Sunday, August 23, 2015

238 Monday Musings – A disturbing epiphany

238 Monday Musings – A disturbing epiphany

Last week I had a disturbing epiphany as I met my school English teacher after decades when I visited her in the school she teaches now in Bhubaneswar. The joy of seeing her is beyond description. I saw in amazement how she is still the same - selfless, soft, warm but reticent in her expression of warmth. I can only hope that she would have seen in me that her work has had unimaginable powers and would have added to her faith in what she has been doing all these decades.

I told her in the brief meeting that my lasting regret in life was not to have studied literature, considering that she taught us English, and that I wasted my prime studying the eminently boring and unimaginative world of the sciences. I wanted to tell her more and more about this regret, the pursuit of which was curtailed by the overhang of paucity of time in our rather short meeting. I wanted to tell her that more damage has been done to Indian youth by the pursuit of making them engineers and doctors in the last few decades that the collective damage unleashed by TV, drugs, burgers and Baywatch, the quartet I believe are each devastating enough in their own might. I wanted to tell her that she should have told me then and there that I should have taken languages as my vocation and not bothered to tame the calculus, Newtonian mechanics and pharmacopoeia, which in any case I have not used to change even a bulb or change diapers after having spent sleepless nights agonizing over it.

As I was coming out of the school I was taken to a room where over a dozen students were studying earnestly for their IIT. On a notecopy opened in front of me was the scary serpent of the integrative calculus and I realized that calculus is still out in the open – traumatizing yet another generation. Someone should take retributive if not legislative action on calculus! Don’t they have courts or public interest litigation around these things? Can’t we have a signature campaign to ban calculus before the age of 60 – I guess only the senile should study it but that is exactly what you become if do study it before 60. I desperately wanted to ask the hapless child if he liked languages or sports but did not have the courage. I had a disturbing epiphany – the more things changed the more they remained same.

On my journey back, i remembered every one of my classmates in school, how they were, what were they instinctively and intuitively good at and what career choices they made, how aligned these choices were to their natural flair and most importantly how much of what they studied are they using in the work that they are doing today. I will keep the good doctor in the batch out of this list on humanitarian grounds, but when I think of a person from my batchmates in school who are doing anything remotely productive with their education, I can come up with only one bloke, who after his hotel management degree, cooks Indian food and sells Indian tea in London to bored and nostalgic Indians and the exotic obsessed Brits. I would have never imagined way back that he would ever feature in a list I will make which has praise for him, but one must give any devil his dues!!. So hats off Awinish – keep fleecing the Brits – they deserve it.  

As for the rest – wait for your epiphany. Disturbance is guaranteed.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Monday Musings 237 - Pain in Praise

Monday Musings 237 - Pain in Praise

Praise can be London weather or Mumbai traffic – totally and utterly unpredictable. What appears like sunny and smooth can soon be grey, cloudy and a depressing snarl. Here is sample to illustrate the point. What do you notice in an otherwise effusive praise that goes like this – “you carry yourself very well and you dress up well; at you age I think you are quite fit”?

In what was turning out to be the best confidence booster for someone just turned 40, the script went horribly wrong. Irredeemable damage. This is not what he was prepared for. The whole thing appeared to be working out quite well till the descriptor ‘at your age’ punctured the ego that was just beginning to inflate. Only a 40 year old who has just been reminded by a twenty something from the other gender can really understand the havoc such a statement can unleash. What began as a fairy tale ended up like a horror movie – as if turning 40 was not enough.

Most 40 year olds would tell you that the bloody number does not do justice to what they feel about themselves. The 20's are times when one wants to do stuff and can actually do it although one may be not be able to afford it always. The 30's one can afford it, can do it as well and often end up doing it although sometimes not knowing why. At 40 however one can certainly afford it, think that one can do it but often realize that the Rubicon may have crossed. Ask him to climb 10 flights of stairs for example and feel the heart trying to jump out of its place(valid for most cases) or wear low waist-tight fitting-neon clothes and see others heart actually jumping out its place! A Chinese proverb says it so well – “If only youth knew and age could”.

Then there is the counter attack of language, particularly in the way phrases are structured,  like – 'age is just a number or a state of mind' or 'I feel 20 even if am much older' 'I am ageing gracefully' and many other humbug like this. I think it is valiant effort by the not so young to use argument to win over facts, use decibel to drown truth. The mirror might reflect back strands of grey, the body might have wobbly knees, the face might betray shadows and lines and some  other sundry clinching evidences might be telling a different tale but the denial is strong and steady. The more intense is the realization of ageing, stronger is its defense. Parlours and gyms make merry – and some very sophisticated con artists run marathons!

So coming back to incident I am still unsure about how should this be allowed to register. Should it feel extremely good or shall it be a rude awakening. One cannot help but smile – I guess this qualifies as black humor - stark but funny. The poor lass who was just being nice and cordial would not even be aware that she let the cat amongst the pigeons (or would the phrase ‘bull in the china shop’ be more apt).

Friends might console that the script could have been much worse. It is a close shave they say, ‘You do look you age’ is far worse than ‘you don’t look your age’ isn’t it?

Small mercies, eh?


Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Musings 236 The fickleness of muscle memory

Monday Musings 236 The fickleness of muscle memory

As a wannabe writer i feel i do not have range. I tend to write about only a few things more and more. This self view haunts me. I guess i will have to live with it or keep struggling to expand the range. This preamble was needed because the trigger to this musings is yet again my ongoing relationship with running. 

Last week i ran another of my half marathon amidst the picturesque locale of durshett - a jungle track in the western ghats, amidst drizzle, lush greenery, a stream flowing along and grey and cloudy skies and hints of waterfalls in not too distant hills. I struggled through the distance that i had believed that i had mastered over the last 5 years through and having participated in almost a score of such runs of 21 kms. Nothing is more damaging to a runners self esteem than the sight of his timings plummeting to practically what it was 5 years ago!. It is the equivalent of a writers block or a stars next movie going bust (i like the comparison - it glamorizes my grief!). 

Last 6 months have been a case of poor practice and irregular running and it showed in the timings and the over exhaustion and limb aches even before i had reached the mid way mark. I should have known better than to be surprised by the outcome because i have had one of the most erratic running discipline in the last 6 months ever. However buoyed by pure self confidence and a notion of past achievement, undeterred by the grim face of truth, i ran and faced my comeuppance. 

So here are my lessons from the fall from grace in a manner of speaking. 

1. Muscle memory is weak. So is talent and capability. Even a brief slowdown in practice would show. A famous violinist allegedly said is once "if i do not practice for a month the audience know; if i do not practice for a week my wife knows and if i do not practice for a day I know'.

2. Muscle memory is also fickle. It goes away sooner than the click of a mouse (blink of an eye is so passe). So is expertise - which has to be kept on its toes all the times. I have never experienced the 'sharpening the saw' phrase in stronger force ever - what if i was jolted by it. 

3. Muscle memory is not a dependable ally. Self confidence based out of the comfort of 'i have done it so many times in the past' can be unpredictable and delusional. It usually sets us up for a royal fall. 

While i am determined now to train myself back to the capability levels of yore, the big question that has been haunting me since the run is - "what other areas of my expertise is rusted for the want of practice and i am not even aware of the rust"
What about you?