Friday, November 20, 2015

Swanky Rick Driver

Whats with me getting into conversation with auto rickshaw drivers? Most times it starts with me being empathetic with their everyday "struggle" in life to earn few hundreds while its as easy as "signing few papers" for office goers. I pass a word or two about how tough life has become and I totally understand and agree its doubly unfair on them. Well, its a win win. I get to travel in peace for the rest of the journey and their ego gets satisfied. 

But there are times when I get to bear the brunt of being a listener. 2 days ago; I hired an auto and the driver looked hip; with an ear stud, a partial mohawk, designer beard and jeans. It was raining and bad traffic jam. He started complaining about the traffic and I emphasized with him. 

It didn't stop there. He wanted to know if I am Kannada or Tamil (the conversation so far had been in Kannada and his accent gave away that he was a Tamilian). He later claimed to have guessed my mother tongue by my face. Well, such talks makes me very uncomfortable. Ive been hiding my second names forever now because it reveals my linguistic and community identity. Now this guy claims to have rightly guessed my language by my face! I have been mistaken for a Marwari and a Malaysian and even Sri Lankan elsewhere. 

As I rolled my eyes and waiting for the traffic to clear; he started sharing about his life. He was not good in studies, just 7th grade. How he blew up money unto 7000 Rs everyday along with his friends visiting pubs. Only much later did he realize the importance of money. He was driving cars but for some reason; he was terminated after a month or so by every other employers and he doesn't know why? I chided myself for being mean but I thought "What else would anyone do if you dont have an inch of humility?" 

The conversation then moved to my hometown. I said I am from Bangalore and so were my parents. He said he is also from Bangalore; his parents migrated decades ago and his father serves in a public sector for 30 years now. And then I was thrown a challenge. "Can you take a wild guess how much my dad earns now?" I took a guess and said "Around 50000 Rs?" To which he responded 50000 and some Rs. I was glad that he didn't ask me what I was earning or how much my parents would be earning. 

So far; so good. But what offended me was his way of pulling others down. During our course of conversation; I said I lived my life and did my schooling in an area surrounded by Air Force campus. He could recognize that area and his question was "Oh! Did you live in that slum behind air force?" Well...well...that was not warranted. 

So when I got an opportunity I wouldn't miss it; would I? When he said his dad was in public sector and in those days; it was easy to get a job, I retorted "Oh yeah! my parents used to tell the same. Even cattle herders and illiterates were forcefully called and given jobs in public sectors" 

How is that? 

Monday, October 5, 2015


You are given choices all the time; every turn in your life. To

Ignore or Attend to - When you see a wounded stray dog on the road. I saw one the day before with his tail badly damaged while commuting by auto. The dog seemed calm; but my heart skipped a beat when I saw the raw flesh. I thought about all the dust, infection and the struggle. I wanted to stop the auto; run after him and take to a vet and at least dress his wounds. My thought stopped there; I took no action. Why? Everyday; I see at least one stray wounded, bruised and battered. I so want to take them all in. I choose to ignore. 

Love or be Indifferent - You are given a choice to either love or hate? I wont call the opposite of love is hate. Hate is still fine; its the indifference that hurts more. The person whom you love, care and wish good chooses to be indifferent. What do you do? Either choose to continue to love or ignore. Continue to do what you'd do. How can you stop just because the other didn't reciprocate your feelings? Is it give or take? Its not a transaction right? 

Thank or Crib - Well, to each his own. We think our struggles are the greatest and worse injustice has been done. While you are fighting to hold on to the person you love; give a moment and think about the thousands of refugees who are forced to abandon everything for no fault of theirs. Now do you thank for whatever you are provided with - meals, a decent job, clothes, shelter, a smart phone to express your criticism or crib about traffic, your job, your partner?

Be Calm or be angry - When you are being tested, being questioned, taken for granted...You can either talk rubbish and use foul language, express anger or just stay calm. Is being calm and being at receiving end a sign of weakness? No! its just that you are mature and stronger than the other person who is expressing the anger. 

Let Go or Hold on to - Sometimes its better to let go than hold on to something that would not empower you and nourish you. Letting go; in other words giving up. You can only try for a while and then let go for the best of everyone. 

So see, there is a choice in life all the time. Good person or bad person. No one knows what happens to us after our death. What happens to our soul? While we are alive; we have a choice all the time; until death. Its us who can take control of how we want to be. Sometimes the decision taken can be termed stupid, foolish and even hopeless. But if you feel you did the right thing and feel satisfied about it; make that choice. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Heard and Observed....

When you are on the road; which most times you are commuting to office or home or someplace else; if you happen to be in any major city in India, there are chances of encountering either an interesting conversation, or an amusing scene that will keep you entertained. Sharing some of my recent ones...

I have the privilege of listening and observing lot of things going around at the railway signal I need to pass through. Sometimes; 2 to 3 trains pass at a time; so you have to for a while. Thats when you get to hear and see interesting things. Recently heard this conversation between two guys on each side of the auto I was on. So you see; I dont have a chance but to hear their talk. Men; generally talk about their capability; whatever context it may be. So one guy starts with asking the other one if he heard about "Victor" being slapped by someone at the bar. This one responds with "Yeah, heard it. He has decided to keep his mouth shut here on". The one who started this has to now feed his own ego; now said "Yeah, he is going to get from me one of these days. I am going to beat him up. Do you know; his car was taken away by the bank. He failed to make loan payment. This is his third car." So it went on that way for five more minutes. Phew! guys talk is it?

Posted this on FB couple of weeks ago....I was walking Gypsy this evening. He has lot of fans and admirers who Ooh and Aah his handsomeness and gait. Overheard this conversation between a lady and her 10ish year old girl in Kannada. "I need a pet too. Look at him(referring to gypsy), he is so adorable". The lady - "You first try to get out of out in all your subjects. We''ll then get one for you." The girl - "But I can still get out of out". The lady - "you'll have to spend time taking care of the pet. So you first show you can get out of out". Sigh! I didn't understand the logic. But what was obvious was parents using anything and everything as a carrot and stick to get their wishes of kids' academic success.

This one is a gem. Happened yesterday at a temple. We were in the queue; I was getting irritated with people pushing and jostling and the heat was getting on. There was this girl of about 4 years old maybe; running around to their parents' pride. The mom called and gave her few coins; saying it was 10 Rs and that was for "Maami.." I understood "Maami" meant "God" in the kids lingo. The kid promptly said "Why 10 Rs. I will give 4 Rs and keep the remaining"....!!! Now I dont think the kid knew the math or the value of money but she did know to divide the money :-o

The final one - No conversations. Just my observation. One of the traffic signal waiting for the lights to go green. Smoke from cigarette from my left was coming on; it was irritating. I recalled smoking in public is a no-no and so turned around to politely ask the person to stub it out or move it away from my face. I turned around and it was a lady around my age riding pillion; holding on to a lit cigarette. She had left her hair loose, smoking occasionally and chatting with the guy riding the motorcycle. Now I stopped; dont know why I didnt tell her. Was it because I didn't expect a woman to blow a cigarette smoke at me? Instead; I just started noticing her. Candy pink painted toe nails and finger nails; sheer leggings and platform heels. All I could think was - Is she going to office this way. Hope not". I know I was wrong in judging; but this thought even came about because the smoke came on to my face :-/

Monday, August 10, 2015

My Travel Blog

After much thoughts I decided to have a dedicated travel blog. Combining travel here meant those were also ramblings ;-). I wanted the travel stories to be special and so here it is.

Please follow, read and share your thoughts and comments. Give me tips to improve and feedbacks are welcome :-)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Plums or Blueberries?

If you were to get a kid choose if she wants plums or blueberries; she would just pick one and get on with relishing them. To her; both are fruits and equally delicious. Not too much to think about.

As we grow up and get older and wiser; (argh how boring growing up is) choices get more complex, serious and difficult.

Often, we have the difficult task of making choices. Be it as simple as choosing between a skirt or a trousers to as serious as choosing life's path. Its the latter that leaves us so many ifs and buts. Why should it be that difficult?

As grown ups; we are not sure about ourselves. We dont know what we need. We are confused. And we call ourselves grown ups ;-) We often base our choices on how others are. What others' would choose, what they would prefer. We want to be them, our sense of well being is what we see others to be. We are not clear about ourselves, our wishes, what we want; instead we see us through their eyes and mould ourselves.

Or maybe we are super clear on what we need, what we want to be. How should our life be, our goals...people belonging to this category are level headed, know themselves well, their limitations and strengths well and are rare.

Now combine it with striving for perfection. Whoa! The other day; I was chatting with a close friend. Its good to share burdens and talk out once in a while. You can sleep with a consolation that you are not alone and that there are others out there with similar confusion. Had a very philosophical or should I rather say practical discussion. These talks happen regularly. The topic of contention was around who is the perfect partner for you? Now this is an ever worrying thought at the back of one's mind until you tie the knot with that someone.

My friend has numerous questions around this. How do I know the one person would be right for me. What if things dont work. We do discuss the harsh realities of marriage and boredom as well. I hope I do my best in not scaring him :-) So is it fear of dissatisfaction? Could be...This is how our conversation turned...

We humans try to be amicable with others and try to please people around us, we dont want to appear bad; unless we want that one thing very bad when we are ready to throw everything off and take on the world for something we really want. Now thats duality of human being. Our own self is more important than others. Thats how we are. How far do we go? Where does the search for that perfect career, life, spouse end?

But is there anything called as perfection? With the intention of searching and aiming for perfection; dont we lose out on experiencing and being grateful to what we have?  - is what I had to say. My genius of a friend said - But now isn't this settling for less? By settling for less, are we not missing out on experiencing something much better?

So, there is nothing like perfection, who knows what is perfection? We keep wanting more because we think 'more' is perfection. Bottom line - Can you ever settle for something in life? If you settle, you miss out on more but if you dont settle and are not satisfied; you miss out on your present and could never be satisfied chasing for the 'better' which is unknown. Is it possible to find a middle ground? Like be aware of your blessing and enjoy it and not get lost? But we still have to search for better!

Looks like it gets further difficult when it comes to choosing life partner. Change being a necessity looks like a curse here! We are not perfect; we have our flaws which makes it more interesting and intriguing.

Anyway; what was the conclusion? None actually. We will be touching upon it many more times ;-) So we abruptly just dropped it and started discussing about our upcoming travel :-D

Monday, July 27, 2015

Being Thankful and My Bucket List

Life's rough and testing and during those times its good to pause and think about all the good things you've had and be thankful. I wanted to list my top 5 "Oh my God, thank you" and also my Bucket List for motivation :-)

Thankful Moments - not in the order of listing
  • My first job - It came totally unexpected and during testing and tried times; above all when I was yet to finish my graduation.  
  • Having a good friend, well wisher, mentor...all in one amazing person. Not in touch anymore for whatever reason. However; I would remember for the rest of my life
  • Having Gypsy in my life. I didn't choose him; he chose me. Dogs are Gods on earth who can be with you and show what unconditional love is.
  • Being blessed with the interest to travel, explore, read and know things. Being curious and wanting to explore is something I always take for granted; as qualities. But when I see people around who are so comfortable in their own little cocoon; I only see all that they are missing. Perhaps; its ok with them but I feel so happy to learn and see new things. And I learn the most when I travel - Be it exploring the rain forests and the flora and fauna of Costa Rica, or the numerous active volcanoes of Indonesia, the archeological wonder in the ruins of Petra, the opulence and wealth of the Maharajahs of Rajasthan, the majestic Himalayan ranges over Nepal and Bhutan and Northern India, the influence of Hinduism in Cambodia, the sky scrapers and the vastness of the country USA...I can go on and on....
  • Watching AR Rahman's concert and the mozart himself at a very close range. I dont generally like spending time and money on such things but this was something that I longed and was lucky that I was at the right place at the right time. 

ARR Concert - Oakload, California - October 2010

Now to my Bucket List. I'll try to stop at 5 but lets see.....
  • Tandem Sky Dive! Yes...some day! ...Also scuba diving and hot air ballooning. 
  • Being able to get back with the one person who stopped talking to me
  • Learning a Foreign language - I dont know why I am not taking the initiative. 
  • Learning at least one musical instrument :-/
  • Traveling around the globe - this is so big! 
  • Publishing my photography works - I would like it to be used for gift ideas, home decors etc and I would wish to give away the money for charity. 
  • And finally - setting up a home for strays. I wish I'd do this sometime. Isn't this such a cutie pie? Was curling himself up and protecting from rain at a rail station in Darjeeling. How nice if he had a home for himself?

Thats all for now :-) What are your Thank you moments and your Bucket List?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

How do you want to die? - The Greek Referendum

How do you want to die? Slow or Instant?

This was my first reaction when I read about the Greek government's decision to hold a referendum  asking the Greek people to decide whether they agree or not to a draft agreement document submitted by the 'Troika' - The European Union, The IMF and The ECB.

The first document is called Reforms for the Completion of the Current Program and the second one called Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis.

The ask is to vote "Not Approved/NO" by the citizens who reject the institutions' proposal and "Approved/YES" by those who accept.

What fun is this? Just few months ago; the people elect a new government in the hope that the leaders would guide them in the right direction. Now the government has delegated such a risky huge responsibility at the hands of the 18+ public eligible to vote and make decisions. No, I am not undermining the decision making or the right to exercise the decision of the citizens; but what does it mean for the government to just leave it to the public?

These documents in question were not made public earlier; how many Greeks can understand the highly technical document? Well; there is no need. All that they have to vote for us is whether they accept the creditors' conditions for far more austerity measures and high taxes and ensure a bailout or no.

I am no economist; I can't even manage my own money. But I have been reading about the Greek crisis for a while now out of curiosity. Aah how sad; the word "crisis" itself was given to us by Greeks. Its upon them now. So far; the best I have understood are two words - "Nai" or "Oxi" - Yes or No that could decide the future of Greece and the Europe.

More questions than finding answers. How can anyone be bailed out by more loans? Its funny really. Dont you end up in a quagmire of hopelessness and distress? But in the event of no money; what happens? Why can't the Europe and allies help Greece restructure and pave way for growth; generate more jobs and improve the economy? More austerity means lesser capital to invest. So how can there be growth? With the troika functioning the way they are; shouldn't they just be negotiating loans? Why is the political interest in there?

Does not mean Greece can continue to get free lunch. Remember; Iceland was in a similar situation few years ago but they managed well. Agreed; can't compare Greece with Iceland. But if one Euro nation can; the other can as well right? Maybe not. Now how about Greece going into more austerity and high taxes.

Why not? Why should the rest of Europe pay for their freebies? Healthcare, housing, education, pension and other securities....from where would they come from? Of course! government doesn't have unlimited supply of money. How can entitlements keep coming? You would run out of welfare and loans dry up as well isn't it?

The citizens seem to be fed up of austerity measures; but they do want to stay in Euro. Guess it also depends on who has invested in the system. Retirees; who are owed big pension, people who have saved a lot and have money in banks have a higher stake. A NO means banks closed, deposits lost, less money than saved due to devaluation of Drachma if its introduced if Greece exits Euro.  Would a NO mean they dont have to pay back the $250 billion debt? Not possible at all. Basically it is a free fall of the economy.

A YES means bailouts with more austerity which means more unemployment, weaker economy and eventually fallout. Either way; it seems to be bad for Greece. Been reading up jokes and memes on how Greece can get written off if we were to start paying for their ideas and inventions - democracy, modern medicine, art, mathematics, science....Its very sad.

How are they finding it possible to hold a referendum? Where did the money come from for facilitating the voters?  Its beyond my understanding of economics how Greece got into such a situation. She spent around 9 billion Euro on 2004 Olympics; when the public debt was at 168 billion Euro; within days of closing of games; Greece warned that the public debt and deficit would be worse than expected.

Borrowing is unsustainable and when spending is unchecked; you are in for a disaster. This is simple common sense; is it that tough? On a lighter note; some of the biggest corporations have billions of $ in cash; they could buy Greece!