Who > What


“School’s unfair. It expects teachers to be good in just one subject, but students to be brilliant in all.”

When my son narrated this joke that he had heard in school the other day, all of us broke into a big laugh.

How true, I thought.

Imagine asking your Biology teacher to take a Geography test.

Latitude and Longitude? Aren’t they the skeletal system of the Earth?” she might ask.

Or, asking your Hindi sir to do Algebra.

Obviously my answer would be different from yours. I learnt Maths in Hindi,” he might say.

A little later I asked my son, still laughing, “Who’s the one who cracked this joke in class?”

My son just shrugged his shoulders and continued eating and talking.

“What’s the name of the friend who said this joke?” I asked, hoping that rephrasing would help.

“I don’t remember who said it,” my son replied a little impatiently, as if to ask how that mattered.

What do you mean you don’t remember, I wanted to ask but didn’t, not knowing how much pushing would be too much pushing.

He remembered the joke but not the one who said it?

When did jokes become more important than the person who said it?

It wasn’t like this when I was in school for sure. I remember I’d rush home to tell who did what, where the who was equally, if not more, important than the what.

It hadn’t changed even in my college days. Who eloped with whom.

Today, has What replaced Who to become the new king?

Rabindranath Tagore > Jana Gana Mana, then.

But Kolaveri > Anirudh, today?

No other month typifies this more than December.

Look around.

Reds, whites and greens. Shiny bells, gift-laden trees and glowing stars. The weather is pleasant and the mood is cheerful. It is the month of the world’s biggest festival and the universe’s grandest party.

And yet, say December and it’s none of those that come to my mind. It is the face of the world’s most loved fat, old man that symbolises this season for me.

No, not Anna. Santa.

December, like all other things in life for me, is about people. Not events, occasions or dates.

But for most of the world, it seems to be the other way around.

Festivities > People

Take the example of New Year parties.

Around this time, you will hear people beginning to ask, “So? What’s your New Year plans?”

My answer has usually been, “Nothing. Watch TV, early dinner and sleep by 11.”

“Come on Ramesh, don’t be so boring! We are having a party, why don’t you come?”

A couple of times I have fallen for that bait and actually gone for those parties.

Only to get a call from them on 2nd January: “Hey Ramesh, we missed you. You should have come yaar, it was so much fun.”

That’s why l started staying away from such parties.

But on 2nd January, they still call: “Hey thanks for coming man. Would never have been the same without you. It was such fun, na?”

That’s the problem with these parties. It is never about who came or didn’t come, but about what we did where, and how late it went on.

Events > People

Sorry, not for me. No matter how big the event, it is always etched in my mind as people’s faces and not dates.

Indian Independence = Gandhi

Bangladesh War = Field Marshal Manekshaw

Indian White Revolution = Amul Kurien

Indian Corruption = Lok Sabha group snap

My personal memories are also tagged with faces of people I was with at that time.

So both our cricket World Cup triumphs are as much about the people I watched the finals with, as they are about sporting history.

Mumbai’s floods, riots and terrorist attack, all have faces. So do Indira Gandhi’s and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassinations. All celebrations, all tragedies are about people. Family members, friends, colleagues, sometimes strangers with whom those moments, interactions, conversations and experiences were shared.

Even mundane things like going for a film, shopping, eating out and a holiday are for me, about who I am going with.

Many find this ridiculous.

Recently my cousin went with her maid to see Mission Impossible-4.

With maid? For Mission Impossible-4?

My wife didn’t find anything strange about that. For her too, it is shopping that matters. It doesn’t matter who comes along as along as that person is willing to carry her bags.

If it’s not me, then it’s our kids. If it’s not them, then it’s her friends.

That’s why when she calls me for a night show, I never refuse. Who knows who she’d ask out next.

Experiences > People

My fear is that this phenomenon is taking over all human relationships and changing them beyond recognition.

When I look at all those young couples lining Marine Drive, Worli Seaface and Bandra Bandstand, I wonder if it is the atmosphere- the setting sun, the sea, the sweet nothings and the need for romance- that is making them romance the person in their arms.

Is Love > Lover?

Think about it. These days you don’t hear about love failures as much, why?

Devadas is extinct. Forget life, today’s youngsters don’t think even their love life is worth sacrificing just because some idiot said no.

What’s the big deal? One can always get someone else to love, seems to be the logic.

Love is eternal. Lovers needn’t be.

You will see this pervade every aspect of life.

My Space > My Spouse, is the reason why marriages are failing today.

My Success > My Partner, is the reason why business partnerships don’t last today.

Religion > Its Followers, is the reason why religious fanaticism is getting out of hand.

Country’s Borders > Those who guard it, is the reason why bravehearts are sacrificed in wars fought over uninhabitable terrains.

This is funniest in office picnics.

People who see, work and tolerate each other day in and day out, meet at picnics and go “Hey Ramesh! So, how have you been?”

What do you mean how I’ve been? You and I have been in that wretched client meeting all week until last evening, dammit!

“So, how’s wifey and kids?”

They didn’t come into my life last night, you dumbo! It’s taken you all these years to ask this?

“What’s up with life?”

You should know! After all, both of us are stuck in the same place, doing the same shit.

Actually, it’s not their fault. It’s not them talking. It’s the picnic mood that’s making them behave differently.

Mood > People

This is why now when people wish 2012 > 2011, I just smile and say, “No matter how good or how bad the year, remember, you are always bigger and far more important than it.”

For me, it’s always You > Years.


2 responses to this post.

  1. You = Your words


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