Things I Believe

March 23, 2006
For no reason, in no particular order, with no beginning and no end.

Disclaimer: These are not intentionally stolen from any Internet forward or book of quotes, though many such may have contributed to some points here.

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  1. Everything that happens happens for the best
  2. In the long run, things will work out
  3. There is justice in the world
  4. Be true to yourself… do what you know to be right… regardless of the consequences
  5. Listen to people you respect, but ultimately decide for yourself… because only you know what’s right for you (even if eventually you turn out to be wrong)
  6. You can’t really lie to yourself; you can pretend to, but you’ll always know you’re lying
  7. Sometimes your unreasoning heart will disagree with your logical mind. Listen to your heart; it knows
  8. Exercise your mind as much as your body – an ailing mind is a greater tragedy than an ailing body
  9. You’re never to old to learn something new (you can teach an old dog new tricks)
  10. If you don’t try, you’ll never know
  11. It’s better to die trying than to live without
  12. You can run away from things you’re scared of, but you’ll never feel good about yourself until you turn around and face them
  13. The greatest achievements are those in which you overcome your own fears
  14. Never laugh at another person’s fears
  15. The most important thing in life is to spend wisely – not money, but time
  16. And the other most important thing in life is … people
  17. There is a god – and at random moments when you don’t expect it and you aren’t looking for it, you can feel it and know it’s true
  18. The world is mostly full of good people – only a minority are irretrievably evil
  19. If you love someone, there’s nothing that you can’t forgive
  20. Laughter is the worst medicine – it doesn’t cure anything but it makes everything seem much better
  21. Integrity applies as much to thought as to action … or more
  22. If you can’t do it justice, don’t do it
  23. Leave large tips in small places… you might make someone’s day
  24. Let go
  25. What you’re looking for might be right around the corner, if you’d only look around the right corner

Strange Creatures on the Road

March 11, 2006

Love it or hate it, there’s never a dull moment in the daily commute to work. You have to admit that traffic on Indian roads is endlessly entertaining. Consider, for instance, the strange creatures sometimes sighted on the road:

The one-eyed jack: It’s a many-wheeler (sometimes as many as ten) with only one headlight, so that in the dark it looks like a two-wheeler. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of this fellow.

The asymmetrical beauty: This one usually has a significant part of its body bashed in. Injuries to the back and sides may appear spectacular enough, but when the front is missing and it’s still moving, it makes you wonder.

The powerless auto: This is an auto rickshaw without automotive power (either due to mechanical failure, or due to fuel demand-supply issues). It is usually powered by being temporarily attached to another vehicle, which may or may not be another auto. The attachment is often provided by means of a human limb extending from one vehicle to the other. Steering, as may be imagined, is a complicated affair. There’s very little control over speed.

The helmet-wearing two-wheeler: This is a two-wheeler with a helmet attached. In most cases, the helmet is attached somewhere near the handlebar, sometimes on the mirror. In a few instances, it dangles inelegantly from other parts of the vehicle. In no instance is the helmet seen upon the driver’s head. Research shows that the helmet is found to be most effective in protecting the vehicle from injury in case an accident occurs.

The dancing elephant: This refers to a jumbo vehicle (eight wheels or more) that moves in a path as straight as a Bangalore road. In addition to its apparently inebriated condition, it usually also suffers from severe pulmonary and cardio-vascular dysfunction, as evidenced by the gasping, panting sounds it makes while it struggles along the road. It is often heavily overweight and emits voluminous clouds of foul black exhaust.

Other variants of these rare creatures can also be spotted by a keen observer. For example:

  • The dancing auto
  • The powerless elephant
  • The asymmetrical one-eyed jack (this one’s been in some serious trouble)

Unfortunately, too few of these are on the endangered species list!


Making Waves (albeit little ones…)

March 10, 2006

Yesterday was a defining moment in my life. (A day is not a moment, of course, but in the grand scheme of things, such matters can be safely ignored.)
Yesterday, I say, was one of those days when life takes a turn, for better or for worse, nobody knows, but all that’s certain is that life has changed, inevitably and indisputably, and things are never going to be the same again.
What – you want to know – happened? I’ll tell you. We got a microwave.
Yes, at the ripe old age of 32, I am finally the proud possessor of this sophisticated piece of technology that can take a cup of water from room temperature to explosion in just 60 seconds flat! (Not to mention what it can do to egg yolks.)
Ok, I haven’t tried out either of those scenarios yet – but it’s early days. Besides, I wouldn’t want to waste my creativity testing out a known bug. I’m determined to create some entirely new, undocumented explosions in my kitchen. Let’s see what happens when you stuff one week old dal into it: I suspect even the microwave might revolt at that (I would).
But meanwhile, great excitement awaits me. Just think, I can now defrost frozen veg and non-veg in a matter of minutes, instead of dumping them in a bucket of water 24 hours in advance. I can heat up leftovers without having to turn on the gas! I can eat sausages without frying!! I can bake cake in 7 minutes. I can even warm up ice cream if I want to.
The flip side is that my trusted old OTG (Over Toaster Grill) has been retired to the floor, with its face to the wall, upstaged by the shiny new stainless steel mikrowelle. Amit wants to get rid of it and I don’t. It has been a loyal friend and has turned out many, many good, underdone, or charred cakes over the years. A constant companion in good times, one might say. Such a noble object should not be reduced to a place on the floor, with its face to the wall!

Oh, and that pun in the heading is intentional. Little waves – getit? And if you were thinking something else, well, you were mistaken, weren’t you?


What’s a Few Years Between Friends?

March 8, 2006
When I was a child, my mother had a friend called Mrs P. For a brief period they were neighbors, but then Mrs P moved away. She was in the same city, though, so every so often my mother would go to meet her. Mrs P was quite a bit older than my mother. She had two grown up daughters (in their 20s, perhaps? I was hardly 5 then) and one was a tall, strapping, short-haired, booming-voiced girl who rode a big motorcycle. I think she was my role model. (!)

One day, Mrs P died. I was still quite young, but I clearly remember that my mother was very upset about it.

As I grew up, I never forgot how dear Mrs P had been to my mother, even though so much older.

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While playing sporadically with the BSM orchestra, I became a little friendly with Mrs F. Mrs F was way, way older than me. She was probably even older than Mrs P was when she died. But Mrs F was a freelance violinist like me (that is, she had no affiliation with or loyalty to any musical body) and she was game to play duets. So every Sunday afternoon I would drive down to her spacious, sprawling old bungalow lugging my violin and music stand on my (in those days) small and tattered old bike.

At first, we struggled along, trying to make the music work. Then it got easier. We got to know each other better, and we got to know the music better. We knew just what to do and we knew just how to do it. And when one of us made a mistake, the other one usually knew it. We would cover up for each other and linger a beat or skip a half-beat for each other. Sometimes we couldn’t quite work it out, and then we’d know that too and we’d catch each other’s eye and burst out laughing. Perhaps we weren’t very good, but we had a lot of fun.

Mrs F had a son and a daughter-in-law. Later on, as the Sundays passed, she got a dog and a granddaughter. These latter two became friends of mine. The dog would greet me at the gate and try to entice me away from music and Mrs F, to play with him instead. The granddaughter was usually asleep at this time, so we would try to play extra softly, lest our incessant shrieking wake her up. She usually awoke only at the end of our session, when she would be brought in to our front room on her way out to meet the dog. At times, when there were more formal visitors in the front rooms, I was scuttled into the large, dark old kitchen in the back for our afternoon sessions. Here we would somehow organise our two stands between the gas oven and the cooking range, dodging sundry bits of laundry hanging over our heads. The dog would lie at the back door, waiting impatiently for me to finish and go play with him. We never stopped for tea and cake, or even for water. We usually just played and played till it was time to stop.

Eventually, our idyllic Sunday afternoons came to an end. First, Mrs F went to America, to visit her daughter. Then I got busy with life in general and regretfully declined her repeated invitations to play together. But last Sunday, a month after she had called me and reminded me to at least visit some day, I finally got on to my bike (still the tattered old one, for old time’s sake) and drove the 5-odd km to her house. I didn’t take my violin: I just went to visit, to talk, to catch up. I did feel a little “shy” going without an excuse. But it was great! I played with the dog, said hi to the granddaughter (who was greatly impressed to see the huge big dog put his huge big paws all across my lap as I sat in a chair the front room; sitting in a chair being a highly unusual activity for me as we usually played standing up. The granddaughter had an unusual attribution for the dog’s behaviour. “He doesn’t do that to me because I’m a girl,” she explained. Oh, and that makes me a what???) and talked with Mrs F. But for the music, it was just like the old days.

She may have a mere 40 years on me, but I’m happy to count Mrs F among my friends. I hope she feels the same.


Much About Nothing

March 7, 2006
It’s been three whole months since I went anywhere. Can you imagine that? Three months of Bangalore, Bangalore, and Bangalore. Now, you know I love this city. But three months without getting on a bus or train (or, at worst a plane) to somewhere, is just too much!

On the last weekend of this month, Amit and I will go to Kabini (yes, again!) in another vain attempt to spot a tiger. I believe it is simpler to go to Bannerghatta National Park (success assured) but then, you see, that’s in Bangalore.

At one point in my working life, I used to want to travel to get away from the horror of work. Yes, in the KF days. Nowadays, I no longer need to escape from work. In fact, sometimes I need to escape to work just to get away from the tension of life. Specially after a hectic weekend. My favourite day has now officially been declared Tuesday, which is work-from-home day. Since everyone else is in office (that is, Amit), this is a day I can really just relax and catch up with myself. And after the hectic weekends (two or three sessions of tennis, two half-day sessions of German and all the weekly housework that usually piles up for the weekend) I really do need a break!

Of course, I am supposed to be “working” from home, but it’s not too difficult. I leave the laptop on to collect mail while I wander around talking to parents on the phone, washing and putting out the laundry and picking up the previous installment, getting sundry other errands up to date, cooking something interesting for lunch, and reading a book. Sometimes I even take a short nap in the afternoon!!!

Periodically I return to the laptop (which makes an obliging ‘ping’ sound whenever mail arrives; wish you could program it to make different sorts of ‘ping’ sounds depending on who the mail is from) to read and respond to the mail. Usually (see earlier blogs Official Communication and Status Update for details) a response skillfully worded is enough to put the opposition in a spin for a few hours, at least.

Sometimes I wonder how long this state of grace can last. Surely something must happen to break the spell? But what could that possibly be? In my small team of 5, two people have recently moved on. We are now down to 3. And there’s a recruitment freeze in effect. Reason enough to be tearing our collective hair out? One would think so, but no. Projects get pushed back, management is sternly told that all deals are off unless we can get more people and everybody goes back to long lunch breaks, surfing the net, leaving early and “working” from home!

If nothing else, I think the boredom of not having any work to do is going to finally get to me. I might even do something stupid like looking for more work, or trying to change job within (or – heaven forbid – outside) the company! Hopefully sheer laziness will prevent me from doing anything like that.

So anyway, nowadays I don’t have to travel to get away from stress: I have to travel to get away from boredom! And I have to do it on non-weekend hours, becuase I wouldn’t want to miss German class. Which is why we leave for Kabini on a Thursday and return on Saturday. I only hope the tigers or panthers or whatever are obliging enough to show themselves to us this time.

Meanwhile, it’s back to my book of the month, Prince of Ayodhya, by Ashok Banker. It is the story of the Ramayana in the tradition of Harry Potter (though the writing style is quite different). So far, so good, but I’m only on page 27 .

I also seem to have attracted three copies of The World is Flat. “Attracted” because all three were somehow given to me. I’m not even sure by whom. The three of them are standing at the top of the bookshelf in front of me and staring down at me reproachfully, demanding their birthrights –  that is, to be read.

Enough about nothing.  I better go and check my mail, just in case somebody dodged the last googly I sent their way and boomeranged it back to me.


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