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Friday, September 30, 2011

Life- A Master-Plan of Ambivalence



Wherever you go your mental baggage overshadows you. To escape the heat of the plains you rush to your temporary abode in the hills and life’s hassles are transported with you there. Life is cool but not always calm and quiet. In India you may go anywhere and can hardly find an untrodden path. Sea of humanity chases you everywhere. A few minutes of uninterrupted solitude for a rendezvous with your own self in the form of introspection, meditation or a soliloquy is a luxury you yearn for. You seek to interiorize within to make some sense of running around in the midst of inscrutable hullabaloo and maddening distractions. But is there any escape out of this maze of life’s ‘givens’- the name ‘existentialists ‘give to the things on which we’ve little control?

Then there is the other side of the same coin which exhorts you to seize the moment. Life is packed in moments; enjoy the exuberance of those transitory moments which make you soar in the sky by giving you imaginary wings of which dreams are made of. Time is fleeting; the darkness on the other side follows you like a shadow. Brooding and wining won’t take you anywhere. Wishing wells are for those who act and not for those who decry their fate and wallow in inertia. Flex your muscles and make grass greener wherever you go.

The truth is that, duality is juxtaposed inherently in our existence. Happiness is insignificant without pain or sorrow. A paradigm of opposites flows side by side.

Therefore let’s not allow joyful moments pass by unnoticed. Let’s drink life to the lees like Homer’s ‘Ulysses.’ Thomas Hardy’s classic statement in his ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ sums up the reality of life that, “Happiness is an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.”

Life’s joys are akin to a spider’s web so marvellous, intricate and ethereal which appears like magic on a special morning and disappears as suddenly. Likewise life springs surprises here and there to keep us beguiled. Indeed the show has to go on. Sagacity demands not to go over the top, rather try to take things easy.

Accept that uncertainties are embedded in the tapestry of our life. These are there to pose challenges and keep us grounded and pliable. Flow with the waves of time and don’t push too hard, is the lesson worth contemplating.

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Dear friends: What do you think of life? Please comment.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Portrait of a Farmers' Market

A farmers' market presents a colourful and pulsating microcosm of life every Saturday, where about we live. The market with which I am going to familiarize you with is held at a place (a spacious plot of land) where it can cater to all three urban estates and other adjoining areas. Men, women and children converge here in great numbers as a part of their Saturday routine. No kidding, it is actually a unique version of a departmental store. Though ostensibly, it is meant to be a weekly vegetable market but it is this and much more. It is somewhat like the fly markets in the West, minus the presence of antiques.
The shopkeepers start opening their sacks and fruit sellers, their card board boxes and spread their wares on the ground and on their handcarts (rehris ) around mid day. The customers slowly begin trickling in. The whole area becomes abuzz with human activity as the day progresses. Here and there people are seen haggling over prices. Women even kneel down to select best pieces. Men follow their women carrying bags overflowing with vegetables.
This place is truly a social and economic leveler. There are no class distinctions here. All classes of people frequent this place. The poorest of the poor rub shoulders with the high and the mighty. The sight of mounds of fresh vegetables that too at competitive rates is too tempting to be resisted. Somebody who visits it once will visit it often. The choice available is immense. It provides a double edged pleasure, shopping as well as an outing. For the shoppers at the lower rung of the economic ladder, it provides a much needed change and opportunity for eating out. Hand held carts are lined on one side dishing out assorted popular snacks like channa bathuras, aloo tiki burgers, chaat masala and gol guppas.
On one side there are improvised open sheds displaying an ample variety of household plastic goods, you name it and they have it. You can pick any and that too at a bargain price. Though I think the quality is suspect. There is galore of cheap ceramic mugs and other stuff and also a plethora of readymade garments for children and men. While taking a round I spy an exclusive corner for ladies apparel too, doing brisk business selling anything from bras to panties, slips, shawls, dupattas and what not. It is a wonderful mini market catering to a particular segment of society in full measure. One can even purchase pulses and condiments. There are also hawkers selling wooden spoons, ladles, churners; iron griddles, sieves with wooden frames, chhapati boards and rolling pins et al. Garden tools made by village carpenters also find their place here.
Apart from these, there are other star attractions also. The pop corn seller places his push cart at a vantage point where he can tempt children accompanying their parents. So many times I give in to the mouth watering pearly white corns and buy some to munch while driving home after grocery shopping. The groundnut seller also vies for your attention with his mound of groundnuts topped with a charcoal burning small earthen pot. The typical smell of roasted groundnut wholes beckon you and you end up buying some. Not to be left behind is the sugarcane juice seller. The business is manned by two people, one squeezes the cane in their old style machine and the other dispenses the juice with alacrity in the narrow long glasses with a squeeze of a lemon wedge and a dash of rock salt. It must be delicious enough to draw many as I always see people thronging the place.
As the day draws to its end the rush multiplies and there is so much buzzing around that it is an effort to be heard in the din of human voices. The hawkers reduce rates of vegetables to wind up before it is dark.
Contrary to the stated purpose of holding these weekly markets i.e. to eliminate the middle man between the actual producer and the customer, we find few genuine farmers present here. Those who do come bring their produce mainly vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and radishes in their tractor trolleys but most of the sellers buy the vegetables from the main market of the town in large quantities and make good profit because of the heavy sales and zero wastage. And they are able to sell even to the last kilo, as at the late hour, the labour force descend on it and take home the left overs at throw away prices. Everybody goes home satisfied and happy; buyers with loads of vegetables and an entertaining outing, hawkers with pockets stuffed with lucre.
This merry-go-round of motley human landscape gives a peek into the evolving and burgeoning India. It is also a metaphor of the growing socio-economic panorama of emerging India. It sweeps away the cynicism which we often feel these days and gives hope that India would surge ahead in spite of massive road blocks now and then.

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Dear friends, you're welcome to express your views on the subject by posting a comment.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Amber Visits Her Grandparents

Our cherubic grand-daughter, Amber visited us recently with her parents, affording us tremendous pleasure and joy. The moment she stepped into our house, her spontaneous exclamation with arms raised upwards was, “Nanu, such a big house! It is so nice.” We felt overjoyed at that endearing and cute gesture. Later her innocent prattle created an ambience of mirth and brought out spontaneous giggles from us all.
During her stay she climbed the stairs umpteen times to the roof and leaned over the parapet to talk to us down in the lawn, stomped over the fallen dry Neem (its branches cover a part of our roof) leaves, enjoying the rustling sound. I was reminded of Maria of ‘The Sound of Music”, when I saw Amber romping around a la squirrel (I‘ve befriended many in a nearby park) the whole day without taking a minute’s rest. She is vivacious like a bunny and capricious like a queen. One moment she was frolicsome and the next throwing tantrums to have her way. Bringing her round with some smart alternative offer was no mean task. The other day she saw me using Vaseline on my lips and asked immediately, “What are you doing?” I replied, “My lips get dry and I apply it to moisturize them.” After that her lips were getting dry every five minutes till I removed the jar from the dressing table and hid it.
Another day when I agreed to cook noodles –her favorite- for her, she became so excited and thrilled that she ran to me and while enveloping my legs in her tiny arms remarked, “You are the best, Nani Ma!” I bent down and hugged her tightly, brimming with delight which was all mine.
A unique persona she has even at this tender age of five. Nature truly has spent time in sculpting her body and mind. She is fairly tall, delicately built and has a sweet singing voice. She speaks only English but hummed the crazy song, ‘muni badnam hui darling tere liye’ in her own inimitable style. The beat tickled her. She is all girl - wears only matching tights and the likes with her frocks, no trousers for her. Gifted as she is with excellent features, light brown silky hair, a peach and butter complexion, perfect articulation and communication skills; it is a treat to be in her company. You better hear her to believe the exactness of her expression. On a walk with me she saw a dog with a hurt leg on the road and exclaimed, “Nani Ma look, look over there, the black dog is hopping on its three legs!”
Affection flows from her being like ripples in a water body. The absolute genuineness of her love for you is palpable from her body language. We were seeing them off at our gate at the end of their visit and after the usual hugs and hand shakes they were finally seated in the van, when I saw Amber trying to open the door. Her mom helped her and Amber stood in the door shouting, “Nanu, Nani Ma I want to kiss you”. And we were blessed with those sweet parting kisses of hers and were touched by her sensitivity and sensibility. I am sure Amber is going to forget all this but for us her grandparents, the memories of her visit are etched in our imagination and would be frequently relived in the days to come. We wish and pray that Amber grows to be an accomplished young lady, and make us proud!!! :-)







Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WHY SHOULD YOU WATCH T V?

Gone are the days when TV watching was a stress buster and helped one to relax after day’s work over a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of wine. Not any more. Actually I don’t like to watch TV at all. It eats away your hours and gives you nothing in return. We’ve become skeptical about the impartiality of news channels (which were my favourites once) in reporting news. To get enlightened about the happenings in the country you need to watch a channel with unbiased reporting. I don’t know if there is one. Sometimes I do watch BBC for a change.
The scenario is sickening in panel discussions. The debates have degenerated into mud slinging matches where games of one-upmanship and unbecoming pot shots are played ad nauseam. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Some like their own voice so much that they indulge in circuitous presentation and disgusting verbosity while making no point at all and compel the viewers to get up or switch off. You need to possess thick hide to sit through them. But those who’ve the patience to sit through such debates are intelligent enough to sift the grain from the chaff. They can’t be hoodwinked anymore.
About daily soaps -which are generously dished out on numerous channels- less said the better. They neither educate nor entertain. Look at the triteness of the story line and content. So regressive and obscurantist .Agreed they’ve given employment to scores of young boys and girls and oldies too. (Ammas and Dadus are in great demand!) But at what cost to the poor viewers? Marriages, Pujas, festivities at the drop of a hat, unbelievable and contrived twists and turns of the plot, extremes of emotion, devilish villains, menacing vamps and milk pure protagonists are the stuff upon which these soaps are structured.
The situations and characters in them have no semblance to reality. How ridiculous to see bejewelled women wearing shimmering sarees sleeping in their finery. Apart from conspiring against one another they’ve little else to do. For how long can you stand nauseatingly childish and repetitive fare? After watching few episodes of a select few, you declare to yourself, “Enough is enough” and bid good bye for ever. After all suffering your sanity at the altar of such tripe is no wisdom.
OMG I just forgot the so called ‘Reality Shows.’ Do they project reality? I watched the dance show where Madhuri was one of the judges. Dance performances were alright and I would say entertaining in the beginning. But the most boring part was, listening to the comments. It looked as if it was not meant to entertain but to turn the viewers into masters of the art form.(How naive!) Moreover the show morphed into circus acrobatics. There is surfeit of such shows and most are insipid and give a feeling of deja vu. And the results appear to be rigged.
The comedy platter offers a notoriously dismal stuff in place of an expected gourmet fare.The genre has lost its aesthetic vigour. The forced laughter of the judges is the last straw. The content in ‘Comedy Shows’ is disgusting, mindless, degrading and shaming our intellect. There is no comic relief worth the name. Such shows have the capacity to make dullards of us by nipping our creativity and blunting our discerning power. The more we watch such junk the less discriminatory we’d be. Someone has aptly remarked, “Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object.”
Long back there were family serials like ‘Buniyad’ , ‘Hum Log’ and informative ones like, ‘Bharat ek Khoj’ and many more which were the darlings of the people and had authenticity and gripping story line meant to educate and enlighten. Sadly we ‘re starved of such quality products.
Our TV programmes certainly need overhauling. At present only moolah rules.

I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book (Groucho Marx).


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Dear friends, what do you think of the role of television in our lives today? Pl. give your opinion on the subject in the comments below. Thanks for coming.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Five Ways to Love and Keep Loving

We are besieged by innumerable ills. Probably, we have forgotten to love and have left it far behind in our hectic pace of life. But then aren’t we paying a heavy price for it with disintegration of life all around us? Thomas Carlyle says, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge” and everyone believes that love begets love. All our religious books and scriptures teach us that love is the most sacred of all emotions. It encompasses the elements of care, concern, respect and knowledge which govern all our relationships on this earth.
Now to practice and promote love that enables us to develop our innate potentialities to the maximum and contribute to the good of all, we need to assimilate a few significant character traits. Before the discussion, here is a quip.
“Learning to love, like other arts, demands practice and concentration. Even more than any other art it demands genuine insight and understanding.” Erich Fromm.
Erich Fromm in his book “The Art of Loving” discusses at length the values which if mastered will open up the possibilities for a healthy, happy and a prolific life. Here are the five tips.

1. Live a disciplined life

Discipline is liberating. It is a symbol of caring and concern for the family. Bernard L Montgomery says, “Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear.”

Present day work culture however, enforces a kind of discipline which stifles but it can’t be escaped for reasons of livelihood. Outside work, as a reaction to the monotony of our jobs, we indulge in mindless fare. However sloth and laziness are enemies of love because precious time is wasted and almost nothing is achieved. In a sloppy family, procrastination rules the roost. Children’re neglected. Things don’t get done on time as the day starts almost at noon. Nobody is happy in a messed up scenario. Quarrels are a daily occurrence. Love has no chance to flower in such a chaotic environment.
On the other hand discipline is a gateway to a meaningful life. In a disciplined household every family member knows what is expected of him/ her. Tasks get accomplished in an atmosphere of cordiality and amity. Delegation and accountability ensure quality and alertness in the discharge of duties. Life is always in the act of becoming and transcending the present (to borrow the words of Existentialists). Love and cooperation carouse around freely.

2. Concentrate on your tasks

“Concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.” Says Dale Carnegie the author of best seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”


We miserably lack this quality as we want to do multiple tasks at one go: eating, reading, drinking and watching TV at the same time. We remain distracted and fidgety and can hardly achieve any aspect of love. Charles Dickens quipped. “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without my determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”

Sadly we remain restless. To overcome this malaise we must take up activities like meditating, walking or gardening which can actually lead to solitude, introspection and appraisal of our actions and renewal of energy. For love to proliferate it needs nurturing and uninterrupted quality time together that are a casualty in our frantic existence. It is said, ‘If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.’

3. Exercise Patience

Isaac Newton has said, “If I have made any valuable discoveries it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” Understandably the modern industry is based on mass production and quick results. In the race for profitability, human values have been replaced by economic values. On the contrary every fruitful action demands time and patience. Patience is a bulwark for marital stability, love and peace in the family. “Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience, impatience breeds anxiety,” says the great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Develop patience to do some creative work, to read a good book, to guide kids in their school work or to take up pending jobs at home.
In high voltage situations exercise of patience can save many a love.

4. Listen to each other

We generally prefer to talk rather than listen. We love to be heard. But listening to others effectively by giving your full attention enhances your own growth emotionally by cementing your bonding with others. Listening skills further your intelligence also as you can understand and know people better. Listening genuinely and with interest to your spouse, children and near and dear ones, help them to vent out their pent up feelings. It helps in averting many unfortunate situations from developing. It promotes love, trust and camaraderie.

5. Manage your time and attend to small things

Prioritize your daily activities and try to follow the schedule religiously. You’ll remain calm, and have time for exercise, attending to your children, sharing tidbits with your hubby, fixing a nutritious meal and doing small things which are not spectacular but important for the health and happiness of your family. This will automatically build a positive and loving orientation to life. Trivialities and escapist activities are shunned by a focused mind yielding to love and goodwill in abundance.

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Dear friends, share your own experiences on the subject for making life more purposeful and fulfilling by your comments.







Sunday, September 11, 2011

MY TRYST WITH NATURE BEGINS AGAIN


After a two month break - was in the hills July/August when it was searing heat and suffocating humidity in the plains- I am back in  home sweet home and  my daily tryst with nature, something which almost makes me feel  on cloud nine begins once again. Now hopefully the weather is changing for the better. In my home town Patiala my connection with nature is on a micro level. I commune with the flora and fauna of the park which is my destination for a morning walk for the moment. Why I’ve chosen this venue is due to its being at a stone’s throw from my house and secondly it is not frequented by many. I prefer to connect peacefully with the objects around.

Today (5th September) for example the birds kept me company. When I stepped in, scores of white cranes- with long black legs and yellow bills- were busy pecking in the grass for worms. I could note the change in their body language instantly. They stopped pecking and stood alert, straining their long necks for any danger signals. Satisfied that nothing is amiss and perhaps trusting me they resumed their activity, but after flying to a safer distance away from me. Then I spied a vulture overhead and sensing danger the whole lot of them flew away within seconds.

There was also a crowd of the ubiquitous larks twittering gleefully and hopping with abandon, relishing their breakfast as some of them with worms hanging from their beaks seemed to be in the look out for a secluded place to savour the delicacy. They seemed to be having a field day with short flights here and there inside the park, in search of food. Underneath the dark brown exterior their wings show white designer patches which look enchanting when they fly. I left them to their antics.

A few fish tailed blackbirds attracted my attention next as they were chasing a yellow coloured bird probably a predator in a frenzied squeaking. A lone black butterfly with speckled behind, hovered around. A couple of pigeons I spotted fluttering their feathers above the window shade of the house across the road. Overhead a foursome of parrots flew past hurriedly as if on some important mission. Perched on a high voltage wire a lonesome dove was coo cooing perhaps waiting for her partner. On a richly leafed tree a kind of warblers were having a gossip session vying with each other to keep up the crescendo.

Two black stray dogs were giving me company as well. Though I better not to have such company. One was lying in the middle of the pavement and I passed by it many times via a safe detour and the other was having a snooze under thick bushes. I was all the time conscious of their presence. The stray dog menace in spite of many tragic fallouts is here to stay. The authorities refuse to learn any lessons and pass the buck all the time. The hapless citizenry looks on.

However the creature that affords me utmost pleasure and inspiration- guess who? It is the utterly cheerful, fluffy and sprightly, squirrel. It is my all weather friend. What a designer body!!! Dark brown and silver grey stripes on the upper body and mouth and tail dons a salt and pepper coloured fur. They present a picture of endearing positivity. Pause and get treated to a live display of their capers from one tree to the other and their ease and daintiness as they cross the gaps between railing spikes around the park. Their liveliness is infectious. I enjoy watching their graceful scampering on the ground, as they forage for seeds, nuts and acorns. I sometimes ask myself, “Which setting of genes they‘ve been bestowed with by nature that makes them so carefree and happy?” We surely can learn some life lessons from them. When I return home I feel bathed in the sunshine of gaiety and mirth which my dear friends rub off on to me.

As soon as the sun shows up in its glory, these visitors leave for their shady environs. But before they do so, I too get back to my safe haven.

Dear friends: Your comments on the write ups are welcome and will be earnestly appreciated. Pl. share your own experiences.
Here is a light moment:
Mother: Please God, don't let John play the match. But if he plays, let him win.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

JOYS OF LEARNING

I am in my sixties and feel more spirited and enthusiastic about certain things than ever before. Earlier family responsibilities and a job (which had their own charm and ambivalence) left hardly any time to experience any thing other than the extensions of these.

However, I am a free bird now. Life’s daily hassles apart; I’ve plenty of time on my hands to pursue my passions. I do spend hours in perusing newspapers, reading my favourite books, browsing the internet and dabbling in writing .The internet has blessed me with much power by broadening my world via social networking and blogging. There is plenty of food for thought and reflection.

Internet has changed my world entirely. I consider it the best thing, which could have happened to me. The credit goes to my husband (a self learner) who has helped to open the mysteries of the ‘World Wide Web’ to me. Later with my own efforts, I found myriad ways of entering this magical ‘Sim Sim.’

I find it to be a treasure trove of knowledge and information about anything and everything on this planet. Search engine Google transports me to anywhere in the world at the click of a button. There are very good sites which I visit regularly, where you can find articles by eminent medical professionals written in a simple, readable language about all sorts of health problems. You can benefit from the information and treat minor ailments yourself, saving many a visit to the doctor. By the way I consider ‘HEALTHbeat’ a Harvard Medical school publication extremely useful.

I communicate with my children and friends within minutes without incurring any expenditure through email. Video chatting via ‘Skype’ adds to the pleasure of communicating with my near and dear ones.

I no longer need to keep clippings of my favourite articles in newspapers. I can access online editions of all major newspapers, if need be.

A few discomforts and age related changes I’ve gone through but these haven’t diminished my desire to tap hitherto unexplored territories. I’ve not allowed my inability to read the small print of labels, expiry dates and other information, make me feel helpless. Nothing can deter me from penning my impressions about the world around me the way i wish to. My eyes do get tired sometimes and I’ve to curtail my forays. But a good pair of spectacles has eased out my difficulties.

For example I’ve bidden good bye to wearing high heels or fancy shoes and instead settle for a pair from Dr. Scholls’ limited variety for pneumatic feel and balance. Comfort, not fashion is what I look for now.

My digestive system does throw tantrums off and on but I manage it with sensible eating habits. Internet research has enlightened me a lot in this direction and I make full use of it. Once in a while I break the rules to indulge my taste buds.

Energy levels may have depleted but I remain active, alert and learn something every single day.

It is about forty years into my marriage but I feel fresh and vibrant as if it happened only yesterday.
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Dear friends: Pl. give your take on the above narrative in a comment.

Let us laugh together:
An overweight fellow went to a doctor. The doctor said, " I want you to eat regularly for two days, then skip a day and repeat this procedure for two weeks." When the fellow returned, he shocked the doctor by losing 20 pounds.
"Why that is amazing?Did you follow my instructions?" The fellow nodded," I'll tell you though. I thought I was to drop dead that third day."
"From hunger you mean?'
"No, from skipping."