Tag Archives: rant

Pride and Prejudice

One of the first things that you would notice if you walk into one of the mammoth old buildings around Dalhousie Square in Kolkata are the rows and rows of electrical cables that hang from various corners of the ceiling. The tangles would put to shame a highly intricate streamer decoration at a party.(see some here) They are dangerous, yet everyday people walk in and out or sit for hours under them without a stutter.

In some kind of graphical representation, that is probably what our country looks like. A montrosity thats bursting at its seams, waiting to spill out its contents and held together by a network of flimsy patches at various places. Yet, it stays in place. Just like inside those old buildings, people carry on with their lives nonchalantly. More as an existential pattern they have known for a lifetime. Any alternative is unknown or doesn’t seem to work (and i am guessing here) mostly due to a lack of familiarity. With a billion other people to fight against for a share of food, jobs, a berth on the train and everything else, life as we know it here in India is a constant challenge that most of us don’t really sign up for, but nevertheless accept because otherwise we may risk losing what we have managed to gather.

What breaks this mad rush are incidents induced by nature’s fury or misguided human fury. Like the other day. Bombs, in Mumbai (yet again). What followed was the usual round of calling up friends, family and other folks to check if things were ok. When things settled without the detection of any cause for alarm, one could divert their attention to the messages of wrath that started pouring on various timelines. Some called for an attack on the perpetrators, while others lamented upon the lack of tooth and nail within the general populace. Honestly, even I have felt the same way, when accosted by a situation grave enough to rattle me in some way. However, in most other cases I prefer to maintain a reserve. Not because I do not empathize, but rather I have inherited a trait from a parent who describes it as – unless there is a fully informed solution that has any practical implementation in a conducive environment, it is never a good idea to ramble opinions about sensitive matter. Well.. not in gentle company atleast.

A lot of people have questioned the effectiveness of our intelligence agencies and how porous our defences are that terrorists can make a serious attack with the least of efforts. Personally, I am not in a position or informed enough to provide a serious analysis of where the failure was and how things could be strengthened. Instead what I see is an unmanageable chaos. Stop for a moment and look around. What you’ll see is a unstructured mass – not just of tangible objects like people, vehicles, buildings, but a carefully nurtured cultural shroud that binds all of these. Call it rich Indian heritage, difference in castes, inequality of the classes, regional biases, the all encompassing ‘jugaad’ – in short the cultural fibre that dictates how the people of the land live with each other. And one of the things that rarely finds itself on this list is perhaps ‘respect’.

Its probably hard to describe how thats a conclusion I can come up with, except for the various instances that I see around me. Being a microscopic instance of a billion+ population, it comes down essentially to the equation of demand and supply. The more in number, the more devalued it is. In this case human lives. No one really cares about another person, because they have to struggle to ensure that atleast that one human life still gets a bit of importance – their own. Stretch it maybe a little further to family, children, parents, someone-who-matters. As long as this coocooned bunch is taken care of, nothing else matters. Trains can burn, young children can beg, a hapless guard can be yelled at, plastic bottles can be thrown into rivers, walls can be defaced, red traffic signals can be run over, a bribe paid, examinations cheated, or the nextdoor neighbour called a racist vile term.

Seriously, where is that element of respect that drives a community to stand up with pride and reclaim its glory. I find it really funny when people mouth the cock and bull statements about a ‘country that is unified in its diversity’. Bull crap. Define diversity – the politically correct regional culture or things that create differences worse than plague – religious rigidity, caste based divisions, financial demarcations, occupational supremacy…you name it and we have it. There is always a reason to disrespect the other person standing next to you. How would anyone be able to collaborate with harmony with people they don’t feel good about? Even if its for their own safety? I seriously don’t know. These differences have been passed on for generations and I don’t see it changing very soon.

Its probably like working at a place where you don’t care much about the work, but you get your paycheck at the end of month and go home happy as long as you get to buy that perfect pair of shoes or a crate of poison. Well.. as long as the next bomb doesn’t get you.

Go hang your hat elsewhere

Everytime I have to write my personal bio (as opposed to professional) I mention that I am generally very particular about who I choose to be friends with and am fiercely loyal in maintaining those relationships. As a consequence, there are about a handful of friendships starting at various points from middle-school onwards to the present day that have survived through times . Given a choice I would have made a badge of honour with all the names and put it up for everyone to see. However, like any other precious personal belonging, these are not meant for sundry ears and eyes.

On the other hand, I find it extremely difficult to hide my loathing for some people. There are people I don’t react to in any noticeable manner and are the easiest to deal with. These people may even find me friendly and it would be a mutual feeling in most cases. But some folks simply bring out the devil in me. Diplomacy is hard for me to practise with a straight face and to suppress the urge to be rude is harder. The only reaction I have is to ignore them completely and never let them wander into my perimeter of vision or sound. And over the years, (without any intention) I have sort of chalked out a general profile of these people and it sometimes bewilders me how I instantly take a dislike the moment a person puts him/herself down one strike on any of these counts.

    The first of these are the people who lack basic social skills when interacting amongst a group. They try to wriggle in amongst a group of people already familiar with each other and push themselves forward with a cattle prod to plant themselves somewhere close to the middle. In the process, they’ll indulge in nudge-nudge wink-wink 1-1 secretive “insider jokes” that they think would help them gain acceptance. Or worse, just plain interrupt whatever conversations were underway and stop everything in the process.

    Next are the attention hungry individuals, who would swoon and sway and generally create situations where people would have to run out in their underpants to attend to them. Or atleast, thats what are the reactions that are expected from the general population within a radius of considerable distance.
    Overtly rowdy people. These people often lack the basic respect for things/people around them. They may be destructive in some way of other – like plucking flowers from gardens (thats a big deal for me), or display their lack of involvement in civil soceity by littering, pick up fights with attendants at restaurants, payment queues, parking lots, rickshaw/cab drivers whoever they consider are in a “less dignified occupation” than they are. (I particularly dislike it when address them as ‘Tu’ instead of ‘Aap’). Foul language is a given in most cases. There are also the likes of an inconsiderate room-mate who may be practising the lifestyle of a regal-offspring from a past life.
    Dishonest and ill-behaved grownups i.e. people who are sort of in a position to influence the behavioural patterns of children. My guess is that most of us have encountered these people at various public places like trains, cinema halls, restaurants, or even at work. The children unfortunately are trapped in a situation when they were dropped into this quagmire not of their choosing and will grow up with imprints of the older generation, completly unaware of alternatives that they could have otherwise taken.
    The crème de la crème in this series are what we in Bengali call ‘Nyaka’ (ন্যাকা) – the serpentine version of the human species, if one could use a measurement of voice/body modulations. Close synonyms would be ‘nautankibaaz’ or ‘drama-regal’ or perhaps ‘Kareena Kapoor in Kabhi Khusi Kabhi Gaam’, but its still not the real thing. A description may be required in this case. So a nyaka would have a massively drawlish voice, steeped in pathos of the kind when a ear-ring of choice is not available in the colour of preference. These are also the people who find pleasure in draping themselves like bedspreads over the people in their physical proximity. Pampered out of orbit either by others or by themselves. Overall, you may get the feeling of an arms flailing, slow shrieking ice sculpture willingly melting yet proclaiming otherwise and collecting in a tray at the floor when you meet these people. What I find unbearable about this lot, is the visible dumbing down of their capabilties and spinal column. And I have seen such behaviour permeate through various IQ levels. No prizes for guessing who makes it to the top.

I remember a friend from school wrote in her personal bio something to the tune of: If I like you, I’ll be nice to you. If I don’t like you, I’ll still be nice to you but you’d know that I don’t like you. In my case, the last line changes to, “Sorry, I won’t share breathing space with you”. Period.

P.S. Smug stupidity has not been included in this list, because due to its widespread practise it is the new normal,

By the ticks..

This weekend we had a localization camp where I was presenting about the oddities that we face while translating user interface messages. Before I proceed further, I’d like to clarify that this post is not about the camp (that would come sometime later). Rather this is about something that I mentioned during my presentation. About why we spent time, efforts, money twisting things to fit into a presentable shape. We do so because it affects our choices. The flexibility to choose the least inconvenient alternative.

Everyday we are faced with myriad choices which range from the seemingly trivial to universe shaking ones. Should I wear the blue or the black tee this morning? Do I run to the bus stop or walk a little fast? Is it ok to take a coffee break now or in another 5 minutes? What goes best with my lunch – tomatoes or fries? Should I put in my papers now or slog it out for another 25 days? You get the drift. And how does one go about making them? Speaking for myself, primarily I am a heart-governed person. I believe in spontaneous actions which are more natural and are not diluted by calculations. At an younger age, this was tipped more towards fallacy. Later, the urgency of actions is significantly controlled into a balance, by the worldly wisdom gathered over years. However, the after effects of these choices eventually still hit the heart. In all sorts of ways.

The natural choice while picking an alternative is to lean towards the one that would present the least amount of pain. Or perhaps spare oneself of a higher degree of inconvenience. pjp has a meticulous equation for this:

choice = incentive x convenience

Effectively, each alternative course of action throws up the potential outcomes and possibilities, mostly derived from past happenings. If eating fries for lunch gave me a burst of pimples on the left cheek – twice, I’d naturally be disinclined to make that choice. Nipping the possibility of exploring whether on the third attempt I would get the pimples of the right cheek or nothing at all.

Unfortunately, choices we make about people come with a significant amount of baggage. And most importantly they come with responses. Fries won’t come sobbing back to you if you remove them from your tray. People on the other hand may go through a turmoil of emotions, based upon the choice you make. You could make them feel important, happy, relieved, disturbed, discarded, or even traumatized at times. While making our choices I wonder if we weigh these potential responses or just go by what would make our own lives less worrisome. i.e. the less the worry, the more the incentive to choose that option.

At times these choices come back to haunt us. For their harshness. Guilt. Sometimes even for the detachment and defeat we concede. Especially when the only way out is to crawl into a shell (and in the process also say goodbye to civilities), disrupt our own lives with significant inconveniences, because the other alternatives are loaded with ammo to scathe us further. And I am scared of them. It beats me, about whats really the incentive when faced with a lose-lose situation. Its definitely not peace of mind, neither is it martyrdom.

Currently playing on a loop for me: O re bande from Lahore

Iss kadar tha bekhabar, ke khaam kha aazma liya
Sau duayein bech kar, maathe ka boja paa liya

Dance with all your heart

The other day while waiting to collect my order of idli-sambar at the neighbourhood food court, I noticed on the television above the counter the news of Sania Mirza calling off her engagement. Thankfully, the telly was on mute and except for the cheesy graphics I was spared the horror of the reporter’s agony and angst ridden repertoire. Later I came across the news again in the paper and liked what the lady had to say about the break up. Something to the tune of – “We were friends for years, but found ourselves incompatible as fiances”.

Every relationship has its own tale. Like the opening lines of Anna Karenina:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

It often takes a lifetime to realise that relationships do not always work out the way they were expected to. There are the ones which take off like firworks and then fizz out. Or the ones that start burning like a slow fire with wet wood and then glow bright, spreading a comfortable warmth. Often relationships come a full circle and don’t know where to go next. Especially when people have known each other for a considerably long time, that by the time they come together there is nothing new to discover about each other (#notmyquote). They become partnerships or just households. Secure and staid, but without any heartaching emotion. Often leading into territories where dilemmas, questions and justifications of faith raise their heads.

People come together with myriad yearnings – love, compassion, physical bonds, security, freedom, and sometimes even impassioned calculations. Some things work out, some others don’t. The ones that don’t, need attention. And without resolution they stay on, like the throbbing of an age old migraine. Painful, yet ignored by a practised habit. Most often than not (especially here in our country), people carry on with their long-dead relationships for the sake of societal norms, ranging from family pride to the stigma of being homewreckers or just as their own personal choice (a nice post related to this here).

I was drawn into a discussion the other day about two films – When Harry Met Sally and The Notebook. Both were extremely enjoyable, but I had my own reservations about them. The first assumes that men and women can never be friends and eventually ends with the protagonists getting together. While the latter has the female lead returning to her first love, leaving behind a fiance at the last minute. Both were ideal solutions to seemingly complicated situations, which would make most of the audience happy. While Harry & Sally effectively seal the ‘fact’ that other than lovers there is no possibility of men and women to have any kind of non-romantic-but-emotionally-caring-buddies relationship (*), ‘the notebook’ on the other hand dilutes the complications of the quagmire that the lady finds herself in. On one side is her memory of a whirlwind teen romance which was nipped without a closure, and on the other end was a mature romance between two people who have seen more of the world and had connected at a stage of their lives when moving towards a stable and mellow bond would come with the least of regrets. In anycase, the fall guy had hardly spent enough screen time for the audience to feel much sympathy for him and he made way for the first love. I would have liked to know how this couple overcome the awkwardness that generally creeps in due to the time spent apart, or how the lady gets over the guilt of cutting short her second relationship that must have been at an extremely intimate state (perhaps the book deals with it better). Or how Harry & Sally settled household matters and other mundane stuff. Well, these are perhaps the least of the worries that cinegoers would like to indulge in.

People shape their perpectives from what they see around them and then nurture them with their own experiences. Cinema is a primary source for a lot of young people to form their opinions of ideal relationships. And these mostly end up in monochrome. Binaries of extremes, that churn out moony eyed expectations. Imho, relationships have so many vivid and nested shades. Even when things seem to have come to a stop, there are the hidden undercurrents that makes it easier to share and care for each other. Some call it habit. Probably, it is also a mix of guilt-ridden sense of responsibilty that one is unlikely to desecrate. However, these shades are generally not visible, unless a person shares a relationship into a considerable depth. It is unfortunate that the monochrome visions often miss these lines in between and by the time they figure it out, the depth sucks them in. A possible solution here would perhaps include widening the horizons from personal experience, but then that brings with it, its own set of complications. And honestly, I don’t think our society is liberal enough (not just in patches, but entirely) yet to handle such lifestyle changes.

Moving on, these two lines from the song ‘Uff- yeh ada’ (Karthik Calling Karthik) have stuck into my head.

pyar agar hai mujhse pyar jataa ke naach
jaan-o-dil jo hai teri mujhpe luta ke naach

Roughly translated they read – if you have love for me in then show it while you dance, give all you have to it while you dance. I believe this is true for every kind of relationship – not just romantic ones. Whatever you feel in your heart for a person (friend, lover, sibling) don’t hold any of it back and give all it takes to make it honest and worthwhile.

* apparently if it hurts to share a friend then its definitely not friendship any more… #notmyquote, but that was a convincing argument during the discussion that can perhaps measure when people can no longer be ‘just friends’ and have moved onto the next stage.


Random weekday >20 years back:

Hear a faint yell in my sleep. One parent takes away the quilt and wakes me up. Run to the top of the stairs to soak in a little sun. Shower and put on the school uniform. Butter+Rice stuffed amidst massive confusion. Satchel on, walk to school with daddy (going further on to work). Study study. At lunch time, flip open the lunch box to dig into the goodies mommy packed in…play…study study. School over, look for mommy and then walk back home. Another round of yells and food stuffed in. Get dressed and off to play outside. Spot daddy returning and skip back home. Do homework. Read a story book while listening to songs and news on AIR Shillong. Dinner. Off to bed. Depending upon the weather, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice would fit in somewhere during the day. If it was vacation time, then add dolls, visits to mamabari (maternal uncle’s home), music from the record player (mostly bengali children’s song by Antara Choudhury) and arithmetic homework from dad.

Random weekday now:

Drag myself out from bed after turning off the alarm atleast twice. Check around the house a bit, and attend to the maid. Rush through shower. Make breakfast and pack lunch boxes. Go to work. Work+work+meet folks around+endless cups of green tea. Sometime in between stuff in the lunch. Work+work+other randomness. Return home… kick off shoes and get busy with dinner. Dinner done, finish pending work, study, read a bit and off to bed after calling daddy. Again, depending upon the situation, there could be additional time spent with a bunch of files that read ‘tax’ ‘investment’ etc.

There are days when I am sick, and bushed and am really tired of being a grown up and just want to go back to the old times, when you could just cry and go to mummy and daddy to make things alright. I was trying to put together the daily routine of various kinds of random days from my childhood and now. Eventually I ended up with only a weekday and just felt happy reading this well written post by Chandni.

This is just a random little post, does’nt mean much except that I needed to rant a bit. The more time you spend on this earth things just keep getting complicated, and the safe havens start vanishing faster. As a young aunt of mine says… the number of older folks who cherish and care for us is coming down (আমাদের আদর করার লোক কমে যাচ্ছে রে).

This a picture of ক্ষীরের সন্দেশ (Khirer sandesh) made by my aunt when we visited the family home in guwahati. This used to be made regularly at home earlier (a very complicated and time consuming process), but this time it was probably the first time in 3 years that I got to taste some.