the characters in the scene from the general drift of things.People flit in and out in cloudy caspery forms - wrong combination of people from all generations appear at all the wrong places with no sense of history or geography. It all sounds like the first day rehearsal for your college play where the script gets written after you start the rehearsal. With so much happening, the last thing I can be expected to notice is the colour coordination and the accessories of their costumes or even if they are wearing anything.Is this common or am I the exception? Do people really see dreams in great detail in technicolour complete with sound effects?
Anyways,next time any of you plan to show up in my dreams just walk in as you are as it would be a great shame to have all your finery wasted. However well dressed you are, my dreams are going to convert you into an image of the kind of bad light photographs that I take. So you can save all that trouble for those special people who can see all the details. As for my dreams dress code:strictly casual!
5 a.m on a november morning in Bangalore.
Breathtaking beauty of a black sky heightened by a crisp slice of moon and a few stray sleepy stars. Stillness of a morning still early for birds broken only by a distant bell. Winds,virgin untouched by the smells and sounds of the day carrying just a trace of their flirtations with the flower buds.Cold winds,not biting but playful, indulgent and gentle.Anger and betrayal,pride and arrogance and all the meanness of the world faraway and locked inside closed doors,buried under blankets.
You,cane chair on the balcony, hot tea.Peace.Heaven.
(For everything else there is mastercard!!)
I have always thought it was a major exaggeration when people said or wrote that they felt the ground under their feet shift leaving them stunned and shocked.
What could possibly happen to a person to create such an extreme reaction that you lose touch with your bearings and question the firmness on the earth you are standing on?
What could shake the foundations of your existence, and make you think that your whole perception of yourself so far is a lie and you are just an alien?
Happened to me when someone asked me if I was a kannadiga or an "outsider"in Bangalore. The categorisation seemed very clear. It did not matter that I had lived in this city for 26 years, considered it my home,spoke kannada better than some for whom it was the mother tongue and above all, loved the city. I own property and I have voting rights here. And yet,to be called an outsider in your home?! Now, that hurt, very very deeply. I did not know where I belonged anymore.
I completely understood what some of my friends who practice Islam had told me all along. How it felt to be treated like an outsider in your own home. Now I completely understand the alienation that the African Americans feel in the U.S.A. I can see why the suburbs of Paris are burning. This is where the seeds are sown.
What qualifies one to be an insider in any place?
When I salute the national flag or sing the national anthem or cheer the men in blue or say "vande mataram' from the pit of my stomach, and own an Indian passport, I feel that I belong here and that this IS my HOME - every inch of its territory. I refuse to be categorised as anything other than "Indian" despite the languages I know , where I live or what religion I practice. Bangalore, Mumbai or Kashmir is as much my home as anyone who has lived there for 500 years. My constitution guarantees me that and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me.
Next time someone asks me if I am an "outsider" I shall not dignify that with a reply or a reaction.
Vande Mataram!

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls

Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Rabindranath Tagore.

58 years...and yet we are far from there!!!Miles to go to be free gurudev!
Is there anything called near faith?
Can you call it faith ( or belief or trust ) when it is a cocktail of belief and doubt in whatever proportions they are mixed? Even when a whole glass of faith is spiked with a hint of disbelief?
Faith has to be complete, absolute, total. There are no degrees or levels to faith - anything less than 100 percent is not faith at all.Come to think of it it is the same with all qualities that make a human being perfect - like sincerity, honesty, simplicity- it is hundred percent or none at all!
We often hear people claim to have lost faith in people, humanity, the system . probe further and they will tell you that they always had doubts . When you never had Faith how can you claim to have lost it? this is the trouble with us today, that we try things half heartedly and give up too easily and then blame the system. Contrast this with what true faith can do to you.My friend had put in her heart and soul into a project and getting the contract would have meant a lot to change her life as she had a lot of family responsibilities, an ailing mother, sisters in college a house loan to be paid off. On the day of the final bid she said that she knew god would show her the way and when she came back we heard that the contract had gone to a competitior who had used his contacts .I asked her if she still thought that God had shown her the way. She said "sure.He did not want me to have it. But i am sure He has other plans for me!!!!"
That is Faith!
Faith is the absolute trust that the little girl has when she gets on a bicycle for the first time and does not look back knowing that her father won't let go until he is sure she can manage the distance on her own. Faith is the absolute trust in laws of universe that makes us sleep peacefully after sunset knowing that the Sun will rise again in the east the next day. Faith is believing with all your heart, in what your senses say cannot be, in what you sometimes cannot even hear or see or touch. Faith is that spring under your feet that makes you leap for the star.
These are people you don’t know and god, you seriously hope that you will never have to know them. But these people affect you in ways that you wish you could catch them by the scruff of their neck and bang their foreheads against the nearest wall. (No, I just don't mean those scum who would stoop to levels worse than worms by bombing market squares, buses and trains and hope for martyrhood. No, those are fiends in human form they are not "people")

The people who top my hit (hate) list are :

-ones who pee on the roadside (in particular people who park their vehicles and do this, as if this is exactly why they came out driving. Guys, don’t you have a bathroom in your house or do you prefer to keep it as a show piece?)

-ones walking on footpaths with children letting the child walk on the side of vehicular traffic. (That is your OWN child isn’t it? Or did you just kidnap it and the ransom was refused?)

-ones who throw stones at street dogs without any provocation.

-Ones spitting on the roads, from buses and from autos. ( These I want to tie them to a pole in a public place and have everyone spit on them!)

-Qualis drivers using their horns more than their brakes and their brains. (These are already paying for their collective sins by having to drive on Bangalore roads many times every day. And yet they accumulate more bad Carma – I have no words for them!)

The list continues but these are the top 5.
You watch her lying in bed,face still beautiful at 73, the body shrunk to a skeleton after a thyroidectomy. She is in a lot of pain in spite of the hourly painkillers and you can see her rubbing her hip and legs but she does not whine about it. She has never complained in life - she has always demanded things from life and got them exactly the way she ordered. She is not about to make her exit leaving the memory of a shrivelled, suffering person. She is determined to face it by herself and if possible go with a smile. But Fate likes to humble you and force you to accede defeat. The pain becomes so intolerable that she finally says "can you give me something to end it all? I cannot bear to die so many times every second."
You love her but you can do nothing to take away the pain or share in it. All you can do is watch helplessly and cry. It seems right to accede to her request and help her go quickly. You know it in your heart and your mind.
It is against the law - that draconian system which makes laws to determine how people should die when it is conveniently silent about how people should live. There is no law punishing sons and daughters who fail to feed their parents or care for them but there is a law punishing those who help them ease their pain when all else has failed and purely motivated by love.You turn to religion for solace and guidance. It says it is her Karma and she has to go "through" it in order not to carry it over to another birth. Someone else says that it amounts to murder and warns of the sins of "brahmahathi".
So you wait and pray -pray for her to go, not to live, for there is no dignity in her life anymore. There is no law against wishing for someone's death. And finally when it comes it is all a relief and you have no tears left anymore and there is no loss to mourn.
One of the things I dread when visiting people after a few years is the comment on one's appearance. There never seems to be a right weight to escape notice.When you lose weight you "look like a ghost" and when you add girth you never hear the end of it. Just as you gracefully accept what seem like compliments about the "healthy" look, subtle hints come along, compounding insult and injury,about the need to watch one's weight at "this age". You will be told that you look "just right" but anything more would be "dangerous" and this is when you retract the hand just about to reach for the nice crispy murukkus or Myseorepak from Krishna sweets placed in front of you.

You cannot escape the issue even if you have maintained your weight -opinion will be divided on whether you have become thinner or fatter since the last trip and sometimes the dispute gets referred to a third umpire while you wait in embarrassment.It is worse when you are asked to be the arbitrator between two people arguing if you have grown thinner or fatter. Invariably, the conversation drifts to this within the first 5 minutes of the meeting and lingers on the topic for at least 5 mins. I sometimes wonder if i should carry some proof of my weight details and my doctor's approval of it so that i can hand it over when the topic unfolds and seal the matter once and for all.

I do not think people are really interested in the weight loss/gain details but do it as a way to warm up to a conversation - like the Brits and the weather ( see below). I wish people would stick to the weather but no, they want to sound interested in you and so it is the personal details of your weight and its consequent effects on your appearance.

There is no way to get around the topic. Last time while visiting an incorrigible weight discusser,I thought I was smart and decided to use the attack first. Being untrained in the art, all I could manage was a neutral "hey you look great!!". And the next 15 minutes I heard nothing but the miracle recipes she had tried and her diet routine and how I must also try the same and "get back into shape".And so like the Brahmastra, the weapon came back to me and then again my appearance became the topic for the next 10 minutes.

I have tried inane repartees like "No, i just got a bit shorter" or "I had a haircut" when asked if i have gained or lost weight. But no, they just dont work ; people wave it aside and then repeat the question with "no, seriously, have you..."
Does this happen only to me or are there other kindred souls in such suffering? I wonder how they handle it.


The Brits and the weather
from "How to be an alien" by George Mikes

The Weather

This is the most important topic in the land. Do not be misled by memories of your youth when, on the Continent, wanting to describe someone as exceptionally dull, you remarked: "He is the type who would discuss the weather with you." In England this is an ever-interesting, even thrilling topic, and you must be good as discussing the weather.

Examples for conversation For Good Weather
"Lovely day, isn't it?"
"Isn't it beautiful?"
"The sun ..."
"Isn't it gorgeous?"
"Wonderful, isn't it?"
"It's so nice and hot ..."
"Personally, I think it's so nice when it's hot - isn't it?"
"I adore it - don't you?"

For Bad weather:

"Nasty day, isn't it?"
"Isn't it dreadful?"
"The rain ... I hate the rain ..."
"I don't like it at all. Do you?"
"Fancy such a day in July. Rain in the morning, then a bit of sunshine, and then rain, rain, rain all day long."
"I remember exactly the same July day in 1936."
"Yes, I remember too."
"Or was it in 1928?"
"Yes, it was."
"Or in 1939?"
"Yes, that's right."

Now observe the last few sentences of this conversation. A very important rule emerges from it. You must never contradict anybody when discussing the weather. Should it hail and snow, should hurricanes uproot the trees from the sides of the road, and should someone remark to you: "Nice day, isn't it?" - answer without hesitation: "Isn't it lovely?"

Learn the above conversation by heart. If you are a bit slow in picking things up, learn at least one conversation, it would do wonderfully for any occasion.

If you do not say anything else for the rest of your life, just repeat this conversation, you still have a fair chance of passing as a remarkably witty man of sharp intellect, keen observation and extremely pleasant manners.

English society is a class society, strictly organised almost on corporative lines. If you doubt this, listen to the weather forecasts. There is always a different weather forecast for farmers. You often hear statements like this on the radio:

"Tomorrow it will be cold, cloudy and foggy; long periods of rain will be interrupted by short periods of showers."

And then:

"Weather forecast for farmers. It will be fair and warm, many hours of sunshine."

You must not forget that farmers do grand work of national importance and deserve better weather.
Went to chennai for 4 days with lots of excitement and anticipation but ended up with an intestinal infection and a ruined trip. The only good memory of the trip was the onward flight.
Kingfisher airlines was great - from the time you reach the departure gate at the airport, they take over. A valet in a red plastic coat takes charge of your luggage till you receive your boarding pass - the staff in charge of boarding are courteous and smiley ( a little too smiley).The aircrafts are spacious and sparkling clean. The seat belt metal straps have cute kingfishers embossed and I love their signature tune (remember the kingfisher ads? what is it called - carribean calypso??). Inflight entertainment consists of radio channels with a choice of rock, western pop, indipop, hindi film songs from the 60's, 70's and 80's and ghazals. I usually "feel" among the clouds when i listen to some of these 80s Kishore songs but it was something else to listen to them being among clouds. Alternatively you could watch the position of your plane in the sky on the video monitor in front of you. Mr.Vijay Mallya appears on screen to welcome you and thank your custom and discuss his expansion plans with you!! The inflight magazine gives you a glimpse of the life of the glitterati and the stuff they can afford and sport. The food is good- oh yes, they serve food on short flights too! For breakfast,they served a burger filled with mayonaise and boiled veggies and a delicious cupcake and a tetrapack juice. After you have deplaned, men in red jacket help you at the luggage carousel and come with you to your transport.All this at a low price of 1650!I think their claim that you can fly like a king without having to pay like one is not too exaggerated.
Try it before it goes the way of the other airlines.
A deaf-mute boy, from a poor family in rural south India – that is how many handicaps you can count on the path to becoming successful? Wait there is one more - I’d like to believe that the religion of the person should not be an obstacle but definitely there is one other major one – parental resistance, a monumental one. This is the story of Iqbal. Like a lot of Indian boys he loves cricket but there is perhaps a slight difference - he eats cricket, breathes cricket – and the game is his religion, his reason for existence. His dream – a place in the national team. But his father hates the game so much he could trace all that ails the country today to the love of that game!!! Against this background can the boy realize his dream?

Difficult but not impossible, says Nagesh Kukunoor. If you are determined to achieve a dream, cosmic forces will conspire to get you there – forces in the form of a strong, supportive mother who is willing to stand by him even if it means gravely displeasing her husband, a doting sister who acts as his ears and voice and has no doubts about her brother being the best, and a brilliant coach lying stone drunk on the haystack. The path to following one’s dreams is always strewn with thorns and hard stones to test one’s determination. There are sudden dead ends, doors that beckoned you close when you get there , but if there is determination and willingness to give it your all, other doors open up and the dead end curves to show you a long straight road ahead. Never fails, always true!

Stories that deals with the triumph of human spirit have never failed on the screen if they are presented believably and that kind of presentation is precisely Nagesh’s USP. His men and women are people we meet in our daily lives, there are no super heroes or fairy tale heroines. His people speak the language of ordinary folk, they do not spout heroic speeches or mouth lyricisms. They do things you and I do. They are people you relate to and you laugh with them , cry with them and desperately want them to succeed and feel so happy when they do.

The humour is so fresh, family animals named after bowlers ( the favorite buffalo is “kapil” and the youngest is “irfan” );the exchanges between Naseer and Shweta prasad are as endearing as they are funny.
Normally when Naseeruddin Shah is in a scene, it is tough for even some of the senior actors to attract audience attention , but here these lesser known artists effortlessly match up to his talent. Everyone fits his/her role to perfection – even Girish Karnad in his unusual avtar as a clone between chanakya and dronacharya types.

How do Indian villages look so clean and beautiful in photographs and films?

I love films that make you feel happy when you leave the hall – hardwork pays, merit gets recognized, justice gets done, dreams get realized – all is well with the world. Iqbal gives you that feeling.
I received an interesting mail from a friend who compares the Chinese to Indians and wonders why, even though we both have similar socio cultural traditions and similar traditional baggage, the Chinese seemed to have overtaken us in many fields. He traces it to the principles of Hinduism like Karma and Fatalism and our pre occupation with the life after rather the present. The stress seems to be on GOOD life rather than a good life.

In contrast, the Chinese seemed to have easily adapted to the western way of life which seems to have helped them in placing a much higher priority to working hard, being disciplined, more organised and focused in their lifestyle on acquiring wealth, embracing easily modernity from any source, enjoying more the pleasures (food, material things, travel, etc) that this life gives on earth, and not spending too much time worrying about the next. Being in tune with today’s world makes them get the best out of it. .

The conflict that he seems to be talking about is between the fatalism of the East and the aggressive self-determinism of the West. Perhaps the latter is what contributes to the ”killer instinct, that many find as lacking among Indians. The Western mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control the external—leaving little to chance. By contrast, the Eastern mindset is focused primarily on the need to attempt to control self—leaving the external to chance. For this reason, the culture of the West is far more structured and systematic while Indians are far more relational, ad hoc and spontaneous. In other words, in the Eastern Hindu system, the focus is on reducing one’s attachments to desired outcomes; In the Western Christian system, the focus is really on self-expectations.
Detachment to results does not necessarily mean indifference to the job at hand. It only means that one should not be motivated by the results but go about doing one’s job well irrespective of the outcome.

If the ethnic Indian community in Malaysia and Singapore is not doing as well as the Chinese, the roots of the issue probably lie in the kind of leadership that is available within the community rather than their religious practices.
Similarly if Indian companies lag behind the Chinese in manufacturing , the roots lie in the policies of successive governments in protecting indigenous industry from market forces than in the emotional make up of the people or the religious philosophies. Where the right environment has been provided, Indians have proved to be equal to the best in the world.

I think with all the problems we inherited at independence and the constant turmoil the country is in with problems – man made and natural – we are coping pretty well. And rather than pulling us behind, our religious convictions ( I mean all our religions) give us the strength to handle it all well. Things take a little longer when they have to work in a democratic way. This could be another reason for the fast paced growth in China. There is no denying that we have not realized our full potential yet but certainly we seem to be making all the right moves.
If anyone thinks otherwise all I have to tell them is:
please do not compare us with others.VEE ARR LIKE THIS ONLEEE.
Bangaloreans like to "sound off" about the problems they face in the city and when they are asked for suggestions for improvement they invariably look for the solution in the IT sector -that IT industry captains should pay back their debt to society by taking responsibility for one or other of the malfunctioning areas in the city. For example the other day one reader said that they should sponsor the city central libraries and restore the joy of reading among the Bangalore public. Today another says that in stead of complaining about the lack of infrastructure, they should use a part of their "burgeoning profits" to sponsor one or other of the flyovers and ensure their smooth functioning. Good suggestions perhaps. But what i cannot understand is that these citizens seem to feel that because IT industry is flourishing in Bangalore, it is supposed to accept responsibility for everything in the city - Like a rich relative who is expected to take care of the entire extended family of prodigals and bloodsuckers and incompetents.
People seem quick to blame the IT industry for the enormous hike in rentals, price of goods and services while taking for granted its spectacular contribution in putting this once sleepy city (pensioner's paradise) on the world map as well as in the daily parlance ("bangalored" is a word commonly used in the United States today although laced with frustration and resentment!); the attractive employment opportunities and the affluence it has created have had enormous secondary benefits for other service industries through the increase in purchasing power. No doubt the government exchequer is fatter directly by the tax revenues from these purchases and indirectly from income tax.
When people say that instead of boycotting, the IT industry should look at positive actions like sponsoring flyovers are they not absolving the government of its failure to perform its duties? Why is it that people are willing to accept the failures of an inefficient government and only expect the industry to step in and take over extra responsibilities? We pay our taxes and , as the minister himself claims there are clearcut plans and budget allocations for these infrastructure projects - then how come the city's infrastructure is so pathetic? If they are not capable of getting these done, they have no business to be sitting in their seats.

I am pretty sure that the captains of Industry, if entrusted with the power and responsibility can do a wonderful job of it. So why not outsource the job of governing the state for a few years to industry and let the politicians go on their foreign tours for a few years?
There used to be a game show on television called the weakest link ( Kamzor kadi kaun?)- I used to enjoy it for the brusque and brisk manner in which Neena Gupta used to anchor the show. She would not mince words in commenting on each one's performance and in hauling up people for their intentions in voting for whom they considered the weakest link for elimination from the next round. It was all fun and enjoyable until I understood the strategy that is used in the elimination. In the initial rounds people eliminated the ones who had the fewest answers - fair enough - the reason being that they needed most correct answers for adding to the jackpot money. In the later rounds enlightened self interest prevailed and the strongest ones were voted for elimination so that you only had a less strong adversary to confront for the jackpot in the final rounds!
Now this is may not seem like fairplay in any game, that you gang up against the smartest and the one most entitled to the prize - apparently this is fair in real life and is used day in and day out at high levels in the corporate playfields. These type of games are survival games where you learn how to handle real life situations such as these. They teach you the smart way of playing these and unfortunately it may not always be the "right" way as you can see from the above situation.
or is the smart way always the right way too in today's world?
I have these sudden awakenings of memory and all of a sudden something long forgotten comes alive fresh and vivid and I can almost see it as if it happened a few moments ago. Sometimes it comes with side effects like memory of the smells and sounds. This morning I woke up thinking about what constitutes "dignity" and suddenly I remembered one of my mother's short stories. My father ran a publishing house and he and my mom were writers of sorts although my mother's love for writing got lost in her struggles to balance family life and her own serial illnesses that plagued her all her life. My father had published her short stories in a book which I had read when I was about 10. Recently when i looked for a copy of the book , I felt sad to realise that we did not have a single copy of the book in the family.But today one of those stories came back to me.
She wrote mostly from what she saw rather than from her imagination so I am sure this was something that actually happened:
When we were young, we used to have these travelling street performers coming to our streets. They were called Thommankoothadis.The group consisted of a man, wife and a brother or sister , a few kids of assorted ages and a monkey. They spoke a funny slang of Tamil, played the drums or sang songs, balanced on ropes held tight by bamboo poles, the monkey somersaulted and obeyed orders and the highlight was when the man would tie his infant on top of a pole and balance it on his palm or his stomach. They would come , set up the props and the whole performnce would last about half an hour; people would stand around in circles or in their balconies to watch the show. At the end of it, the lady would come around with a bowl for money or for clothes from the people watching from houses. Apparently one afternoon there was one such show outside and my mom was watching from the balcony with my younger sister who was about 2 years old while the rest of us had gone to school. My mom was engrossed in the show while little lalitha ( my sister) decided to get a closer look at the whole thing and slipped on to the street unobserved. When it was all over and the infant had safely come down from the pole, my mom realised the absence of lalli. She could find her anywhere in the house or in the crowd which was slowly dissipating. She panicked at the idea of her child being kidnapped for performing on the streets. She was about to call the police when she heard footsteps outside the front door. It was the thommankoothadi woman holding little laitha's hand. She scolded my mother for having allowed the child to walk away into the street. My mother was overcome with relief and gratitude as tears streamed down her cheeks. She was also ashamed about having suspected them of kidnapping. She told the lady to wait and when she came back with money she was shamed a second time by the woman's reply: "Ma, we are so poor that we have to make our children perform to earn our food. But please do not pay me for saving a child, If you want to give me something, give me your children's used clothes to keep my children comfortable."
Now I think this is what dignity is all about. It is not about your comportment, your manner of speech, your attire or your gait. It is not about keeping a stiff upper lip or keeping your feelings to yourself. It is about an acceptance of your lot and not letting anyone make you feel inferior for that. It is about not being self-pitying or making excuses for what you are or being bitter about your circumstances. It is about not putting your basic humanity, kindness,grace up for sale irrespective of what you wear, what you eat, where you live or what you look like.
The following is an interesting excerpt from the book "freakonomics:
"There is a tale, "The ring of Gyges" .. It comes from Plato's Republic.A student named Glaucon offered the story in response to a lesson by Socrates, who, like Adam Smith, argued that people are generally good even without enforcement. Glaucon, like feldman's economist friends, disagreed. He told of a shepherd named Gyges who stumbled upon a secret cavern with a corpse inside that wore a ring. When Gyges put on the ring, he found that it made him invisible. With no one able to monitor his behavior, Gyges proceded to do woeful things - seduce the queen, murder the king and so on. Galucon's story posed a moral question, could any man resist the temptation of evil if he knew his acts could not be witnessed? Glaucon seemed to think the answer was no."

I think the answer is "yes". What do you think?
One thing that strikes me in my conversations with the bright young generation of college students and fresh graduates in family gatherings, at the French class etc, is the narrowness of their goals. For example I was talking to my niece who is in her 5th semester Comp Sc. in a very good engineering college and was shocked to find that she chose to limit her life to a job in an IT company, with a starting pay of around 20K, had no plans for further studies, because she felt that her basic B.E. in computer science was “enough” to get her a job in a reputed IT company.
Here’s a young person who is smart, has tremendous potential and has no pressures to start earning immediately. Should she not be setting her goals higher or even hitching her wagon to a star? What was disconcerting was not her attitude but the realisation that she is perhaps representing the majority of undergraduate students in India. There is so much pressure throughout their schooling, that students don’t want to study any more at the slightest given opportunity, especially when they can land a job that guarantees a “good life’. Additionally the system has nothing better to offer them as an incentive for further studies - all the job opportunities they have are in the IT companies, where they get sucked in 9 to 9 in a job that gets monotonous after 2 years of initial euphoria ( for most) and leaves them no time for any other pursuits. But most are stuck there for there is no ”greener” pasture – it is all the same in all companies, give or take a few thousands. There is ample compensation in terms of money, foreign travel and associated dollar income but is their full potential being utilized?
India is blessed with a rich base of human capital, but the system is merely blunting the potential of college students and causing them to burn out by their middle age. Companies hijack them from campuses ( one company has offered jobs for all the 1st semester students in Anna Engineering college, another recruits 100 per year from each reputed engineering college). There could have been some brilliant inventors, scientists, teachers and authors among them, but it seems that today the system wants only engineers and programmers . I think the ad for GNIIT shows this brilliantly – well dressed HR folks of IT company waiting at street corners to grab an unsuspecting guy with a GNIIT certificate – 600000 IT jobs and not enough GNIITians to fill them!!!
For years, degree colleges offering pure science courses have had few takers and even the paltry few who join are mainly those who haven’t got an engineering or medical seat. People prefer to get an engineering degree from a mediocre college than a science degree from a reputed one. Who is going to teach science to the next generation? Who is going to carry on research work in our prestigious laboratories? More engineers? Doctors with five years experience are still earning about 15 k while a raw engineer starts at 20 k plus and other benefits. Why blame the kids when the system is bad? IT companies are able to give the young people the motivation in terms of a huge purchasing power and promise of a good life – even if there is nothing beyond it that is still enough compensation for the individuals. But can the system sustain on this lopsided growth – do we plan to become so rich like the gulf nations or some of the western nations which are able to attract immigrants to do other jobs?
And what about the engineers themselves – they are some of the best talented kids of the country. Are they satisfied to be mere software clerks or as a magazine called them -“IT coolies” ?( of course it was talking about the hordes of warm bodies that were being shipped outdoing the Y2K. I am sure it happens for other projects now.). Do these young people know where they want to be 10 years , 20 years, 30 years from now – apart from a lakhpati, crorepati. Are they happy with that vision?

Adelbert Chamisso has written a touching story about Peter Schlemihl, a man who is lured by the devil to sell him his shadow in exchange for a purse which would give him unlimited supply of gold. Soon after he realises that he is a non person without his shadow, which all the gold at his disposal cannot buy back. The shadow is an image of one’s real person, a constant reminder to be in touch with oneself and not lose it. Perhaps that is why most IT jobs ensure that their young employees do not see the Sun or their shadows!
I saw an ad in the newspaper last week which offered a gift of a designer watch (allegedly worth 20,000) on purchase of jewellery worth 40,000. There was a picture of this watch in the ad and I looked at it with great curiosity - perhaps it was cased in 22 carat gold or studded with precious stones? No. It was just like any other watch. Or perhaps it doubled up as a computer or a television or a music system? Else why would you spend 20k on a simple device that told you time which is admirably done by electronic throwaway watches available at Rs.100 in china bazar? In fact you don’t even need wrist watches anymore as your cell phone, fm radio, and computer tell you the time. So then why all the fuss about a band around the wrist?
When I mentioned this to a yuppy friend, he looked at me like I was low life(I get these often for my naive statements)and explained that designer watches were style statements. And he also let me know that designer stuff did not usually come as packages of x cum y cum z. They were just it – a watch or a handbag or a sunglass with a enormous price tag from a reputed house. They indicated to the world that you have “made it” in the world. Since the world does not have a way to know your designation or your accomplishments or your bank balance – this is how you let the world know that you are successful. How dumb of me, not to have understood these “fine” aspects.
I can understand people wanting to own a Mercedes car – that wonderful machine that gives you so much safety while making driving a pleasure. I suppose that these designer products guarantee good raw material, fine finish, unique design and of course that most valuable name of the designer house prominently displayed on the product. But how much functionality can you add to a watch in any case? I guess the more money you have the more inclined you are to throw it on least useful stuff and the stronger the statement you make. But does someone who really feels that he has made it, the complete man or woman need this piggy back ride on designer labels to prove it to the world?
She is the third of four children in a middle class family from a town in North Karnataka. She had a traditional South Indian middle class upbringing and was quite happy to let her parents choose her groom. She had no great expectations from life -all she wanted was a normal happy life. But for some people even that is too much to ask! On the evening of their marriage the groom helped himself to all her jewellery and gambled them away. What seemed like the beginning turned out to be the end. But that was a beginning in another way. The docile, protected girl decided to take control of her life. She refused to stay with him and returned to her parents' house.The father said there was no place for her in his house and she should return to her "lawful" husband. The girl stood her ground, argued that it was the father's fault in having found a gambler as her husband; she also told them that all she wanted was a place in the house and that she would pay for her keep with a job she would find. And she has kept up her word and he determination. Since then She has worked in NGOs to earn her living and to keep her busy. She reads a lot,she is never depressed, has a positive outlook on life and never says "Why me?'
As for the husband, he is shamelessly fighting for restitution of conjugal rights, refusing to give her a consensual divorce for after all the great indian marriage laws do not allow a woman to seek a divorce on the ground of a husband being a gambler or alcoholic or liar. For six years now she has been married in law without being entitled to any of the priveleges of a marriage. She is punished for just taking the seven steps with him around fire while he is not hauled up for not sticking to the mantras he said while taking those steps!! The case goes on...
But she accepts it all in the right spirit for she knows she is right and that is what real heros are all about.
I feel sorry when people
rush past old people and people with children to deplane or at immigration counters
cannot think of offering the first auto to someone with a lot of stuff or a child
cannot let someone with just one item to bill at the check out counter to go first while waiting with a cartload of purchases.
These gestures cost a few extra minutes but cause so much gentileness to go around in the world.
A simple act of kindness has such a cascading effect in making the world a better place to live in.
Whenever I am in such situations I always remember how good I felt when I needed the favour and somebody let me pass before them and it feels good to be able to pass on the favour to someone else.
Perhaps these other people have never had such kindnesses shown to them? And that is why I feel so sorry for them.
“To maintain order, enforce the law, and prevent and detect crime” – that is the dictionary definition of Policing. One assumes that there would be more stress on prevention than detection which would be necessary only when prevention fails. At least one wing of the police department seems to be in disagreement – the traffic police. Anyone who has been driving in Bangalore is familiar with the following scenario:
You need to quickly pick up some medicine or bread or whatever,look for a parking lot and finding none, park it under a tree near the shop and when you return after 3 minutes you find the policeman asking for your licence - the crime? You parked in a no parking zone. “But there is no sign?” you mutter in a puzzled tone and he points to it. You needed him to point it out because it is strategically placed close to a tree, visible only from certain angles. This is something you can try in any new route that you take. Try spotting a traffic sign while managing to negotiate the car through the traffic in any commercial area and nine out of ten times you will fail. The most prominently displayed boards will only give you information on the number of accidents and deaths in Bangalore over the past 3 years or the details of the penalty for every traffic violation.
And if the policeman had to police the no parking zone why is it that he does not make himself visible preventing you from parking there like the security guards in apartments? How come he hides behind the tree, waits for you to park and then pounces on you with a wicked “got you!” leer?
The answer is not hard to find. He will tell you to pay up a fine of 100 and then return you Rs.50 if you do not demand a receipt!! So why prevent a lucrative source of income? And even if you demand a receipt, it goes under his record of “number of crimes detected”. So it is a win-win for him right?
This neighbour's house is being painted and these days she seems very busy and active; normally there is a lost look about her when we meet during the evening strolls. Yesterday she was glowing as she told me that her son from the U.S. was coming on a holiday after 5 years - she was bursting with the news and it seemed like she wanted to announce it to the whole world. Humouring her I said, "Ah, now i see what's with the painting and all" and she told me how she had been waiting for this all these years and how she has not had the enthusiasm to clean the house or decorate it or cook special things ever since he left. Every day of her life in the past 5 years has been spent only waiting for the day he will come back.I am happy for her but I am more worried about her return to misery after he leaves. For a while she would show us the photographs and the gifts he brought her , the home videos and all that and then slowly she will sink back into a void, steeped in her memories oblivious of the present, suspending the whole process of "living" until another visit from him.

This is the case with most people who shrink their lives into roles - defining them in relation to another person in their lives - a parent or a spouse or a child. The minute the other goes out of the scene, you cease to exist for yourself. It is like he / she rolled up your life and walked away with it.

I was reminded of Mrs.Ramaswamy, one of the customers of the bank branch I was managing. She was 65, drove an old fiat and very well read. I used to wait for her visits to the bank and our interesting chats. Our pet peeve was the horrible Bangalore traffic (and this was still 1988!!) She was 35 years my senior but we could talk about everything as if we were contemporaries. Her husband had died some years ago and her children were married and lived in different cities. She chose to live alone in the charming villa in Indiranagar. First time she called me over for tea, frankly I went more out of sympathy for the widowed old lady living alone seeking company on a quiet afternoon. But what greeted me was an elegantly furnished house with a cheerful garden- no signs of emptiness or depression. Even her sons' rooms were kept in order as if they lived in the house. A cook and a young maid lived in the house and the meals were simple and tasty and varied whether she had visitors or not. She explained it during one of our conversations:"You cannot stop living because people have gone away to have their lives or your partner's time has come. You have to go on living until your time comes." She is thrilled when her children and grand children visit her but does not go into depression when they leave. She has her own life - a full and meaningful one that is not dependent on anyone else, even her children.

She is happy to play her roles by them but she wont let them walk away with it. She is firmly in control of it.
Yesterday I was at Forum mall and while waiting for the lift, i was amused to watch a young boy pressing the lift call button impatiently every 5 seconds. Actually it had taken just a minute and a half for the lift to arrive at the floor but he had already pressed it some 15 times.And once we were in the lift he could not keep his hands off the "Door close" button - he wanted the lift to descend straight to the basement without stopping in any floor. He wanted to save those three minutes - too long a time for him.
The speed that we have got used to as a result of all these machines has completely spoilt us - people are always complaining of poor response if it took more than a few seconds between the time they press the send button and the acknowledgement that the message is sent. And we get panicky if a mail does not get a response within the day. Tempers rise at every red light and the instant the light turns green horns start blaring. Now we dont have just 24 hours to do things but 24*60*60 seconds or perhaps subdivisions of it by which we count our time.
So with all the time that we save should we not be having more leisure time to do the things that we want to do? But I find people complaining all the time that they have "no time" for anything. They are sleeping less, playing less,reading less, meeting friends less. So where is all the time going? And why is it all going there?
Shelly, the tortoise heard a loud knock on his shell and peeped out cautiously.
It was Mr.Fox. He was agitated.
“What is with this race tomorrow – you taking on bunny rabbit? Don’t you know you will be humiliated? “ asked the Fox.
“It is alright, foxy, it is only a game;and all for a good cause. The money is going to the SPCA. Winning or losing does not matter. It is the participation that counts!” replied the wise tortoise. Anyone who had lived as long as he had to be wise and know what he was doing.
They had no idea that bunny was behind the bushes overhearing the conversation.
The next day, it was the tortoise that showed up at the finishing line first and the rabbit hobbled behind claiming to have fallen asleep mid way.
“Bravo” shouted everyone “Slow and steady wins the race!”
As Mr.Fox gave him a searching look, bunny winked at him and said “hush!”
Source: Aesop’s Fables
Retold: Usha Vaidyanathan
I have never been so obsessed with windows like these past few days – oh no, not the microsoft variety but the ones you have on buildings, the ones that let you see what goes on in the world outside the house apart from giving you the control to keep wind, light and rain out of the house. The steel frames of many of the windows in the house had got corroded and hence we are replacing them. They knocked them off in one go but took their own sweet time to fix them back (welder came but not the carpenter; carpenter came but so did the rain and so on….). So we have been exposed to dust and chill nightly wind and daily bright light as well as mosquitoes and a few rodents creeping through the grilles making the dog neurotic. The well settled rhythm of the house is temporarily suspended as everything is unplugged or rolled up or stored away and the house has the look of a house usually locked up and visited during holidays .You wipe the dust off the space you want to use and happily ignore the dust all around. You stop being conscious of being watched by the construction workers from the next site and oh, they love to look inside whenever they get some time ( of course, they do not mind you looking at their homes, do they?)

It is interesting to see how the shape, size and positioning of windows has changed over times. In my grandfather’s house, they were placed at such a height that an adult could look out of the windows but no one from the street could look into the house ( we kids climbed on the sill and stood their holding the grilles for hours and watched the happenings on the street) Now I recollect that in that house built before 1930, all the windows from the women’s area overlooked some other part of the house but none directly to the street! The main source of light and wind in the women’s area was the courtyard which was open to the sky. Women did not care too much about what went on outside their families. They did not need windows to the outside world. Perhaps that was the assumption.

Later too, in the houses in which I grew up, windows were placed appropriately for cross ventilation but girls were gently admonished if they stood near the windows looking out. There were all sorts of “bad things going on out there” from which one had to protect the girls.

Today things are different. These are golden times for windows - there are French windows that double up as doors and bay windows that have seating areas and then there are the louvres and so many fancy versions. They are not only functional but add to the aesthetics. Most office buildings with their centralized cooling systems have windows that allow only view and no air (tinted windows that allow one way view). Buildings make statements with their windows – the material used, the colours, the shape, the positioning.

No one to stop you from standing near the windows and observing the world – but there are no interesting things happening on the road – no monkey performing somersaults or jumping sticks (“ cross the sea to lanka Rama!!”) , no bangle seller, no painted man performing gymnastics, no mini carousels for kids – only speeding vehicles raising dust. No wonder Microsoft windows is more popular than the original one.
The prize winning "surprise look"?

Not the practised eyes wide open , carefully manicured hands on the cheeks , real action in slow motion "oh my God" look popularised by ever so many Miss Universes.

Not the shell shocked , "Damn,this is my 30 seconds of glory;lemme say it all;but I cant seem to remember a single sensible word" look at the oscars.

It is a puppy letting out a cute, tiny bark for the first time, looking all around to see where that sound came from and freaking out all day everytime that sound comes from his throat!!!

Now that is definitely a winner!
A mother's joy is great when she bears a child ; but greater is the joy when she hears others praise her child.
("Eenra pozhudir peruduvarkum thanmaganai
saanron enakketta thaai")
That is a Kural by the tamil poet thiruvalluvar(first century B.C.)who in two lines packed all the wisdom, philosophy and human psychology one possibly needs in life.He said little and kept it very brief but said them all!
I knew the full import of this couplet today when I read Harsha Bhogle's column in the Indian Express today:
"For years there were hypotheses; based on stray observations and a deep concern for cricket in India. There were theories, opinions, a lot of us were like the philosophers, or like scientists of old to whom ideas in the mind were the drivers of thought because numbers on paper hadn’t appeared yet.

"Now we can rejoice because of a pathbreaking piece of research by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, another of our highly promising young breed of cricket writers. He has looked at data from domestic cricket over the last five years and his findings are like music to the ears. I have read his article twice and each time I have felt like old scientists must have as elements were discovered where they ought to have been in the periodic table......
And the whole column is about siddhu's article in Feb Issue of Wisden Asia Cricket.

To hear anyone say this would have been music to my ears ...and coming from Harsha, this is a very proud moment for me.
Felicitations Siddhu! Thank you Harsha!!
Blind , deaf and Mute.People and objects in their lives are just smells, a sensation, a warm hug, a rough touch, a soft kiss, a cold splash , a painful sharpness, a soothing coolness!Their ideas have no colour, shape or name and no expression.There are no words as theirs is a soundless and lightless world – it is all a silent darkness. I do not know if it is black or gray or a muddy brown – anyway how does it matter what colour infinite sadness is? To be sitting in front of the sea and feel it only as a cool touch, not to be able to be awed by the majesty of a mountain except feel it as a hard surface under your body;not to be moved to tears by music and yet to be alive? Did God forget to say “let there be light” when he created them?
I hung my head in shame for all those times I had complained about my lot – every day of my healthy life has been a blessing and I am not sure I will have enough days left to say thanks for all the simple blessings that I have so far taken as given.
Now I know what Purandaradasa meant when he sang:
Narajanma bandaga Naalige iruvage
“Krishna” ena barade?*
(When you have been blessed with human existence and have the power to speak can you not say Krishna's name?)
Saw the movie "Million dollar baby"- great performance by Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. But I just simply could not watch the boxing scenes - could not understand the heroine's passion for this sport or anyone's. Is it a sport at all when it seems to be founded on the principle of hurting another person fatally? It is not something which tests your defensive skills but positively all energy is directed at offending - the intimidating looks , the posture, the jabbing, slapping, and flurry of blows - how can civilised people enjoy something so bloody? Or is it an outlet for the animal that lurks inside that civilised exterior?
One of the arguments offered against ban on boxing is "when a person chooses boxing he is aware if the danger to his life and he makes a free choice. So why ban it?"
What kind of an argument is that? When you are not allowed to choose death when you are terminally ill, how can you allow a healthy person a choice of death in this manner?
Outside a "fun" school for kids I saw a board saying they took kids in for
Play school,pre school, nursery,L.Kg and senior Kg. Now is this how many levels that kids go through before entering std.1? so when exactly do they start - right on the day they are discharged from the maternity ward?There was also something on the same board about "young achievers" in the age group of 5 to 10. So the pressure to "achieve" starts from that level!!
That same evening,while waiting for asha and company before the Indian ocean & strings show at IIM, amboj and I did receive a lot of curious glances from the 20 something crowd waiting impatiently to get in.
But the best part came at security check point. Amboj opened her bag to reveal the contents when she saw asha's being checked but the supervisor quickly walked over,stopped her and asked her and me to pass. We heard her scold the younger security, "don't stop the senior citizens!!" yeah, that is us!!
So you start your race of life , the "achievement" path sometime around 2 plus when you have bladder control and can speak . And at 45, when you stop running because you suddenly realise ther IS no race, you are a senior citizen.
When does one actually have fun??
Jagjit was melting hearts on a moonlit night in the open garden of IIM.Wonder if God cast that voice in gold and wrapped it in velvet before putting it in ( well, souvik, THAT voice needs a God!) A voice meant for singing about love, life and God - the theme of all ghazals and the result was magic. People of all ages were remembering the time they first fell in love or if they did not have the experience , they were falling in love with love itself.(It was agelessbonding!!-like what he sang in one of the songs: "na umr ka seemayein; na janm ka) The setting was perfect, the weather was just right and there was love everywhere. But then there was a separation between the singer and the listener - a clear gap.It was a brilliant performance but a "performance" nonetheless.
And then it all changed when he switched to punjabi folk music.The audience became part of the performers, adding the ahas and ohos at the appropriate moments and danced. That was lovely. The abandon, the participation, the obliteration of distinctions - you did not need to be a professional,it was souls dancing to their inner music, a complete identification. Joy filled the air.
It is extremely cathartic to let go and sing and loosen up completely and dance to the music making your own steps. Most villages and tribal cultures have this tradition- time we revived it to relieve all the stress that city life imposes.
Anyone willing??Aha! oho!!
Accompanied Vaish on an important mission before the class last saturday - changing the water and food for Kitkit, Anita's cat as she was away doing Tsunami relief work at chennai. Both of us were nervous to say the least as we hadn't the tiniest clue about cat behaviour. On top of it Anita had warned that kitkit waits behind the door when she hears it being opened and charges out as soon as it is. The last thing we wanted was to lose her cat as we were pretty sure we would never know how to coax her back if she decided to charge out. So we opened the door ever so gently like two thieves and entered the apartment with our hearts going thud thud thud. No sign of a cat....I lay flat on the floor in each room and turned my head around looking for something like a stuffed toy....Nothing.....Sniffed around...couldn't smell a thing...Finally I sat in one corner and started chanting what I thought was cat language "....psss...pssss...kitkit...kitkit...where are you..pss.pss.." And it worked....There was a plaintive "meeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaoooowwww" and it was not particularly friendly...perhaps my pronounciation was so awful that she decided to protest ( happens all the time in French class!!!)
Then a tiny white thing peeped from behind the fridge assessing my philistine self. I was shaking as I obvioulsy smelt of Amigo who was all over me just 15 minutes earlier and Saba. Fortunately Kitkit just concluded that I was too weak to confront and slowly marched past me while fixing her gaze on me as i withdrew more and more into the wall...and I called out to Vaish that she had emerged.Vaish was so excited that she did the most sacrilegeous thing: she said, " nice puppy.. where are you?" yes,she actually said "puppy" and that was it!! Kitkit decided to hide herself from us for ever and never said another word or came out until we finally left after changing her food and water. I bet she later complained to Anita about her taste in friends!!!
God, we were miserable and shaky for people who communicate with dogs so effortlessly. Thanks to the hype that cat lovers do about the superiority of cats, we felt like slum dwellers looking at people from page 3. And the worst part it, cats seem to believe it too.....god, wonder which paper they read....

"Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this."

They sit in the park benches placed around the walking path - these very old people,in sweaters and mufflers,alone.Sometimes two of them share a bench without uttering a word to each other. Would you forget words if nobody spoke to you for days on end?I look for the feeling behind those faces - are they sad, are they worried, are they contented? Or do they just wait helplessly and alone with only Death to claim them as his own?
What happened to all the people who they thought "belonged" to them, the ones with whom they laughed and cried and LIVED? These faces betray no emotion - they look like faces in a long shot,indistinct;lost to the present and future, they seem frozen in some remote past.
Perhaps they do not have use for their "feeling" faces in a world where no one seeks them out.Do they keep them "in a jar by the door"* to be worn when someone from their past drops by to see them and talk to them?

Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles?)

"Ah, look at all the lonely people!
Ah, look at all the lonely people!
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?"
Have you been on Bannerghatta road recently - specially the part that leads from JP Nagar to IIM? Yeah, the potholes have been covered,a layer of tar has been poured and the road is divided and looks broader. People driving the economy (as well as qualis vehicles and fancy cars) to and from call centres and Mantri Paradises look happier - at last "Bangalore is catching up", they say!
Only the birds sit pensively on the corner temple looking lost.They are confused by the sudden disappearnace of those large trees that used to line the side of the road which used to be their home or rendezvous point - now gone with only the stumps left to mark their graveyard!Those trees under which you knew you could find the tender coconut and mango venders on summer afternoons, under which the cobbler sat with his dog; those trees that were covered in red and yellow and lavender every now and then adding colour to your day; where you stopped your scooter and waited for the rain to stop while taking in the smell of water mixed with the leafy barky smell of the tree.
Of course all this was when Bangalore was a small town - now it has grown big and perhaps needs to "catch up". In any case people do not have the time to listen to the birds or watch the colours on the trees - their cars need broader roads.
Perhaps this is a small price to pay for all the dollar income from the call centres and technology companies!