LifeonStreets#1: Heels on Wheels

Pic: Prabhakar Kulal

I’d love to use my useless heels
Over these frayed and rusted wheels;
I know I can’t, so your extended hand,
Tells me only you can understand.
You pull me ahead when I’m low on steam,
And ready for dead. You save me energy,
And roughed up palms, but when done with love,
It’s a basket of alms. And though you help,
You also hurt, the remains of what I feel.
But I’ll never look back or lament my fate,
You taught me that, my little mate.
My only question – Will time heal my heel?

A Preface to Poetry of a different kind – Visual Poetry

Pic by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This is the Author’s preface to poetry that will follow in 50 separate posts – With each poem of 12 lines telling a story of life on the streets as seen through the lens of an ace photographer – Keep watching this blog for more

‘LIFE ON STREETS’ a photo contest open to all who have / had  a creative streak in them was organized by http://www.newskarnataka.com, the popular online news portal brand of Spearhead Media Pvt. Ltd, my employers, from 4th of July to the 15th of August 2016.

The contest received over 300 entries. The contest was expected to capture vignettes of street life – those emotions and expressions that people experience while on the road – and it did just that from the streets of the country.  Neither the organizers nor the eminent jury consisting of three members – Yajna Acharya, Dr Akhter Husain, and Kishan Rao, all accomplished photographers in their own right, were disappointed with the outcome.

Indeed neither was I. The moment I saw the first rushes, I was thrilled, as the photographs tickled my poetic imagination and by the end of the contest, I decided that I must try to convey to you, the reader my poetic interpretation of a selection of photographs; this book is the result.

I selected at random, 50 photographs including the seven winning ones and interpreted the thoughts of the photograph’s main protagonists’ in verse. Naturally, there can be many interpretations, and this is mine.

The poems themselves are restricted to twelve lines each which I thought enough for the lead character in the photograph, be it animate or inanimate, to express himself / herself / itself.  The language is simple, easy on the mind and easy indeed on the ear as I have tried to retain the melodious character of poetry.

The poems themselves are a mixture of the poignant, profound, and simple which aids variety and keeps the reader interested till the end. The visuals support the reader’s efforts to understand the author’s interpretations. The poems are not listed in any particular order and that in itself serves to up the sense of anticipation as you turn the page.

It is your sense of joy on reading this compilation and your critical feedback at  gesson62@gmail.com that will give me the greatest satisfaction and motivate me to compile another one, time permitting.

Warm Regards

Brian Fernandes

Positivity rate is down, but don’t go mental just yet!

As the positivity rate comes down, are people going into depression?  Does it mean that people in India are more depressed?  After all, positivity is an important factor in mental health!

Why should we be concerned? According to a study conducted for the NCMH (National Care of Medical Health) reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), India is the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and the USA. India, China, and the US are the most affected countries by anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, according to WHO.  Who says it is important, not what is said – or is it both?

According to the study, at least 6.5 percent of the Indian population suffers from some form of serious mental disorder, with no discernible rural-urban differences. The only difference is the electricity, roads, schools, and the internet. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people and most people who commit suicide are below 44 years of age. Shocking, isn’t it?

Though there are effective measures and treatments, there is an extreme shortage of mental health workers like psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors. As reported latest in 2014, it was as low as ”one in 100,000 people”. That statistic must have improved by now and even more so in the last two years, as there are no exams to speak of.

Beyond depression, Indians, in general, are an unhappy lot – India ranks 139 out of 149 on the index of happiness according to the World Happiness Report 2021. So, there is unhappiness aplenty – but is it because our brains are the smallest in the world?  Why this question?

Researchers including those from IIIT Hyderabad developed the first Indian human brain atlas which revealed that India has some of the smallest brains in the world. The study found that there is a significant difference in the shape and size of the brain between Indians, Chinese, Koreans, and Caucasians. In fact, the brain size of Indians is smaller in height, width, and volume in comparison with the western and other eastern populations.

The study, published in the journal Neuroscience India, was a collaborative effort by researchers Raghav Mehta from McGill University in Canada, Jayanthi Sivaswamy and Alphin J Thottupattu from the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, and R Sheelakumari and Chandrasekharan Kesavadas from Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Kerala.

Small brains are an unlikely cause of unhappiness, because we have also, the sharpest ones in the world – we can find a loophole where there is none, create a complex web of laws that are meant to regulate, but are always chocolate to one section of the people or the other and create a sense of anxiety about something that we want to be a cause of anxiety for our own goals. Chocolate always heightens happiness – so a small brain cannot be the cause of the unhappiness – it must be something else – searching for the cause might keep us happy and less anxious for a while I guess.

Anxiety is aplenty – because questions abound…what will the next announcement at 8 PM bring? what will happen to me if I tweet like the bird in my backyard about the bird in someone else’s? what if I express dissent outside my marriage? will I ever get the experience of going to school, making new friends, writing an exam, and bringing home (in fear) my report card? Will Covid attack me frontally or now that I’ve made my choice of vaccine and paid for it from my meager and dwindling resources, or will it attack me sideways? will I have to go back to the office now? how will I cope in the office without my spouse being around me telling me what to do all the time? How will I dress from head to toe, when I’ve thrown away all my pants because they no longer fit and were no longer required on Zoom? And how will I learn to put up a pretence of enjoying my work?

Thank God though for the mask – it covers up more than my mouth for me! Enough for me to become Bi-polar – one personality outside and one at home!  The transition though could be rough – another cause for anxiety! And Social Distancing – I was unused to it before Corona and having stayed at home so long- even more so after Corona! Will I lose my sense of touch like I did my sense of smell and taste during my attack on Corona? And the media does not speak about Good Touch and Bad Touch anymore. I guess – They are out of touch!

But beyond Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder, are the voices I hear telling me to fill up my vehicle’s petrol tank every day; that I might save a rupee or two with which I can buy a bit of a coin – which raises another question – should I or should I not? Maybe in the end I won’t get my bit out of it but be bit…. Are these voices real or am I schizophrenic?

Anxiety is not depression and is quite natural in an unnatural world, but it can progress as quickly as Covid spreads to the lungs without an invitation! So, what is this depression caused by? Hopefully not suppression or repression, though there’s that to consider too – that would be Piling it on when the pressure gets too much if you get the drift.

But there are other factors to consider. The rise in Petrol and Internet costs perhaps? The latter depresses during a lockdown and the former after the lockdown is lifted. Then they combine to reduce lives to one of Hallucination – of being somewhere while staying at home.

Internet packages come and go suddenly – there was a covid 19 pack with free vaccination (one dose only – you’ve got to muster your own resources to take the second one, once you receive the first one – something like a bank loan – you take one and can’t pay it back – they give you another one to keep you going in the hope that one day, they will be rewarded with a payback!) That pack was replaced with a Post Lockdown pack that like the face pack has already washed off!

When Virat reaches a century everybody in India cheers so loud that Twitter dare not call it manipulated, but we don’t hear the crowd, (there are a few exceptions of course, like always) cheering for Petrol and Diesel when they crossed the milestone recently. Maybe the crowd is waiting for a double century?

Fuel Prices seem to have a will of their own – they are upwardly mobile, with great aspirations to reach Rs: 200 per litre. (Having been in the 70s for a long time, they must be seeing the ball very well) And they are continually active – everyday they exercise their muscles to stay strong – except during an election when they strictly follow the model price code – no variations at all!

So, people are caught on the wrong foot (thankfully, don’t have to use it too much) whenever they drive – They tend to idle more than drive, or they drive around in circles – There’s no parking as parking basements have been converted to shopping malls, there more one-way streets than stairways to heaven, and commuters find themselves in a perpetual roundabout. If that is not a cause for depression for the driven population, well what is? But there’s one section of the people, who must be seeing red more than they do the real colours of the world – those in the transportation sector who are caught between a rock and hard place. They cannot raise their ticket prices/freight prices daily based on the billboard at a petrol pump! Can they? 

So, a loot of causes for un-happiness and un-mental health – Will a change of mentality help? Maybe it will… the positivity rate will go up and that can have a cascading effect – which one? You choose!

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

Image by Noupload

Winners Toastmasters Club Mangalore installation Prayer – 2021

This is our prayer to thee O Lord, from the outgoing team of office bearers

Lord, today we pass the baton
‘Coz it’s time to say goodbye,
and naturally, there’s both regret and relief
combined in our sigh.
Leadership is not exclusive; and that’s your revolutionary design
Its evolution that is permanent, and we have no need to cry
And so, Lord, with joy, we pass the baton

Lord, today we pass the baton
Our magic wand in the year gone by
The wand was ours, the magic yours,
it touched our lives, just as it did, the life of Pi.
And we are grateful Lord, for this accomplished year
that in a jiffy, just whizzed by
But it’s never ever over Lord, is it? at least not till we die
And so, Lord, today we pass the baton.

Lord, today we pass the baton
You handed us, and we firmly grasped, despite our salty mood
It was as clear as night from day, you never did forsake us,
And the virus, it could not have mis understood.
We innovated, we annotated, we spoke, and we bespoke
We scored our goals, and all together,
we hatched the egg’s yolk!
We gave it our all, we conquered the mile
with some food, what’s good, and a ready smile
And that’s how Lord, we preserved the baton

Lord, today we pass the baton
that helped us laugh, and occasionally sigh
even as you saw to it, that as winners,
we’d never be shy.
Sometimes we would fight, and then make light.
It’s all your design,
you are just, and soooo divine
but now that you’ve given us a sign
We must Lord, pass the baton.

And in reply this is our prayer to thee O lord from the incoming team

Lord Today, as we receive the baton
We notice something strange; there’s an extra pair of hands
Holding it for us, in between
We realize they are yours Lord; and that’s what makes us keen…
It’s easy on us Lord, you’ve already made it light,
and as we go along Lord, we are sure you will enlight
We will fulfil your plans; We’ll put up a great show
Our promise is to delight
Lord, with your support, we receive the baton

Lord Today we receive the baton
It marks your presence; we can see it.
And our members,
When they listen, when they speak, they can feel it.
and they’ll always know
their expectations and their hopes are not dying embers.
So, for all our endeavours, we ask you Lord,
for your holy spirit – we need it
It’s with your blessings Lord, we receive the baton

Lord today we receive the baton
Our Paths will zoom, as our destines loom
And with your blessings Lord, our voices will boom
and dispel the pandemic’s gloom.
Ahead lies an eventful year,
with goals to achieve and points to score,
but we mustn’t tear,
You made us Winners, through pathways and dinners
Through Competitions and Conferences, you helped us unfear
And so Lord, today we trust, and receive the baton

We’ve made our exhortations of thanksgiving and supplication
And you’ll answer them too like you always do.
But there’s the rest of the hand over and a TM year
that we’ve yet to run through; Bless those too.
Time’s running out, so Lord let’s leave it here,
Just wanna say
it’s comforting to know, that Lord, you are near
When we receive the baton

God Bless all of us!

An interest-ing proposition!

Loan me a loan without a moan said Arjun – my common man, not Laxman’s – to the Neta and he got it; Arjun was happy beyond much of his normal belief when he heard the announcement.  He had cause to be! His whole family had suffered Covid attacks, he had lost two – his parents and gained two – twins, in the last one and a half year of the pandemic and sporadic lockdowns.

All brands of his wallets, including the leather one, were mostly empty (the emptiest word in the English lexicon – you remove all letters of the word, and it will be completely empty, and that’s exactly how he felt!) – half its contents gone to improve the health of the healthcare sector, and the other half to boost the line of credit that no one could follow to its source! More so after the end of the moratorium last year.  Right now, he was in-sanatorium.

His small eatery just outside of his house – his own thankfully, was shut down half of that time and his income had dwindled to the extent that it now resembled a Vada with an extra-large hole! The one he couldn’t sell anymore. The one he couldn’t make also, because of that hole in his wallet.

Like his once-famous Vada, he fermented overnight, and seeing his cupboard bare, he kept repeating to himself (nobody else cared) “who moved my cheese?”. Only the invisible virus heard it and just grinned and mutated without a care in the world – for it had found new reasons to say “Cheese”! It didn’t really care that the newfound Cheese had grown a fungus too –  one that resembled a rainbow!

And this time, he knew the Chinese were not responsible, nor would they take responsibility for having moved it around. But that was only to be expected. They didn’t last time too!  And nobody else was willing to or could bell the bat!

But Arjun and his family suffered. Their cupboards were bare; indeed, they could barely move the hand to mouth, let alone sideways to other mouths. Their freezer was frozen in a time before Covid, the door kept open for it to air its grievances!

For Arjun the variables were becoming too many to handle – the twin tragedy and joy at home; and the frozen dessert of a locked-down eatery. By now the only thing that was not a variable was his stress. It climbed onto him like the mist does a mountain. And he tried to remain calm, following all the recommendations for safety from new variants – rubbing alcohol frequently first on his hands and then using it appropriately to sanitize his mind…. Soon he would run out of that safety outlet too!

For the virus, it was the variants! They even called themselves by Greek names – it seemed they were really scared of their origins coming to light or being highlighted! given that Alex Hailey’s novel “Roots” was fast becoming a novelty all over again.

And then came an announcement that warmed his heart, and threatened, pleasantly of course, to refreeze his freezer!  Though previous announcements about such announcements terrified him because of their timing, this one he looked forward to… because of the timing. He was in dire straits, and he knew for certain, he would never in his lifetime reach the Palk straits, let alone take his family across them for a holiday.

He listened to the announcement with interest! lots of interest! and he was rewarded for his interest, as were the people who activated his interest when they gave him a guaranteed loan – all he had to do was pay the interest with lots of interest! He was delighted, for now, he could make an ass-et of himself too. There was already a queue for the rest of them – the assets without a hyphen!

Why didn’t they just give it to us he wondered! I have an account and a direct bank transfer is so easy in this digital age even with iffy connectivity – no paperwork, only work. But one must work for a living or live to work – if one can find it.

So, he stood in the queue – a lovely word that is defined by its spelling – All the letters that follow the alphabet q, have nothing to offer in terms of value! He had endured queues before everywhere – at the railway station, during demonetization and recently for vaccination – so he was vaccinated against that uniquely queue syndrome – frustration within a calm exterior! Much like the paint for exteriors hides the tears within!  Guaranteed!

Never refuse a good offer, his friend would always say, and he was a grey-haired wise man.  Lots of life experience. A man he always looked up to, though he was often looked down upon.  His was also a pleasant dilemma that offered little choice, and so he took it and for a month or two he was happy.

His Vadas were again the talk of the town – the hole in them and become smaller and the Vada bigger. Customers were coming back; the twins were twinning well, and everything was on the upswing.  He reduced the use of the sanitiser even, keeping it more for his customers! And he hid his joy behind his mask – one he washed and hung up to dry, every day,

And then one day that Geek, sorry the Greek maths teacher appeared at his door and put a tough question to him. Not one that many of us can answer…

Delta Plus = ?

He thought he knew the answer – Zero – but kept quiet and tried to close the door on him. Did he succeed?

Well, if you sustain the interest you showed this week, you may find out next week!

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.

Image by Tanuj Handa

Father on guys – it’s a great experience

This should have been written on Father’s Day – viz June 20th, a Sunday, but I was enjoying it too much to bother – there were lots of wishes, but no hugs this year (last year too, sadly) and the kisses were mostly on WhatsApp – as were the gifts! the most enjoyable moment on Father’s Day to my mind, is however when the mother of your kids wishes you. It does resonate with Thanksgiving Day celebrations.

Importantly though, I thought I should not miss out on a good subject –Fatherhood is always good news, except if you are surprised by it.  It is even more so because the day shared space with World Refugee Day! That will happen occasionally, not because you think the way you do, but because Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June every year. The news going around on WhatsApp, that it is celebrated every nine months is a myth!

Sometimes fathers do attain Refugee status and need refuge away from home.  But if that happens on the same day as World Refugee Day… then that would be a travesty of fatherhood. But then some fathers are hoods and certainly, all fathers are sometimes hoods!

Fatherhood, by all accounts, is a divine gift that is precious because it teaches man to love unconditionally, to nurture someone beyond himself, to run to protect another in the face of grave danger, to give to others without considering the return, and bond with someone other than the one they see in the mirror! Sometimes it alters personality too.   

Fatherhood starts well before a man enters the labour room. And he doesn’t find it laborious – not until then. But an expectant father is a bundle of nerves, and must be rapped on his knuckles often, if he must quickly learn new stuff – mainly how to be a gentleman and to put others – there is now more than one – before himself. Some learn the ropes quickly; some need their hair pulled. But they get around to it within 9 months or less. They even learn the difference between a milk bottle and a milk bottle quickly – because one of them now comes in a tetra pack!

But once in the labour room, they begin to have doubts about the whole idea of fatherhood when they see the initiation rituals of motherhood! They feel responsible for the pain they have caused and would have gladly reversed the process at that moment – if they could. But then where would that have left the kid? In no man’s land!

Often, they are relieved when the process is made somewhat less painful / easier with the modern cut and sew option, much like the cut and paste option has eased the pain of typing. The main thing for them is they are shooed out of the room…

So, they father on, with tenderness in their hearts and pride in their chests when they see a chip of the old bloke!  Intel inside?

That’s what keeps them going perhaps.

Fatherhood then grows on them – as they announce the good news and make it better every day with their hands, head, and heart! There is a lot to learn and do still. But he is up for it. He’s evolved and wants to be involved, and sometimes regrets that he can’t do it all himself.  Some Dads do, if they are single.  And it is this change of emotional gender that has seen the advent of Paternity Leave. but leaving paternity to her is no more an option! Dad rocks, but mum rules! And Dad soon learns it’s better to stay …  or say, mum!

It’s an opportunity to play the hero.  That’s exactly what children think of their fathers, or is it? What do the children really think of their fathers? Fathers should know for they were children of their fathers once. History always repeats though fathers strive to ensure it does not.

At first perhaps, they adore him as their hero. But often he is too busy to notice. He believes that he is Robin Hood!  He does not have the self-confidence to be sure that were he not to provide, he would still be hero-worshipped. Perhaps God did not give him that grace knowing full well that he would take the easy way out! God is a good Judge of character!

All fathers – don’t deny it – have compared their children to others when it was time to view/review the report card! Yet they are disappointed, terribly so, when their child asks for his report card or compares his father to someone else’s! He goes from Hero to Zero, and as the kids enter their teenage years – to sub-zero!  Still, he is Bear Grylls – He grins and bears! 

But evolution has a way of ironing out the creases in any relationship and so it does, mostly – until he announces he wants to get married!  And why not – he too wants to enjoy fatherhood…

Expectations on either side cannot be wished away…for love expects, the lack of umbilical cord notwithstanding. Great expectations, Charles Dickens would say. And they never end, until death do they part.

And as the father withers like an old oak tree and closes in on the casket made of it, does he become a bundle of joy, a burden of choice or a huggee – a disposable diaper? Fathers – the farther they are, the better it is?

Now, give it up for single dads!  They deserve it! Every single Dad!

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connection with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

Image by MayaQ

Now, why would I want to get married?

Am I too old to be asking that question? Never, age is just a number they say. Am I too bold to be asking that question? Never, age just makes you humbler. Or does marriage? – I must know. You also must know if you are at that ‘come pander me’ stage – what some of us, call the companionship stage. 

Why would anyone want to get married is a question that troubled me / excited me – I can’t say which – as I saw the rising number of matrimonials in the newspaper that I read online – I don’t buy the newspaper – not anymore because the ads are mostly matrimonials… or obituaries! 

But I do read the online versions, and of course, update my current repository of knowledge through “What’s that app” called? Sorry, seems I can’t recall. Too many apps/naps that I’m addicted to in these difficult times.

The matrimonial ads themselves have evolved from those based on caste and creed – with or without bar attached, to Covid! The groom or the bride, now ask for a fully vaccinated spouse. Not sure if this is because the vaccine is in short supply, or they are scared of the C drive. Sometimes the ad content is misspelled; the big V word is sometimes spelled as “Waxed!” These ads get a lot of responses!

Others are asking if the family has access to a lifetime supply of Masks and proof of connections to obtain oxygen, Remdesivir and Amphotericin-B on demand. Still, others are offering the unpronounceable anti-body cocktail – I call it PinaColada – newly put out by Roche for the full family on request as an incentive!

But to the main question, that I put to myself – I tried roping in my companion to answer the question – but she found the question itself redundant. That is natural until I told her I was researching for an article for Newskarnataka, not an article of faith in the institution which is as strong as it was when I said, “I do” (not, please note, I’ll try!). But the answer I got, was the best I heard in a long time – Silence!

Not having succeeded in eliciting a response from a primary source, I combined some secondary research and opinions of my media friends who were all in the “accompanied” category and tried to answer the question myself – I came to some surprising conclusions. That usually happens when you talk to yourself according to Carl Jung. The name is spelled correctly by the way.

First and foremost, it is the pandemic; external movement without a mask and social proximity is restricted either by self or regulation. This is not restricted at home.  People at home are more positive, shall we say?

Secondly, Millennials crave companionship which is not possible with parents these days – the TDGI – They Don’t Get It – syndrome. So even if they resisted the institution earlier, fearing its four walls, now they wanted that roof over their heads; the lifetime supply of masks and oxygen was a bonus of course. Responses also came quicker, given that the walls now had open windows, keeping the enthusiasm for the collaborative project up.

Millennials – the ones putting out the ads – it would seem, see a chance to save on wedding expenses and appropriate the originally estimated bill for themselves from the source of such expenditure. This thought occurred to me for two reasons – I received a wedding invite by what’s app – that told me that due to the restrictions I was invited but not welcome, and secondly, the price of petrol was lunging, not just inching toward the top the Burj al-Khalifa, creating new records! 

Another reason perhaps, one more fitting to the occasion, is that the entire process can be done online – from the ad to the due diligence, the horror scope, the courtship, the negotiation, and even the wedding itself. Post that of course, the couple will go offline for a while!

I am aware, that when they go offline and the masks come off, companionship, could transform into comp-onionship, the type that brings tears to the eyes with its root cause-effect. A good example is a guy who opened his windows a little too wide to let the sun in; it rained, and he is ruined!

But it can be overcome. All you need to do, perhaps. is peel the layers and put them on a hot pan while both hold the panhandles. Coordination, Cooperation, and knowing when to hold or let go is the key. Often, it is a panhandler’s choice. The other alternative is to get the masks back on and maintain social distance – Which could lead to more ads.

That will no doubt help the media survive – it’s exceedingly difficult these days – and with it that precious institution – marriage, the only one that welcomes dissent, without dissing the dissenter!

I hope I’ve answered the question, I raised – for your sake!

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connection with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

Image by NatureFriend

What Women Want – A Locked Down Perspective

What Women Want is a 2000 American romantic fantasy comedy film written by Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa, and Diane Drake, directed by Nancy Meyers and starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. We know that the film earned mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success. It is what the people looking for answers to a crucial question very much wanted! It was followed by a loose remake, What Men Want, in 2019 but it was not as successful. Wonder why? Any guesses?

Taking a cue from this, in 2020, following the sudden imposition of the first lockdown, I asked around, “do you know what women want… in a lockdown?” In the last part, I added to narrow down the possibilities; I was returned with the rhetorical question by always noncommittal diplomatic men. Do you?

I have heard from a lot of men about what they think women want. None of it has been verified because none have testified; they are terrified. Anyway, I do not believe I know. And if I ask the subjects of this survey, they don’t or will not say –  which, I cannot say; for one, they are figuring it out themselves, and for another, it would be self-limiting, wouldn’t it? And that is not their style. I know that much! But they are still active, have not shut down at all, just re-arranged their schedules and aren’t we glad? After all, ME time has converted itself into US time – for some time – and “YOU” time for some more time? This, according to the Times!  which has/have changed – for better or worse is for future generations to say.

Are they happy or sad, that everyone gets to stay at home all the time? The kids, and the men of the house too? Is it a tad of this and that? Has their fridge planner gone cold? They do not say, but occasionally, one can hear the rumble from the jungle and the sound system at home is so good that it can relay the low frequencies with equal felicity as the higher ones. Ohm, Ohm – It is time to count your ohms! (For those who are in family therapy – it is a unit of electrical resistance)

Some are over the moon no doubt; first-time mothers, or even second time (or more) mothers who were committed to returning to their workplace beyond 3 or 6 months, while their minds and hearts were firmly locked down at home. Maybe there was a wee bit of regret about their carpools and coffee maker chats or just the chance to get away for a while, but it was just in passing! Their spouses too were happy perhaps, given that their responsibility could be shared – for often when it comes to babies, the bible is correct – Fathers know not what they do – but you’ve to hand it to them – they learn quickly! For the Millennial hubby it may not so, he is highly evolved, even involved, and wants to be a character model (whatever that may be) to his own!

“There was this one guy I chatted with that really knew what women want in a lockdown – and he said it with authority derived from her! He said they want a Bai. “Say Bye? “Nah, cannot be”. I said faithfully. “No”, he said, “they miss saying Hi to Bai”. They miss it more than using that syllable to their spouses; he however clarified that according to his information, the spouses – not all, himself included – are not a bad substitute at all. But they are cheesed off also because Bai too wants to work from home – her own home!  Giving instructions, rather than taking them! Now that is a piquant situation if ever there was one!

The first lockdown saw a lot of happiness – one presumes – at being at home – togetherness, family time and bonding and all that is good according to Dr. Spock and Salvador Minuchin’s book on family therapy, “Family Healing”. There was much to heal, and once the antibiotics ran out, the vitamins took over the healing process, though occasionally there were signs of nosocomial infection as the social distance narrowed and the masks came off. 

There was this golden opportunity to share ideas, burdens and aspirations, improve spouses listening and speaking skills, teach more of what goes on in and around the house and how and when it’s done; not so much with the spouse’s office work, though one got the general hang of what he actually did in office and a glimpse of all the “clowns” in his office. Giving instructions from behind the screen, given their third-party perspective became a useful and interesting sidebar routine for some and indeed enriched their lives.  It is true – behind every successful man is a woman!

On the flip side Spouses discovered (or were taught outside of the Google Classroom) how-to pick up socks and everything else, how to squeeze the toothpaste, and find out first-hand, how the clothes found their rightful place in the cupboard – these were all part of a first-level MCQ assessment test. Something they had now become familiar with, sitting through a google classroom without googling! There was one exception, there were right and wrong answers and they had a right to the right answers of course.

Then there was a delight in the delicacies made by men and error; the routine conversion of delicacies into delights as a routine still eluded them, but they do not give up easily. Last I heard they were still at it, and man craving appreciation for his creations was biting the bait (and creating it!) at least in some homes. He was also learning quickly (He was bright) the brittle difference between Scotch and Scotch Brite, through the overlap!

But with lockdowns on the upswing, the second one saw perhaps more disappointment. All the lessons had been learned, what was to be discussed threadbare, was, and everything was hanging by a thread that might snap anytime with just a tug (do not need the one that got the Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal – Forgiven could get you unstuck though)

And, Covid was at an unwashed hand ready to prick an already deflating balloon!  As social distance increased and the masks returned, the question of what everyone wanted in a lockdown assumed the greater significance, not just what women want. Coz’ if we could not find out through two lockdowns, it would be better if we sat down and reminisced and ruminated… together.

See you next week…

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connection with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

Image by  Mabel Amber

A Tale of Two Paths

Let me warn you, this article is a long, but I can assure you, an interesting read! So, do not turn the page to the next article until you have read this one completely. Just do it!

When the Pathways education scheme was introduced in the summer of 2018, those who were dual members were offered a path for each of the clubs they were members of, a free path, which otherwise cost USD 20 (around Rs: 1450).  Others were not so fortunate and had to buy their way to a “great learning experience”, which they did not ostensibly, really mind, because in the end it worked both ways – It was value for money and money for value addition!

But what one must admire, puns intended, is that was a great motivational strategy, involved presentation mastery and was a decision that emanated from the Dynamic Leadership at the top of the pyramid of the Toastmasters organization! 

The Pathways education program was unique in that it combined both the leadership and the communication streams of the previous education programme of Toastmasters to provide a realistic and holistic learning experience that transcended the TM Meeting hall to go beyond, into real life.

There are 11 paths currently, including a recent and welcome addition – engaging humour.  The paths that pre-existed compelled you to manufacture humour from nothing, like a magician.  Some are. Some are not!  Magicians. Finding one’s funny bone among the 208 in the body, does take some doing.

But choosing a path, free or otherwise, is a difficult exercise for even the most decisive of human beings. For, the most decisive among us are often intuitive and hasty, and naturally prone to mistakes (that is murphy’s law), while the least decisive are the ones who have their feet on two paths simultaneously… hoping to shift forward movement at the least challenge. Then there those of us who choose their paths after much consultation and deliberation, with, as Steven Covey said, “the end in mind”.  We tread carefully, and steadily along that path, much like the turtle did… and we win the race at our own pace!  Our hope is sometimes belied by the proscriptions imposed by the law of nature… you win because I allow you to… but hope and perseverance are the best options for our journeys on this earth.

Be that as it may, the choice of paths and its aftermath comes down to our perceptions of where and what we want to be, of the difficulties or challenges the path might throw up, and our ability to deal with them, our fear of failure, or of success even in some cases, and infinitesimally, the cost factor…

Nothing illustrates this more than this tale of two paths…

There was this distinguished elderly gentleman, a retired lieutenant Colonel who was habituated and committed to an evening walk along a pre-determined path, and so every evening while on these travels, he espied a rather young and handsome but rather unkempt gentleman who sat along his path, with a bowl and a sign that read – “Help is what help does, have pity on me”.

The Colonel, having worked hard and led a disciplined life, over his seventy ears on this earth was not without both sympathy and empathy, but could not reconcile himself to the fact that this seeming perfectly fit young gentleman was literally begging for money and he would ignore him and walk on. But one day, his helpful nature got the better of him and so…

He stopped by the guy and struck up a conversation. Asking him why he is sitting here every evening begging when he could easily join the army. “You seem fit as a fiddle, young man,” he exclaimed. “I could help you join the army, where you will be well taken care of, even as you take care of the country. Look at me, I am a prime example of what the Army can do for you and what you can do for the country. Your path to glory, must be paved with hardship and sacrifice”.

“Well, I could, and I am grateful for your offer said the young beggar. But I do not want to,” without arrogance. The Colonel was taken aback but as was his wont, he went on, “and why is that young man?”

“Well, that’s a long story sir”, replied the young man.

“Get on with it. I have all the time in the world”, said the Colonel, hoping to convince him to join the services after he ventilated.”

“Ok”, said the young man, “it’s like this”.

The Colonel continued to stand while the young man narrated the story.

“if I join the army, two things can happen. I could be given a desk job, or I could be sent to the frontline. If I am given a desk job, that is fine, but if I am sent to the frontline, two things could happen to me. I could be injured, or I could die. If I am injured, its fine, but if I die two things could happen to me. I could be cremated or be buried. If I am cremated, that is fine, but if I am buried, then two things could happen to me, I could be eaten by ants and worms or a tree could grow over me. If I am eaten by ants or worms, it will not matter, but if a tree grows over me, two things could happen to me. The tree could be allowed to survive for a long time, or it could be cut down. If it can survive, well, that is not a problem, but if it is cut down, two things could happen, it could be used as firewood or it could be used to make paper.  If it is used to make firewood, that is great, but if it is used to make paper, two things could happen – it could be made into writing paper or newspaper or it could be used to make toilet paper. If it is used to make writing paper, I am fine with it, but if it is used to make toilet paper, two things could happen. The toilet paper may be used by a man or a woman. If it is used by man, fine; but if used by a woman… well I would die of shame,” he concluded.

The Colonel was stunned into silence. He had never met such a far-sighted man before. One that thought so carefully before choosing a path and embarking on a journey. He recalled his own path and realized that he had chosen his path instinctively!  Or was it destiny that guided him?

Well to each his own… but the end goal of any path we choose is happiness from having grown in wisdom…

Choose yours the way you would like to with great deliberation, instinctively or intuitively – But once you choose a path, tread it with determination and diligence until you cross the finish line…

Saving Private Twit

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This time it is a teatime story. Read on

I was by chance privy to a private conversation between my college mate and friend Ajay and his family recently. He had invited me over for a sleepover, now that his elder brother had left the house for the NDA in Pune.

But first, let me give you some background. Ajay’s dad, a progressive but strict disciplinarian, was the head of the house and unlike the domestic situation at my place, which was more, shall we say liberal, Ajay lived in a more conservative environment, where generally his father’s words showed the way, and either way, always held sway. 

According to Ajay, his dad often took self-well-informed decisions and then put them to debate within the family. With his brother moving out, it was now left to question the decisions and he found it rather difficult because he got no answers, but a reiteration of the decision. His father was also particularly good at ensuring his decision is followed by hook or crook and he was good at both. 

He had recently taken to social media -Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and had just three followers/friends now – His wife, Ajay, and his brother. Both Ajay’s mother and his brother were familiar with Facebook and not so familiar with Twitter; they had joined the platforms at his father’s instance.

So, I was over at their house, and it was early evening; teatime; delicious snacks on the table; the shadows were lengthening across their 6th-floor living room and we were all lazing around the hall when Ajay brought up his father’s first and only tweet. He had cryptically tweeted a decision at 8 PM the previous night, “From midnight tonight, no doors, barring the main exit-entry doors to the flat, shall be bolted either from the inside or the outside” Ajay thought it would be a good conversational topic. Besides, the new rule of the house affected him in no small measure! He was, he told me later, also concerned how I would adapt to the rule. After all, I was a guest.

Ajay said,” Dad what was that tweet all about? Was that you or did you lift that quote from somewhere?” said Ajay, thinking that his dad was experimenting with Twitter, given it was his first brush with the Twit. Dad said, “it was genuinely mine. I wanted to convey my decision to all of you given our busy lives”. Unexpectedly, Mom intervened in the conversation. “What he meant was that privacy in this house shall be reasonably restricted from now on. We have genuine reasons for this rule, and the restrictions are quite reasonable in our opinion.”

But Dad, Ajay butted in, “Even the Bathroom door? Dad said calmly, “Yes, even the bathroom door.”

Now Ajay was visibly upset. He should not have been, given his status in the house. “What is the logic in that? Aren’t we entitled to some privacy? Ajay asked.  Don’t you know that the Supreme Court has made Privacy a fundamental right, and any invasion of the same, is subject to legal action? It’s even a human right according to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy”

Given his experience of these debates, he knew two things – one, he had crossed a very thin line – you must not question Dad’s decisions, and secondly, he would not get an answer, but his dad would dig his heels in and reiterate his decision. Ajay did not even have the support of his brother now.

Unexpectedly, Dad took up the gauntlet! He said, “the Supreme court says it is a fundamental right but is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have not asked you to keep the door open now, have I? I’ve only asked you to keep it unbolted so that if there is a doubt about your activities, I or your mother can check in on them with or without your consent. Is that not reasonable”, he reasoned, calmly.

I heard Ajay mutter under his breath, “a reasonable lawmaker, judge, and executioner, all rolled into one”. I kept very still, but his dad had not heard him.

Ajay knew he was fighting a losing battle, but he carried on bravely. “What can we do behind bolted doors when you are breathing down our neck 24×7 now that you work from home, and are always awake and vigilant – at least 18 hours a day? Ajay asked.  Then there’s Mom too monitoring my activities. Her friends too. And you cannot know what I do when I go out? So, what is the use. You’ve got to learn to trust me”.

Now Ajay knew he had crossed well and truly into the opponent’s half. He had even entered the D. Trust was not a word used in the house, at least not that he had heard of… But Dad surprisingly, was in a spirited mood today – He had become a Twitterati!

“Who knows, dump someone, dump on someone while taking a dump? Let the water flow unnecessarily, it might flood the flat and affect the whole building, keep the geyser on, when not necessary, occupy space with an intention to deprive needy brethren of the same, incite others through secret correspondence from your laptop or phone, I don’t know.  They might affect our security and peace of mind”. But this is only a preventive measure. So, there’s nothing to worry about is there”? he countered.

Ajay was stumped and tried to draw me into the conversation looking for support! Forgetting (or recalling?) for a moment that I was even in the room he said, “we have guests here who may not be comfortable with that kind of a rule”.

Ajay’s dad ignored me, and looked at him sternly, “It’s our house, if he cannot follow our rules, he need not stay. But then he will miss out on Mum’s lovely chicken dinner this evening, and your math tuition to him. It’s up to him.”

I decided I had to say something, but I had to be diplomatic if I wanted to stay back! I knew which side my bread was Amulled!

I was sure Ajay’s Dad had been manipulated into putting out this rule – he had these advisors with whom he discussed most everything during his morning walk in the park, else, he must have been pricked by something he saw or heard in the house or a combination of the two. But I could not really tell him that – I would have been chased out of the house. So, all I said was, – and I thought they were real words of wisdom after I said them – “Uncle, what is public is not private, and what is private, must be public, except for the privates. Publicity is right, and is you’r right!” I sounded reasonably unrestricted I thought.

Ajay later told me that all his unrestricted activities behind closed doors, have been reasonably restricted, and he did not want to be unreasonable – he could not really – it was his father’s house.

My sleepover was uneventful – nobody pushed the door open though that fear was always there. But I comforted myself with the thought that I was being unreasonable and carried on…

Disclaimer

This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connection with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

Graphics by OpenClipart-Vectors