Monday, August 31, 2020

Then and Now

 Yeah, I know that the moment you see that title "Then and Now" and put it together with my age, you will add it up to a post on how in the 'good old days' we were all paragons of virtue and the world was a paradise on earth which all you young whippersnappers (Look that up! I HAVE to use the words that herald my age, haven't I?) have messed up royally. You will be surprised to know that it is NOT the intent of this post. (What?? You read that to mean that I do NOT think we were paragons of virtue? Of course we were paragons of virtue, it is just that I am much too modest to boast of it.)

But, yes, I do intend to wax eloquent about how much things have changed. To say something is different, you may be surprised to know, is not necessarily the same as saying it is better or worse. TRY to act as though you really believe it, at least for as long as you read this post, even if you find it difficult to accept it. It will save me having to plow through comments where the word 'Boomer' features frequently.

You see, all of us HATE change. Just because the world that is around you IS the world you are used to, you cannot see how much trauma it inflicts on us. I mean, you guys start screaming all over social media every time an App changes its damn interface and still cannot understand how upset we can be about Apps BECOMING the interface between us and the rest of the world. It is not that it is more difficult or more inconvenient or any such. It is just that it is DIFFERENT and THEREFORE more difficult, more inconvenient...simply because it forces on us the difficulty, the inconvenience of having to relearn how to do things. Change is a pain even to the youth; to the aged...

And when the world changes topsy-turvy, as it has in a few cases...

From what I had understood, the history of communication started off with figures representing each action, thought or idea which was to be communicated. That was thought to be too cumbersome and people devised alphabets and words, so that you could learn to communicate more easily that memorizing a million figures, with inter-regional variations. And so we grew up, confident that we could pick up and communicate newer ideas and thoughts with the basics we had already learnt. The last thing we would have expected was to have to go back to school to learn communication. And what happens? Smileys and figures of all sorts NOW form communication and we are back to the Stone Age as far as being able to communicate goes. AND I am left pondering what that chap meant when he sent that dancing girl in reply to my comment or whether this chap was insulting me or praising me when he sent me a meme with a ghost cavorting in it. Was the ghost smirking or smiling in appreciation, yada, yada, plagues my nights. (Maybe it IS the Chinese millennium after all. From what I have heard, THEIR alphabet is closest to the way our long gone ancestors communicated with each other.)

Even food has not been spared. I mean, time was when, as a cook, I only had to worry about whether the food smelt good and tasted good; as someone who the cook sought an opinion from, ditto. NOW if I say, "Oh! That smells divine, tastes like ambrosia", the cook gives me a glare and asks, "Forget the inconsequential things. Does it LOOK good?" Alas, I am not fit for the Instagram world!

Travel has been an eye-opener too. Time was when we were traveling and someone exclaimed, "What a lovely view", we would all turn TOWARDS the view to take it in. NOW we are supposed to swiftly turn our backs to the view so that we can click ourselves with the view in the background! (Oh! Yes! Those were times when photographs were for weddings and the like. Who could afford a camera, film for it and costs to develop and print the film...What?? Yeah, yeah, the most that had come about by then were FILM-based cameras. Remember Kodak? No? Ah, well, we thought History was something that happened centuries before. Now, Kodak is History!)

Parenting is a whole new ball-game. There is no way you can just copy your parents and get on with the parenting game. Like, my parents used to tell my sister, "You should walk with your eyes to the ground and head lowered." THAT piece of patriarchy would always get my sister's goat, rightly (I said RIGHTLY, damn it! So, please do not start on long diatribes which use 'patriarchy' and 'male chauvinist' once every three words) and she would sarcastically retort with, "If I do that I will be colliding with all sorts of people and things." NOW, parents have to tell, "Look where you are going, otherwise you will keep colliding with things. Do not always have your head lowered and eyes check out your smart-phone."

And, yes, if we saw someone gesticulating and talking to himself/herself on the streets, we would assume that they were either mentally disturbed or drunk. NOW, we hardly bother to even check if they are wearing earphones. Drunks, these days, must be feeling particularly ignored...even the tried and tested route of making a scene on the streets to gain attention has become normalized. People just take it for granted.

As though, technology had not already turned the world upside down, biology starts up too. Time was when someone, who was seen wearing a hand-kerchief around his neck, automatically qualified a potential goonda because such a hand-kerchief could readily become a mask. And someone WITH a mask was a proven villain, except in an operation theater.

NOW...masks have become designer-wear! Ye Gods!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Man of few words

Almost any person who has met me in person, and most especially those with whom I have felt comfortable about riding my hobbyhorses, will recoil in indignation at applying this 'Man of few words' to me. 'Verbal diarrhea' is probably the first word that springs to their lips if not the more poetic flight of fancy that one of them indulged in - 'Verbal diarrhea verging on verbal Niagara'.

Of course, those who have met me only when in a group are most likely to accept that description, except perhaps saying in surprise - "Few words? You mean he even has a few? I thought he had none." That is because I am rather shy of indulging in equestrian pursuits when in a group, so I very seldom climb aboard any hobbyhorse then.

And, then, to my total surprise, one of those unfortunates, who have been used to seeing me digging my spurs into my hobbyhorse and careening all over the place, called me a man of few words. And then, he qualified. "He is a man of few words and he keeps repeating them. Ad nauseam." I believe that it is a quote of what someone had said of someone else but that was no solace.

The point is, actually, who doesn't repeat himself at all? Only someone who keeps his mouth tightly closed all the time. It is just a question of who you are with, really. I mean, there really are too few people in the world with whom you share a wide range of interests. If you have a friend with whom you share an interest in books but he likes hard metal in music and you are into Carnatic music; he is a foodie and you can keep eating curd rice morning, noon and night and so on...well, what else do you talk to that chap except books? And, after a point, you bloody well will be repeating yourself, won't you, since what you have to say will all have been said, except on the rare occasions when you have a new book to discuss?

I suppose that's the same thing with meeting your school friends in a reunion. There are only so many times you can talk about the time you put the chewing gum in the teacher's chair and the time you hit all three stumps for a six with your reverse sweep...things like that. And, so, you go away and forget all about them till the next reunion where you can...repeat yourself. Unless, of course, you get really INTO what they are doing currently - job and family - so that there are more intersecting areas of interest.

The worst of it is ex-colleagues. I mean, most of your conversation WHILE you were all together would have been bitching about the company, your boss, the HR and office politics. And then you go away to another company. When you meet them after a while you find you have exactly nothing to talk about. You could not care less about THEIR boss, THEIR HR and THEIR office politics, even though you know those people. What's worse is when you start bitching about the boss and you suddenly find that they take offense because that chap had now become their best friend and revered mentor! As for YOUR boss, YOUR HR...well, all they can do is smile indulgently at your theatrics about these small issues and switch the conversation around to the weather. And, if there is anything more repetitive then weather...(I mean, I have never really found why people think it is so profound to say 'Kya garmi hai' in summer and 'Bahut tand hai aaj' in winter in Delhi. But, believe me, if I knocked out those words from all the conversations I had in Delhi, all I'd be left with is sepulchral silence for most of the days.)

These days, though, I find myself rather unhappy. I mean, yeah, it is not the greatest of things to be known as this man of repetitive few words but it was at least a distinguishing feature, something that made me unique. And, now, I find I am reduced to a minor player even in that ability.

I mean, listen to all the discussions of ANYTHING on TV, especially politics. ALL arguments on every side reduce themselves to even fewer words than I have used. Each side has its own limited set of words, the limits being set only by how many synonyms of the same word is known to the concerned parties.

Only goes to show my place in the scheme of things, even in using few words. A bit player, if that! Alas!

Monday, August 17, 2020

Sitting on the fence

 "You know what your problem is?"

Someone must really do a study about this, really! I mean, what is it about me that any friend who meets me feels the pressing need to introduce me to some problem in me within seconds of meeting me?

And it is not as though they are all talking about the same problem. Then, I can just say, "Yes! I know! My total inability to keep the hair on my head," and shut the guy up. But, no, everyone comes up with a new problem. Some day I should start listing out all the problems that people have found in me. I will probably end up with a comprehensive list of all the problems that it is possible for a human being to have. (Or, perhaps, like Jerome K Jerome, I may end up not having 'Housemaid's knee' or some such specifically female issue but, if so, that sort of thing is the only thing that I will miss out on having.)

"You persist in sitting on the fence. Most uncomfortable position. Neither side likes you and you end up with no friends."

The chap had something relevant to say after all. About the 'no friends' part. I mean, yeah, like most people who are not picky on Social media I too have close to thousand 'friends' on Facebook but, push comes to shove, I could not really see them do more than give a teary-eyed emoticon if I claimed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown...if not PUSHING me to a nervous breakdown by trolling me for not agreeing totally with their views!

"But," I said, "I do I choose a side? I find some things that this side says are relevant but other things that they support are terrible. I find a lot of things that the other side says are right but..."

"See, typical of a fence-sitter."

"Fence-sitter is the new term for being open-minded, is it?"

"Open-minded, fence-sitter, it is all semantics. What you are is neither fish nor fowl and so acceptable to neither side."

"But...I mean, come on, to choose a side I need to know who is right..."

"THAT's stupid. I really do not know how you survived so long. I mean, that is old-fashioned Boomer nonsense that you assess the ideas of a side and pick it if you find them right. The fact of the matter is that you pick your side and THEN you know which ideas are right...the ideas of your side!"

"But, damn it, are you saying that I should blindly..."

"THAT's your choice. I mean, yeah, it is much less stress on what you are pleased to call your brain to follow blindly. But it is not necessary. Once you are firmly on one side you will find that for ANYTHING you can always discover some interpretation to support what they support and oppose what they oppose. Even if you cannot find convenient 'facts' to support your viewpoint."

"AND what if I also see these...interpretations...for the other side?"

"See, THAT's only a problem if you have not picked your side. Once you have firmly decided on which side you fall, then you will find that the only interpretations you can see on the other side are those which paint them as villains; paint everything they support as the most hideous things on earth and anything they oppose as the best virtues. It's really that simple. Try it. You will make a lot of friends that way."

"So, then, tell me...which side do I pick?"

He threw his hand up in despair.

"You are incorrigible! Have you still not understood? It just does not matter which side. Pick the side on which your preferred potential friends are on."

Ye Gods! This modern world is too much for me!

Monday, August 10, 2020


 I keep hearing of the existence of people who I would have thought belonged only in idealistic dreams. Like, apparently, there are those who can just continue to do their thing till whatever is being expected happens - the arrival of a guest, the arrival of an expected mail, things like that. They never really experience the tension of waiting nor are they upset by any delays. People say such specimens exist, people even proudly claim that THEY are themselves such specimens. Me...I do not belong in any such fantasy.

It all depends on what that thing is which I am waiting for. Whether I am merely looking at the clock once every five minutes or once every nanosecond; whether I do that while lying around on my bed or pacing the house like I am preparing for a marathon; whether only butterflies fly inside my stomach or scorpions sting the insides. You know how it is...are you waiting for an appointment letter after long days of layoff or is it a friend dropping in for a drink?

The strange thing about me is that I CAN wait in relative ease if someone specifies a date and time when it will happen. Till that date and time, I really am like those fantasy world people - getting on with life with no real pangs of waiting. It is only when it gets near the time that...well all that clock-watching, the marathons and the scorpions depending on the nature of the event.

The fun, if I may use some black humour, really starts if it does NOT happen at that time. THEN it is of no relevance as to what the event is. I am like a volcano holding in lava from that moment on. Why it should be, I don't know. I mean, if the same event had originally been expected a month later than that day, I can be placid. But if it gets delayed by about an hour, for that hour I am Vesuvius just before it blew its top.

Or, perhaps, I do know. Up to the time set for the happening of the event, I KNOW how long my wait will be. AFTER, though...Now I do not know how much longer it is going to take, how much longer I need to wait. That uncertainty is what causes the pregnant volcano imitation, I think. And perhaps rightly because if I am informed in time that the event will be delayed, no molten rocks scald my insides.

To wait or not to wait, that is the question which kills you, especially where you are also considering reminding the concerned people, or perhaps abandoning the appointment. Plus, of course, there are those people who keep you waiting as a power-play, and not so much because it is unavoidable, which is further reason for anger. It is never pleasant to be at the receiving end of power-plays no matter how enjoyable it feels to be at the end that is dishing it out. Once you start feeling that the wait is intended to show you your place in their scheme of things...well, the relationship goes downhill from there.

And now to wait...while you decide 'To read or not to read'!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cooking up philosophy?

I never realized how much I really liked or disliked the various foods I ate till I started cooking myself. Alas, that unfortunate necessity did come into my life, thanks to getting a job in Delhi in times when neither salary nor availability of South Indian eateries was conducive to a regular routine of eating out.

Now, it is not like I did not know my mind. My mother would have vouched for that, what with having to deal with my 'Ooh! Why did you have to make upma?' and "What? Is this ALL the masala dosai I am going to get?" all through my life till then. Not to mention the "Nah! How can I eat that? It has more salt than needed" and all that. I do cudgel my memory to recollect any time I actually said something good about the food but to no avail. No, not senility, my memory is alright. The poor thing can remember something only if it had ever happened, after all.

And then came Delhi...and the need to cook. It was then I discovered how much of a foodie I am, how really finicky I was about taste and how much I liked and disliked various dishes. I mean, like when you are in a hurry, upma is about the fastest dish you can make and, so, I found that I really did not dislike upma after all. The taste even seemed to grow on me. A shade more salt in the food was not all that bad. Besides I needed more salt in my diet what with all my sweating.

The more interesting set of lessons were about how much I liked certain dishes. I mean, yeah, I still liked some of them - the arisi kozhukkattai, the urandai kozhukkattai and the likes - but, really, for all the effort that goes into making them...well, the long and short of it was that I did not like them enough to put in all that effort. When my mom made them, I could not have enough of them...when you are weighing your joy against someone else's efforts, somehow the joy always seems to outweigh the efforts. It is only when it comes to your own efforts that the scene seems to change. (WHAT?? There are people who actually LOVE cooking? So? There are even eccentrics who actually claim to love working.)

Which is one of those things that we seldom seem to apply in life. It is all fine to like a lot of things but very seldom do we see whether those things are worth to you the effort that goes into getting them. It doesn't help that, unlike cooking, you cannot directly correlate the effort with the acquisition. I mean, if you knew that the luxury car will cost you twelve years of being lambasted by a bad boss or six years of high stress and ulcers for a parting gift or some such, it would be easier to take the call on whether your trusty old Maruti suffices for you or no. But, unfortunately, you cannot correlate. Cooking is easier that way to assess...the effort is directly related to the dish. Unless, like me, you start off making upma and end up with a charcoal mine at the bottom of your wok.

The funny thing, though, is that the best cooks I know in my family seem to operate the same way when they are alone, cooking the dishes that take the least effort. It is only when they have family or guests that the dishes that take effort get made.

True of life too, innit? I mean, most of the effort you put in is not because of what you want yourself but because you want to please or impress other people.

Cooking can lead to valid philosophy after all!