The Importance of my Earnest Vote in A Comedy of Errors

I voted in the 2014 Indian Lok Sabha elec­tions today, after research­ing for many days about the dif­fer­ent can­di­dates up for elec­tion in Pune. I voted today after dis­cov­er­ing yes­ter­day that I was not vot­ing in the Pune con­stituency at all, but in the Maval con­stituency. I had a few hours to learn more about the can­di­date scene in my con­stituency before I voted and here is what I dis­cov­ered:

  • The NCP-Congress’ cho­sen can­di­date deserted them and stood as an independent
  • So the NCP-Congress poached a can­di­date from the Shiv Sena/BJP
  • The Shiv Sena/BJP denied a ticket for its sit­ting MP and chose an ex-Congressman instead
  • Dejected, the sit­ting Shiv Sena/BJP MP quit the party and joined the MNS instead
  • The MNS is sup­port­ing the inde­pen­dent can­di­date who quit the NCP-Congress

I strug­gled to choose between these earnest folks and thought I had made my choice until I dis­cov­ered:

  • The Shiv Sena/BJP can­di­date (who chose ex-Congressman) Shri­rang Barne had com­pe­ti­tion from another Shri­rang Barne who some­how got a ticket from the JDU
  • The inde­pen­dent can­di­date Lax­man Jag­tap had com­pe­ti­tion from not one, but two other Lax­man Jag­taps, also independents

(This is a com­mon prac­tice in Indian elec­tions to dilute votes of your com­peti­tors by field­ing can­di­dates with the same names so gullible vot­ers will not dis­cern the right candidate.)

The sit­u­a­tion seemed like a mix of The Com­edy of Errors and The Impor­tance of Being Earnest.

Given such a free exchange of can­di­dates between par­ties amidst a com­edy of triplets, I felt my earnest vote had no value left any longer.

Yet I voted. I voted because I felt it was my respon­si­bil­ity towards my coun­try. I voted because it was my con­sti­tu­tional right. I voted to uphold my right as well as my respon­si­bil­ity. It feels good.

Posted in politics, pune | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Dumbstruck by a poem from my 7-yr old niece

This is a poem by my 7-year old pre­co­cious niece that I wish to cher­ish for pos­ter­ity through this blog.

The Earth”

I saw the stars
Twin­kling above my head
And the sand
Blink­ing below my bed

The plants grow­ing around me
The boats sail­ing around the sea
The eyes sparkling in a face
The bikes rac­ing in a race

Oh, I won­der
I could be part of this beau­ti­ful nature!

I was flab­ber­gasted after encoun­ter­ing this from a 7-year old. At that age, I don’t think I could even grasp such con­cepts, for­get writ­ing about them.

Evo­lu­tion is not illu­sory, it is hap­pen­ing today, in front of all of us, if we only real­ize, under­stand and accept.

Update: After writ­ing this post describ­ing her as pre­co­cious, I later saw what she had scrib­bled on our whiteboard:

Scribbling by niece
Scrib­bling by niece
Posted in Personal, poetry | 2 Comments

Looking back at 2013

This year has been unfor­get­table in many ways.

Did I spend enough time with friends and fam­ily? No. Did I keep in reg­u­lar touch with those who wanted me to remain in reg­u­lar touch? No. Was I there each and every time some­one needed me to be there? No. I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to, I wrote much less than I wanted to. But as a human with lim­ited resources, did I try to bal­ance dif­fer­ent and con­flict­ing expec­ta­tions from fam­ily, friends, and col­leagues? Yes. The com­plex art of bal­anc­ing your expec­ta­tions of oth­ers, their expec­ta­tions of you, and your expec­ta­tions of your­self is what we call ‘Life’, after all.

In 2013, I dis­cov­ered new friend­ships, redis­cov­ered old col­lege friend­ships, reju­ve­nated old colleague-friendships. I made many mis­takes and hurt my friends some­times, but I hope I delighted them and made them smile too. This was true in the year 2012 too, and what mat­ters now is if I learnt from my mis­takes in 2012 and avoided or made less of them in 2013. I think I did. That is why I bid 2013 good­bye with peace in my heart and hap­pi­ness in my soul — not because I did not make any mis­takes, but because I learnt or attempted to learn from ear­lier ones. 2013 also leaves me with a deep sense of grat­i­tude for my friends, all of whom accepted my flaws, yet remained friends. I hope to keep learn­ing from you, how to be always so under­stand­ing and empathetic.

On the per­sonal front, it has been a mile­stone where a dream we worked for over 3 years was finally real­ized — our new home. And despite get­ting busier, becom­ing frus­trated, being com­pletely stressed out, we still share not just the love, but that elu­sive romance too.

I am truly blessed. Dear 2013, I will remem­ber you for­ever, thank you!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Boredom

Bore­dom is intrigu­ing. In this age, when there are count­less activ­i­ties, hob­bies, spe­cial inter­ests, and diver­sions both online and offline, bore­dom seems a dif­fi­cult pin­na­cle to achieve. Yet it is as com­mon today as it was in ear­lier times when peo­ple had to occupy them­selves with far fewer things. When­ever I watch a period film, one of the things I always won­der about is “What the hell did these folks do in their whole days in that era”?! If I had lived as a human any time before, say, 1940, I think I would have died of boredom.

Obvi­ously, it doesn’t work that way. Our tol­er­ance level for get­ting engaged is decreas­ing at the same rate as our inge­nu­ity in invent­ing new ways of occu­py­ing our attention.

When pop­u­lar­ized, I am sure the tele­phone must have saved many souls count­less hours of bore­dom — the abil­ity to call a far­away friend must have led to excite­ment that lasted sev­eral years, if not decades. We treat voice calls on the tele­phone mostly as a nui­sance today. When the TV started appear­ing in many house­holds, it must have been a very excit­ing era for the whole fam­ily to get together to watch news and enter­tain­ment. We now call it the Idiot Box. It was thrilling to be able to chat over the Inter­net on IRC chan­nels with unknown friends dur­ing the ‘90s and mes­sen­ger apps with known friends later. Now we dis­able chat when we check Face­book and log on to Skype and other mes­sag­ing ser­vices in “Invis­i­ble” mode.

How­ever, this uber-connectedness with oth­ers, this end­less sup­ply of online stream­ing music and videos and games, doesn’t pre­vent bore­dom. At times, we still get bored.

When I get bored, I feel a bit guilty. You know, so many things to do, so lit­tle time. How can I get bored when there is so much I can expe­ri­ence, check out, play, con­nect, com­mu­ni­cate, share, etc.? There are hours of music, dozens of movies, innu­mer­able arti­cles, many books, and so on that I have yet to expe­ri­ence that were rec­om­mended by my friends. Time is already run­ning so short that I think my life is not long enough to ade­quately con­sume these while doing jus­tice to each, and I am get­ting bored with noth­ing to do?! That’s the guilt. But yes, I still do, and noth­ing alters that fun­da­men­tal truth.

All bore­dom is a prob­lem of the engage­ment of atten­tion. Tech­no­log­i­cal advances have expo­nen­tially increased the “price” of our atten­tion, because atten­tion is a lim­ited resource. Ear­lier, it was rel­a­tively easy for a phone call to get one’s full and undi­vided atten­tion, because it was com­pet­ing with few other dis­trac­tions. Today, it is per­ceived as a nui­sance because our atten­tion is already devoted to other things at the time.

True bore­dom is when we do not wish to pay atten­tion to any­thing or anybody.

On the one hand, bore­dom is a sig­nal that noth­ing excites you any­more, there is noth­ing you look for­ward to. On the other hand, bore­dom may sig­nal that you want to break away from rou­tine and seek new expe­ri­ences and adven­tures. Bore­dom — lack of enthu­si­asm — is some­times misperceived.

Some folks get bored quickly if they’ve not done any­thing inter­est­ing or new for some time, while other folks get bored because there just isn’t any­thing inter­est­ing left for them to do. The dif­fer­en­tia­tor lies in whether there is a desire to do any­thing. The for­mer is a tem­po­rary state of rest­less­ness, the lat­ter is where there is no desire what­so­ever to do any­thing. The for­mer is just rest­less­ness, the lat­ter is true boredom.

Have you ever been truly bored? If you have read this far, were you bored read­ing? What do you do when you get bored?

Me? I write such point­less blog posts.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 2 Comments

Grounded

I was fly­ing on a quest
With a great deal of zest
When I fell down
Into a cuckoo’s nest

Thus I had a frac­ture
And lost all my rap­ture
While I kept pon­der­ing
The rea­sons for my capture

All my friends told me
The nest was the best for me
And as the days went by
I for­got how to fly

As my mind reeled
My lips were sealed
My frac­ture healed
But my fate was sealed

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Indian Housewives and Their Maids

The rela­tion­ship many Indian house­wives have with their maids is in many ways like that of arranged marriages.

To start with, the elab­o­rate maid-hunting process begins much like bride-hunting in arranged mar­riages, where you first seek ref­er­ences for qual­ity maids. After short-listing suit­able can­di­dates, they are then ‘screened’ in an inter­view where the capa­bil­i­ties of the maid are assessed in con­junc­tion with her expec­ta­tions. After the screen­ing process for every can­di­date maid, feed­back and impres­sions are dis­cussed between the fam­ily before mov­ing onto the next can­di­date. After some rounds of dis­cus­sions about the nature of work­load and what is a fair pay for that work, a can­di­date is cho­sen after a lot of nego­ti­a­tion. Vet­eran house­wives nag and scoff at the unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of today’s maids, just like mothers-in-law nag and scoff at the unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of today’s brides.

The cho­sen can­di­date begins her work in the home much like a bride join­ing a fam­ily after mar­riage. The maid’s boss, the house­wife, acts like a mother-in-law does with a bride. Every aspect of her work is observed through a micro­scope in an overtly judg­men­tal fash­ion. The maid, like a new bride, has an innate accep­tance that this is nat­ural. Dur­ing her ini­tial days at work, she demon­strates her best behav­ior. The house­wife takes care not to appear too demand­ing, lest the maid run away. For the house­wife, it is a tricky game of how many demands of work you can get away with for the amount of pay agreed with­out los­ing the maid; for the maid, it is a tricky game of how super­fi­cially you can do the assigned work for the amount of pay agreed with­out los­ing the job.

At this stage, it is cus­tom­ary for the house­wife to nag and com­plain about a few aspects of the maid’s work. The cleaned uten­sils still have some left­over soap pow­der or aren’t being cleaned prop­erly, there is always some dirt left in this area even after dust­ing, she has been late at work two times in the past two weeks, it was her duty to inform before­hand when she skipped work the other day, and so on. Ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of maids may have taken this crit­i­cism pas­sively or sim­ply deflected it to domes­tic prob­lems, but mod­ern maids, like mod­ern brides, have evolved their own retorts. The qual­ity of the soap being used, the cheap mop that should have been replaced long time back, how other maids in other house­holds do much less work for much higher pay, etc. are now weapons in the maid’s arse­nal that are used judi­ciously. It is a game of cards, where both the house­wife and the maid strive to retain their aces up their sleeve should the need arise, while con­tin­u­ing to play counter-attack.

Like arranged mar­riages, many of these con­trived rela­tion­ships sur­vive this ini­tial chal­leng­ing phase. Nei­ther side’s expec­ta­tions are fully met, but there is accep­tance of the dis­sat­is­fac­tion as a price to be paid for the ben­e­fits of the rela­tion­ship. After all, if there were no maid, the house­wife would have a tremen­dous bur­den on her shoul­ders man­ag­ing all the house­hold chores by her­self. On the other hand, the monthly pay for her work is finan­cial secu­rity for the maid, whose hus­band usu­ally can’t be relied on to pro­vide suf­fi­ciently for her children’s future.

Jeal­ousy, like in many mar­riages, is a another fac­tor between neigh­bor­ing house­wives, about who has the best maid. Chat­ter between house­wives breaks the ice with dis­cussing how awful or awe­some their maids are, and if the rela­tion­ship devel­ops, ends in how awful or awe­some their hus­bands are.

The maid’s role extends well beyond the house­hold work. She is the back­bone of the grapevine in the soci­ety. From the daugh­ter of neigh­bors so-and-so who is ready for mar­riage for whom they’re look­ing for suit­ors and how neigh­bor so-and-so has many domes­tic argu­ments, to how there was a brouhaha about that party last week and who was say­ing what about it to whom in the soci­ety, the maid is the dom­i­nant under­ground chan­nel of communication.

In a few cases, again, like in those rare mar­riages, the rela­tion­ship blos­soms. The maid’s qual­ity of work is adju­di­cated as excel­lent and best in class. The house­wife can now brag to her neigh­bors about how she was able to find the per­fect maid, just like how some women brag about find­ing the per­fect hus­band. Over and above her usual Diwali bonus, the maid gets gifts for her chil­dren. Her absences at work due to domes­tic issues are treated with sym­pa­thy. She is given free med­ica­tion and med­ical advice when­ever required. Old clothes are no longer dis­carded, they’re instead donated to the maid’s fam­ily. From children’s toys to antique fur­ni­ture, the maid enjoys the char­ity of the gen­er­ous housewife.

I doubt this sce­nario exists any­where out­side India. It is a unique sym­bi­otic tri­umvi­rate, where the maid works, the house­wife orches­trates and the hus­band pays. Jai Ho!

Posted in society | Tagged , | 6 Comments

A Photo Essay on Friendship and Criticism

Some­times, a friend’s crit­i­cism cuts so deep, it hurts.

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It causes such anguish, that our love for the friend­ship momen­tar­ily turns to dust.

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Crit­i­cism can leave a per­ma­nent imprint.

053

Nev­er­the­less, how­ever hurt we may be, crit­i­cism can smoothen the rough edges in our character.

001

A true friend is one who doesn’t pre­tend we are per­fect, and who has the sin­cer­ity to crit­i­cize us when we deserve it. A true friend some­times needs to be brutal.

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(These pho­tos were inspired by Atul Sab­nis, whose pho­tog­ra­phy often teaches me to “see”.)

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Sequence

Every­thing in nature fol­lows a sequence. From cater­pil­lar to but­ter­fly, from seed to tree, from stars to black holes. Enter humans and the sequence is bro­ken. In com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in behav­ior, in action.

When humans break a nat­ural sequence, order turns to chaos.

Some con­text before we proceed.

It all started with my first meet­ing with a new friend bum bum bhole on Twitter:

A series of sequen­tial tweets from me had the fol­low­ing response:

My dear friend Gaiz­abonts shared his love of playlists:

When bum bum bhole responded

I said

My mean­ing explicit:

This was then inter­preted as my being against playlists, to which Gaiz­abonts rose In Defence of Playlists.

A series of tweets from me was my sequence of thought, expressed through a medium restricted to 140 char­ac­ters at a time. It led to whether that was “cheat­ing tweeting”.

The max­i­mum length of a tweet is 140 char, of a Face­book post 63,206. The max­i­mum length of time you can talk to your friend is unlimited.

How well can online social net­works like Face­book, Twit­ter or LinkedIn han­dle the sequence of our thoughts, emo­tions, careers, and lives? Are we now liv­ing in a world where a person’s sequence of thoughts, expressed through what­ever medium of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is being employed at that moment, con­sid­ered “cheat­ing” for not adher­ing to that spe­cific medium’s restrictions?

If you text me using 115 char­ac­ters, in two SMS mes­sages, are you “cheat­ing”? No, that is ridiculous.

The con­cept of “playlist” came into being with the era of dig­i­tal music from the days of WinAmp. There were no playlists when I grew up. There were no playlists when Kumar Gand­harva or Kishoribai sang. There were no playlists when Mozart or Beethoven had their music performed.

Yet, there was a sequence to their music. Music, by def­i­n­i­tion, has sequence. With­out sequence, it is not music.

Most of West­ern Clas­si­cal or Hin­dus­tani Music CDs we get today have “assorted mixes” with­out sequence. It is not music.

Each of my music cas­settes, whether West­ern or Indian, had painstak­ing hours of sequenc­ing behind them. Every friend of mine whom I’ve gifted such care­fully crafted cas­settes remem­bers me not just for the songs, but for the sequence in which I arranged it. Some sen­si­tive audio­philes also appre­ci­ated the dif­fer­ence between how many sec­onds of gap I’d kept between each song and why.

Can you imag­ine how Mozart’s 41st sym­phony finale would sound with­out the first three move­ments? It would be like arriv­ing to watch an action movie’s final cli­max scene with­out know­ing who the char­ac­ters are and what they’re doing.

Every post on this blog is a con­tin­u­a­tion of a sequence. Every move­ment in a sym­phony or a con­certo is in a sequence. Every­thing our friend is say­ing is in a sequence. We break that sequence when we inter­rupt and don’t lis­ten.

Rela­tion­ships have a sequence. In romance as well as in friend­ship, all rela­tion­ships have a sequence, and when we try to fight the sequence, there is friction.

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The Challenges Of Unselfish Parenting

We cap­ture every pos­si­ble pic­ture and video of our chil­dren today. We cap­ture the audio of the first sounds our child makes. We cap­ture the video of the first time our baby begins to crawl, and the first time our baby stands, and the first time our child walks.

We accu­mu­late all such mem­o­ries so that when our child grows up, he/she can see and expe­ri­ence his/her child­hood in all its glory.

We grew up in a time when such con­tin­u­ous record­ing of moments and their accu­mu­la­tion was not pos­si­ble. So we do our best to do what was not pos­si­ble dur­ing our childhood.

At the same time, we dis­pose of our own child­hood pho­tographs casu­ally, as we don’t think they are rel­e­vant any­more. We dis­pose of our school mem­o­ra­bilia, the whole class pho­tographs, the now-silly-looking cer­tifi­cates of our extra-curricular achieve­ment, etc.

We let go of our child­hood because we are now focused on our child.

Let us take a step back here.

Did we not try to explore our par­ents’ child­hood? After see­ing a few pic­tures of our par­ents’ as kids, did we not thirst for more? Did we see any pic­tures of our par­ents in school? How many of us have seen cer­tifi­cates of scholas­tic or extra-curricular achieve­ments of our par­ents? Wouldn’t we like to?

There was a point in time when our par­ents dis­posed of such mem­o­ra­bilia, because they thought their kids’ lives were more impor­tant than their own.

This is exactly the same prac­tice we repeat, gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion. And every par­ent thinks he/she is being com­pletely unselfish and devoted to the kid(s) when doing so.

In fact, it is the opposite.

As par­ents, we are not unselfishly con­sid­er­ing what our child would con­sider impor­tant after he/she grows up. We are mak­ing deci­sions our­selves, in antic­i­pa­tion, with assump­tions, because we think we know what is best for our child. We are not being gen­er­ous enough to let our child have the free­dom to explore mem­o­ra­bilia of our own lives.

While think­ing to our­selves that we are being the epit­ome of unselfish­ness in our parental mind­set, we are actu­ally being the most self­ish of all.

The parental par­a­digm is con­trar­ian to the indi­vid­u­al­ism mind­set. It is often devi­ous enough that as par­ents we think we are act­ing in the best inter­est of our child as an indi­vid­ual. It is often wise to relin­quish the parental par­a­digm and rethink.

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