It’s indeed a very romantic notion. Almost patriotic. Perhaps even a calling.  On a closer look, it also inherently appears to be straight out of a Bollywood movie script attempting to strike an emotional chord with the masses in an attempt to strike box-office gold. At least that’s what the newly elected PM seems to symbolize. And he is getting increasingly successful with it.

But it’s neither of them. Instead, this notion has risen from a slew of unbalanced experiences which regularly manifested in various forms – the annoying clerk at the government office, the incorrigible auto-rickshaw driver, the lazy watchman or the rude maid. Time & again, I was left to wonder the disharmonious environment which I was subjected to every day. While it’s perils remained a burden assiduously avoided, it nevertheless created an illusion of being un-controllable entirely.  The various avatars in which it would sometimes explode (& sometimes just gradually creep in) would leave me, inexorably, exasperated.  The arduous trip to work each day full of traffic jams & angry motorists twisting & twirling their way through the barrage of cars (& potholes) often leaving me in a state of complete disenchantment of the city I so proudly claimed to be my soul. Not to mention the gigantic hoardings of politicians en route, each grotesquely over-whelming. Or the greedy-to-the-bone real estate agent trying every trick to coerce me into believing that he is looking for my best interests.  And how could I not mention the lazy watchman who frequently forgets to clean the car each morning, yet, unfailingly, comes by each month for his salary.

The list of grudges just kept growing. And growing. To a point where I too seemingly began to accept this reality as my destiny. Resigning to it as helpless as a street beggar. And all the while, losing that quintessential hope of seeing a better future. Of waiting for “someone” to “do something” about it. It almost felt like a design, based on similar predications of others, meant to create a mass perception of despondency. And it was working.

I soon began to see a chain reaction, the precursors to a very simplistic, yet profound understanding of a fundamental human trait – change aversion. Interestingly, it dawned upon me while I was reading an article on India’s freedom struggle from British colonialism. And one man in particular. Gandhi. I personally cannot, despite my sincerest efforts, imagine Gandhi as a regular human being – with all his perfections and all his imperfections. For me, he is a larger-than-life persona. More symbolic than articulate. More influential than prescriptive. But what struck me most about him was his total denial to accept status quo. As despondent as we are today, times weren’t too different in his era either. Only the perpetrators were of a different race. The core issues remained. I began imagining how Gandhi would have to come to experience his environment. All he could have seen would have been imperialistic exploitation of an entire population and more disturbingly, a quiet acceptance of that reality under the pretext of being helpless. I began to wonder, what if, like the rest of the Indians, he too would have accepted his destiny of a slave & resigned to it. How different would India be today? Scary thought to say the least. Instead, he chose to change. And surprisingly, himself first. Then others. All the while working tirelessly to sometimes modify, and other times uproot, that human trait of change aversion. He beautifully juxtaposed the apathy & inaction of the people along side their dormant desire to have a better life. But he couldn’t have done it overnight. Nor alone. So he went about his business, one person, one group, one town, one community, and eventually, one country at a time. And he persevered. And persevered.

And now, I have begun to test that approach in my life. No, I am no Gandhi. Nor am I trying to be. But this is now, my moment of truth. Where on one hand, I can choose not to change & accept my destiny as is. Or on the other, I can choose to do something about it. Of course, now I am faced with the most daunting question of all. What can one man do? This question, I believe, has been simultaneously, the source of our greatest escape and also the source of our greatest inspiration. Unfortunately, many choose it as a source of the former.

I started spending time to figure out what can one man possibly do to change one billion? How can one man rise to the occasion and resolve every conflict, every disappointment, every betrayal? I couldn’t find an answer. And then I remembered Gandhi’s words – Be the change. And it suddenly became clear. The answer was right there in front of me all this time. I just couldn’t see it. Blinded by my efforts to find a universal solution to India’s & every Indian’s problems.

 

So, I began to change.

 

First – I changed my driving style. I no longer jump signals when there is no cop around, I no longer honk to cut lanes, I no longer curse the wretched auto-rickshaw driver who just zoomed past inches away from my car. Yes, my travel time has increased a bit as I made these choices. But I feel so much more relaxed. There is no stress of being stuck in a jam over an hour. No stress of brushing the car against the auto and then worrying about the cost of fixing the scratch. I feel much more relaxed when I reach work/home.

Second – I have started, in my own small ways, to tell people this message. Of being the change. Be it the auto-rickshaw driver I met the other day who swore on his kids that he will start following traffic rules. Or my dear friend struggling in her new job role and blaming the office environment for her frustrations. She now has decided to take control and not remain a mute spectator (I hope she sustains this change).

 

I don’t know whether these people I meet have changed for good. Or just temporarily because they met a crazy man who has taken this as his own personal mission – to tell people to stop complaining. And to be the change they want to see in others. I don’t know how far I will go. I have just begun. But I have conviction in this belief, having seen the results first hand. I don’t think I can alone solve all of India’s problems in one day. But then, I don’t need to. All I have to do is continue helping individuals as and when I can change themselves. And hope they will, in turn, carry it forward. Each time fixing a part of India.

 

One Indian at a time.

 

I woke up to a bright sunny morning. Only to find out it was late afternoon!!

Baaki sab theek hai.

The office is around 10km from my house. But it took over 1.5 hours in traffic!!

Baaki sab theek hai.

The cook skipped work , as the building lift was out of order & she couldn’t climb 7 floors. (True Story!!)

Baaki sab theek hai.

The Indian stock markets keep crashing to new lows. My investments erode faster than Earth’s Escape Velocity.

Baaki sab theek hai.

The laundry shop called. They “accidentally” burnt my shirt as the new guy forgot to take the iron off while talking on his mobile.

Baaki sab theek hai.

I spent 4 hours last weekend downloading a movie. Tried opening it today only to find out it was the wrong movie!

Baaki sab theek hai.

The Mumbai city administration plans to provide access to car-makers for testing on Mumbai’s roads. Their way to justify the need for pot-holes.

Baaki sab theek hai.

We give “Most Favored Nation” status to our neighbor. They reciprocate by killing our soldiers.

Baaki sab theek hai.

In short, today is in a total mess. Yet, I shall be hopeful for a better tomorrow.

Baaki sab theek hai!!

10 anxious relatives. Waiting. Some for the last several days. Some are new-joiners tonight (like myself). But the mood is already set. The night is going to be long. Really long.

Each time the door opens & a “bed number” is called out, all 10 of us tune in to the announcement. With eager ears trying hard to discern the meaning of that number. Is that our relative on that bed? Oh dear lord…. what could have happened?

The first such announcement is for the relative perched on a couch next to me. His wife (in her late 70’s) is admitted for acute breathlessness. The poor husband seems more restless than a first-time-father pacing up & down outside the maternity room. The doctor calls him over. Hurriedly, the old man pushes off the couch & into a quick dash towards the doctor. What follows next are a few tense moments of conversation. From the distance, I can see clearly that the doctor is trying to re-assure the husband. After a night in the ICU, she is going to be shifted to the general ward. Nothing to worry at all.

A wry & tired smile breaks on the man’s face. With creases accentuating it, gently hinting of his age, the feeling behind it is beyond my humble means to describe.

Now then, there are 9 others in the room. The routine kicks in. Each hoping, praying, literally beholden to God that their bed number hasn’t been called out yet. But, the night is still long.

There is an eerie silence in the lounge. It’s been over an hour since the last announcement from the I.C.U. Apart from the occasional humming of a generator in the distance, there is no other sound.

I shoot a quick glance at my clock. Its 2 am. There is a lady on the couch opposite mine. She has been in this lounge each night past entire week. Her father-in-law is in the ICU. She is reading a book. I can’t clearly make out which one. But I am sure, this is one book she is not going to remember all that well. Her mind & thoughts lie elsewhere.

2:20 am. The nurse re-appears. “Bed no. 410″ it is this time around. As is the unspoken protocol now, all heads turn towards the nurse. Albeit  this late in the night, the speed of comprehension slows down. Little surprise of course, given that we all have come here from a long & tiring day. It then occurs to me. That’s MY sister on Bed no. 410! Why on earth is my sister asking for me at 2:20 am in the night? My heart sinks.

With a lump in my throat, I limp out of my couch and take a few big strides towards the nurse. My mind is running in infinite different directions. Speculating. Analyzing. Hoping for the best. Fearful of the worst. Those few strides have just caused a whirlpool of emotions within. None which help to soothe my over-stressed nerves.

As I reach within the nurse’s earshot, all my senses are only tuned in to her. It’s almost as if the rest of the world has just faded out. I ask her if my sister is ok. She says: Oh yes. nothing to worry. I called for you as your sister is asking for her toothpaste & face wash when she wakes up in the morning”.

What????? For a few seconds, my mind refuses to accept what my ears have just heard. It can’t be. Can it? Well, my sister is known to have such crazy demands at totally inappropriate times! But right now? While in the ICU? At 2:20 am? Unbelievable!

But everything said & done, I am surely glad that she is doing fine. The doctor in shift has assured me that she will be shifted to the general ward in the morning. But, being the skeptic that I am, I want evidence. So I go up to the monitor next to my sister’s bed & stare at it intently. Trying to make sense of the curve floating across like a wave. The occasional beep is reassuring. But i still track the wire coming out from the back of the monitor all the way to my sister. There is so much corruption in India nowadays, you just can’t trust anybody or anything!

After spending a few anxious minutes trying to pacify myself, I return back to the lounge. Convinced that, come tomorrow morning, I will not have to come back for another night at the lounge. Weird as it does sound, I kinda hate this place. Not because of the constant vigil you need to put up for your loved one, but also to grapple with a constant, although feeble, fear of losing them.

It’s 4 am now. My tired eyes are telling me to stop worrying & get some rest. In a matter of few hours, dawn will be upon us. And I shall have no further reason to be here. In that hope, I put my mind at ease and finally call it a night.

Disclaimer: The following is a result of 2 out-of-whack, idiosyncratic & downright sanity-deprived friends from different hemispheres sharing a common love for procrastination-inspired, joblessness-led & a mutual liking for convoluted thoughts. Please do read without any serious expectation of a worthy prose of intellectual underpinnings. Good luck!!

Professionals that SHOULD NOT have a sense of humour while working:

1. A surgeon
2. A Lift operator
3. A fashion photographer giving final touches to a client’s pics
4. Gynaecologists: jokers who were ex-cons
5. Psychologists
6. Undertakers
‎7. Boob-reduction plastic surgeon. (I don’t see any humour in this one!)
‎8. Negotiators for Israel and Palestine
‎9. The janitor at the American President’s office
‎10. Waitress at a comedy show

The top 12 places/situations when you should NOT smile -
1. At a funeral
2. Right before entering a court room in a tense situation
‎3. When you hear your wife is having twins but only one of them is yours!
‎4. When a girl you like says “I love you…” and ends with saying “…your brother”
‎5. When you use a pick-up line on a girl right before her Arnold-sized boyfriend walks in
‎6. When you haven’t met your sales targets and your boss calls you in his cabin
‎7. When the pilot suddenly announces May-Day and he is trying to do an Emergency landing
‎8. When the pool-boy comes over and you know you don’t have a pool
9. When your wife is in labor and you are rushing her to the hospital only to have the car go out of gas!!!
10. It’s a Friday afternoon, you plan to leave office but the rest of the colleagues still have to stay back to finish your half-done work
‎11.You see a pic of urself when you were a child tagged by your mom, and you smile, only then to realize you were forced to wear what looks like a dress!

12. WHEN IN A MALL WITH THE MISSUS & SHE REMINDS YOU ABOUT FORGETTING TO WISH ON HER B’DAY & YOU ARE JUST CROSSING THE LOUIS VUITTON STORE!!

Title courtesy & other contributions: Vije Vijendranath.

Circa the 80’s. An era of abundant hair…
Of thick manes, oh what a love affair
Stroking fingers, you stayed firmly rooted
Must have been an angel’s gift, feeling abluted!

In the wonder years, what an asset you were,
Working as my accomplice, together to persevere…
To win attention, oh you made it so easy,
Just a toss here, a flick there, bingo! she had to see!!

As age beckoned, so did stress…
Tried every treatment no more, no less
You hung on, like a faithful friend
Fighting back, till the very end

And then when I touched you,
It felt you were still there,
But upon taking a closer look,
On the ground, you appeared somewhere

Gone are the days now,
When the barber down the lane
Would know I would visit him
Only to show-off my glorious mane

As the world debate rages on,
for who’s responsible for the global meltdown
I resign to my bed, silently at night…
With my sadistic scalp reflecting the moonlight…


Coming soon -

The HAIR Supremacy: A CLOSE Shave.

The HAIR Ultimatum: The BALD Truth!

My Dentist. Well, not the real one ofcourse…

I have never seen a needle that big. Or maybe it appears so given the background flood light shining right on my face, exposing every expression, every crease on my forehead signalling the increasing levels of stress. Oh and blinding too! But wait. That’s not all. There is one more light source. A small, but powerful beam, emanating from a bulb, right at the centre of his reading glasses perched dangerously on the ridge of his nose. I am confused. Should I worry more about that bulb sliding down & into my gaping mouth? Or that needle which seems to be the size of a rhino horn drawing menacingly closer. As a timid kid shying away from the bully at school, I just close my eyes, ready for that rush of swarming pain, hoping it gets over soon.

Not Yet. The doctor pauses. I am waiting for my destiny. But nothing happens. I slowly open my eyes to see what’s going on. And there they are. 2 huge eyeballs! Magnified 10 times by the spectacles in front of them. And that blinding light beam. Looking intently towards me. Trying to look through my soul and absolve me of my sins. But not really. The doctor is merely marking his territory. He wants to get it right the first time. Appreciate that. Afterall, no one wants to be injected in the mouth… twice!!!

And then it happens. Almost taking me by surprise. With my eyes still open :(. That giant needle just appears out of nowhere! Marches straight inside my mouth. My heart skips a beat as the needle draws first blood! What starts off as a prick soon transforms into a tsunami of pain as I feel the pressure. But thankfully, it lasts but a few seconds. As the needle withdraws, I can see a certain sense of pride on it’s tip, almost mocking me. Making me feel helpless & vulnerable towards accepting it’s supremacy. Soon, the anaesthesia kicks in as I lose sensation on my lower lip. I slip into my cocoon. Hoping I won’t feel a thing of whats gonna happen next…

What happened next!!

With eyes firmly shut, I still see a halo around me. And occasionally a few shadows of objects floating past. The doctor keeps murmuring to his assistant. Who seems to be rather quiet with a somewhat serene demeanour. And then it begins. The moment that I have been dreading for weeks now. As one instrument after another marches in my mouth looking to conquer all. I keep my eyes closed, my prayers soft, my screams inaudible…

Oh wait!! I can feel that tooth… My nemesis!! Falling in this epic battle of mind over matter. Where it leaves no stone unturned to cause pain & misery for weeks. Finally, yields in front of the army of instruments. It stands no chance :). But it sure puts up a brave fight! Respect… It does not go down quietly. On its way out, it pops the cap of the tooth in front!! Damn. And it leaves a gaping hole behind. Like the blitzkrieg of German soldiers in WW2 retreating from their forward positions & burning everything behind them. Ok. Maybe not that bad. But then getting stitches inside of the mouth ain’t an everyday affair. Not for me!! Hell NO!

Asta la Vista… Toothsie!!

The doctor, all this while, working incessantly towards conquering my enemy, now appears less hostile. I realize his contribution in this war. He keeps talking to me. Giving me updates like a faithful general to his king. Telling me how much progress he has made against the enemy. With the occasional murmur to his assistant. And all his weapons of enamel destruction!! Oh how I love them. Scary as they sound (There was a drill machine involved too!!). Some even laid down their lives for this noble cause. (Apparently, one of the mirrors broke during this epic war!!). A few seconds of silence observed in it’s honor.

In what seems to be a struggle going on for eternity, after around an hour, the doctor proclaims victory. He proudly holds the carcass of my enemy in his forceps, showing off his bravado & unparalleled combat skills. I slowly open my eyes. For the first time in weeks, I open my eyes with hope. That the worst is over. That the enemy is defeated. That the decayed tooth has finally come out. Time now to salvage the situation. The doctor quickly gets back to attend the wounded gums. Ah yes, the poor gums. Who stood silently watching the horror unfold. The doctor quickly stitches them up. Conceals the wound. With a re-assuring dab of cotton soaked in beta-dine to nurture their wounds. My heart goes out to you – O mighty gums of the lower left jaw!

Its celebration time! But not so soon. As the saying goes- every cloud has a silver lining. Well, the converse is true just the same :( . Time to pay up. A whopping sum! (Actual sum undisclosed to protect the doctor from Income Tax issues). Its after seeing the bill, that I realize, perhaps, it would have been better to have followed Tom Hank’s footsteps from the movie Cast Away. It may not have resulted in a SMILE all the same, but at least I would be happy knowing that it’s not the doctor SMILING all the way to the bank…

In pursuit of MY Happyness

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Why me?
Tags: , , , ,

Every passing minute, is another chance to turn it all around.

What an incredible journey of self-awakening it has been. Every breath, every step, every turn, every fall. And yet, the timeless memoirs of a fulfilled life fade away into oblivion as destiny mocks me in my face. A never-ending precursor to a life where every indulgence awaits me like the gleaming doors of heaven. Only to blind me from the truth. That the journey is never really meant to end. For every “success”,  there are ten more in sight, yet to be pursued, yet to be conquered, yet to be happy.

In each phase of life, I always looked forward to the coming tomorrow knowing what would make me truly happy. But when tomorrow came, & fulfilled its promise as well, I wasn’t still really happy. Well, maybe for the moment, yes. But something somewhere seemed amiss. Something which I felt could have been there. Perhaps it was there, only if my eyes could settle down to enjoy the moment in its presence rather than yearn to make it better than what it was already. & most of us invariably do the same thing. Keep looking for that something better. & it is such a wild goose chase that we are involved in, we seldom appreciate what our present has to offer to us.

It is not over yet. The journey is still long. The wheel is still spinning. Fortunes will still be made. Paradise will still be gained, & lost as well. My happyness cannot be relative. It must be absolute, independent of the world around me. With little regard to others’ success. A personal barometer, constantly acting as a reality check of my present state of “happyness”.

As a great ol’ urdu saying goes -

“Har kissi koh mukkammal jahan nahi milta…

kissi koh zameen, kiisi koh aasmaan nahi milta…”

In the literal sense, it means – You get not all as life goes by. Some not the land, some not the sky.

I hope, someday, I will prove it wrong.

But then… should I?