Monday, December 22, 2014

Lessons from wasting food

While throwing away the uneaten contents of the lunch box, every mother lectures their child (a hundred times) about the poor, starving children around us who could have satisfied their hunger at least once, with this food that was being wasted now.

However many times they hear it, the kids forget it within minutes. They will not understand until they are old enough to understand.

And if they have to understand when they are old enough to understand, they should waste their food several times in their childhood and their mothers must drill the lesson in a hundred times before they are ready to understand.

No easy parenting tips, please. I am learning things the hard way and am perfectly content to understand when I am ready to understand.

Friday, December 19, 2014

House in India

I was talking to another House M.D. follower recently. (Note that we're his followers and not fans. Calling us House's fans would be so wrong. We hate him! We are convinced he is a constant threat to mankind. We do not miss a single episode only so we can keep an eye on him. Who knows what he is up to? Someone should be watching him!)

We wondered what House or his team, during their investigation, would think if they were to sneak into one of our houses? (For the uninitiated, House M.D.'s team breaks into patients' houses to find clues to the mysterious illness that is causing their patients to seize, vomit blood or hallucinate. These are generally the initial symptoms which then, within hours, leads their kidneys and liver to shut down, and while the team comes up with intelligent-sounding medical terms - Sarcoidosis! Amyloidosis! Cushing's disease! Munchausen's syndrome! Wilson's disease! Lupus! - we bite our nails wondering what could be the clue that we're - I mean they're - missing, which was right before our eyes all along.)

So if Team House breaks into our house to investigate, what would happen?
The quick answer is, within minutes they would dash out the door and conclude that this patient can be discharged. For the simple reason, the environment she lives in is so contaminated that she cannot be alive. Diagnosis: we are treating a ghost. Ergo: Discharge.

Admirers of the "Genius with Side-effects" from this part of the world would agree that watching Dr.House in action is like watching a Science Fiction Mystery movie. With a touch of Fantasy to it.

Be that as it may, we just want to get admitted at the fictional PPTH, preferably with some unfathomable disease that will kill us within 24 hours, so that Dr House and his brilliant team can diagnose us.

I mean, for a start, look at the hospital and the facilities, the attention the patients (in general) get. The attitude of the doctors and nurses. The spacious rooms. The half-empty corridors. The beeping contraptions patients are connected to for constant monitoring. Alarm bell right next to the patient. Nurses running to aid at the slightest sound. That's what a hospital of hundred years into the future must look like. Hopefully, our great-grand children would watch House M.D and say, "What a futuristic show! They made this in the early twenty-first century!"

Four doctors would fuss over us. And they handle only one case at a time, which means, they are thinking about us all the time. They ask us personal questions and tell us that we are great people. (If we have done wrong, they would also report to the police, be warned.) We normally consider ourselves lucky if our hurriedly-examining-us-and-prescribing-meds-doctor remembers our name.

House got one thing right: Everybody lies. But I would challenge him to crack the kind of lies we can offer you. I dare you, my man!

House's team looks at the detailed medical history of the patient to form an initial diagnosis. For that, they enter the name of the patient into the computer and the computer tells him all about our history. (Are you laughing already, or are you going to stand there looking stupefied?)

Let me tell you the last time someone I know tried to track down a file here (three months ago. I am not talking about stone age). He was told by the hospital that they don't keep records beyond five years. To House's credit, there have been many cases where the history was not available, and yet he managed to crack the case.

The best thing is that Dr House's team has all the time in the world. They wheel the patients to their X-ray or surgery or check up. Nurses are just the colourful backdrop, sometimes for the team's entertainment. If we are not admitted as dying patients, the next best option would be to work there. We may not offer much medical wisdom, but we can bring him his coffee just way he likes. They have coffee machines there.

I am just wondering how many days (or hours) House would last if he were to come to India to work?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Destiny Ahoy!

I think I'm getting closer, you know, closer to Destiny than ever before;

No, before you jump up to congratulate, let me try to put this straight:

Sometimes we toil, long and hard. We know the end we're driving toward.

At other times, we wait and hope, even train ourselves for failure, to cope;

Never letting us lose sight of the goal, unmindful of life taking its toll.

In our own choices, dreams and actions, lies the source of crumbling illusions...

The sad truth, fellows, allow me to confess: I'm surprised and taken aback, more or less;

You see: which has now become my Destiny, is far from the one I'd intended for me...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Always the best policy?

During a particularly stormy phase in life - a phase that could be a top contender for the worst in life, but the jury is still out on that one - I met an acquaintance at a shop. Now, the bad phase was unfortunately known to a larger radius of people than I could help, and so this person was aware of the stormy goings-on.

The encounter was unexpected, and the kind that we would usually try to dodge. If either of us had spotted the other a few seconds before, we would have bolted in different directions. Anyway, we saw each other and smiled and he asked, "How're you?" A routine question, a routine answer, and we would have been on our way. However, it was not to be so.

I had always been a supporter of honesty's undisputed position as the world's best policy (whether I always practised it is a different question) even though I was never quite sure when that guideline really applied. Was honesty always the best policy? Was it a conditional statement? Were we supposed to be honest only to our close ones (and doctors and lawyers)? When to be honest? Did dishonesty cover the white lie? When to be dishonest just to be polite and nice? Being polite and nice and politically correct meant not always saying the truth. Was giving an untrue answer considered dishonesty or could it pass? Was the word dishonesty intended only for larger crimes?

The man pretty much knew what I was going through, so why lie?

So I skipped a beat, decided to be "honest" for all it was worth, shrugged and said, "Not great."

He froze for a second. Then he gathered himself, made a grimace and nodded. Everything was contained in that nod - he knew what I meant, he was sorry, he was helpless, that sort of thing.

Then he abruptly walked away. I think he was too shocked that I chose honesty that day.

What would have happened if I had just gone with a smile and "I am doing great!"?

Perhaps we would have exchanged a few more pleasantries. He would even have said to himself, "Given the conditions, she is handling herself very well." Or he may have thought I was merely trying to show a brave face. In all likelihood, he would have not thought anything of it at all. This meeting would have been an unimportant event in both our memories and would have vanished in no time. As it was, I chose to give a truthful answer, and see where it got me. That's why they invented stuff called white lies.

I maintain that hypocrisy is the greatest thing in our lives - even though we take pains to claim that we despise hypocrisy and all its forms. We cannot be "honest" for honesty's sake; we have to put on a show. That's what we call dignified / civilized / cultured / decent (look up the thesaurus) behaviour. On a normal day. A shot of untruth to keep things normal.

A hypocrite, by definition, is a person who pretends to be what he is not. And when I decided to be what I was, I scared away my acquaintance.

So, the best policy comes with a condition. It is up to us, civilized, well-mannered, well-behaved hypocrites to figure out and shape those conditions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's the problem with the world?

I'll tell you what the problem is. Switch on the TV and watch for an hour or so. Pay attention to every entertainment program, every commercial. What is the message that each of them convey?

Life is short, they say. Life is for living. Celebrate. Enjoy. Look good. Kiss. Be selfishly happy. Because there is only one life. Once in a while, donate a hundred rupees to charity.
You deserve to be happy. 

Heck, I have advocated for selfish happiness, myself. I still maintain that if we don't look out for ourselves, no one else will do it for us. No one else will, is the truth. And for someone else, somewhere else, there is no one looking out for them.

It is not that we don't know of their existence. We read about them. We ache for them. We pray for them. We start hashtags for them. We light candles for them. What else can I do, we say.

Mine, Ours, Yours, Theirs - where do they all overlap? Do they, at all?

The Voices that do not speak for the Voiceless. The Hands that do not reach out to help the Fallen. The Wealth that does not bring Smiles on the face of others.

The resulting imbalance.

What can I do? My own problems...

The fact that international organizations - so many of them, at least one for each purpose, for peace, for health, for rights - had to be created to take care of the downtrodden. And even so, the lives that exist in the blind spot.

This has been said before, and this will be heard again.

So...  what happens now?

I have written this blog and got it off my chest. This thought had been weighing me down for long. I have done my bit. I can go live my life.

You have finished reading. You can heave a sigh for the unlucky people of the world. You've done your bit. Now you can go back to your living. We're done.

And that, Your Honor, is what's wrong with this world.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

We're all part of nature's infinite loop

One begins to wonder what the purpose of this whole exercise of evolution is. It is good for us that Evolution has not gone out of fashion, but it seems to be headed somewhere and shouldn't we (as the intelligent species, rulers of the planet etc.) enquire where? And why?

Okay, life first appeared in water. Just like that. One little cell of life. Then it found its own ways to multiply and evolve and develop and mutate and climb up to the ground. And spread all over the planet. It followed Darwinian (and questionably Lamarckian) rules, so that each species could survive and reproduce. Apparently with each evolved form, it found ways to adapt the rules and modify them as per the requirement. Clearly it was embedded with an instruction set. Natural Selection. The whole goal of the process, I am told, is - to survive and reproduce. Ad Infinitum.

All is well. But where is this whole program headed? Is it a bit like a wheel rolling down the mountain, out of control?

In other words. If you know infinite loops, you will know why I am concerned. An infinite loop with no exit condition is a recipe for disaster. It will bring the whole system crashing down in no time. Oh yes, I have tonnes of experience on that front, though not exactly on the evolution scenario.

Do whatever it takes to survive and reproduce.

An infinite while loop with a million if-elseif-else conditions. The most interesting (and curious) thing is that the conditions themselves are evolving day by day as per the latest requirement, to survive and reproduce. The highly-developed genes knew exactly what to choose at any point in time, depending on the situation at that time. That was not part of the original seed program, was it? There is no chance that the tiny cell would know what to do if it were to suddenly reappear in its original form, today. It would have to learn. Which means, the instructions are evolving too.

But back to my question. What is the purpose? The survival of the fittest - to what purpose, to what end? When the fittest have survived - then what? What is it that the fittest are meant to do? Just continue to survive and reproduce?

The chicken that is being fed and fattened and kept happy has to end up on someone's plate. (Though the chicken, in all likelihood, doesn't know that.)

Unfortunately, any literature we have on the subject has been written by humans - who are guinea pigs of the experiment - and, as such, will be like the lab rat's notes on the consequence of the test it is being subjected to.

And who started the program? Who sent the wheel rolling down the mountain? Who injected that first tiny life form to this barren planet? Did Life big bang into existence out of nothing, just like this Universe itself?

Who was behind this? What was the intention? Will they be coming back to check on the results?

Should we be ready, survived and reproduced and evolved and fit to perfection, when they come?

Friday, November 28, 2014

The World belongs to the foul-mouthed

This happened a while ago. There was an 'official' email that was to be sent to a person I had never met. Which is nothing new, of course. I just had to make a request for a certain piece of information, and as such, it was the most mundane and ordinary mail you could think of. Sprinkle it with the adequate number of Thank yous and Pleases, and I would have sent it without a second's thought.

But a few minutes before I even composed it, someone I work with called me up and said, 'Be careful how you write. That person has a history of being offended at the slightest (in some cases, imagined) things and being rude for no reason, and has created many enemies. You wouldn't want to make a mistake.'

As a result, the email that should have gone within three minutes, went two hours later, after I bit my nails to shreds and pulled my hair out, trying to polish my single-line request so that there was nothing remotely offensive about it. The overload of Thankyous and pleases and sorrys and outpouring of infinite gratitude must have sounded like I was begging on my knees. Better be undignified than sorry, was my excuse.

Everything went smooth and our further exchanges were cordial. (Later I heard several stories about this person - with evidence - that justified my colleague's warning. Apparently, anyone who has to communicate with the person in question finds it better to fall to their knees and beg forgiveness even before they have made contact.)

Scene II. If the protagonist of the above story was around my own age, the next one is much older. If the former exploded only if there was something mildly offensive in our actions, the latter found offence even where none of it could possibly exist. We would jump backwards and ask each other, 'what exactly had I said that provoked this outburst?'

You never know whence the explosion is coming. You just know it is.

Scene III. A lady contacted us for assistance with a work. And we told her not to worry, ippa sheriyaakki tharaam. Two months later, when she sent a polite reminder, I realised that it had completed slipped down our 'list of priority tasks'. This went on a couple of times. (Every time she sent a reminder, she would begin with an apology for disrupting our busy schedules.) Finally after almost six months (in our defense, not all of them were our delays), she allowed herself to become mildly irritated, and that spurred me into action. I kicked a few ... and got the job going. She showered me with Thank yous when it was done.

The explosive ones - in other words, the crying babies - get what they need. The pushovers wait and wait and wait, and they apologise for their waiting.

As a powerful person once said, you get more things done with fear than with love. (But as someone else added, it all depends on what you want.)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Canine Transformations

The dogs in my neighbourhood become Nagavallis at night.

I know that statement requires some explanation, but if you are wondering who Nagavalli is, I suggest you quit reading and leave.

Yes, the dogs in question are strays - but on second thought, I am sure that part requires no explanation whatsoever. Every city and town, every village and mall, every residence and school has its own share of homeless canines yawning and curling up as they are wont to do. It's a very Indian love-for-animals-and-let-them-live thing. The yawning and curling up must have something to do with their upbringing.

Without venturing into the reason behind these domestic wild animals running amok in our streets, I would just say that the dogs in the street before my house are purring kittens during the day time. Or eager ponies, if you like - given the way they trot around the area, looking important and dutiful.

I wonder what those expatriates living in those posh apartments yonder find in them - I see them stop their cars and beckon the doggies to them, some even call them by name, and I've seen one lady going to the nearest shop to buy biscuits so that she can place one by one in their hungry mouths. You should see how the tails wag all over the place, colliding against each other and against other cars that pass by. Some drivers stop at a safe distance to watch the show.

But come nightfall, a fearsome change comes over them. (Not the drivers, the dogs.) And what do you call a person who becomes another terrifying creature at night? Yeah. You know who. (Forgive me, Lord Voldemort, Nagavalli still lives.)

One night when we were returning home, we saw our friendly neighbourhood canine wag-the-tails lounging in the middle of the road, absolutely not wagging their tails. Granted, traffic was sparse at the time, but the middle of the well-lit street wasn't exactly their living room, was it? There was no sign of yawning or curling either.

Our car approached them cautiously, but they didn't budge. We took a slight detour around them. Two of them took offence at our action. They grunted their disapproval, as though they were issuing a warning. As we passed, they lunged at the car, almost scratching it. We raced out of the scene for dear life.

The next morning, I saw them again, trotting by our gate, calm and kind and loving, waiting for their biscuit delivery persons.

I am sure there is a very, very interesting story behind their curious transformation. Another Manichitrathaazh in the making...?