Of Days Gone By

Whenever I meet someone after a long time, I am surprised by the amount of information I have shared with them in the past. They ask after my entire family, including babies born at the time of my association with them! I, on the other hand, can barely recollect any information about them!

The other thing that amazes me is the kind of memories they are able to dredge up from their very early childhood. I’ve come across people who have recollections of incidents when they were two years old! I am hard put to remember anything earlier than when I was maybe seven or eight.

I guess this is probably to do with my nature of letting go very quickly. I’m not saying I have a deep philosophical understanding of how ephemeral time is, but somehow, I’ve never been the sort to cling on to the past. There are definitely some incidents that have shaped my life and made me who I am today, but by and large, I quickly forget the past, or rather, am ok with just a hazy picture rather than every little detail.

This is probably why I don’t get too attached to cameras on trips too. Later on, when I look at the pictures, I don’t feel very emotionally moved or get too nostalgic.

Sometimes, I wipe out the memories quite completely. My mom was shocked when she realized that I really didn’t recollect *anything* about a trip to Tirupathi.

This tendency does lead to a little embarrassment when I bump into old friends and they seem to have such clear memories of the days gone by, whereas I draw a partial, if not total, blank!

When I sometimes encounter someone who does nurse every memory with tons of TLC, I feel really overwhelmed. I can’t help imagine the amount of resources used to remember so much!

TO be honest, though, it’s not that I have a really bad memory. I can remember a chain of events quite precisely. It’s almost as if it’s not that I lack the ability to remember, I just don’t care enough to remember most things (that sounds bad, doesn’t it?!).

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? No idea. But I do like the fact that I don’t tote baggage around. Who knows, maybe it’s all deeply suppressed and will come to haunt me when I’m old and doddering! :D Till then, I guess it’s best I just forget about it. ;)

Damned Choice

There’s a very simple rule in life that I’d like to share. It’s something I discovered quite early in life, and it has served me well during many a crisis.

Let’s take a typical example. Let’s say you have an awful boss. She wants you to conduct some training on a particular day. Unfortunately, you intend to take that very day off for some personal work. You know very well that no matter how well you do the training, she’s going to have major cribs about it. On the other hand, if you take the day off, you are going to get a earful and more throughout the week. So what do you do?

There are only 2 options here. Either conduct the training or take the day off. Let’s ignore a possible third option where neither do you take the day off nor do you conduct the training (there’s misery for you!)

There are several paths to these two options. One possible way is a 7-Habit kind of exercise, where you decide which is higher priority, your personal life or your work, and choose accordingly.

My way is slightly different. Though I’m not great at maths, I’ve learned some good things which come quite handy in life. Like common factors! :)

In the above case, my common factor is that I will be abused by my boss, no matter what. If I take out that common factor, the decision becomes very clear. I will do exactly as I please! :)

In other words, this is my rule:

If you’re going to be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, it is always best to go with the choice that will make YOU happy.

This way, you will be damned for sure, but at least you will be happy! That’s certainly way better than being damned AND unhappy, no? :D

Little Darling

It’s a lovely summer evening. The breeze is brisk and cooling, toning down the intense heat a little. You go down for your regular evening walk-and-talk routine with your friends, and as you try to locate them, you are stopped by a group of moms.

We’d like to tell you something about your daughter, they say. And then the adjectives come tumbling out. Awesome, helpful, such presence of mind, so well-behaved, so good with children… You listen, rather bemused. Your heart is not exactly swelling with pride because this is, you know, how it always was. Your little girl has always been like this.

The overt acknowledgements are, however, so welcome in this day and age when disgruntled complaints are the order of the day. You feel happy that they have taken the time to acknowledge and appreciate. You thank them, and then you add, very clearly – this has nothing to do with me, this is how she is, this is her innate nature.

They dismiss this with a shake of their heads. Clearly the parents are to take credit for this darling. But no parent can really teach a child to have empathy, to have an overflowing love for children, to have presence of mind. It comes from somewhere deep within.

This is my little darling all on her own. We don’t deserve credit for that. What we have simply done is to let her be. For that, I don’t mind taking the credit.

When I told Lil D about the profuse compliments, she was shy. I hugged her and said: I am proud of you. You are a good human being, and this is what we would like you to be. This is more precious than anything else.

It was when I told her this that my eyes welled up. My Lil D is no longer little; her shoulders are squaring up to take over the burdens of the world.

Here’s wishing that she spreads happiness always.

Mercury Rising

It’s hot out here. Every year, it appears that my erstwhile garden city is only getting hotter and hotter. I’ve noticed that conversations mostly open with the weather — isn’t it hot? I’ve never felt this hot before here. (Come rainy season or winter, you can just replace the adjective!)

Added to this is of course the election fever that’s whipped up our country into a right royal frenzy. I honestly don’t remember any election that has been so vitriolic, with supporters so polarized as to become quite fanatical. The gloves are off; heated debates and unrestrained mud-slinging are the order of the day.

I thought early this year I was clear on my vote, but right now the waters are so muddied that I need to draw back and take a fresh look at everything all over again. Does one look at the candidate or the party? Does one look at local or national level politics? How does one react to the various undoubtedly one-sided reports that keep getting flung at the detractors? How much research can one do vs. rely on others’ opinions?

I haven’t watched a TV debate in months. I skim thru the headlines of the newspaper in an effort to not be overwhelmed by the arguments that boil over on the front pages. I do rely on the opinions of a few that I respect, and whom I can rely on to present an unbiased opinion. I do read reports that appear to have something concrete to offer.

But the unsettling part of it is that every time some deep-rooted belief is uprooted, there is a readjustment of views all over again, like getting tested for new glasses. I’m all for being open, but sometimes, it pays to be an ostrich and bury yourself in your own views!

I suppose it is a good sign that people are so passionately involved in the entire exercise this time. I was pretty sure of the outcome, but now I am more uncertain. I’m beginning to think that we’ll end up with a hung parliament, furious horse-trading, and an entirely unsuitable PM in the chair. I’m hoping and praying that this isn’t the case. I guess only time will tell.

So have you made up your mind who your vote will be in favour of? There’s still time to change it, you know :)


If there is one author I cannot get enough of, it is Haruki Murakami (Henning Mankell is a close second at present).

I don’t recollect how I came across his name, but I first read his Kafka on the Shore. It was a strange book, unlike anything I had ever read before, and while I tried hard to make sense of it, I just couldn’t. I learnt to accept it as is, and I moved on.

I began reading many of his novels after that. Somewhere (again I don’t quite recollect where) it was described best: reading his books is as if you are in a dream. When you wake up from the dream, you can’t quite narrate what you experienced, but it leaves an intense impression and emotion which lingers on for quite some time.

It’s difficult to say what exactly I like about the books. The narrator is almost always a loner, a person who does not mind being alone most of the time, who cooks and cleans with precision, who listens to jazz or at least some sort of music, and who has strange experiences. The strange experiences seem almost natural in the book, it does not seem in the least bit bizarre. His language is terse yet not abrupt, his writing is clean but flows like a natural stream, clear and sure.

Every time I read or re-read any of his books, I am loathe to reach the end. I yearn to read more, to go along with him on this journey he takes, into a strangeness that is comforting in its unfamiliarity.

Above all, I want to shake his hand and say: Thank you, thank you for writing with such understated brilliance. There will never be another quite like you.

That Grand Old Story

The Illustrated Mahabharatha - Wilco Books

Recently, I picked up “The Illustrated Mahabharatha (Wilco Books)” for Lil D. She has a nice book on Ramayana, and I wanted her to get familiar with the Mahabharatha too. A couple of her friends watch the serial that’s airing nowadays, but I figured this was a better way to get her into the story, considering the serial takes five minutes after every sentence to show the reactions of the entire costumed cast!

So now her bed-time routine includes me reading a couple of chapters to her every night. The book has nugget-sized chapters that usually don’t take more than a couple of pages, so it is perfect. Of course, there are some issues with the editing, but by and large, I think the book does a pretty good job of getting the Mahabharatha down to an easily digestible level.

We don’t discuss what I read as such, but sometimes Lil D is struck by the unfairness of it all, and protests quite vehemently. Ekalavya was one such instance when she got mad at Drona.

The blatant unfairness in this grand old story is so mind-boggling. The way women are treated, for example, is old hat. I positively hate the way Amba is tossed about like baggage, till she decides to end her life and be reborn as Shikandi to take her revenge.

The caste equations for women are also pretty clear. King Shantanu can marry a fisherman’s daughter and not get affected in the least, but Draupadi will tell Karna that she cannot marry a sutaputra (son of a charioteer) and disqualify him from her swayamvara!

The less said about lineage, the better. None of the Pandavas are really Pandu’s sons, purportedly being the offspring of Gods themselves, and Pandu himself is not a true-blue Kuru descendant because he is the son of Sage Vyasa and Ambalika. In fact, technically speaking, the Kuru clan dies out with King Shantanu’s sons themselves: Bheeshma, who takes a vow of celibacy and so has no offspring; Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya who both die before they father any children.

So the big deal made out of Karna’s low-caste, and the raw deals given to both women and the lower caste folks (Ekalavya, Karna) is ironic, considering that both Pandu and Dritharashtra are not true-blue royal folks themselves in the strictest sense!

I guess the biggest plus about the Mahabharatha is that it makes us think about these overt injustices in the first place. In the end, it holds a mirror to society of that age, and the reflection is, just as life has always been and continues to be, not very pretty.

Age Old Friends

When I stop to think about the girls (or should I say women) whom I consider to be my close friends, one things stands out in common. Their age! They are all younger than me, the biggest gap being probably 12 years. I have acquaintances who are more or less my own age, but maybe just 2 or 3 with whom I have a really good friendship, mostly because of the history we share (oh my! that makes me sound really old, doesn’t it?).

I’m not sure why this is so. Maybe I’m just immature. One of those popular online tests that tell you what your real mental age is (just like they tell you what city you should live in, or what Shakespearean character you are) revealed that my mental age was all of 19. I remember myself at 19. I was terrible. Perhaps my mental age at that time was 8 or 9 or something. (If there was one thing I could tell my 19-year old self, it would be “Just chill, everything’s gonna work out just fine.”) If I were this mature at 19, I think I’d be a different person altogether!

Or maybe I harbour a secret desire to be looked upto. Having younger friends makes me feel older and wiser, yes? Bah! Hardly!

I think the real reason why I ended up with younger friends is simply because I started “family life” later than most of my counterparts. So Lil D’s friends’ mothers automatically became my friends too, and they were all much younger. This however doesn’t explain the online friendships I made, with almost all folks younger than me.

I can vouch for a fact that having younger friends makes me feel young. I have learnt so much from them, their youthful confidence, their different points of view, and their different outlooks to life. Whether it is related to parenting or my own self or my other relationships, chilling out with a younger crowd has helped me overcome many unconscious and self-imposed restraints. It has helped me become a better person. I feel it gives me best of both worlds, and I am able to balance the sobriety of an older generation with the enthusiasm of a younger one.

So here’s to all my young friends, who bring me so much joy and who help me stay young at heart. If there’s one thing I can offer you, it’s the consolation that I will always be older than you! :)