There is a new TV serial of the Ramayan. While channel surfing I arrived to watch it during a moment of intense drama and stopped. It was the moment when Bharath had come with about half the population of Ayodhya to request Ram to return and take charge of the kingdom. Ram looked extremely intrigued and fascinated by everything - you know the kind of expression that firangs have when you bring them to an Indian wedding? Somewhat lost but aware that the proceedings have enormous significance to others and not knowing how to react? I seriously think he is hearing the story of the Ramayan for the first time or he still cannot believe that he got the hero's role. Lakshman - now this guy reminded me of this cricketer, the brat Sreesanth, alternating between anger and tears! Bharath has a great hairstyle and Shatrugan is really good looking.

At this point, my son walked in and said "As if Ram looks like that!"
I turned to him and asked if he had seen Ram and he replied "No, I grew up watching Arun Govil as Rama. And this actor is so different."
I remembered then that I grew up thinking that Krishna looked like N.T.Rama Rao. This actor (who later became the CM of Andhra Pradesh), played the role of Krishna in every mythological film in Tamil. Apparently he played various other Gods too in Telugu films with the result that everyone began to think of him as a living God. In the mornings, we used to find a lot of buses full of shaved heads around T.Nagar club - people who came for a Darshan of NTR garu immediately after visiting Tirupathi. Such was their belief.

So it required a major adjustment for me when handsome and young Nitish Bharadwaj played Krishna in BR Chopra's TV Serial of the Mahabharatha. Initially it seemed like blasphemy and imposture but he looked so much better that I decided that Krishna, my favorite mythological character, is more likely to have looked like him than NTR.

We are so used to imagining our Hindu Gods in ways that artists envisioned them and gave life to them in their art that if Ganesha were to come down with a normal face, we might ask for an identity - preferably a ration card. It might be rather disappointing if any of the Goddesses looked less beautiful than Aishwarya Rai right? And the bluish black Krishna and Greenish blue Ram might get eliminated in the first round of audition for their roles and might lose out to someone who looks like N.T.Rama Rao.

Isn't this in a strange way a reflection of the nature of Faith itself? We make up our own mental version of a God and we begin to believe in it and depend on it so much that we are unwilling to let anyone give a different version, even if it is better and more true and hence more beautiful. At some point our belief becomes more important than Truth itself. I guess that is when it stops being Faith and becomes Fanaticism.

Meantime on the screen Bharath is walking away with Rama's sandals on his head and Rama has the same bewildered expression - It appears as though he is wondering where he is going to get another pair of sandals in the forest and whether he can manage barefoot for 14 years.
Rendezvous 11 a.m at the bookshop. Then off to the meeting followed by lunch and finish off at 3.
This was the arrangement with the friend and I had planned for the day in careful detail working backward. I had cancelled all other activities normally scheduled between 10 and 4 and left home at 10 so as to be at the bookshop by 10:45. At 11:10 I get a message from the friend: "on my way. Should be there in 15 minutes." And then she arrives at 11:45 telling me that she thought she'd have a haircut before coming and got delayed at the parlour. We are already 15 minutes late for the meeting and we still had a 30 minute drive to the venue of the meeting. So more sms es and I am upset because I don't like to be late anywhere but friend assures me "relax, it is just 30 mins delay ya, nobody minds it. Happens all the time." And by the time we arrive for lunch after the meeting it is already 2:30 and at 3:30 we are still talking about ordering dessert. Meantime I find friend sms ing and ask her if she has other programs for the day. "yes" she smiles. She is attending an exhibition at 4 and catching a movie in the evening. I tell her "we might still be here at 4." She says, "yeah, that is why I am messaging the guy to say I will be there a bit late!"

Here I am cancelling everything for the day for making it on time for one meeting and lunch. I hurry through my morning, avoiding everything that could possibly delay me (including washing my hair or applying eyeliner or checking my emails) and arrive 15 minutes early for the appointment only to be sms ed and made to wait an hour. The friend is actually getting more out of the day by packing in an unscheduled haircut in the extra 45 minutes she gained by delaying the appointment. On an average day, I find that she manages to get a lot more done than I do. Where I schedule 4 things for a day allowing enough time between the activities so as to make sure I make it on time, she schedules 6 or 7 things so closely and still manages most of it with delays everywhere. But isn't she gaining this extra time by taking away from others' time? For example, Why did I have to waste 1 hour of my day because she was having a haircut?

I can see that she gets more out of the day with this overscheduling of hers- somehow juggling everything with a few minutes' delay everywhere. But I wonder why it is necessary? Isn't rest an integral part of the day's schedule too if you are to enjoy all the activities? I think this desire to want to do all of them is also the result of the inability or unwillingness to prioritise and decide what is essential and what is not. Why not have it all rather than having to give up something?
I know someone who starts her day at 5 a.m on weekends and hops from one activity to another all through her weekend and then goes every few months to a meditation camp in order to de-stress. I asked her why she could not use one day of the weekend to rest and sort herself out in order to meet the stress of the week ahead. She looked at me like it is an alien concept in an unbelieving way: "you are asking me to stay at home and do nothing and mope around? It is so pathetic ya."
I don't know. What seems pathetic to me is this need to constantly run from one thing to another in order to escape being alone with oneself. Or may be I am just too contented with my quiet life to see what I am missing out on. Or may be I AM pathetic!

All I know is that my time is as important to me as yours is to you, even if I may do nothing with it. Overschedule yourself by all means but if your 24 hours isn't enough for you don't borrow mine - my time is too precious to be spent dealing with your delays. I can think of other important things to do in that one hour - a nap for example!

Ok rant over . Now are you wondering about the title of this post? Well,it makes me feel so much better to know that I may not be a freak but a monochron. Hey I said Mono chron NOT a moron, ok?! Now who is a monochron?
" Monochrons prefer to do one thing at a time, working on a task until it is finished, then, and only then, moving on to the next task. To a monochron, switching back and forth from one activity to another is not only wasteful and distracting, it is uncomfortable.
Polychrons are different. They love to work on more than one thing at a time. To a polychron, switching from one activity to another is both stimulating and productive and, hence, the most desirable way to work."

read more here.
My mom's uncle was a Village school headmaster and in his retirement he was a great hit with pre-adolescents. The very same kids who sought him as children suddenly began to avoid him once they reached adolescence. Reason? He would be seated with his entourage of adoring kids showing them card tricks and magic. Suddenly he would catch an older boy passing by and ask him "which standard are you in? eighth? Ok,now translate this sentence into English: "vandikaran Mattai trit trit trit enru oatinaan*"
The poor village boy would not know how to translate the act of goading the bull dragging the cart, nor would he know how to translate the trit trit noise into English! And he would go red/ purple in the face about the humiliation in front of his younger cousins and siblings squealing with laughter at thatha's imitation of the Bullock cart driver. Trit trit trit, they'd go.
But Sami thatha would hold him close and tell him "see, you should not get discouraged by such questions. If someone asks you what is the English word for kathirikai** you should say "constantinople" without hesitation. - 'kathrikaiku Englishle ennanu keta constantinople nu sollidanum. bayapada koodadu'
And he would further add, 'presence of mind, confidence and alertness are important. If you go for Indian Civil Service interview they will suddenly ask about the number of steps in the staircase you climbed to get to the interview hall...'
I have no idea if they really asked these kind of questions in an IAS interview those days but that is what Sami Thatha said and I would believe anything he said.
His repertoire of tricks, trivia and jokes was awesome. And he used to know and sing so many songs, such as those sung during marriage, the bangle ceremony for a first time mother-to-be called valaikapu and death. These songs were not written down but usually passed down the generations orally. I used to adore him but his own children and other grown ups in the house did not care much for him with the result he took all that he knew to the grave without anybody caring to inherit that knowledge he possessed.

As a child it was a mystery to me that adults did not think Thatha was a super hero and they treated him as a joke. Once I became an adult I became like them too finding these old people's sense of humour rather clichéd and tiresome. Have you noticed that old people across households crack the same kind of jokes:

Family discussing wording of their son's wedding invitation card. Boy's sister says 'Let us make it clear that they should avoid presents'
Boy's grandfather: Make sure that the printer doesn't print it as "avoid presence" Then there will be no one at the wedding.
Brother and sister exchange glances grinding their teeth in exasperation.

Boy preparing for their exams. Retired neighbour enquires: "studying hard? or hardly studying?" with a wicked smile.
Although your instantaneous response is to wring his neck, the appropriate response is to grin and bear the torture and remember that you will hear it again before the next exam.

Sometimes people who seem rather stiff in their 30s and 40s suddenly acquire this kind of sense of humour when they reach their sixties. Looking around and seeing this kind of transformation in some acquaintances, I imagine if I might be in their shoes ten years from now although I see this happening more among men than women. I wonder if it is a sign of male menopause. So I listen patiently when a retired uncle tells me in the middle of a match telecast about Rangachari's career best of 5 for 107 against West Indies at Delhi.

It is tough trying to keep pace with the changes in a fast paced world and feeling comfortable in it. It is tougher if you have lived in small towns all your life and suddenly thrust into a big city and its ways in retirement. Sometimes I see these old couples floundering among the aisles in supermarkets trying to figure out their way. The other day I was at MORE super market (which used to be Fabmall before the management/ ownership changed.
Uncle about 65 walks in, attired in khadi dhoti , short khadi kuta and a cloth bag and asks the girl at the cash register where Fabmall is.
The girl replies "no Fabmall, it is More now.
Uncle: Yes, I know this shop is called MORE but where is the Fabmall that used to be here.
Girl:It is closed.
Uncle: But it must have gone someplace. Where is it?
Girl: Fabmall closed.
Uncle: But,...(mutters to himself in Tamil: I don't understand what you are saying and I don't know Kannada 'Neenga solradu enaku puriyalai enakku kannadamum teriyadu'
So I step in to explain in Tamil that Aditya Birla group has bought over Fabmalls and changed the name to More. Uncle's face brightens with a smile of understanding as he wonders: "oho, these guys are so rich that they bought over the shop and the name too!"
And he goes on to wonder more:
"And your Tamil, you speak it so fluently and with the right pronounciation!!"
I take leave of him with a smile. he stands there wondering that a huge chain of shops was swallowed ovenight by another chain and that he would find someone speaking Tamil in a Tanjore accent in this big city.
Wonder what other fascinating discoveries he made standing there after I left.

I see me there, in his shoes, a decade from now - all you nice young people, be kind to me and my queries and my jokes. It doesn't take too much to be kind to an old person.

* - Vandikaran - the guy to drives a bullock cart; mAdu - bullock; to oatify - is to drive/ to goad something to move forward; trit trit trit - beyond translation.

**- Kathrikai - Brinjal

***- Thatha - grandfather