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

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!