Friday, August 31, 2007

Of New Months And Resolutions

When I was growing up, every day was a new day. It's like you woke up and the world was new once again. And every new month brought with it greater excitement than the day had. The year generally came around pretty rarely, usually about once a year, and so it had a charm that was soon lost. But the charm with new months was that I got to write a new number in the date column every month. It wouldn't throw away that charm by changing every day, but it would make you wait in anticipation, so that when it finally changed (usually about once a month), you would savour it. And by the time you're done savouring it and have gotten used to the excitement of writing a new number for the month, it was time to look forward to the next month and let the anticipation grow. But all that was when I was growing up, during my school days primarily.

Now that I am working, the new month brings with it dread and defeat. I am the furthest away that I will ever be from my next pay-cheque. I am now closer to my deadlines, not only in date, but in month also. I have to reach my target in a shorter time period. The entire month stretches out in front of me, the end being sometimes 30, sometimes 31, only once 28 days away. So on such occassions, I try to break it down into smaller goals. Get past this week. In this week, what are the smaller goals that I can break it down into?

I quit smoking today. Cold turkey. The timing couldn't have been better. It's at the end of one month and at the start of another. Now, I can look forward to milestones. One day, one week, two weeks, one month, you get the idea. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Murud Janjira Diaries

We had decided some time back that we would go to Mumbai this weekend. My room-mate’s long-time girlfriend had been posted there on a temporary project, and they had to meet this weekend. Considering that she had flown down the previous weekend, it was now his turn. It was decided that this ought to be turned into a fun weekend trip where we would utilize this opportunity to meet up with our dear batch-mates, most of whom we hadn’t seen since our MICAn graduation about five months ago. So the plan was set. The two of us (roomie and I) would fly down to Mumbai on Friday night, meet the rest of our travel group, leave for Murud Janjira on Saturday morning, spend Saturday and Sunday there, and come back to Mumbai either Sunday night or Monday night, depending on circumstances. We fly back to Delhi on Tuesday morning.

We were flying Go Air both ways. The flight was to take off on Friday evening at 7:10. So, we decided to leave office by about 5 pm and get going to the airport. So far, so good. As we got to the airport, the first signs of trouble started appearing. I got two phone calls enquiring as to where I was and, when I replied, why I hadn’t bothered to inform the boss that I would be leaving early. Then, we got to the Go Air counter where we’re told that our 19:10 had been delayed and would now take off at 20:20. First blow. So, we went and got some grub and a smoke. Go Air is a low-cost carrier (LCC) and does not serve food on the flight. Instead you have to buy everything on board, even a bottle of water. We went into the terminal and checked in. We were carrying only hand luggage, a direct result of smart planning. We did the security check-in and walked into a very packed airport departure waiting lounge that was akin to a train or a bus station. The digital display boards had pushed our flight back to 20:30. We stood around, graduating to sitting around when flights came and went and cleared the lounge for a temporary period before it was refilled by the steady throng of people that had the need for wings. Close to 8 pm, the PA system announced that our flight had been further delayed to 21:30. We resigned ourselves to our fate and got a bite to eat. By about just past nine, the disgruntled Go Air ‘guests’ had started to crowd around a small, harried airline employee. So, to diffuse the situation, they announced that boarding is to begin. And we all stood and waited in line, then stood and waited in the bus, then sat and waited in the flight. Finally, we took off, over three hours late. The captain had sounded either drunk or sleepy as he got on to the PA system, and it showed in his flying. He pulled stunts that city bus drivers are well known for, weaving wildly during take-off and banking sharply thrice immediately after. The fact that the over-head storage compartment above our heads had shiny silver duct tape holding it in place didn’t ease our minds one bit. So, after a horrendous flight, that included a stop-over in Jaipur, we finally landed in Mumbai at 1:30 in the morning. I have never been so glad to set foot on terra firma.

We came out and there was roomie’s girlfriend, waiting with two signs in her hand - Abhishek Bacchan (me) and Hrithik Roshan (roomie). We had decided the previous week itself that we were going to pull this little stunt at the airport. Unfortunately, since we landed so late at night, the crowd at the airport, that we had hoped to get all excited at the prospect of seeing two celebrities, had thinned out considerably. We still had fun doing it though. We went to our batchmate’s house, had a nice reunion in the dead of night, and left early in the morning for Murud Janjira, with little or no sleep. The drive in the hired Qualis was beautiful, though the driver was a nasty lout who had trouble keeping his eyes open. Greenery became the norm of the day with lush rolling hills soon replacing the dreary concrete jungle that Mumbai is. Everything around us nearly screamed Kerala. The road got progressively worse as the potholes made their presence felt. Soon enough though, we reached, and the bumpy ride with the annoying driver suddenly seemed worth it.

The resort opened out into the most pristine flat beach untouched by the human hand. The sea was placid, gently lapping the shore and forming pretty designs while retreating. The beach looked like a place where we could shoot our version of “Chariots of Fire”, and we did seriously contemplate it. There was this vast expanse of water right in front of our eyes, and lovely hills of myriad colours flanking us on either side. It was breath-taking.

The plan was to do nothing, and that’s exactly what we did. Nothing. We just hung around, caught up with each other, lazed around, and felt content. The next day, we went to see the Janjira Fort that was in the middle of the sea, and had apparently never been conquered. We had to go in a little sail boat that put us completely at the mercy of the elements, mainly the wind, the sea and the sun. A peaceful calm came over me as the boat gently parted the water to allow itself through, and the water responded by softly lapping against the sides of the boat, almost as if they were having a conversation. All phone networks had conked out in Murud, except Airtel, and as if to prove its advertising line “Go Wherever, Do Whatever”, my roomie received a call in the middle of that sail boat journey. He was tickled as he answered it and said, “Ummm…listen, I’m in the middle of the sea. I’ll give you a call once I get back to the hotel.” Hutch flopped miserably.

So, anyway, we spent Monday also doing nothing, packed up our stuff, and caught a middle-of-the-afternoon bus back to Mumbai. It was an old rickety bus, but the driver was absolutely fantastic and we made it to Mumbai in record time (with a crab falling on me from a basket above en route) and in better shape than what the Qualis had left us in. We again spent a few hours in the middle of the night in the batchmate’s house and my roomie and I caught an early morning flight (Go Air again, but much better this time around) on Tuesday back to Delhi and work, thereby capping off a simply brilliant trip. One of the best trips I have been on in a long time. I feel really happy and content.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Favourite Things

I was tagged sometime back by my Manni, insisting that I write down a list of my favourite things. And as I sat and thought about it, and then thought about it some more, it became increasingly clear to me that this was a very difficult exercise. I've spent a larger part of my free-thinking life brooding and moping, revelling in my depression and generally frittering my time away. But this is an important exercise that I must do, simply because it makes my life that much more beautiful and well-laid out. So, here is a list of my favourite things, neither in a particular order nor exhaustive.
  • Flowing Water: I love watching and listening to flowing water, be it the rain, a babbling brook, water racing down my window, a fountain. It puts me at immense peace and I can just be. One of the jingles for Radio Mirchi has a similar effect on me because it sounds a lot like flowing water. Some of my favourite songs like Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath and Riders On The Storm by The Doors also employ sounds of the rain.
  • Filter Coffee: Well-made strong South Indian filter coffee always makes me go weak at the knees, and I can go on drinking it. I have been deprived for over two years since I moved out of home and have had to satiate my desire by drinking instant coffee or the commercialised Italian varieties. On my trips home, I ensure I get a solid dose of caffeine, the way it's supposed to be made.
  • South Indian Food & Its Combinations: South Indian food, made South Indian style, tops my food preference list any day. Morkuzhambu, vathalkuzhambu, rasam, sambar, thohail (pudina, tengai), cabbage kootu, venn pongal, appalam; I love these food items. And when you eat them in various combinations, they just make you believe in God. Like I like only a particular kind of appalam, the yellow variety that has been in boiling oil, not the white rice ones or the ones burnt over the flame. And these appalams go brilliantly with anything but my all-time desert island favourite combinations for the appalam are:
    • Thohail Chaadam
    • Cabbage Kootu Chaadam
    • Rasam Chaadam
    • Sambar Chaadam
  • Working Out Logical Problems In My Head: These could be anything, from a math problem to figuring out the right drumming pattern. Drumming, or music for that matter, depends heavily on structure, and when you have to figure out stuff between 8 notes, 16 quarter notes and 32 quarter notes, along with variations like triplets and odd time signatures, I can sit around for hours just working out various permutations and combinations of the notes and the various drums (snare, bass, toms, etc.) that are available for use. Of course, then I want to try these out on the drums.
  • Philosophising: I sit and I philosophise, about life, about the need for women to wear high heels on cobblestoned roads, about the futility of it all, about the need for beauty and its appreciation, about anything that I think needs philosophising over. I feel infinitely cleverer.
  • Creative Expression: Expressing creatively is of prime importance to me. I write (blog posts, stories, poetry, scripts), I play the drums, I act (theatre, though I am looking at films), I act cute and childish, I sing, I laugh uncontrollably, I sketch and draw, I talk absolute gibberish, I build entire scenarios and stories in my head, I crack jokes (most of which only I laugh at), I hug, I love.
  • My Family: I love my family. I think it's the greatest family in the world, both immediate and extended. I love where we come from, our socialisations, the customs we follow, the orthodox-yet-modern approach to life that we have, the intellectualism that runs deep in our veins. My family is the reason for me being who I am, and I love me.
  • My Idiosyncrasies: I have strange quirks and I am proud of every one of them for making me as different and unique from the rest of the crowd as possible. Being different and unique is very important to me, and it reflects in what I do and how I think and how I look. I'm very tall (6'6" or 198 cm or 1.98 m). I exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviour, everything has to be placed in some relation to the other, maybe straight lines or maybe some weird connection that I have formed in my head, everything has to be in even numbers or equally done or in some combination that satisfies my evenness equality quirk. I like to believe that I have numerous phobias and multiple personalities. I am colour deficient (I can't see all colours). I think I will dedicate an entire detailed blog post to this in the future.
  • My Own Special Brand Of Depression: Like I've mentioned earlier, I revel in my depression, I enjoy it, it makes me happy. It's comfortable and gives a nice fuzzy kind of warm feeling. I feel like I'm in familiar territory and I can relax. It's my fortress and nobody can touch me here. It has gone to such an extent that I can see the signs of an oncoming depression, what to expect during the depression phase, what to do, how to whine and mope, and even what to mope about to extend my depression phase.
  • Free Rock Music: By this, I don't mean rock music that's free to download and hear. I'm talking about rock music that is by itself and in itself free. This music usually belongs to the free-thinking era of the sixties and the seventies, when flower power and free love ruled the world. Music that is uninhibited and not specially made and produced to increase record sales. Music that truly speaks to your inner self without seeming contrived. Music that is free.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nip And Tuck

I don't know if you've been noticing, but my blog has been undergoing some serious heavy-duty life-impacting changes. It's also partly a reason as to why my posts have become slightly scarce in the recent past following the relative barrage before that.

I flirted with commercialisation by experimenting with Google AdSense. I came, I saw, I learnt (I didn't earn though). Then the template was changed from the restricting blue one to the widespread white one that is currently on. Google AdSense became history. Then came more changes. I added labels, started tagging my posts, as a result of which, you now see a Labels element on the right side of the page. If you scroll down further, you will see some personal details of mine. I updated my profile under Know Rags and added some prolific bloggers under Other Blogs I Like ("Other" because I like my own blog too). Then I added some understanding on my cultural influences. Books Recently Read, Books Currently Reading, Movies Recently Watched, Music Recently Bought.

Just when you thought I was done, I came back with a vengeance. I signed up with Feedburner and got myself an RSS feed. So you can now subscribe for updates and notifications as and when I update my blog. I suggest you do. I signed up with IndiBlogger and got myself a cool badge. So you can now find me on the directory of Indian bloggers. You can see both these icons on the top right of my blog, above and below the I Power Blogger icon.

Now do you think I'm done? I am, for the moment.

UPDATE (Aug 24, 2007): I've dropped Books Recently Read and Books Currently Reading in favour of the new uber-cool book shelf of mine, courtesy Shelfari. Thanks a ton for introducing and inviting me to this, GCP. Now, if only I could get something like this going for my music and movies collection as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Name's Long, Exceedingly Long

I've been feeling pretty much the same for the last few weeks, and it's showing in my blog posts. A lot of my posts in the recent past have dealt with the frustration of being stuck in a dead-end job and feverishly missing home. So I decided that this post must be different. It must not talk about the vegetation of the mind or the free soul in the trapped body. It must not be sad, depressing, longing, yearning or pining. It must be different, maybe even happy. So here goes.

My entire name is, hold your breath, Srinivasan Venkataraghavan. That's right. Now, before you get confused as to who I am, let me clarify. My name is Venkataraghavan. My dad's name is Srinivasan. Now you may wonder as to why I have interchanged the positions of my two names. My good man, I am from the South. Here, we do not have family names, and we write our surnames first. Some of us at least. There are very few of us left. Now, I take great pride in my exceedingly long name. My chest swells as I say it, type it, or even think it. My generation and previous generations have reveled in tongue-twisting names liberally doused with vowels (mostly a's) deliciously rolling off their tongues: Chidambaram Srinivasan, Srinivasan Vidyashankar, Rajyadhakshya Narayanaswamy, Aishwarya Natarajan. The name of my protagonist in the book that I'm writing is even more complicatedly twisted: Sacchidananda Venkatachalapathy. Wow!

But sadly, I sense that this trend is changing for the shorter. Ram, Ajay, Ramya, Anand - these are the kinds of names that the new entrants are being straddled with. I mean, some of them barely scrape past a syllable. I don't have a problem with long names being shortened into easy-to-pronounce-and-remember names for the others. Venkat, Raghav, Raj, Sacchi - these are accepted shortened versions, not complete names. I now have nephews whose entire names are shorter than either of my names.

So what would I name my children? What are my favourite names? That's a tough question. I've been looking at Markandeya with some interest, but I can assure you that the final decision is quite some time away. By the way, my imaginary girlfriend has a very pretty name too - Gayatri. Sigh!

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Matrix Of Sivaji: The Boss



I came across this absolutely mind-blowing video. The soundtrack to the trailer of Sivaji: The Boss has been visually aided with scenes from The Matrix. Fantastic job with the editing, although a particular scene was repeated a couple of times too many for my liking. There are plenty of other scenes that he could have used from The Matrix in place of this oft-repeated scene. But, on the whole, kudos for a job brilliantly done.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Dream (American Or Otherwise)

I have a very malleable mind. It takes in everything that's affecting it, and gets affected. I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, most of them finding their origins in my search and discovery in my Manni's sentiments. And considering that she spent a lot of time in the US, most of those blogs are authored by Indians living in the US (although there is one in Australia).

Reading these blogs creates this burning desire in me to go there and live that life. I have this glamourised idea in my head about how life would be there and how I would lead it. I imagine a healthy lifestyle, going to the gym regularly, doing really cool stuff, hanging out with somebody who understands me and can share intelligent conversation with me without getting boring or bored. I imagine a lot of things, but I know it's never true. I know I'm going to be running all the time and get stuck in a timeless mindless rut. I know I'm going to miss all things Indian, hate everything Indian-American(or Indian-Australian, as the case may be) and yearn to come back home. I know the grass is always greener on the other side. I know. I know.

Does that mean that I'm already stuck in a timeless mindless rut? I come to work every day of the week, lounge about surfing the net and venting on my blog and then go home to a 'TV dinner' with my room-mate. The 'TV dinner' (comprising watching saved episodes of Prison Break on my laptop) is actually the high point for both of us. Of course, the other high point in his life is the weekends when he gets to meet his long-time girlfriend. I, on the other hand, am trying to do what I did in college. I'm looking at stuff to do on the side, apart from work. So far, I've been decently successful. I've done a play, was rehearsing for another, am training for a 7 km marathon, will be helping a guy with the computerised drum bits for his solo album and will hopefully start a band with him once the album's done. Quite a bit, eh? Well, most of my weekends have been packed, and I've sometimes left home on weekends earlier than I have on weekdays for work. But I want to be able to do all this in the open, without having to hide in the shadows away from work. These activities are the oil that my life runs on. They must become my life.

So, I open the cafe. I write the book. I play the drums for a band. I act in plays and help out in theatre. I do voice-overs (I've done a couple of radio ads in Bangalore in college; I have a deep baritone, you see). I freelance. I write. Now all this becomes a lot easier to do if you have a stable home to back you up. So I will have to move back home (not that I'm complaining). I strengthen my relationship with my parents and family (including my new extended family, hello Manni). Now, I did most of this when I was living at home during my college days. It was nice. It was easy. It was comfortable. Why would I want to upset the apple-cart? Why did I? One of my seniors, from MICA and also from work, quit her job and moved to Bangalore to do almost exactly what I've stated above. She will freelance and she will write her book. That gives me a lot of hope. She has just started out on her journey and I wish her the very best of luck in her brave and noble endeavour. She has no idea how much this means to me. She has now shown me that it is possible to take the step. And as time progresses, she will show me how possible it is to succeed. All my efforts will now be directed at achieving this dream of mine.

Chak De India: The Alternate Version

The latest film from the Yash Raj banner, Chak De India, starring Shah Rukh Khan hits theatres tomorrow. And as it has no romantic angle or song, it begs for one, in true Bollywood fashion. So I'm going to attempt one here, based on an idea that just came to me over lunch and is still being formulated as I write this post.

The love interest is played by Sushmita Sen. Her grandfather played hockey for India in the Olympics. He won himself a gold medal. Sush's father played hockey for India in the Olympics as well. But he could not win himself a medal, let alone a gold. Sush is an only child, and her father pushed her into hockey to keep alive his own dreams of winning a medal. But women's hockey was plagued with the ills that were afflicting men's hockey, and she was unable to succeed, leaving her father to die a sad and last-wish-unfulfilled death. It has always been troubling her, and she continues to support the women's hockey team in whatever way she can even today as an attempt to gain retribution and atone for her sins, at the cost of her personal life. Enter Shah Rukh Khan to coach the current women's hockey team. Sparks fly between the two stalwarts in verbal arguments. But then, both see the other's good intentions and pure heart, and succumb. What starts off as a professional relationship soon escalates into a personal one, and sparks fly once again, but of a different kind, and hockey becomes hickey. And what happens to the hockey team? Oh, they get into the finals and a pulsating climax, where old rivalries are settled and differences are forgotten, leads to the team either winning or losing. It doesn't matter which. Everybody is happy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Tale Of Three Cities

I was listening to some of my favourite Tamizh songs this morning. These are songs that I sort of grew up listening to. These were songs off tapes that we had and would usually play in the car stereo while on a long drive, usually to Chennai (Madras at that time and for a long while afterwards in our heads). This morning was a flooding of memories and reminiscent smiles. It made me want to go back down South. It made me realise that there are probably 3 cities in my limited experience and sheltered existence that I could live in. And here are my desert island top three cities that I can live in: Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore, still is in our heads), Chennai and New Delhi.

Bangalore is home and hence is the easiest to move to and settle down. That however increases the chances of my slipping back into the comfortable routine and will result in a lot of time being spent doing nothing or watching TV (which almost amounts to the same thing). Personal freedom would also take a beating. Hence, I cannot move back to Bangalore with a normal job. It's got to be something that will keep me on my toes all the time, combine a vast majority of my varied interests and be creatively (and financially) fulfilling. I thought of moving back to start my own cafe (called Jupiter Cafe as a tribute to Thermal And A Quarter). It'll be a 'social cafe', for lack of a better defining term. The green, healthy lifestyle will be promoted and will form the underlying theme for the entire cafe and its activities. If you bike (the pedalling variety, not the motorised kinds) to my cafe, you will receive a discount. I'm thinking of also starting a 'smoking charity' that will tie-in with the cafe. I'm trying to figure out how to get Bangaloreans, who know so precious little about their city, to know more about their environs and make a difference. Is an early morning heritage cycle or walk the answer? Or is there any other way, or a broader road? It's difficult to conceptualise this sitting in Delhi. I will also spend my time writing. I'm currently working on one and have another one waiting in the pipeline.

Chennai is like second home to me, and has been all my life. It's 300-odd km away from Bangalore and we would always be driving down. Considering my Tamilian heritage, it's hardly surprising that I have family there. The above factors hence collude to make this the most dangerous city for me to move to and settle down in. Home and comfort are so close and it will be so difficult for me to resist the temptation to have everything done for me. But I would like to live in Chennai for a while. I did, for a brief four months in 2004, but that doesn't really count. I was staying at my aunt's house, which has been our home away from home for years. I like Tamizh in little infrequent doses, so the overdose that will hit me like a barrage if and when I move to Chennai isn't really welcome. However, if I insulate myself from it well enough by ensuring that I get enough English and good Hindi music and movies, I think I should be able to do pretty well for myself. However, I'm not too sure if I want to raise a family and bring up my kids here. Read why here.

New Delhi is where I currently am at. It's a nice city and all that, and I can actually envision myself living here. However, this is another city where I'm not too sure if I want to raise a family, and more importantly, bring up my kids. The reasons, while not exactly echoing the sentiment of Chennai, fall pretty much along the same lines. I don't want my children to think in Hindi. I want English to be their language of choice, followed by Tamizh, and then Hindi. If a foreign language creeps in there, well and good. But Delhi is huge and it has fantastic sporting and cultural opportunities. I am constantly amazed by the number of stadiums and sports complexes there are in close proximity to each other in this city.

Bangalore scores high on the cultural, language, socialisation and personal nostalgia fronts, but somehow seems to lose out on the sports and space frontiers. Chennai scores high on the personal nostalgia front, but loses out in just about everything else, except maybe a face-saving effort in the sporting department. New Delhi scores high on the cultural, sports and space fronts while losing out on the language, socialisation and personal nostalgia frontiers.

So what would be my city of choice? Why, Bangalore, but of course. But right now, I'm living in New Delhi and I'm not complaining.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Painting Of A Canvas

The weather took a turn last evening. From a humid and hot day, it shifted dramatically into a very pleasant evening, still humid and sticky though, with storm clouds brewing on the horizon. It remained like that till late at night. Finally, just before midnight, the storm broke. I rejoiced and slept. I awoke this morning to the pitter-patter of raindrops. It had rained all night and showed no signs of stopping any time soon. Thankfully, it held off just long enough to provide a window of respite for us to wriggle through to office. The rain restarted and has gone on through the day in splendid fits, beautiful starts and poetic bursts. The weather is absolutely glorious, the roads glisten anew, the tree-tops are resplendent in their renewed vigour and the entire city is awash with the feeling of beauty. This is the sort of day when you want to curl up against the window glass that has water running down its outside with any or more of the following to stimulate the senses: a book that makes for a great read, a mug of hot chocolate, a beautiful work of art, some lovely soft music, intelligent company that makes for intelligent conversation and a laptop for writing and giving vent to those creative juices that nature has jump-started in you. On that note, I shall leave you with 3 Vincent Van Gogh paintings that made me sigh this morning. The first is The Starry Night (1888), the second is Starry Night Over The Rhone (1888) and the third is Cafe Terrace At Night (1888). Alongside these breath-taking beauties that I would love to gaze upon as they adorn my wall are the soul-stirring lyrics to the evocative song Vincent by Don McLean.

Vincent (by Don McLean)
Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night.
Portraits hung in empty halls,
Frameless head on nameless walls,
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the strangers that you've met,
The ragged men in the ragged clothes,
The silver thorn of bloody rose,
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Being A Social Being

My Manni's sentiment sparked off a burning, yet latent, feeling within me. I have, for quite a while since moving to Delhi in April, been looking at how I can make my surroundings better. How can I make a difference to the environment that I live in? I figured that this environment consists mainly of two components - nature and people. With World Environment Day coming and going in between, nature took top priority for the moment, buoyed by all the hype of global warming. So I started seeing what measures I could take. I made Blackle my homepage and promoted its usage to others because somebody said it uses less energy to project a black screen than a white screen, and hence the black Google. I signed up for newsletters from TreeHugger to learn more. I got pissed off when my search for a green or hybrid car in India came to naught (I was considering investing in an automobile). I resolved to buy a bicycle for weekends and car-pool or auto-pool, as the case may be, on weekdays. I felt guilty if I found myself in an auto alone and kept trying to figure out how I could have made this trip without leaving a carbon footprint, if I had only bought that bicycle. I was generally feeling pretty good about myself and how I was trying to do my bit for the environment.

As a result of all this frenetic activity, the desire to do something along similar lines for people took a backseat and generally became latent, though still very much present. I started giving it a little more importance and thought sometime last week or so. My Manni's sentiment however has now given that desire a much needed boost. It has set me thinking seriously, and that is a crucial beginning. How can I make the life of someone somewhere better? It does not have to be somebody I know, or somebody who I know knows. It does not have to be a large-scale mass effort. It can be as simple as buying a bicycle to help the environment (even though manufacturing it probably harms the environment, but what the heck, the positives far outweigh the negatives). The Hutch Delhi Half Marathon is happening on October 28 2007, and I decided last week to run for charity. I now have to get details. If all goes well in that race, the Delhi Marathon happens on February 17 2008, and you can be sure I'll be looking at a charity run there as well.

I had a pretty solid idea today. It's a smoking charity, for lack of a better term. Let me try and illustrate through an example. Let's assume that you smoke 10 cigarettes a day and that each cigarette costs Rs 5. That means that you spend Rs 50 a day on cigarettes. Now, if you register with the smoking charity, you are making an effort to quit smoking. You will still spend Rs 50 a day, but the entire amount will not be spent on cigarettes. You will now smoke 9 cigarettes a day and hence spend Rs 45 a day on cigarettes. The remaining Rs 5 will go into the charity. Slowly, you will smoke a lesser number of cigarettes, thereby leading to a healthier lifestyle for you, and the money that you would have burnt away on cigarettes will now help in giving somebody else a life. Sort of like two birds with one stone, eh? I haven't worked out details yet. I just had the idea today, and hence it's still in a very rough first draft sort of format. But I like the sound of the idea and I'm starting to get really excited about it. And before all you smokers out there get up in arms with me about the idea and how it's a personal choice, let me silence you with a startling confession. I smoke too.

After lunch, we went down to buy some cigarettes. We stood outside the building by the cigarette shop, smoking. A couple of extremely young lads came up to us, asking us if we wanted to get our shoes shined. My colleague agreed, but I refused.

Firstly, I don't like people touching my feet. I have grown up in an environment where you respect your elders, but very rarely touch their feet, probably only on special occasions like poojas when you seek their blessings. Otherwise, we reserve the namaskaram only for Gods (and considering my atheistic tendencies and beliefs, I do it very indifferently, doing it only to please my elders and respect their beliefs). And here was a little child who wanted to touch my feet. Removing my shoes and giving it to him to shine, like my colleague suggested, was also not an option. Why should he touch my shoes? My shoes are not more important than him. Material objects cannot and should not be more important than people. On this note, I have started disliking the idea of employing a person to look after the car, to clean it and make it look like it has a chance of lifting the employer's social standing. Employing a driver is excusable, because chances are that the employer does not know how to drive, or has to send the car back home during the day for his/her spouse who either lacks or is limited in her/his knowledge of handling an automobile. So the driver is providing a service to the employer and not to the car.

Secondly, I don't like employing people to do stuff that I am perfectly capable of doing myself. It just indicates laziness, a dangerous vice. I can shine my shoes myself and I ought to. There was this one time when I was moving from Chennai back to Bangalore at the end of 2004. I was carrying quite a few bags. They were all stuffed and heavy. On top of this, I was wearing a leather jacket that could not be stuffed into any of the bags. I got on to the train station and was accosted by the usual number of coolies (porters) to take my load. I refused every one of them. I was a strapping young lad, not yet 21 years of age. How could I allow a man much older than myself, and probably under-nourished, to lift my load? I struggled along, content in my belief that I was being true to myself, if nothing else. By the way, we paid both the shoe-shine boys, even though only one pair of shoes had been shined.