Usha

Finding these slippers at several locations in my house, in the past few months several perceptive observers have told me that two slippers are missing. Now what do you see? one right and one left? Does that make a pair - so why are all these people telling me that two slippers are missing and looking for another left and a right which never existed in the first place?
Ok this is the story. one of the blue straps broke and the shop didn't have another pair of blue straps so I got the beige. The seller said he would not fix the strap and I had to find a cobbler to do the same. Just a few months ago, in an effort to rid the footpaths of encroachment,the police had evacuated a number of unorganised business people in my neighbourhood which included the cobbler. So I decided to exercise my skills in removing the old one and fixing the new - only to realise that my scissors and screwdrivers were all wrong. (Ok, ok, we all know who blames his/her tools) Finally after about half an hour of hard work, I managed to fix the new strap on the one that had a broken strap. Since the other strap was as good as new, I just let it be deciding to use the spare one when the need arose. Did you know that there is no difference between left and right foot in the straps - you could use them for either! so it is all good, it is a win win. Except...
except that every now and then someone reports to me that 2 of the slippers are missing. Once , with a small child demanding "where is the other one?" and me showing the blue one and saying "this is the other one", the whole scene resembled a bizarre comedy scene in a Tamil film with a banana, and actors senthil and gaundarmani!
And I make people smile when they see this pair on my feet. They either think I am a little crazy ( which is true) or I am cheap ( which is not true) But until today, no one has looked at my feet when I am wearing them and said that either my left or my right foot is missing - at least not yet!

Such is our slavery to norms and conventions and traditions that even slight deviations are difficult to accept. For example, when I posted my 400th post 7 posts ago and told my son that it was a landmark post he vetoed it saying 400 is not a landmark, 500 is! Can you believe this ? How do you think 400 feels about it, being nice and round and divisible by 100 and yet not considered a landmark? Such discrimination and just because it can't protest being a number and all! So I decided to espouse the cause of these other suppressed numbers and I hereby declare this post, the 407th, a landmark post.

( I can hear the resounding applause. Thank you, thank you, thank you!). The next landmark will be 408!
Usha
In my youth, having been endowed with thick long tresses , it was always my secret passion to have short bobbed hair which was just becoming a fashion in madras - yes I am so old I actually grew up in good old "Madras" not the fashionable yuppy chennai. Now there were two problems with cutting my hair - my family would have disowned me and thrown me out of the house, even worse I might have offended the sentiments of the orthodox family members - a girl putting scissors to her hair was surely an inauspicious sign. Anyway having entered college in 1974 I had to do something to prove that I was a rebel too and in tune with the times of the golden seventies. But not having the means to afford a parlour, I asked my sister to cut my hair and she happily obliged one saturday afternoon under the stairs. And for many days therafter I never heard the end of it - some relatives, particularly my elder brother, thought I looked like a monkey, my friends bemoaned the loss of such "beautiful" hair which they would have given an arm and a leg to have and of course my grandmother thought that it was a sure sign of Kaliyuga and all the bad things that were to mark the end of the world.
Have you noticed that people tell you how beautiful your hair was only after it is lost - as if they never noticed it all the time it was on your head?
Once I was married to a man who didnt notice if I was totally bald or had my hair matted like a sadhu in Kailash, my adventures with the hairdressers began. The thing about most of these girls in the parlours is that they never suggest what will look good on you but will ask you what you want. After several attempts at imitating the hair styles of Madhuri Dixit and Dimple Kapadia and Shridevi with totally disastrous results, one day I acquired the Gyan (under a hairdresser's shears) that to look like them the hair style wasnt enough, you needed a beautiful face to go along!
So now I needed someone who would tell me what would go with my face - so someone suggested this fancy coiffeur ( when said in in french it looks very fashionable right? ya , that means a hairdresser) in a fancy 5 star parlour who was supposed to have magic hands. So I put my hair in his hands literally and came out looking like a famous personality - Michael Jackson! I had to live with that look until my hair grew back and for a year I stayed away from all parlours although I had to suffer comments from my so-called friends if there was a lot of rat problem in my house ( very funny!).
Finally just as I had found the right cut that looked dignified , I stopped working and hence decided to avoid the problems of maintaining short hair ( ya the shorter the hair , the higher the maintenance, in order to maintain the style), I let it grow anywhichway it liked and loved the freedom. Just like many other realisations that occur to you in your 40s, I realised that I should have let my hair as it was in my teens and that life would have been more peaceful. Oh, but what is life without youthful follies!
But then life is never peaceful - not for the wicked cursed by their grandmothers in their youth for their rebellion.. So slowly the problems started with hair receding on the forehead, and my "rich" experience was beginning to show in a sudden acquisition of a silver crown. People started saying "you looked younger with short hair". In stead of telling them and myself, " I was actually younger then remember?!"I started believing them. So like an addict reverting to her old habit, I went back to the parlour today hoping things would have changed.
Guess what? Somethings never change.
The lady with the scissors asked me what I wanted!
The old fool that I am, I showed the picture of Maharani Gayatri Devi in a magazine advertisement for diamonds.
Was that a suppressed smile on the coiffeuse's face or did I imagine it?
Usha

It was in March 2000 that this fellow crawled from under the gate into our house and our hearts. He was about 4 weeks old then and we loved his attitude to life, universe and everything which was expressed with a happy wag of his tail! We used to be in splits watching him handle our other dog, Munni, who was a big bully. Whenever she tried to pick on him, he would simply crawl out under the gate which would make her totally neurotic. She could not catch him as she was too big to follow him under the gate and out!! And whenever Munni had been upto some mischief, which was always, she would run and all we had to tell saba was to "catch Munni" which he would promptly do and hold her down- only he would let her off just as we were about to get her- the idiot!
He was a hit with every teenager ( whom he adored) and every adult who came to our house. Vaish never fails to enquire after saba in every mail from Boston even though she has met him just twice. In his opinion the major threats to society were people shorter than 3 ft ( yes, the children) and anyone who was dressed in rags or carried weapons of mass destruction ( such as crowbars and other digging implements).

He loved eating (a curd rice eating dog which led to anita calling him "Sabapathy Iyer". It was Anita who shot the picture above and to him she was the" pastry aunty" who brought expensive pastries from Sweet Chariot for him mainly and incidentally for us too. No wonder he jumped up to her full height every time he saw her.)
His other passion was drives in cars. He never believed in anti-dog policies about dogs staying back and guarding the house when the humans went out - he was the first to jump into the car. He believed it was his right. Here he is with "his car", wanting to go out barely a few hours before he fell terribly sick and never travelled in the new car which replaced this old one.

This afternoon Saba breathed his last after 36 hours of suffering - his body was continously shaking as a result of a nervous problem which he developed as a side- effect of his medication for epilepsy which we had started for him since March 2004. His epileptic attacks were one of the reasons I had stopped accepting assignments for work so that I could be around and ensure that he doesn't go unattended when he gets these sudden attacks. It has been a tough 33 months with severe attacks but we always hoped he would get better sooner or later which was not to be.
He is gone.
It is going to be scary being alone in this house, without his sensitive ears that monitor every little sound and warn me with a bark. This was a dog who was deluded that he was a detective - it was amusing to watch him scrutinise the plants and leaves every morning and the car tyres everytime they came from outside. Everyone entering the house was throughly sniffed for tell-tale smells of where you had been and what you had done. I dont think he was scared of anything - except diwali crackers which,in his opinion, were a sign of the world coming to an end. He had sound proof spot which he had identified in the house which we called his "bomb Shelter".


It is going to be tough not having his gaze follow me wherever I go - or perhaps he will, unseen, from his new resting place in our garden.
Thanks for giving us so much of your love Saba, I hope we gave you back at least a small proportion of it in return. Not that you would have minded if we fell short for it was you who taught us what "unconditional" love is.
Labels: 34 comments | Links to this post | edit post
Reactions: 
Usha


The dog and the little boy - both blissfully covered in mud as proof of enormous , unchecked fun that preceded the photo. Both totally accepting of themselves and each other, dirt and all. They just belong together so well in utterly comfortable bonding.
And what a joy it must have been to roll in mud not caring about one's clothes and hair and then posing for the photo with a totally Blasée "vee arr like this onlee" expression!
When I see the how happy kids are with animals, I believe that a boy or girl witout a dog is as lonely as a dog without a boy or a girl.

I chose the picture for the banner not only because of the "bonding" but also because it describes best the kind of person I am at heart!Yes, Vee arr also like this onlee.
Labels: , 21 comments | Links to this post | edit post
Reactions: 
Usha
I love towels - soft, fluffy,nice smelling towels. If they have a nice colour and prints even better.
I think the room rent in expensive hotels is completely justified just for the nice towels they stock. After all they must care a lot for the guest if they took such care with their towels and stocked them in different sizes, all clean and nicely folded. On checking in, some people check the view, some see if the aircon and TV work fine but I check the towels.If they are there, the more the better, and clean I fell comfortable and happy. Having a towel monogrammed with your initials - an ultimate sign that you have arrived. Burying your face in a thick fluffy towel smelling of detergent and warm from Sun drying - oh, Nirvana of sorts!

The pleasure of a nice warm bath can be completely ruined if the towel that comes at the end is not perfect - if it is damp or rough or too small. Or if it is the plain cotton functional towel that gets completely soaked with one rub leaving you totally cold. They are alright for wrapping around wet hair but not for the body. I keep a towel or two handy in my box just in case. I dont know much about the history of Turkey but I want to visit the place because I think the people who invented the turkish towels must have a great civilisation.

Whenever I am in big supermarkets in India or anywhere, the towels section is the one where you can find me. I can claim to have checked out the towels in about 12 countries around the world. In case this seems bizarre to any of you and if you are probably one of those who consider Them "just Towels", which are nothing but a piece of cloth to dry, I feel nothing but pity for you. I direct you to the following passage on the uses of a towel by my favorite writer Douglas Adams. Perhaps that might help dispel your ignorance and make you appreciate their value better!

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an Interstellar Hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value—you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you—daft as a brush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag [non-hitch hiker] discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have 'lost'. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
(Douglas Adams.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

On the day when the spaceship comes I will be ready to wave it down and hitch a ride as well as handle the perils during an intergalactic trip with my specially chosen towel. Will you be?

P.s: did you know that there is a day devoted for Towels - the Towel day? yes, and it is the 25th of May!
Usha
A friend sent me the link to a site containing videos of some easy-to-make recipes and when I opened the site I was struck by a particular link on”how to chop an onion.” The charming cook complete with white coat and all ( much in the manner of scientists performing complicated experments in a lab) explained the right manner to cut the onion: You had to cut the ends off and make a single slight cut and then take the peel off taking care of the soft skin in between which is very slippery ; Then you had to make vertical cuts all the way like the numbers on the clock ”like so” leaving it connected in one end and finally make the horizontal cuts to get those hundred nice pieces which can then be used in any sauce or marinate or anything. Very useful vegetable, he said. You can view it here.

I wonder what the intended audience of this video must have been doing all these days when they didn't have access to this video – coveting those luscious red onions in the supermarket and not knowing how to cut them and dropping them back in despair. Poor souls, now finally they can use them, now that the secret has finally been revealed to them in its tiniest detail. And they can even cook a dish when they have a map to the kitchen and access to videos on how to boil water and peel and steam potatoes etc.

This reminded me of another program on the BBC where the cook was explaining how to get shredded coconut. For all those uninitiated, here’s how: You put the coconut inside a plastic or cloth bag and hit it a few times with a hammer ( taking care not to hurt your fingers!!). Then take out the pieces and scoop out the white portion which can then be shredded in a food processor. Difficult but not impossible huh?

That is when I realised the number of complicated processes I was performing day in and day out without giving it a second thought since the time I was 7 when my mother just told me to cut the onions or shred coconuts without even giving me a specific demo or a “How to” manual.They were ruthless, moms of yore!

And then I decided to break down my daily cooking into all the tasks involved and came up with some hundred tasks on a normal day and many more on festive days.
My sister called me this afternoon and asked me what I did all morning and I took out my task list and started reading and I had not even got to number 10 when she stopped me and said “Ok, you cooked and then?”
Can you imagine? My mother's daughter that she is, she labels my 74 tasks (enough work for 20 videos) as just “cooking” and then expects me to do more too...I hope you understand how upset I am. Overworked and exhausted as I am, I needed to talk to someone who would sympathise and here I am!
Usha
Once on my return trip from colombo,I had a chatty neighbour.He was a businessman who regularly travelled overseas and had a lot of interesting stories to share.He decried how we had along way to go in changing our attitude to cleaniliness,politeness in conversation, punctuality, etc. He compared us to other countries which were much cleaner and friendlier even though they were behind us on several parameters such a higher education facilities and medical facilities. How Indians in Singapore respect rules of cleanliness but would spit at the airport the minute they landed in India. Blah, blah, blah.Things that one always hears from people who go abroad and return. I was smiling and nodding and mercifully it was a short flight. And of course I could see the truth in some of his criticism too.

Soon we landed in Bangalore and a minute after the seat belt sign was off my neighbour was already standing near the exit. In a flash he had got up,said a hurried goodbye,picked up his box from the overhead locker and made his way there so he could get out first and rush to the immigration counter and get out fast.It did not matter to him that in the seat before us there was a pregnant lady and in another there were couple with small children. How sensitive is that?

And this was the man who was critical of rudeness in people far less educated.I understand that our procedures take long and every minute's delay in deplaning adds 5 minutes to the wait in the immigration queue but isn't that precisely why persons with children, pregnant women and older people should be allowed to go first?
I was irritated with his behaviour as I always am after every air travel in India because people "always" behave like this. I can say "They" because I don't participate in this madness ever. Someone starts it and then everyone feels it is ok to follow. They're not guilty if they didn't start it.And it is the people who need to go first - the older people, the pregnant women, who stay in their seats as they cannot handle this mad scramble.

And the irony of it all is that our systems have a great way of levelling all this - I was secretly pleased when his checked-in luggage arrived late and hence we both left the terminal around the same time!I wish they would also have separate counters at the immigration for older people, people travelling with infants and pregnant women. I haven't been out of the country for a while now. Do they have them now?

Was reminded of this after reading Orchid's post here.I completely understand how she felt. And when I read this post by a foreigner visiting India,I felt ashamed but there doesn't seem to be much that one can do except not being part of such behaviour.
Usha
Everyone loves that Hutch advertisement with the Pig-like Pug and pug-like boy and that song"you and I...in this beautiful world." The message being conveyed with that dog purposefully following the kid is "wherever you go, our network follows you".It seems that most working people and young people want to be "in touch" even while having lunch at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

But to me all this network stalking and information gathering is getting a bit too much. Just read this claim by TESCO: "can you buy potatoes in a store and see potato recipes in your inbox when you get home? we are working on it." Now that is scary.
Already there are at least a few hundred computers which know my birthday, my marital status, my telephone numbers, banks where I hold account, my credit card details, the vehicles I own, whether I live in my own house. The service departments of a few companies know all their gadgets I own. The credit card department knows my shopping patterns.Gmail knows the contents of my mails so it can helpfully pop up sites with related subjects.

Oh btw, did you know the site meter on this blog tells me exactly what time you came in, what kind of search brought you here, how much time you spent here and the link you exited to from here? The fact is that you are no longer alone and whatever you do is being tracked by some equipment ready to share the information with any other computer partnering with it!And there are not even laws protecting our privacy in this country and even if we had laws, we know how "easy" it is to get them implemented in this country.

Just see the paradox. On the one hand we complain when our neighbours ask us personal details but we are comfortable allowing some strangers to have access to all our private information. We drive long distances to find a quiet romantic getaway but we leave our mobile phones switched on.I guess we are also fast heading towards the situation when husbands and wives don't tell each other what is wrong with their marriage out of politeness but go on network televison and say how his nose picking bothers her or how her body odour offends him.

I dont know about you, but it certainly irritates me when some strange guy on phone tells me it is time for me to change my car because it is 7 years old and already had so many service requirements this year and what parts had to be replaced or when my chemist lists out the medicines I bought in the past few months. I dont want some guy at some credit card department making my purchases into a pattern and drawing a curve of my buying behaviour. This is my life I say. Just why dont these guys let me lead my own the way I want and go get one of their own!
Usha
Dear,
Today I must end fifteen long years of association - an association linked with some of the happiest moments.You were initially intended for my sister but as fate would have it she was not interested and so we ended up together. We have shared many special moments. You have never refused money for any indulgence or fancy however wasteful it is and when money was short you have held out a card or two. Ever since you came into my life, I have never faced situations where I had to check my expenses or say 'no' to anything.

But in recent times your age is beginning to show, the wrinkles are tough to hide and much as we have tried it is impossible to revive you. The other day my sister gave me an ultimatum that if I was so sentimental about you she would do the needful to get rid of you.It seems that I really look quite pathetic when I go with you to the malls and other upmarket places. I have tried giving you a makeover but nothing seems to work, you do look worn out. People do look and in a negative way.

I always knew this was not forever and sooner or later I will have to find a replacement. I have been looking around for a while to find another just like you so i wont miss you so much but apparently they don't make them like you anymore. You are special, one of a kind. But the time has come , finally I must let go of you. I have finally accepted another to go with my altered circumstances and needs.

So my dear old wallet, it is goodbye time.










But you are only out of my handbag but will always remain with me forever in my memory chest along with my precious memories of happy times, like these flowers preserved in potpourri.

Usha
Ever so often every one of us goes through the "life sucks" moments.We cannot find a purpose to keep us going, a reason to smile or something that makes any sense for us to get up from bed and face yet another day. We forget the great blessing called "life" and how special we are to be the chosen ones to be endowed with the ability to appreciate it and value it.Have you ever thought about how rare life is? In the millions of planets in the universe, there are perhaps very few with life on it and as far as we know so far we are perhaps on the only planet that supports life and what more we are surrounded by so many forms of life to make it so beautiful, tasty and sweet smelling, a star studded roof and a moon to inspire poetry. Being here, just being alive is reason enough to feel "special". if you find other reasons it is a bonus.
Next time you need a reason to feel special just remember what evolutionary biologist and author of brillaint works like The Selfish Gene and The blind watchmaker Richard Dawkins says in this article:

"The origin of life on this planet — which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule — is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions from those with which we are familiar. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable — in the sense of unpredictable — event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened. This weirdly paradoxical conclusion — that a chemical account of the origin of life, in order to be plausible, has to be implausible — would follow if it were the case that life is extremely rare in the universe. And indeed we have never encountered any hint of extraterrestrial life, not even by radio — the circumstance that prompted Enrico Fermi's cry: "Where is everybody?"

"Suppose life's origin on a planet took place through a hugely improbable stroke of luck, so improbable that it happens on only one in a billion planets. The National Science Foundation would laugh at any chemist whose proposed research had only a one in a hundred chance of succeeding, let alone one in a billion. Yet, given that there are at least a billion billion planets in the universe, even such absurdly low odds as these will yield life on a billion planets. And — this is where the famous anthropic principle comes in — Earth has to be one of them, because here we are."

"If you set out in a spaceship to find the one planet in the galaxy that has life, the odds against your finding it would be so great that the task would be indistinguishable, in practice, from impossible. But if you are alive (as you manifestly are if you are about to step into a spaceship) you needn't bother to go looking for that one planet because, by definition, you are already standing on it."

So you see , how special we are, each one of us? Enjoy life while you have the chance!Celebrate this rare thing called LIFE.
Usha
Ali takes Zahera's shoes for mending but while attending to another chore the shoes get taken away by the Janitor who comes to collect the garbage from the shop. Money is tight in the family witha new baby's arrival and mother' sickness. So Ali who is 9 and Zahera who is about 6 decide to share Ali's shoes to school as their timings are different.But Zahera must run back after school to meet her waiting brother so he can wear the shoes and run to school. In spite of their best efforts, there are many days when Ali is delayed by a few minutes and has to face the wrath of the headmaster. Zahera's eyes constantly linger on the beautiful footwear of other children in school but she does not complain about the loss of shoes to her father as she knows and Ali tells that her father does not have the money for it. He tries to cheer his sister with gifts of his own pencil which his teacher presents him with for doing well in studies. Attracted by the third prize in a state running competition, which includes a pair of sneakers, Ali registers for the competition to run for the third prize. Wearing his worn out shoes he runs to keep up his promise to his sister of the new pair of sneakers but ina last minute confusion he ends up coming first. He is in tears while his eyes rest on he third prize even as he is being offered the first.
He comes home forlorn and upset and rests his tired and hurting feet in the pond where goldfish rush to soothe his feet.
He still doesn't know that his father is on his way with a new pair of shoes for him as well as his sister!

Bacheha-e-aasman (children of heaven) was the Iranian film nominated for the oscars in 1998 in the foreign film category but lost to another all time great "Life is beautiful" But it won several other awards.
A touching performance by the two adorable kids and a story told very beautifully.A family where money may be short but certainly rich in the warmth of emotions and care and love.
Although the film does not show the childrens' joy when they receive the new shoes, we know how much I would mean to them. Unfortunately this is a joy that children from affluent families no longer know - that is the problem of plenty. One does not know the value of something as simple as a new pair of shoes!

or to delight in a simple soap bubble while washing the shoes!







Or the joy of doing something for someone else:
Usha
Whenever people have mentioned differences between the youth of 70s and the youth of today, I have maintained a smug cheerfulness as I have never faced a problem understanding their view point or relating to them as a friend. I have often wondered if they are so mature as to relate at my level or whether I stopped growing at somelevel after my 20s. The first time I felt a basic difference was yesterday.

I went out for lunch with a group of friends in their 20s and 30s and after lunch they were planning some other activity while I was getting ready to go back home. So one of them asked me why was I rushing back home and if there was a particular reason. For a minute I did not understand the question at all because for me staying out of the house needs a reason and being home is a natural state.One went out for a purpose and stayed home when there was no need to be out. I think that applies to most people in my generation. When I saw the puzzled look on their faces, I realised that perhaps they would rather be out exploring all that is happening or meeting people when they had no pressing compulsions to be home!No wonder they manage to accomplish so much in a day. Is it also because their working week is so packed and leaves them little time to catch up on their hobbies and socialising and so the weekend is too precious to be wasted at home?

Now that is a huge difference in thinking and a different way of living - when did all this happen? Felt like Rip Van Winkle for a moment!
Usha
Smartness is the ability to do things well, to get the best results out of every situation, and derive the maximum benefit to oneself. Does smartness also include ethics, the need to be "good" and get all the above results? or do the ends justify the means? For example if one gave up something for someone else who did not necessarily deserve it but "needed" it is that a "smart" decision? Is it a "good" decision?

What is "good" and who defines it? Religions have traditionally provided a framework for the definition of good and bad. And in many cases, being good does not always fetch you the results in the immediate term unless everyone involved in the transaction is bound by the same definition of good and bad. This is where religions point you to a world "beyond", a world "after" for which this life is supposed to be a preparation and hence they urge you to be "good" and wait to reap the benefits in a place from where no one has returned to confirm its existence.

If a person does not believe in religion, where would they find the motivation to be good? This is where a strong legal system plays a role by defining what is "wrong" and providing punishments for the same. But even the most efficient judiciary can only deter you from doing "wrong" but cannot motivate you to be "good" and kind and go out of your way to help the less advantaged. Humans, by nature, need a reason for being "good" whether it is fear of punishment or Karmic consequences or reward of heaven.If there was no compulsion to exercise restraint, would we be restrained?

It is true that Man has caused as much destruction in the name of religion but is it the fault of religion? Could we ban all religions from the world and yet hope for a good world? At least till all of humanity is "educated" (not just literate) and reaches the level of evolution when it is possible to live in contentment and to live and let live, Can we dispense with concepts like God and heaven and hell? Is it possible to reach that level of contentment and yet have the motivation to progress? If we did not aspire to be "good" and do something positive to make life happier , what would differentiate us from other animals, who come and inhabit this earth, spend their days doing the barest things needed for survival and die? Or should we be different at all?

How do we become good and stay good "anyway"?

Above thoughts were inspired by this mail *from a friend on being "smart" and being "good" and the comment by The Rationalfool on my earlier post and my own negation of all superstitions other than GOd.

* And this is the mail referrred to:

A poem hangs on the wall at Mother Theresa's orphanage in India. For all who are called to lead, it is a great reminder of what we should do:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered (including me). Love them anyway.

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the littlest people with the littlest ideas. Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.

9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the best you have anyway.
Usha
"One for sorrow, two for joy - if you see a single crow, the all black one the ones with a lighter colour around the neck don't count, if you see a single all black one, it will bring you sorrow. But if you see two of them together, it will bring you joy."
Words of wisdom from a 7 year old who went to a fancy school and was generally accepted by all kids in the neighbourhood as someone who was wise about everything in life. For most of my school life, my expectations of a day was totally detemined by the number of crows I saw in the morning.
If a favorite teacher ignored you or your team failed to score a single point in the net ball match - you knew it was coming , the single crow you had seen in the morning had said it all.
The day you were selected for a role in the school play or chosen to carry the homework notebooks to the teacher's room ( that was a huge responsibility and the teacher thought you were worthy of such trust!)- you mentally thanked the two black messengers who had indicated this joy to you in the morning.
Are there greater calamities and joys known to mankind?

On specially important days like examination days and the days exam papers were to be returned, I took special care not to look higher than eye level for fear of seeing a single one and inviting sorrow upon myself. Or looking up only when a friend confirmed that there were two together and I better look up and grab my chance to make my day joyful.

Stupid , silly things that one believed in with so much faith. But then isn't that what innocence is all about? Believing every good thing to be a gift and every bad thing to be a curse, not knowing the extent of control one had on determining these - entirely believing them to be defined by some external forces, and hoping to convert a sorrowful day into a joyful one by just seeing 2 crows together!

I do not know at what age I stopped believing in it - that must have been the beginning of my adulthood, doubts and scepticism.
After a long time I saw two black crows on tree outside my house this morning. It brought a smile and all these old memories. Well, this ought to be a joyful day - will confirm it tomorrow.
Usha
"The fact is terror is a threat to Pakistan. And it has been a threat to India for a long time now," said India's high commissioner to Pakistan, Shiv Shankar Menon, soon after the Havana meeting.Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed in Havana to create a joint anti-terrorist "mechanism".
In the aftermath of the recent Mumbai blasts in July we were told that the blasts were carried out by groups from within Pakistan and they could provide evidence of the same.The prime minister broke off Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan. But now we seem to be on the same side of the table, both victims of terrorism. What changed? and do we have a right to know?
Referring to the above statement from Havana,G Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan said:"It constitutes a dilution and a surrender of our position on terrorism."
Commenting on the same Swapan dasgupta says, "Life is at a permanent discount in India" and he calls us a "Nation led by wimps." He adds, "Like the liveried attendant in parliament who slammed the door on the attackers and paid with his life, the victims of terrorism end up as statistics - mourned for the mandatory fortnight and then dumped into the dustbins of history."
Sad, scary!

In another development, veteran criminal lawyer Ram jethmalani decides to defend the prime accused Manu Sharma in the jessica lal case. Now he will use every trick in the book to set his client free even stooping to the extent of casting aspersions on the victim. "I wont do anything, but everything for my client."
The only principle this notoriously "argumentative Indian" will uphold in all this is his loyalty to the client who can afford to pay for his services.
In this country it is possible to engage in criminal activity and bribe the police to destroy evidence, use muscle power to threaten witnesses to turn hostile and employ the best legal brains to get you out!

How safe do you feel living in India today being a honest taxpaying "common man", who shops in crowded malls and commutes by public transport?
DOR
Usha
She is a still a child at heart closing her eyes in horror during a violent scene in a film and absorbs every word in a film that she can repeat the words when she sees it again. She loves dancing to the tunes of film songs imagining herself to be Aishwarya Rai or kareena kapoor. A child forced to be a woman through marriage and early widowhood. She accepts it passively when society tells her that her life and happiness are over when her husband dies.Her happiness depended on being someone's wife and when that someone disappears he takes all her happiness with her.She would live her life serving the parents of her husband and obeying them and staying away from every happy occasion.It is her bad luck that her husband died. She has to make amends by leading an austere life.It is ok for her because she is scared of the outside world and the uncertainties. She prefers the security of her familiar surroundings, so every decision is made for her and she does not have to make decisions or be responsible for the consequences. Even if it means staying in a dark room clothed in drab clothes and going out just once a day to go to the temple.

And then she meets another woman who tells her that she has a right to be happy. She is not a sinner if she felt happy and danced just two months after her husband's death. She has to take her life in her hands and accept responsibility for her decisions.This friend tells the young widow that her life is not over with her husband and she has a right to live her life and a right to happiness. This is a woman who has no time to wallow when she is confronted with troubles as she has to to solve it in the best possible manner. She will try till the end and if her world still comes crashing down she knows how to pick up the pieces and start all over again and fulfil her responsibility to herself.

It is incidental that the latter is from a religion that we like to believe oppresses women by imposition of the veil. And the former follows a religion that accords Godhood to women.It is also incidental that the latter actually comes seeking the help of the former and ends up becoming her friend and showing her the way to happiness.All that matters is that both are women and both fulfil their roles with strength.

It is about how a liberated woman , a stronger woman can hold the hand of a weaker one and empower her.It is a duty that those who have crosed the traditional lines have towards those that are still confined by the lines.

Wonderful film - DOR.Please watch.Touching performance by Ayesha takia, Gul Panag and a very entertaining role played by Shreyas Talpade. Nagesh has delivered again!
For a more professional review , as always, I direct you to my favorite film critic Baradwaj Rangan here.

And if you are as concerned as I am about socially regressive effect of all the martyrhood being conferred on sufferring women in Tamil serials please vist this site and express your solidarity.
Usha
A site has been open for a while now inviting our votes for naming the 7 wonders of the world. The campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.You can vote until July 6 2007. To vote you can go here.
The contenders are the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Acropolis, the Great Wall and the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty; Eiffel Tower; Peru's Machu Picchu; Turkey's Haghia Sophia; the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral; the Colosseum; Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle; Spain's Alhambra; Japan's Kiyomizu Temple; the Sydney Opera House; Cambodia's Angkor; Timbuktu; Petra, Jordan; Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer; Easter Island; and Chichen Itza, Mexico.

I am not voting because I have only seen 4 of the above and hence cannot decide on which of them is better than the other. So while the world busies itslef with its choice of seven here is my list of wonders:

1.Night sky.

2.Bird nests.

3.Communication among frieflies through bioluminiscence.

4.The tunes of music that light and wind play on the leaves of trees - visual music in total silence.

5.Happy, smiling faces among the poor. Living a life of uncertainty from day to day, how do they manage to smile and be so warm to people more fortunate than them without a tinge of jealousy and complete acceptance of the differences?

6. The voice of S.P.Balasubramaniam.How he manages to keep it so good in spite of the fact that he never takes any special care.

7.Dance of Bhirju Maharaj which makes you forget the old man before you and you just see Radha or Krishna or a demure woman he is depicting.

8. Shivmani on his drums.

9. The internet.
Usha
I am angry, no may be confused, or perhaps sad. I don't know.
My maid Venkatamma about whom I wrote in an earlier post,lost her husband a few days ago. Yes, he tried his poison gimmick yet again, only this time the poison decided to take control of affairs. It was understandable that Venkatamma took it calmly in any case he was only her husband in name and ever since he left her for another woman she has been managing without him. So you assume that nothing changed in her life and it was business as usual? Wrong! She was made to go through rituals to tell her things were not the same any more. She was treated to the honours available to married women one last time to remind her she could not have them any more. Now she will not be allowed to use haldi, kumkum and bangles. Her son was furious and refused to look at her. So am I.But she tells me that she would be an object of ridicule in her village if she persisted in wearing these.
Who are these people to decide what she can have and can't - the same people who didnt raise their voice when the man left her for another woman and why is she afraid of their opinion? Why is she expected to be the "widow" of a man who failed to be her husband? And even if he had been an ideal husband, who decides how she mourns him?

I remember being angry as a young girl when I heard about my father's aunt who was married at 5 . The boy died a year later and the girl spent the rest of her life,60 years in mourning for a husband she hardly knew never knowing any of the pleasures of a teen ager or a young woman, never wearing a coloured sari all her life.

100 years later, the life for a woman in an indian village has not changed much. Perhaps it is easier for her to defy the customs as her son would support her but she wont as she wants acceptance from her society.
While scanning channels I hear stray dialogues from TV soaps asserting the need for preservation of tradition and culture and how women have a key role in that and I wonder if the above is also a part of a similar sentiment.

I don't know. I can't explain.But I am angry, may be confused or sad.
Usha
Did you know the genre of my blog?
Apparently I am into the genre called "mom blogging" and I am a "mom blogger".

The organisation for which my son works has relocated all of its Indian operations to Bangalore recently and my son shifted on monday. He was getting to know some of his new colleagues. One of them who was my husband's student said to my son that he had a famous father. Apparently this is when she added "not only is your father famous, your mom is a famous mom blogger too"

Ha, so I am a mom blogger and I am famous!Yeah right, 70 people visit my blog everyday - I must be extremely famous!!!
Usha
A few days ago i wrote a post titled "in defence of freedom of expression" about a cyber protest by the organisation Reporters sans frotières (RSF) on NOv 7th. I had sent an email to all my friends to visit the site during the protest hours and offer their support to the cause if they believed in the fundamental right for freedom of expression.
This was my reaction from one of my friends, which he posted in his blog too.I reproduce it here for your convenience.
"A friend sent me a mail asking as many people as possible to sign in to a particular website (http://www.rsf.org) during certain time windows, to protest human rights abuses in countries with documented records of such abuses. The website in question supposedly belonged to a worldwide coalition of journalists. Their rationale for inviting visitors to click on at their site was to collect electronic signatures in a kind of virtual petition to the regimes of the offending countries.

Now, I know this is an utterly defeatist attitude, especially coming from someone who's going to build a career in public health, which by definition means working against hopeless odds.... but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of gestures like the kind of campaign these journos suggested.

Regimes who use torture as State policy, and execute their own citizens in football stadia, are unlikely to pay attention to a bunch of bleeding heart idiots clicking on internet buttons. And they sure as hell aren't going to feel any "moral pressure".

Shashi Tharoor, in one of his books, argued that Gandhian non-violence as a pressure tactic could work only against an establishment that was vulnerable to "moral" issues, and took international opinion into consideration. Hence, while by using satyagraha as a tool of resistance, Gandhi managed to drive the British Empire out of India, the same tactics wouldn't have done much for Jews in nazi Germany.

And lastly, when the West- the so-called paragon of human rights and democracy, refuses to take its citizens' feelings into consideration while making a profoundly immoral decision (Bush and Blair ignored the largest street protests in the history of mankind to go ahead and invade Iraq), does anyone actually expect banana republics to toe the line because a group of educated liberals spread out all over the world click on internet buttons from their comfortable living rooms?

I think not."

My response to his post was:

Yes I agree it is a defeatist attitude - particularlycoming from a young person. This is the same kind of attitude that drives the creme de la creme of our country pack up and settle down in the west - "oh the politicans, the bureaucracy, nothing works."

When Gandhi proposed the Satyagraha I am sure ithere were many who wondered if he was under the influence of some hallucinogens - "Make peace, Not War" kind of ideaological trip. But he was a far better strategist than that. Believe me if he was heading the Jews he might have found some peaceful way to unnerve Hitler and the nazis too.

All said and done today no country, however totalitarian, can ignore global sentiments today. So it is a good thing to voice protest over something bad happening in these pockets. There are a whole lot of people from these countries living in freer countries who could organise themselves against these atrocities in their countries. Who knows some of them could go back and organise people to bring about a change. This is to tell them that they can count on the support of people around the world.Second and more important is that it is a warning for those countries which may try something similar in their countries - so people in these countries protest this as a fundamental right violation.

The problem with cynics is they wont even try - they defeat the cause even before it has begun. Cynics are bad in any form but in the form of educated, young they are the worst!
Come get up from that warm bed and click that site on NOv 7th. it doesn't take much and who knows something might actually change!

This friend is a very well read person full of youthful passion against felt and perceived injustices in the world.I was slightly worried that if this is the reaction of such people, am I missing something?
Just throwing it open for a debate.
Usha
Opening your eyes after a deep slumber, you feel the darkness all around. The phone says it is 4 but the bird sounds are missing. The incessant chatter of the squirrels that start running about the tiles and the birds in furious conversation over seemingly very important decisons. What happened? Have they declared a holiday? And the smells! What happened to the early morning smell of the buds breaking open and filling the air with their scent and the fragrance from the dew filled clouds filling your nostrils along with aching cold air?

By now you are fully awake to all the sounds. Why are there so many vehicles on the road at this time? And why do you hear the workers from the construction site nearby and the noises of their hammers and drills? That is when you realise it is 4 p.m on a rainy afternoon which has sent the Sun running for shelter.

And the rain starts again. You feel sorry for the office goers who have to be in meetings or write programs. What an insult to such a beautiful evening! You make yourself a cup of tea and watch the fine sprays while thunder rumbles on every few minutes. You choose a CD of old melodies to make the evening perfect.

What a beautiful afternoon, you think. But there will be people stuck in traffic jams on the roads 2 hours from now on their way home cursing the same rain.Man made troubles!
Sad but what the heck! It is lovely from the idle comfort of ones own home and you look out of the window and lose yourself in the beauty of the moment watching the rhythmic downpour from a dark room filled with S.P.Balasubramaniam's voice. Who says nothing comes for free? There are people who spend precious dollars to have this in exotic spots and here I have it delivered right at my windowsill!

Thank you GOD! NO THANK YOU man!!
That is 4:30 p.m November 3rd in Bangalore.
Usha
"If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging."
~Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

Note: A friend sent this in response to my earlier post.Posting here to share. And yes if i had my child to raise all over again, THESE are precisely what I'd do!
Usha
Reporters without borders is an organisation dedicated to the defence of press freedom. It condemns any infringement and restrictions imposed of freedom of press worldwide as well as protects journalists from attacks, threat and persecution for doing their work.
You can read more about them and their activities here
One of my blogger friends had requested me to publish information regarding an international cyber demo that RSF has called for. If you'd like to participate and support the cause of freedom of expression through freedom of Internet here are the details. I quote the following from the mail received:

"Reporters Without Borders is fighting to reduce the use of censorship and to oppose laws designed to restrict press freedom. 13countries have been singled out by Reporters Without Borders fora 24-hour online protest against Internet censorship.
Where: www.rsf.org
When : 11 A.M. on 7 November to 11 A.M. on 8 November
The defence of online free expression and the fate of bloggers in repressive countries concern everyone. SoReporters Without Borders is offering Internet users tools to campaign against Internet predators and is calling on them to participate in an INTERNATIONAL CYBER-DEMO.
Everyone is invited to support this struggle by connecting to the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org) between 11 a.m. (Paris time) on Tuesday,7 November, and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 November.Each click will help to change the "Internet Black
Holes" map and help to combat censorship. As many people as possible must participate so that this operation Can be a success and have an impact on those governments that try to seal off what is meant to be a space where people can express themselves freely.
Protests will also be staged by Reporters Without Borders bureaux around the world to condemn Internet censorship and ethical misconduct of the Internet giants when operating in one of these countries."

Please spread the word around and participate in the protest if you believe in the fundamental right of all humans to express freely what they think.
Usha
Yahoo has a time capsule at this site.You can post your views,photos,drawings or just about anything. you have only 13 more days to contribute after which the capsule closes and will re-open only on yahoo’s 25 th anniversary.
I assume that the capsule would be opened in 2020 or 2021.

What is the one thing that might be of interest to someone who might open it then? Something that might have vanished from the world between now and 2020? Not much and even if there were to be drastic political and social changes, the youth of today would still be there to remember today and impart a sembalnce of continuity.
But if one were to think of 100 years from now, what aspects of today's life would engage the curiosity of a young person in 2110?

Religion? Would people still practise religions and fight in the name of God? Would they believe in God and prayers? Would they still have festivals and holidays?

Governments? Would they still be voting people to power and be powerless to hold them accountable for their actions? Would they still subject themselves to misery as a result of the policies and laws which their "representatives" frame "for" them? Would there still be borders and disputes over them?

Wild life? Would they still be able to see Tigers and peacocks and elephants?

Kitchens and cooking? Would they have kitchens in the house and would they still be cooking their own food? Would they know the meaning of terms like "saute", "baste", "marinate" "soak overnight"?

Marriage? Would the institution of marriage still survive? Would they know what family meant for the previous generations? Would they believe that it was possible for people to stay in a relationship for prolonged periods?

Paper money?

Distinctions between rich and poor, men and women, upper and lower castes?

Astrology and numerology?

If you were to write something for a time capsule to be opened in 2110, what would that be about?
Usha
It is tough when someone close to you is hurting. It is even tougher when they choose you to be the person in whom they confide their pain and suffering. There are times when you can muster nothing more than " I know how you feel" or "I am sure there is a grander design in all this and when you are out of this immediate pain and suffering, you might even be thankful that this happened this way" or some such lame platitude. You know that the other person looks up to you for a solution which you don't have nor are capable of thinking up one. You do want to help but feel powerless as there is no single formula for successful relationships. I found myself in this unfortunate situation recently and was quite happy to serendipitiously find some sound advice on the issue of "Letting go of Love" in this article. Ironically, the author is someone I had seen on the Oprah Winfrey show while surfing channels.I had always found it disconcerting that couples would choose to go and discuss their marital conflicts publicly with strangers aware of being watched by millions across the world. But I did find his advice on this issue quite sensible and useful. It helped me help my young friend see exactly what she needed to see. There is usually a tendency to excessiviely romanticise break-ups (influence of films? Devdas syndrome?)in such situations but this article takes the romance out and knocks some sense which is the best way to handle such situations. You can read the full article here.

Here are some excerpts:
"Are your standards too low? .."What is it about you that causes you to settle for somebody that you know will cheat on you, know will lie to you, know will make a commitment and then break it? What is it about you that you believe about yourself that you're willing to settle for that?" Recognize that you're settling and that you deserve more. Set a higher standard for yourself."

"Does he really even make you happy? (...) "There are times when you break up with somebody and you start missing them and you start thinking about all the good things. And then you're back with them for about 10 minutes and you go 'Oh yeah! Now I remember why I hate you!'" Don't kid yourself about what it was really like or glorify the past."

"Don't wait around because you think he's going to change. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so the chance that he's going to ride in on his white horse and do the right thing is pretty slim. (...) "To the extent that there's some history, you don't have to speculate, you just have to measure."

"Ask yourself: Are you hiding in the relationship so you don't have to face the reality of being on your own? Don't stay with someone because it's comfortable and safe. It may seem more secure, but it's not healthy for you and it certainly won't help you get to a better place."

"If you want to be in a relationship, know that getting hurt comes with the territory. You just have to decide that you are durable enough, that you have enough confidence in yourself that you can handle it."

"Don't invest more than you can afford to lose. While it's important to move forward, you need to take things one step at a time. Don't put so much out there that you'll be emotionally bankrupt if things go south."

"Listen to what he's saying. If he's telling you that you want different things out of life and there's no way you can work as a couple, don't turn his words around into what you want to hear."

"There's a 50/50 chance a marriage is going to work if both people are head over heels in love, passionate and willing to climb the mountain, swim the river and slay the dragon to get to each other. That's with everybody crazy in love and running toward each other in that field that we see in the commercials. The problem you've got here is he's running the other way in the field! So if it's 50/50 when you're running toward each other, what do you think it is when the other person is running out of the field and hiding in the woods?"

After reading the Statistic above, whenever I look around and see people in successful relationships for long periods I begin to wonder if successful marriages are really "made in heaven"!
Usha
Artnavy wrote a nice post of her younger self interviewing the present person she is and suggested that I do a similar one with my 25 year old self. I loved the suggestion and thought about my aspirations and dreams as a 25 year old (U25) and how far I (me) had come by way of realising them. Reproducing our bizarre (has to be where it concerns me and there is not just one but two of me here) conversation below:

U25:(giggling away...)Hi, how goes?

Me: Excuse me! Could you stop giggling and exactly what is it that you want to know?

U25: My! My! We do have a short fuse dont we?

Me: I'd assume that at 25 you would have stopped giggling. Remember you are the mother of a 3 year old now and wife of a professor?

U25:You really thought all this would make a difference to me? I guess I will be just like this even when I am 40, even when I am 80 ( not that I want to live so long!)

Me: (Buries face in hand in total despair!)You do talk 19 to the dozen, dont you? cant you respond to a simple question with a simple answer? What kind of a role model are you going to be to that sweet little boy of yours?

U25:I hope I will be a good friend to him and let him live his life according to his choice. Of course I will try to give him the right set of values but not make his decisions for him. And if he ever makes a wrong choice and is in trouble, would be able to support him without being judgemental.You know as Gibran says, "Give them your love but not your thoughts."

Me:That is the first time you said something sensible. great, and I see that little boy has grown up to be just fine (may be in spite of you). As for that quote when will you stop being such an insufferable showoff, quoting all the time. I thought you were done with that when you completed your degree in Literature and moved on to Public administration.

U25:(giggles uncontrollably)I hope I will remember all this and go to my grave quoting Shakespeare:
"And, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of Heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun."

Me:(in total despair)God forbid! And may be it is just as well that I suffer from such a loss of memory that I can hardly quote now without googling. (You can't do anything without giggling and I cant do anything without googling.) It is as well or else,I might not have had even this many friends left!! So other than being a general nuisance do you have any career ambitions? I see you are working for a bank now.

U25:Well, I once wanted to join the IAS. Early marriage and the attendant responsibilities have made it an unreal ambition. My choice of subjects has made it impossible for me to become a teacher. As my time is running out I have taken up the job as a bank officer but this is definitely short term. At 40, I hope to be teaching small children in some school.

Me:You succeeded in accomplishing half of it by quitting the bank but never actually qualified yourself in montessori skills or anything to help you get a job in a school for tiny tots. But of course your other jobs in banking software companies gave you the opportunity to travel and also teach, only you were teaching adults. But you did a fine job of it - people actually asked for you by name for specific assignments!

U25: (blushing) Ah, really? I would not have thought I was capable of that!!And travel, yes I always wanted to travel to distant lands.I also wanted to write something and learn French and sanskrit when i stop working? what happened to all that?

Me: Write,No. You never followed it up perhaps because of the demands at home and job. You even went through a period when you did not have the time to read anything worthy of being called good writing. But you do write blogs and there are kind hearted souls who read them and you even get praised once in a way. Sanskrit, you started but did not continue because you wanted interactive courses. French, yes. your 48 year self is doing diplome now.

U25:I always wanted to adopt a child, a girl child. Did it happen?

Me:No,it had to be shelved as husband and father-in-law were against itAnd you could not have another child yourself. So Siddhu is your only child.
Well young lady, meeting me after 23 years are you disappointed? Would you have liked me to turn out differently?Any regrets?

U25:Disappointed? well no. You know that early in life i trained not to expect too much in order to avoid disappointments.It seems like life has been more than kind to me with opportunities, comforts and the people in my life.I am happy for you but you tell me, are you ashamed of me - my lack of poise unmindful of public opinion, my over-simplification of life with home spun logic, my optimism bordering on naivete, my faith in the goodness of people.

Me: No, I think you are alright. in fact those very things are the solid base for the path of my life and all the good things that have happened to me. To tell you the truth, behind all this grey on a receding temple claiming wisdom there is still you, the enthusiastic 25 year old who wakes up every morning and waits for a miracle to happen. Only I speak much less, I show off less and am calmer and slower. I dont meet and interact with so many people like you did. Otherwise we are the same. I am glad we met and had this conversation. May be I will try to revive some of your personality lying dormant within me. Stay with me for the rest of my life and may be we will go to our grave quoting Shakespeare:
"Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
Usha
Tagging actually makes the major part of one's job easier by giving you the subject to write about but the challenge is to take it and make it interesting to the readers. I have been fascinated by the way each blogger brings their own distinct style and stamp to the same questions in a tag. So you go around and read the weird things about themselves that people have written - in fact some of them are not weird at all, they are amazing. Ranging from attention to minute detail to complete recklessness which could even be shocking!
But my job today is simple.Itchingtowrite wants me to talk about my 3 preferences under various categories. Talking about myself, since that is my specialty, here I go:

Three smells I love:
1. Babies ( especially after a bath and with all that powder and whatever they have been fed combined with the smell of oil and their natural smell...heavenly)
2.Sun-dried clothes.
3.first drops of rain (specially after a hot day.)

Three smells I hate:
1. Open drains
2. Smells from the sugar factory when the train crosses Nellikuppam ( mollasses?)
3. Baked stuff still smelling of eggs.

Note:Prolonged sinustis has reduced my level of sensitivity to smell. So I only react to strong odours.(may be a blessing?)

Three jobs that I have had in my life:
1.Bank officer /manager
2.Client services manager
3.Senior Consultant – training
But the ones I am actually proud of are
1.Scribe and reader for blind students in my college days.
2.Part-time teacher in a school
3.Mom of Siddhartha


Three movies that I could watch over and over:
1.Sound of Music
2.Any of Kamalhaasan’s Tamil films
3.It is a beautiful life (oops it is actually "life is beautiful" Thanks Kishore!)


Three fond memories:
1.Being moved to tears when thanked by the parents of a child for whose heart surgery I was one of the three students from our college who could donate blood when the operation was being done. The father said “God gave him life the first time and you are his little angels doing it again a second time.”

2.Being of the two in all of the the University of Madras to obtain a first class in B.A. English ( the department had not had a first class in the 12 preceding years) and also being awarded the best outgoing student prize.

3.All memories of my son growing up


Three jobs I would love to have:
1. Teaching very young kids
2. Painter ( yes anything which involves splashing colours)
3. Anything involving being with animals

Three things I like to do:
1.Listen to music
2.Write
3.Play with or talk to kids.

Three of my favorite foods:
1. Pasta with plenty of cheese
2. Bisibelebath with chips
3. Rice and rajma.
(only three? there is so much more...)

Three places I would like to be right now:
1.Jaipur
2.Karwar
3.Manasarovar

Three things that make me cry:
1. Seeing small children suffer
2. Unfair accusations.
3. My own helplessness


Now I want all who come and read this to say any 3 things about themselves in the comments. Or please take up the tag and do it in their blogspots.

Note to Artnavy: I am working on your suggestion. May be the next post!
Usha
Words painted on the inner side of the toilet doors in the Alliance francaise, Bangalore:


The English translation ( not very clear in the picture) says:

Thou, in here
take on a humble posture
to relieve yourself of your burden
After answering nature's call
After placing in the urn, nature's little gift
Please let flow clear ripples of sheer water
And bring down on this glorious recipient
As`decoration this rounded lid
whose spartan structure like a tomb
Will bury all traces of unpleasant odour
- Alfred de Musset

What a brilliant way to make a boring job sound like a major ritual!

Reminds me of something I heard from my mother's uncle.Apparently When Samuel Johnson met an old lady with a snuff box he asked for a pinch of the stuff in the following words:
"Madam, will you please allow me to dip my digital extremeties into that odoriferous concavity and extract therefrom some pulverised atoms which when blown through my nasal cavities would cause grateful titillation to my olfactoroy nerves?"
Usha
The festival season and particularly Navratri is a time when I get to meet some of my friends who are usually busy with their jobs or families. These invitations for "haldi kumkum" during Navratri help women give their busy schedule a break and catch up with friends and other relatives. Even a self imposed recluse like me decides to dust off the cobwebs and honour these invitations.

During one of these visits, I met two of my old friends. One has a globe trotting, highly paying job in a big multinational but when she spoke about her job, she sounded very disillusioned and unhappy. She was complaining about the kind of power politics she had to endure day in and day out, the games people were playing and how finally none of it made any sense to her.Her words were "I am working my a&* off here, all to no avail."It seemed like she was staying in the job because that was the best job that her CV could fetch her in today's time and the company is a heavyweight name in the industry and since she was career minded, she had no option but to put up with the stress and carry on. The other lady was bubbly and happy with contentment emanating from every pore.She accepts assignments to teach English to corporates and those aspiring to take exams for admissions to foreign universities. She was telling us about the great feedback her sessions were receiving, how she was getting repeat assignments and how good she felt doing what she was doing. To hear her talk about her job and herelf, one might think that she held a very important position and had a great career. Moneywise too her earnings are nothing great by today's standards. She felt she was doing something important and useful and she was doing her job very well. If for any reason she stopped doing this she would find something else to do and do it with as much involvement and happiness.And as I said,that contentment and happiness were almost infectious. I kept wondering why my other friend could not see all the advantages of her job that were quite obvious but chose to feel wasted and discontented.

Perhaps it is because finally satisfaction has to come from within and nothing external can give it to you. Friend no.1 was constantly comparing her self with the other colleagues at work and how someone who was not as good as her was treated as her equal and worse how her boss was an idiot but was where he was because he had better PR skills (to use her words, her boss was there "by sucking up to the bosses and by taking credit for all that others do.") She could not be happy about the compensations she was receiving but was unhappy about what others were getting. I understand her completely as I have been in a similar plight and suffered similar stresses. Friend No.2 was clear about what she wanted from her job and life was happy getting it. As for feeling productive and useful this is again a matter of perspective and seeing the larger picture.

I was reminded of this story:
"One day, a gentleman on a walk passed a construction site and inquired of the workers, 'What are you doing?' 'I'm breaking rock out of the quarry,' said one. Another replied, 'I'm in charge of making the mortar that will cement the stones.' A third man, caked in mud, was pushing a wheelbarrow, and he stopped just long enough to say, with a sense of proud delight, 'I'm building a cathedral."

I guess the second friend thinks of any job she does as "building a cathedral." Great recipe for contentment, isn't it?
Usha
Just received a call from a friend who went to Ajmer to pray at the dargah Shariff of Hazrat Khwajah Moinuddun Chishti. When she tried to check into a hotel, she was asked for her passport by the hotel staff who probably thought she was a foreigner. Ok I forgot to mention she is from Assam and has north eastern features and complexion. So the people at the hotel decided to make sure of her passport details never mind the fact she spoke fluent Hindi.

Then I go to read the posts at Itchingtowrite's blog and see this post on preconceptions and stereotyping of people from specific regions. Some of the statements of her ill-informed relative made me want to laugh. But then I stopped myself and thought ;"How many times have I not heard people in my circle say things about someone being a typical Bihari Thug?" Don't we imagine people in Bihar to be at the throat of anyone from another caste, or blinding scheduled castes or kidnapping every child on the road? And that every bihari male kneads tobacco in their palm and keeps it under their tongue?

While most of the English- medium educated city-bred youth may deny the existence of such prejudices in their interactions, they exist across the country at all levels. One doctor from AFMC told me that they referred to all tamilians as "illad" ( as tamilian boys use this word meaning "No Da"). People who speak telugu are called Gults and North Indians are called CHOMS-chapathi oriented men.I am sure there are many more.

The trouble is that inspite of all the opportunities and information available to us, we do not really make an effort to understand the sub cultures within the country. What we know is mostly from stereotypes shown in films which are mostly caricatures and do not represent the ordinary man from the region. Tamilians do not eat idly/sambar for lunch, punjabis do not go about their day dancing Bhangra and UPites and Biharis do not have a yellow sticker with the list of kidnappings and rape for the day.They all lead ordinary boring lives like us, have the same kind of problems , desires and disappointments - only they speak a different language and eat differnt type of food. Beyond that we are all the same.

How do you explain that to this Tam Brahm mother-in-law of an Assamese friend who will not eat food cooked by her daughter-in-law ( because she is a non vegetarian?). And her disappointment and rejection of her grand daughter who looks assamese and nothing tamilian? How is it ok for her to accept her son who eats non vegetarian and reject her daughter-in-law? And the poor girl is barred from her own kitchen while the mom-in-law comes to her "son's house".And what did she expect the grandchild to look like - in a mixed marriage like this?

The other day our French professor asked us to suggest a topic on Indian Culture to discuss with a French Visitor to our class . One of my classmates immediately said "Unity in diversity"! We have been so indoctarinated about these concepts and accepted these cliches that we don't even bother to question if these exist in reality. Ok, by unity if we mean that we are not killing each other every day because of these differences, yes it is there. Is that the best that we can hope to have?
Usha
Why is it becoming so difficult to ask simple questions and get straightforward answers? Why do people have to think deeply before answering any questions and give a safe reply or a "correct" reply?
A friend once said that she attended a meeting of japanese and she found that after each person spoke, they were all silent for a few minutes and then started responding one after another. The period of silence is intended to ensure that they take in what has been said, process it and then respond rather than say something quickly and impulsively.
Makes sense in a serious business setting but imagine bringing the same attitude to polite personal conversations!

Let me give you an example. I met a friend after a long time on my walk and asked: "all ok?' and the reply was :"Why, do I look different?"
I guess the fault was mine.I should have stuck to the good old "how are you?"

This is even better.
I asked a friend who has gone to a US university recently if he had many friends in the US. The reply was: "I have sent a mail to a batchmate from college and if he replies quickly, I'll be able to tell you in a day or two."
Whaaaaaaaat?
Apparently this friend was supposed to send him the contact addresses of all their common acquaintances living in the US. Now you see the connection?
He thought he could give me the exact number of his friends in the US once he gets the list I think!

In future whenever I frame a question I will make it multiple choice and tell them "answer yes /no or don't know". Or perhaps I will tell them "the information you give WILL NOT be used against you and I could not care less if it wasn't 100% accurate."

Are our interactions becoming more serious that every question is taken seriously and answered as accurately as possible?
Or it is just that I am stuck with weird friends?
Or is there something seriously wrong with my questions?

( was feeling particularly bored this evening and thought this might provoke some of you to share similar experiences. Otherwise my friends are not all that weird.Their only weirdness is that they continue to be my friends!)
Usha
Ever so often we have all been faced with a situation of having to run in order to stay in the same place. This delightful phrase has its origins in that deep and deceptively bizarre work "Alice through the looking glass".

"Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'

'Of course it is,' said the Queen. 'What would you have it?'

'Well, in our country, said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else - if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing.' 'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, 1 see. it takes all the running you can do, to keep in ;he same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'
"

I have used this phrase so often and felt stupid when I learnt about a fundamental evolutionary principle assocaited with this idea.It is called the Red Queen Principle and it was proposed by the evolutionary biologist L.Van Valen. He argues that since all the species are coevolving, improvement in one species would result in a competitive advantage over the other species. In order to catch up with that and maintain the equilibrium, the other species have to adapt and improve too. Since this would effectively result in all them working harder in order to maintain the same balance among them, he named it the Red queen principle, of course referring to the above character.

One finds the same kind of race between the human body and viruses which is referred to as the "genetic arms race" where as the human body develops resistance for certain types of diseases, the viruses causing the diseases mutate and try to counter the resistance and the race goes on.You can read more here and here and I hope you will find it fascinating.

Perhaps all that we claim as human progress is also finally just a matter of necessity for staying in the race. There was no choice but to run and get better or we might have just perished. Definitely true of organisations and systems that if they do not respond to their external environment they perish. Survival of species is a definitely more competitive game than that.

So it seems that the final answer to Life, Universe and Everything may not be 42 but the Red Queen Principle!
Usha
A stray incident, a facial expression, the note of a song - sometimes they creep into your mind and keep coming back to you as recurring images long after the moment is over. Sometimes they are troubling; sometimes they make you feel nice; mostly they just stand there demanding your attention like my dog who cannot express what he wants but will keep coming back to me until I have guessed his need and attended to it. Well, there is this short story by a Lebanese author which I read about a month ago which has been doing this to me. I have not been able to put my finger on what it is that the story wants me to do with it so I thought if I wrote about it and shared it with you, it may get resolved.

The story is titled "La Chevre Du Liban" (the goat of Lebanon) by a Lebanese writer called Andree Chedid.
Autoun, a Lebanese Shepherd is about to return home with his sheep when he hears a voice in the distance calling out for a lost sheep.The anguish in the voice disturbs him as he can understand what a lost sheep can mean to a shepherd. He looks for it as far a his eyes can see but finds nothing. When he returns home he talks about it to his wife but she is unconcerned and is busy with getting the supper ready. Autoun is irritated about the nonchalance of the woman to another shepherd's distress. He worries about the shepherd who might not be able to eat or sleep that night until he finds the sheep. He cannot bring himself to eat so he decides to go and look for it himself. His wife is worried about the cold and his health. Unmindful, he takes the lantern and searches all night in the hard and hilly terrain until morning when he finally reaches the neighbouring village where a couple see him tired and worn out. They invite him into the house so he can rest. Autoun asks them if they know about a man who lost his sheep and has been looking for them .
The lady laughs and says "He is the biggest shepherd of the village. He sold the sheep in the morning and forgot about it in the evening and was looking for it."
Autoun asks her if she is sure and she confirms it and also tells him that the man would be passing by on his caravan shortly and he could have a look himself.
In a few minutes, the caravan passes by with a well dressed man on his camel who tips his head as a mark of respect to the woman.
In passing he shoots a casual glance at the tired old man in dusty clothes who was seated outside the house as one might look upon haggard Vagabonds.
And that is where the story ends.

I wonder what thoughts and feelings went through Autoun's head.
I remember being left with a similar feeling after watchinga tamil film called "moonram Pirai" (Sadma in Hindi)

You care too much for someone and give all of yourself to help them out because you think they need you but then, the other person has no such need and does not even know you exist much less know and appreciate your efforts for them.
What does that make you? a fool, a busybody, naive or just plain human?




*****************************************************************************

Here is an extract from the text:

Autoun, a Lebanese shepherd, heard the remote call of a neighbor who lost his goat. This voice torments it all the day. The evening, it returns at his place.

As soon as that it opened the door of its house, Autoun called to its wife:
“Chafika, there is the neighbor of the mountain which lost a goat. You did not see it in trimmings?
- No. But, come, soup awaits you. “
Ah! If only this woman spoke less!
Of the nests of silence, girls of this country. All day long, they plunge their arms in the water of linen and crockery; or, they polish the back of the copper pans and the tiling of the stripped rooms (1).
“He would not be able to eat this evening!
- Who?
The neighbor! He who lost his goat…
- Hurry, your soup will get cold. […]
- I prepared you what you like, of the stuffed vineleaves. They are the first.
- Vineleaves, is that what you can think of?
How could it be question of vineleaves whereas - up there - a man, a neighbor, a brother has corroded the heart? Antoun imagined the voice: it went and came in wood, it beat the thickets, the nervous step, the closed face. It called, it called:
“My goat! Where are you my goat?” It is terrible a man who calls! That does not leave you any more rest.
“He will not sleep this night.
- who? “
The woman returned carrying her pan wrapped in a cloth.
“But the neighbor!
- The neighbor! The neighbor! (Chafika raised the tone). It is ridiculous, you never saw him! You do not even know his face.
- I heard his voice… “, said Antoun.
Chafika sighed. It was useless to answer. When men harness themselves with an idea, they are so involved, all stupidly, like carrioles.
“But at least finish your soup.” […]
Antoun pushed back the table, rose:
“Listen!” The plate full of soup flowed on the tablecloth:
“I cannot stand it any more… Give me the lantern, I am going to seek the goat!
- You are insane! With your age and in this cold, you will catch death.
- It is perhaps somehwere in the neighbourhood. I know the way well.I also know the path of the goats. “
She knew she could not stop him. It was like that, he was obsessed with the idea and no one could do anything to dislodge it."
“I will find his goat, I will find it.”
Chafika gave him its lantern and he left.
Usha
Hiphopgmom tagged me with the following
questionnaire:

1.Are you happy/satisfied with your blog with its content and look?Does your family know about your blog?

I do not have the technical expertise to change the look of my blog as much as I would like to. So I do not have much choice except be happy that it allows me to do this much.
As for content, I would certainly like to do better.
Some of my family know about it – others don’t because they are not interested.


2.Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing?

No I do not feel embarrassed to let people know about my blog. In fact, although I have given the link to many, I do not think most of them read it.

3.Did blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts?

Yes. I realised that organising stray thoughts and writing them down imparts clarity. And the comments are a great tool to share others’ perspective on one’s thoughts and many times they open up new lines of thinking.

4.Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself?
I make it a point to visit those who visit my blog and comment. I would love to go to other blogs if time permits.I enjoy reading blogs.

5.What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog?

Yes. I like it. It lets me know who is visiting me and why.

6.Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures?

Yes, but not a face but a personality.


7.Admit. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging?

Yes. It fills a need for communication and companionship.


8.Do you think that bloggers society is isolated from real world or interacts with events?
Being isolated from the real world could actually be one of its strong points. In any case it is changing with bloggers meets etc.

9.Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it's a normal thing?
When one is airing ones thoughts in a public domain, one should be prepared to face criticism. But if the criticism becomes a personal attack and not restricted to the writing, then I get annoyed.


10.Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them?

Have never been to one but I am very likely to avoid them.


11.Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers?

Yes. That some people find a way to misuse every new invention.


12.Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die?

Yes, I hope somebody will read it and remember me.


13.What do you like to hear? What's the song you might like to put a link to in your blog?

I would like to hear something inspirational and something that we need to remember at all times:
For starters, I would like this song by Bob Dylan:

What good am I if I'm like all the rest,
If I just turned away, when I see how you're dressed,
If I shut myself off so I can't hear you cry,
What good am I?

What good am I if I know and don't do,
If I see and don't say, if I look right through you,
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin' sky,
What good am I?

What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep,
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don't try,
What good am I?

What good am I then to others and me
If I've had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been

What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die,
What good am I?


Now it is time for me to tag others and this time I am going to name a few as I would definitely like to hear their story

Mahadevan, my Captain Souvik, Pradeep, Ravi

Would you people mind doing it please?