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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What Women Want….

Allow me to start by quoting from a dictionary…..I love doing this as it irritates people to no end!!!

Chauvinist: Believing that the group one belongs to, be it of sex, creed, or color, is automatically superior to another's. Sexism is a prime example of chauvinistic ideology. (Quote Urban Dictionary)

Chivalry: Origin Old French "chevalerie", from Latin "caballarius" 'horseman'. Derivatives Chivalric (adjective). Also, the medieval knightly system with its religious, moral and social code. Again, the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honour, courtesy, justice, and a readyness to help the weak. Finally, courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards women. For eg. Chivalry was an expected quality of an knight during the medieval period. (Quote Urban Dictionary)

If you open the door, hold the seat, be courteous i.e. whatever makes life easier for women today, you are chivalrous. However, if that same spirit extends to not being conducive to women, you’re chauvinistic – I can open my OWN door, pay for my own coffee/drink…..THANK YOU (I hate the way they say Thank You – feels like a call to arms!!)

As life gets easier, things get complicated – or so we think. Each generation feels that the other generations had it easy. The questions that each generation throws up are obviously different, but in essence quite the same. The way we deal with them is also quite the same in essence – we keep on moving ahead and over time, the questions become someone else’s headache and we cant be bothered…..or so my dad says J

This is a note, NOT in answer, but a Note to understand….a note for elucidation & elaboration for myself. No doubt it has been inspired by other near and dear ones, but the questions that are raised need answers. I don’t think I have all the answers but the years of observation allow me draw my own conclusions – conclusions I believe in though they are subject to change. I would be no better than many if I was to consider that standing my ground actually counts as being steadfast, courageous or whatever.

Virtues are a form of social conditioning and we learn them at home due to their prevalence in society and as accepted norms of behaviour. The story of the fox and the grapes is absurd if we were to think of it now, but we take the lesson from it, ONLY because we’re taught only one way to think or perceive or even reason. Take a minute to consider the story – run through it in your mind….spot the absurdity….if you don’t get it, message me J

Women of this generation are a confused lot and the men are worse – merely because our thought processes are vicarious. We are who the women in our life were or are. And before you call me an ardent feminist, read on….

Our grandparents or forebears had it better – there was a clear demarcation of roles and hence there was compromise. You got married without consent and you moved on with it. In short, lack of options made the process palatable.

This is my first issue – we have far too many options today…..confusion begins with too many options.

Who are a male and a female? Does anatomy actually demarcate gender or is it a state of mind? A girl who has to fight for her everyday bread and fight ruthlessly in an uncaring world is “masculine” in getting what she needs to survive. A boy who is cosseted and mollycoddled, unable to decide what his priorities are, is considered “effeminate” and therefore ridiculed. Are these concepts or biases? Who set up these definitions? Do they apply today……do they need to?

My second issue – definition is imperative……confusion ensues when you cant define something or someone into its correct square peg.

You disagree? Its possible to be a round hole in a square peg – also known as the chaos theory, yes?

So, what do women want? What do men want? What is it that makes us hunt endlessly over and over to attain the nirvana of happiness? In fact, what is happiness? When did you last see it? Who was responsible for it?

The taste of an ice-cream on a hot summer’s day is happiness……YOU cause it by eating the ice-cream. The happiness is therefore related to YOUR satisfaction. If it’s a beer that quenches your thirst, would water do as well? If your heart wishes for something then does a substitute actually do the job?

If you’re gay and society demands you’re straight, would that work for you? If it does not, what happens? You are either gay or happy or you’re straight and unhappy……life’s pretty much specific and the one thing it teaches is that happiness is purely a matter of perspective.

My third issue – where do we draw the line? What do we accept and work with…..and what happens when we don’t or cant accept and negotiate?

Coming to the topic at hand, why cant women – capable, smart women get the men they want? Yes, this is the main question. We men often get the women we want because we’re okay with settling for whatever works for us. But women, after generations of brutal fighting, are never satisfied till they have EXACTLY what they want. Be it 200 shops for just the RIGHT dress or climbing 6 floors of successively better men to get to that BEST IDEAL MAN till they come to an empty terrace with a sign saying “hi, you’re the 364847262826725 woman to arrive here. Just goes to show that you women can NEVER be satisfied” !!!!

Yes, that was a stupid joke, but a brilliant understanding of women. Men are accused of wanting arm candy and trophy wives – what gives women of TODAY the right NOT to have the same? ALSO, alongwith that right comes the duty of being castigated the same as us men!!!

Welcome to the world…its not a male world, its not a female world. Its YOUR world and it treats you the way you BEHAVE. You fight like mad to get to where you are, you’re successful, capable etc etc – CONGRATULATIONS….WELL DONE…’ve proven you have balls – now deal with it!!!

Women who are successful are no different from men who are successful. You have got the same opportunities as us and in fact sometimes more in intangible terms. And now, you don’t get men, you lot whine??!!!

Here’s a secret - men who are successful look for companions who get along with them, not someone who start’s a pissing contest with them. We’ve had a few millennia to figure out what we need and who symbolizes that for us. Its quite rare to find two equally successful people marrying and sustaining that marriage. Success is a hard cored wheel that rubs sparks off its own ilk….we get that and therefore choose companions who get along with our state of mind, rather than give us headaches.

My fourth issue - Women who are successful want even more successful men to look up to….something that’s just not going to happen J

You’ve worked your entire lives beating the odds to be PAMPERED and LOOKED AFTER??? NOW you realize that you want to be TAKEN CARE OF?? A little late, don’t you think…..

Men on the other hand are clear – they’re happy to be exactly what they are, all life long….hence less issues and we settle down fine. Women get cantankerous and ugly inside and become bitter and cynical and blame the world……but when was that a new story? Women would rather blame the world and claim they were “victimized”…..they would rather say, “its taken me SOOOOOO long to become who I am, so love me or leave me….I cant change!!!”…..Damn right we leave….we’re simple people…..we know what we want….and if you cant deliver, we’ll go elsewhere …. And you know what, it’s a damn shame.

My conclusion – make your peace with who you want to be and find contextual satisfaction……if you want everything, you’ll remain confused, upset, bitter and get uglier inside with each year till you can’t bear your own skin….

You say no? Then why even bother looking for a man? Be happy with who you are, be self-contained, isolated and comprehensively happy with the deal – why vitiate matters by bringing in other factors into the equation?

Its like my granny said – you can have one or the other…..try to be a juggler and realize that it becomes a show that’s time-bound….at some point, the balls WILL drop and the more balls you have in the air, the louder the crash, the more devastating the aftermath……

OR you can figure out what you want and more importantly, NEED and strike a sensible deal……

Like the heroine in a recent movie said, “I’m really glad and happy for all that your generation has done for mine, but I basically don’t want to be alone. I choose a home rather than a career and I’m okay with my choice. It’s a good deal for me…”

Go get that arm candy, get those trophy hubbie girls……you might have to look down on them, but you’ll still get love and care and be looked after…..or stay single and sneer at the world…….

And I’ll get some cheese if you still wanna whine!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Indian-preneurship – An Indian's Insight into social entrepreneurship

For an Indian born after Independence, there has always been a relative who has bucked the trend and struck out on his own (quite gender discriminatory, our childhood memories!) and made good – the BIZZNISSMAN.

THAT uncle and his flashy life, if not his easy money have always been an interesting memory of our childhood days. For many, if not all, such childhood memories often trigger the drive towards emulation. Despite the cautionary tales and advice from most seniors (often in secure government jobs), the BIZNISSMAN’s image always sticks to your mind – unless you are the child of the said uncle, in which case this article is not for you. And as life goes on, the memory fades as the harsh realities of life make themselves aware and familial pressure, if not our own mind compromises safety with a reliable income as compared to the flashy lifestyle and the inherent risks involved.

We look at businessmen, most of us and see only the flashy lifestyle at worst or the disposable income at best and heave a sigh. Most of us envy that ability to be your own boss and not have to answer to anyone. We, often as not, work for those very businessmen, one way or the other. This is true of a vast majority, even today.

The one thing that just cannot be denied is that starting a business and even more so, sustaining one is a tremendous task. An uphill task, constantly at odds with the dominant systems and prevailing situations in the country. Going out, striking out, making a bid - by yourself and none else is a case study in courage. No reliable cheque coming in every month, no compartmentalization of work hours, constant self-doubt if not society’s questions. Often as not, familial nagging, disbelief, and pessimism are part and parcel of the initial years and continue till quite a long time. If you’re the insecure sort, it can become a beast on your back that refuses to let go. Scared yet?

And we still have the BIZNISSMAN – from the corner store owner to the industrialist, everyone wants to be one and sees themselves with the rose-tinted glasses of childhood memories. The businessman is written about, fantasized about, talked about – hell, he simply sells by being in existence!!

In America, “land of the brave”, the businessman is the acme of individual ability and enterprise, valued far above that of anyone else. You are defined by the chances you take to make yourself better. Possibly, a left over strain of frontier-bred imperialistic genes, this wish to make your destiny, to rule, to be the path-breaker into uncharted territory. You build the ballpark and run it as you see fit – you’re society’s role model for having made IT. You make it and everyone envies your car, your gadgets, your mansion and the peripherals. If you can contribute to the marginalized sections, well, you’ve just attained god-head in your lifetime.

And the truth? The endless hours fighting the inner demons and fighting off the world to achieve the next target, the next client, the lack of a social life – are these considered? It’s a brilliant film when those brutal years of building are compressed into a few screenshots over in seconds, with the dramatic turns of vaulting ambition and achievement crackling with impossibly elegant and dynamic dialogues. You clap and wish you were the guy on the screen. But its not usually that easy – you know it. Which is why YOU wisely don’t consider the idea of BIZNISS and the risks involved.

But its not so….or at least does not have to be so. It does not have to be the image of the dusty streets you trudge through, carrying your products to sell and find a customer base. It does NOT have to be you stuck in your room and computer, working without end without even having the foreknowledge of success or failure.

It does NOT need to be a gamble…

Edward De Bono once very wisely categorized vertical and lateral thinking and this became such a prevalent term that the 90’s resounded to the slogans of “lateral thinking”, “out of the box thinking” and so on so forth. Whatever we claim or say, our hierarchy’s DID become flatter and horizontal over the years. Business activity in the same way has also changed definition. Risk factors have changed as much as valuation systems and achievement ends.

Before we go forward, we – you and I, should take a minute to consider the massive efforts of those people who have changed the very concepts of business activity and development to come to this stage where we can actually talk of enterprise without risk, without fear, with hope of achievement and yet retaining security and structure. It IS possible to create positions within an existing structure and lead, have vision and become a corporate entity. Maybe even that latest model S-class merc convertible (not that we can pull down the roof considering our weather) – but it is possible.

Yes, we are not necessarily BIZNISSMEN, but we can become the Indian-preneur.

India is no longer a call sign, much less its earlier image (whatever that was!!) but is more a call to arms today. It has outstripped economic expectations with its massive and surging growth model and yet, we are still a land of family run enterprises. From the local kirana store to quite a large section of the major Indian brands, India is still the land of family enterprises. Most of them, started by BIZNISSMEN with hardly much formal education or structured learning. Funnily enough, the country that India most wishes to emulate observed a similar form of growth structure in its initial decades with educational institutes being considered useful for “clerks & priests”. A man ran the business, in the west, like a private fiefdom or country and the bean-counters, the pen-pushers were lackeys who would jump to his bidding because he had the raw courage to take the risk and they did not, despite their education.

Coming back to the present, the generation we live in is as much opposed to risk as our forefathers. Education, the mantra Indian parents mutter whether awake or asleep, has become expensive. It’s a simple equation – the cost of education needs stability of assured income at one point or the other. To take a risk on such a balance is not foolhardy on the face of it, but suicidal for most families. And Indians still don’t decide for themselves usually, it’s a family decision where the votes have it for the reliable pay cheque every month with no contest.

Introduce into this already troubled equation, the idea of social accounting or even philanthropy of sorts through business and the parents, usually egged on by relatives, rue the day they had children!!! Being well off is a perspective and social entrepreneurship dies a death before it even takes its first breath.

Security comes in many forms, the most prevalent one being the MNC tag that a child acquires. No Indian mother wants to say, “My son is a social activist or (god forbid) a social worker”. She would rather say, “My son is a lawyer/engineer/MBA working with XYZ Co. for their India offices” This is a basic truth of our existence today.

Where and how do we find an answer to such a conundrum? They tell us, in order not to make mistakes, we must have experience and in order to have experience, we must make mistakes. So, how do we progress as a people, considering human development, without sacrificing the primary needs that assail us from every direction?

This inconsistency, this instability creates the brilliant paradox of a nation sitting atop a gold mine and starving still for food. We have half a billion resources that have no linkage with growth. We have education without direction and intense frustration of intellectual and bodily desire stuck upon the cross-roads of inactivity and lack of direction.

Sun T’zu, in his famous treatise, The Art of War, counsels that problems do not exist on a singular plane and the wise general considers various approaches through various eyes, before actually committing themselves to any one route. We cannot ALL be businessmen, that much is brutal reality. At least not in the condition that India is in, at present – but our sons might be able to.

I believe in sustainable structures – of men as much as of entities, or organizations and of cultures even. As I consider this issue, over and over again, from a variety of minds and eyes, I find the answer reflected in our own selves, in our specific Indian-ness. The answer HAS to lie within our structures of profit and loss. The solution has to be one that assuages not merely bank balances but also hungry minds and bellies.

The most common BIZNISSMAN we have all observed has been the contractor, the developer – real estate, roads, construction et al. Granny used to say, “Invest in land, the earth’s not getting bigger, but the families on it are”. These men, to my mind had tapped an essential reality - infrastructure.

I see with a defiant wick glowing in my heart that a few have understood that lesson and taken it to the next dimension. I see those same smart BIZNISSMEN turning their eyes towards the people and their needs and aggressively pushing the envelope. Progress beckons and so does Laxmi !!!

TATA Motors launched the Nano for the cheaper segments and made it a success and then TATA Chemicals took on the issue of affordable drinking water!!! Was there a relation – YES, there was. The oldest, family owned businessmen were finally turning towards the basic requirements for development of a society – with a bill attached, to be sure, but it IS development no doubt. It’s not social entrepreneurship – its INDIAN-preneurship !!!

And are we still looking inwards? Then consider Nokia and its Life Tools Programme - up-to-date local information on agriculture, education, and so much more. A Finnish company helping India move upwards and onwards – talk about the benefits of liberalization, even the foreigners are getting into Indian-preneurship!

If we are to consider these few examples, these baby steps which lead into giant strides, why can our mothers not say with pride, “My son is an Indian-preneur”?

Why can we not forge the future of BIZNISS and give it the new twist of development?

Will we be able to look our families in the eye and more importantly, our own selves and decide where we are headed?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It had been a long war. The stench of the dead, the cries of the carrion birds and the earth reddened with blood was commonplace now. There was no more wailing from the tents for those bereaved and death was a factor to be efficiently managed. Even the skies have been awed and struck dumb by the carnage unfolded on this field now known in infamy as Kurushetra – “the killing ground of the Kuru’s”.

The chariot was a simple affair of two fast horses moving in tandem, yoked to board and three rope bound poles on the running board for the riders to hold on to. Later poets and ministrels would wax eloquent of the dazzling array of THE CHARIOT which broke the ranks of the kaurava’s wherever its wheels turned. They would sing of golden harnesses and silver caparisoned might, arrayed for children and for adults with children’s dreams for victory and glory. They would sing of its god-like charioteer and mighty warrior bestriding behind ravaging whoever was arrayed against them, regardless whether human, demon or god.

The real chariot which turned armies into jelly, warriors into corpses by its mere presence had never existed. It had been merely another fiction of the charioteer’s agile mind which had honed war craft and strategy into something almost akin to supernatural power. Such a chariot would never have been able to breach the cordons to Jayadrath’s inner circle or fight great Drona into a standstill, much less dodge mighty Karna’s arrow showers. Such a gaudy chariot would never ensure surprise, that most important element of victory.

Such a chariot is fit only in dreams and stories, not in battle, thought the dark-skinned charioteer as he clicked his tongue to the high strung horses trotting amongst corpses and battle debris dotting the fields for miles in every direction. The clicking tongue, equally effective with restive cattle in the far reaches of Vrindavan, calmed the horses on the killing grounds as they slowed down towards a broken barricade.

The moon was full and no insects cried or birdsong broke the eerie calm of the night as the horses swung by the barricade and the charioteer leant out and touched them.

“Sleep well, invincible one, your son will rule as I promised you and I will have my revenge” the charioteer intoned silently, as he touched the broken wooden barricades still stained brown with the blood of his only nephew, his dearest sisters son.

A boy he had loved more than his own lost son and trained under his own hand, killed by eight warriors. A mere boy, defying them to the last and leaving his mark on each of the great ones before spilling his heart blood on the wooden barricades of Drona’s Chakravyuhu. A true hero, of great Karna’s ilk, equally cursed by blood and fortune, to be remembered only for his mad dog glory.

One of the only deaths he had grudged in this war and beyond. It was needed and he had fulfilled his duty and more when he led his friend, the father, away, knowing that the cowardly advisors he had planted would ensure that his eldest paternal uncle would gamble, as always and lose, as usual. But it suited his needs and so he had made his peace and sworn his vow to his dead nephew’s bloodline.

The charioteer was lost in his thoughts when another voice broke the silence from beyond the broken hulks,

“The moon holds sway in the night….”

The voice was instantly recognizable for its earthy nasal twang of Mathura’s dialect and resonance instead of the high speech of Sanskrit, but years of training and living a double life could not be set aside easily,

“…..only when the sun has set and the dark is nigh.”

Completing the first line of the code exchange, the charioteer swung down from the running board. As he swung down, he adjusted his plain dhoti and palmed the first of his throwing knives smoothly as he turned towards the speaker who had arisen behind the barricades.

“The years with the high-born’s have not robbed you of your gokul training, cousin” said the man arising from his defensive crouch, his sword also openly bared but hanging loosely at his side.

The charioteer relaxed slightly as the second coded exchange went smoothly, but his nape still tingled and he did not cache away his knife and scanned the surrounding environs silently till his eyes found a bump on the ground that did not meld with the usual churned up earth of the killing fields. And then he waited looking around for more discrepancies till the first man coughed and the hump moved to show an armed wiry man flattened on the ground underneath a dust-coloured cloth liberally smeared with the red earth. Bowing to both men, the wiry man crept off into the dark.

“You couldn’t really expect me to come alone into THE killing grounds where the only thing constant is Yamraj on the sidelines reaping souls like its harvesting season, cousin”, stated the first man, still holding on to the sword lazily like it was an extension of his body, “especially after you hacked off Sishupala’s head with that accursed discus of yours to show solidarity with those damned five, earlier”

“We needed to provoke Jarasandh and take him out of the equation or this war would have been for naught – I have explained this to you cousin, earlier” stated the charioteer easily, still scanning the landscape for anything that did not fit in, anything that tingled his senses.

“so you have, so you have… fact, I was one of the last to accept that the great deception started so many years ago is finally coming to fruition and you have managed to deliver each and every one of your targets as promised to King Ugrasen as payment for killing Kansa the Just. In fact, people believe that you killed an evil monster now, less than 30 years later – I have trouble accepting that you ensured even regicide would be forgotten – that too regicide of a popular and good king.”

“Gokul was a good training ground, cousin and Kansa WAS a monster to my mother, regardless of how good he was as a king to the populace. My father was promised the throne and Kansa had no right on it. The Kuru’s are merely a continuation of my revenge since they aided him then. My promise to King Ugrasen was nothing that I did not wish to achieve myself.” said the charioteer, pacing around the chariot now, looking for something that still tingled his scalp and screamed danger in seven dialects.

“So Vasudeva, are you satisfied now? Has your blood thirst been appeased with the vermillion & blood of so many including that of your only nephew being part of the red rivers you have caused to run on these killing grounds?” asked the first man, squatting on his haunches, sword held protectively before him nonchalantly.

The charioteer noted the sword position and smiled inwardly at the respect given to a seemingly unarmed and single man. True respect that was tinged with awe at the enormity of the battlefield, all caused directly or indirectly by him alone. He was surrounded by corpses of men now dead due to him and the very earth owed its colour and name to his efforts.

He continued checking the chariot and then the horses, softly singing to them, always more comfortable with animals than with humans. Even that sea serpent that mistakenly came up the Yamuna on a tidal wave had been easy enough to befriend and control with fish and offal. Something that added to his legend, but its death too was necessary like his nephew’s and he had dried his tears inwardly at both times.

So much death caused, so few regretted or even considered, how else could, people not consider him alien and at times god-like for the ability to twist events to his purposes. He had been requested to stay away from Yadav lands after King Ugrasen had ascended the throne and the court advisors had seen to it that he did not return for any significant amount of time.

He had been dispatched to build island fortresses, to overthrow challengers to the yadav clans, to win away foolish princesses whose alliances could be dangerous and more and finally to the culmination of his great efforts into this battlefield of bones, picked clean by carrion.

Was he bloodthirsty or satisfied?

The charioteer stopped grooming the off-side horse and looked at the man on the ground directly for the first time. They had studied together, played together and they had worked together for many years – but now, the man on the ground was in awe of him and his actions.

“I, Krishna Vasudev, born to the moon dynasty, sworn to action and deed, thought and belief to the night that succors us. Sworn by birth to the wishes of the Yadav clan wishes, for which I exist and for nothing else.” He softly intoned in the sacred oath of the clan. Nothing could be more profane or sacred on the killing grounds.

The first man who had swung up at the first syllable of the clan oath, grounded his sword and bowed on bended knee and said,

“I see and bow to you, great divider, narrator of war, greatest of friends, most bitter of enemies who has urged the dogs of war to the very brink of destruction and beyond. Order me, my lord, what else is left for us to do”

The charioteer looked at his old playmate, who was bowing to him and replied softly,

“The house of Kuru is extinct and the only heir is my grandnephew who is of our bloodline and therefore sacrosanct. We have created strife where none existed, brought about intercine rivalry of the worst kind. Brought to throne illegitimate offspring who have no claim, set against each other the famed chariot wheels of the clan kuru which had drank of the blood of every house and clan which have opposed them.”

Aye, we Yadavs, have broken the armour of invincible might of the scions of the sun dynasty and brought about the great schism between warring cousins leading to this great war which decimated the great house of Kuru, Paurava’s, Shantanu, thought the dark-skinned charioteer.

“We are done here, old friend. Its time for us to go home.”

Still on bended knee, his old playmate remained silent, only a slight tremble and flutter of the fine Kamchatka steel grounded on the earth giving answer. The Yadu clans would not have him back even when he had removed the only obstacle to their being the foremost clan and the greatest in the land without spilling a drop of precious yadav blood. He was still the regicide who could not be allowed peace and settlement in his own lands and amongst his own people.

At best, he was the ultimate weapon for them.

At best he could retire to his island fortress and endure the termagant Rukmini

Never return to his childhood lands of Gokul, Mathura, Vrindavan.

Never marry his beloved Radha as it was incestuous to marry his aunt.

Never to belong, only to be feared, famed and called upon in their hour of need.

The clan Kuru, famed and feared as the invincible clan of warriors who had dominated Bharat for ages tied by blood and forged through the chain mail of their allies was no more but there was no exultation, no happiness at the completion of the task – only a barren mind and heart. He had repaid friendship and warmth in blood. No wonder his elder brother had warned him of this and refused to take part of any of this, despite being ordered by the Yadu clans. But he had hoped to win his way back by gifting them that which they wanted most.

He had given his all to this end but as he looked upon his cousin, his kinsman, his earliest playmate, before him on bended knee sword grounded, the charioteer stood considering the bitter truth of his exile. He now understood the danger signs – his senses were warning him of this itself, not of temporal danger. He advanced upon his oldest playmate who had stood by him all these years, been his conduit to the yadu clans and embraced him.

“Go with God, Sudama. I will walk into Hell… alone” said the charioteer as he slammed the hidden knife into his playmate’s neck and ripped on, stepping aside only when the blood fountained out.

The yadu spies later reported the single chariot leaving and the decapitated body to the clan chiefs and received word which read as follows.

No man is greater than the clan. Send for the poisoned archers and await your chance.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here comes the rain …. again

I had forgotten the rains at home.

The big, fat glistening droplets that slam into the ground that it’s like they have a battle with the dry asphalt and earth adorning the dusty streets of my home town. I had forgotten the smell of freshening winds as the grey, dusky clouds over ran the plains coming all the way down off the hills.

I had lost in my travels, the almost electrical feel that accompanies the peak of a hot and dry spring in waiting. The thousand towns had robbed me of memories complete joy of a summer’s day washed clean by chilly drops of rain and even hail. Rain and hail, which produced a weird symphonic cacophony as they rang off hard tops of cars, tin roofs and even on the concrete streets. This rain drowning in me in memories had character and attitude; it sang to me, welcoming me back home in its sheer & beautiful ferocity.

I was standing on the roof of the college where I teach as I first smelt the freshening wind and noted the dusky clouds obliterate the setting sun. It has become a habit of mine to bid adieu to the sun with nicotine & caffeine on the rooftop, a weakness of watching the ever-changing landscape of my town and world in the last rays of a never-changing sun.

As I drove home, I could feel the sudden temperature dropping and living in a humid climate, it meant a sudden sharp relief from the scorching heat that generated so much chlorophyll. Waking up in the middle of the night, I could hear the steady drip on the old timbers and galvanized tin roof and was sung to sleep with its sweet lullaby with promises of a new world tomorrow.

A promise that was kept as I drove to work, over washed streets and glistening green peeping at me, fighting against the relentless tide of the concrete jungle that tries to overwhelm nature. I could see it in the high pitched shouts of young blood that was set tingling with wetness and evidenced in the fabrics stuck to skin despite efforts to the contrary….or not.

The rains kept their promise in the flickering voltages and the drenched terrace that rippled with the droplets. By evening, it was balmy and no one had thoughts of working and concentration itself went for a walk on the wild side……in the rains probably.

The ride back home was slow with headlights almost invisible in the crowded swathes of falling water and everyone paying more attention than usual to the slick roads. Tires churned up splashes of muddy water at potholes and depressions in the abused streets. The sidewalks were empty except for hurrying figures but small bunches could be seen huddling under awnings and overhanging eaves of buildings. But for all the wetness, all the issues of water-logging, of all concerns of everyday life, there was a giddy happiness in the city today.

The city was alight with reflections off the water and the joy of the river people reveling in their element.

I have come home….to the rains, again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Savory Experience

The rotis in front of me, were large and THICK…..we used to call them “labourer’s rotis” back in my lawschool hostel days. In those days, we were usually ALWAYS hungry and the mess owners knew their clientele. It’s been a while since I had passed out of lawschool or had the chance to feel hungry enough to eat alligators, scale, teeth and all.

“Everything all right saaar?” asked mine host. A large, swarthy man with a face pocked with scars and wearing shabby and well worn clothes, concern & turmeric writ large on his features. The establishment was small and dingy, with 2 ceiling fans barely moving and the doors & windows open to the road. Its usual clients were the everyday people of the streets, an assorted mix of servicemen, trades people and others I and my “class” would refer to as “hazira” or daily wage earners. Plumbers, telephone linemen, even two women who looked like receptionists. People who would work for us and with whom we would rarely fraternize, much less share a meal with, in short. Yes, I belong and grew up in a classist society, where caste might not be mentioned in public, but categorization exists in the front of the mind in every sphere.

It was all my fault….the other professors and institute people would have their food delivered upstairs and eat amongst their own…our own!!! I wanted to come down and “try the experience” since I was the maverick from abroad !!! :P

No way out, so I grinned at the owner of the shanty and proceeded to tear the roti in front of me… WAS thick.

As I scooped up some of the sabji and started chewing, I realized that I had come a far way indeed. From being accustomed to quiet consumption in air conditioned restaurents with proper cutlery, silverware and china, it was down to steel thali’s and extreme mastication with gusto & pleasure!!! Did I mention the open-jawed burping??!!!

The man across me was a stringy and wiry individual putting away rice like there was no tomorrow. As I watched, rather stared with admiration at his messy but effective style, he was least concerned with anything else other than his food. As I watched more closely, I realized that the man was not messy at all, but there was an economy in his movements and he did not spill even a grain of the precious meal. By the time, he was done, after a prodigious 4 helpings of rice and vegetables and lentils, his plate was spic & span and there was not a single dab of spillage anywhere in his eating area. There was no wastage of food and his heartfelt burp expressed a happiness that was almost lost on me. Accustomed as I was to wastage of excess food, of meals for the sake of mealtimes and comprehensively conditioned to table manners, this man licking his fingers with slow satisfaction was the epitome of everything that I had missed out on the other side of the fence.

As I continued with my meal, I found the food nothing to write home about, but the hospitality of the owner in feeding HIS people was so evident in every movement and gesture that I quite forgot what I was eating. After all, eating was something we do not just for the hunger in the belly but sometimes also for the gaps in the soul. I was observing an elan and a honest happiness in feeding people food, that the supercilious maitre’d of many fine dining restaurents & hotel would never be able to understand, much less emulate. The roti’s seemed to appear magically and even if they were not soft or even tasty, they were piping hot and served with aplomb by the 11 yr old son of the owner with an equally happy grin on his face.

As I finished, I realized that I had polished off 5 whole rotis without even thinking about it, in a shanty restaurant I would never have noticed much less imagined even entering in a previous life. I wouldn’t dream of inviting friends to have a meal in this place, but I was hungry and I had “experienced” something today…..something I believe was important. Something, that is not easily defined and perhaps should not be wrapped in inadequate words to be put aside on paper or a screen and forgotten. It’s is perhaps an experience that is to be relished and treasured, in the recesses of the mind and heart which makes callous comparisons and categorizations.

We live in an unforgiving society where the price of success is measured in values and costs, where our only endeavour is to move up and ahead. In such times, no one is to blame……but it might serve us well to stop and walk a different path and even take the chance to do something we haven’t done.

I’ve come home……

Monday, February 22, 2010

Journey’s End ??!!!

I am uncomplicated. Finally.

Probably not much of a statement, but there it is. That is exactly what I finally am or perhaps, I have finally managed to sort out my shit, and see things for what they are.

All throughout my life, I was always figured I was the tortured, complex sort with the massive chip on my shoulder. The amount of things I have done, some good, mostly bad to really understand what or who I am is truly staggering. At least, by my count or so I think...

It’s not been a simple thing to really reach this conclusion, but it’s not a conclusion I have reached through by mere supposition or even hypothesis. Each step of the way, I have tested and checked and there have been more dead ends than you could believe.

However, as I look back – it becomes clearer to understand the controlling factors, the variables and the constant’s of my life, as it is. And perhaps, the very conclusive evidence of my understanding lies in the fact that I am finally ready to settle down.

I used to be petrified of marrying someone and staying with that person for the rest of my life. Totally terrified of being stuck with a person who would bore me to tears once I have had sex with her, or worse. Thoroughly scared of everything and anything that COULD happen, especially of history repeating itself as I always envisaged when I would see my parent’s bloodless strife for the past 33 years that still continues.

However, as I finally start getting closure and clarity on my life, I realize that instead of all that I have aspired to be, have been, or might even become, the first and hardest step I have taken was to accept who I was and what I have been.

I have accepted I am the fat and screwed up kid who had to learn how to game the hard way because it was either that or die. That I had the willingness to have no morals, no ethics, no ideals simply because I could not afford them if I wanted to be in the rat race or even stay ahead. That, the countless hook ups, even my qualifications and education, not to mention so much else were all merely strategy to stay in the game we all play throughout our lives. The projection of a larger-than-life self with the long list of “achievements” to support and sustain and other wise succor a desperate case of low self-esteem, overlook a scarred childhood etc. The saddest part was that, for my world, for my friends, for my family and my life as it stands today, it is a successful image that generates awe, envy and sometimes even hatred….for a given value of “success”.

And it’s harder still to accept that I will continue to perhaps play the game on many other levels, but at least I will do so now, in full knowledge of the fact that I am indeed “playing” the game and not merely assuaging my guilt, frustrations or whatever.

So, for all my faults, all my follies and all my silly and possibly pointless existence, I finally realize that I am uncomplicated.

All I want is someone to love and who cares for me, gets my silly jokes and earn enough to manage a decent life. Ambitions, wants and everything else, when viewed from this perspective become so much clearer and more importantly, easier to deal with.

The doctorate, the fancy car, the penthouse apartment and even the innumerable countless bimbo’s I always fancied as the ideal trophy wife would be like just another certificate in my CV folder. Another goal accomplished with no sense of victory, except the relentless need to score again, to do better, to accomplish more.

All I got, from this desperate need to fulfill my ego or even that of a vicarious parent’s desires was a case of low-level alcoholism and a bad taste in the mouth every morning. And all it took was a simple girl who had perhaps no qualifications that can be “counted” in my world, no expensive certificates, no career path, no posh accent or even tastes and definitely no looks per se. It took one simple girl with lots of patience to let me ramble and rummage in my own heart and mind.

She doesn’t make me laugh with her wit as someone else did, earlier. She doesn’t look like million dollars glinting like a trophy on my arm, as someone else did earlier. She definitely does not do much but she perhaps does much more that I can figure out.

I am not in love with her, because I don’t know what love really is. But I am hoping she can teach me, someday.

This one is for you, sweetheart. Marry me.

One of us is going to regret this for sure, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to take the blame later on by being the decision taker!!!