Sweetness and Light

Just want to bring a smile to the reader's lips - and an occasional thought. Will try to stay away from controversial topics - rather create my own! And would definitely welcome comments. :-)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Life's Lessons - Part 1

I have always, at every stage of my life, known people more intelligent than me. It has brought me the obvious advantage of learning from them, sometimes directly, but often just by observing. But it has also had another, not so obvious advantage - it has kept me grounded. Let me explain. I was always a good student, and we all know how much adulation a "good boy" gets in the typical Indian setting. I was the darling of my teachers throughout my academic life, a role model for my assorted cousins, etc. But all this while, I had friends who I knew were more intelligent than me, even if it was not reflected in their academic achievements, and that kept my ego in check. 

Which brings me to a related point.. I have also always known people who were more intelligent than me, but achieved less "success" as defined conventionally.   I was not the most brilliant guy in my class ever, but I topped my class in school,   and secured admission to prestigious colleges. Reflecting on this apparent anomaly taught me two things. One, brilliance needs to be complemented with hard work. Good work ethics will always trump lazy brilliance in the long run. Two, we owe our success to more than just our personal attributes. A whole lot of factors make us what we are, which we loosely club together under "luck". Whether we can influence our luck or not, we should at least be aware of the role it plays, and be grateful for whatever it bestows on us. And then, work on changing our luck for better.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's a dog's life

The inspiration behind this post has been in the running for more than 9 years now - so I guess that creates some sort of record in procrastination. Of course, when the idea first occurred to me, there was no blogosphere, but even taking that into account, it's almost 2 years since I have started blogging, and that also is a long time. Anyway, the most recent inspiration for this post is a recent news item that I came across - about some rich American(the way US economy is going, it will stop being a tautology soon) leaving about $300,000 to his three dogs. Yes, Dogs. And they say it is a dog's life!

I have always liked dogs, except a pom belonging to a close friend of mine, who never ceased barking. But the notion that a dog's life need not be a bad deal first impressed upon me around 1998 winters, when I was in Mumbai for 3 months on a training. I was staying at a dear friend's place at Khar, and my office was at Belapur. Those familiar with Mumbai geography - stop and empathize right now. Those who aren't, open up a map, and then empathize. For empathize you must. My day went like this - leave home at 7:30 after being fed nicely by auntie, take a rick or a bus to Bandra station depending on whether I was poorer in time or in money (in practical sense, time ain't money - I never had them together then, and certainly not now), take a BEST 505 to Mankhurd station on Harbour line, then take a train to Belapur, and then walk about a km to get to office. Now there might be simpler routes - like going to Santacruz station and then to Kurla, and then to Belapur...but I was never much for Bombay trains - they serve a lot of humanity, but I am not human (or may be man) enough for them in peak hours.

But wait, I am digressing. What has all this got to do with dogs, and their lives? This. What was the sight that greeted me when I reached the office complex? A couple of dogs soaking in the sun. Eyes blissfully closed, body gracefully stretched, sleeping on content stomachs. If you think this was bad, there were other ways in which they spent their morning hours. Like "making love" to a female dog (why can't I use the b word?) And mind you, not the same one every day (the female dog, I mean). Day after day, for three months, when I was slogging my a%^ off commuting, working and then commuting again, I never saw a variation in these dogs' routine. Eat, sleep, make love, once in a while enjoy a good fight (all bark and no bite) - and this was supposed to be a dog's life.

I am currently trying to figure out what karma results in a canine birth in next life. Any clue, anyone?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Calvin, Hobbes and Me!

I was first exposed to Messrs Calvin and Hobbes in late 80s, when they appeared every sunday in The Telegraph Magazine. I couldn't make any sense of their antics then - all I saw were ugly dinosaurs (now that's redundant - when did I ever find a dino handsome / beautiful?), or spaceships (I am not a sci-fi fan, except for comic sci-fi like H2G2), or a tiger that was sometimes stuffed, and sometime, well, a tiger. Then there was a long gap before I came across a whole book around 1995, courtesy some dear friends who were running out of ideas to cheer me up during my dialysis days. And I discovered the magic!! It has never failed since to bring a smile to my lips AND make me think, simultaneously. If P.G.Wodehouse is unadulterated beauty and elegance of English language, guaranteed to make you laugh whichever page you open in the book, Bill Watterson is that rarity who looks at everyday life with an uncommon lens, turns conventional wisdom upside down, and in the garb of a six-year old terror kid (and his sympathetic, if sometimes uncomprehending tiger) asks questions and makes observations that we as adults would be glad to shove below the carpet.

In my this leisure week (why am I feeling guilty about it?), I happened to browse through some old C&H collection, and felt inspired to jot some of them down here. Now there are scores of websites dedicated to the duo, and there must be legions of fans who are much more knowledgeable on the subject than me, so obviously the attempt is not to educate. Also, the source of my collection is just one book - "The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes", so it will not be a best of C&H. Finally, there are some strips where it is pointless to reproduce the dialogs, because the true punchline is the drawing itself. How can I (or anyone, for that matter), convey Calvin's satanic glee (with teeth exposed) when some "evil" idea has struck him, or Hobbes' deadpan expression while pulling Calvin's legs in his inimitable, subtle manner?

So here I go:

Calvin asks his dad to pick up his ball from the gutter-
Dad (annoyed): This is the third time this afternoon! I thought I told you to play out back!
Calvin: Relax dad. Its just a ball in the gutter. It is not as if I've been embezzling money or killing people, right? Aren't you glad I am not stealing and murdering?
Calvin (last panel): I always have to help dad establish the proper context.
I am going to try this at office! :)

There are several compilations of exchanges between Calvin and his dad, where the latter routinely gets away with amazing answers to Calvin's incessant queries. But in the rare case where he admits that he doesn't know -
Dad: Heck, beats me. I guess we ought to look this stuff up.
Calvin: I take it there is no qualifying exam to be a dad.
Now, would you still blame dad for inventing all those answers?

So many times Hobbes reminds us human beings of our insensitivity, especially towards animals and nature. Here is one of my favorites, when the duo discover trash dumped out in the open -
Calvin (picking a dumped can): By Golly! If people aren't burning toxic wastes or testing nuclear weapons, they are throwing trash everywhere. You'd think planets like this were a dime a dozen.
Hobbes: You know, there are times when it's a source of personal pride to not be human.

Every Christmas season Calvin gets mighty jittery about his standing with Santa. It usually starts with questioning the notion of good and evil and doubting the existence of Santa himself, but usually as the D-day approaches, cold logic and practicality reign over emotions - after all, if Santa DOESN'T exist and you DON"T believe in him, no loss, but what if he DOES exist? As Calvin himself puts it, it is a matter of "simple risk analysis".
Calvin: I want presents. Lots of presents. Why risk not getting them over a matter of belief? Heck, I will believe anything they want.
Hobbes: How cynically enterprising of you.
I am scared to think about the number of occasions I resort to such "risk analysis". :(

Calvin's new year resolutions are funny only to the extent that the character making them is a kid. I wonder how many of us adults have similar resolutions, consciously or sub-consciously -
Calvin: If the new year requires resolutions, I say it's up to everyone else, not me! I don't need to improve. Every one else does. How about you? Did you make any
Hobbes (eyes rolled up): Well, I had resolved to be less offended by human nature, but I think I blew it already.
I think I need a Hobbes too.

And then there is the episode where Calvin decides to secede from home and move to Yukon. Of course, good sense, or more likely, empty stomach prevails, and Calvin
decides he is better off at home. But...
Calvin: What if mom and dad won't take me back because I seceded? What if they tell me I can't rejoin the family?
They HAVE to take me back! I am their stupid kid. Right?
(Finally, in a rare moment of candid self-appraisal): Right! The operative word being "Stupid".

And, as my vacation draws to an end, can't help but resonate with the following observation from Calvin:

More later.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To Cut A Long Hair Short

Shifting residences has its own hidden costs, beyond the ones incurred on packers and movers (hopefully not shakers) and the increase in rent. One such cost was revealed to me today morning when I went for my first haircut in this locality (the earlier one being a good 10 km off). I spent almost 2 years' worth of haircut on just one haircut today. And am now trying to justify the same to myself. May be my readers can help.

Ambience: I used to go to a place that would justifiably answer to the moniker "barber-shop". For it had barbers who would get you seated and then get down to work. No fuss around it. There would be a small TV perched atop in a corner which no one apart from the standing barbers or people waiting for their turn would be able to watch. Not that it mattered, because all the time it only played some Kannada channel. The waiting "area" was two steps behind the row of seats where people would be getting cut hair, of course) and shaved. The only entertainment available to non-Kannada patrons like me was the Times of India, and that too if there wasn't another of my ilk already waiting. The new place, on the other hand, will not answer to any name apart from a salon, I suspect. It has plush interiors, a separate waiting area packed with magazines (though it did not help that I picked up the latest RD and found the quote "even a bad hair-cut eventually grows up", or something to that effect), and peppy hindi numbers gently wafting in the air. Surely this difference is worth something? Say 50 bucks?

Location: The old place was bang opposite my old residence. Just get out, cross the road, and there you are. Plus there were some good eateries around, which usually
meant I had my leisurely haircut on a stomach filled with hot idlis and vadas, if not dosas. The new place is a good 15 minutes walk, which of course, is good for health. And I also have to climb 2 floors, though the stairs are easy. But no eateries around. :( There is a coffee day outlet just next door, but then in morning hours, at least for me, cappuccino and sandwich do not hold a candle to idli and sambhar. May be minus 20 for this?

Timing: The barbershop would be open at 6 in the morning. Not that I ever went that early. But essentially what it meant was I could have a haircut on a working day like
friday so as to preserve the precious weekend hours better. No such luck here....this salon does not start before 10 (I discovered after landing there at 9:45). So it has to be on a weekend, and the 15 minute walk is suddenly not that alluring once summer sets it. Definitely minus 30 here.

Process: The earlier place was an absolute no-frills place. You arrive, get seated, and your man is behind you, all with scissors and smile. You are suddenly wrapped up in a white cloth carrying with itself hints of a wash in hopefully recent past, and before you know it, you are paying obeisance to the man to the mirror, in response to the hand firmly placed on the back of your head. And then the butchery starts. Once in a while, you will get woken from your stupor by a sprinkle of cold water from a sprinkler used to water day-old flowers, but for the next fifteen minutes, it is just the efficient clipping of the scissors. And viola - you are a new man (at least for the next two weeks). The production system is surely inspired by Japanese management systems, following all the usual principles of Lean. In the salon, on the other hand, you first get your hair washed in hot water (and some nice smelling shampoo). Then you are seated in a chair where your head is actually pulled backwards instead of forward. And then the hairdresser (can't call them barbers) gets to work, slowly, methodically, almost one hair at a time. It seems as if there is an intense debate going on in the mind for each hair - maar diya jaaye, ki chhod diya jaaye, bol tere saath kya salook kiya jaye. And then the scissor descends, slowly, apologetically, and snips one here, cuts one there. At times the pace was so deliberate that I wondered whether instead of me, the hairdresser had fallen asleep. The process lasts some 45 minutes, and it also produces a new you - though I cannot comment right now for how long. So which of these I prefer? Honestly, I don't know yet.

People: I am a normal guy, normal in all senses of the word. Given a choice between an unshaven, probably unbathed man in his 30s who can himself do with a haircut, and
a pretty, nice-smelling young lady with velvety touch, who should I prefer to have the rights on my hair? Now this one is as no-brainer as it gets. :) 100 points for the new place.

Finally, the most important criterion - Communication. For the last 20 years (ever since I started getting haircuts without towing along with my dad), I have been struggling with that one word, one sentence that would adequately convey to my barber / hairdresser exactly how short I wanted my hair to be cut. And I have failed miserably. Initially I used to say "short", and would emerge from the salon in the danger of being court-martialled by the nearest military court for being a deserter. Then I tried my luck with express command "don't make it short", and yet ended up with hair that would barely pass through the teeth of the comb. Then, some time back, the word "medium" flashed across my inward eye and I shined in glee. Surely this would convey what I wanted to be done to my hairs? Alas, one man's medium is another man's crew-cut. Sometimes, while reflecting on my shorn head post such session, I honestly wondered - if this is medium, what would be short? But in this new place, I said medium, and I got medium. Nothing more, nothing less. And that, for me, is worth another 100.

So where does the points tally stand? 50 - 20 - 30 +/- 0 +100 + 100 = 200. That still leaves me with a deficit of 50 (250 - 200). What the hell! I think the lady with the velvety touch is worth 150 points. :))

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Nov 18 is a rather special day in my life. Precisely 24 years ago, we got our first TV set home that day. Now you may think of me as some sort of a weirdo for remembering such a date (especially when I cannot remember the birthdays of close friends, at least on time), but let me explain....there is a good reason not to forget the date. Nov. 19 is when the Asiad started at New Delhi (remember Appu?) We got the TV just a day before - as JIT as it gets. Of course, you may wonder why I remember the date when Asiad started. Its because it was also the then PM, Mrs. Indira Gandhi's birthday. And even at that age, it seemed too much of a coincidence to me.

Now don't ask me why I remember Indira Gandhi's birthday. I just do!

Remember those days, my friends? When there were roughly 5-6 brands of TV available - EC, Bharat, Weston, Beltek, Webel, Uptron, Sonodyne (reader, please add from memory if you can). Did I say available? There used to be a waiting list actually. And we had quite some wait since ours was a color TV - just launched in the market. We wanted a Weston, but ultimately had to settle for Beltek. It did well, actually, finally bowing out only in 1997, a good 15 years in service. Those were the days when acquiring a fridge, TV, telephone etc. was more than getting a consumer durable (the term probably did not exist then). It was acquiring a new status. Those were the times when neighbor's use of protagonist's fridge to make icecream was the subject of many a short story. You could boast about getting to drink cold water after a game of cricket because your dad had bought a fridge, its another matter altogether that your mom would not allow you to touch the fridge. You gave your neighbor's phone number for getting urgent messages (and I am not referring to text messages) delivered. And you befriended someone especially so that you could go over and watch saturday evening's hindi movie on his TV.

It almost seems another age, though it is just a decade or two!

Do I miss that age? No, I don't. And yet, coming to think of it, it had its own charms. Of course, I don't know how much of the charm was also because of my age - childhood is never as bad in retrospect as we might like it to be.

Ok, let me see how many pre-1992 hindi TV serials can I recall top-of-the-mind (arbitrary cut-off because thats when I went to stay in a hostel and lost touch with TV). Hum Log, Buniyaad, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Mr. ya Mrs. Ados Pados, Khaandaan, Ek Kahani, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Katha Sagar, Darpan, Shrikant, Wagle Ki Duniya, Mungerilal ke hasin sapne, Daane Anaar Ke, Flop Show, Nukkad, Show Theme, Idhar Udhar, Circus, Fauji, Ghar Jamai, Naqaab, Satyajit Ray Presents, Malgudi Days, Intezaar, Karamchand, ....... phew!

Dear Readers, please contribute. :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Absent Miss!

It was one of my childhood fantasies - to respond with an "Absent Miss", when my turn would come during the roll call. It just seemed a fun thing to do, but somehow the steely glares of most of my class teachers did not allow these thoughts to get out of the box at all.

Oh well, no idea why I have chosen that as the title for this post, except that I have been absent for a long while, and may be, just may be, there are more misses missing the lack of my posts than misters ;) (Wishful thinking, Thy name is Pankaj).

The general reason for absenteeism is of course the usual suspect - work. But that was not all. I also did manage to take a two-week break in between and go home (Kolkata) for Diwali. Did think about a number of subjects to write on - diwali celebrations at home, a nice movie (Lage Raho..), a fabulous movie (Dor), a disappointing movie (World Trade Center), a very interesting book (The Corporation That Changed The World), the renaming of Bangalore, the importance (or lack of it) of spelling (in wake of a recent decision by some UK college to allow sms spellings in student answer scripts).....you get the idea. There is never a dearth of topic to write on (especially when your livelihood does not depend on it). It is just the question of alloting time to it. I have been guilty there...supremely so.

I will be back. :)

Monday, October 02, 2006

An Obituary

We had a good dussehra break at office, and I went to Visakhapatnam (a.k.a. Vizag, a.k.a Waltaire) to spend some quality time with some relatives. Let me elaborate. My father's elder brother is now settled in Vizag for close to twenty years, and apart from him and my aunt, I have there a cousin sister, two cousin brothers (with matching sisters-in-law), a couple of nephews and a neice thrown in for good measure. In all these years, I have never visited them, though we have met on family occasions like weddings etc. The overall effect was that I did not know about the existence of my younger nephew (all of 5 years old) when I planned this trip, and that, more than anything else, struck me as being absolutely unpardonable. Little wonder that my uncle / aunt had actually stopped asking me to come over after innumerable futile attempts over all these years.

Anyway, I had a great time in Vizag friday through monday and was already thinking of posts to write - about the visit, about the place, about the relatives, etc. etc., when something else happened. My paternal grandfather passed away today (2nd October) evening around 5 p.m. By itself it would not have been remarkable. It is just that I had lunch with him in the afternoon before departing for the airport to catch the flight back to Bangalore. He was as hale and hearty as you could reasonably expect a 96-year old to be. Couldn't hear too well, couldn't see too well, couldn't eat too well, was weak generally, and so on, but no specific ailment.

For as long as I could remember, he had been "old" - at least by my standards. And he was always there. And he was an inspiration in being self sufficient. Our extended family (and it does extend quite a bit) held conversations in awed tones about his ability to walk a distance of nearly 40 kms every 3 months to a pilgrimage near Calcutta, carrying what we call "kaawad" in Hindi (can't translate, but it is basically a load balanced on shoulders) - and he did this well into his seventies. He was famously short-tempered, though never with me, and enjoyed his own company more than any one else's. For the last 15 years, he spent at least half an year at an ashram near Allahabad. It was only last year when his health deteriorated with age finally catching up with him that my uncle got him down to Vizag - much against his wishes, of course.

When grandpa was told about my planned trip to Vizag, he told my uncle that now it was time for him to leave the world. His guru had told him that he would depart the world surrounded by his loved ones. He was already staying with his eldest son, one grand-daughter, two grandsons, and three great-grand children (the age in the household ranged from 5 to 96 - isn't that amazing?). My father had visited him last month, and so had my other uncle. And now I was coming to complete the quota. My uncle told me this while attempting to explain the vagaries of a 96-year old mind, and we both had a good laugh. But the old man had the last laugh.

Is it possible to will oneself to die (am obviously not talking about suicide here)? For that is what my grandpa seems to have done. I took his leave around 1 p.m., and then he sat down to watch some TV (Sanskara channel, I suspect, though he was also taking an interest in Shashi Tharoor's candidature at the UN). It seems he just stopped breathing after some time while sitting on the chair. Did he decide to do so? It almost seems that way to me, when I recollect him now sitting at the lunch table with me, and looking just fine for another year or two. If he wanted to, he could have gone on. May be he didn't want to.

The left side of my brain tells me grandpa would have passed away anyway on 2nd October, and I am just terribly fortunate to have made it in the nick of the time. The right one tells me my grandpa was just waiting for me, so that I would not have to live with a lifetime of guilt.

I am inclined to believe my right side today. Thanks grandpa!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

That Dull Feeling

I think I have become dull. May be I have joined the corporate rat race without even realizing it. And I am doing all the running I can do to stay at the same place! What else can explain my lack of activity on my blog? I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that my creative juices have dried up (calling my writing "creative" would indeed be creative) :-) but there is a mental fatigue that prevents me from thinking beyond my work these days..... and I am not sure I like that.

Of course, I still remember the old adage - Even if you win the rat race, you are still a RAT.

I think what I will do is share some of my favorite quotes with those of you who could be bothered to read them. This will serve two purposes - one, lift up my spirits as I go through my collection (started mainly during my one year of dialysis and built ever since), and two, will give me something to write. And of course, if any of you add to my collection through comments, that much the better.... :)

So here are ten... in no particular order of wisdom or fun quotient or plain irreverence, just randomly picked up as I flip through the pages...

1. The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.
2. A bore is a man who, when you ask him how he is, tells you.
3. Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinion at all.
4. Those who are serious in ridiculous matters will be ridiculous in serious matters.
5. He took his misfortune like a man - blamed it on his wife.
6. To be clever enough to get all that money, one must be stupid enough to want it.
7. You can never repay the people who help you in your trip through life, but you can pass on the payment.
8. True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.
9. There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.
10. I ain't much, baby. But I'm all I've got.


I am feeling better already.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Its been a loooong time!

I guess I have really been out of touch with my blog, and its few precious readers, and the wider world as such, for quite some time now. The last time I tried accessing my blog was on reading newspaper reports about certain blogsites being blocked. I couldn't....and felt my prestige enhanced manifold - finally some demonstration of keyboard being mightier than the sword. Today I was generally surfing (after ages), and found to my horror that I am no longer a threat to my country. This is disappointing - they should not dismiss untapped potential just like that!

So what all has happened since my last post? Quite a few things, if I think about it. Hey, I went to Ranikhet (near Nainital) on an office off-site in June beginning. And it was good fun. And most of us also discovered the true state of our stamina when going for the morning breakfast meant a climb of several stairs on uneven hilly terrain (such was our guesthouse). No wonder I had such a healthy appettite. The funnier parts involved being woken up at 1 a.m. and asked to report in the lunchroom because the big boss was still awake and his idea of fun did not include quality sleep. The hilarious parts included the worst rendition of "Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas" that I have ever heard - and this was the resident crooner. All in all it was fun...some work but adequtely compensated through booze and parties.

I also finally got an "updated" laptop from office. The old one had cleary outlived even its borrowed time and would have declared bankruptcy anytime. This one (Dell Latitude D510) is sleeker, has larger screen, and of course, faster. And I am finally using XP. So send me those 2 MB+ mails now, and I will not have to go on a forced tea-break.

Of course, with enhanced security measures at work, we cannot access blog sites from office, and the USB devices are disabled to access any memory device. One small factor why I haven't blogged off late. You look all around at office, and you find so many funny things to write about, but you can't access the site. :(

Oh yes, I also coached a team in our internal Six Sigma & Lean Quiz competition and we came a respectable joint third. Respectable because the team was in Hyderabad, and I was in Bangalore. And we were all very busy with our normal work. So the only coaching that I could do was through e-mails and phone (talk about distance education) for three days, before we finally met at Gurgaon for the semi-finals. Three hours of intensive closed-doors coaching and we sailed through to the finals. Five hours of intensive closed-doors coaching next day and we crashed in the finals. Guess should have left them alone! :(

In between, there were many events that stirred me into writing something. The Rahul Mahajan case (rather, the media overkill), PM's visit to Vidarbha (and the rest of the country suddenly waking up to the issue of farmer suicides), the IIM / IIT quota issue (and how it is not really the issue), Bombay train blasts.....long list actually. May be, if the work Gods are kinder to me in near future, I will get down to at least some of them. For the time being, this post is just to let everyone know I am alive and typing. :))

Saturday, June 17, 2006


The day could not have started at a brighter note, what with the winter sun at its glorious best at 10 in the morning. So it was hardly surprising that things went downhill from there on. Life doesn't really take into account niceties like it was a sunday, and a day before my birthday (for some unfathomable reason, I am more excited on the day before my birthday than on my birthday itself - may be it's the stuff about aniticipation and all that). Anyway, my journey downhill began with the discovery that the missed calls were not missed - none of the three receipients had bothered to call me back. How I wish these modern gizmos didn't have such advanced features - like telling you that someone called up while you were sleeping, and may be you should return the call. Or the features should be advanced enough - the phone grabs you by the ears and doesn't let go till you return the call - basic manners, you see!

The next step down was actually about my inability to take it - I mean, take the stairs down. The knee was still acting like a lover spurned - would send a shooting pain every once in a while to remind me that I had hurt it. Thank God for big mercies - the lift was working. I took the short cut to the bottom (if you are going to fall, might as well get it over with) and started my daily routine of walk. Completed one round, stopped at the corner store for my mid-morning cuppa of tea, and continued on my semi-brisk pace, the injuries of the morning forgotten. And then the bright note (refer para 1) disappeared behind a sea of clouds - all threatening to let loose a volley of raindrops. Welcome at most times, but not when I am out in the open enjoying my company.

Man proposes, Raingod disposes. So here I was, back in front of the lift, having my morning quality time with myself rudely interrupted, but still managing to hold my chin up. After all, there is more to life than walks that get interrupted. How about getting home, putting on the geyser, having some chocos in cold milk while the water gets ready, and then a nice bath? By that time some one would surely miss my call? Hold on bugger, sure there is more to life - but it need not be what you want it to be. So here I am, standing in front of my apartment door, with the same key which has unravelled the mysteries behind several hundered times in the past two years, but now suddenly refusing to do my bidding. I try everything - twist the key, insert it fully and then try to turn, insert it fully, then pull back slightly and then turn, push the door, pull the door, kick the door - everything short of kicking myself because I couldn't see where I was at fault - but the door wouldn't budge.

And suddenly, that seems to be my life story. Doors all around, all closed. Me having a set of keys, but all useless. Me trying to understand what I can do to open a door, but realizing that someone has locked it from inside. Several doors, all leading to happiness and peace, you see, but all locked from inside. My parents, who adore me, but cannot stand each other, and somehow expect me to bring happiness to their lives. The woman I love, and more importantly, who loves me too, but is too bruised by her past to even acknowledge my helping hand. There is nothing for me to do except to accept things as they are - just as I have accepted that even my own apartment won't let me in.

Why do we get so bogged down by the past - and are so fearful of the future? Hasn't the past already gone by, and isn't the future yet to come? And can any amount of avoidance actually help me avoid pain, sorrow, misfortune? And who is to judge that the pain I bear today in order to avoid the pain tomorrow is not actually worse?

These are the thoughts I reflect upon as I sit on the stairs, waiting for the carpenter to arrive, to break open a stubborn door that would not let me in what is rightfully mine (hell, I paid the rent just last week). And then my thoughts move on to more cheery stuff (oh yes, there is always loads of them, if only you would bother to look). A dear friend, someone who has loved me much, is getting married while I am sitting at the stairs - a fresh start to her life. Another buddy is finally all set for marriage after battling parental approvals for more than 4 years. Some one else is taking the first tentative steps towards being on her own after seven years of a confidence-eroding marriage. There is nothing like an end - except in movies (even there we have sequels). Every end is in fact a fresh beginning. And every closed door is just waiting to be opened - if you can wait long enough.

The carpenter has delivered his verdict - lock has jammed from inside, you need to break it, and replace the lock etc. etc. Off he goes to get the tools - his sunday is made. I retire back to the stairs, defeated by the stubborn door, the door that would not open. And then I am reminded of the P's of life - patience, perseveance, persistence - and decide to give it one more try. What do I lose any way? I walk towards the door with purpose (another P of life), carefully insert the key (yet in no different a manner than I have done in the past), turn it clockwise - and hear the mellifluous note of "click". The door yieldeth, finally.

And this is also the story of my life - keep trying, and trying, and trying - till you have the strength to go on. That way, either you will open the door, or you will collapse against it - exhausted, but without regret.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Farmer Suicides in Vidarbha

There is neither any sweetness in this post, nor any light. My manifesto does proclaim that I will try to stay away from controversial topics, and the reason I am posting this particular post is that the topic is not controversial enough - at least not in the mainstream media as I know (and avoid) it.

P. Sainath is a journalist I eminently respect. That, however, should not be a criterion for anyone reading him up. Check out the link below, and if you find it "interesting" - for lack of a better word, may be you will be sufficiently motivated to check for other articles by Sainath on the Hindu website. There are many on farmers' suicides, in A.P. and in Vidarbha, dating back from early 2000s.


Incidentally, I first noticed Sainath and his writings some time around 2001 when he shocked and moved me to tears of frustration by pointing out in one of his articles the reason behind increase in death of farmers in A.P. due to snake-bites, and how it was linked to the much hailed power reforms in the state. It seems the power to start the irrigation pump sets would be available only in the dark hours of the morning (say 2 a.m.), which meant the farmer would have to get up and go to his field to start the pump in that darkness. And that explains the snake bites.

This post is not a tirade against government policies or capitalism or reforms. I believe I am too ignorant to really talk about these. But may be we can pause for a while, just be aware of what we have, and be thankful about it. And if we can, may be do something?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Economics and Organ Transplant

May be this topic is closer to my heart than the general reader, but do check out the link below for a thought-provoking discussion on whether there should be "market" for organ transplants.


Animated Laughs

I watched Ice Age 2 yesterday. And thoroughly enjoyed it. Rolled in laughter, so to speak. Which might have disappointed my mother who could never fathom what I enjoyed in cartoons but always hoped I would grow out of them. Well, I have grown out of a lot of things - both vertically as well as horizontally - but not my love for animations. :)

The affair started with Mickey and Donald Show, 9 a.m. sunday morning on DD-I. Remember? That was a perfect way to start the sunday - get ready after bath and breakfast for 30 minutes of unadulterated fun, broken in between only by jingles like "Chalo chalein hum, le kar apni, Tobu cycle-ein....." It is still quite hummable, by the way! The show would start with a strip of Mickey, usually accompanied by Goofy, Minnie or Pluto, then there would be a strip of other characters like Chip 'n Dale, and then the grand finale of my favorite character, Donald Duck. After the show got over, there was always a feeling of emptiness, mixed with regret that the next sunday was, well, as far away as it could be. When Mickey and Donald was taken off the air (I still wonder why), I was heart-broken. Sundays lost their charm. Somehow I could never enjoy the replacements like He-Man - too predictable and hardly funny.

Then things got better once again with Jungle Book. Apart from giving a generation its anthem (Chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai - to be applied especially in hostels whenever a guy was caught in short shorts, or something even shorter), the brilliant animation accompanied by some very competent dubbing held me spellbound for weeks together. And this was when I was in 12th standard - not exactly a kid. But I still remember discussing the previous day's episode with friends at school on mondays, marveling over Sher Khan's wickedness (Nana Patekar's voice, by the way) and Baloo's goofiness. Normally dubbed versions have a horrible look and feel about them, but then, this had a touch of the sublime - from Gulzar himself. What else can you ask for?

At least till you get exposed to Tom and Jerry, that is! Can animation get better than this? Never mind, it's a rhetorical question. Whatever made me laugh in Mickey and Donald, was present here in extra helping. The colors were brighter, Tom dumber than Goofy and Jerry more wicked than Donald at his worst. I don't think I can really put it in words - those who have watched these cartoons will know. At time, my heart would really go out for Tom - no one deserves an adversary like Jerry.

Then there are these full length movies that take things to a different proportion altogether. I enjoyed movies like Lion King and Aladdin, but somehow the idea of going to a theatre and watching "cartoons" never seemed particularly appealing. That was till I saw "Finding Nemo". I first watched the movie on a flight back from London to Bombay, on a really small screen, but aided by a personal audio system that allowed me to listen to some side-splitting dialogues. I was completely fascinated by the dude turtles, student fishes who went to a different school on an Exchange program, sharks who were trying hard to turn vegetarians, the clownfish who couldn't tell a joke, and of course, the extremely helpful Dori with a rather volatile short term memory. I think at last count I have seen the movie five time - in screens of all sizes - and am still going strong. Finding Nemo is not just about funny characters or mind-blowing animation, it is also about life. Sample this dialogue between Marlon (Nemo's father) and Dori:

Marlon: I promised Nemo I will never let anything happen to him.
Dori: Well, thats a funny thing to promise!

Another movie that I love not only for the laughter it generates but the beauty of its sheer concept is Monsters, Inc. Top Scarer Sulley and his Scare Assistant Mike are adorable, as is the baby Boo, but the whole idea that there is more "power" (literally and figuratively) in making people laugh rather than scream is ageless, isn't it? Beautiful concept, beautifully executed, this is a heart-warming movie. My current count here is 3 and going strong again.

Anyway, a lot has changed in animations in my own living memory - from the sunday morning 9 a.m. shows to full length movies in theatres or CDs. My kid sister, who in her childhood was a model of Victorian primness and hence objected strongly to my laughing out loud at the antics of Donald, (imagine being scolded by a 6 year old sister for laughing at cartoons!) has since gotten some sense in her head and now laughs alongside with me on the rare occasions we watch Tom and Jerry together. And now I also have company in my seven year old nephew, Jerry (named thus by me since all I could think of when I first saw him at the hospital was a small mouse - Jerry), who rattles off the timings of all the cartoon shows on all the cartoon channels, and arranges his schedule accordingly.

It pleases my heart when I find more adults unaccompanied by kids than otherwise at movie halls for these movies - like it happened yesterday. As long as we have not lost the child inside us, I guess there is still hope for humanity - or at least, for laughing out loud! :-)

P.S. I finally managed, with a help of a less technologically challenged friend, to insert links to some other blogs that I like, and also to some websites that I frequent. Check them out at your leisure.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I did it yesterday. Bunked office. Just like that. The decision was taken after realization dawned on me that you cannot add anything to, or subtract anything from, infinity, and expect a difference. So a day playing hookey would basically make no difference to the volume of work on my lap(top), but it has the potential to recharge me for the endless monday mornings lying in wait. Now it is saturday evening, and while I am not very sure whether I am recharged enough for monday or not, what the hell, I had fun yesterday. Watched a movie, reached TGIF well in time to legitimately claim the free drink at Happy Hours, and slept at 10 p.m. In this day and age, you can't really ask for more.

I think I will do this a little more often. May be once a month?


I first met him when his father, the iron-wallah in my block, sent him with me to collect clothes to be ironed on an urgent basis (with all my planning, it is always JIT for me, and the supplier relationship has evolved accordingly). He had large, bright eyes, and it seemed to me that a promising smile was being suppressed only because he wasn't sure about its audience. So I decided to put his fears to rest and asked his name. "Balaji," came the prompt reply. I asked him which class he studied in. "Seventh," he said, and then added as a proud afterthought, "pass." That in turn brought a smile to my lips.

Then I bumped into him again today, when returning from my evening walk. It had been a few days, and I have never been good at remembering names or faces, of the same person at any rate. So I almost did not notice the kid in the lift. But then it stuck me, and I hesitantly enquired, "Balaji?" He took his time and then said, "409B?" that being my flat number. I nodded in agreement and then followed a torrent of good-natured complaint about how he had been coming again and again to my flat to check if I was there so that he could return the ironed clothes, and take some more to be ironed. I apologised for not being at home and asked him to come right away, which he did.

I think Balaji and 409B will get along fine. The former warms the latter's heart. :)


Remember Nirmala? My earlier post "Inspiring"? I met her again today. She is walking much better now, and has started swimming. Physically she will probably never be the same again, even though she will be fitter than average by far. Mentally, I am sure she is much stronger than before. She commented today on sometimes feeling "not normal". I told her that she wasn't normal anyway - she was "super-normal". By her smile, I know she will remember it.

An Update on Paritran

Remember the party? The link in the title is an interview with the candidates from Paritran that contested the recently held assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. Underscoring the difference between reel and real life, they did not win any seats. But my friend, and amateur psephologist, Sameer Nair, tells me that the percentage of votes polled by them is not at all bad for a new party. It managed 5.4% of votes in Annanagar and 6.4% in Mylapore. Thanks, Sammy, and do add more analysis if you feel up to it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ramblings of an uncluttered mind

Something unthinkable happened today - twice. While stepping out of my home for a span of more than 2 minutes, I forgot to carry my mobile. The first time it happened, I was on my morning walk, and the second time in the evening, when I stepped out for dinner. Now don't get me wrong - I am not a mobile fanatic. Nor do I hate it the way some people seem to do. I find it an extremely useful tool (especially when you are locked out of your house and your flatmate is at his office and you don't have his mobile number in YOUR memory but only in the phone memory), though it might become an irritant at times. But there again the fault lies with the users, not the instrument or the service, isn't it?
Anyway, the crux of the matter is that I was without my phone for about 45 minutes in the morning, and about an hour in the evening - and no one missed me! No missed calls, no smses waiting for a reply. I am still to fathom out its impact on my ego. It does seem that the world can go about its business for substantial length of time without missing me. Taking a detached view of it, it does seem that one of the sources of self-esteem can be the number of people who call you on your mobile. Coming from my measurement oriented world, I wonder whether I can design a dashboard on self-esteem through mobile usage. We can divide the calls in three categories - personal, professional, and third-party (credit cards etc.). The calls you make or the calls that are being returned won't count. The number of points for each type of call will vary by the time of the day - during office hours, personal calls will get a higher weightage than professional calls, and vice versa. Professional calls during dinner, weekends and holidays will be absolute chartbusters. Calls from bankers and stockbrokers will rate higher than calls from the grocery store (asking for payment). Calls from a dentist will bring in more points than from, say, a gastroenterologist. And calls from spouses will be more precious than those from lovers (unless of course, its a call from a lover AFTER your marriage). And number of years of marriage should definitely be a factor - a call from a year-old wife is not quite the same as that from a 5-year old one, isn't it?
So at the end of it all, we can have a score published for every mobile user - some index similar to, say, wealth or popularity. What say! Of course, from my twin experiences today, I doubt I will be anywhere in the table at all.....need to start thinking of how to rig the system. :)
BTW, I normally don't comment on comments (refer my first post outlining my policy on the issue). Now my friend Tabula Rasa tells me that this is against blogettiquette. I have no clue. What can I comment anyway? The usual comments are about liking what I wrote, and while I can question that (or give friendly advice like go get your head examined), I would rather bask in my moment of sunshine. When comments are specific to some point in the post, I don't want to react unless there is a factual error, or a misunderstanding of my point of view. Rest, it's all reader's point of view, isn't it, and who am I do dispute it?

That doesn't mean that two warriors can't choose my blog as their turf for blogging it out. So go ahead, thbpthh, do give Tabula a good one in the solar plexus for daring to comment on your comment. Since I know both of you, I can anticipate a good debate on whether there is anything like fair and unfair. Look forward to it... :)
Had a pretty good saturday today - all to myself. Cleaned the house, washed two loads of clothes in washing machine, cut fingernails as well as toenails, shaved (on a saturday, thats an extraordinary gesture from me), read bits of Maximum City (deserves a post on its own, but in short - amazing insight into a city that I have deep feelings for), had a proper lunch....and washed the bathroom with acid (thats what I have in common with Narayana Murthy - though I don't know whether he uses acid or not). Anyway, the thought of acid takes me back to my least favorite subject - Chemistry, where I leant my acids from the more basic stuff.

I have never been able to understand my relationship with this subject - I did not hate it because it never seemed particularly malevolent, I definitely did not love it because it did not excite me the way History or Maths did, I wasn't even indifferent to it because, well, I had to pass in it at least. The teacher was not bad...in fact she was, and still is, one of the sweetest, prettiest ladies that graced our classrooms. She was more likely to herself cry after scolding a student for typical pranks (which would leave the student thoroughly confused). Since I was reasonably good at other subjects, she almost took it personally that I wasn't faring well at her's. My entreaties to her to take it professionally as all in a day's work failed - after all, it wasn't her fault if she did not know about the existence of some of the compunds I "discovered" on my way to balancing equations. That was one thing about my chemistry answers - my equations were always balanced, so what if by mixing two organic compounds, I ended up producing an inorganic one (I guess a mathematical inclination always helps). Anyway, I routinely scored my lowest marks in Chemistry all the way from class seven till 12th, and then dumped it for good. But it has been only of late that I have stopped getting my most frighetening nightmare - that I have my 12th standard chemistry paper and I haven't studied (which is pretty close to the truth, incidentally).

I am no longer in touch with the world of Chemistry. I wonder whether some of my discoveries have been validated by the scientific community by now. In that case, would like to go and submit my papers for revaluation. :)