Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Train Journey

Many have written about train journeys. Most complimentary, some not so complimentary. Yet the writing continues. And now I take up the pen, or rather the key board. I hope I do my predecessors justice.

There is something about a train that fascinates the male mind (my apologies to the remaining half of the human population, since I have no evidence to the contrary I will have to surmise that you are not fascinated by trains). Maybe its the sense of power it radiates. The sheer sight of the engine making its way to the platform is itself awe inspiring. The huffs and puffs, the screech of the brakes, the loud hawking of the vendors, the mechanized voice of the announcer, the babble of confused voices shouting aloud a thousand goodbyes, take cares and see yous all make for a very potent cocktail.

And once on the train, the real fun begins. There is a wild rush for the window seat. And usually a great shout when the train begins to move. The luggage is secured. The train begins to gather speed and the landscape whips past you. The peculiar rocking motion of the train is another reason. Everyone brings out food packets and no one knows whose hand is where. Finally, the eating all done, the group separates in differing activities. Some begin to play cards, some make a furtive trip to the bathroom to smoke and down a drink. Some tipplers are a inventive lot. They buy a large soft drink bottle, preferably pepsi or coke owing to their dark colour. They dump half the stuff and add liquor to it. And they comfortably take a sip out of it openly. To all unsuspecting eyes they are enjoying a soft drink.

Others bring out cards and soon there is a big crowd around them. Till the Ticket Examiner comes. As soon as he leaves, the game is on again. A few take out books, novels and bury their noses in them. And then there are those who just look out the window. Like me.

The swift breeze generated by the furious pace of the train blows on your face. Your windswept hair brushed back by its force. Somehow the train's motion makes me feel at peace. And now the tracks curve and necks crane out to catch a glimpse of the engine puffing away. It seems amazing that that solitary engine can pull all these compartments. You wonder at the driver and all those people who are working to ensure the safe passage of the train. Sometimes you look inside the compartment and try to guess who each passenger may be. So many different faces, different thoughts. It seems a tableau of life.

Sometimes life too seems to be a train journey. We meet so many people on the way, past friends and acquaintances, future friends and acquaintances, well wishers, people who wish we were in a well, so on. People get off, get on. This is one train journey where all get to be drivers and passengers at the same time. There are those who grumble at the tardiness of the train or the unkemptness, some who do not like the their co passengers, some looking very anxious, some looking down and out, some full of life and having the time of their life, some quiet and some relaxed. Yet it is a journey one must necessarily take. If at all for the reason that you will never get a chance on it again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
-- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

One of the most profound statements on life that I have read. Quite easy to read. Difficult to accept. We all seek excuses for our failures. Many a time we see an extremely talented person in a position far below what he promised early on in his/her life. And we say, cruel fate and move on. But was it really fate? If we do a post mortem on the life that has been lived, we would see that at every juncture in life, we would have taken a decision that may have seemed simple at that time yet one that was life altering. It may be something as simple as deciding to ride on a bicycle even though you know that the air pressure in the tyre is low. You are to meet a person regarding some funding for college fees. On the way the tyre gets punctured and you wheel it to the cycle shop. Time passes by and by the time you reach the person's house its late and he has left for work. You'll have to wait till evening and the seat you sought in a college of your liking is a distant memory.

Many choices both right and wrong have brought us to where we are now. These are choices we made with our lives. What about those choices that we make that involves others lives? Many people in high offices or positions of responsibility are often caught in this catch-22 situation. Two people are about to be sentenced. You can save one of them. They both are friends. Whom do you save? And how will you justify ditching the other? These are questions that no one would want to answer in a hurry. And yet Life sometimes demands that we do so in a jiffy.

Over the years I have trained myself not to worry about decisions past. But yet there are a few I wish that could be undone and gone through again....

Oh! For a life minus regrets.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Being a teacher has its advantages. One gets to look at a wide swathe of humanity. From winners to whiners, you see them all. Recently, I heard of a piece of news that left me amused, angry, disappointed and just plain sick. A boy had hit a girl with his belt so hard that the girl fainted. Such an act cannot be justified no matter what the provocation. Well, there had to be a provocation for that if that had been a random occurrence. But it was not so. The boy and the girl were "lovers" (what that term means no one knows, its becoming such a cliche.. sheesh) it seems. And they were "sincerely" loving each other (another cliché). "Everyone" believed that their "love" would succeed. (I do not know what success they meant) There was just one fly in the ointment.

The boy had a peculiar habit. Every now and then he would thrash the girl to show his "love" for her. And the girl would bear it without a sound to show her "love". Once he had actually made her bleed. What a pair! Wah! Wah! This is "true love". (I thought that people considered love itself as true, never knew that there were categories like true love and untrue love. Maybe they are going to define "true love" as the feeling that contains 99% "love" and 1% impurities) Well, I am digressing.. To come back to the story, the girl has been admitted to a hospital and is receiving medical aid. The boy's parents came to college and secured his transfer certificate.

How stupid can people get? Well, that is a good question. The problem with stupidity is that you cant define a lower limit. People seem to revel in pushing it still lower. It is natural to fall in a crush at 18. If you do not fall, you are not human. But you should be able to identify a crush as a crush. How this girl kept on in an abusive relationship remains a secret. But why she kept on is no secret. She was following the typical portrayal of women in the visual media. Or in other words, she was plain dumb.

Last heard : She is still thinking about the boy and his "love". God help her.

On Being Alone

Many is the time we feel the urge to be alone (as opposed to being lonely). We want to be away from everyone and everything. Probably relish the company of Nature. I understood this recently while on vacation in Kodaikanal. I was in the company of friends. But what I liked best was rising early in the morning and wandering out in the early morning mist with just my faint shadow for company. It was mentally refreshing. No wonder many holy men walked into the jungle to pursue meditation. Better than any coffee that can be brewed up, the crisp air refreshed me to no end. And with no one to disturb me with chatter, I revelled in the solitude.

I do not mean that friends are a disturbance. But I feel that we are at peace with ourselves when we are alone. We learn to admire Nature in her pristine glory, think about how mechanical our lives have become. We just need to view the starry sky on a clear night to realize that we are just a speck living on a speck. Yet we think the world of ourselves. (Some think the universe of themselves) All around us, life is moving on. The spider does not know that we exist. It knows only the difference between the touch of a raindrop or the footfall of an insect on its web. Yet we seek attention all the time.

Yet, how many times has one looked up at the sky? We SEE, but we do not OBSERVE. A man was walking through an art gallery with a bored expression on his face. He bumped into an artist. "Sorry", he said "I wasn't looking." Seeing his bored expression the artist said, "Maybe you SHOULD LOOK".

The story doesn't end there. The first guy continued. "At what?" he asked casually. The artist looked around at the riot of colour around him and said, "if only I could lend you my eyes."

I would advise everyone to take a Mental Health Day, i.e, a day alone, a date with Dame Nature. I assure you, you wont regret it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Scope of it..

There are many scopes in existence that help humankind, viz., telescope, periscope, microscope, endoscope, even the kaleidoscope to name a few. Yet there is one scope specially designed by humans, the principal aim of which is the downfall of as many humans that believe in it. Its reputation is still growing strong even after all this scientific progress. It is the mighty HORRORSCOPE, er.. sorry, whoroscope, oops.. sorry sorry, the horoscope.

There are umpteen numbers of swamis who claim that they can talk to Jupiter in person and ask it to shift a few lakh kilometres so that it lands in an auspicious 'square '. Or to Saturn and request it to stop revolving for a year or so. These horoscopes are the idiot's answer to astronomical treatises. My argument is that there was once a fool, a man so completely bereft of brains that the entire village/town/city where he lived in ridiculed him. However he had one great ambition-to study astronomy. However, the study of astronomy required lot of grey matter inside the cranium and our friend did not possess even a gram of it. But he thought of a way. He began to borrow palm leaves from the students who had taken up astronomy and began to read them. Whenever he was caught doing that, he was teased. Yet he did not give up. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. With no one to explain gravity to him, he came up with his own answers. The planets and the stars were influencing us. They were influencing our lives. Voila, Eureka.. and so on. A new 'science' was born. Astrology-the study of the cosmos (with emphasis on the universe's influence on humans).

Overnight he founded an institution and imparted his new found knowledge to fool and idiot alike. It still persists today. People, even educated ones, believe that the planets and the stars influence us, as if they have no other work. They let the horoscope and its so called predictions run their lives. They consult it when they have to make important decisions. Yet when a truck is about to run them over, they do not consult it to see if its auspicious to jump out of harm's way. Is not that an important decision. Maybe the truck's licence number is lucky for them and will send them straight to heaven.

A person may never understand calculus, but he or she readily understands numerology - the study of numbers. No, this is not an offshoot of number theory. This has sprung from the loins of horoscope. It gave birth to many different idiotic beliefs. Perhaps no one gave it family planning advice. There is a gem of a theory-gemology. They examine your horoscope and advice you to buy a gem, viz., diamond, pearl depending on your sun sign or moon sign. Never knew that the sun and moon had signatures. Then there's another champion-nameology, the science of changing your name or choosing different name because it supposedly gives you good luck. Perhaps people would one day name themselves BIG SHIT, because its value is the lucky number 1. Please excuse me while I vomit.

Grain from the Chaff

Most people are able to separate the "grain from the chaff", i.e, the real talented ones from the "untalented" ones. Yet, many support the "chaff" just because the "chaff" belongs to their community or religion or other discriminating criteria that people put to use. They would rather that a "chaff" of their chosen criteria wins the prize, recognition, position than a grain belonging to other rejected, not accepted criteria. I think that by now you would have understood what I am talking about. I am not giving a talk on harvesting techniques. I am talking about the blind support that we give to some issues or people without allowing for their drawbacks or faults. When someone else points out their lacunae we become defensive and sometimes downright stubborn and rude in seeking to support our "pet".

Recently I attended a music competition. Seated behind me were, as was quite obvious from their vociferation, were the supporters of a participant. On hearing their hurrahs one naturally thought that the participant in question was highly talented. Alas. That participant was a nincompoop. His performance did not even take off, to the say the least. Yet, his supporters persisted in their hollering. That was really good of them. In an age where loyalty is thought of as a relic of a bygone era, their loyalty even to a dying cause was and is commendable. However, what happened next was totally unacceptable.

The next performer, a girl, stole the show with her dance moves and superb voice modulations. Added to that her song selection was impeccable which enabled her to showcase the entire gamut of her vocal range. If the Les Miserables behind me had appreciated her performance and given it its due credit, they would have transmogrified into gentlemen. They didn't.

They began catcalling and verbally abusing the participant in effort to dishearten or even intimidate her. It became so bad that the organisers had to warn them to desist else they would ask the bouncers to carry out their duty. They quietened after that.

The question is why did they do it in the first place? Why couldn't they accept the fact that there was another candidate who was visibly better than their candidate? Is the victory at all costs gluttony so infectious? I leave the debate open....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Fair Exchange!!

Today, people seem to change their partners (lovers, spouses, "friends") so fast that they sometimes forget who their current partner is. And sometimes an exchange can take place. While overhearing gossip recently, I was given to understand that a particular Ms. X was currently seeing Mr. B, while Mr. A was currently on very friendly terms with Ms. Y. Very good. Natural. But wait, was not it a few months ago that Mr. A was seeing Ms. X and Mr. B seeing Ms. Y? What happened to that? Oh.. Mutual Exchange. Maybe they should think of constructing a 'Love' Exchange where people can trade partners and also know which partners are in greatest demand.

Time to move on

When does one feel that one has been staying at a place too long.. as they say past one's welcome date? Signals could be anything from a cold shoulder to complete disregard. How would one feel when the toil, the work one put in over many years was disregarded and and one was made to feel very unwelcome. I understood the feeling recently. I believe it comes as a shock. You are made to realize that some people have no feelings or brains or a mind whatsoever. For them all that matters is that the pretence that all is well must go on. They do not care if you have served ten years or twenty. If you have outlived your usefulness, they have no more use for you and chuck you out. They justify it in the name of business. But knowing them, one can very safely say that they know naught about the business. They just want it their way. One can try advising that Plan A would be better, but they do not want plan A, they want a total nonsensical plan. Fine, have it your way. Your money, your plan.