Thursday, October 9, 2014

Heighho to the Himalayas, again

It is that time of the year again. A time when all my long-suffering readers eagerly look forward to, when I vanish into the mountains and give them respite from my relentless flow of words. AND, may I say, a small ray of hope which probably fills their days with roseate thoughts - that I may be seduced into trying to 'find' myself in some remote cave there, leaving them in permanent peace. THAT hope, though, is totally in vain, since I have long concluded that there is nothing really to find in myself - what is the point in scrutinizing a vacuum, square inch by square inch?

My hosts, from the night of October 9 to the morning of October 11, shall be the esteemed Indian Railways, whose scrumptious meals I shall eagerly look forward to, as the only means to break the monotony of the day. The problem with A/c travel is that you hardly ever get to really take in the landscape that you whiz past. BUT, alas, the problem with non-A/c travel for me is that I can hardly even take in the compartment I am in, so focused I am on the rivulets of sweat that wend their way along various parts of my body.

From the October 11th to October 18th, my long-suffering friend from my working days shall take over. I do not take those people seriously, who claim that murmurs were heard in the vicinity of his house on the lines of "I thought we were safe because June had passed and he did not come. How was I to know that this year he would choose to come in October? Otherwise, I would have planned to visit the Sahara for a pleasant holiday." No! He is a sweet guy and I am sure that he is bending every nerve and sinew to ensure that Delhi, even if it does not approach Bangalore, is more a city to live in, and not merely a giant oven to bake people for some humongous cannibalistic orgy.

From the 19th to the 2nd November, you guys will sorely miss the sight of me trying to make out like a veteran trekker while actually moving more like an overburdened snail - except, of course, that the snail bulges only in the back. That huffing and puffing arthritic zombie muddling along on the trails of the Upper Mustang trek in Nepal would truly be a sight for sore eyes and an inspiration to all novice trekkers - on the lines of "If HE thinks he can trek, then WE can do it easily" - but THAT, alas, does not lie in your fortune to witness.

The Indian Railways shall take over again from the night of the 4th to the morning of the 6th. AND, once I land back here, I shall have the pleasure of chasing up computer technicians and plumbers to get my laptop, a couple of valves and my water purifier working again. They decided to take a vacation along with me AND ensured that my return, at least, shall remind me of my working days - by ensuring that I come back with regret AND a vast displeasure to getting back to the routine.

BUT, meanwhile, it is heighho to the Himalayas!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Empowerment

"You are simply wasting your time. You should be working for the empowerment of those less fortunate than you."

"Ah! So, you really can give to others what you do not have yourself?"

"What do you mean? That I try to give wisdom when I do not have it myself?"

That's always the problem. You mean one thing, the other guy takes it in some other sense. At least this chap openly said it and gave me the opportunity to clarify.

"No! No! I mean that you think I can give power to others when I have none myself."

If I were any more powerless, I would be the dead battery that you throw away, cursing it for giving up just when you are in the middle of something important. To think of it, I would not mind someone empowering me.

"I think I can do with some empowering myself. Know of someone who can empower me in my interactions with the world - especially government?"

"Nonsense! The moment I talk of empowerment, all you can think of is how to get something for yourself. If you feel so powerless, why don't you think of others like you whom YOU can try to empower?"

"WHAT? And lose his company in feeling powerless? I'd rather be powerless together with him than powerless all by myself."

"The typical crab mentality. You will not climb up yourself and you will do your best to pull down someone else who is climbing."

"Well! Why can't I be the person climbing and you tell the others to not pull me down?'

"AND? Once you climb up, will you help the others get empowered too?"

"Hmm..I think that it would be a disservice. After all to win against difficulty builds character. So, if I help them, they will not be able to build their character, since they will have it easy. How can I be the reason for their losing that opportunity?"

"Ah! You really ARE a facile SOB. So, you will apply the same standards to your children?"

"Come on! What is the point in my getting ahead in life if my own family derives no benefit from it? Why would I suffer and slave at getting ahead in life, if they are also to start from scratch?"

"You really are a selfish brute. You want someone to empower you but, once you do have some power, you will keep it all for your family."

"Huh? THEY are expiating the sins of their ancestors. What have I got to expiate?"

There was a loud popping noise as my friend swelled up and burst.

Meanwhile...will someone find me and empower me? Pretty please....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tomorrow never comes

A decade and a half, nearly, of working together daily. Of practically living in each other's pockets for days on end. Of finding, thanks to his company, that life can be lived with irrepressible joie de vivre. Of observing, though not learning, that provocation can be brushed away as less than pinpricks. Of finding that, if you are capable of ignoring the prickles, most people can be sweet.

Of shifting to Bangalore, leaving behind, geographically, someone close to you, with the firm thought that absence shall not mar the friendship. Of finding that friendship does last, though we do not meet. Of meeting, once a year, with the same warmth that we used to share when we were together. Of keeping the friendship alive in the mind, but losing yourself in the day-to-day activities of your current environs.

Of learning from someone else that your friend has been diagnosed with cancer in the third stage. Of knowing, shockingly, that he had known it the last time you met and had not let you know by word or gesture. Of talking to a man, still full of cheer, who did not want his troubles to mar your enjoyment. Of vowing to call up more frequently.

Of trying to call up a few times and not being able to connect. Of lapsing back into the routine of the day and letting things slide.

And, now, knowing that THAT lamp of joy is guttering out, to be extinguished some time soon.

When Yudhishtir said that the greatest miracle was that people, seeing others die around them every day, still lived as though they would live forever, he was effectively saying that people ought to prioritize their actions based on the assumption that they may not live to see tomorrow.

The bigger tragedy is to live as though you will be able to connect with the people close to you some time in the future - and finding that THAT is not possible. Regrets and guilt are for the living to experience - and not all the regrets will bring back all those lost opportunities.

His family's will be the greatest loss. Mine is loss enough - and I wish that it were a loss not tinged with regret. Regret that I left for tomorrow what should have been done today.

And a lesson I hope not to forget again.

For some things, sometimes - Tomorrow never comes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fifty-one and kicking (and screaming too!)

My life has always been full of ironies. When in my twenties, it was tough for me to get to first base with any woman. After all, when the conversation starts off with her calling me 'Uncle', it becomes sort of difficult for me to think that it is a promising start of a budding romance. Talk about getting friend-zoned, I was getting uncle-zoned. And, now at fifty-one, when the 'Uncle' would probably sit easier on my ears, I get everyone calling me 'Suresh'. Ah! No! No! No! It is not that my chiseled features, wavy hair and well-toned body have rendered me a damsel's delight. NOW, I am getting friend-zoned, that is all. AND, in a few years, I will probably get child-zoned - do they not call senility the second childhood?

And, no, THAT is not the reason why I am single. In case you did not know, when I was in my twenties, all it took was a decent job, and the arranged marriage system would take care of all the rest. The designated victim bride would (wo)manfully swallow her nausea at the sight of me and consent to the wedding - dutiful daughter that she would be. Not that women are less dutiful as daughters these days, it is just that they have redrafted their duties, and a good thing too. The previous draft was good only as an instruction manual for robots. (Can someone please enlighten me about why people are so happy with 'dutiful' sons/daughters/wives/whatever? To me, if someone said that I had a dutiful something-or-the-other, it always seemed like the other person would rather jump into a fire than do whatever it was for me BUT for their sense of duty. AND, the fact that I never could understand why their doing this under coercion of duty ranked higher than their doing something willingly shows quite clearly that I was born a social misfit.)

Where was I? Ah! I was about to say that turning fifty-one had not made much of a change in my life. I never did feel my age since I had always been made to feel old, even when chronologically I should have been considered young, thanks to the absence of a few strands of dead keratin. Since I never did feel my age, I could happily think of starting trekking at 41 without a thought of creaking bones and screaming muscles. Why, I could even think of venturing, for the first time, into the thickets of Social media at close to 50. Not that I could claim to be an adept at it or even think of becoming one over the course of what remains of my life. I am yet to understand the all-important role of selfies - that a selfie a day keeps boredom away. Leave selfies, I have not even graduated from the passport-size photographs, which is all my generation knew of self-photography. I know only one meaning for friends. That is grossly insufficient - you need to know of Like-for-Like friends; Share-for-Share friends AND be ready to measure the friendships based on "Have you LIKED/SHARED my status, lately?" No! I am still a total novice at the business and likely to remain so. Which is why I shall be left with only that handful of Facebook friends I have now and not the zillions that are possible.

Not much of a change in my life, did I say? Not really true. We all mumble things about 'Age is merely a number', while scheduling the visit to the dentist to take out yet another painful tooth. In my case, the teeth are not the issue, yet, the eyes are. When you see me sitting in front of my laptop with eyes pouring tears, please do not be mislead into the thinking that I have been moved by some sensational piece of writing. It is more likely that my eyes are in tears at the thought that I will not give them surcease from the glaring monster in front of them.

AND the brain! I have reached the point where I am expecting to see myself saying, some day soon, "I am...wait...the name is at the tip of my tongue..starts with 'S', I am sure...", and without even the escape of saying, "The face is familiar...I am just not getting the name." So, if you see me walking forlornly on the streets and I do not recognize you, please do not be offended. If you accost me and find that I do not recognize myself and ask you, pathetically (like the yesteryear heroines who seemed to be genetically prone to amnesia), "Who am I?", please do not shock me unpleasantly by abruptly telling me the truth. Take me kindly by the hand, lead me to some shady nook, seat me safely so that I cannot hurt myself when I faint away, and break the bad news.

All said and done, fifty-one is not too bad. In fact, life is pretty good, indeed. AND, I can look forward to losing all my bad memories when I forget myself!