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.
-- Aristotle

~My Photo Blog~

  ...Worth a Thousand Words

Thursday, May 11, 2017
 


A lot of people do things in their everyday lives without asking whether it’s the right thing to do but if you were to ask them outright about whether they are ethical or moral people they would have no problem saying a yes. To me people who will stop to think about it or will be doubtful about the answer are likely to be actually more ethical and moral. Reason being, they think deeply about what ethical or moral even means and to say you are either of these means you know exactly what they mean but because these are relative terms you never really can know. So you never really can have a positive answer to this question. And if you do, it means you haven’t even engaged with these terms enough, so if you don’t even care to know what it means to be ethical or moral, chances are you aren’t. I think it is also about how much you think or reflect in general about your own actions. If you do, chances are you will be digging into your own assumptions and not feeling quite comfortable about many of the things you do or why you did them. Exhibit B may not reflect a lot about their actions so it clearly won’t bother them. It’s funny that if you do have a conscience you will not engage in immoral behaviour but because of this very conscience you will probably find even minor transgressions a source of discomfort. On the other hand, if you have a rather dull conscience your major transgressions won’t really prick you much. So what does that mean? That being an ethical and moral person may not give a good night’s sleep after all, it may not make you feel good about yourself after all, but that is a good sign. It means you take that much more responsibility for your own actions and are not afraid to question yourself. It means you care about your fellow humans which is the most you can do on this earth without a guarantee of a next life.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017
 
Among the many reasons why people believe we have been dropped here on earth, one reason continues to present itself to me with frightening regularity: it is to teach us lessons. I am not quite sure of the end goal of learning those lessons; whether they are skills that would come in handy in heaven or whether we are given a chance to conduct ourselves better in our next lives, or whatever else it might be, the fact remains that you can’t mistake the lessons that keep punching you in the face. There’s no ignoring them even if one tried, and I do try, to put it mildly. And I do get punched in the face often, and hard.

In the present case, I am still reeling a bit. I have this habit of letting my love of arguing get the better of me. By get the better of me I don’t mean that I become quarrelsome or nasty or try to win at all costs, but I try to push the argument as far as it will go without considering who my opponent is. By ‘who’ I mean it doesn’t matter to me if the opponent is a friend, an enemy, a senior, a junior, a peer, a president, a cobbler, a king, an expert or a novice. This also means that in the context of an argument I meet the opponent as an equal and the validity of an argument to me rests purely on the weight and logic of the arguments themselves and not on who the respective parties are; if who they are, for example an expert, is relevant it would get reflected in the strength of argument itself and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter because knowledge or truth unfortunately does not bow to age or status or qualifications. Well as all this sounds in theory I have learnt that there are some categories of people who are more than happy to call you out for a bout of argument but are not comfortable when you argue with them as if who they are doesn’t matter! It is almost as if they are offended that you are not taking into account their very many years of experience, expert status, accomplishments, official accolades and all of the rest, and the little chit of a person that you are with none of all this grandiosity attached, dare to argue with them as if you are their equal! They are shocked at your presumptuousness! They have come to believe that the argument is only as good as the arguer and the arguer having made it in the world should at least now be able to put up their feet and not keep having to prove their position with troublesome arguments. Why, then, do you ask, do they invite you or provoke you to have a debate because everything they have to say is proven and nothing you have to say can match it? Indeed, why. Well, that’s where my lessons come in. I have time and again been misled into situations where I have had the horror of realising that the person who appeared to love a dialogue for the pleasure of knowledge or truth was actually not expecting someone to have an equal say at all… Most people quickly get a sense of this and play by the rules… but I have yet to learn.  
A thing that most struck me is that a person who reaches a certain position in life through long years of study in a subject may indeed claim to be an expert in it but just because someone else has not reached the same position cannot simply assume that that person lacks the intellect to grapple with or the understanding to grasp the subject. The fact that a person was able to achieve an exalted position may reflect on their abilities but it is not pure abilities and talent that take a person where they are (it would be extremely naïve to think so)…and by the same logic, if a person isn’t in the same league as you it may say less about their natural abilities and more about their opportunities and circumstances. We don’t know. But, the arguments stripped away from all those externalities and entrapments should be able to stand on their own if they come from a position of real strength. The desire to gag the supposedly weak would suggest the opposite.

Sunday, April 09, 2017
 
There is something about food. You take it for granted most of the time. I am not talking about the availability or lack of food which is a separate issue altogether. But the emotional side of food. The emotional connections that are built through food. Growing up, the breakfast rush to get to school. The food you have in the recesses with friends or alone if you are a loner. The times you don’t bring lunch because your mother couldn’t make something or something happened. The dinners that are had with the TV rather than the family. Lunches on weekends when something special maybe Chicken and Pulao is made because everyone is at home and it’s so noisy but still… the TV is switched on since morning and nobody can do anything about it because your brother is lording over the remote. You sort of notice what’s on your plate and sort of don’t. You notice because it’s your favourite Puri, Bhaji and Shrikhand and Shrikhand because you love it. You notice the Dosa and Sambar and know it’s coming because of the commotion of the grinder and all the smells coming out of the kitchen.

It’s obvious when it’s Easter because people haven’t had any meat for many weeks and we make pork only twice a year mostly, on Christmas and on Easter, so how can you not look forward to it. You know the ritual by now, the pork or Dukra Maas as we call it in Konkani is on the stove in the afternoon and then you who are supposed to be an expert in the house in telling the taste are invited to check if everything is alright with the gravy. Maybe a little more salt and a little more vinegar, you say. You don’t want it too spicy of course. And your brother who knows you will always downplay the spice butts in and asks to add more chilli. It’s not hot at all. Your mom tries to make you both happy telling you she won’t put any more chilli but I know she does because it does taste a bit hotter later. The Sannas that look like Idlis but aren't are a perfect foil to the Dukra Maas. Steamed cakes of rice they make the Dukra Maas taste perfect. Some of us have a go at it before the mass and some have a small go before and a big go after the mass which is around one in the night but who minds. We aren’t exactly a health-conscious family but we certainly are taste-conscious. I usually keep a big bottle of Fanta or Mirinda around because it goes marvellously well with the spicy pork.

Easter’s coming this weekend and I am thinking of food… and I am thinking of all the memories associated with food which is more than food… it’s like if I could have the exact same Pork and Sannas now I would be transported home without leaving my room…but that’s not possible because the food is as much a product of my home as my home is a product of that food in my mind… if you know what I mean… I went to an Indian shop the day before and one of the things I was very keen to find is a coconut scraper. If I could get my hands on it I would buy coconuts and I would make some home style dishes, I said to myself. So I did buy a coconut, a scraper, lots of Indian veggies, even a Dosa making powder! And today morning I had Dosa and Sambar for breakfast J. It wasn’t perfect, the Dosas looked all countries on the map and some unidentifiable ones… but you know what, they took me home. They took me to all those times in my home when mom made those Dosas and I like a queen just kept having them with the Sambar and the Chutney oblivious to all the sweet labour behind it. The grating of the coconut to the pouring of Dosa batter. Having done all of it myself and tasted the fruit of all that effort, I was happy. I was happy to be taken home and I was happy to relish a lot of things about the food I had taken for granted and that was brought home to me…

End of nostalgia… J

Wish you all a very Happy Easter and very special Easter meals… enjoy them, make the most of them and those who make them!

Monday, February 20, 2017
 

Why I Don’t Buy into Positivity

There is a pervasive sentiment that positivity is the cure for all ills. Even if you’re on your deathbed, there will be some who will tell you that if you are positive enough, you might come out of it alive. The more depressed you feel inwardly, at the state of world affairs or personal affairs, the more pressure you feel to put on an outward mask of fake positivity. And there is enough pseudo-science out there that will tell you that if you smile for 21 days, you will actually start feeling happy on the 22nd. I have no idea where they dig these numbers from.
I personally find positivity or rather the cult of positivity positively negative. Negative in that it seems to impose inauthenticity or tells me in a rather roundabout way that my feelings if they are not all peachy are not ‘valid’ or ‘good’ and must be ‘fixed’. I thought I was rather alone in my animosity toward positivity until I read this academic article which nicely puts it as ‘the tyranny of positive thinking’. It says that if positivity is overly encouraged, say in an organisational setting, people may start keeping their misgivings to themselves or stop voicing any contrary opinions for fear of appearing ‘negative’. Positivity in other words could be a threat to critical thinking as critical thinking in a sense demands evaluating the ‘negatives’. Leaders’ emphasis on positivity may actually be a means of keeping out dissenting voices and propagating their own ‘positive’ narratives as true (the article gives examples of positivity mantras such as “bring me answers, not problems” or “you worry too much”)—for some reason positivity gets more easy acceptance as truth and anyone showing a negative spot is taken for the villain (he isn’t). Positivity also encourages a ‘blame the victim’ attitude. If the path to success is strewn with positivity, failure is just a direct result of not following that path! Organisations seem to think that positivity is good for productivity which it could be if positivity is all about being cheerful no matter what the situation; again, acknowledging that there is less to be positive about may actually create a more positive situation for the worker and ironically even for the organisation than to enforce the self-belief that all is well and good. The article also brings up an example of a US President who didn’t like “pessimism, hand-wringing or doubt” actually diminishing the administration’s ability to deal with disasters! (clearly, wishing them away didn’t work!)
I value authenticity and critical thinking over positivity. I see no harm in optimism and hope, in fact, they certainly help you move on from a place of despair, but I’d rather look at despair in the eye and then move on than pretend that it doesn’t exist or clamp down on people who see it for what it is. I’d rather listen to a practical assessment of problems and try to fix them than pretend that things will get better if I just keep feeling positive that they will. In my opinion, excessive positivity is as bad as excessive negativity—both distort the situation and move the focus away from a solution.

Monday, February 13, 2017
 

With so much nonsense going on in the world (I mean TRUMP of course), I am worried about something. The more idiocy I see around me, the more the rise of the stupid, the more I start wondering, not so much whether God exists, which I wonder all the time, but an option not infinitely better: Is God rational? Even the manner in which we humans define ‘good’ today, thanks to the trouble philosophers have gone to over the ages to ferret out various definitions of the word, more or less tends to be rational. But, we have no means of knowing today as we didn’t back then whether God himself/herself/itself is rational.
And suppose for a moment that God’s definition of ‘good’ is not a rational one. What happens then? Truth, honesty, justice, integrity, loyalty, equality… all this good stuff… all these values… what happens to them? What if all this doesn’t exactly lead you to God or to heaven? We don’t know what else does except that some extremely religious folks seem to think you could go to church as a sort of backdoor entry to heaven without all the other inconvenient claptrap.
I guess life would cease to have any meaning if it weren’t founded on a rational system of ideas, not just rationality on earth but equally important as seen from above. If someone committed a crime and did not get caught, one could still say that he will one day meet his maker and have to answer for his crimes. One could say that because one believes that one’s idea of crime and justice are the same as that in heaven. But what about the complex modern day crimes or onslaughts against ‘good’? They are not as simple as a murder where a life is clearly lost. How would God judge those crimes? There is no way to know.
I for one believe that rationality is the best means we have with us for apprehending a ‘good’ world. Rationality not disconnected from empathy, of course. What I fear are ironically people who make an appearance of religiosity at the expense of rationality. I’d rather have the philosopher’s version of ‘good’ than the priest’s—no offence to the priest but his followers don’t give one confidence.

Friday, January 27, 2017
 

All these years I have attempted to write a blog on my birthday. If nothing else, at least a saying or a poem or anything to mark the day. This time, well, I guess I was too overwhelmed. It was the last day I had with family before I flew back here. I had extended my holiday for a week more to spend my birthday at home… didn’t want to break my record of never spending a single birthday away from family. I guess I have mentioned before how addicted to consistency I am… sometimes even meaningless consistencies like which exact seat at the dining table I will always occupy, usually one of the corners that allows me to lean against a wall or some surface and never in the middle.
The funny thing I noticed this time is that though I had always lived with family and had been away only 2.5 months, there were so many tiny little things that I never noticed before. So many things that made me realise how very delicious it was to be with family. So many things that kept tugging at my heart making me think about how I was going to miss them. How my mom made tea and my favourite things for me before I woke up, how the little niece smiled and gurgled at me, how everyone wanted to do some or the other special thing for me… it seemed to me that it was not only I who was appreciating all these gestures more but even they were hanging on to my presence more because they knew my time with them was short.  
Makes me think about how we take our time with loved ones for granted. Assuming it would be forever. If we thought it was going to be only a short while, we’d probably be as loving and caring and nurturing as we really wanted to be if we didn’t have other what we think more important things on the mind. I think about how every day I used to come back from work only to sit in my room and read or take a nap or how I spent weekends curled up in bed rather than watching TV with my brother. Now, I suddenly wanted to watch TV if only to be around everyone… (it helped that we have Netflix now ;))
Sitting here and missing home deeply I can’t but think to myself that I had the most wonderful Christmas this time… and I can’t wait for it to be Christmas again...

Monday, December 26, 2016
 

Dear lovely Christmas tree

Why do you seem to smile at me

A sad, melancholy smile

Why do you remind me

Ever so subtly

Of all the Christmases gone by

When loved faces

Weren’t so old,

or jagged, or wrinkly,

or worn

Why do you remind me of those Christmases

When needs were little and things were simple

When you, dear Christmas tree,

Looked less glorious

Why do you remind me of all those Christmases

That came and went by

So hurriedly as it now seems

So many moons ago

Soft shiny tears prick me

To think they’re no more

And yet a tiny ray of gladness

I force myself to see

That life no matter how it used to be

Has been not unkind to me

All those small little childhood hands

Are still mine to hold

And some, though old and aged

Are still so dear to behold

And you dear Christmas tree

Though sparkly new and strange to my past

Are a bright witness to many more Christmases

To new memories that I may remember at long last!


(~some musings on Christmas night…)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
 
I used to wonder why Indians visiting from abroad would be extra polite in their mannerisms such as saying Thank You or Brilliant or Sorry at every possible and not possible opportunity. I could have put it down to showing off one’s new self or something of the kind. Now that I have lived here for 2.5 months I realise that people tend to say these words a lot and you have no choice but to imitate them if you do not want to be seen as impolite or rude, and over time it could well become a habit that you can’t shake off wherever you go. So if you are in a mall and have barely brushed against someone or maybe just about not collided with them while moving to get some item of dress, you would still say sorry and they would say sorry, though exactly what we’re sorry for is difficult to pin down because we only crossed paths, didn’t even touch each other much less caused any grievous harm.

Now if you are from India and you have had experience in a public bus or in a market, you know what happens. Random people push you, pinch you, grab you, grope you, fall all over you…and apologies in such situations are the last thing one looks for. We do say our Thank Yous and Sorrys but mostly in elevated company or occasions. Say you received a birthday present from a friend or were congratulated or appreciated by your boss. Such situations come to mind. How many of us thank the communal area cleaner who collects our garbage or the maid who washes our vessels or the waiter who brings over our food? I know that I didn’t, and I never thought about it. But being here, and noticing how people thank people for small acts, not going into whether they genuinely mean the sentiments or not, the very act of thanking someone who does something that you take for granted makes you see things in a different light. Makes you wonder about the cultural difference. Maybe because here people do their own chores be it washing vessels or cooking food they tend to value the labour or effort going into these manual activities more and appreciate it when others do it for them even for a price? Maybe they see the people who do these activities as people and individuals unlike in India where we are used to unseeing them? Where if we were to see misery and poverty in the eye we would not be able to be at peace and carry on with our lives? Where saying a Thank You or a Sorry may also seem fake in the context of how those people are treated overall. I don’t know.

A funny incident happened that showed to me that old habits die hard and when you are least aware they can make you act in ways that expose your conditioning. I was invited to a student social which is nothing but snacks and chit chat with other students and as I moved to get some soft drink, possibly I had something on my mind, someone was pouring a drink for the girl ahead of me in the queue, and I extended my glass after her. They started laughing and I suddenly sprung into consciousness realising that this wasn’t India! The guy wasn’t a server and I wasn’t in a queue where there were waiters to pour tea or juice! It was an embarrassing moment indeed!

In other news, I am going to India for a Christmas holiday! Can’t contain my excitement is all I can say! Wish you all a very Merry Christmas! J

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
 
Academic papers are supposed to be dull affairs, one would think. And they are for the most part. But, what I have observed is that the papers that make you sit up and think are the ones that are most ‘literary’ in character, if you know what I mean. I could read pages and pages of such almost like I would read fiction, and believe it or not, some of the wit makes me even giggle. When I was a child, my mom or bro or sis would sometimes get startled by a laugh or a titter from whichever solitary corner of the house I was reading in (in Mumbai we don’t have the luxury of a room to ourselves, or at least we didn’t what with three kids in the house!) and after checking a few times if something was wrong, they grew used to it. Thankfully, there are no other persons in my current accommodation to ask me what’s wrong with me because if they saw I was reading an academic paper, they wouldn’t need any convincing proof of the fact.

Now judge for yourself. Take this paper, “On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B” (I absolutely recommend that you download from here and read it. The opening statement cannot but draw you in:
“Whether dealing with monkeys, rats, or human beings, it is hardly controversial to state that most organisms seek information concerning what activities are rewarded, and then seek to do (or at least pretend to do) those things, often to the virtual exclusion of activities not rewarded.”
Kerr then talks about how rewards are sometimes designed such that they attract A behaviour when actually one wants to encourage B behaviour. An example he gives is that of orphanages and here is what he says:
“The orphanage therefore theoretically is interested in placing as many children as possible in good homes. However, often orphanages surround themselves with so many rules concerning adoption that it is nearly impossible to pry a child out of the place. Orphanages may deny adoption unless the applicants are a married couple, both of the same religion as the child, without history of emotional or vocational instability, with a specified minimum income and a private room for the child, etc.”
I couldn’t stifle a giggle at the ‘pry a child out of the place’! I mean, isn’t that a delicious way of putting it in the given context! JJ
What he is getting at of course is that while one wants to encourage orphanages to put maximum children into good homes, they are actually rewarded for something else, for example, the allocated budget or size of staff may depend on number of children ‘in’ the orphanage. Here is how he concludes the point:
“…to the extent that staff size, total budget, and personal prestige are valued by the orphanage's executive personnel, it becomes rational for them to make it difficult for children to be adopted. After all, who wants to be the director of the smallest orphanage in the state?”
Is not that last statement funny? ;)
And yet on the whole so convincing!
 

Sunday, October 23, 2016
 
I have got a lot boiling in my head right now and lest it pour over, I thought I should make a quick dish with it! ;) It’s been close to three weeks since I landed in the UK, Lancaster to be precise (read earlier blog for context :)), and there are times when I feel like in another life I had sort of prayed for or wished for to be a part of just such a setting… and I have somehow been transported there! There are moments when I am hit with a “Is this a dream?” Like yesterday in a class when we were discussing “philosophers” and “objectivity vs. subjectivity” and “world views” and “what is reality” and “how do we interpret reality” and “how does our philosophical view influence research”. It felt like suddenly it was okay to eat chocolates for breakfast or something ;)

What do I say about Lancaster itself? If you’re from Mumbai like me you might find it quiet and modest but if you are like me you would find it just the kind of place where you are in communion with yourself. There is plenty of nature and fresh air, of course, and there is a “city centre” where you can go off for shopping or eating or whatever else you want to do. But, the best part is, you don’t have to if you’re living in the humungous and gorgeous campus, like I am, at least this year. It is, what shall I say? made to feel like a haven for the intelligent, culture-loving university goer and by extension anyone who is those things (I hate sounding conceited but to say anything else would be inaccurate). Ever since I stepped into this campus, I feel surrounded by communication about learning spaces or study spaces, and actual spaces that are designed to make me feel comfortable to read and think in my own space! As if there aren’t dozens and more spaces for one to choose from within the campus, they also have a space in the city centre that you can go off to, to read or work on your research! It is a novel thing for me because back home in India I feel there isn’t enough emphasis on the concept of “space” and how the very availability or non-availability of “comfort space” could contribute or be detrimental to your output. And the icing on the cake is perhaps that study is not the only area where choices are galore… my first week here which was called “welcome week” for all arriving students, was actually nothing short of a carnival week! One could choose to go to live music sessions or society fairs (university students pitching to join their respective societies which ranged from the usual “music” to the rather quaint “Lego playing” to the bizarre even!) or ghost story readings in the library over cocoa and cookies (I went for that, no prizes for guessing!) or take a free bus ride for shopping to the city centre or a barbecue party or poster art exhibitions in the square…. Yes, Lancaster is rather quiet as my city-loving flat mate from Egypt insists (and that’s another delicious character of this place that you could hit at least 5-6 nationalities with a stone’s throw…more about that next!) but I disagree with her that “It is not alive”… to me life is at its most throbbing intensity when the mind is continuously stimulated by books and ideas and illuminating conversations and art!

The cultural diversity is another interesting aspect of life here. I live with people from Ghana, London, Egypt, Bahrain. I was part of a group activity in class today where my group mates were from Russia, Greece, UK, China. I was part of another group activity yesterday with folks from Pakistan and Iran. See what I mean? Crossing with so many cultures adds new horizons to one’s thinking, and to me being in a cultural hot-pot is stimulating too. Add to that trying to learn the ways of the host culture. Back in India, we are used to things being “done” for us be it the cook who comes home to cook, or the maid who does sweeping and swabbing or the communal cleaner who takes away trash. I was of course completely prepared to do my own cooking, which in a way I enjoy too if it doesn’t get in the way of other priorities, but what surprised me was that here flat mates need to carry all the trash to the bins around the campus, appropriately divided for recycling—at first it jolted me a bit because I had never “personally” bothered so much with the entire journey of the trash in my house, but come to think of it, after the event, I felt a certain satisfaction. I felt like the whole recycling theory made so much sense when I actually practised it. And on the subject of sustainability, another thing that took some time for me to wrap my head around, was how “paper” is made to seem as a precious as real money. One gets a certain “amount of credit” in one’s university card and one can print off any machine on the campus, be it the library or in any building whatsoever, by simply swiping one’s card. But whenever you print something, the appropriate amount for that quantity of print (say 5 pennies for a page) gets deducted from your credit. You could of course personally “top up” your card with money if you exhaust the amount you’re allocated… but I noticed that the very act of seeing the money vanish from my card after printing or knowing that the credit would get reduced made me so much more conscious of my printing habits! I am, unfortunately, someone who loves to read on paper and maybe so used to it with so many years of habituated reading off paper, that I just cannot read as effectively on the screen nor can I make as effective notes as I tend to make on the sides of the paper copy. So I guess I will be printing more than most… but the good part is… not as much as I would have earlier. I think this also made me realise what embedding sustainability into business practice meant. I could be conscious of how paper reduction helps the environment but if the systems also embed that thinking or institutionalise it in some way, it could probably have a deeper effect? And yes, thinking of another cultural thing and how can it not be about food! Back home, formal lunches tended to be multi-course affairs; here, they tend to be light sandwiches, chips, and queerly “whole fruits”! I am used to seeing chopped fruits on the dessert stalls but seeing whole fruits like bananas, apples, pears, oranges in a bowl together was quite new to me. I haven’t ventured to take a go at the fruits yet being a bit diffident about exposing my way of monstrous munching, but again I think I like the idea of whole fruits. You don’t end up wasting as much fruit I guess. I also notice not feeling quite so heavy and drowsy after lunchtime so those “wakeup” tactics aren’t quite necessary. Oh, another thing (I mean to finish this para but new things keep popping into the head), the arrangement of tables and chairs in each class aren’t what I am used to seeing in India in a typical class setting, that is, straight lines or long semi circles (unless things have changed). Here, usually, a class includes no more than 20 people and you have say 4-5 circular or rectangular tables with 4-5 chairs around each in a class, almost like a restaurant or wedding reception seating in India. The arrangement is not just a design feature though; it actually follows the teaching principle of getting groups to work amongst themselves. Personally, I am not a fan of group work so guess the Indian method worked for me ;) but the fact is I find myself participating a lot more.
And talking about England, weather can be last but not in the slightest the least! I was under the impression we were well into winter when I arrived here and almost laughed that it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. A 10 degree didn’t feel so cold and most of the time one is indoors one way or the other. I am a bit worried about the circular that we received yesterday about the change of time on October 30 and associated winter related injunctions. “Keep yourself warm by having a warm shower or hot drink before going to bed”, it said in the end. Not trying to sound grim, are we? :(
I’ll keep bombarding this space as I go along because I am told I need to keep practising my writing every day even if I am writing rubbish ;) And who else but you, dear reader, could I impose upon? :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
 
Crossroad

A friend was telling me the other day that we are at a crossroad every instant, having to make one or the other decision. I don’t know about that but I certainly believe I am at an important crossroad at this point in time. I have made the decision and this step in a certain direction is going to permanently alter the course of my life—for the better or for the worse, only time will tell, and you dear quiet reader, shall know! :)

Goodbyes are always rather unpleasant to me, and am going to be saying a goodbye to a lot of things this week—when I bid farewell to an employer of almost 12 years. It’s been anything but an easy decision because it means leaving the comfort, familiarity, stability, state of being in control, wholesomeness of knowing your tomorrow will be very much like your today, and more of what I value so much. That my employer also happens to be like a loving and caring and warm parent has only added to the feeling of leaving the homely cocoon and going out there in the cold.

I am nervous, anxious, excited, afraid, apprehensive, jubilant, all at the same time. I never thought I would muster the courage to take this rather presumptuous step by my standards and I never thought lady luck would favour me if I did, but I think having taken it, I am sort of redefining who I am. I am redefining my journey from this point on. I don’t know if it will lead me to a better destination than what the current familiar course would have, but I do know that I would never have had the opportunity to meet who I will become if I had stayed the same course.

So… without further ado… let me share that I am applying a break on my rather well-established career path and shifting gears to pursue a doctorate at a university in the UK. I am also shifting my track to a different area of specialisation that while I haven’t formally studied or worked in so far, has always been on my mental radar. It has also been a running theme on my blog ever since I started writing it… or probably ever since I started writing at all… the right and wrong, the good or bad, to do or not to do, the to be or not to be… in short, ethics :)

I hope to have a lot more to draw on and write as I live in a sea of ideas and arguments… let’s see… now that I am to set sail, I guess I am discovering the mariner in me! ;)

---

The Road Not Taken  
 
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        
 
Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,        
 
And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.        
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.        

~ Robert Frost 




Monday, June 13, 2016
 

I bought this bookmark many years ago. I don’t know how many years now; I seem to have had it forever. I kept it in the jacket of an important file where I keep my investment papers and stuff, for no other reason than that it’s easily accessible there. I do not like it so much as a bookmark as for what happens to be written on it. Somehow the words have a very inspiring quality. It’s been long since I took it out and when I read it yesterday I felt the full force of the truth of the words. I guess the reason for that will have to wait a few months… but until then, here it is…



There are rules to luck, for

to the wise not all is accident.

Try, therefore, to help luck

along. Some are satisfied to

stand politely before the

portals of Fortune and to await

her bidding, but better

those who push forward,

and who employ their

enterprise, who on the wings

of their worth and valour

seek to embrace luck and gain

her favour.



Tuesday, March 01, 2016
 

I am not good at competitions. The things I do best are those that are done for their own sake. Or maybe I am just plain out of luck (there I go again!). Recently a friend chided me to not be my own worst enemy by repeating this thing about luck. Apparently the universe listens and all that stuff. I do say a lot of positive things that it seems to have trouble listening to :(
Well, here's a longish verse I had written some time ago when I took it into my head to enter into some random competition. I generally don't take such things into my head but I remember making an exception because it was some outfit based in Mangalore that was running the show. Well, I didn't win. I'm not surprised because I can't say it's my best output. Then again, maybe it was plain luck! ;)

 A Rat’s World

“We cannot kill the rat”

I said to my mother, who

Disturbed and distressed, by the

Constant interruptions and minor disappearances

Of food and what other things

Decided something must be done.

She first got a rat trap

And trapping one, released it somewhere afar off

Where it couldn’t intrude anymore

And despoil her peace of mind.

And then, it seemed there was more

Because the interruptions in her affairs did not cease

Pieces of bread were smuggled out

Just as brazenly as before.

And the rat trap came out again

But no rat in it

Maybe this one caught on to the trick

As a self-respecting modern rat in a modern world

Learning by dire example should.

My mother, now out of her wits’ end

Her shrine, the kitchen, thus invaded again

And molested daily, by a silly freak of nature

“I must get the rat”, she cried!

No, she did not wish to kill, but what choice is left, she asked

What could be done to divest of this devil?

So my mother mused, and I

Listening to her in this mood

Thought aloud, “We cannot kill this rat!”

It is a life, as life is ours

A soul it has, that breathes and moves

Surely it feels, as it hungers and thirsts

In all other bodily functions, it resembles us

What a burden on our conscience!

To snuff out this life—

Like a flame on a candle

A life dies with it, as one lives in it

No, mother, we cannot kill this rat

To which my mother, not unschooled in argument, returns

Yes, it is a life, but in the scale of evolution

What value does it have?

Everyday hundreds and thousands of us

Are killed in crashes, die hanging out of trains

Murdered brutally, die hungry or in pain

When human life is so cheap and easily sold,

What matters it, if a rat dies cold?

Thursday, December 31, 2015
 

So, I was watching Bigg Boss the other day. If you’re wondering what I was doing watching Bigg Boss, I admit I find it an interesting window into human nature. All these people who are just random faces to you at the beginning of the show, start acquiring a definite form and shape in terms of who they are, and you almost start predicting how each would act under certain circumstances. Being under the spotlight 24/7 means you can never be your natural self but I wonder how long one can keep up a pretence or a disguise? And if one can do it long enough, why do some of the characters appear so obviously obnoxious—I mean, wouldn’t they want to appear likeable and loveable? It never ceases to surprise me! I wonder if some people sorely lack the ability to discern what kind of an impression would be made by what sort of behaviour and since they don’t grasp it, they have no way of controlling it? Probably why the show format works at all because if everyone were capable of being on their best behaviour knowing they were being watched, there would be nothing interesting to watch? May also be that some people do not mind how they appear as long as they do appear… any publicity being good publicity! :)  

Well, coming back to my real point… this particular episode of Bigg Boss threw up a question I have been thinking about. One of the persons in the house commits an offence that could be deemed punishable at the discretion of the captain of the house. This person is a repeated offender and has shown no signs of improvement even though her negative attitude has been questioned many a times. The captain’s take on this situation is that whether he punishes the person (punishment being taking away an important personal belonging) or does not punish her, it is certain she will not change her behaviour. So why punish her, what would be the use? Indeed, anyone listening to this fine piece of logic may have been swayed by it. Another lady in the house, who I find to be of better mettle in some respects than the rest of the house mates, put forward an argument to this that I couldn’t but appreciate. Her point was: Going by the captain’s logic, suppose this person had shown a tendency to change for the better, suppose she was inclined to mend her ways, the captain would have punished her! So the irony of it was that someone who was amenable to change would be punished and someone who showed no remorse or desire to change would be allowed to go without punishment. Put like this, it does seem strange, but think about it… don’t we do the same thing, for example, when we give more and more responsibilities to a person because they are ‘responsible’ persons and less to those who don’t manage responsibilities well?  

Moving on to the spirit of the day… here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy New Year! May this year fulfil all your most cherished wishes…

Saturday, October 24, 2015
 
Heard this quote by Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face!”? In my case, it’s more like punched in the foot. Literally. One early morning on a weekend, I woke up to the sound of gushing water running out of an open tap and the next moment I was lying sprawled on the floor with my foot stuck in a chest of drawers, bleeding and swollen. 15 days later, here I am, still sprawled with feet up—except for the soft sofa underneath me. And yeah, so much for ‘plans’.

I have always had a deep dislike, almost bordering on paranoia, for hospitals. Luckily for me, I haven’t had much occasion to get over it. I have never been in one save for more than a few minutes, and that most often to visit other people, who knowing how I loved the ambience, were always too happy to get rid of me. But this time, I was in for a longish affair. I could have cried when I was told I would have to lie in one for all of 4 days if not more. And I dare say I did. Was there no way to get me cured at home? It was just a foot and it happened at HOME. I mean, that had to count for something? Apparently if I took a chance, I could run the risk of spending a lot more time in later. So you can tell I didn’t need more convincing. I was also told that if a foot like this had happened to be of a Diabetes patient, which I always fear I might be some day given the not-so-stellar family history, they might have considered chopping off the foot. (My expression exactly …!)

I’m not sure what sort of personality my blog projects of me—but I do tend to be a bit particular about particulars. And that being so, I can never be sure if this is just me being ‘particular’ or if a regular Mr. Not-So-Particular would find the same thing just as queer. As I lay in the hospital, numerous inefficiencies struck me. Take for example when I was asked to be wheeled into my room by the doctor because I shouldn’t be stressing my foot at all. The ‘Maushi’ as they called the elderly women who did some of these extra-curricular activities wheeled me into the elevator, got me off at floor 6, and then looked at me ruefully requesting if I could walk down a floor because the elevator apparently wasn’t working on that floor! I mean, so much for not stressing my foot! Or take the case of this nurse, whom I almost started dreading, who puts the drip thing on and does not tell me I should call for her when the liquid was emptied. Did I really have to tell people this was my ‘first time’ and I didn’t know how these weird things worked? Blood starts oozing and flowing out of the prick needle or whatever they call the contraption, which I happily don’t notice because I am busily working at my phone, and when she comes in and notices, almost barks at me for not alerting her!  “But you didn’t tell me to”, are words that don’t seem to register!

These and other instances start growing on me. It strikes me that the cost of a mistake at work here was so high I could die! They aren’t dealing in grammar and punctuation errors, mind you, a comma missing is not equal to an eye gone!  (Makes you really think about how insignificant these commas really are). These nurses looked too jolly to be trusted with bottles of drips. I’d probably look like the face of death handling one of these. What if they mistook a bottle of A and administered me B? And what effect would B have on my body? And is there a way to remove all the B from the body once it was all in? And what if I caught some malady I couldn’t get rid of for the rest of my life…? You can tell where this line of thinking was taking me? …no, maybe not.

I had stopped praying to let my foot heal soon. I was praying to let me get out of the clutches of this hospital, QUICKLY, before they messed up really bad, with nothing worse than a bad foot. I was hoping none of the mischances my brain kept playing in my head would occur and I would be out of here none the worse than when I came in, if you know what I mean :(

(As it happened, I did come out with a very sore wrist which was swollen because of the injections, apart from an on-it’s-way-to-be-healed-foot… it’s a lot better now though :))