Monday, April 25, 2016

Friendship (Ye Dosti)

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I have always wanted to find the sort of friendship - you know the 'Sholay' style 'Ye Dosti' type of friendship in life. I know! I know! It is easy enough to find people to go riding on bikes with, whether or not they are willing to scream 'Ye Dosti' while doing so. AND, with the people I know, if they tried to actually sing 'Ye Dosti', that would probably be the end of the friendship. (What?? Now YOU know why I do not have friends? You are only jealous of my singing prowess.)

Where was I? Ah! Easy enough to find good time Charlies who would go riding bikes with you, get drunk with you and all that, yes! Especially if you have the money to pay the bar for the drinks and the destruction of furniture and fixtures, at the end of the party. The difficulty, though, is all the rest of that Jai-Vijay friendship in the movie.

To be sure, I CAN dispense with that particular talent in my prospective friend of boosting my character with the prospective in-laws. You know, 'He is a very good chap; it is just that he smokes; actually, he does not always smoke, except when he drinks; it is not that he drinks normally, except when he goes to a whorehouse; and he rarely goes to the whorehouse, except once every day and twice on Sundays' or some such attractive presentation of my Curriculum Vitae. If God had forgotten to put in THAT talent into a person, it would not disqualify him with me as a prospective friend. As it is, I find it difficult to get a girl to look at me, without her eyes straying over my shoulder, attracted by some visions in the distant horizon. With this sort of a boost, even the helpful guidance from 'Sholay' would be no help. If I were to stand atop a water tower, screaming 'Suicide', the girl would probably get busy sawing the supports of the tower, enthusiastically, in her eagerness to help me with my project.

What I truly want is that camaraderie that would even extend to willingly give up one's life in order to save a friend. To have a friend who can be relied upon like that...THAT would be really something. I said that, once, and everyone around me agreed. Quite a novel experience for me, this universal approbation of what I said, but...Eeeks! Did THAT mean that they were also looking for it in me? That, while I was looking to see if THEY would sacrifice their lives for me when necessary, they were actually expecting ME to be sacrificing MY life for them if need be? Ye Gods!

THAT is my besetting problem. Why could I not be like these guys - just thinking about how good my friends are as friends? Life would be happier that way. I always muck things up for myself, sooner or later, by wondering about whether I myself measured up. Story of my life.

Anyway...I sort of think that this giving up your life thing may well be possible for me. (NO! Not because I am sure that it will never be put to the test. True that I do not live a life where someone is shooting at my friends every other day, giving me the option to jump in front of him and take the bullet but still...) I mean those things happen in the heat of the moment and, blessed with a lack of imagination, I am still not fully convinced that I am mortal, so it is possible that I may get in the way of a bullet destined for a friend. Anyway, those decisions leave you little time to repent your decision and, even if they do, it generally is too late to have the repenting change the consequences.

It is all those other things, short of sacrificing my life, that are worrisome. What if I had to help him with his children's school fees, while struggling to meet my EMIs? What if I had to babysit his toddler for a couple of years as he and his wife struggled to meet THEIR EMIs? What if...Hell! There are too many damn 'What If's. With all those possibilities, it would be a positive pleasure to give up my life for him and saddle him with my EMIs!

Yes...and I could still be the sort of friend that the 'Sholay' guys were, so no problem. After all, in the movie, even Amitabh Bacchan balked at having Dharmendra's kids sent over to him to babysit, though he willingly gave his life at the end. So, even for the Jai-Vijay friendships, one dramatic gesture was easier than a daily grind of friendship!

(Topic suggested by Ramesh Grandhi. What I did with it is all my doing)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Two lines

If you read that title and come in happily hoping that you will just have to read two lines here, you must be new here. When was the last time I ever said anything in two lines? ('Never', you said? Welcome back, friend!) I hardly can even say, "Good Morning" without also appending a weather report to it.

The two lines that I mention is the puzzle that I was told in my youth, which made such a deep impression on me that it practically became the guiding principle of my life. How do you make a line smaller, without in any manner touching it? The answer was to draw a bigger line by its side - this line automatically becomes the smaller line. (Yeah! Yeah! You are right. I remember it mainly because of the K. Balachander movie 'Iru Kodugal', so what?)

That was the time when I was in school and suffering through what people called 'subjects'. Everything in it was so obscure to me while there was this bunch of guys around me finding it all dead easy. I still struggle with how an unknown quantity of apples and oranges mysteriously turn into the alphabets 'x' and 'y', and these guys flash out the exact number of each. I am looking at my face in the mirror, trying to make out whether it is made of cells, like the biology teacher would have it or whether it is made of protons and electrons, with some neutrons thrown in, as the chemistry teacher says; and these guys even know exactly what reaction would happen if they threw acid in my face.

I was well on my way to developing a serious inferiority complex, when a brilliant idea struck me - based on the above puzzle (Don't jeer! I DO have some ideas, you know!). It was crystal clear that I could never become the bigger line to make them smaller. The point, though, was I could BE bigger without touching myself, just by making THEM smaller - or appear smaller. All I had to do was belittle THEIR abilities, instead of bemoan the lack of my own. So, exactly WHY should I feel envious of these stupid 'bookworms'. THERE - nothing does it better than to label something.

Away from the bookworms, I found myself in the midst of these athletic types. The unique ability with which I missed the ball, gracefully, with my bat; the skill with which I always got the leg umpire out 'leg-before-pavilion'; and my superb reflexes in diving the other way from the speeding ball told me the cricket was not my forte - especially with the hidebound views about good cricket held by all these athletes. As for football, within five minutes, I had this uncanny ability to BECOME the football and, since I had no more spare bones than anyone else, that was ruled out. As for the running, jumping and all that, I found myself out of breath at the starting gate, so there went my chance of being a part of the athletic crowd. But, then, who wants to be considered a 'muscle-bound jock' anyway?

Then there was this lot that was into literature. Half an hour into it, I was lost. I mean, if I had to take recourse to the dictionary 5 times per sentence, it was just not going to work for me. The chappies did tell me that, over time, I would know all these words and that it is not like they all started out with a dictionary installed in their brains but...well, who wants to work at becoming an 'elitist snob' anyway?

And then the Nature-lovers. Stumbling through the woods, getting scratched, bit and stung was one thing but all those things I was expected to learn...I was happy if I could differentiate a branch and a leaf, and a leaf and a flower but that, apparently, was not enough. AND, my god, a distant bird-cry and I was supposed to know which bird it was that called; well, let me tell you, I will not undertake to say whether any two birds are different from each other if they stood before me and posed. Anyway, what is the point in exerting myself only to become an 'Environment freak'.

Over time, I came to the realization that there was hardly any point in learning anything. Why would you slave your ass off only to become a 'nerd' or a 'bean-counter' or a...well, you get the point.

So, I reverted to being what I was, as Nature made me with no artificial shaping of my persona. AND, now, believe me, people call me a 'Couch Potato'.

I wonder WHO in the world envies me and wants to belittle ME!

Monday, April 11, 2016


"Iniya uLavaga innatha kooral kani iruppa kai kavarndaRRu" - Tirukkural by Thiruvalluvar

"To choose to insult, when it is possible to compliment, is akin to preferring the unripe fruit over the ripe' - Loose translation

You know what - either this wisdom of the yester-years is all dated wisdom or it was particularly easy to say anything and be accounted as wise in the days gone by. Take this one for example. (No, I do not want to get into whether the semi-ripe guava is preferable to the unripe guava; or the preference for a cooked unripe plantain - with multiple recipes and colorful pics - to the ripe one; and all that. Let us take it as read that we are talking of raw unripe fruit to raw ripe fruit, as would be applicable to a majority of fruits. In other words, let us not act like a corporate meeting, where we spend almost all the time in discussing the aptness of the metaphor rather than discussing the message.)

It is the message that is so funny. Ah! No, no, no! I do not mean that we need to say unpalatable things if we really want the other guy to improve. Not because I know that no-one really accepts good advice and certainly not from any passer-by - as most people seem to be to most other people, unless they are close family - though that, too, is true. I do not say that because our man Thiru may rise from his grave and complain that he speaks of 'Iniya uLavaga', which means there really IS a compliment to be said, there, and not merely flattery.

So, well, what is my complaint, do you ask? After all, if the dish is great, except for being a smidgen more spicy that you are used to, why would you keep talking of that one minor flaw, instead of praising the dish as a whole and, perhaps, adding that a smidgen less spiciness would have made it perfect? You really ask that??? Man! Do you really belong in the human race?

Well, for one, it all depends on who is on the other side, does it not? If it is my boss, obviously it is my taste for spiciness that is at fault. His dish is obviously perfect. If it is my competitor...well, don't you see, it is THAT lack of control over spiciness that absolutely ruins the dish and, if only I were in his place, everything would be perfect? If it is some third party, well, how is he to respect my acumen if I praise him? AND this chap Thiru talks as if there is some formula for every occasion and I ought to praise what needs praising! Sheer idiocy, I tell you.

AND, of course, the man had not even heard of Social Media! What sort of following will I get if all I say are compliments? "Lovely dish" will get me some 3 likes from the friends of the cook, maybe, and people who are hungry at that moment may say, "Yum! Want to eat, now." If it were MY dish, then I may get more of both...but shares, going viral? Nonsense!

On the other hand, think of "If this chap thinks he can cook, he must have been certified by some charcoal-burner", even if it is only ONE grain of Urad dal that is charred, can you see the interest? Especially, if THAT chap has some status as a good cook? Arguments, counter-arguments, shares, tweets, re-tweets...AND, if you do it often enough, fans, followers, what have you! Come on, where is the drama in a compliment...except if you compliment something that everyone considers slimy trash! But THAT is not what our man Thiru is saying...'Iniya uLavaga' would rule out complimenting the entirely insult-worthy, so I cannot even give him THAT much credit.

True, the poor chap IS dated, so maybe that can excuse him. Leave alone Social media, there was NO media and people were still scratching around on palm leaves or some such. THAT, possibly, explains the difference in orientation. I mean, with all that much effort to put in to writing and preserving something, they were clearly not going to be spending time on preserving for posterity the fact that a king was a messy eater, when they could write of how many temples he built. If communications had been easy, who knows, we may have ended up with a complete record of all the palace gossip, so what if it came at the cost of losing out on every other sort of information?

Yeah - there is a lot of need to take care when we look up old wisdom. Oh! Actually, there is no need. We have junked it all anyway!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Analog man in a digital world

I was bubbling with excitement as I entered my friend's house. The sight of a few other mutual friends gave me pause but did not dampen my enthusiasm, as it normally would. Yeah, it is true, that when more than one of my friends congregate, the consensus on my IQ is a full 50 points below what it would be with a single person thereby putting my IQ in the single digits but, I really had a brilliant idea.

"Say, listen guys! I have had a brainwave"

"You must mean brain-fever", said one.

"Come on, yaar! Brain-fever? How is he going to get it? It is only when you have a brain..."

Yes...things had got into the usual rut too fast. The only reason these guys were friendly with each other was because they agreed so totally on one subject - me. That was also the only subject on which they agreed.

"Come on, guys! Just listen to me", I whined. Well, there really was no other word for it. However masterful I intend to sound, it always comes out like a child begging for a chocolate. Surprisingly, they fell silent.

"See! My problem is that I am an analog man in a digital world"

"Is that the title of the latest Lit Fic sensation?"

"Nah! Lit Fic would be more like 'The devourer of souls' or some such. More likely some Science Fiction"

"Please..." I was near-weeping.

"Alright! Let him speak before he dissolves into tears. Can't spend the night mopping up the house", said my host.

"You see...if I say something is not-Zero, people automatically assume that I am saying it is One. You know...the digital way. Whereas, I may just be saying it is 0.1 or 0.2 or..."

"Or 2 or 3 or..."

"Or -1 or -2 or..."

All this mathematics was making me feel slightly dizzy, as mathematics normally does.

"No! What I mean is...just because I say that it is in bad taste to call Durga a ..."

"I knew it...YOU are a Bhakt. An idiot blindly adhering to outdated traditions..."

"THAT's what I mean", I said, excitedly. "See, if not Zero, then one. But I also said that bans on beef and all..."

"I knew it. He IS a pseudo-secularist. He is not brainy enough to see that..."

"Leave it guys. This is too hot a topic. But, even when I see no reason to deride Bhagat for his writing..."

"There he goes. Always knew that he was a functional illiterate."

"But, then, good books should also enlighten people..."

"So, what? You think a book is going to make a man toss away his beer, grow a beard, adopt saffron as the only preferred wardrobe color, and find caves better to stay in than a/c apartments?"

"See what I mean? Should a book do all that to be meaningful?"

"Yeah! Thus spake the guy who would not open a single engineering book all through college"

By now, I was feeling truly dizzy. All the excitement of the idea had drained off. It has truly gone out of fashion to even speak as though everything is not black and white. It is truly perilous to be an analog man in a digital world.

"Alright, guys! You win!" I muttered.

"There! THAT's something we all can agree on. You are a loser."