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
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.
Friday, April 25, 2014
We had voting day yesterday in Mumbai. I don’t remember the last time I felt such a strong urge to vote. Maybe driven by all the hype and media hoola hoopla or maybe driven by the personalities representing the parties—it’s much easier to love or hate a person than a party of faceless people. Maybe the extreme views and clear division of sentiment that made one want to take one side or the other. Maybe a little bit of everything.
I am sure I did not make the right choice. Because I did not have a right choice before me. All I had were broken choices. There is a proverb in Hindi, “Andho mein kaanaa rajah”, which means, “one-eyed man is king among blind people”. We are all blind people because those are the kings set to rule us. It is said that a nation gets the government it deserves. Whichever government we get, it is sad to know that that is what we deserved.
Friday, February 14, 2014
When the entire world is joined in a conspiracy of love, I can’t but dedicate a few words…
Where there is a quietness by the shore,
Where there is sound but not more…
Where there is a heart that sings the same tune,
Where we don’t speak but still commune…
There, My Love, I meet you…
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Like everybody else, I am wondering what the new year holds for me…not that I see any logic in expecting a break of 365 days to bring an altogether different outlook and hope. But I guess, sometimes you want to keep your logical self aside and give in to the collective madness and euphoria of the moment. I have another silly and ‘superstitious’ reason for anticipating this year with more excitement than others past. I don’t presume anyone has read this very old post of mine about the significance of the number ‘7’ in my life; here it is if you’re interested. Now, considering how 7 and I are good for each other, and how 2005, which is the last 7 I remember, was one of the best years of my life (what with spending the whole year in one of the best cities I have ever visited, Hong Kong!), I have much to expect of 2014. I promise to keep you posted, in any case, dear blog! J
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Back from a trip to Thailand. Great place, great food, and was among great people.
Been struggling with some thoughts since a few days and what better way to sort them out than to talk to myself, or write on my blog, which is the same thing. It’s like this… I have a tendency to speak my mind and I don’t choose my words very carefully, if you know what I mean. If I notice someone who is close to me not doing the right thing, or being unfair or unjust, I will point it out. Sometimes, doing this may take a toll on the relationship. Nobody likes criticism, and nor do I, and it’s difficult for anyone to be open about what is said and evaluate its merit, instead of feeling like they were being personally attacked. In the current case, this tendency of mine has made me feel sad because I don’t know how to restore peace and it has also made me wonder if my pointing things out was the right thing to do? There is no doubt in my mind that my criticism was valid, probably needn’t have been communicated as harshly as it was, but now in retrospect, I wonder how it helped. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to turn a blind eye and pretend that I didn’t see anything wrong with the person’s attitude, probably they would have realised it themselves later? I don’t know… is it better to turn blind eyes to things that don’t seem right, because if you do take a stand, it may affect your relations with the person? If you really care about a person, shouldn’t you care to correct them and hope that even if they don’t understand now, maybe someday they would realise that you didn’t mean any harm? I don’t know… these are tough things to decide, especially made more tough if you’re wired a certain way. Not everyone cares about the rightness and wrongness of things. Sometimes what seems to matter to people is to keep peace, let things be, not spoil the fun, ignore things instead of let them bother you etc. I don’t know how people manage to do it, but it would be tough for me to ignore and move on as if nothing’s wrong. I don’t know… since I cannot change others, maybe I need to look inwards. Maybe I need to be more discrete in how I communicate what I have in mind, maybe be more discrete about timing, maybe take on a softer approach so that my criticism becomes more acceptable. In the end, it is about how to lose the problem without losing the person… tricky, eh?
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
For those wondering where I have got to… even if nobody is, let me carry this train of thought J … I have been very much alive and kicking. So kicking in fact, that I haven’t had a chance to sit me down and rest my legs. L The funny thing is, and I am vaguely sure I have said this before, there is a niggling thing in my brain when I don’t write on the blog for a long time, even if only a filler post.
Yesterday, while walking back from the train station, I heard a seller of Godly goods (small idols of Ganesha, Buddha and other Gods), shout out, “Irade naek, toh sabka malik ek.” For those who don’t understand Hindi, this broadly translates to, “If you have good intentions, all Gods are one”. Sounds like a simple statement but at heart quite profound, and I was struck also by the fact that a presumably uneducated and poor person, was crying out these words to sell religious artifacts! What is surprising to me about the description of this person is that the uneducated or poor are usually deemed to have a very narrow perspective of God. They also don’t tend to have liberal views about other Gods. Usually God is what is written in the religious scriptures and there are no philosophical interpretations to understanding God, as far as I have understood of how this section of our population perceives God. I guess my perception is based on limited interactions with this community, such as our maid, or newspapers where certain tragic things occur because people have a limited vision of who God is and what faith means. Even the fights among religious communities is a result of people not being able to think beyond their own version of God and religion, and accept the idea of something universal, that is based on universal good intentions and not on good within a specific community. This simple fellow’s chanting of these words on a sidewalk of a muddy street on a rainy evening with throngs of commuters flitting around with hardly a second to spare in the maddening rush—made me wonder: what if everyone took this chant home with them in their heart? It also gave me a bit of hope for the world: If even an uneducated person with no claim to high philosophy could believe in good intentions and one God, maybe the day wouldn’t be far when many in this country would, and religion would cease to be a label of which God you were affiliated to.
Friday, July 05, 2013
There is a prevailing perception in our Indian society that an English-speaking person is superior to those who speak local languages. In Mumbai, where I am, you find thorough-bred Indian youngsters who have never set foot abroad, talking as if they have landed from a different planet. They take pride in their twisted Hindi, talking to maids and vegetable sellers who do not know English as if it was a struggle to piece together a coherent sentence for lowly mortals! Their English sounds deliberately accented—in trying to avoid a local accent, they put on fake, funny accents that sound a hundred times unnatural and ugly than a natural one would have sounded, considering it would have sounded genuine.
I have nothing against the English language. On the contrary, it is the language that has taught me how to think. But the fact is that it was never thrust upon me or forced on me at the cost of my mother tongue. As a kid, I spoke Konkani at home, with parents, with grandparents, with uncles and aunts, and with all our circle of relatives. The sharing of a common language among a people is at the very heart of a collective culture, and when you break that mould and adopt another, there is a sense of losing touch with that culture. Maybe even losing something of your essence?
I remember being extremely fond of languages even as a little one, and when I was about 8, I discovered our school’s library full of the English classics, and then there was no looking back from the wonder of it all. Since then, I am thankful to have found a language with so much variety and depth, that if I had to be grateful to the one thing that shaped me a person and broadened the horizon of my mind, I would think it would be the English language, and the wealth of ideas and emotions compressed in that language. But it never changed my equation with my mother tongue or local languages.
What bothers me then is not that young or even older persons in India, and more specifically Mumbai, these days, set so much store by English. What bothers me is that they do this not so much because they appreciate the ‘language’, but more as they perceive it to be a ‘tool to project superiority’ or another tool to ‘classify people as per status’—because to have a good English education means a position to afford it! What also bothers me is that this ‘superiority complex’ leads them to forego their own mother tongues and local languages that have their own unique flavour and richness. God forbid that your child speak in an Indian language and get dubbed as ‘LS’ (low society) among peers! What bothers me is the senseless basis on which this ‘superiority’ is pursued, which is the outward form and origin of the language, and not the thing that language stands for or that has actually lent it its perceived superiority. What bothers me is the slow breakdown of many things in our culture that took centuries to bear fruit… and that could well be the very glue that holds it together.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It’s funny how we look at fulfilment from different perspectives. For some, a great job is fulfilling, for some doing something on their own is fulfilling, for some being free to spend time with family is fulfilling, for some earning enough money, for some fame, for some creative recognition, for some doing social work… the list is probably as long as the number of people you talk to… but it’s funny, isn’t it? How we are all so different, coming from the same mould…
Which brings me to ask myself, what is my idea of fulfilment? A lot of people probably don’t ask themselves this question or reflect on it. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. Does awareness about a thing increase or decrease its enjoyment? I mean, if I am feeling ‘fulfilled’, do I need to have defined my idea of fulfilment to myself to be able to have this feeling? I know I am going into complicated territory, where the question of ‘conscious’ comes into play. Is ‘happiness’ , ‘fulfilment’ etc a matter of the conscious mind? Or is it possible for us to experience these feelings subconsciously, without entering into debate with ourselves of what is it that makes us truly fulfilled or happy?
Well! I do show a tendency to meander into philosophical pathways even when the subject at hand is starkly practical! J So where was I? Yes, what is my idea of fulfilment? Maybe to be all that I can be… is that cryptic? Maybe that’s just as well. Probably fulfilment is driven by the subconscious and to articulate it, in precise words, is not even possible… can you tell why your face lights up when it rains or why you feel low watching the sun set?
As Shakespeare’s Hamlet said,
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
I really MUST catch up more on the blog, or so I keep telling myself before I realise how the months are going by…
I keep reading about how people must find the happiness within, and how we tend to depend overmuch on others and outside definitions of our own self and outside validations of our own worth and outside love of us. Apparently, if we loved ourselves enough, others would love us enough too. Not to get into the technicalities of the argument – sadly, everything boils down to an argument with me J – but it makes sense in a roundabout way, I guess. If you loved yourself, you’d project a more healthy image of yourself, and that would attract people to you and maybe a positive cycle unfolds. And suppose you did not love yourself that much (incidentally, how do you love yourself less?), you would project a rather unattractive image of yourself, and that would generate a negative cycle. Hmm.. makes me wonder, is it all about projection? Isn’t there a reality beyond that? Doesn’t validation and warmth and positive expression and emotional support from near and dear ones lead to a more positive image of oneself in one’s own mind which again triggers that cycle of positivity? How does this love for oneself happen in the first place—I mean, why do some people love themselves more and some less…? Could it be because the first received that kind of validation from outside from childhood and second didn’t? … all I am saying is, while looking within yourself for happiness and love and life-giving emotions is all good, one cannot reject the role people in our lives play in making us feel like a more happy and loved human being … I don’t know, maybe I am far from reaching the stage of detachment people talk about… I am unable to envision a state of happy non-attachment, completely immersed in the self.
Leaving with a poem...
The Night has a Thousand Eyes~ Francis William Bourdillon
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Does anybody, ANYBODY, have anything else to talk about, nay, obsess about these days? Gone are the days people used to talk about lack of food—I am sure there were those days—today, it’s all about the problem of plenty of food and nothing to eat. You pick this, you see calories, you see that, you see calories, you eat something, you groan about the calories, you don’t eat something, you blame the calories…I don’t know about the global recession but I sure know we’re all into one kind of global obsession.
I was talking to a friend today and that’s when it hit me. Everybody is talking about the same thing! Normal, healthy, fine looking people who neither are nor claim to be aspiring to become supermodels, are all talking about how to lose weight, how to control weight, how to eat healthy, what to eat healthy, what the dietician told them, why they aren’t able to catch up on yoga, how difficult it is to make time for evening walks...get the drift? Now, I have nothing against people working on being healthy, absolutely nothing, it’s a good thing of course and all that. But, when I look into the overall aspect of these multiple conversations, I really wonder if being healthy is at the heart of all this hullaballoo about losing weight. Though everyone seems to be convincing themselves that it’s all about being healthy and fit, it just doesn’t seem as simple as that. There was a very recent study that came out with facts to show that being fat doesn’t necessarily mean being unhealthy and being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you would live longer—but I doubt anyone took this study seriously and started eating what they wanted to, because, you know, you could still die.
Then, what exactly does this obsession with ‘diet and exercise’ boil down to? Again, like I said, I am not against diet and exercise; in fact, I am as much on this boat as anybody else. What I am really trying to understand is, is this obsession with diet and exercise really what we like to think it is, a desire to be healthy and fit, or is it something very different, a desire to be thin and attractive or at least the current concept of attractive? Mind you, I am just digging into motives and not judging them or evaluating them at this point: Are we avoiding eating what we like and when we like because we are afraid of developing some form of health ailment at some later stage, or are we simply afraid of developing a paunch and not looking great in that dress next week?!
Well, to cut a long story short, the thing that really bothers me is this… does over-obsession with food, especially if driven by current ideas of what is deemed as attractive and what isn’t, healthy? When healthy and fine looking people worry too much about what to eat and what not to, and stop enjoying life in the process, is that healthy? When people are made to feel less attractive because they don’t conform to current ideas of ideal weight, is that healthy? … I mean, in the perceived drive towards ‘healthy’, which is just a euphemism for ‘thin’ really, aren’t we globally creating a culture of obsession with weight and food and calories and diet and thinness that is extremely unhealthy?
Think about it…
Friday, January 18, 2013
“Whatever with the past has gone,
The best is always yet to come.”
~ Lucy Larcom
Nice thought to have when another birthday comes along!
To me, more than New Year’s, it is the onset of this day that triggers a lot of introspection, reflection, anticipation, some excitement, some anxiety… a mix of feelings. Not entirely consciously, I start ticking things on an imaginary list of positives and negatives… things that got accomplished and things that didn’t. Things I did and things I failed to do. Things that luckily happened and things that didn’t happen for me. Where I stood when the year began and where I stand now, and am I richer in any way or poorer? Not in material terms of course, though that counts too, especially in today’s world.
When I consider the recent horrifying things around me (Delhi rape case?), and the utter misery that surrounds me (lived in Mumbai?), I feel blessed in thousands of ways. Having a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, people to call my own, great work to stimulate me, bosses to appreciate me…—I mean, how kind has providence been to me! Yes, there are some things I should like to have very much. Who doesn’t wish for at least one or two things, which they simply know would make life worth it?
It’s good to wish for, want for, dream for, desire for your favourite things. I for one believe in the positive power of dreams… and the power of holding onto and working on dreams. They come true when you aren’t looking, in the strangest of ways, at the funniest of times, when you have even almost given up…illuminating that little glimmer of hope you have sincerely held in your heart all along.
The best is indeed always yet to come! J
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love” — H. W. Mabie
Indeed! It is that time of the year when you feel blessed just to be alive, to have the love and loving of so many, to be a part of a warm circle of fellowship, to be something in the universal scheme of things…
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas (belated) and a fantastic, brilliant, gorgeous New Year! J
P.S: May the New Year make me a more prolific blogger!
Monday, November 05, 2012
Is the butcher’s sin the greater,
Because it is his hand that chops the head?
Is the hangman more to blame,
Because it is his arm that tightens the thread?
Is the mind a greater culprit or the machine that bids its call
Does the deed merit punishment and thought nothing at all?
Monday, October 29, 2012
Seems like I have been on one of my unintended hiatuses!
I intend to come back with some concrete thoughts in a bit, but just to break this long silence… here’s a little something…
But do thy worst to steal thyself away
But do thy worst to steal thyself away,
For term of life thou art assured mine;
And life no longer than thy love will stay,
For it depends upon that love of thine.
Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,
When in the least of them my life hath end.
I see a better state to me belongs
Than that which on thy humour doth depend:
Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,
Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.
O what a happy title do I find,
Happy to have thy love, happy to die!
But what’s so blessed-fair that fears no blot?
Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.