Saturday, January 26, 2008

Enlightenment #2: I've forgotten how to have a phone conversation

Tut.. and Too Bad, someone would say.

But definitely not on the phone.

I'm suddenly nostalgic about school and college days. I'd have something exciting to discuss with a friend, and we'd talk about it for hours on the phone. We'd make hour-long conversations out of 20 second incidents, and analyse and assess events and people in and out.

At this point I'd like to digress just a little bit and tell her that I miss her and all those conversations!

In school it was the landline. Papa, especially, would be very particular about the size of the telephone bills. He could never see the point in talking for so long to a person you'd just spent the whole day with! I'd calculate exactly how many minutes of talk our quota of free calls afforded me, and imagine myself speaking for only that long. Somehow the numbers on the bill were never in sync my expectations ;) So it was that I longed to talk on the phone, on and on, at the risk of that huge bill, at the risk of my parents' anger. Landline bill: A few multiples of thousand, definitely making it into 4 digits.

College. I stayed in a hostel for a while. There was a phone there which you could use if you had a calling card. I'd buy just as many cards as my allowance could afford me so I could talk. (Just a clarification, not that these calls were the focal point of my life back then, but they are of this post, so you get the point!) I'd ask friend to call from home landline, but friend also had bill-pressures. The parents got me a mobile in some months; again, it was expensive, and I ate into my very uni-directional bank balance, a significant chunk for the calls. It was expensive even for people to call me. But no matter what, we spoke. SMS's were there, but some matters just demanded a full-blown conversation!

Fast forward to now. I can afford those calls today without guilt. I cannot complain that I have no one to talk to. But the art of talking on the phone has slipped by me somehow. :) I'm distinctly uncomfortable picking up the phone to catch up with an old friend, new friend, any friend. I'd rather send a text message that allows them to respond at their convenience and me then, at mine. Or chat with them. Phone conversations, down to zero. Landline bill today: 3 digits. Mobile bill: Just about crossing 2 digit figures and around! I send text messages, a lot many around me can vouch for that. But something about the 'real'ness of a telephonic conversation has me shying away from it. Not wanting uncomfortable silences anymore. Not knowing what to talk about.

Obviously I don't see that as a good thing. Technology has brought the world to my fingertips, and the means to bridge all gaps, only it couldn't ease me into doing so. It couldn't make me drink.


Bangalore, Anil Kumble Circle, where St.Mark's road meets MG Road.

As you wait at the 90 second long red signal, it doesn't take long for a child of about 8 or 9 to emerge at your windscreen and begin wiping at it with a dirty rag. You don't want it, you tell the kid. That doesn't bother him, he continues wiping. With that, he presents a practised expression of helplessness. He's been taught this, you can tell. Then he abandons the attempt at cleaning, almost on cue, as he sees he need to play the sympathy card next. He emotes and expresses hunger, helplessness, poverty. He's ready to jump on to the air-conditioned vehicle you are comfortably sitting in, even as it moves. It does not affect you, you have seen the trained expressions of pleas all too often, from him and his friends. You drive on, the signal has turned green.


The question that lurks in the minds of the conscientious: does giving alms encourage the act of panhandling? And If I refuse to give them a tiny part of my earning: my conscience pinches me. What if he really has no way of getting a job? I'm relatively well off and I denied a hungry man food. Something I have taken for granted every moment of my life. What if you had to think about how and where to get every next meal of your life?


The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed, the unheeded. They beg.

And then there are the able-bodied, fit enough to find work, but they don't want to do anything else. They don't want to earn their income by providing some value in return for it. Why?

There is the unwillingness to get out of the comfort zone one has slipped into, asking for alms and maybe earning even more than they might have otherwise.

Some have made a profession of begging. Some have made businesses of a moderate scale of this profession. Networks have been built to manage these businesses. Territories marked. In the midst of this, a child is exploited, a woman beaten, and robbed of what little they do earn for their abusers.


Are you okay with people earning their living this way, while you work hard for your earning? Are they not working, braving weather and the condescension of people, for measly wages, albeit providing no value for it? What about the children who work for them, the ones who should be at school, but are being taught instead to engage in emotional trickery to get alms from people? Would you give them a job if you force them away from this means of living? Would you be able to find them one? What is the solution to this?

“Charity does not mean that the land should be full of beggars. We can provide some support and means for the beggars, but provide food, clothing and other conveniences in such a way that you are not encouraging laziness and begging.”

- Sri Sathya Sai Baba (Indian spiritual leader, b.1926)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Enlightenment #1: I cannot figure out people.

Its that simple, really.
Everyone else seems to be so much better at guessing what shade of grey another person is.

Me. I've been proved wrong so many times its amazing.

.. that the trustworthy person actually cannot keep any secrets at all!
.. that this man, who always keeps his word, **newsflash** actually doesn't!
.. person with integrity (whatever that means) actually has none.
.. weird person with weird mannerism is actually nice.
.. lady who makes absolutely no sense whatsoever might actually be doing some thinking.
.. person who cannot think beyond self does mean well.
.. well meaning, simple friend has some self-centered motives after all!

Important Note.. There's no one-to-one correspondence in the above list with the people around me right now. But somewhere on this track we call life, something of the sort seems to have happened to everyone.

The Other Important Note.. is that I have now been enlightened.
1. To never trust own instincts on anyone.
2. Choose reliable friend for whom your instinct has actually turned out right. High risk involved here. This feature must have been tested thoroughly and extensively, over a long period of time.
3. Friend must also have much higher instinct hit rate than self, preferably greater than 90%.
4. Use friend's instinct, since self's are of not much use.
5. Preferably back up with another friend who matches criteria 2 and 3, if at all it is possible to find more than one.

And since I have now proclaimed this out loud.. Use your good sense and do not trust me on any one. I can give advice though, that I can. Analyse situations and tell you why someone is behaving the way they are.

But the sixth sense that I have supposedly obtained by virtue of being a woman, that cannot figure out people. No sir-ee. Nyet. Not yet, atleast.
Until then, I'll direct you to Trusted Friend. S/he's alright.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Turn Back Time

Why'd I have to watch that cricket match all day yesterday.
A few hours of study and I'd have aced this test.


I shouldn't have said that.
It was uncalled for.
Now she's hurt and there's nothing I can do about it.
If only I'd thought a moment before speaking.
I wouldn't have lost a friend.


Why didn't I appreciate her when she was with me..
If only I hadn't been so selfish.
I wouldn't miss her today.
I would cherish the times we spent together.


Why didn't I understand them while they were around?
I wish I had seen them as I do now.
If only I had stopped for a moment and looked.
I wouldn't have taken them for granted.


I should've spent more time with him.
Played when he asked me to.
Brought him the toys he wanted.
He's grown up and gone far away now.
If only I didn't think myself so busy.
I would have given him all my time.


If only she hadn't left home in a huff.
If only I'd spoken to her that morning. Not been so adamant. Then I would have driven her to the office like I always did.
She wouldn't have taken that cab.
She wouldn't have been in the way of that bus.
She'd be by my side right now.


If only I could turn back time.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Beware of what you wish for, because it might just come true.
Shooting star.
Coin in the fountain.
Cutting a cake.
Crossed fingers.

When something isn't in your hands, wave this magic wand. Wish for a miracle. Wish for the impossible.

How many times in your life have you had your hopes pinned on one wish coming true? How happy it would make you, how different things would be, oh, just that one little thing.

When I was little, long long ago, I recall chanting: I wish all my wishes come true. It was my one catch-all wish. I figured sometime someone would grant my wish. And then I'd test it too with a I wish I had an ice cream cone in my hand right now!

Ah, childhood.

But then again.

Are my current secret wishes as ridiculously impossible as they were back then? What's the difference between them and that magically appearing ice cream cone? Aren't they just as much of a fantasy? Maybe that's the difference between then and now. The word 'impossible' is now debatable. The thin squiggly line between aiming high and hoping for the impossible is blurring out.

And even dashed hopes are nothing that the spirit that's hard to break can't take care of.
IF... I don't get my ice cream, that is. :)