Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mobile woes

I clear my bleary eyes, see a dark room and look at my sister reproachfully. She knew better than to wake me up before the sun had made the room too hot to stay in. Ignoring the tinkling noise in the background, I open my mouth to complain but she got in her blow first.

"It is your mobile ringing, idiot"

THAT on the second day after I was given one by my office. 5 AM in the morning and my MD had this irresistible urge for my conversation to start his day with. When every second sound I uttered was a yawn wide enough to swallow the mobile whole.

I know that a whole lot of you will never understand a thing unless I explain. Contrary to popular belief, we are not born with a mobile phone stuck firmly in one ear. In the not too far gone past, these monstrosities were virtually unknown. Believe it or not, even a land-line was something that you had to apply for and wait for a decade - unless your uncle's wife's brother's brother-in-law's father-in-law happened to know some MP or MLA.

Life was bliss! Once you left office, there was no way your boss or anyone could get you back to work OR discuss the pricing of your products, short of running after you to your home - and, even then, if you had a sufficiently talented family, you could hide yourself away in the bathroom while they manfully denied that you were at home. AND then some idiot had to invent the bleeding mobile phone.

Someone has only got to say that something will be given only to important people and people start feeling it is a privilege. Since I was one of the few - and the junior-most - to be given a mobile phone by my office, in the earliest days of its introduction to this country, I was automatically a subject of envy. I could never see it as a privilege - more like a dog leash. Any of my bosses could give it a tug any time of the day and I had to jump. Truly Neighbor's envy, Owner's bane!

Difficult to believe? What then would you think if you were on a vacation in Goa, enjoying the beauties of...err...shall we say...Nature and your leash gives a tug and your office wants to know the costing figures of ammonia at Kalol? Are THOSE the figures you want to be concentrating on while on a beach at Goa, I ask you?

To top it, this instrument that I had was equipped with a powerful microphone. You start of talking in your normal voice and the other end goes "Eh?". You raise your voice a bit and the other person beseeches you to talk louder. You start shouting and the other man says despairingly, "Are you there?" You yell at the top of your voice and all your office colleagues congregate and ask you,"Why do you bother to keep that phone near your mouth. You are yelling loud enough to be heard there without any help from the phone."

Since the day I was saddled with this irritating mechanism, there has not been a single day when I had not harked yearningly back to those days when you could put your office out of your mind the moment you were out of sight of your bosses. I can never fathom this younger generation that seems to prize these things above everything else - even unto wanting them smarter than they themselves are.

More to be pitied than censured, I suppose. They never knew any better days!

Monday, February 24, 2014


The electric coffee percolator had just made an appearance in the Indian markets and I was yet to lay my eyes on one. My mom was waxing eloquent about it. "The coffee decoction comes down in a jiffy. It switches off automatically by itself. And, if you try to get more coffee out of it, it cleverly gives only plain water." The way she was describing it, it appeared as though there was a pixie sitting in it, monitoring the coffee-making and switching it off when done. If you tried to deceive it into giving more coffee, the pixie would thumb its nose at you, wag an admonishing finger and pour out straight water. Things always appeared more interesting than they really were when my mom described them.

She never lost the curiosity and enthusiasm that only children are reputed to possess. (In those days, children did possess curiosity and enthusiasm for other things than hand-held devices.) The world was always so much more fun when you saw it from her eyes. That, probably, is why she got along with children so well. She did not have to 'descend' to their level - she was always there.

Watching movies on TV - especially tragic movies - was great fun as a family. Any time a tearjerker scene appeared, all our heads would swivel to her as though they were marionettes operated by one string. She never disappointed - her eyes would shed copious tears, more than any heroine ever managed, without the benefit of any glycerin. Both when watching reel life or in real life, her tears were like summer showers - there for a moment and then cleared away by the blinding sun of her smile. In that as well she was more like a child - negative emotions were merely passing clouds and not an indelible stain in her mind.

When she first shifted to Delhi and stayed with me, her command over Hindi was shaky. One day, she came back, to take some money, proudly announcing how well she had bargained for something from a door-to-door salesman who had come next-door. "He was asking for 'Pacchees'. I stuck to 'Pachas' and got it for my price". When she went back to pay him, she realized that she had successfully bargained UP the price from twenty-five to fifty, while she thought she had done it the other way around. The ease with which she laughed at herself and retailed the story to everyone was a lesson to me.

I would have probably gone all red and would have glowered at anyone who dared mention the incident to anyone else, then or later. Hindu philosophy says that life is a process of ridding yourself of your ego AND psychology says that you start developing a sense of "I' some time after you are born. It always seemed to me like my mom did not see the point in first developing an ego and, then, spending a lifetime trying to rid yourself of it. So, she dispensed with the entire process by not developing one in the first place. If I find myself at all capable of laughing at my own follies - at least in retrospect and after a looong interval - it is probably thanks to her.

A lack of ego also meant that she could never maintain any anger or dislike for long. That, though, is a problem since most people do not bother to ensure that they do not hurt a person if they feel that there will be no consequences to it OR bother to do anything to please a person if they feel that they will have the goodwill of that person regardless. A problem for someone like me, maybe, but not for my mom. She liked people and gave little thought to what they thought of her. (An attitude that I have never been successful in fully imbibing, though I, too, am incapable of carrying grudges. Any negative emotion gives me a real headache and, till I shed it, I do not feel normal.)

When she was at the Adyar Cancer Institute being treated for Breast cancer in 1992-93, I could hardly expect to see her in her bed when I went there - except on the days she had chemotherapy. The doctors, there, could have been irregular in their rounds but my mom was regular as clockwork. She probably visited every patient there and tried to boost their spirits, so much so that most of them thought that she was a volunteer from some cancer support group and not a co-patient. Except on the days when the pain of the treatment got too much for her - when she merely remained silent - she still had as much zest for life and squeezed joy out of every moment. Courage, I then realized, did not lie in throwing out your chest and bellowing, "I will drink your blood" but in taking everything life can throw at you and still not lose your compassion, your affection for people and your zest for life.

It was only at the last in 1997, when the cancer had attacked her spine and left her paralyzed and bed-ridden, she started feeling like she was a burden on others and lost her zest for life. With that, she lost her will to live.

She left behind one ideal for me to strive to achieve. To live life as a child would live - with enthusiasm, curiosity, without letting the ego get in the way of relationships and taking joy in the moment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

All for me

I always believed that the sun rose and set for my sake. I have been told that such is not the case but I fail to see the logic of it. I mean, if it were not for my sake, why would the sun bother to rise at all? Seems obvious that, were it not for me, the sun would just roll over and go back to sleep.

As with the sun, so also with everything in the world. I know that the obvious things are those which seem most difficult for you people to understand and require the most convincing on my part. Let me present some incontrovertible evidence of the essential part my presence plays in motivating people and nature to act the way they do.

Right from my days at school this phenomenon has been keenly observed and noticed by me. We had a Games teacher (PT master, if you will) who was generally lackadaisical about what we wore. When, then, do you think he went around checking for the polish on the shoes? Correct! On the one day when I failed to polish my shoes. The teacher who normally does not bother to check whether the homework was done chooses, of course, the one day when I had not done it. This it-always-happens-to-me syndrome is proof positive of the fact that people deliberately did things in order to make maximum trouble for me. (Seems like "All against me" rather than "All for me", does it not? BUT you cannot gainsay the fact that I was the root cause of their actions)

Take Nature, for example. In 2012 December, I had my right hand in a plaster-cast and was in Chennai for the Music season. Which then is the year when it decides to rain every day in Chennai? Correct - 2012! AND, it not only rains every day but also rains exactly when I venture out of the house and am far enough away not to be able to return. Obviously, someone up there was waiting with his hands poised over the tap and opened it just as I was stuck with getting drenched and ruining my plaster-cast OR take an auto - and experience with Chennai autos will tell you that it was a toss-up as to which was the worse fate.

I really can go on and on. The one time I make a road trip to a place is the time - after decades of neglect - that the State decides to dig it up in a bid to make it over. If I go on a trek, there is  deluge; if I visit a forest reserve, it turns too cold for the animals to venture out; if I apply for a job, there is an economic downturn and if I try to sleep, there is a power-cut.

Sometimes, I really wish that both Nature and people would stop obsessing about me and do their own thing - but, then, if wishes were horses, we would all get saddle-sores. At least I would, since the one horse I ride would have a protruding spine and a tendency to buck.

Such, indeed, are the perils of being the center of the universe. How I bear it, I really do not know. Maybe, it is just the universe, that I am the center of, that is so perverse.

AND people have the gall to say it is all mere coincidence.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I never had a Valentine

I have been particularly remiss in not posting anything on the subject of Valentine's day and am in serious risk of being banned by Social media. The harbinger of my impending pariah status is the fact that for the whole of the Valentine 'week' I have not had a single message from any South American or African lawyer offering to share a humongous unclaimed fortune with me. Truly  a fate to be dreaded.

I can offer only one excuse. I never had a Valentine. In the days of my youth, we started out avoiding girls - to the extent that teachers considered it a punishment to make a boy sit with the girls. What the girls did to deserve the punishment of having a boy squeeze into their desk is something that never bothered the teachers and, in that, they were probably aligned to Indian Jurisprudence as exemplified by the Khap Panchayats.

When we grew out of that phase and came to the conclusion that girls were pretty interesting creatures after all, Society stepped in. A boy caught talking to a girl, outside the confines of school, was a bad lot and certain to join the ranks of the criminals, if not the criminally insane. I am exaggerating, of course, though calling a girl for a date or proposing to her was a certain recipe for serious punitive action - right up to suspension and dismissal. Add to that the fact that India was not celebrating Valentine's day those days and you can understand that there was no possibility of any Valentine for me through youth. (One of the minor mysteries of life for me is what did all those guys, who now entertain themselves by breaking up valentine parties, do to pass their time in those days. Played gilli-danda, I suppose).

Actually, though, it is quite likely that I may never have had a Valentine anyway. I can always talk nineteen to a dozen, normally, to the extent that I cross the puny limits of verbal diarrhea into the exalted realms of Verbal Niagara. Comes the time when I really feel a strong emotion, though, I find this strange urge for silence.

You do not understand? Let me explain. When you brush accidentally against a stranger, the 'Sorry' comes tripping off your tongue. Think, then, of the time when you have seriously wronged a close friend and need to apologize. Someone seems to have tied your vocal chords into intricate knots. The vascular system, which really has no business in the process of vocalization, gets into the act and you find your ears turning a lovely carmine in color and the heart hammering away so busily pumping blood into your face that the opposite end of your body goes icy cold. The digestive system, not to be left behind, acts up too, drying your mouth of saliva and releasing a million fluttering butterflies into your stomach. The get the point? All right!

So, every time I approached a girl, this is precisely how I felt and, when I opened my mouth to talk and only managed to mewl, the lady of the moment fastidiously wrinkled her nose and moved away, assuming that I was about to barf. Needless to say, this did put a minor spanner in the works and, in retrospect, I find much reason to feel grateful that there was no Valentine's day in my days for me to be outside looking in forlornly at all those "Couples Only" places.

If I have given the impression that I am the strong, silent lover or, more likely, the mutt who comes running to fetch and carry when his idol crooked her finger and played the uncle, who became a horse or elephant as per choice, to her kids, I must admit such could have been the case but for a chance biological discovery. I found that the heart, being a muscle and not a bone, does not actually break and, thus, after a suitable interval, I always found another girl to mewl at.

In time, I found that picking heart-throbs from the heroines of any moment was much safer. You could always mewl at them and not run the risk of having to remember the dates and purchase gifts for the anniversaries (monthiversaries, if I may use the term, initially) of

1. The day we first met.
2. The day she first said 'Hello' and I gargled in reply.
3. The day we first had coffee together and I poured the coffee down her top trying to play the gallant lover.
4. Her Birthday - English AND Star

AND all those non-biographical days like Valentine's day, New year, Christmas, Akshaya Trithiya..........

As anyone, who knows me, can tell, in addition to a memory like a sieve for dates...


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hard to get

I find that I was in error when I thought of the respect accorded to being hard to please as some sort of isolated reaction. ("So, what else is new?" you say, I know, having assumed that, if I say something, it has to be erroneous. I cannot always be answering you hecklers.) I have now realized that it is only a subset of a more generic condition. That which is easy to get has no value and people chase after what is hard to get and, thus, a compliment from an 'easy to please' person has no value since it is not hard to get.

Let me first define what I mean by 'hard to get' before I get into specifics - otherwise you may end up bombarding me with online and offline options that make things easy to get anything (though, hitherto, I have mainly seen ads that make selling things easy) with appropriate footnotes indicating various financing options that will tell me what my EMI will be but will conveniently remain silent on how long I would have to continue paying them.

Where was I? Ah! The definition of 'hard to get'. I do not merely mean things that will require you to cross the seven seas and climb seven mountains; brave the efforts of genies and demons to stop you; pass through fire and plunge into active volcanoes before you can find them. Nay, in fact, I do not even talk of such things. I only talk of the more mundane things that will chain you to your desk, wailing for freedom, while you work on earning enough to pay that confetti shower of bills that shall inevitably land at your doorstep every month. Or those things, which will cost you so much in effort and stress that, when you eventually do get what you slaved for, you may not have any time or energy to do anything with them.

A thing that is 'hard to get' is worth far more than anything that you may think you want. If you are guaranteed a decent living, what would you prefer - a six bedroom independent villa, household help, a dependable power supply from your own gen-set, a sparkling river by the house, clean air and a huge garden OR a one bedroom flat on the sixtieth floor, no household help, erratic power and water supply, smog-ridden air and a couple of wilting potted plants? A no-brainer! The latter, of course! Why? Well - the one-bedroom flat would probably cost you a few crores since sixty floor buildings are likely to be in the heart of a city whereas a six-bedroom villa would probably come cheap since it would be in the heart of the hinterland. And, if the latter is so easy to get, it must be value-less.

I had read a SF story long back about a future time where the protagonist lives in a huge house with all the luxuries and only one day of work permitted to him. He dreams longingly of the day when he would rise so high in Society as to be able to afford a single bedroom non-service flat and six days of work! The future projected by that author seems to be today's reality. The successful people of today are the ones who work 24x7 - as opposed to the 'losers' who only work a five day week of eight hours each. As for the living accommodation, check the previous paragraph.

So, there we all go, playing a giant game of monopoly and collecting all the items, which we can possibly collect, that Society has decreed hard to get. And, if someone asks you about it, the following conversation will probably ensue.

"What are you rushing to get?"
"This hard-to-get-thing"
"Do you really want it?"
"Of course I do"
"Because it is hard to get"

And off you go to pledge the next five years of your life to get a SUV, which will take you an hour of crawling and a lot of curse-power to maneuver through the half kilometer of narrow roads that separate your house from the main road, once each in the morning and the evening. The less said about what happens after you reach the main road the better.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that what is hard to get is the only worthwhile thing to pursue. An intra-city forest a few kilometers away from your house is so much trash when you can spend half a month's earnings on a weekend getaway. As they say, "Ghar ki murgi, dal barabar" i.e a gourmet meal at home is nothing more than another hamburger whereas a hamburger in a five-star hotel is a gourmet meal.

SO - all you guys eagerly reading my lips for pearls of wisdom - if you want respect, play hard to get. Don't blame me, though, if no-one strives to get you. It is not given to everyone to walk that thin line between playing hard enough to get so the getting seems worthwhile and playing too hard to get.

AND, no, my being single has got nothing to do with having failed to walk that line!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Easy to please

The main problem with me is that I am a slow learner. (You know of more such problems with me? You can keep the list, I do not want it). By the time I learn any lesson I am either too set in my ways or it is too late in life to apply it. Like, say, learning the best pick-up lines when you are hardly able to get yourself up from bed without help, leave alone getting anything else up. So, I am left with trying to pass on the lessons to others while there is still time for them to benefit from them.

Whenever I used to be a guest at someone else's place, I invariably either found the food good or pretended it was. As long as it was edible, I really was satisfied and could actually say good things about it. If it seemed more like the sort of thing that would have pigs turning away in disdain, I still managed to say a "Hmmm" in a suitably positive tone in reply to the customary, "How did you like the food?"

Do you think this got me liked and respected by my hosts? Not that I could notice. I got the reputation of being 'easy to please' AND, if you people have not realized it, THAT is the reputation that classifies you just below the pet dog in terms of respect. There was this cousin of mine who used to say,"The curry requires a nano-gram more of salt; the sambhar had a milliliter more of sourness and the curd was too sweet." The hosts used to hang on to his words and take solace in the fact that the water, at least, met his exacting standards.

The net result of this was that when I hove to on the horizon the hosts used to say, "Ah! Suresh! No problem. He will eat anything". If I stand up at the end of the meal and give a heartfelt lecture praising the cooking, the hosts just said the equivalent of "So what else is new?" and changed the subject. When my cousin comes over, they are all atwitter - with the hostess hovering around him and looking with a mix of eagerness and apprehension to await his comments. If, perchance, he mentioned that the rasam was perfect on that day, the hostess used to proudly mention it to all and sundry multiple times for the next year or so.

Ergo, in any social interaction - as guest, boss, whatever - if you want respect, please do not get labeled 'easy to please'. If you are normally critical, the one time you do not criticize is the time that the recipient will proudly talk of to the rest of the world. If you praise normally, then your praise will be so much water off a duck's back. And THAT respect will be so accorded despite the fact that the expertise you have in the concerned subject would be as high as the ignorance that the 'hard-to-please' chap has.

The problem, though, is in getting the reputation of being 'easy to please' in the first place. Once you have it, you are doomed. If, for some reason including a vain attempt to gain some respect, you utter a critical comment once, you may rest assured that THAT will be the end of that relationship. (There is an apocryphal story about this. A beggar was used to being served food at one house every day and driven off from the other. On one day, the ungenerous household gave him alms and the generous household had to refuse. To which he is supposed to have said, "When even the goddess who never gave alms has given it today, what happened to the demon who was giving every day?")

If you intend making a switch from being the one to becoming the other, please be careful. It is, of course, a fact that an appearance of being finicky automatically endows you with a reputation for expertise in the subject matter and, therefore, makes the recipient treasure your compliments when you do deign to give them. It is not really necessary to be an expert. BUT, please do not think that throwing the dish in disdain with comments like, "Even a dog will not eat this" will endear you to your hosts. Also, it is necessary to keep the mystique of expertise intact by knowing enough not to make egregiously incorrect comments. If you end up saying, "It looks like you have put in salt instead of sugar" while eating an upma and taking it for Kesari, it is unlikely that your hosts will fall all over themselves in the future to get a good word out of you on their food.

If I have waxed eloquent on this subject only based on food, it is only because each man speaks of that which interests him the most. The appellation 'easy to please' is as much of a problem in all other areas of social interaction as in food - a fact that I know to my cost but way too late for me to do anything about it.

There is one further cautionary message that I need to add. There was this boss of mine who was a nitpicking editor of English in all letter and notes that went to him. Needless to say, most of my office took pride in saying things like, "You know! I sent a draft letter yesterday and it came back without a single correction" with a look that expected the instant bestowing of a Bharat Ratna for the achievement. So far, so good and no need for caution, right?

The problem here, as usual, was your truly. I am an unduly generous person in some ways (You have not seen any evidence of it? I cannot answer for you lack of observational skills. If you do not have microscopic vision, am I to blame for it?). Seeing my boss so obviously at a loss for how to while away his time that he was even making six sentence corrections on a single sentence letter on the lines of "Enclosed please find...", I decided to ensure that he did not get bored in office. So, I just put up all the draft letters from my subordinates. without bothering to edit the English, thereby ensuring that he had enough to correct and I was saved the effort. A perfect win-win situation. In the normal course, I should have been the apple of his eye. Strange though that he never really thought of me as the brother he never had. It is the degeneracy of the times that people never really show gratitude when it is due.

Where was I? Ah! If you do switch to the 'hard to please' mold, you may find some mavericks like me who would rather not trouble themselves unduly for the uncertain and dubious pleasure of some day getting a compliment from you. That, however, would only be the exception that, purportedly, proves the rule.

So, please do not make the mistake that I made. Never be easy to please. That way lies disrespect!

Thursday, February 6, 2014


In the very early days of schooling, I also had the illusion that I was a budding Raphael. As a mere start to higher achievements in Art, I showed my drawing to my school teacher and proudly awaited her gape-mouthed admiration.

"That is a very nice..mmm.. crow?", she said doubtfully.

"THAT was a cow, miss" I said indignantly. (Those were the days when the teacher was a miss no matter whether she was a Mrs or a Ms in real life)

"If only you had labeled it, I could have recognized it."

Later in life, I realized that this problem of labels is more acute when it comes to human beings. I mean, you cannot just look at a guy and identify if he is a banker, a lawyer, a doctor or a vagabond. (I certainly do not intend wandering into esoteric areas like his honesty, his courage, his capacity for affection and the like) Well, you could not but for the fact that we have invented labels for them so that we can conveniently identify the lot.

Pin-striped suits, ties and coats even in sweltering heat? Banker or top corporate honcho! White coat and stethoscope - doctor! A shapeless black gown - lawyer! Scruffy looks and oddly assorted clothes - Me..err...vagabond! Labels are so handy. Without them it would be tough to know who is who and behave accordingly.

The problem, though, is that people fail to use the appropriate labels, especially in social circumstances rendering things as difficult as for my school teacher. Doctors prefer prodding around well-cooked flesh of chicken with their forks instead of prodding around diseased human flesh when they come to parties. (Particularly when they cannot bill the owner of that flesh? I did not say that!) A white coat would so occupy them with the latter that the former would become impossible. A black gown would probably have a lawyer stranded in lonely splendor, maybe because people are too afraid of being sued for slander the next day for bibulous mutterings. So, everyone and his uncle dresses up like a corporate honcho/Banker (except the vagabond, who cannot afford to, but then the vagabond is unlikely to be invited to such jamborees anyway) making it difficult to identify them.

It is here that the world has simplified things these days. Instead of working your way through the mazes of professions, it has made it simple by merely seeking that you identify and appropriately kowtow to relative success. SO, the more expensive the dress, the accessories, the car and the conversation ('When I was in Zurich last night' instead of  'When I was in Forum Mall last night') the more respect is due to the person. Finis!

The entire corporate world is, therefore, geared to getting its products recognized as the appropriate label for the person! All you have to do is to get your product recognized as THE label to identify a class of person and you have achieved Marketing Nirvana.

See - the world RUNS on labels! So, I cannot fault my school teacher for bemoaning the lack of one.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Being on the move

There, apparently, are those people who are never happy unless they are on the move. Literally, as in hopping buses, trains and flights and going to exotic places and feeling the day wasted if they woke up to the same landscape that they saw the previous morning. Or, figuratively, as in constantly moving up the corporate ladder or moving out if the moving up does not work - a promotion a year is acceptable to them but once a month would be more like what they would love. The former like never sleeping in the same bed more than a night and the latter find sitting in the same seat more than a year stifling.

I did start out saying 'apparently' but, then, I thought of myself as belonging to that ilk (both ilks, I am nothing if not ambitious if only in my dreams)  when I as a lot younger than I am now (and had a lot more hair, though that is not germane to the issue. It is not like I am a kind of Samson and my ambitions were shed with my hair). Life, though, taught me a few lessons that ended up in my shedding a few illusions (if you say 'very few', I shall look on your pitiful ignorance with derision. You really have no clue how many I started out with - why, at that age, I even thought that the only difference between Rajnikant and me was that he spoke too fast).

Where was I? Ah! I was saying I had shed a few illusions. You see, I found that a lot of things in life are wonderful to dream about. You think of traveling and there is the idea of gliding blissfully through a lovely countryside (and, perhaps, a couple of swooning girls along who are taken by your poetic appreciation of the beauties of Nature). There are no bone-rattling bad roads, no crowds of stinking arm-pits and, above all, no motion sickness. (And, if there are any swooning girls at all in your vicinity, the reason for their swooning would probably be you, yes, but it probably would be your motion sickness and not your poetry that would be causing the swooning).

As for being on the move figuratively, that is even worse. I mean, in your illusions you probably thought that the grace of your presence and scintillating conversation would propel you up the corporate ladder as though you were jet-assisted - at least, I did. In reality, I discovered that you either had to work - and for more hours than you thought that the day had (I know they claim that there are some 24 hours to a day but, till I started working, it was only hearsay evidence. I had only been awake and, thus, seen only some 12 of them) OR, worse still, look around to see who did and lay claims to what he did OR, ideally, both. Whichever way you sliced it, this corporate ladder climbing was nauseating to me. Anyway, I really do not enjoy heights - it gives me vertigo - so why bother to climb ladders? (Sour grapes? Not at all. The problem with you guys is that you have learnt a couple of things and like showing them off even when it is not at all correct).

So, there you have me. I love traveling with an Atlas in the safe confines of my bed and enjoy stories of how other people climb corporate ladders. Someone once said, "Adventures are unpleasant things that happen to other people" and, THAT, about sums up my idea of being on the move.

Pity, therefore, that this year has started off with such a lot of traveling. Three trips in the first month and one more to start February off? Hmm! I really hope the year buckles down and starts behaving itself going forth or I may have to tick it off in no uncertain terms. Why, I may even call it "Annus Horribilis" and it will not know where to hide its face.