Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

When I Finally Broke My Jinx

I used to be a lukewarm cricket fan in my younger days.  By that I mean I used to listen to commentaries on radio, watch matches on TV (when it first made its appearance in the living rooms of average Indian homes), keep my fingers crossed and watch with bated breath.  But I was no hardcore connoisseur of the game - I still don't understand the technicalities of the game.  But I certainly wanted our side to win (needless to say) and used to get massively  disappointed if we lost.  Somehow we never won a match I saw.

Nothing changed over the years.  Only the feeling of disappointment each time we lost was overwhelming.  The last time I saw a match was in a hostel in the UK.  It was 1995.  We were playing the finals of the World Cup against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens.  In my enthusiasm, I went and bought samosas for all the people sitting there (15-20 people).  We got some coffee and tea for everyone and created a real atmosphere there.  The excitement was palpable.  A Sri Lankan girl and I were the only representatives of our country.

However, for all the enthusiasm, imagine my embarassment when we lost and then the crowd in the stadium turned violent.  That was the last time I watched a match.  Losing the match was bad enough. What was worse was the humiliation of our people behaving badly for the whole world to see.  That was absolutely the last straw to break the camel's back.   Somehow the whole spirit of the game seems to have been lost.  I decided in the interests of my blood pressure and in the interests of the country's prospects of winning (I am patriotic in my  own way, you see), to never see a match again.  Regular talks of match fixings were not a great incentive to watch the game either.

However, yesterday was another day altogether.  The excitement in the air was palpable.  The whole country seemed to be in the grip of cricket fever.  No one had any  intention of going to work.  There was hardly any traffic on the roads.  So after all these years., I felt tempted to watch the game again - and partly I was not left with any alternative either.  There was not much else to keep me busy.  As soon as India's batting was over, our prospects seemed to be quite iffy.  In order to avoid an impending catastrophe, I quickly switched over to my daily soaps and kept switching back to the match in the commercial breaks.  I think this combination was ideal - I was watching but not watching.  The outcome was there for all to see - we won.  I was happy to have broken a jinx of years and am determined to watch the entire match on Saturday.  So here's keeping my  fingers (and for good measure my toes too) crossed. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cricket Mania

Remember your school days? Your favourite aunt was coming to visit on a particular day and you had to go to school. Did you take it lying down? Yes and no. No, figuratively and yes, literally. Suddenly you had a bout of severe headache where you could not lift your head  and you could fool your mom into letting you stay at home. How the headache vanished miraculously as soon as aunt arrived – don't ask me.

How about the time you were too sick to go to the physics examination, because you were not prepared, or so you thought? Or the time you wanted to stay in bed longer and lounge around on a Monday, and called up office saying your darling child had run away from home or your pet sparrow had just died ?

Well, you now have some consolation in knowing that you are not the only incorrigible person around. There are many other fully grown adults who indulge in the same kind of behaviour . Today's newspaper had an interesting article on the excuses people are coming up with to take leave off work on (no prizes for guessing) Wednesday to watch the India-Pakistan cricket match. The cricket fever has reached a pitch and has people lying (pun intended) through their teeth to stay off work.

While some are more blatant and use bullying tactics  to get their bosses to let them of work in the afternoon, the others are thinking up some very innovative excuses.

From planning to feign an asthma attack at noon , so as to reach home to watch the match on time, to pretending to be away on field duty, to claiming there is hardly any work in the office, to taking advantage of being the boss (so who can question your absence), all possible excuses are being invented to get at least the afternoon off work. But the most innovative of them was a pilot claiming he had discovered he had a fear  of heights and needed to visit the psychiatrist !

I was at the receiving end of my physiotherapist's displeasure last Thursday when I landed up for my treatment. He hinted not so subtly that if I had not gone that day, he would have left earlier to watch the match. I do not know if the rather excessive workout  and the consequent pain in my shoulder had anything to do with the cricketmatch, but I have become wiser in the last one week and have decided not to go for treatment this Wednesday.
By the way, are you looking for an excuse to bunk tomorrow to watch cricket?  Well, since you are my friends, I'll provide you a few choice ones here.  Hope they come in useful.  
  • Your car conked out and you had to push it to the nearest garage which was 5 kms away from home. They had to carry you physically to the nearest human garage and inject a unit each of saline and glucose, before you could go home.
  • Your child had spilt some Superglue on the chair on which you sat without looking.  So you could not get off in time to come to work.
  • Your husband / wife inadvertently locked you inside the house when going to work, and there was no way you could get out till he / she got back late in the evening.
What say?
We Indians surely do not lack creativity when it comes to finding ways of watching a cricket match .

Thursday, 24 March 2011

In Search of Happiness

It is a Sunday. I wake up early in the morning. Having woken up early, I can not get back to sleep. There are a lot of ssues troubling my mind. Ask me to pinpoint one and I am severely challenged. There is a general feeling of dissatisfaction which seeps through my thoughts, leaving me disturbed and unhappy. I get up and walk across to the window. From there I can look onto the park outside. It is still fairly dark, but I can make out figures going for a morning walk.

I get ready, get dressed and am downstairs in about 20 minutes. Surely a walk around the park would do me some good. I do about 10 brisk rounds of about half a kilometre each. Why am I still so disturbed? What do I lack? I have a home, I have a family which loves me and takes care of me, I get good food to eat (the evidence for this is only too evident – necessitating this self-flagellation every morning ), I have a wardrobe full of good clothes to wear. What is it then that is lacking? I have a job which is not dis-satisfactory. It is fairly challenging and keeps me busy for most of the day. I haved pmestic help at home to allow me to concentrate on my career. Why am I still unhappy? Well, to sum it up, I am looking for that elusive creature called “happiness”.

It is fairly late in the evening. I am going for a walk along the neighbouring street. On the other side of the road is a sprawling shanty town. Lots of people live there. Nearby is a huge open nallah flowing past. The stench is unbearable. Outside the meagre tenements are long ropes tied across, on which clothes are hung out to dry. The path between the line of shanties is a narrow, uncemented road (if one can call it that - it would be more apt to call it a dirt track) full of potholes. I notice a few women sitting around the steps to one of the homes and chatting. One is combing the other's hair. The other is narrating some story. Suddenly there is a burst of laughter and a third one starts singing something. There is something about the scene that transfixes me and stops me in my tracks. The women are quite shabbily dressed. They are pretty poor. Possibly they work in 2-3 houses to earn a very measly salary. God knows what their husbands are like or how they treat them. Quite likely, the men take away their earnings and drink, come back sozzled and beat them up. Not an unusual scenario in that socio-economic group. They wear sarees which are hand-me-downs. Then what is it that makes them so happy and contented?

Around these women there is a group of kids, around 3-5 years old, laughing, playing, bellies protruding, only minimally clothed, snot running out of their noses. One of them stops in his steps and looks up at me with wide eyes full of curiosity. I contrast them with the children of my friends, who are so well-off. They have everything that money and doting parents could buy them. Still they are eternally complaining.

My mind goes back to the days when I used to attend Vedanta classes in the evenings. I remember a story told by Swamiji. A man (around 60 years old) is running along a beach wearing his shorts and vest. He is very trim and fit. As he runs, he comes across a young man (in his 20s) sitting on the beach, watching the waves and listening to the music of the sea. The elderly man stops by and asks the young man, what he thinks he is doing lazing like that at his age. He gives him a lecture and tells him he should be active and should go out for a run. So the young fellow asks him why. The old man says, so you will be fit enough to work hard, earn a lot of money, make your family happy, save a lot and then when you are retired, you can go on a holiday and enjoy yourself and be happy. The young man looks at the older one puzzled and says “Why do I have to do all that to be happy? I am already happy just sitting here and watching the waves. Just listen to their delightful music”.

As I remember that story, the truth hits me with renewed force. All our lives we keep running, trying to chase happiness when it is already inside us. Happiness is always with us, but we don't realize it and keep looking for it all around. It is like the hindi proverb “Bagal mein chora, gaon bhar dhindhora” meaning the groom is right next door and you keep looking for him all over he town. In this case happiness is the elusive “chora” or the groom. In our quest to earn more and achieve more, in the mistaken notion that these are the means to happiness, we miss the basic essence of living, and as a result feel constantly discontented. It is time to wake up and keep reminding ourselves of this truth, every time we feel down and out.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Character Certificate

I am sure none of us here has forgotten the days when it was mandatory to get a "character certificate" when we left school to join college, or left college to join a job or wanted to apply for a scholarship and so on. And the words generally went "ABC XYZ has been a student of this school/college for the past XX years and has been an outstanding student. blahdiblahdiblah and to the best of my knowledge bears a good moral character".

Note the words "to the best of my knowledge" and "moral character". Highly variably definable. The first caveat shrugs off any responsibility for any inaccuracy in the statement or change in status of the said persons moral fibre . The second, according to me, badly needs to be defined. What does "moral character" mean? 

Does it mean that ABC did not indulge in theft, robbery, gossip. philandering ways, did not talk or look at members of the opposite sex, did not copy in the exams, did not tell lies (how could the person certifying this know - maybe that is why the first caveat), or just what? 

I am equally sure that almost all citizens of this country (except a handful of really hopeless cases) have collected at least 4-5 such certificates. I am sure all our netas have hundreds of them. Then why do we have so many problems (not natural calamities, but man-made problems) confronting us?

How come there is such widespread corruption, intolerance and blatant indiscipline in this country (i do not imply that it does not happen anywhere else - but as they say, people who live in glass houses do not throw stones). Is this any indication of a high moral fibre?

What happens when there is a natural disaster or major accident? We see a few people trying to help and others who utilize the opportunity to pocket some valuables and personal effects of the victims and others who see them do this but say nothing. We jump queues and fight over water at communal taps, try to get everything first. It is always me first. If anything goes wrong, we wring our hands, and blame everything and everyone in this universe from shani, the moon God and our neighbours for our misfortunes.

In this backdrop, a news item I read about the way the Japanese are conducting themselves in the face of an unrelenting spate of disasters is absolutely heart-warming and restores one's faith in human kind. The article talked about the resilience of the Japanese people in the face of the calamities. It stated that

"unlike the scenes in natural disasters in Haiti and New Orleans, there is little anger, no looting. Food and electricity are in short supply, but neighbours are willing to share with others and are cutting back on energy use on their own to limit the need for rotating blackouts". Ron Provost, president of Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture, a campus of the University of Tokyo says "These are tough, strong, strong people.... That strength and resilience are rooted in a culture that has historically relied on social organisation. People have opened up their homes to others . I heard someone say they had two bottles of water and gave one to someone else". On a daily basis - in tragedy and in good times - the Japanese have "come up with a system to accommodate each other. They are kind to the neighbours and look out for their neighbours That's why the crime rate is low. You see someone doing something and you go to the local police". Alex Thompson, a journalist with Channel 4 News, who was the only Western reporter to make it to the pulverised coastal town of Minami Sanrikuin his heart-rending account for Daily Mail wrote of the resilience of the Japanese people. "the first thing you notice is the silence which seems to hang over the place. There is no sound as we approach this once-thriving coastal town." The war correspondent who has covered more than 20 conflicts and several natural calamities says "I have never seen anything on this scale. There is no crying, no hysteria, no anger. It is in the psyche of the Japanese people to do what they have to do in silence and with dignity". - Bangalore Mirror, Wed, March 16, 2011

How the Japanese built up their economy after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and where they were after just 60 years speaks volumes for their character - more than a million words. The same is to be said of the Germans and more so for their "trummerfrauen". After the second world war, when the entire country was in shambles and when most of the men were taken prisoners of war or dead, it was left to the women of the country to rebuild it. And what a job they did of it! Talk of national character, talk of woman-power.

We as a country have miles to go before we can get anywhere there. Just a booming economy and a population of a billion, or a satellite sent up to the moon are no indicators of the state of a nation.

This, then, my friends is what speaks of the highest grade of moral fibre, which we, starting out with ourselves must strive to achieve before living up to all those "character certificates" we may have lying in our portfolios.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chasing Dreams

I am an unabashed lover of books by Enid Blyton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and P.G. Wodehouse. All my notions and dreams about Britain and the British was moulded by these three authors. For me Britain was embodied by crumpets for tea, professional and amateur detectives (either accompanied by a dog or by a loyal friend), boarding schools where there is at least one midnight party every term, a french teacher (Mademoiselle), faithful gentlemen's gentlemen, interfering, pompous bobbies ….. and the list goes on.

So imagine my shock when I eventually got to the U.K. Reality hit me like a stinging slap on my face. It was as if all the romantic images of the country painted in all these books had vanished into thin air – poof! - just like that. A friend who had lived in the country for atleast a quarter of a century when I eventually landed there had a good laugh at me, when I expressed my shock and disappointment. She wondered in which romantic world I existed. But I tell you, it broke my little heart to smithereens. I could not bear to think of, leave alone face a country so far removed from my illusions. I really loved the Britain painted in those books. I felt badly cheated, let down. But there you are. One has to come down to reality with a bang some time or the other. (I am sure at least 90% of married people – and this is a conservative estimate of mine – have had the same feeling when they wake up to the harsh realities of married life after harbouring notions straight out of M&B novels and Indian films. Suddenly there are no beautiful locales, no platoon of 50 faceless individuals to dance to a song along with you and your spouse). I mean, reality is really heartless, merciless, oh, my vocabulary fails me miserably at this point. It just has this nasty habit of delivering a really hard one in the solar plexus.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I felt totally idiotic. How could I have been such a complete fool? How could I have let a couple of authors to lead me on a completely misguided flight to the little island?

Not long. I mean I only felt this way for a brief 20-21 years of my life. I had in the intervening years graduated to “grown-up” books and authors. Jeffrey Archer was one of my newer discoveries and I had cottoned onto him like flying strands of cotton to my clothes. He came to my rescue in more ways than one. Not only can I proudly claim to be a reader of grown-up books, but I discovered that my latest favourite author suffers from the same syndrome as me. Or so I thought when I read the headline of an article in the newspaper which said “Archer yearns for Malgudi's flavour”. Yippee, I thought. Here is a famous British author who is very fond of R.K. Narayan and considers him in the league of authors such as Guy de Maupassant or F Scott Fitzgerald. I thought “so he too is looking for the imaginary Malgudi in India. Great – The Empire Strikes Back. Our very own R.K. Narayan has done to him what P.G. Wodehouse and Enid Blyton did to me”. But alas – this was one more of my illusions. When I read the entire article (an interview with the author), he did not at any point mention that he was looking for Malgudi as described by our R.K. Narayan. That was a dirty trick played on me by the author of the article in the newspaper. Looks like all writers suffer from this horrible disease called “cooking up tales syndrome” 

Hey do I hear you say I do the same? Well, I might have caught a milder version of it. May be it is catching. But at least the virus is attenuated. My stories are all based on the truth. You just have to look at my name to know that.

Friday, 4 March 2011

To (Let) Live or Not to (Let) Live

The latest controversy surrounding euthanasia triggered off by the case of Aruna Shanbag, a 60 year old woman who has been in a vegetative state for the last 37 years has renewed the question of what is ethical or not ethical.

Here is a woman who has been lying in hospital for all these years, cared for by nurses, who have been trying  to see if she can be revived.  The situation does not seem to be very hopeful, in that she has never responded so far and unlikely to do so in the future.  Harsh as it might seem to mention this observation in the context of a human life, the fact remains that she has occupied a bed in a Mumbai hospital for 37 years and likely to do so for a long time to come.  Obviously she cannot be sent away - she is in no position to go away, nor does there seem to be any family to take her back.  She is brain dead (going by the various reports in the media) with no quality of life.  She cannot eat (she is artificially-fed everyday, she cannot see, hear or talk).  Now the question is does this meet the requirements of the law to allow artificial feeding to the person to be withdrawn.

One can argue against euthanasia in this case, as the person in question is not in a position to give her consent to having her life terminated.  But if there is any fear of misuse of this right by greedy relatives, then I have only one question - just what would the poor woman possess, for which interested parties would want to eliminate her?  We put suffering animals "to sleep" and term this as mercy on a creature which cannot express itself verbally.  Either way, we are trying to kid others while kidding ourselves.  If "putting to sleep" is not an act of mercy when it applies to humans, how is it an act of mercy when applied to animals?  Conversely, if it is an act of mercy, then on what grounds can we deny this to human beings while being so considerate to animals?

This is one side of the story.  Let us now look at individuals who are suffering from chronic ailments and have no hope of any relief .  There is no possibility of curing them   Doctors are not in a position to offer any relief - that unfortunately is the limitation of the state of the art in the field.  Just what right has the law in this case to deny the ultimate relief to one who seeks it?  Whose body is it anyway?  If a citizen has a right to live, then conversely he/she should also have a right to decide when he/she wants to terminate the agonies suffered by mind and body.  Are these law-makers in a position to guarantee the suffering parties any quality of life and care thereof?  If they cannot guarantee care, then what right do they have to impose life on anyone?  Where is the social security system to pay for medical expenses and for continuing care?  The person in the situation may not have the financial wherewithal to continue treatment or to afford care, may not have a family which is willing to provide for them, and may well end up in penury and starve to death.  This unfortunately is acceptable to our law, but not the right to choose a dignified exit from pain and suffering.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sunset time from the balcony

I had switched off my laptop, having read and answered all posts. That was barely half an hour earlier. .

Thought i would take a nap, having been glued to it all day yesterday and today. Just then I got a call from a friend. When i finished talking, I went to the window, I saw this beautiful orange ball in the sky. We get to see some incredible sunsets from all our bedroom windows. They are all west facing. I just could not resist the temptation of recording a typical sunset and of an evening spent in the balcony.  So here I am in my balcony to give you a running commentary. 

"I am now sitting in the balcony. so, as I told you there is this orange globe in the sky - what perfect geometry and colour. There are light clouds around the sun and the rays pouring through them - such a soul touching experience. It's picture perfect. Looks just like those greeting cards. There is a streak of pink around the clouds, Just like the outlines that children draw around pictures to define their drawing. the one nearest the sun, which is making a grey streak across it, is shaped somewhat like a chubby, curly long-haired child lying on its right side with its back side facing me. I just love watching clouds and trying to see figures in them. Fun past time. There, the sun has just vanished out of sight - it is amazing how fast it goes down. Right from the time I used to watch sunsets at Juhu beach as a 5 year old, whenever we visited my mom's parents, the setting sun has always reminded me of a Kwality orange ice candy. I know, I cannot get more unromantic than that, but what to do, everything in life has somehow got to have some gastronomic connection. Well, that is the way i am - a foodie to the core". 

Anyway - my flat is on the third floor facing the park in our complex. Earlier the trees were much smaller, and one could observe all the children coming out with their moms to play. It is such a comic sight to watch the slightly older ones playing with their balls and the little ones toddling along on unsteady feet, trying to be a part of the scene . There are times, that the older ones humour the little ones. At other times, they just ignore them, and it is so heart wrenching to watch the little ones stand there, look puzzled and then amble back to their moms or find some other distraction to toddle off to 

There was one day when mom and I were sitting here in the evening and watching a burkha clad lady and her husband sitting on a bench in the park. the lady was holding a discourse  The man was apparently listening . After some time he repositioned himself, so that he was facing backwards . The woman kept up her discourse, unconcerned. Then there were 2 minutes of silence. The man took the opportunity, ambled off, smoked a cigarette and ambled back . He came back revitalized, so that he could lend the lady his ear. He went and sat next to her once again. After a minute or two of silence, the lady recommenced where she had left off. After about 10 minutes, they just got up abruptly, piled onto his scooter parked outside the park and sped off . Left me thinking  - may be a daughter in law venting herself to her dear husband. They probably do not get enough alone time at home. What a considerate husband, who just sits quietly and allows his wife to let go steam! But if all men were like that, what would have happened to Ekta Kapoor and all her "saas-bahu" serials?

Now the trees have all grown really tall. Sadly, this obscures the view of the inside of the park and we are deprived of all these life affirming sights. But then when you lose out on something, you always find something else. Now we have this palette of lush green in various hues and shades. It is such a refreshing sight for the eyes! An evening in the balcony, and I am sure it is enough to turn the most confirmed atheist into a believer.

I wanted to tell you something - what was it now?

I was thinking of telling you guys something, but I cannot for the life of me think what I wanted to tell you .  It is so annoying. Now I will not get any peace till such time as I remember .

I am completely zapped.  What's happening to me?  This seems to be happening to me more and more frequently, (much to the delight of my mom, who as a function of her age forgets a lot of things). She says, "see, you are already worse off than me and then you tell me I don't remember". Good for her I say .  If it makes her happy, it makes me happy too). Okay, so where was I?  Hmm....., Yes, I was telling you what a pain my memory has become of late.

When exactly did this start?  The mildest symptoms I noticed was during my school days.  Mom used to come to drop me off at the bus stop.  About 5 minutes before the bus arrived, I used to remember, "Oh, I've forgotten, my calendar at home, I have forgotten my pencil box at home ....."  Mom would give me an exasperated look .  I would then run home, pick up the missing item and come back just in time to catch the bus, all huffing and puffing and out of breath.  But I was not always that lucky - occasionally a text book would be forgotten at home nonetheless, or homework would be left undone.  You can take a guess at what the teacher would ask me - no prizes for guessing - it would be "do you ever forget to bring your lunch box"?  Imagine my amusement and relief when I finally did that too, and thought, that it would be ironical if my teacher were to ask me that question today.

Years went by.  My forgetful remained with me.  Lost keys, forgotten slippers (I used to wear my dad's slippers when running off to my neighbour's house and then - yes, promptly forget them there and return barefoot - it would be only next day, when my dad would be desperately looking for his slippers, that the finger of suspicion would finally be pointed in my direction.  I would be totally clueless, until I was sent to check up in my neighbour's house, where lo and behold!  My dad's missing slippers would be there, neatly left at the doorstep ).

My forgetfulness got me into many a scrape during my college days and working days.  I still get frequent nightmares where I have an exam and have forgotten to open my books and study for them! During my working years, it was not infrequently that I was pulled up by my boss for forgetting to do something.  Stupid, exasperating me.  I found it increasingly difficult to live with myself.

It was really too much when I once went to work on my scooter, came back home and as I was getting out of the auto, I tried desperately to remember how much I paid for the auto that morning. .  I could not for the life of me remember.  It was about 5 minutes before I remembered that I had gone on scooter that morning and forgotten it at work 

Now I am getting on in life. in more ways than one.  My forgetfulness is playing a game of one oneupmanship with my age.  Not infrequently, I pick up my land line to call my husband and land up calling my own mobile no. or try to call someone from my mobile phone and end up dialling my own landline!  Not uncommon is for me to pick up the phone and dial the number and horror of horrors, when the other person picks up the phone, I have already forgotten whom it was I had called. The short gap between the person's "hi/hello" and my surprised, "hi" without reference to a name invariably betrays me.  So I don't call people so often these days. which leaves me short of jobs to do.  So I try crossword puzzles - what is the other word for "confident"?  The clue is 4-7 starting with "s" and the letter "a" features somewhere in between.  Oh dear, I have the word at the tip of my tongue, but it just won't come. now I won't get sleep till I remember the word .  Oh, never mind. if you know the word, let me know.   Now you know why mom feels I am worse off then her?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Midnight Opera

Some years ago, the airport in our city was located within city limits, in fact, our house was directly in the flight path. Every night flights used to land and take off - mostly international flights - or land. Just as one was slipping off into a different dimension of consciousness, there would be a distant rumble in the sky. one would still be trying to gather one's befuddled senses together , when as if on cue from an imaginary orchestra conductor, all the stray dogs in the area would set up a howl - good enough to give all the falsettos and sopranos of the world a run for their money. As accompaniment there would be a host of car alarms, which would be set off and this nocturnal opera would continue for a while. then just as abruptly - as if nothing had happened - the music would come to an end . One would be getting ready to take off into zoo zoo land once more, when five minutes later, as if grieved at all these strange flying objects, a lone, solitary howl would be set up - the finishing touches of the opera - and two minutes later peace would reign again. We were indeed fortunate to be treated to so many symphonies free of charge . They were quite enough to give Beethoven and Mozart a run for their money.

Four Seasons

I was recently talking to my cousin's wife. Her son moved to the U.S. this year for his further studies. As we got talking about how he was settling down and tolerating the cold, she told me that he has got used to the cold and is enjoying the snow-fall. She said he showed them how it looked on webcam.

My mind went to the time I was in the U.K. and how I loved the 4 seasons there. The winters were a new experience with such cold weather - breathing in the freezing air, going slipping over the first snow just to get pictures , having a huge appetite, the comfort of the warm feeling when one went indoors, the delight of consuming piping hot soup, with the rich, cheesy veggie options , getting into a cold bed and enjoying the delightful feeling of growing warm under a nice thick quilt, crawling out of bed reluctantly in the mornings; on the flip side, the first year of depression at such short days, and cooping oneself in at 3 p.m., not feeling safe enough to go out in the dark on one's own in a strange place (till I found out a bus which used to come from Oxford street to my hostel gate- thereafter life changed considerably). The longing to see some leaves on the trees.

The arrival of spring used to be so sensational, when the first crocus used to peep out of the ground, the joy that wells in the heart at the sight (since I had never seen a crocus before, I remember going creeping on the ground to have a better look, and the joy at the lengthening days, the feeling of hope at seeing flowers and blossoms around - that is a joy not possible to describe in words.

Then came the looooong days of summer, with trees covered with a mantle of green, the comfortably warm days (some so breathlessly hot - naah, not nice. Hey, I had had enough of hot weather at home and would have more when I get back), outdoor activities, travelling, barbecues, ......

And finally the autumn. Was lucky enough to see one really beautiful autumn with changing colours (tho' nothing close to what I have heard happens in the U.S. - I'd love to see that some day).

The sudden and marked changes in the weather was something so dramatic. How I miss that now. while I was there I used to miss the monsoons and the vegetation of India. I used to miss seeing the coconut trees, the various tropical plants, trees and flowers.

Each side has its own beauty and grandeur. how nice it would be if we had the option of travelling at will and enjoying the best of both worlds!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Did you just say "What's in a name"?

The discussion was on "common nouns" and "proper nouns". Anjali Shankar, my friend was in one of her petulant moods. One of her pet peeves is that her older sister has always been allowed to make major decisions concerning her life. (She is roughly 10 years older than Anjali).

Anjali has been told that even before she was born, her sister had decided what she would be named. I suppose her parents gave in to the whims of a 10 year old and in the hope of nurturing a caring bond between the two children, allowed her to have her way. It would make her feel important and as the "Akka" (older sister/didi/tai), you see.. In the process, she had (in Anjali's words) made her a common noun. The world seems chockablock with Anjalis.

Now 24 years later, that decision had come back to haunt her. Anjali had just finished doing her M.Sc and had recently found a job at a famous medical diagnostic centre and laboratory in the city. There she worked in the Microbiology lab. There was another girl called Anjali Shintre in the same lab. Poor Anjali, she hated having a duplicate namesake in the same room as her.

To make matters worse, there was an Anjali Sonalkar in the biochemistry department. Since the diagnostic centre had just been started up in their city, they were told that they would have to go to Hyderabad for a month's training. The first and original unit of the centre operated from there.

It was terrible when all of them found themselves having to share the same room in the guest house . As all three were Anjalis, someone came up with the bright  of calling them by their name and the first letter of their surname. (This idea was of course that of one of the employees of the Hyderabad unit, who did not know their full names).

What a futile effort it was when all turned out to be Anjali S, Anjali S and Anjali S. Reminded me of the episode in one of the P.G. Wodehouse books of a lawyers' compamy
where all the partners were named Smith. So whenever anyone called and asked for a Smith, the first two replies would be, Mr. Smith was not there, he had gone to the bank, Mr. Smith was on leave that day and only at the end would the person responding to the phone say "yes, i am he" when asked for the other Smith.  Well, something to that efffect.

Similarly try finding the number of Madhav Joshi, or Himanshu Patel or V. Ramachandran in a telephone directory and see what happens.