Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Yawn, but don’t sleep

“Watching people sleep!”

Now, that was an embarrassing answer to give someone who asked, “So what’s your hobby, son?”

Especially in the early 1970s, when the popular answers were:

“Reading.”

“Cycling.”

“Swimming.”

“Pen Pals.”

As an activity-challenged kid, I knew that.

Which is why, I became creatively inclined to lie.

“Quizzing,” I had once said.

Only to be asked, “Good! Can you name a mammal that lays eggs?”

(That’s the difference between kids and adults. Kids ask questions only if they don’t know the answers. Adults ask questions only if they know the answers, and are sure the other doesn’t.)

“Collecting rare, old coins,” I had said the next time, to avoid being quizzed.

But when someone insisted on seeing my collection, I had to lie again.

“Sorry uncle, it’s gone for album making!”

The worst thing about such lies was that people switched to these as birthday gifts from then on.

Oh, how I hated an album of old, rusty coins instead of a gleaming red toy car!

All this, because I was too embarrassed to admit that my real hobby was- well, watching people sleep.

Not that all kids always did purposeful things.

Considering that little Bill Gates had, perhaps, simply stared at windows, Jim Morrison at doors, Steve Jobs at apples and Steven Spielberg at jaws, little Ramesh Rabindranath wasn’t too bad.

After all, sleep looked like a mystery that hadn’t been fully unravelled yet.

There was something about the way people snored, the way their torsos heaved and their lips quivered, in sleep.

“Sleeping like a baby!” seemed a description that begged deeper investigation.

After wasting many productive hours, I came to the conclusion that sleep is nothing but the human soul in a state of absolute innocence.

“Every soul becomes pure and pristine in slumber. Only in slumber.” I derived.

If true, this finding had the potential to become a world-changing one.

All jails and reform homes could become sleeping spas, where culprits could simply be made to sleep to goodness.

Sounded great. But like fate, was flawed.

The first time I sensed this was when I was 12 and my brother 8.

We had had a fight and I had sworn revenge.

After he had slept, I decided to creep up to his desk and destroy a few of his favourite toys. But when I saw him sleep- mouth open, drooling, helpless and surrendered, I changed my mind.

How can you trick someone who sleeps in total faith that no wrong will happen to his world?

I forgave him.

But the next morning, I felt cheated when he told me how he saw a wonderful dream wherein he beat me to pulp and broke all my toys.

I realised dreams can be vicious, and that it was possible for a person to be more evil in sleep than when awake.

My hobby suddenly lost all its sheen.

But not my belief.

I was certain that there would be a moment- however small, insignificant and fleeting- when even the worst soul in the world would be in a state of absolute goodness.

If it wasn’t sleep, then it must be something else. And it had to be discovered. For the greater good of the world.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft, Jim Morrison formed Doors, Steve Jobs started Apple and Spielberg made Jaws.

I discovered the Yawn.

Yes, the Yaaawwwwn.

Rediscovered it.

Unlike sleep, yawning wasn’t corrupted by dreams. Or even thoughts, for it is difficult to think or do anything while yawning.

“The yawn is the purest state of the human mind!” I yelled for posterity, in a second attempt to have my life’s Eureka moment recorded. 

I had discovered the magic of this precursor to sleep by sheer accident.

I used to sell Life Insurance at that time. As all salesmen know, understanding the body language of the customer is everything.

When the customer smiles too much, it means he is struggling to be polite, but might not succeed for long.

When he widens his eyes, it means he is not interested, only pretending to be interested.

When he nods too much, it means he is happily agreeing with you because he has just bought one the previous day.

And yes, when he yawns, it means he is bored.

Or so the world thought.

Until I discovered how child-like the human mind can be while yawning.

When a man yawns, his mask falls, his defenses are lowered, poise crumbles, best-profile contorts, and he stands disarmed and vulnerable.

Most of my sales were based on the exploitation of this moment, summed up as a mantra thus:

“If you make them yawn, even the toughest would relent.”

Ask any army man. He’d tell you that sleep deprivation is one of the most popular techniques to make captured enemies spill secrets.

People yawn secrets out.

That’s the thing about yawns.

It has the ability to make even the gravest issues worthless. It makes our point of view meaningless, and the fight for it seem silly.

That’s because the yawn brings a universal perspective to everything, making our immediate attitude, thoughts and deeds seem petty in the larger scheme of things.

It is difficult to be cruel, envious and negative when you yawn.

Try it.

Think about it.

Do you think a yawning man can ever rape?

Steal?

Or back stab?

Have you ever seen a terrorist yawn?

Never.

Yawning is an act of self-realisation, of actualisation.

If only more people yawned more often and longer, every soul would become a noble one. And this world would be such a good place to live in.

At least until people go to sleep and begin to dream those terrible dreams.

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In search of a smarter God

(39 days ago on this blog, I had done an open evaluation of God’s performance thus far. The results were appalling. As a consequence, the CEO of Universe, Inc., Mr.God, had to be sacked, and as its self-appointed Chairman, I had promised you that I will find a better alternative soon. So, here I am.)

Honestly, I didn’t know it would be this tough. I had foolishly assumed that it would be easy to pick a God from the many that exists in this world already.

In the extreme case of none befitting my high standards, how long would it take to create a new one!” I had even boasted to a friend.

It would certainly be easier than creating babies, though not as pleasurable!” I had joked.

After all, I didn’t need a partner for this, and didn’t have to depend on her not having a headache!” we had laughed.

I was so so wrong.

Clearly, finding a common God has got to be the toughest job in this Universe.

Compared to this, God’s Creation of Man seems like kindergarten stuff- which he made a mess of, by outsourcing its mass production to Adam & Eve with absolutely no quality checks in place.

Ever since then, man has been trying to recreate his creator. It led to theories, stories and trouble. What started off as plain curiosity, soon became an obsession, then a business, and later a convenient excuse for the cunning.

But hopefully, we are past all that muddled religious times, and are ready for a more homogeneous and meaningful belief, starting now.

Yes, I have good news in this context.

(You may now rise, and get ready for a standing ovation as the announcement follows.)

Ladies and gentlemen, our eons-long search is over. I have found a new God; not just for me, but for you and for this Universe.

A more capable, proven and result-oriented God.

Someone you can touch, listen to and talk to.

Someone who will answer your prayers, guide you and correct you in real time.

Someone who will encourage no religious fundamentalism and terrorism, and make everyone accept the theory of One World One God.

A God who will be not mine, yours or theirs, but ours.

(Applause here.)

I am as proud of the process as I am of the result.

In keeping with the democratic traditions of a civilised world, I had asked all the people I could meet in January this year for their best choice, for the Universe’s top post.

By simple computation, I arrived at the winner.

And then, true to the traditions of the developed world, I vetoed it, to nominate a God who I think will be better than the popular choice.

Before I say who it is, let me, in classic reality show style, announce the results starting with the bottom choice first.

In the fifth position with merely 3% votes is The Saint!

Shocking, how he, who I thought would be the most obvious successor to God by virtue of being No.2 in the pecking order of divinity, has been unceremoniously relegated to the bottom of the pile. Perhaps, making the blind see, getting the lame to walk and parting the seas no longer impress the generation that has been brought up on astounding special effects.

Also, how long can people keep watching saints perform miracles on others?! The message from them is loud and clear- “Miracles are useless unless it is happening to us. Until then, it is just a magic show.”

In the fourth position with 7% votes is this never-say-die creature who has the knack of popping up in any poll- The Politician!

That he features in this list, is no surprise. That he features higher than The Saint, surely is.

It is a hint that the job of God is a political one.

God’s tact of fueling faith through hopes and promises, and keeping that belief intact even in the face of his colossal failure and pathetic performance, is an art best practised by the politician.

If that’s so, why not get the professional for the job?” a few seem to suggest.

In the third position with 10% votes is The Corporate Honcho!

Coming to think of it, he is actually a politician dressed in business suit who communicates through PowerPoint presentations.

He features higher than the politician only because he has turned greed into a virtue and made it a result-oriented business science.

Also, unlike the politician, the business head converts detractors into accomplices by sharing his loot with them, and respectfully calling that shareholding.

So, a vote for the businessman is a vote, I suspect, for a share in God’s profits.

In the second position with 12% votes is The Superhero!

He is everything you want your God to be. He’s there whenever you need him, to save you from distress and the world from annihilation. To add to it, there’s mystery around his real identity that adds to the aura.

I guess the only reason why he didn’t become the top choice is because it is difficult to imagine a batmobile traversing the narrow and overcrowded bylanes of Mumbai or Bangkok. Or the Spiderman answering an Arab’s call for help in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Where will he swing his web from?

And Superman? Well, it is kind of difficult to have faith in a God who wears his undies outside, no?

Finishing in the first position with 68% votes, ladies and gentlemen, is my poll’s winner, The Individual!

This one was the most unexpected. But I should have guessed. After all, who is going to miss an opportunity to vote for himself as the most powerful dude in the Universe?!

But in a way, this reiterates what the world’s most ancient philosophy says: “Your search for the greatest and the most powerful will take you all over, and finally bring you back to yourself. For, there’s no one who can change you, protect you and evolve you better than yourself. You are the best God there could ever be.”

I agree.

But as its self-appointed Chairman, I can’t have 7 billion CEOs for this Universe.

I need one.

So, I vetoed the poll verdict and continued my search.

The answer of all important searches in life is always at the last place you look for.

I went looking for a common God all over the Universe, when it was actually in my hands- in our hands.

Not figuratively, literally.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the new God is an App!

The new temple is the Smart Phone!

It is as individual as it can get and as mass as you want it to be.

It has unprecedented universal acceptance, and is today the world’s fastest growing religion.

With the youth as its evangelists, it surely is only going to grow wider and faster.

But does it play God?

Of course, it does.

It’s omnipresent, staying with you all the time. Always accessible, always responding to your requests.

Isn’t “Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall be provided!” truer of your app-loaded smart phone than of any God you have known?

If God’s job is to keep you away from evil, then don’t you think that the phone has done that in double good measure?

I don’t have statistics, but I am certain that since the advent of the smart phones, the youth have lesser time and interest in other things. Parents will vouch for that.

If there’s still drugs and crime in this world, it must be thanks to those who don’t have smart phones yet, or those who haven’t loaded enough apps yet.

I am not saying it is all there. But it surely has the most potential.

Imagine an app where you could feed the values you want to adhere to. Such a smart app can actually prevent you from all things evil.

So, as you talk, the app can beep your cuss words, distract you when you lose your temper or warn you when you write a nasty message.

An app that will automatically dial a number in your phone book after a pre-fixed number of days, just to keep you in touch with each other. So there’s no drifting apart in relationships ever.

An app that will have no ego in sending out a “I am sorry if I hurt you” message to someone you have had a silly fight with.

It’s a God who will make tangible changes to our lives.

It’s exciting, entertaining and very personal.

But you know what really makes it the best new God of this Universe?

It just doesn’t inspire fanaticism.

No one’s going to wage a war in the name of an app. Or blow himself up just because you criticised it.

It needs no priest, no saint, no middleman.

Across caste, colour, creed and gender, there would be one app.

One World, One App.

Nothing called children of a lesser app.

It is everything God and religion were meant to be, but weren’t.

Get converted. Go download.

Universe, Inc. is hiring!

 

If I told you iPhone 6 exists, would you believe me?

You’d insist on seeing it, touching it, and would want to know how it compares with Samsung’s next. Wouldn’t you?

And if I told you that you can’t do any of that, but would still have to believe it exists, have blind faith in it, spend money on it and go about your life pretending it is in your pocket, wouldn’t you ask me to look for another sucker?

Rightly so.

But how come you aren’t this rational when they say the same about God?

Now, is that a very sacrilegious thing to imply?

Have I hurt your religious sensibilities enough to make you rave, rant and turn this into a huge issue?

Good.

You can sue me for blasphemy, get this ‘offensive’ post removed and even force WordPress to block my blog. Maybe there’s a way to get me banned from the internet, too.

How about issuing a fatwa against me, putting a prize money on my head?

Please do it.

Because that bounty is going to be bigger than any insurance cover I can ever give my family. By asking my wife to turn me in, I can ensure that they live happier than ever.

Money apart, there’s instant fame. There’s no shorter route to international celebrityhood or richness today than a controversy, scandal or crime concerning God- yours, hers or mine.

See the irony?

Don’t pass me off as an atheist. I believe in God. He exists, and has been creating amazing stuff all around since long- even before time became a concept. No question about it.

All I am saying is anything that exists must be up for critique.

So it is with God. It’s time we reviewed His performance.

Is that such an unreasonable thing to say in a world where everything from food, clothes, films, music, gizmos, employees, spouses and kids are judged every day?

So. Let’s do it.

Here’s my evaluation of God: He has failed, miserably.

He is past his prime. (The perk of capitals has been withdrawn with immediate effect, as you can see.) He is now becoming a liability to all that he has created thus far.

And so, I dare say this: God’s got to go!

Let me explain.

Look around, where’s all the good in the world gone? Where does one get to see honesty, kindness, love, graciousness these days?

Okay, outside this blog?

And humility?

Gone for ever.

In contrast, the bad is everywhere.

Wars, killings, rapes, drugs, frauds, alcohol, terrorism…so much that an old-fashioned, simple theft now seems an honourable way of making a living.

Clearly, evil rules.

The problem is that we humans blame ourselves, our parents and our society for all this. We blame everyone but god, the chief architect of all this mess.

He enjoys religious immunity which is worse than diplomatic immunity. It absolves him of everything, including colossal failure.

Let me try to put his failure in a perspective that’s closer home.

Let’s forget he is god. Let’s assume he is a father. The father of this Universe. (Okay, mother, if you insist.)

Now, if god is the single-parent of this Universe, then we are his family- A totally dysfunctional family of a few billion children. And that’s just the legitimate ones.

It is rumoured that there could be many more tucked away in other planets- our half-siblings who I am told are complete weirdos with antennas sticking out of their heads.

That our family is in complete disarray isn’t surprising, because it’s a parent we have not seen or heard, forget hugged, kissed or played PS-3 with. Actually, we don’t even know if our parent is a father or a mother. We have been asked to fend for ourselves in the belief that someone is around somewhere watching us and guarding us.

Have you noticed how all the good that happens are because of him and all the bad that happens are our own making? How convenient.

Yes, I know it is tough to be a single parent, but then we are not expecting a Harry Potter series to be written alongside, are we?

Yes, it’s tough to run a home this wide and head a family this big. But if Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt can, why can’t god?

The truth is begging to be told: If god were a parent, he’d be the worst one in the Universe.

If you don’t quite agree, let me give you another perspective.

If the Universe were a nation, what kind of a Head of State do you think god would be?

Lincoln like? Lenin? Mao? Nelson Mandela? Gandhi or Mother Teresa like?

Brace yourself for this: None of the above. He’d be a dictator.

You are probably saying benevolent dictator.

Sorry, he’d be worse than Hitler. The cruelest so far.

No one in this Universe has more blood on his hands than god. He believes everyone born must be made to suffer and one day mercilessly killed. He has brainwashed us into believing that the death he hands out to us is inevitable, and must be accepted gleefully, regarding it as salvation.

The UN would have called his kingdom a rogue state and imposed sanctions against it. The world would have waged an aligned war to overthrow such a tyrant. And yet, here we are, worshipping him.

Convinced? No?

Okay, this one you will have to accept. It’s an analogy everyone understands.

Let us assume that the Universe is an organisation. The Universe, Inc.

If all the evil in this world were losses and all the good were profits, then Universe, Inc. would be a company deeply in red.

I don’t know about you, but if I were appointed the Chairman of Universe, Inc. today, I’d want to clean up the act.

Here’s how I would go about it.

The first thing I’d do is summon god, to my galactic corner office overlooking the Milky Way.

His employee docket would be on the table in front of me.

It would be a bulky, dusty file with Gothic inscription on its cover.

Employee Number: 1

Employee Name: God Almighty

Designation: CEO

Date of Joining: Unknown

I wouldn’t have to refer to that docket to know what it contains. After all, who doesn’t know god’s credentials.

  • The greatest entrepreneur ever.
  • Built a start-up from just a Big Bang to whatever it is today.
  • His experiment on Earth resulted in absolutely fabulous concepts like Water, Oxygen and Life.
  • He introduced Evolution of Species- a self-betterment science that resulted in a thinking species- Humans.

That we turned out to be his nemesis, is unfortunate.

A star performer alright, but he is someone who has escaped appraisal thus far. Not any longer. At least, not under this new management.

I would want an explanation and would love to ask:

Why? Why, in the name of god, did you have to create all this mess?”

But I wouldn’t ask.

I know him too well.

He would look at me and smile that smile which has given us common folk a false sense of hope, assurance, confidence, and turned us into these religion-injected zombies.

I am sure his reply would be something as noncommittal as this:

No one creates mess. Mess happens.”

An adequately vague and confusing statement that sounds like profound philosophy, but is actually an escape door.

But I’d have done my homework and won’t go that way.

Instead, I would read out to him, his own first law of this Universe:

Whatever exists must one day exit.”

Without flinching, I would then proceed to say the dreaded pink-slip words:

“Mr. God, you are fired!”

And that would be it. The end of god’s reign.

Like any good board member, you would want to know what next.

I would have to find a replacement. It wouldn’t be easy. But It would have to be done.

So, spread the word: Universe, Inc. is hiring! Applications welcome!

In a few days, I would be done and would announce the successor to god, the ex-almighty.

 

My quest for the last

 

You know what the problem with life’s lessons is?

They are like Technology.

Just when you think you have mastered one, life reveals its newer versions- Truer versions of truths.

Sometimes they are just upgrades. But often they are completely new, and change your old beliefs so much that it feels stupid to have clung on to them stubbornly all along.

Happens to me all the time. So if you spot contradictions in my posts, remember, they aren’t conversations of a confused soul, but new, improved, updated versions of my beliefs.

Look at 2012, for instance. I started the year eagerly with ‘First, at last’. But grew wiser through the year, and am ending with ‘My quest for the last’.

Coming to think of it, this is a lesson life has been desperately trying to tutor me unsuccessfully for five decades.

Take First Love- a concept that the world has unnecessarily romanticised, given undue importance and immortalised. In a moment I’ll tell you how meaningless it can be.

Mine happened quite early in life. I remember it vividly. I had fallen for that dimpled, giggling, bundle of ecstasy in the cradle next to mine, at the Baby Room in a maternity home. I think I was two days old and she, one. On the third day as the head matron came to take me away, mercilessly separately us young hearts, I remember, I bawled and flapped my tiny hands around in an uneven fight. As I was taken out of the room, I threw one last glance back at my love, just for keeps. She was kicking the air in protest. It was then that her diaper fell off and I saw her stark naked.

She was a he.

Forget the First, no matter how many loves you have in life, the only one that really matters is the last, because that’s the one you get married to and live with for the rest of your life.

Life is clear about its lessons. “It’s not the first, but the last that matters.”

In cricket, it’s not the first, but the last ball that counts. It’s not the first, but the last run that becomes the winning run.

In a race, it’s not how well you start, but how well you finish.

In life, it’s not who you were born as, but who you die as.

In a chocolate box, it’s not the first, but the lone last slab that’s the sweetest.

In your wallet, it’s not the first, but the last coin that’s most precious.

In school, it’s not the first, but the last day of exams that is most memorable.

Dumb me, life was so blatant about its clues and yet I didn’t catch them.

I used to come home from school and say that I was the 35th ranker in class or finished 8th in the 1500-meter heats. But I would never admit I was the last.

This, in spite of the obvious rewards that life doles out to those who finish last.

The last ranker enjoys every day of his school, and has just one bad day in a year- the day of the results. Whereas the first ranker slogs the whole year for that one good day.

But the world continues to equate finishing last to losing.

Which is why 31st December isn’t the last day of the year, but the new year’s eve.

It is never about bidding a fond farewell to the last, but always about ushering in the first.

As I write this, even the precious last seconds of the year have been reduced to just a countdown to 2013.

Not for me. At least, not this year.

I am dwelling in this last moments of 2012, slowing it down, stretching it to an eternity and delaying the year’s last tock after its last tick, as much as I can.

So much, that I have all the time in the world to publish this post.

Whoever thinks that finishing last is easy, should try finishing last in Slow Cycling.

Or, refuse to budge from the end of a bungee jumping queue.

Or, get the last word with his wife, boss or news anchor- that’s like trying to win a shouting match with your echo.

Or simply do what I have just done- become the world’s last blogger of 2012 by publishing the last post of the year in the whole World Wide Web at 11:59:59 on 31st December.

Happier, Merrier, Funnier

 

I am done with the Olympics.

As I watched the opening ceremony on TV, the truth exploded in the grey of my head, like Boyle’s fireworks in the London sky.

The seed for this sudden thought was perhaps sown a few hours earlier, while having dinner with my family that night.

The image of the four of us seated around our circular dining table had an uncanny resemblance to the tall light-towers overlooking the Olympic stadium- perhaps ominous of the revelation that was to strike me later.

The dinner itself was no different from the countless ones we’ve had through the years- as predictable. The conversations, as expected.

My younger son, always the first off the block, spoke about how his teacher threw an impossible question to the class that day. Her question seemed to have sped like a rogue train through the rows of benches, mauling 39 out of the 40 students in class, to reach you-know-who.

If that sounds like a Hollywood thriller, then the end was typical, too.

The last boy sitting, stands up in slow motion and utters the answer with echoing effect.

The teacher exalts him. The students clap non-stop.

I stifled a yawn. My wife shed copious tears of joy. My first son hastened the end-credits in a hurry to begin his show.

His show was cricket.

Six runs to win, one ball to go, last batsman in.

Obviously, the guess-who did the guess-what.

My wife shed more tears. I threw some well-rehearsed pats on son’s back. And my younger son sulked his loss of limelight, before my wife began her story.

It was about the new original recipe that she had come up with that evening. She cooked and send the dish to her friends in the building, and every husband and every wife had called back to say she is truly the Masterchef, God’s gift to cooking and much more.

“God’s own cook,” I was tempted to joke, but feared being chopped, cooked and served next.

Instead, “Can you pass some more of the…er…whatever that is?” I requested, bringing into play my years of training in corporate sycophancy.

I served myself whatever-it-was, a lot more than necessary. I saw her wipe a few tears off her eyes. Not sure if they were old ones or new ones.

I proceeded to struggle and finish her experiment, pretending to have been blown over by its taste. A little later, I suddenly realised that all had stopped talking. There had been an unusual silence for a while. I looked up only to see all of them staring at me. How could I forget, the last turn is always mine! They were expecting my success story of the day.

I hemmed and hawed, did a bum-shuffle on the seat, took another serving of the disaster, coughed, drank water, pretended my phone had beeped, re-read some old messages, and basically bought more time.

Time heals, they say.

But doesn’t prevent, I discovered.

So finally, when there was no Emergency Exit visible, I spoke.

I narrated another one of those stories that I’ve been so deftly cooking up at the table all these years. Basically, a blatant lie.

Like junk food, it is delicious, sumptuous, but terribly unhealthy. But people relish it. Three happy faces are any day greater than one guilty heart. The story of my failings would have never created such a happy, contended, hopeful family moment. Never.

Life and the Olympics are about triumphs. Only about triumphs.

This parallel struck me as I sat watching the opening ceremony later that night.

There have been 12 Olympics in my lifetime. This is the 13th. (See the reason?)

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the ones that I’ve seen. That night too, I had begun enjoying myself.

The world was celebrating together. Cultures were melting into each other as one performance gave way to another seamlessly.

And yet, at the back of my mind was this lurking demon of a thought.

Wouldn’t all this bonhomie soon give way to rivalry, competition and hatred when the Games actually begin?

For the first time in my life I found the great Olympic mantra, ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ rather silly.

I wanted to scream back, “Than whom?” “For what?”, “To go where?”

That night, the slogan sounded so much like an energy beverage ad.

Images of desperate moms pushing their kids to outperform and defeat their friends came to my mind. Moms desperately trying to achieve through their children what they themselves couldn’t do in their lives. As for the dads, they are always busy getting faster, higher, stronger at work.

Don’t the overgrown, muscle-enhanced Olympic champions crouching at starting lines, remind you of those made-to-perform kids? Aren’t the failed athletes masquerading as trainers, behaving like disgruntled moms?

At the sound of a whistle or a gun shot, these athletes, like circus animals, walk, run, jump, leap, throw, swim, gyrate, fight, pass batons and play ball. Not for the love of sport. But to help their nations exert power, dominate, humiliate, and win a World War without the fear of a nuclear holocaust.

Look at boxing. One has to punch the opponent to a bloody, instant kayo, and condemn him to a life affected by Parkinson’s later, just to claim Gold medal for his nation.

Sweaty flesh wrestles sweaty flesh through postures straight out of the Kamasutra, until the victor pins down the victim like a merciless rapist, so that he can do his nation proud at the victory stand.

My heart goes out to the marathoners. Some of them come from countries where water is more precious than Gold, and would rather snatch the water bottle offered on the way, and run back home. And yet they are forced to run endless miles to upset a superpower.

Why can’t people and nations stop competing? Why can’t the world just get together more often and have simple fun? The Olympics can become a celebration of cultures, where Iranians dance with Americans, Palestinians with Israelis, Indians with Pakistanis, Sinhalese with Tamils, Koreans with…well, Koreans, Chinese with the Dalai Lama, Coke with Pepsi, Apple with Microsoft and I with Angelina Jolie.

I am telling you, there will be an instant impact on all things around the globe. Even around my dining table.

My younger son’s dinner time story would change to how wonderful it would be to fast with his friend Shamsuddin for 40 days during Ramadan. (No mom’s veggies, would be the real reason, though.)

My first son’s would be about how they are planning to go to school the next day with one leg tied up, just to know how their classmate Rishab deals with it all his life.

Mine would be true stories of my failings, fearlessly said and laughed about.

The Olympics can be the change that the world is unable to be- Happier, Merrier, Funnier.

The five rings that now seem like stress nooses would then turn into smilies.

I have already seen hope at this Olympics. Look at the empty seats at all venues. People are fed up. In contrast, look at the huge crowds for beach volleyball. The only sport where no one is bothered which nation wins or which loses. It is not about Faster, Stronger, Higher, but about Lesser. It’s not about Gold, Silver or Bronze, but about the Tan.

Therein lies the secret of bringing the world and its people closer.

May contests end. Let fun begin.

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.

Sweet lies. Bitter truths.

Chocolates and bitter gourd.

One is sweet. The other, bitter.

One is unhealthy. The other, healthy.

 

Just like compliments and insults.

One is gleefully accepted. The other is instantly resented.

One is about sweet lies. The other, about bitter truths.

 

I know you are protesting. (When haven’t you?)

Agreed, not all compliments are lies and not all insults are truths.

But you can’t deny that compliments are about saying what one wants to hear. And insults are about saying what one hopes won’t be said.

One is like walking into a beauty parlour. The other is like being wheeled into an operation theatre.

One is about masking the faults and revealing the strengths. The other is about masking the strengths and revealing the faults.

What clinches it in favour of insults is this: Compliments are very rarely from the heart. While you can be sure, insults are always wholehearted- from the bottomest pit of the heart.

Agreed, both are half-truths.

But a compliment is a dangerous half-truth to believe. While an insult is a useful half-truth to be worked upon.

One is about stagnation and ruination. The other is about betterment and perfection.

You’ve got to believe me, I am speaking from personal experience here.

One of the earliest compliments that put my life off-road came from my class teacher in class IV.

Just after handing me the year’s Report Card, she had asked me what I wanted to become in life. I had said, “Surgeon,” without hesitation.

She had laughed.

But I didn’t read much into that laugh, as it was followed by a life-changing compliment: “If nothing else, you at least have the long, soft fingers of a surgeon.”

That one comment made me pursue science until graduation. I spent considerable time and effort in trying to get into medical colleges despite what my marks, aptitude and entrance tests revealed.

Recently when I was introduced to a surgeon, I shook his hands and couldn’t help take a good look at his fingers. They were dark, short and stumpy. I could hear the teacher laugh, clearly.

My second most disastrous compliment came from the prettiest girl in class. While leaving school, she wrote this in my autograph book: “Your face is your fortune!”

That she wrote such a thing was unbelievable. But what she wrote was very belief-worthy. I must have read it a million times and carried it in my head for many many years.

If my face was indeed my fortune, then my fortune had begun growing facial hair just after school. Soon it was struck with chicken pox, then it got sun tanned, pimpled, freckled, blemished and later wrinkled. The only times my face has otherwise come into play in my life have been when I’ve come face to face with failures, fallen face down in my ventures, had face-offs with people, and been told on my face the bitter truth.

And yet, when my wife chose me as her husband over two other better qualified contenders, I suspected my deteriorating face to have finally paid off. I broached this topic on our first night, masking my self-obsession, with romance.

“What made you say no to that CEO in Saudi?” I asked, seeking a confirmation for the compliment in my school autograph book.

“What’s the point in having such beautiful Kancheepuram silk sarees if I have got to wear burqas over it?” she replied matter-of-factly.

I faked a smile.

“Okay, but you could have said yes to that auditor from Delhi?” I persisted, desperately fishing for a compliment, for any compliment.

But it was not to be. This is what she had to say: “Oh, he’s too good looking, too rich, too talented. He’s too good to remain a one-woman man.” Amazing how someone can be too good to be good.

The third compliment that I am still struggling to get over came from my family and friends around me. “Ramesh is so creative, no? He writes so well.”

They used to say this every time I gave them an idea or wrote them a card on social occasions.

Here is a sample of that creativity for which everyone thought I deserved the Booker prize:

You are as beautiful as a full moon

As bright as the sun at noon

To your family you are a boon

So, please don’t marry that goon

That turned me into an aspiring writer (I am still aspiring to be one), though a poor persuader (she married that goon) and a bad advisor (he turned out to be a boon).

In comparison, the insults in my life could have been far more constructive had I not rejected them.

“You dumbo, you can never become a doctor. Set up a pharmacy next to your dad’s clinic. Maybe you will survive.”  – A friend in school after a fight.

“How do you put up with this man?” – Our neighbour to my wife after a heated building society meeting.

“Bastard, no one’s ever going to find your writing worth buying.”  – An office colleague after I criticised his work.

The last comment is what made me start this blog. No one needs to pay, you see.

Over the years, I have become a complete convert.

I don’t accept compliments now. I don’t compliment anyone, either.

There’s good reason for it.

Tell a person you like his mannerisms, and you can be sure he’ll do it 10 times in the next 15 minutes.

Tell a girl that a colour suits her and she will wear those shades until you wish you went colour blind.

Tell someone you like the way he laughs and he’ll laugh for everything you say, until it gets on your nerves.

That’s the problem with a compliment. It makes people conscious of their strength and forces them to overdo it until it loses all its spontaneity and charm.

On my wife’s birthday this month, I told her I wasn’t going to give her any gift. Instead, I asked her to list out all that she hates about me. I promised her I’d change all of those for her.

She refused to say anything.

“Nothing,” she said politely, “You are okay as you are, Rum.”

But I insisted. And didn’t let her go off to sleep that night without saying it. Finally, she sat up and said, “Okay, if you insist…” And then went on to list 86 things wrong with me, in the next one hour. At the end of which, she kissed me and rolled over to go to sleep saying, “Rum, you are the best husband any woman can have.”

I sat up the whole night seething with rage. How dare she say such things about me, and worse, go off to sleep just like that.

But then, I remembered she had said something else, too.

Rum, you are the best husband any woman can have.”

Don’t ask me how anyone with 86 faults can qualify as a husband, forget being the best husband. But who cares. When it comes to compliments, hearts don’t ask for clarifications.

What matters was I felt good. Suddenly I was happy. I kissed her lightly in her sleep and went off to sleep.

Chocolate is an excellent sedative. Bitter gourd, a rude awakener.

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