Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I call up the supermarket guy and ask him to deliver a few items to my house.
He says Okay. I say Thank You.
He says Thank You.

The home delivery boy comes and hands over the packets.
I pay him. I say Thank You.
He says Thank You.

The auto driver drops me to my apartment.
I pay him and say Thank You.
He says Okay.

I call up the Broadband Support and lodge a complaint.
They fix it and call me back.
I say Thank You.
They say No problem.

He comes up with a new idea and implements it.
His colleagues say Awesome.
He says Thank You.
They say You're welcome.

She steps on a cat's tail as she hurries out.
She says Sorry.
The cat says Meow.

Hollow words, borne out of habit.

My niece gives a parcel to my son when she comes to visit.
He opens it and peers inside. I ask him what it contains.
He says, Biscuits and Gulab Jamun.
I ask, Did you say Thank you?
He shakes his head with an embarrassed smile.
He comes to me and whispers loudly, Can I have the Gulab Jamun now?
I nod, beaming.
My niece has got her Thank You.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

This day, that year

I don't think I will forget very easily. I don't think I even want to. Maybe over time I will.
It has already begun to fade from memory. This year I had to look it up to confirm it is 25th, and not 26th.
The day when all those loose ends in life came together and broke into a crescendo, while I watched alone, from the audience.
Events prior had their culmination on this day, and events later, their origin.
Some would say, it is important to forget.
I disagree.
It is important to remember. Because it was one of the toughest tests of all time.
More than the surprise and horror of it all, it showed me how vulnerable I really am. All those pretensions were a myth. All those beliefs were someone's cruel joke. All those assurances were fake.
The awareness that I was indeed alone in the audience. The rest of the folk were an illusion that vanished when I looked around.
Though things did change hence, who can tell if they changed for better or worse?
What came out was the realisation that Bad things happen, there's not much we can do to avert it. Much of what we could do amounts to preparing for the inevitable and trying to cushion the fall.
Expect the worst.
Once you have walked through fire you are no longer afraid of a spark from the matchbox.

Remembering is important.
So that we don't forget there are thorns in the bed of roses.

The blood could always be washed away like Lady MacBeth did, but I do not know how many of them still walk in their sleep, trying to scrub their hands clean.

Friday, March 23, 2012

This too shall pass

Ache. That's what it is, primarily. Ache, clubbed with mild fear.
Maybe it is not fear, maybe it is anxiety: Have I overstepped the limits?
But, regret? Regret there is none.
For it was a carefully thought out action, considered and reconsidered over months and perhaps years.
It was made to appear spontaneous. It was meant to come out as "Oh, by the way-"
It wasn't spontaneous, it wasn't sudden. It wasn't by-the-way.
It was polished and diluted and mellowed down till it appeared insignificant, unimportant, almost invisible. Just enough to seem as if it had just popped up. Out of the blue.
It was planned.
Schemed, if you like.
That's why there's no regret. It was done because it had to be done. It had to be gotten over with.
If it were not done, there would have been no peace. The what-might-have-beens could have become exercises in suffocation.
What ensues has to be taken in its stride. What could ensue - the possibilities - cover the wide and coloured spectrum of right to wrong.
That's why even the ache is tolerable.
The fear is reasonable.
The anxiety is manageable.
Everything seems natural.
And they will pass.
It will take time, but they will pass.
Just like everything else.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of Norway and Gullibility

With the new twist in the story, the Norway fiasco has taken a new turn and who knows how many more would come in (no one has heard the wife's side yet) before dust settles on the case.

It is our right to feel embarrassed about jumping to conclusions without considering all the facts or trying to understand the other side of the story, and we also owe an apology to Norway for calling them names.

However, the way I see it, the best thing about this case is that all the parties concerned - though their actions were grossly misunderstood by each other - acted on the best interests of the two young children. The methods were different and often at conflict with each other, but the goals were the same. The Child Welfare Services of Norway, the parents who wanted the children back, the Indian Government that intervened, the people and media of India who rallied behind the parents in huge numbers, everyone thought they were doing the best thing for the little ones.

Take a moment and consider the image.
In this dreary world where every piece of news that greets us in the morning, and throughout the day, depresses us and makes us lose faith in Life itself, this is the silver lining... That we are still ready to jump in and support others because we feel they are right, their struggles are genuine, there is something we can do to make things better for a total stranger. Even though we shout at an autowallah who cheats us of five rupees, or yell at our kids because they don't listen, or refuse food to a beggar, we still try to do our bit to make the world a better place. As long as so many people and groups and organisations can work for what they believe is right, there is still hope that all is not lost. If we cannot appreciate that, I don't know if there is anything left in this Universe to appreciate.

Tomorrow someone else may face a similar situation, and many of us would approach it cautiously because we were once fooled by a pair of Indian parents in Norway, but guess what? - a lot of us would still jump in and support them and hold candle light vigil or stage protest marches in their favour. Call it gullibility or foolishness if you will. The next time, who knows, maybe the State is wrong and the parents are right, and who will support them if a set of gullible people don't.

Where would we be if we lost all sensitivity and left our fellows to suffer, because it is not our problem.

While it's okay to be ashamed of making a mistake or falling for a lie, we should also be proud that we were ready to stand for the happiness of a couple of children and their parents.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bringing up Internet

Once upon a time...
... there was the Internet.

Before that, there were computers, but only clever people like BASIC or C programmers knew about them. Computers were not stuff you furnished your house with, unless you saw one as a status symbol. Those who were lucky enough to get a taste of the Internet, sat before it waiting for it to happen. They would painfully type a URL, the most popular those days being and, get themselves a cup of tea and snacks, and come back to their seats only to find that the page is still getting painted blue on one side (remember the bright blue Hotmail pages of yore?)

'Patience' became synonymous with 'Internet'. The pains of browsing were the price you wanted to pay to get emails from the other side of the globe a moment after they were sent. The phrase 'snail mail' was coined. Web pages were not user-friendly, to say the least. No one knew what 'Compose' meant. But it did not matter. You could always ask the ignorant guy sitting next to you, and no one would mind.

Things changed swiftly enough afterwards. Websites increased thousand-fold, and continued to crowd the digital space, taking up almost no space at all. Connection speeds skyrocketed and offered fierce competition to the speed of light.

Only one thing remained unaltered: the browsing prowess of the Ultimate Internet User. To be fair, this group also evolved. They learnt to stop dragging the mouse as if it were a reluctant cow at the edge of a lawn full of deliciously green grass.

Dear Little Internet! How you have grown! To me you are still the little one that I held hands with while teaching to walk. To you I am no longer young, and you tend to get impatient seeing me stumble. You learned to walk, to run, and skipped and hopped on, way ahead of me. I tried to catch up but faltered.

Remember us in 1998, when you boasted that you could go all the way to France and fetch me pages I could make no head or tail of? And then I asked you, What the heck will I do with French pages since the only French I remember are Bonjour, Bon Appétit and Je t'aime? Very important phrases, no doubt, but totally useless. But then you lovingly reminded me a few more precious French terms I knew, but that is a different story.

You were so little then that you made me wait all those hours while you painted the screen blue when I asked you to bring me hotmail, and I waited patiently because I knew you were young and new to this world, and I thought patience was what Internet was all about.

Then you began to grow all of a sudden. I was taken aback, but I tried to keep up with you. I think I did manage, for a while. A long while. Soon I began to lag behind. And before I knew it, you were far, far ahead of me. At times you would look back kindly and offer a hand.

You have known me for a long time, dear Internet, in fact you know me much better than most of my friends. Heck, you have seen me make blunders upon blunders, and asked me friendly and alerting queries like "Are you sure you want to do this?" "Are you sure you want to send this?" "Are you sure you want to delete?" and so on, just in time for me to realise my mistake and revert back. You have known my weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, and you have stood by me firmly when I courted disaster.

You alone know one of the deepest secrets of my life - that my left hand is faster than my right when I type, and that I always type 'teh' when I mean 'the' and 'adn' when I mean 'and'. You have helpfully shown me red underlines on those words with a disapproving tut-tut and made me go back to correct them.

I appreciate all that you have done to help me find my way in the darkest alley, but I request you to put an end to your over-helpfulness.

For the love of God, please don't jump to conclusions and show me the details of a person or an image or a link, if my mouse moves over a text by mistake. My mouse is restless and it needs to move, doesn't mean I need to know everything about everything, every single time. If I want to know what it is or who a person is, I will click on their names and go to their profile. Or I'll click on a darn link if I want to read about it.

I have tolerated your misbehaviours just as you have forgiven mine. When I am fumbling around in my email boxes, don't let information jump out on my face, or try to fill in data before I think of them. Do you remember the time when you tried to help me send a mail by suggesting the email ID as soon as I typed the name? I hit send happily, trusting you as only an Internet-user can, only to realise within minutes (when the reply came) that the mail had been delivered to a namesake. The reply was gracious and kind, but I don't think my embarrassment was totally lost on that person. Yeah, please let me type in the whole name before you decide who I want to send a birthday wish to.

My system ain't one of the best in the world, I know. It is getting old as me too. We're kind to each other. If I need to travel to the corner of the screen in search of the close button or suchlike, I have to drag my mouse behind me. Like a cow at the end of a ... yes, I know I said that before.

Stop being charitable, and let me be.
Let me grow old and learn at my pace.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Just remembering...

It was a national holiday.
We were at a small, homely restaurant for lunch.

The soups had been brought to the table. I was taking slow sips, savouring every spoonful.
He took out the phone. "Let me call them up and ask how it's going."
It was his choice to not join his friends for the boating trip.

I watched as he dialled, his eyes smiling.
He said Hello.
His next sentence - or maybe it was a question - broke midway and his eyes widened in alarm.

The soup spoon froze on its way to my mouth.
"Why don't you yell out? Call somebody!" I heard him say.

He disconnected the line.
"R. fell off the boat," he said. "They say he may have jumped."

"What? When?!"
"Just a couple of minutes ago."

R.'s body was found after some time. They say he had reasons to do it. Why he did it while on a boating trip with friends remains a mystery.

Every year on that national holiday, we remember the incident.

* This is not a story.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In search of a fresh controversy

I wonder what our world would be like if controversies did not exist. If our celebrities did not let slip a controversial word or two. If our netas did not rake up a controversy or two. If authors did not write a controversial book or two. If people did not raise a controversial finger or two.
Ooooh, I really like the sound of the word: Controversy.
Doesn't it rhyme uncannily with 'autopsy'? Or maybe not.

I like to believe that, if such a day arrives - a day when there no longer exists any controversy whatsoever, anywhere on the face of the Planet (God forbid) - the world would end. Literally. Really. Completely. Use as many adverbs as you like without inviting controversy. In fact, the end of the World would perhaps be the day when people stopped controversizing. Oh, I know that's not a word. I just want to kick up a controversy by inventing new words on my blog.

But back to the point. If such a glorious day does arrive, what would our newspapers speak about? Imagine our prominent dailies making bland announcements about the onset of monsoon or a harmful tornado ravaging a corner of the Earth? How morbid and boring! Millions of journalists all over the world will be forced to seek other professions, newspaper delivery boys will lose their jobs, newspaper and magazine kiosks will close down,... Pretty soon the repercussions will make all hell break loose, and people will be jobless, penniless, starving and on the verge of suicide. Thus the world will end. Don't doubt my word.

All because someone called someone else sexy. Oops, I let the word slip! Now you know why I was so worked up. No, really, every day I open the newspaper to see if sexy is the latest beautiful or sexy is the latest b!#@h. I mean should I type it as s@*y so that I don't offend anyone or can I just spell it right? Should I even talk about the word or pretend it never existed?

Some might remember an old Karishma Kapoor song that was banned and abolished and extradited and re-recorded because the said word was used - and how many times, in a single line!!! Soon afterwards, the song was mellowed down to 'Baby, baby, baby mujhe log bole... Hi baby, hello baby, kyon bole?' because someone's sentiments were hurt. Oh, the dress the heroine wore and her gyrations were just fine, no offence. After all, she was dancing for charity.

Recently, I saw someone comment on another's photo "You look sexy!" Obviously it was a compliment and the other was pleased. A few years ago I would have been shocked at this, but now things are different. Anyone who looks sensuous, beautiful, smart, cute, pretty, or just plain good is referred to as 'sexy'. Having said that, I believe if I ever use that word to compliment someone, it might be because I lost faith in English language and its capacity to describe beauty. It must be my upbringing. But who knows. Things change, people change, thinking changes.

I am sure what the lady meant is nothing more than, "If anyone calls you 'sexy' in a congratulatory tone, say Thank you. If they say it in an offensive tone, ignore it and move on." Nothing worth kicking up a controversy over.
But then, for the media, it is their bread-and-butter question of survival...
For the rest of us, it is a question of existence and the end of the world...

Whether another four-letter word deserves to be shot into the Hall of Fame... remains to be seen.

As I always say, it all depends on the eyes of the beholder, and ears of the listener.

Next controversy, step in, please.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Computers and the First Grader

Month-1 of First Grade.
"Amme, today a boy in my class asked the teacher, 'Ma'am! When do we have computer class?' (giggle) I said to him, (giggle, giggle) 'Ayyooo... computer is not for little kids, it is for big people, like our parents!!' (giggle, giggle)"

Month-2 of First Grade.
"Amme, C's Mother's computer has games in it."

Month-3 of First Grade.
"Amme, we played with computers in school today. I did some colouring using the same kind of mouse that you have."

Month-4 of First Grade.
"Amme, C's Mother's computer has the same colouring game that we have at school!"

Month-5 of First Grade.
"Amme, does your computer have the Paint game?"

Month-6 of First Grade.
"Amme, come, I will show you how to start Paint in your computer."

Month-7 of First Grade.
"Amme, you've been sitting at the computer for a long time. Now it's my turn. Let me play with Paint."