Friday, December 28, 2012

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The Mind Goes Rambling

As I tore yesterday's date from the daily sheet calendar, the words 'Arudra Darisanam' stared at me from today's page. "Oh, today is Arudra darisanam!" I thought, surprised and disappointed that I had missed doing the preparations. I mentally chided my mother, she should have told me. Well, now done was done. I could not help it. I shrugged and went about my daily tasks.

Arudra darisanam is a small festival celebrated in the south of India, in Tamil Nadu especially. Though I do not know much about its significance, I do know that it is an important day for Lord Shiva and, more relevant to me, on this day people make kootu and kazhi. Kootu is a spicy curry made of a sundry veggies, and Kazhi is a sweet preparation. Being Vaishnavites, we do not actually do any special pooja on this day. However, my mom usually makes the kootu and kazhi. And foodies that my brother and myself are, we simply love this festival for that alone.

Every year, till before my marriage, I would look forward to having these delicacies on this day. Last year was the first time I attempted it on my own, and I should say they turned out decently good. This year however, no such luck. I miss my paternal aunt at this moment. She used to stay with me till a couple of months ago. She was a very religious person, so would be well informed of all the days of religious importance that were lined up in an month. She would alert me a couple of days beforehand that, "Mini, Tuesday it is Uthana Dwadasi', or "Mangala Gowri starts from this day," and so on. So I used to be well prepared for all these poojas. Thanks to her, last year, I did all the poojas perfectly like a traditional, 'chamathu', madhwa bahiko (woman). Now she has gone back to Mumbai, and here on I must remember to keep track of all the poojas.

I went to bath after completing my kitchen work. As I poured the hot water on myself, my mind wandered to the significance of Arudra Darisanam. I know Arudra means pole star. So does this mean this is the day when pole star is visible? It can't be, for pole star is visible throughout the year. However, when I later Googled, I found that on this day, a full moon day, the night is the longest in a year. So the festival does have some scientific significance too. I sat back thinking, most of our regious festivals do have scientific significance, but the rationale behind them has got lost over the hundreds of centuries. The rites we perform and rituals we observe today, are the last updated versions of scientific knowledge of our ancestors, dated many centuries ago. It is as if  after this version, some curse befell our gyana and we stopped updating our knowledge. We just got stagnated at that point. Probably some short tempered sage got pissed off and cursed the humanity of this sub-continent? And today, we are trying to find scientific explanations for our own rites and rituals, based on what the western civilizations thrust upon us as science, forgetting in the process that what they are giving us is only 'processed science'  - like processed food. Our original science, taken and processed and given back to us.

Is there anything we can do about it now? I do not know. Maybe the learned souls of this country can tell me. For now, I shake myself out of my random thoughts. My son has started wailing, and it doesn't take any science, raw or processed, to tell me that it is time to attend to him.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Back Again...

My last post was on 26th of July. Today is 27th of December. I am back after a looooong hiatus. No, I had not forgotten my blog. I was busy doing something else. Doing many things. My brother's marriage, trips between Chennai and Pune. And through it all, writing a novella. A romance novella.

No. I am not going to tell you what the novella is about. Not just yet. I have finally wrapped it up and sent it for editing. Now I sit with my fingers crossed, heart thumping in anticipation. Am I going to be getting brickbats, or praises, or a mixture of both?

Writing a novel is quite a long drawn process. For days I've sat wondering, what my characters should do, where they should go, what they should think - how they should think. Now that the story is complete, it feels like I have come out of their world at last. I look around me. Oh yes, these things I am looking at did exist, but it has been long since I looked at them. I feel like the little girl in the Narnia series, who goes into her fantasy world and returns back to the real world after an unforgettable adventure. An adventure it has been for me, writing my first novella.

Now all I have to do is wait. Wait for my editors to get back to me. Wait for another inspiration to strike. Wait to grab another writing assignment. And in the meantime, I will dream.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ruminations About a Destination

When tomorrow dawns, it would be exactly eight years since the day I started my career. The day I set foot inside the Infosys campus in Bangalore, 26 July, 2004. Along with some two hundred others who joined in my batch, starry eyed and fresh from college, I walked into the prestigious compound brimming with pride, for I had hit the jackpot in the very first chance by landing a plum job right after college. I made scores of friends in Infosys, of which Gowri, Viswadhara, Pratap, Deepak and Krishnakumar and myself formed a close knit group. In fact, it comes back to me now, I had even formed a personal folder in my Outlook for mails from this gang, and called it Infyclosknit! The girls of the group, Gowri, Viswadhara and myself stayed together during the training period, and along with the boy hung out both during weekdays and weekends. Like the lines from the song Summer of '69, “those were the best days of my life”.

Today, when I look back at these eight years, it is astonishing to find how much all of us have moved on. All the three girls are now out of Infy, while the guys are still sticking on. Ironically, I was the first to leave the company. Thinking about my reasons now, I remember becoming too restless, feeling stuck. The kind of work I was assigned caused a fatigue to set in, and that was the reason I cited for moving on. However, in retrospective, I realize that I might have moved on anyways, because, over the years I have found out that I don't remain content with one kind of work for too long. After working in a service company I worked next in a captive, and thrived in that environment for sometime. However the fatigue followed me soon enough, and within two years I was working just for the sake of it, and losing interest in what I was doing.

Thankfully marriage gave me the ticket to fly out of my second job and land in a third. The third stint was the shortest and I must say, the least productive. Though I say least productive, it is amusing to note that it is only in this job that I got not one but three awards for my work, and that too in a short duration of 6-7 months. I conceived soon after I joined and so within an year stopped working. After an year of being completely busy with my infant, for the past year I have picked up my long forgotten hobby of writing, which had grown a bit rusty, dusted and polished it, and am now dabbling freelance writing.

My husband has teased my many times about my career path – I studied biology in school, Instrumentation and Control in my Engineering, worked in Software and am now playing in literature. Where the hell I think I am headed? I have no answer, because I wonder the same thing myself. Towards peace of mind? Maybe. Biology I did because I liked it, ICE I did because that was the only subject left in free seat category during the Engineering counseling in one of the few respectable colleges. Engineering was what I chose for graduation because that was what everyone seemed to be doing at that time – it was the in thing. Similarly, software industry was the place most engineers headed after their degree, and I followed suit, and ended up meandering aimlessly in the world of Mainframes for nearly 6 years, not to mention the world of Finance and Capital markets, since that was the domain I worked in. And now, I have embraced English.

Looking back, this path is certainly a blindly followed one, heading to fall in the same well like others, just because others have been doing it. One thing I knew for sure since childhood is that I love English. I love to read and love to write in the language. Maybe, if I had learned to follow my heart in childhood, I would have taken up BA English, then went on to do MA, PhD, and so on. It definitely sounds a less glamorous option than the professional degrees, but I would have gotten into the world of writing much earlier, instead of the circumnavigation that I have done now. Maybe life would have been simpler and much more fun. Then again, may be it would not have! Like my spiritual beacon says, Providence has designs ready-made for us, of which we know nothing. We only see what is in the present and rue over it. We are nervous because we do not know what future holds in store for us, but if we care to introspect our past, we would see that every time we have been in a soup Providence has had a way of clearing up things for us.

One thing is for sure though. A resolve builds up in my mind as I write this and look up at my son stirring in sleep beside me. I will not impose my personal desire or the standard path that others are following on my son. Though, if he wants to follow it he is free to do so, but if he wants to try something else, say become a painter, or a sculptor, I will certainly give him the freedom to try out his luck. I know it is easier said than done. Therefore I implore the Providence to give me the strength to stand by my resolve. Maybe this post will come in handy to bring me down to earth on days when I get carried away by my desire to see my son win the rat race.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gifted, Blessed and Happy - I Am

Gifted is not he who has had

Many friendships in his lifetime.

Gifted is he who has

One friendship to last a lifetime.

Blessed is not he who is able to

Make all his dreams come true

Blessed is he who has a friend,

Who exults when his dreams come true.

Happy is not he who is always

In constant touch with his friends.

Happy is he with a friend who will,

Come calling when his morale is low.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here We Go Round The...

At about seventy feet, one does get to notice a lot of what goes on, on the ground below. My builder built my brother and me to contain five storeys each. I know five storeys is not too tall, especially when standing beside a family of eleven storey buildings. But my creator is a stickler to rules, so there was no way he was going to venture beyond the stipulated height for building near the airport. That the creator of the other family dared to do it is a different story. My builder would not dream of it.
To say the truth, I am glad he kept us at five storeys, because, at this height I can view things both above and below, quite clearly. I am sure the eleven storey folks would have trouble discerning what is happening on the ground. But us, we get to see everything as clearly as on the newest fifty three inches high definition LED TV that Mr. Mehra has bought. The latest model in market, which has so many features that I am sure Mr. Mehra has deciphered not even five percent of them. Why he wants such a big TV in the first place is a mystery in itself, given the fact that he and his wife are hardly at home. Nevertheless, there it is, the sleek, stylish, glistening black coloured TV, occupying the place of pride in the living room.
However, Mr. Mehra's TV is not what I want to talk to you about today. Though, I do keep a tab of what new appliance or furniture comes in or goes out of every home inside me. With about sixty families living inside me, I get quite a lot of entertainment to keep me busy throughout the day... and night. My builder may be a sticker to rules, but he certainly didn't stick too much to quality, and as a result my walls are not so soundproof. Neighbours get to hear what goes on in each others homes, and I get to hear what goes on in every home.
Therefore I am privy to the fights, romances, dramas, conspiracies, arguments and everything that happens in all the sixty families housed in me. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am able to listen to and see everything does not mean I misuse the information. Like the priest who listens to the secret confessions of people seeking redemption and locks all the secrets in the deepest echelons of his heart, I too bury all that I hear deep inside my foundations. Though I must admit, they all make up for good entertainment material.
Of all the things that take place in and around me, there is one occurrence that intrigues me to no end. To the extent that I wake up right at the break of dawn to witness it. Every day, just as the first bird starts cooing, Pradeep from 503 comes out of his home, clad in tracks and t-shirt, walking shoes from Reebok on his feet, Bose earphones connected to his I pod. He then starts circumambulating my brother and myself, round and round and round, for nearly an hour. The first day I saw him, I thought he was searching for something. Probably something Aryan, his son, left lying outside while playing the previous day. But he does the same thing everyday, walking at a furious pace, as if in a marathon. And right behind him, some twenty minutes later, Latha from 401 marches on.
As the day blossoms the number of 'circlers' increases. People walk around the compound anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. There's Shaji aunty, tottering slowly on her arthritis affected knees, swaying her heavy torso dangerously like a spinning top coming to a halt. It is a miracle that she doesn't lose her balance and fall off. Then there's Malhotra, the slick and stylish corporate guy whose every clothing and accessory reeks of money. He walks quite fast, as if in a hurry, all the while talking very seriously and excitedly over the phone. He says he walks to keep his heart in good condition, but I don't understand how the tension and excitement he usually is in when he walks, help the heart. Godbole uncle always comes clad in his kurta pajama, with his walking stick handy, and has a nice relaxed way of walking that I like. He breathes in the fresh air, relishes the pleasant early morning breeze, and has that serene and fresh smile on his face. That is how I believe walking should be.
It is no secret that all these people are walking for health reasons, because I hear each and everyone rave about it in their homes and with their neighbours. However, the way each one goes about it makes me smile sometimes, and at times, cringe. I see young ladies like Sumitra and Prachi, new mothers, walking quite fast, anxious to lose their post-pregnancy fat, with their babies. The baby is usually in a pram which they push using one hand, while the other hand holds a phone to their ears into which they talk anything and everything from relationships to gossip. I feel so sorry for the baby which looks around in fear and confusion at the fast changing scenery around it.
Is walking not supposed to be in a relaxed free manner, so that the fullest benefits of the exercise can be reaped? However my walkers, most of them at least, walk with various thoughts and plans and emotions brimming in their heads. Old ladies think about their bahus' (mis)deeds, young ladies think about their sasus' atrocities. Girls walk thinking about their love interests, and professionals like Malhotra walk thinking about the economy and stock market. Hardly anyone enjoys the actual act of walking, the burning of calories, the intake of fresh oxygen and the music of chirping birds. Except, as I said before, Godbole uncle. But then, I guess he is able to relish it all since he is past most of the worries that others have.
I used to wonder why these people circumambulate us. None of our predecessors had experienced anything of this kind. Isn't walking in a joggers park or a beach more enjoyable? Then it slowly dawned on me that my residents circle me as they do not have anywhere else to go. Joggers parks are few and far between and the roads are best avoided if one intends to walk for health, thanks to the traffic and noise, and of course the lack of footpath for pedestrians. So people are left with no choice but to turn their apartment premises into walking paths and march on unwavering, as the parked cars and motorbikes look on with sleepy eyes. In South India people circumambulate the presiding deities in temples so that God would answer their prayers. Maybe these 'circlers' also go around us, praying for a good park to come up for them to walk in instead. But neither am I a deity, nor can I do anything about it, except praying with them. For now, I simply watch them, have fun looking at their gaits, enjoy the steamy gossips thought streams and gossips and start each day with something quite similar to a riveting episode of a soap opera.
Bahu – Daughter-in-law
Sasu – Mother-in-law

Friday, July 06, 2012


During summer, my blog wore a rainy look,
Now that rains are here, it is ablaze,
with bright sunshine.
Vibrant colours, exciting hues.
Is this self-denial,
What am I running away from,
I ask myself.
Maybe it is the way of reminding myself,
That the only thing that doesn't change,
Is Change.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tracing Back the Roots

When my father returned home from work on his retirement day, the last day he would ever go to work, I welcomed him with a mixture of satisfaction and anxiety. Satisfaction, because he had worked real hard for more than thirty years and deserved to relax in the twilight years of his life. Anxious, because after having worked continuously for thirty long years, sitting at home might seem stifling for him. I did not want him to fall into the trap of self-sympathy, get notions of being useless and dependent and lose his peace of mind. “An idle mind is a devil's workshop,” and I did not want the devil setting shop in my father's mind. However, I didn't have to worry much, as I found out the next day.
My father woke up at the stroke of six, walked for an hour, prayed for a couple of hours, read the newspaper for quite a few hours, and then, after lunch, sat at the computer table and typed something away in Google. When I saw him after sometime, he was deeply engrossed in something. It looked like some article from a blog. A couple of hours later, to my surprise, he was still at it, and what's more, he was taking notes too! Now he really got me hooked on, and I couldn't suppress my curiosity to find out what he was doing.
Handing him his cup of evening tea and a plate of snacks, I broached the topic. He seemed to have been just waiting for me to ask the question and embarked on an enthusiastic explanation for his serious 'Google'ing.
“I have been trying to trace back our roots,” he said.
“On the net? Are you sure it's possible?” My ever doubtful mind offered.
“I don't know. I've got to try anyway. I am also thinking of speaking to a number of our near and distant relatives. I am hoping to build a family tree with the information I get, which I want to be as detailed as possible and dating as far back as possible.”
It seemed quite an ambitious plan to me. I could remember my lineage only as far back as my father's grandfather. On my mother's side, I realized I knew much less. There was no written record of our lineage, and whatever we knew was known from hearsay. However, what my father was attempting to do was of extreme importance for people like me, who are often at a loss when they are inquired about their identity.
The community I belong to descends from a group of settlers from Western India who made South India their home. As a result, the culture and traditions we follow are a heady mixture of both worlds. While it does seem exotic to describe, I, like many others from my community, have had to face a lot of confusion and unanswered questions about where I belong.
Every time someone asks me, “So where are you from?” I say “TamilNadu”, the south Indian state.
“Oh so you speak Tamil!”
“No. We speak Marathi.”
“Then you must be from Maharashtra.”
“No we live in Tamilnadu but speak Marathi.”
“But you speak Tamil so well that no one would believe you are not Tamil!” And those who have heard our native tongue Marathi, say “But what you are speaking is not Marathi!”
At this point the person interviewing me usually gives me a look that ranges from ridicule to sympathy to amusement.
I have to then offer the lines of explanation that I have probably repeated a million times from my childhood to whoever asks me this question –
“We are Maharashtrians settled in Tamilnadu. Our ancestors had come and settled down south centuries ago. That is the reason our Tamil is so good and out Marathi so out of tune with what's spoken in Maharashtra.”
By the time my explanation ends, the interviewer gives me a hasty nod of understanding, regardless of whether he understood me or not, and eagerly abandons the topic. I pity the person for having invited upon himself this unwarranted lesson in History.
When I was a kid, I remember having pestered my parents with many impertinent questions about our community which more often than not, went unanswered or were deflected. All for the simple reason that my parent's themselves did not know. So when my father undertook to find out more about our past, I was all for it and even offered to help him.
In the days that came, my father dug out some truly intriguing stuff about our community. The influx of Mahratta people like us into southern parts of India had taken place during the reign of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Western India, in the region largely known as Maharashtra. This was in the seventeenth century. Shivaji's half-brother Venkoji had invaded Thanjavur, a bustling town in TamilNadu today and the seat of power in TamilNadu in ancient times, to drive away the ruler from Madurai who had usurped the Thanjavur throne from its original king. His invasion successful, Venkoji settled down in Thanjavur permanently, supposedly due to a dream he saw in which God came and asked him not to leave.
So there it was, the starting point of Mahratta-Tamil amalgamation. As the settlers who came with Venkoji settled on the fertile basins of the Cauvery, they imbibed a lot of things from the culture of the land, while contributing richly to its traditions. Thus we find many south Indian recipes, with a definite influence of Maharashtrian cuisine, and numerous customs and rituals that are similar in both Tamil and the Mahratta communities.
Reflecting on the chain of events, I find that it was not only about Mahratta-Tamil, but also about Mahratta's in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, who speak Kannada and Telugu respectively, much better than they speak Marathi. Like the water carrying tankers on the streets on Indian towns which spill half their contents on the roads before delivering what is left to the intended destination, a few of Venkoji's entourage presumably settled down at different places along the route from their native Maharashtra to Thanjavur. That is probably why half my relatives speak Kannada instead of Marathi, and why a search for grooms for me from my community brought up Telugu speaking families within the community.
In the course of my father's research I also found out that it is not just Mahrattas who have become naturalised citizens of a region away from their own. Throughout India, one can find numerous examples of people originally from one region, settled in another. We have Gujaratis living in Mumbai for centuries, Rajasthanis making TamilNadu their home and speaking Tamil more fluently than the locals, Tamils living in Delhi, and so on. Talk about cultural diversity!
My chest swells in pride when I picture the diverse flavours of ethnicity one can find in India. In the age of 'racial discrimination' and 'ethnic conflicts', the life of the common man in India, living a largely harmonious existence, can still teach a lesson or two to the world, despite the spurts of unrest which the media undoubtedly blows out of proportions. Unlike the American identity or the British or Chinese identities, the Indian identity is but a super-identity. We more closely associate ourselves with our sub-identities of being a Tamil, a Marathi or a Rajasthani than being an Indian. However, given the extensive cross-migration that has been continuously happening from every part to every other part of the country, these sub-identities are increasingly becoming complex. And due to the sheer weight of their complexity, they are becoming more and more blurred.
The pace at which the world is moving today doesn't allow time for elaborate history lessons when one is asked about his background. Neither the listener nor the speaker has the time, energy or interest for it too. Today's Indian, especially someone with my kind of background, is therefore better off calling himself simply, an Indian, instead of trying to condense centuries of his history into a couple of sentences. Therefore I too, ignoring the risk of appearing theatrical or cocky, have decided to answer, “I am from India,” the next time someone asks me “Where do you come from?”
Nevertheless, what my father found out has been of profound importance to me. It has enlightened me on who my forefathers were, and the glorious life they led. I take pride in the fact that many persons from the Thanjavur Mahratta community were highly learned and distinguished individuals, who held important positions in the courts of many local kings. The fact that my roots are as strong and powerful as those of a Banyan's gives me a new confidence and increases my respect towards my fellow community members.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Sky's Labour

She looks full, stuffed.
The sky.
A nine months pregnant woman.
Awaiting with bated breath,
The moment of delivery.
The out pour.
Thunders grumble and lightnings flash,
Pre-labour pains.
Are these false alarms?
Or is this it?
The damsel wrings her hands in tension.

Everyone looks towards
The labour room.
The sky.
Listening for
The first cry of life.
The first drop.
The instant when the water will break
And new life will pour out.
Fulfilling the promise
Of continuance.
New saplings breaking out.
Fresh scent of a newborn,
Wet earth.

The wait is on,
For dryness to end
For the parched earth
To become slush.
But  downpour remains,

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Aw no mom! Not already! I am just beginning to enjoy with my friends! See, doggy is waiting for me to take him for a walk. And then there is monkey, and my ducky... they all want to play with me. Me too mom, I am not feeling sleepy at all.

Ding Dong....

Its the doorbell! Dad's home! Yaaaaayyyy! Now I can get to play with him too! Oh no mummy! Not so soon! I want to have fun!

Arghh... there she goes, lifting me in her arms and rocking me... with her signature "mmmm....mmmm...mmmm...mmmm...." tune! Let me try to wriggle out. But ouch! Her grip is firm... I would have cried if she was hurting me... but she is not, she's just firm. I try to twist and turn and somehow get down, but to no avail. She goes on rocking and singing her melancholy tune.

I think of the boy with whom I played today in the park! He looked just like me! And my height too! My mummy and daddy are so taller than me, just like everyone else around me! So it was a pleasant surprise to see someone my height. We had a great time in the swing. Oh! How I love the swing, the way it goes up, up and up in the sky, then comes down with a swoosh! of air. Yummy! Swing is my favorite, followed by the spring duck.

I have so many wonderful things to think about, but my eyes are becoming heavy now. I look at mummy. She has her face close to mine, and I am loving the smell of her face. I touch her cheeks, and she smiles to me, pouting her lips. Her "mmm.. mmm" tune is so soothing. It is lulling my senses. I feel so at peace with the world.
 Suddenly there is a big roar in the skies. Fighter jets from the near by air force station have started their sorties. Their trembling roar frightens me, and I cower near my mummy's bosom. She holds me tight, and whispers into my ears, "Its all right, I am here." When she is near, I have nothing to fear.

My eyes start drooping now. Fudgy visions of the swing and the jet flash inside my mind, which seems to be slowly coming to a grinding halt. My eyes close completely, and I feel calm in my mummy's arms. The world has grown completely dark now..... zzzzz....


Yamini gently places Sid on the bed and covers him up snugly with a cozy blanket. She looks at her two year old son with a smile of satisfaction and pride and turns off the light.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Universal Affliction

Looking around me, at home, in the neighborhood, and in the society, even within me, I find everyone afflicted with a condition that nobody seems to be capable of getting rid of. It is a condition that gives raise to conflicts, differences of opinions and strife between people, but nevertheless not many seem to recognize it and make an effort to control it. Let me give an example.

A famous celebrity, an actor, is so afflicted with this condition that he has started a reality show to set right all wrongs and bring justice to those denied. The show is only a few episodes old, and is already creating waves amongst the masses, stirring up controversies and gaining the attention of the powers to be. Some people just love the show, while there are some who trash it outright. Me, I am amused at how the 'condition' has been used to generate TRP (translated to Money).

I know, I know. I have harped too much about this condition without telling what exactly it is. Oh you don't need to brace yourself up for complex names, because this condition has a simple one - Self-Righteousness.

Yes. Self-Righteousness. Everybody, which includes me too, fall into the trap of self-righteousness in their relationships and dealings with other people. We do things or say things which we think are right, seeing them only within our own range of vision. We fail to see issues from the other side and appease ourselves with the self-righteous assumption that we are not doing anything wrong.

Very often we see neighbours getting into arguments and brawls over petty matters. The onlookers or those who try to mediate would often find that each party is correct according to his own opinion. For example, a rodent is found dead right in the middle of two houses. Neighbour 1 thinks that neighbour 2 will clean it away and remove it to the garbage bin, and the latter thinks vice versa. They both argue on the matter, each claiming to be correct. The argument could go on and on, but the actual problem remains unsolved. The rodent continues to stink and spread an unbearable stench to both the houses. The problem could easily be solved if at least one party steps down and volunteers to remove the rodent. However, since each party actually believes that he is right in pushing the task to the other, the problem continues to persist.

I talked about a celebrity's new reality show at the beginning of this article. The celebrity took up one case of misconduct by a medical practitioner where the doctor's greed had caused undue harassment to the patient. True, such sly foxes can be found now and then in every profession. But to dub the whole medical community as compromised? That was the actor's self-righteousness at its best, passing judgements where one does not even have authority. The actor is no doubt an ace in his field, but to assume that it gives him a free ticket to pass judgements left, right and centre over anybody or any issue, is to make a fool of himself. Although, not many people realize this and blindly follow the celebrity, hanging on to his each and every word. Thus the celebrity is shaping the public opinion according to his own knowledge and wisdom! Now there's a good competitor for Ayn Rand's Ellsworth Toohey!

A relative of my friend's has had to live a very difficult life, abandoned by husband and mistreated by the family. Talk to her, and she would spin yards and yards of tales of her woes. Almost every family member, in her tales, would have at one point or another wronged her in some way and she would describe herself as having forgiven them in spite of the hurt she bore. However, my friend said she once took up one of the incidents narrated by the relative to the family member who was involved in it, wanting to know why they behaved thus. The answer the family member gave showed the incident in a completely different light. The family member suddenly became correct and my friend's relative, wrong. Thus each person thinks he is right according to his own beliefs, and that the other person is wrong. Such an attitude only leaves voids in human relationships, unfilled gaps that remain so because people at either side of the gap are not willing to step down from their perceived superiority over the other.

So why are people so obsessed with self-righteousness? They set their own notions of good and bad, right and wrong and judge others within the framework of these notions. More often than not, they are always right and others always wrong in these judgements. People see the whole world from within the limited view of their knowledge and choose to ignore the other side of the coin. So when others comply to one's own levels of knowledge, one maintains amicability with them, but when they step into realms unreachable by one's knowledge and wisdom, they fall out of one's favour.

Avvaiyar, the great Tamil poetess, says, 'Katrathu kai man alavu, karkathathu kadalalalavu' - The known is but a handful of sand, the unknown a vast ocean. Then how can people make assumptions and pass judgement about the ocean based on a small pebble? In reality it is the inability to accept discomfiture, accomodate inadequacies and comprehend the wholesome nature of issues that makes people confine themselves within a limited range of wisdom and look at the world through this limited wisdom.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Dacoit Disguise

When I came to Pune from Chennai, three years ago, newly married, and joined work here, the first thing that baffled me was the number of girls on the streets who covered their faces with scarves while traveling. In fact, almost 8 out of 10 women I saw had a scarf on, completely covering their hair, face and neck, with only a thin slit opening for the eyes. That too was sometimes covered using goggles.
Now I have seen women wear scarves in Chennai too, so its not entirely a shocker, but they are few and far between. There, only two-wheeler riders, and that too only some of them cover their faces like that. Those who do are either hiding from parents and relatives when stealthily going on a date, or are considered to be too beauty conscious. Here in Pune, I see even pedestrians wearing scarves. I asked my cousin about it and got the answer that it is because of the dust. Pune has a dry climate and a day out in the sun can dehydrate your skin quite badly.
So that's the reason that women here are so fair complexioned and have such glowing skins! Newly married that I was, my inner beautician was on high alert, keen to please my husband. Therefore I had to heed to that inner voice and I went ahead and brought two scarves for myself. After all, I needed to do everything I could to keep my husband interested in me!
The first day I wore it, the scarf kept falling backwards from my head. The way I wore it must have been definitely wrong and infinitely comical, because everyone kept staring at me. The stares were still bearable, but the suffocation I had to suffer from was certainly not! I wondered however are so many women able to keep their noses and faces covered thus without experiencing any discomfort. Or was it that they did experience the suffocation, but chose to tolerate it compared to the loss of the beauty of their skin?
I persevered with the dacoit disguise for exactly a week, but that was about it. I could take it no more, when on a breezy day I went on a bike ride with my husband. The breeze was pleasant, and it felt a shame to not enjoy it brush my cheeks and play with my hair. So that day, I took off my scarf and let in the breeze. I enjoyed the air rushing against my skin, playing hide and seek between the strands of my hair. Maybe this was wrecking havoc on my skin and hair, but I didn't care. For me, the embrace of Nature, the feeling of flying and the independence that comes with it is more important than physical beauty.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Atul's Dilemma

Everyone in Batra House was jubilant today. The youngest person in the household, Atul, Mr.Batra's son had stood first in social studies for the first time. Sweets were being distributed and everyone was showering praises on Atul. Atul was feeling very happy. More than all the praises, what he was enjoying most was the thought that he will now get a bicycle as his father had promised. Atul had been asking his father for a bicycle since long. All his friends had one, and it made him yearn for a bicycle when they zoomed past him while going to school. He had put up a lot of tantrums pestering his father for a bicycle. Finally his father had promised to get him one on the condition that he comes first in
Social Studies.

Social studies was Atul's least favorite subject. While he always excelled in Maths, Science and English, he only managed to scrape through Social Studies every time. During his study time in the evenings, he hardly took out the Social Studies book to study, except for the times when his father would come and monitor him and specifically ask him to study the subject. Mr. Batra was concerned about his son's lack of interest in the subject. So one fine day, two months ago, he decided to do something about it.

Calling Atul to his side, Mr. Batra said, “Come Atul. Let's go for a walk in the beach today.” “Hurray!” yelled Atul, because he just loved the beach. So father and son started walking towards the beach. That day being a Sunday, the beach was very crowded. Mr. Batra looked at his son and asked “Atul, you see so many people here. Have you ever wondered where they are came from, who their forefathers are?” Atul thought for a moment and shook his head. He knew that his father and grandfather preserved their family history dating up to 4 to 5 centuries back, but it had never occurred to him how things were before that, or that everyone would have some history of their own. Mr. Batra pressed on, “How do you think it is possible that people from so many different cultures, speaking so many different languages, live together in harmony in our city and the whole country?” Again, Atul did not have an answer. He looked around. Any crowded place in Mumbai looks like the Mumbai bhelpuri, a confusing mixture of so many tastes, colors and ingredients. Atul looked up to his father for the answer. “This is what you learn in Social Studies, Atul. The events that occurred in the past to make the world what it is today are taught in History. The laws and rules that make people live peacefully and in harmony is taught in civics. The knowledge about the very earth we live on is taught in geography. In fact more than other subjects, social studies is more relevant to us since it is a study about ourselves and things around us.”

Atul realized how correct his father was. Holding his father's hand, he told, “I see your point dad. I will put in a real effort in doing well in Social Studies and enjoy what I am studying. I will come first in the next Social Studies test in school, I promise.” Mr. Batra stroked his son's hair lovingly and said, “That's my boy! And I promise you that I will get you a bicycle if you come first!” “I want a red one!” yelled Atul, jumping in joy at the thought of getting a bicycle.

This was two months back. Few days back Atul had given his quarterly examinations and today the results had been announced. As Atul had promised, he had stood first in Social Studies, along with all the other subjects, making him the class-topper. Atul was ecstatic. At night, tired but contented, Atul went to his room to sleep. Before getting into the bed his eyes fell on the Social Studies answer sheet. He took it in his hand and beamed with pride at the marks written on the first page. Teachers usually write the marks for each answer on the margin beside the answer. Atul started adding the individual answer marks casually. That was when he saw it. For one of the long answers which carried 4 marks, his teacher had awarded him marks twice. Which meant his mark was 95 and not 99 as his teacher had calculated.

Atul was in tears now. 95 marks meant that he not only lost the first position, but in-fact slid down to the third, because Pradeep had scored 97 and Sowmya 98. His promise had also been broken, so there was no way he was going to get that bicycle now. Atul thought hard. He had options though. He could be silent about this whole issue and go on as if nothing happened. After all, only he knew that his teacher had put extra marks by mistake. Or he could go to the teacher and bring this discrepancy to her notice and change the marks, thereby losing the first position and the bicycle. After thinking for a long time Atul decided what to do and went off to sleep.

The next morning in class, Atul walked up to his teacher and handed her the answer-sheet, telling her that he had been awarded extra marks and asking her to change it. The teacher was surprised and looked at Atul and asked, “Are you sure?” Atul said, “Yes ma'am”. The teacher patted on his back and changed the marks and gave him back the paper.

That evening Atul went to his father. Mr. Batra was reading the newspaper. Looking up from it, he asked, “What is it son?” Atul went near him and sat down. Holding his father's hand and looking down, he explained to his father all that had happened. When he finished, he finally got the courage to look at his father. He was expecting sadness, disappointment or anger in his father's face, and so he was confused when he saw his father smiling! “Your teacher phoned me in the afternoon itself and told me what happened and how you bravely owned up. These are the values I want you to learn! I am proud that you have learnt your morals properly. You can always try to do well in the subject next time, but morals are much more important to a man than mere textbook knowledge. I am happy that you have good morals, son”, he said. “Thank you Daddy!” said Atul, “I will work harder and stand first in Social Studies next time for sure. Then you can get me the bicycle”. “Are you sure?” his father asked and winked. He took Atul to the window and asked him to look outside. There, standing in the lawn was a brand new, shining, red bicycle. “Marks are important, but not at the cost of losing one's values. This bicycle is for the honesty and sincerity you have displayed, my dear Atul” said his father smiling. Atul gave his father a big tight hug.

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