Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

24. Add On

During lunch hour yesterday, the Postman came to my workplace in search of me. He had an envelope in his hand. ‘You never meet at home’, he complained... it was more of an icebreaker (should we use this term in the context of looming global warming?) than a complaint. “Oh, you can always hand it over the parcels to my neighbors”, I tried to clarify. He did not pay any attention to my statement.

It was an envelope from BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited – telephone service provider under control of Government of India.). I pay my telephone bills (both landline and mobile) through ECS (Electronic Clearing System) – I get the bill every month and the amount is directly paid through my bank account. Therefore, I was wondering what this envelop might contain.

To my surprise, there was a letter with a SIM card. This ‘Add on’ SIM is free and there will be no monthly fixed charges. The letter explains briefly the benefits of this ‘Absolutely Free’ facility. The BSNL has spent millions of rupees on dispatch of these SIM cards to its customers.

The problem is I do not need any additional SIM, nor did I ever ask for it. Why the BSNL just could not check it with me in advance? They keep on sending me innumerable SMS regarding this ring tone, that song and that scheme. Why nobody at BSNL thought of confirming the need before spending? After all its public money, they are spending and so they need not bother about such simple aspects of work.

BSNL is not completely at fault though. In the consumerist atmosphere, hardly anybody says ‘no’ to free things. People keep on collecting unwanted things just because they get it free – that only means they do not have to pay direct costs. Why one should keep ‘adding on’ things in life at the wish of others – is the aspect, which I have hardly ever understood.

Normally, I would go to BSNL office and return the SIM card. However, I know, there would be complicated procedure. The idea again is ‘keeping the SIM should be easier’ (saving time, money, energy, mental peace…..) than ‘rejecting this ‘add on’ SIM facility’. This is ridiculous. This may be aggressive marketing but it is irritating enough.

I am neither going to follow BSNL nor will I try to ‘teach them how to work better’. I have decided not to add on anything in life just because some service provider wrongly anticipated my needs. I will add on things if I wish, no one can compel me to do so. Definitely, impersonal entity like BSNL cannot add on!

Not, when I do not wish.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

23. New Vision

I lost my spectacles on train. For a week, I was out of the city. I was amongst people who could ‘read for me’ whenever required. In addition, I was mostly using laptop for reading and writing, and I found that I could manage life without a spectacle very comfortably.

I had the old prescription with me. However, I took this opportunity to visit Ophthalmologist. He has a very busy schedule. Meeting him by appointment saves time and energy. So, fixing an appointment. The doc was away from the city, so I had to wait for 10 days. It was ok, because I was mostly in the office, and reading on computer was not much of a problem. I could not read papers, books and magazines well, but then I can always live without them.

I had a good fortnight. After coming home in the evenings, relaxed, thought of different things – I mostly tend to think of pleasant things – so was always smiling. Listened to music, listened to yoganidra audio cassette before going to bed, did some cleaning, chatted with neighbors, called plumber and electrician and a whole lot of home maintenance.

I went through routine check up. The assistant doctor told me that earlier I had a ‘short (near) vision’ problem, now it seems that I have developed ‘long (distant) vision’ problem too. Earlier my spectacle was only for ‘near work’ now it has to ‘bi-focal’. To assure me he said, “With the increasing age, vision is lost, it is very normal.” Obviously, he is young and is used to pronouncing the sentence at least 25 times in a day.

Oops….. I was always bad at ‘seeing’ things, which were near; age has nothing to do with loss of this faculty. I was born with that. But I always had the capacity (so I believe) to look beyond, to interpret subtleties, to dream for world which I was not given as birth right. I struggled in the process, but what a worthy struggle it was!

Now it seems that I will not be able to look beyond a certain range and the power will keep on decreasing. As it is I am not used to look at things nearby, and even that power is diminishing. So, what will I be looking at, now onwards? More importantly, what will be I looking for in the remaining life?

How funny it is that with growing age, one looses vision. One needs all sorts of external aid to ‘see’ around. Earlier due to rush of life, there was no time to ‘see’ things, now there is time but I cannot see much. (Of course, I am exaggerating!! I am talking about spectacles that every person needs after crossing 40....... So, don’t you worry......)

May be, it means only youth can envisage.
May be, it means that it is time that I spend all my energy in looking ‘inside’ – to look within.

Today, I finally have my new spectacles.

Then everything became clear. There is no ambiguity, no doubts, and no reservations.
Yes, the life span is limited and there are many things to do.

With external means, some journey could be easily done.

When that too will not be possible, time will tell me what action to take. Why bother right now?

Some new vision may emerge. May be, one kind of loss of vision creates way for another kind of vision. I should be ready to welcome this new vision.....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

22. Love and Care

It is second week of January. This is peak winter in this area. It is just 3.30 in the afternoon but the Sun has already decided to call it a day. The Sun is so pale that for a moment I mistook it for a moon. The bright yellow saraso flowers are silent. Are they meditating on a strategy of facing the chilly breeze? On the background of broken earthen walls, the scene is gloomy.

The breeze makes the winter cold more severe. The night temperature drops down to 1 to 3 degree Celsius and it is accompanied by fog. The Hindi word for fog is more beautiful – it is kohara. The Hindi word brings with it a flavor of mystery whereas fog just reminds me of pollution.

kohara starts encompassing the area as soon as the Sun sets, that is not later than 5.00 in the evening. It remains stationed till 9.00 or sometimes even till 11.00 in the morning.

I am in village Sarai Sultani in Pratapgarh district (Uttar Pradesh). We are a group of 30 people from 6 different states. Ten of us have come here to interact with Self Help Group (SHG) of women - other two groups are visiting two other villages. Actually, as always the organizers had told women to gather very early than the planned time. So, according to them we have reached late. The women waited for us and had gone back to their homes for work. Presently the days are too short to finish the tasks. The President of one of the SHG tells us that if women are late for meeting, they have to pay a fine. She half humorously and half seriously asks us to pay fine for our late arrival.

Within ten minutes, 20 women gather. I just see that the discussion is going on in the right way and desired direction. This is my fourth visit to this particular village. So, I am aware of the struggles of these women and I appreciate the change they have brought into their life and in the village. But I want others to find out the process for themselves. Apart from that, only I have a digital camera – so I am taking snaps.

Suddenly, by the side of the meeting I see this picture. A young man is covering a young buffalo with the help of a gunny bag. ‘What for it is?’ I ask. “Oh! It is very cold in the night outside, just to protect the young buffalo’, the young man answers. Looking at my bewilderment he patiently explains, “We use sweaters, shawls, blankets and jerkins to protect ourselves from cold weather, this animal can’t do it herself, so I am just helping.” It was a very interesting scene. The love and care expressed by the young man for his animal was worth watching, it touched my heart.

After the meeting, there were number of invitations to visit their homes. During the round in the village, I noticed all young animals were protected. See the goat here? She is wearing an old shirt. Some goats were wearing woolen sweaters. All young animals were covered with so colorful clothes, that it reminded me of a kindergarten. A number of children around us were smiling and laughing, I was capturing them in my digicam and showing those snaps to them ... which made them laugh loudly.......women were talking, men were discussing.... someone offered us amla laddu - sweets prepared by processing Indian gooseberry....

There was so much happiness and peace around. And Oh! Such a humane relationship these simple people have with their animals. Felt vary happy to see this love, care and concern and thousands of smiles.... Still carry the happiness with me...

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

21. Idlee and Paneer

When my colleague asked me about participating in a conference at Chennai, I gladly accepted the invitation. Chennai never was a destination for me. But it was always a place, which showed me the way to other likable destinations like Kanyakumari, Pondicherry. So, though I do not know much about the city, I have special affinity for Chennai. Now Chennai is different and so do I, but I have memories of Chennai which I relish even today.

I like South Indian food and especially filter coffee. That was one of my agenda for the visit. For dinner, I was expecting curd rice. Instead I had a north Indian meal. I was surprised. The waiters were speaking fluent Hindi. When I went on giving him various options for curd rice, he was amused. He said, “Madam, I am serving you the best of north Indian food. Please, taste it, you will like it.” I am not much fussy regarding food, so I easily gave up.

Next morning, there was a typical breakfast of corn-flex, canned juice, bread and butter, omelet, puri-bhajee…. and above that ness café. I was wondering whether I have come to Chennai or to Delhi. I asked for filter coffee. I did not get it for the next two days. Neither did I get Idlee. I had paneer subjee, with typical north Indian menu. …… . Most of the conference participants were from Tamilnadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. They were not at all complaining; on the contrary they were thoroughly enjoying the food.

The discussion with the waiters and hotel management revealed the fact that the hotel was owned by a man from Patna and all the workers in the hotel were from Patna and Allahabad. I found it very funny. They had picked up Tamil well, and were able to manage with locals. So, in Chennai for two and half days I ate lots of Paneer- as that was present in all food items.

Two months after this episode, I went to Patna. The place I was staying was naturally offering north Indian food. It was not very clean and I did not like the crowd there. I was alone this time and my colleagues did not understand how difficult it is in Patna for a woman to eat alone in a restaurant.

One evening, I was hungry, so went out at about 8.30. Just outside my hotel, I saw a big South Indian Restaurant. It was crowded, but looked clean and decent. I went in and ate food and had one of the best filter coffees. For next three days, I had my breakfast and dinner at the same restaurant. I was in Patna for five days, not only without eating Paneer, but having a treat of south Indian food.

There was a time, when you had to eat locally available food. When in south, I used to consume rice and in north whether I liked or not jilebee and samosa was the staple diet. Each place had its local flavor and eating was a way of cultural assimilation. People took pride in offering local food and you could never get the same taste elsewhere.

With the spread of consumerism and with the impact of globalization, now towns, cities and places have lost their identity. Each city has a MacDonald, Reliance Fresh, Café Coffee Day… and what not. Now all cities look, smell and make you feel alike. I cannot differentiate cities with open eyes… …They have lost their personality.

Paneer in Chennai and Idlee in Patna are symbolic of changing times and lost identities. They underline our craving for ‘other’ - running after those things which we don’t have. It also indicates hurry of forgetting our own treasure. This symbolizes our stubbornness – wherever we go, we carry our world with us, and never look at what could be the other world.

Is it good or not so good – I am not in a position to decide. But I definitely miss Chennai in Chennai and I have to search for Patna in Patna……

Saturday, January 3, 2009

20. Maker’s Choice

By the time I was coming home today, it was already 10.00 in the night. I had listened to very fantastic classical music concert, and was feeling very happy and light. As it is, I am not an enthusiastic cook, and at night 10.00 I can never think of cooking.

On the way, saw a bhel shop. Parked my two -wheeler and took a coupon as is the system at this particular spot. The man on the bhel counter was disappointed to know that I wanted bhel. He said, ‘Sister, I will serve you hot and nice ragda patties.” I wanted to eat bhel. But the man on the counter insisted. So, I politely said, “Ok, next time I will eat whatever you suggest, but today I want to eat bhel”.

The man responded, “Last time also you said the same thing.”

I was surprised. I keenly looked at him. A man in his 50s, possibly from Bihar, working probably as a daily wages worker, …. why is he interested in what I should eat. The man must have gauged my suspicion. He said, “Sister, I make ragda patties better than bhel. Now probably you won’t eat after going home, so I want you to eat my better dish. Last time I listened to you and served you bhel, but today please listen to me.”

Yes, I remembered. About six months ago, about the same time, this man had made the strange request to me. That time I wanted to eat bhel, and ate it. His remembering that incidence (because everyday hundred of people eat at his stall) made me curious. I asked, “Are you tired of preparing bhel?’’ “No, that is not the case” was his prompt reply. He said, “Sister, please listen to me. You will like ragda patties prepared by me. It is really good. People like it.”

I generally have compromising nature. I was in good mood after the concert, so I accepted his request. He served me the dish, which was ok. When I was leaving, the man came to me and asked, “How was my recommendation?” I just smiled. He looked offended. He asked, “Do you still want bhel?” No, I did not want it. But the man said, “If you have not liked the dish, I will give you bhel parcel. No, you don’t have to pay. It is compensation from me, because you did not like my best dish and I compelled you to eat that”.

He looked rather shattered while saying this. Then realization dawned upon me. Here was a man, who had certain skills, which he thought were best. Here was I who was not interested in his skills. I was engrossed in my own world. The man wanted me to serve his best recipe, and I was happy with his ‘not so good’ recipe. I wanted him to under-perform. By choosing his second rate recipe, I asked him not to give his best.

He was not trying to prove anything to me; he was trying to satisfy his urge of giving the best to others. He did not need my certificate, he needed his satisfaction. He valued things in one way, and I valued things in another way. He was unhappy because I did not understand his intentions properly and I did not value his skills….Wow! What a great person. A common, poor person with such great life view!! If everyone gives his/her best without expecting rewards…..

I understood him. I believe most of us will understand him, because more or less we too are caught in the same world that acts and reacts on different planes… The world where we are not valued for the best we can offer…. The world, where mediocre performance is expected of us….The world where money power makes non-experts valued more than the creators…. The world where appearance and authority is important than subject knowledge….

May be next time even if I want to eat bhel, I will go to the same shop. I hope one day I would learn to appreciate the best dish of this unknown, simple man. I do not want to please him, when actually I am not pleased. I don’t want to be hypocrite. I want to appreciate the maker’s choice from my heart….. May be, some day it will happen.