Saturday, January 30, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
About ten years ago, I had my first Visiting Card. But the moment I realized that it was not eco-friendly, I stopped using those cards. Printing eco-friendly cards is possible, but it is a costly affair. I am aware that the card’s size and cost are directly proportional to the power of the person. But as I do not hold any power position or authority I actually do not need such card. When the lot of first hundred cards was over, I never re-printed those. I have never filled the requisition form and never put it to the administration department for more of those cards.
In the present era of cell phones and e-mails, one can instantly record the preliminary information of the person one wants to meet again. If someone insists on having a written proof, I generally tear out a paper from my pocket diary, write my name and contact number and hand it over to the person.
In most of the cases, I am aware that such an exchange of Visiting Cards is unnecessary, for you never meet those people again. For example, President of one really BIG company gave his card to me when we met recently. I cannot (yet) reject Visiting Cards when someone offers it to me, so I had to take it. But I know, probably I am never going to meet him again. If at all we meet, there would be certainly some kind of reference thread, so that we will not require Visiting Cards to identify and know each other.
Workshops, Seminars, Conferences are the worst places for me, because everyone there seems to carry Visiting Card. Not only that, everyone seems to be enthusiastic enough to distribute those cards. Some people gather as many Visiting Cards as they can. On such occasions I gather lots of cards. I keep them for few months, and if I realize that there has been no interaction with a particular person, I just tear away his/her Visiting Card. If I do not recall a person by reading his/her visiting card, I know it is time to throw away the Visiting Card. I must have thrown away thousands of those cards, but I have never regretted the act. I never had to recall any of those contacts. This is simply because I do not handle any kind of ‘business’, which is connected only through authority.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am rather a social person. My diary is vibrant with names of people whom I meet and whom I call (or write) regularly. I take efforts to maintain communication when I want or when the other person wants. There are phones, cell phones, e-mail ids, postal addresses and what not. But I do not need Visiting Cards for that purpose.
Few months ago, I visited a religious place. I like to visit temples and I am interested in human history a lot. So, when I found an exhibition, I did spend couple of hours there. I guess I was the only person reading all the posters, and display information. At the reception counter was a man in saffron clothes. Naturally he was a Samnyaasee.
He was an old man, must have crossed 80. But he seemed to be very active. He was talking to all the people who came to visit the exhibition. To me too, he asked many questions – from where I came, was it my first visit, how long did I plan to stay, did I like the exhibition, would I purchase few books etc.
I generally like people until they are strangers. I like to talk to old people, because what is history to me is their life. So, I too asked many questions to that old man. Seeing his saffron clothes, I refrained myself from asking any personal questions as such. But then he narrated his life story to me, which too was interesting.
When I was leaving, he asked me for my ‘Visiting Card’. I was astonished at his request. I had none, so as is my routine, I wrote my name and contact number on a piece of paper. As I turned, he called me again. His right hand was in his shirt pocket. He was smiling. He was proud and had childlike eagerness in his eyes. He pulled out a bundle, picked up one piece and offered it to me saying, “My child, keep my Visiting Card. Any time you want to contact me, here is the necessary information.” (For obvious reasons, I cannot display its photograph here!)
I was bowled.
Yes, this is the one Visiting Card; I am probably not going to throw away. Not that I will need to contact him. Not that I would like to have some more chitchat with him. Not that I want any spiritual or religious guidance from him.
This Visiting Card reminds me to be prepared for the unexpected. This Visiting Card reminds me how matter is winning over mind. This Visiting Card reminds me that even spirituality and religion is a sort of business.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
“Ah! The tea is very good. I like it very much”, I said.
I was traveling from Shahada to Pune, a 14 hour road journey. I was traveling by office vehicle. Generally I travel this distance by bus, but then I was just recovering from an accident, so decided to travel by car.
On the way, near Rahuri the driver needed a break. So, we stopped.
At the roadside was a small tea stall. Noting special about that stall. The tea stall was a small wooden box with two tables and few broken plastic chairs around. There were couple of jars of biscuits, cream rolls and khari. The stove was making noise. A young woman in her 30s was taking order, preparing tea, washing cups, taking and paying back money, talking to customers. She was of a small frame, looked bit worn out. She was alone. It was about 3.00 in the afternoon. There was not much crowd.
Generally, I am not an enthusiastic tea drinker. Many times I drink tea only because I need something hot to drink. Most of the tea I drink suffices only the quality of being ‘hot’. But I am smart enough to appreciate when I get a cup of good tea. And this was one of those rare occasions.
The woman’s face suddenly brightened up. She grinned from ear to ear. Her eyes were shining. Her body relaxed. She looked straight into my eyes as if to gauge my honesty. It seemed that I passed her test.
“Tai (sister), have one more cup of tea.” She said with a mixture of politeness and aggressiveness.
Now I am bad at that. I mean I cannot consume more just because something tastes good. Eating, drinking, seeing, enjoying are qualitative aspects and they are not directly proportional to the quantity of consumption.
“Thanks, but I do not really want another cup, though it is very good tea.” I tried to refuse politely.
“Oh! Don’t worry. You don’t have to pay for this extra tea. It is my gift to you” She added proudly.
Now this was something different. Here a poor woman was offering a free cup of tea to a relatively better off woman – just for no reason. I was suddenly interested in that woman. I said, “If you insist so…” She smiled happily and filled another of those big glasses of tea.
I relaxed a bit, sat on a chair, talked to the woman for half an hour. We talked about her business, her family, her kids, her life, her experiences, her agonies. She asked many questions to me. She wanted to know why I was traveling alone, whether the car belonged to me, whether I had a job and so on. It was a very egalitarian interaction.
Before leaving, I said jokingly, “If you offer a free cup of tea to every customer, you will not earn any profit. Why did you offer it to me?”
She was silent for a moment. As if she was weighing the consequences of sharing the secret with me. She took a deep breath. She looked beyond the horizon. She was bit sad. Again she smiled. Then she spoke very softly, “Tai, every day at least 200 people come to my shop to drink tea. Some of them are coming here for years. I am running this stall for the last five years. But you are the first person, openly appreciating my work, my tea. You see I invest my energy into it, and when you appreciated it touched my heart.”
I was speechless. I could understand the plight of the woman, who was doing a thankless job for years. Yes, everybody paid money for the tea, but nobody attributed non-monetary value to her work. What she sought was a little appreciation, though she needed money too for her bread, shelter and clothes.
Just to come out of that painful moment, I humorously added, “If people come to know that by appreciating tea, they would probably get one cup free…”
“No, the trick is to understand honest appreciation and appreciation as a bargain”, she said emphatically.
“Sorry sister, I do not understand. Please, explain it to me.” I requested.
Now she was smiling again. She said, “Very rarely people appreciate you for the sake of your work. Most of the rewards one gets in life are dishonest, superficial. People reward you because they want to hide their guilt; they want something in return from you – normally what you would not easily give. By rewarding you, they oblige you. So, the trick is to understand honest reward and dishonest reward. Like the traditional (mythological) Rajhamsa bird, you should be able to differentiate between those two. Accept the honest ones, reject the hypocritical ones. Never sell your soul to those who are not your well wishers.”
Wow! What a woman and what was her advice. I have not been fully able to follow her, but whenever in dilemma, I remember her. Then I realize that she did not offer me just a free cup of tea but something more valuable than that.
The conversation was her reward to me, about which I am proud and happy – for ever!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Lately a strange feeling is enveloping me. I do not know how to express it in words. It is a pull. It is a temptation. It is an addiction. It is a habit. It is becoming life. It is becoming larger than life.
It is hard to remember when I started writing. It definitely started with schooling, but I have no memories of my early writing. Because I still love words so much, I guess I must have learnt writing slowly, in a relaxed manner, in a creative way.
I always wanted to write. Writing for me is an act of soul searching. Unless one reaches the inner depths, one cannot write well. I know this because many times I have written badly. Honesty, sensitivity, empathy, detachment, intensity, creativity, hard work is essential for good writing. Writing in a way is a spiritual act – only if one writes for the joy of writing and not for appreciation and rewards. If one follows writing ‘religiously’, one can hope to reach that spiritual level.
In a true sense, I am just a beginner in the art of writing. I do not know why one feels like writing. I do not know what power drives me to write. I do not know why I write. I am sure people too feel this, when they read my writing…J If I can attain 1% of what I have said above, I will not only be a good writer but a happy and good person.
Every writer faces a phase when s/he can’t write anything. That is known as ‘Writer’s Block’. I have repeatedly experienced such anxiety and fear. After this phase, the first word I write is such a relief! The joy of liberation is a gift I constantly ask for.
However, here I am, going through another extreme phase. I have not read much about it, but I am sure every writer, nay every artist goes through it. It is a phase of chaos. One has too many ideas, too many thoughts, too many feelings but the power of articulation, the power of expression seems to be completely missing. It is like a traffic jam. You have fuel, you have a grand vehicle with power steering, you have motivation to drive, but you don’t move because there are too many vehicles on the road.
My mind is like a sponge. Every moment I live, I absorb something of it. It soaks in me. It influences me. It affects me. It teaches me. It is fine with me, because that is the way I am. I believe that to be able to write well, a writer needs to be involved into many things – ‘getting into others’ shoes’ sort of.
But with so many ideas in mind, and only limited time to write, I am becoming a little restless. I am experiencing a strong internal pull to express, to share, to articulate. As if the computer keyboard or the pen has a magnetic power. In the midst of the night, I get an idea, and I write. I no more have control over words, the words are controlling me. The unexpressed in willing to be expressed – and that is a strong will. It is as if I am possessed by words.
I guess I need to slow down. I need to objectively look at the moment of the strong pull and come out of that moment of temptation. The overdose of words is killing me (just exaggerating!) But I am compelled to write; because writing is the only art I am sometimes good at.
May be I will leave the keyboard and the pen for a while. I should learn playing harmonium, which I want to do for years. I cannot sing for the fear of having conflict with neighbors! I should purchase another binocular and begin bird watching once again. Because I am not good at any of these things, I can’t rush. I will be more relaxed. I will be more curious. I will learn more.
Guess what? I am experiencing another pull, a pencil pull. I am going to grab it and I am going to draw a sketch -for a change!
Friday, January 1, 2010
However I was left wondering only for few days. I realized that the colleague gets birthday list from HR department and he presents the same pack of chocolate to everyone. For the first time I realized that someone had dared to wish me so mechanically and so much routinely. A year went without any interaction with him. There was nothing common in us and nothing strikingly different too. So, there was nothing to talk about.
Next year, I accepted the chocolate with smile and politely told him: “Please, don’t mind, but I do not like to take gifts from strangers. I do not celebrate birthday. I would be happy if you don’t give me chocolate now onwards.” To his credit, he accepted this unusual request without moving his eyelid and then never bothered me again. I cursed myself for being in the world with such people around.
The same people keep me ‘wishing happy new year’ all the three times. They send SMS – which keeps on rotating in circles, they send some picturesque emails – you have to browse only two or three to understand the latest fashion. They handshake when they meet. Some people wish you in all these three ways – three times in a year. For many SMS/mails, I have to search my memory about who exactly the sender is. I mean, someone whom I have met about a decade ago, and never bothered to drop in or call and is wishing me thrice a year as if s/he is from some other planet. It is irritatingly funny or funnily irritating – whichever way you like to look at – half full glass or half empty glass :)
Generally I am not a very friendly person (that is why I write a blog? I am not sure.) It is not that I do not have friends. I am fortunately affluent in this regard. I spend exclusive time with them. I share life with them. I make myself available to them just to talk. Generally I do not give anything – not in terms of money and material things. Money I never had much and material I am never interested in much. But I don’t do things in bulk. I try to suit it to the needs, choices and likings of my friends. I am not able to satisfy all of them all the time, they have complaints about me. But they are sure that whatever I do, it is exclusively for them and it is from the bottom of my heart.
I am happy about the fact that I am not a wholesaler. I do things in small bits and pieces. I live from moment to moment. In the process I lose a lot, but well I gain a lot too.
I wish next year I should not receive any mechanical SMSs and messages. If I spend 2010 with people I care for, I guess my wish will be fulfilled. What is your guess?