To Be or Not To Be
A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!
~A Wise Man Said~
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~My Photo Blog~
...Worth a Thousand Words
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
It’s strange how, sometimes, try as you may, you cannot put into words what you’re feeling or going through. I feel that now. And yet, when I recalled these words from If by Rudyard Kipling, they seemed to trace the shape of my thoughts, albeit with an infinitely surer and steadier hand…
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
There is a general belief in the wisdom of the majority or the mighty. One accepts without question the logic of ‘they know better’—as kids, your parents or teachers know better. As you grow older, the authority figures change but there is always someone who ‘knows better’, and whose guidance you need to follow without question. While I wouldn’t advocate replacing absolute docility with absolute arrogance, how about crediting yourself with some sense and thinking for yourself for a change? A lot of ills in the world would disappear if people weren’t lazy enough to accept everything ‘they who know better’ have said, and tried to judge things for themselves. Maybe we would all be a lot more conscious of our actions because we would then be directly responsible for their consequences—not just the ones who presumably should have ‘known better’.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Just back from a one week bliss-filled holiday to Goa. To the sweat and grind and glamour of the city.
It seems to me that we’re so used to an over-active, hyper-charged life that when we are faced with a day with no agenda and no artificial means of losing time, we sort of draw a blank… sitting at the beach watching the waves flap backward and forward, I was conscious of myself thinking about n number of things that didn’t need my immediate attention. Sometimes I would flip out my phone and take pictures, sometimes check random emails, basically twitch and turn mentally as well as physically as if being still was something very new to me and I couldn’t quite adjust myself to it. I wanted so much to just relax, just “feel” at rest, but the pressure to feel relaxed seemed to be making it even more difficult... creating a goal where the idea was to have none…
It’s funny how just absorbing nature makes you see things in a completely different perspective. In the one week, we saw different people come and go at the beach. And it made me think how we all come and go in this short existence on earth. How some of us enjoy our brief stay, play in the water, make our castles in the sand, and then leave. Some have a much longer time to spend, sit at the side-lines or jog along outpacing the other strollers. Some take huge risks and may get lost in the waves prematurely or may be cautious and still get blown away by the wrath of the sea. The one truth is that one day we must go. Funny how we know this truth so well, and yet how easy it is to forget in our regular life where little things assume significance, and how watching the big never-ending sea, it hits you.
The question that I left with… what is the best way to spend your time at the beach before it’s time to go?
Friday, July 10, 2015
Was reading this intriguing article on how the English language is losing all simplicity and sense, by George Orwell. (What would he say to the use of English in today’s times, I wonder!)
Here’s an excerpt that particularly arrested my attention, though I have to admit that it was less due to the English language lesson there and more owing to the substance.
Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Here it is in modern English:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”
I have often wondered about “chance” or “fate”, and spent many blog posts brooding about it (my readers(!) would testify to it ;) ). I was struck by this reference from the Bible because I believed that most of the tangible or intangible “rewards” one aspires for today, and in the context of allocation of which one usually dwells on “fate”, so to speak, have all been manufactured in the recent centuries. Now, it seems to me that even though the needs and aspirations in olden times were far more basic or simple, be it bread or be it winning the war, they were still distributed in a way that demanded calling out “fate”.
Strangely, another recent article that made me think around this subject was from the World Economic Forum, titled, Is it possible to measure inequality of opportunity? It brings up an “academic” perspective. The point it makes is, that there is a difference between “inequality of opportunity” and “inequality of outcomes”. While aiming for equality of opportunity is a good thing, akin to “levelling the playing field”, trying to create an equality of outcomes is undesirable, almost defeating the whole purpose. Inequality of opportunity has to do with things not in our control or our “circumstances” but the latter has to do with our own “effort”, and who would argue against the fact that we should be rewarded for differing levels of effort? But, wait a minute! Here is where it gets interesting. Are our “outcomes” in life simply based on different levels of effort, assuming an equality of opportunity? What about “luck”, which is the word used in this article, or indeed “chance” or “fate”? For example, what about innate talent and would we call that a part of what goes into “effort”? But if we do not, do we risk giving the not-so-talented a leg up and encouraging mediocrity? …
Well, I guess the main point is that, “circumstances” and “effort” are quite interconnected, and while one does not want to discount the relationship between effort and outcome, one must bear in mind that there is more to outcomes than pure effort, and that “more” may be called “luck” or “fate” or “circumstances” or whatever you will. “Equality of opportunity” may not guarantee an “equality of outcomes”, after all.
Friday, June 19, 2015
I sometimes wonder if over-conscientiousness can be one’s downfall especially in today’s world where conscience itself is not easy to come by? It happens all the time. Take the simplest example. You reach a venue 10 minutes early to avoid making someone wait up for you. That person turns up half an hour late. Who loses? You don’t entertain other customers because you have committed the property or product to one but that person opts for a different product. Who loses? This happened to me a few days back when a person went all incommunicado after clearly closing the deal in a property I was looking to put on rent! Even when another party evinced interest, I chose to honour my commitment than deal with my conscience for an extra thousand. But who lost? With my good-old-fashioned values, I am now looking for a tenant when the one who didn’t bother with all this stuff is probably having a cosy time in a home with an even lesser rent to pay!
I have been wondering what this means and whether this requires a change in my thinking or attitude. Should I tell myself that the world doesn’t care anymore and clearly even the universe doesn’t because instead of punishing, it seems to be rewarding these value-shirkers? Imagine the time I would gain by making people wait around for me and turning that time to good use—instead of waiting for THEM? Imagine how many disappointments I would avoid because I would only be ruthlessly thinking about myself and what would benefit me most? Nobody could one-up me because I would be one-upping everybody else? See? … Well, looks like I don’t see. I don’t know whether the universe does punish or does not, whether I will find another tenant soon enough or not, whether this is the way to be or not … but the fact is I am far more happier losing some money because I lost a tenant than I would have been if I had gone back on my word and earned a little more. I could let other people down… but I don't live with other people... I live with myself and how do I let myself down?
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Some people make you feel like you’ve known them all along… or you wouldn’t mind knowing them a little more… sort of have them around in your life in some way. I had that feeling today. It’s a rare feeling for me because mostly I am someone who is focused on the subject than the person. And I am rather bad at acting on these impulses because, you know, what if they don’t like me back. I am okay losing a potential friend but I’d rather not lose my dignity ;)
Here’s one On Friendship by one of my favourite poets…
Friendship on earth we may as easily find
As he the North-west passage that is blind;
It’s not unlike th’ imaginary stone,
That tatter’d chemists long have doted on.
Sophisticate affection’s not the best,
The world affords few friends will bide the test;
They’ll make a glorious show a little space,
But tarnish in the rain, like copper lace;
Or, melted in affliction, in one day
They’ll smoke and stink and vapour quite away.
We miss the true materials, choosing friends;
On virtue we project not, but our ends.
So by desert, while we embrace too many,
We courted are like ——, not loved by any.
Good deeds ill placed, which we on most men heap,
Are seeds of that ingratitude we reap;
For he that is so sweet, that none denies,
Is made of honey for the nimble flies.
Choose one or two companions for thy life
But be as true, as thou wouldst have thy wife.
Though he lives joyless, that enjoys no friend,
He, that has many, pays for ’t in the end.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Hello there, world! ;)
Here’s a question: If you were a lovely singer, and you were looking to win a singing competition, would it make sense to you if people said it’s not enough to be a good singer, you should learn to dance well and show your moves to the audience, because that’s what audiences love, that’s what sells, that’s what looks good on TV, and that’s a winner? Would you learn dancing because you wanted to win desperately? If not, why? And if not, would people be right to say you were rather stubborn and close-minded? Well, I was in one such situation and I did not learn dancing, not least because I have two left feet ;) Of course, I did not win the competition, and of course, I wasn’t very hopeful either.
There is no logic to the idea that you should be judged for something that is not really the measure of the thing you were actually supposed to be judged for. I also do not get this whole thing about ‘being visible’ or ‘selling yourself’ because at least in my book, you try very hard to sell something that does not have a salient property of its own. When a thing has properties of its own, someone or at least someone who is in the position of a ‘judge’, should be able to separate the grain from the jaggery. If I know my diamonds, I will pay the price for them—I don’t need them to be shown to me in fancy wrapping paper. And if I do, I am not fit to appraise diamonds, and what’s more, I will lose them.
End of the day, ‘authenticity’ matters. If I get everything and lose that, I have nothing. That competition is not worth it.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Special week for me what with the birthday and all that :) A year older and am not feeling any the wiser… though I do feel less prettier :( Maybe it’s a mind thing or a real thing, but you keep wishing you looked like what you looked like 5 years ago and every 5 years you realise you didn’t look so bad 5 years earlier. OK, I have not spent that many decades on this planet as this thought process might suggest, but am sensing this would be the case going by my experience so far :( Appearances are not a topic I usually voice my thoughts about, but well… why not? I guess with all the ‘showing-off’ craze and ‘selfie’ menace, one might end up evaluating ones mugshot a lot more closely and frequently than I think it’s worth.
I have thought about starting a new trend for myself on my birthday. I am a ‘sucker for gifts’, as the yuppie brigade would put it, and one of the highlights of my day is anticipating what my family would be gifting me (well, they are the most consistent gifters and they dare not be inconsistent ;) ). This time, I thought to myself, why not give myself a gift too to show how much I love myself? I usually don’t quote out of movies (looks like I am treading into lot of unknown ground in this post ;) ), but there’s this line in the movie Jab We Met where Kareena Kapoor says “Mein apni favourite hoon”—I quite liked it. I mean, who can love you, pamper you, comfort you, understand you, and be there for you more than you? So it stands to reason that on your birthday, this most special person in your life, which is you, should give you a most special gift :) I would think the process of buying a gift from myself to myself on my birthday should tighten this bond further, give expression to all these feelings, and make me love myself more, if that’s possible! ;)
Friday, January 02, 2015
Was reading The Fall by Albert Camus yesterday. I wouldn’t recommend it as healthy reading on the first of the year. While I couldn’t relate with many of the monologues—I guess I am too rooted a person even though I have my flights of fancy—here is an extract that caught my attention. It may sound morbid but think of it.
“Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism. So if there were the least certainty that one could enjoy the show, it would be worth proving to them what they are unwilling to believe and thus amazing them. But you kill yourself and what does it matter whether or not they believe you? You are not there to see their amazement and their contrition (fleeting at best), to witness, according to every man’s dream, your own funeral. In order to cease being a doubtful case, one has to cease being, that’s all.”
Don’t we sometimes feel that the best way to punish people who do not appreciate you enough or value you enough would be to completely disappear from their lives? But then, like Camus says, what would be the fun if we couldn’t watch their reaction. And worse still, what if, they simply forgot you. Which is more likely than it may seem. Everything and everyone is eminently forgettable and replaceable. Sample this.
“Besides, isn’t it better thus? We’d suffer too much from their indifference. “You’ll pay for this!” a daughter said to her father who had prevented her from marrying a too well groomed suitor. And she killed herself. But the father paid for nothing. He loved fly-casting. Three Sundays later he went back to the river—to forget, as he said. He was right; he forgot. To tell the truth, the contrary would have been surprising. You think you are dying to punish your wife and actually you are freeing her.”
Hmm… well. I won’t say I am as pessimistic about the human capacity for emotion or affection. But the general mass of humans probably forget soon enough. I remember hearing this story about this character who lost his wife and kids in a tragic fire that took many lives. This chap also did what he could to save as many as he could but unluckily couldn’t save his own. Apparently, he married his childhood sweetheart just a year later. My friends who related the story to me didn’t find anything odd about this. The wife and kids are gone now; doesn’t he have a right to life and happiness? What would I have—that he mope around his whole life because he lost whom he loved? What’s so wrong about beginning afresh and all that. Forgive me if I sound a little harsh, but I couldn’t but question this fellow’s sentiments for his wife while she was alive. I mean, if he could forget her in a flash and what is a year but a flash? Well, I don’t know.
Another anecdote in the book really amused me.
“One day while I was eating lobster at a sidewalk restaurant and a beggar bothered me, I called the proprietor to drive him away and loudly approved the words of that administrator of justice: “You are embarrassing people,” he said. “Just put yourself in the place of these ladies and gents, after all!”
See? It’s amusing in such a provoking way! Living in India, any scene with beggars is easy to imagine. One almost sees them and one doesn’t. One almost ceases to think of them as unfortunate ‘humans’. One almost blames them for being a nuisance on a good day… this exchange made me think about it.
Monday, December 22, 2014
The season is hereWhen the heart is freer
And everyone who’s dear
Wishes you were near…
Hmm… seriously, I don’t know what it is about this season. You just feel like hugging everybody and looking forward to something, anything. And this time, it’s extra special for me. A little baby has literally arrived in our house in the form of a fetching niece. I am an aunt for the first time in my life and I’d say this is the first time I am looking forward to being called ‘aunty’ or ‘maushy’ as they say in the Konkani language.
I am not a baby person in general. I don’t enjoy being around the little ones because more than them, it’s you who are expected to conform to some sort of a baby personality and it, well, doesn’t come naturally to me. I have said it on this blog before, maybe a long while back, and I haven’t changed a whit. I can become an old lady with old folks—listen attentively, smile and nod, offer a murmur of profundity to match theirs, and before long, they’d eat out of my hand. But put me among the babies and I’ll know not what to do. I’ll squirm uncomfortably, pull their cheek embarrassedly, and wonder when I could exit the scene without seeming like an outsider to the baby cult. I won’t say I have become a convert now, but I am certainly devoted ;) To watch a little ball of life spring out of nowhere right in front of your eyes… well… I wasn’t prepared for that moment. And that moment made me look at life in 360 degrees so to speak. The whole cycle thing.
Looks like I have digressed. So here’s wishing a very Happy Christmas and blessed New Year to me and to you. May this year lead to many happy stories and beautiful memories J
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
OK. I am in the mood for an argument. Actually, I am always in the mood for arguments and since not many like to engage in the sport with me, I argue with myself. I happened to be a bit under the weather one of these days—as the great Wodehouse would say, if not actually disgruntled, far from being gruntled. It may seem like an odd kind of thing to do during these times—sort of like drinking cold water when you’re suffering from a cough—but I like to read up some good old philosophical ‘stuff’ when I am not exactly feeling jolly. It cures whatever little jolliness is left in me but when you know you’re in great company, you don’t mind so much.
Well, so this time I thought I’ll chew on a bit of existentialism—‘existence precedes essence’ being a central tenet. In short, your life has the meaning that you choose to give it. You are the architect of your life. You have complete freedom to act but you are completely responsible for the consequences of your actions. This freedom can be exhilarating but also frightening, for example, when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff, you fear falling off, but you know that nothing and no one stops you from jumping off. Which creates anxiety because of the realisation that ‘you are on your own’ and you are free to make choices concerning ‘you’—choices whose ultimate responsibility no one else can shoulder but you.
This brings me to my argument. I cannot say I relate with existential philosophy. Not because I am uncomfortable about the fact that I might throw myself off a cliff in an unguarded moment and there will be no God to save me (though that’s there). But because, when one says you’re completely free to choose, are you? When one says I can define my own life with my actions, can I? and when one says I undertake a certain action with the knowledge of the responsibility it entails, do I always (I may not have full knowledge)? Yes, I am free to “act” one way or the other but am I “freely choosing” those actions—is my life a series of actions and consequences of those actions, or is it a series of actions and reactions and actions that are further modified by the nature of those reactions and how those continuous actions and reactions define my ability to respond to situations or the manner in which I respond to situations. For example, a woman whose marriage is arranged for her, how free is her choice given that she did not “choose to be born in that traditional society”? What about the context in which I am placed—my actions are not independent of context surely? If I was born in a palace with a golden spoon in my mouth or born in a poor man’s house, wouldn’t my “essence” in some way be predetermined even before I was born or “existed”? And wouldn’t it have not some but a lot of weight on how my “essence” is shaped finally? That is about birth but what about “what happens to you along the way”. What if you, say, lose a parent early in life—you cannot have “chosen” to lose the parent and yet this loss may have a bearing on most of the seemingly “free decisions” you will be making through life. Can you be said to be “responsible” for those decisions that were in some way “predetermined” by the event that happened in your life—and not by yourself.
You know where I am going with this. But, no, I am not discounting freedom and responsibility; in fact, I think one must be extremely conscious of both otherwise you run the risk of bobbing around the ocean of life unmindful of where it takes you and maybe drag other people along the way in an irresponsible manner, because, hey!, someone up there is taking us wherever he chooses to. I very much believe in acting consciously and responsibly. What I am saying is that no matter how conscious I am or responsible I am, I cannot necessarily take my life to the destination I want to take it to or shape its “essence”. I can steer it as best I can through bad weather and veer it along with whatever knowledge I have, but, my best efforts and decisions may not be equal to what gets thrown my way. There is something in nature that has to allow me to navigate my course… and if it doesn’t, I won’t.
Monday, November 03, 2014
Do you ever go through pangs of self-doubt? Feel like you are not good enough? Like whatever little you have achieved you do not deserve? As if you will be found out very soon—people will realise how incapable you are and call you an impostor, a deceiver, and laugh in your face. Like you need to hide every moment because if people see you, there will be more chances of being found out. As if you are hiding some secret that mustn’t come out and when you surprise yourself asking what secret, you don’t really know.
I know I must be sounding like an idiot already trying to make too much of probably nothing—but the truth is, I have millions of moments of self-doubt when I wish somebody would just shake me and tell me I am okay. I may not be an Einstein but I am not a fool either. Okay, I know I am not a fool and nobody needs to tell me that—but what shall I say? The world has created so many medals for everything and the opportunity to win those medals is not given to everyone. Getting those medals brings you more opportunity for medals and more of those tangible titles that make you a desired commodity in the eyes of the world. Those who do not have those medals or those things that those medals bring, no matter what else they came into the world with, don’t find themselves standing as tall. It’s like one of those cycles where if you start with something you can keep multiplying it, and the more you start with, the more it multiplies, but if you have nothing to start with, you remain at ground zero. Vicious circle is the word that goes I guess.
Well, not to be too brooding or negative, there are lots of people in the world who fought against the zero and made something out of nothing. Which is why we admire and look up to them. Where they got the confidence from is what I wonder. They responded to the call of their own hearts and earned medals in the final round—even without passing all those fancy levels.
Monday, October 20, 2014
I always feel that people matter more than places but some places make you feel that life is worth living. There is more to life than the everyday grind of it. Just looking at the moon above, or feeling the chill in the air, or walking briskly in the lush green park, or exchanging polite smiles in the tube, or chance philosophical conversations with strangers, or warm reactions like ‘brilliant’ for simple actions, or beautiful food packaged to make your senses go into a twist… in short, every day is so full of rich little moments or sensations that you feel alive and happy to be alive. Even solitude takes on a delicious hue when you sit on the bench by the bank of the Thames seeing people mingle around or just pass merrily by…
I wanted to write some sort of blow-by-blow account of my trip to London but it seemed like it would just end up being a ‘technical summary’, so to speak (a friend once said I am not ‘creative’ and it is when I try to capture such experiences that I am most conscious of this lack of creative expression or whatever one might call it).
Many a time I felt a sort moment of truth…not truth exactly, but maybe a moment of tickling? For example, once when I was on the tube (as you can tell, I spent a lot of time on the tube shuttling around ;)), I saw a well-heeled lady perched on those rests that haven’t quite grown to become seats, munching on ‘dried fish’. I actually saw the tail of the fish hanging out of her elegant mouth. I am a fish as well as dried fish eater… but never having seen a dried fish chips-like pack… tickled me :) (we eat fish dunked in gravy and not like a snack, in case you were curious). Another time in the tube, as very often happens in the Mumbai locals, I ran towards a seat, and a lady ran from the opposite end towards the same seat. We each tried to persuade the other to take the seat. If you’re familiar with Mumbai trains, you should know why this would tickle me :)
Walking along the street food markets was lovely. The sights, smells, bustling, crowds… I mean, I could have been in an Indian bazaar except everyone smells nice and talks softly :)
I actually heard someone—outside of novels—say ‘Blimey’, in that sexy British accent! (I didn’t mention the accent before, did I? ;)) I felt so tickled with happiness really! Is that how it sounds? Bllllimey!
Westminster was one of my favourite visits (just remembered: I mistook the entrance of the Houses of Parliament which is across the road for Westminster. They all look so majestic.) Walking beside the resting places of such greats as Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Dryden... I was in tune with a different time altogether. And coming to the practical experience, a phone-like device was given to each of us and you pressed a number on the phone to listen to the commentary at certain numbered spots. It was one tickling feeling for me to see technology used in this ancient space and that too to such marvellous effect. People could loiter where they wished and did not need a guide to shepherd them around. This increased my respect for technology though I can’t say I am a fan of it generally.
Watching the ‘Comedy of Errors’ at the Globe Theatre was exciting. More than the play itself, it was exciting to soak in the atmosphere, be in a stadium-full of Shakespeare fans, many of whom had chosen to stand for two full hours to watch the play! I couldn’t help think about the modern lives of the artistes performing the plays… tickling to think about that lady with lovely golden hair and a tiara travelling by tube like regular mortals?
How can I forget the all-pervasive theme which was never very far from anyone’s mind? Weather! I had read about this creature called the English weather in the books and having only known ‘hot’ or ‘rainy’ as weather that goes on for months with nothing really remarkable about it, could never get to the bottom of this. Now I know. You don’t know whether it will be cold, cool, rainy, sunny, cloudy and what have you till the day in question dawns (incidentally, my online research on what types of clothes to carry at this time of year gave me a hint of how unpredictable the English weather was!). Someone told me, ‘You seem to have brought along the Mumbai weather with you’. That was the first week. The next week I was on my way to St Paul’s Cathedral and it started raining…by end of the day I had bought myself an umbrella that never left my bag till the end of my trip. If that’s not something to keep you tickled every day, I don’t know what is! :)
Monday, September 15, 2014
While I have nothing important to report at this moment (except that I visited Chennai for the first time recently and fell in love with Mahabalipuram!)… I am very, very excited to be visiting a country that has the most special of places in my heart… almost a Mecca of sorts. I don’t know how I have managed to visit so many places on earth but not be here yet… as they say, maybe the universe has to find the right time and right reasons, and it all comes together more brilliantly than you would imagine. The fact that my first destination will be Stratford-upon-Avon… I mean, can it be a bigger blessing than that? The title of my blog says it all! J
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind,~William Shakespeare
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function, and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape which it doth latch;
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud'st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet-favour or deformed'st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
When I used to have time to meander earlier, I used to blog. Now, I shop. I have been shopping forever, but now I get to shop online. People in the US, Europe and other mature economies might be wondering if I live in Timbuktu, seeing that shopping online has been in existence since some time now, but in India… well, it’s just now catching on and how!
As if by serendipity, everything around me is sort of making me think about this development. A friend of mine happened to ask me to take a look at a paper on e-tailing and then I was dragged into some discussion related to e-tailing in some other context and then the Economist article that landed home had a cover story called ‘How far will Amazon go’ (very interesting, btw). That’s when it seemed like if there ever was a sign, this was it. Get thee gone and write a blog!
Except that, I don’t know what I want to say. I have done e-shopping for stuff (as opposed to travel which is not what we are talking about) when I was in the US some 5 years ago. I got so hooked onto it then that I used to browse through Amazon for hours on end and buy stuff that I didn’t know how I would manage to carry home. That’s how I ended up buying a ‘salmon-coloured yoga mat’ that’s never seen the light of day in Mumbai, packaged as it is. Since being back, I never went shopping online till about three weeks ago, when I thought I’d see what the fuss was about. I went onto Jabong fully determined to get myself something, and I checked out the Skirts section, being the safest among apparel options in terms of fit and all that (at least to my mind). I kept going back and forth and finally selected a grey skirt that looked pretty different. I waited for the skirt to come home with the same childlike anticipation I used to have when I ordered stuff from Amazon years ago… the excitement one feels when an unexpected gift arrives, except that in this case the gift is paid for by oneself. ;) I was happy with the skirt and since then, there’s been no looking back.
I was having a discussion with this friend about whether online retail was here to stay in India, considering the Amazons of the world are still to make a healthy profit. The Flipkarts, Myntras, Jabongs all seem to be bending over backwards to get their share of the customer pie, but how will they survive this game where gaining is only possible by giving more—more discounts, more variety, more offers, and where no differentiation seems to be evident between competitors, at least for now? I realised after my first purchase of the skirt that I could have got the same skirt at a 40% discount had I known the system better. I don’t buy anything these days till I see a discount. So, will online shopping just vanish some day when online retailers realise they cannot sustain it anymore? Or will it be a case of last man standing… the smaller fish will die slowly and the one who lives it out will be able to finally command his own price—which customers will be willing to pay because there would be no one else to go to? Maybe Amazon is a sort of last man standing on the world stage? On the India scene, with the battle just starting and heating up, it remains to be seen which other players enter the stage and how much of a fight they will be ready to put up. Till the end comes, clearly, the customer is the winner. Am I complaining? J
Monday, May 26, 2014
Returned from Mangalore after a short trip. This time has been the longest time since I have been away from Mangalore—more than 4 yrs. I get or feel like I get some sort of withdrawal symptoms when I am away from Mangalore for too long. Probably the trips to Bangalore in between compensated in some portion for my longing of the air and earth and song of the language. Funnily, Mangalore itself has changed so very much that I didn’t see that much of a difference between the two cities—at least landscape wise. Gone were the long patches of greenery till the eye could see, gone were the kutcha roads winding down fields and rivers, gone were the Mangalore-tiled homes replaced with fancy terraced houses and flats, gone were simple lifestyles and fish/rice replaced with cars, ACs, dish TVs and Chinese takeaways, all of which made me realise life in Mangalore today is probably just a carbon copy of life in Bombay, at least in its aspirations if not in fulfilment.Maybe as cities spread their borders, Mangalores are bound to disappear, replaced by mass towns dotted by the Big Bazaars and KFCs and other symbols of sameness. And who can blame the inhabitants? They have as much of a right to buy into these modern lives as we do. They do not owe it to us to let time pass them by so that we get to enjoy relics of an other past while not wanting to let go of our citified selves. It seems selfish to me to not let them have their choice. So, Mangalore has changed—maybe it’s time my expectations from it changed too…
The thing that being in Mangalore’s quiet sereneness, almost like a calm night sky, does to me is make me wonder if leading a hustle-bustle life like we do in Bombay with not a moment to stand and stare (and nothing worth staring at except naked posteriors doing their thing on the railway track in the early morning), but coming back to my point, it makes me wonder if this is a ‘good’ life? Now, of course, the word ‘good’ itself is problematic because it calls into question definitions and all that, as any good philosopher will tell you. What I simply mean is—would it make me look back in satisfaction when I am say 60 and say to myself, “there, that was a life well lived”. It’s like running a marathon all the time and at the finishing line, you may have acquired a lot of material stuff, maybe even intellectual satisfaction, but is the running all the time worth it? What about emotional fulfilment, spiritual growth…? Wouldn’t that demand time to rebalance yourself, centre your energies, pause, make way …which you cannot do if you are running AND want to win…which most of us do?
Mangalore gives me no answers but it sure makes me ponder a lot of equations—especially the choice between stillness and speed. Makes me ask why speed, why not slow down, why not rest, why not watch the birds fly, leaves flutter, rain dance? …before I can find answers, I am back to running the marathon again, and where’s the time to think?
Talking about being still, notice how youngsters these days are almost afraid of being still or being in a quiet place? I remember our electricity going off in Bombay many months ago (very rare indeed this phenomenon here, which is like a daily bath back in Mangalore), yes, so when this electricity vanished and we were left in the dark with no television, no light, no sound, I found it a nice feeling. A little bit of quiet in a city like this is not an everyday relish. But I noticed many others found it very disturbing. They did not know what to do with themselves. They fiddled with the phone, complained about the heat, the lack of TV, the bad power company… even half hour of this quiet seemed to stifle them…and when the electricity was back, I could hear collective sighs of relief. When my cousins in Mangalore asked me if I’d like to watch TV, and I said no, they asked me what would I like to do then. They couldn’t very well decide what kind of a weirdo I was when I told them simply that I’d like to just sit and watch the lovely scenery outside. I notice this need for a continuous supply of superficial diversion among kids and young people both in Bombay and Mangalore...in fact, I never cease to be surprised to see some people watching TV while playing a video game on their phones! Quietness, meaning, depth, reality… there is some sort of desire to lose our real selves and immerse into some sort of virtual world where there is excitement at every click of the button or remote. Even the camera to me sometimes seems like a diversion that people are more comfortable having around when faced with beauty. It’s like they don’t know or can’t grasp how to appreciate the living beauty with the senses, but the noise of click, upload, share, comment, and should I add, “show off”, now that’s familiar territory… everyday electricity.