Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Musings 276: Year later...

 Monday Musings 276: Year Later..

The good thing about the end of a year is that it happens every year – and that is also the bad thing about it. One gets the annual chance to make it different and meaningful. Many take that chance and many do not.  
Last year I had decided to take a tongue in cheek look at this boisterous exercise with a rather short shelf life – called resolutions. I thought I shall revisit all ten of them again and see what happened to them – did they survive the test of the real world or did they perish prematurely, as is their wont! Needless to say, just as they were tongue in cheek a year earlier, the tongue continues to be resolutely and firmly lodged in the cheek. Enjoy!
Here they go. 

1. I will not suffer fools easily – this has turned out to be trickier than I had thought. I suffered them quite benevolently for I realised that for every one person whom I thought to be a fool and quite unworthy of my indulgences, there were at least two who thought I was a fool too. Since they suffered me in silence, I decided to pass on the favour.
2. I will not say yes when I want to say no – This is work in progress, however miles to go. The greater tragedy is those moments when it is assumed to I shall say yes, instead of at least going through the motions of giving me a choice.
3. I will not attend get- together’s and parties – I think I did remarkable well on this one given that I was not invited to many.
4. I will not eat out – I should have articulated this resolution a little differently; I should have also barred myself from eating out during official lunch/dinners. The whole point was to adopt culinary simplicity and not just on my own account.
5. I will not watch TV – I must give myself a pat on my back on this one. I think I can claim with reasonable degree of accuracy that I must not have watched TV (minus of movies) for more than 5 hours in the entire year. I am also happy to report that I have not missed much and feel pretty much on top of my craft and trade.
6. I will not advise or try to motivate people – I wish I had known how difficult this will turn out to be. The urge to add ‘value’ is so deep rooted that I am its first unsuspecting victim. I am trying very hard is all I can say. 
7. I will not haggle or bargain with the rickshawwallah, vegetable vendor and other people who make a living on the street. – Absolute success. The fact that I stuck to this even during the demonetisation phase must be its absolute litmus test.
8. I will stay away from technology – as much as I can. I have been miserable failure on this. The virus has only entrenched itself more.
9. I will not fall for brands – refer to the answer in the next point.

10. I will not shop. – I am the most proud of this one. With the notable and very explainable exception of buying a running shoe, I am happy that I did not shop at all – I mean at all!! Not a thread of clothing, electronics, accessory, or any other item of consumption – branded or otherwise. This has been by far the best detox/rehab I have every put myself through. The closets are cleaner and the unused items significantly reduced. There was a moment when I wanted to extend this moratorium on shopping for another year. Thankfully that moment passed.
Happy New Year.
PS: I learnt a new word yesterday and that to my mind shall be defining word for the purpose of bidding the old year a grateful goodbye while I beging to welcome a brand new one.
Misoniesm - hatred, fear, or intolerance of innovation or change. (Do we suffer from it or pretend that we do not suffer from it? I have a full year ahead to answer it.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Monday Musings 275: Of books and the Characters!

Monday Musings 275: Of books and the Characters!

As I see it, there are only two kinds of problems around reading – one is around whether we like reading or not in the first place; and those who are able to overcome this problem are faced with another herculean one – what to read? There are yet others who remain untouched and unfazed with these two pseudo existential questions – they are clearly the happier lot.

There are all kinds of readers. Let me share a few types that I have bumped into.
1   1. The Imposter: they always carry a book and that is the only thing one can be sure of; that they are carrying a book. Usually the book that they will carry will also be the one which has featured in page3’s recently so that also serves the very purpose of carrying the book. Reading, for this lot is more a status symbol, an act of wannabe intellectual – the same reason why they would not wear just a suit but only an Armani or carry not just a bag but only a Louis Vitton! When you meet them they would play with the book in front of you so that you make it a conversation starter after which they will pontificate on the ‘Half Girlfriend’ (written by you know who!!), which according to them is a great book by a great writer, as if they are outlining the later Pulitzer winner. PS – take your revenge, just ignore the book and refuse to have a conversation around it. It will frustrate them to no end.

2    2. The worm: Irrespective of the title they are reading, which might range from ‘The tapeworms in your bowels’ to the ‘Climate change in Mars’ – they are immersed in it as if they are praying. The book is either close to their faces, in which case they want you to see the book and not their faces or they might be hunched on it, in which case they are the most likely candidates for cervical spondilysis – either ways they clearly are in meditative stupor. The book is larger than their persona. They are also saying the following – ‘Don’t even try to begin a conversation’ and ‘buzz off’. Chances are they have relationship issues with human beings – but that can be highly controversial, isn’t it? 

3   3. The flirt: The name says it all. They flirt with books but as is the wont of all flirts, they suffer from commitment phobias. No book can hold their attention for more than a few pages. All books, according to them, have a problem. Some are too boring, some too long, some have font problems, some have weight problems, and for some that it has no pictures (I love the last one!!).

4    4. The Show off: The show off actually reads the book, less to immerse and enjoy but to let you know that he has actually read the book. All conversation will be veered towards that book irrespective of the moment or the occasion. You will have to politely tolerate the absolute irrelevance of book to the mood. The revenge with the show off is to talk about an even more irrelevant book that you had read 10 years back! 

5   5. The Rebel: The rebel cannot understand how a normal human being can spend so many precious hours of human life so frustratingly tied up with something as inanimate and boring such as a book. The rebel believes that all the books that were supposed to be read have already been read from the KG to the 10th – everything else is an imperialist hegemony that must be rebelled against. The rebel believes real education happens on the streets and not on the couch. As one writer friend of mine says ‘I don’t read books because they interfere with my imagination’. I have not asked him so far whether his books will interfere in the imagination of others – remember he is a friend after all.

6    6. The Occasional: The occasional reads roughly one book a year and for precisely the same reason why the diehard non vegetarians keeps the navratra fast. Some call it penance; I call it a licence to go non veg for yet another year.


PS: Some people are genuinely connoisseurs of books – in the truest sense of the word. They are few and far in between. But there is no story in that.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Monday Musings 274: James...but not a Bond!

Monday Musings 274: James...but not a Bond!

I got talking to my Uber driver named James on an early morning drive. My usual conversation starter with Uber/Ola drivers is ‘How long have you been driving and what did you do before joining  the Uber/Ola bandwagon’. Each time there is a different story but this one turned out to be the most enjoyable and inspiring.

The difference between him and others whom I had met so far was clear right from the answer to my first question that came from him – ‘I have four cabs; this one I drive and the other three have been rented to other drivers’. When I let out the cry of surprise, he switched to conversing in English, as if he had sensed that i had made the error of stereotyping him with the classical archetype of Uber drivers. Thereafter it was a fascinating ride, great conversation with a liberal dose of anecdotes.

‘’I am from lucknow and I have done my MBA and have worked in a few banks as frontline seller of banking products growing up to become a territory manager’ he shared with me. I knew I was not with someone ordinary, either in terms of the richness of journey or of grit. ‘Soon I had a house and a flourishing business of solar panels’ he continued.

‘However a business deal gone sour caused the collapse of the business with huge bank overruns. Something radical had to be done to pay off the bank. So with a heavy heart sold the house and paid the banks completely – I did not want my CIBIL ratings to suffer at any cost’.  Here was someone who in his darkest hour was more worried about his credit credibility. I could imagine the surge of confidence that lurked within the man who was down but not out.

‘So we decided to send the son back to lucknow so that both I and my wife could focus on rebuilding our lives. I did not leave my home to be a loser – something must be done to keep moving forward’ (this was said in Hindi and sounded more lyrical and inspiring).

So what are your plans in the future, I ask him. I was frankly not prepared for the answer I got. ‘’I plan to repay the banks the loan on all my taxi and become debt free. Then I want to open an NGO. Do you know that many NGOs are working to clean the Ganga in Kanpur? I want to do something around education. You see, when I worked for myself things did not work quite well, let me now try doing something for others – who knows what the outcome will be’’ (apne liye kaam kiya to nuksaan hua, doosron ke kar ke dekhte hain – the hindi rendition was clearly heartwarming!)

Any regrets, in ask him. ‘Nothing actually. Even when I sold the house I told myself, perhaps that is why the house was built – to bail us out during this crisis. The only thing that pains me is that I had to send my son away from me to tide over this. I miss him’.

‘Give me your card’ he says as we bid each other good bye. ‘I will call you when I open my NGO’. I shoot my parting sentence ‘Can I write about you James?’ He smiled but said nothing as if he did not really cared about being written. He had better and larger things to do.

James was a better Bond than all those in had seen so far.