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The Unbreakable Synchronicity!

For all the mechanical boringness of machines, there is something inherently beautiful about how cycles of ‘a day’ keep churning themselves over and over again! I am someone who would find routines absurd and boring and yet there is a simple beauty in certain kinds of synchronicity!

Yesterday when the rains kept pouring down, the sky felt like an excessively HUGE water bag which had just burst open and kept emptying itself. I was standing by my window spacing out on the rain and noticed something. In that chaotic rain day when perhaps a lot of us would have stayed home I saw the Milk Man coming on his cycle, completely geared in his rain wear, stopped in front of building next doors and was off for the deliveries in the building. (A lot us on a heavy rain day might wonder how we may reach work by bus/car/cab but how many of us doubt that whether the milkman who comes on his cycle may not be able to make it?)

Then on my way to work, I noticed a garbage truck. The men in the middle of fighting the heavy downpour were busy emptying the bags dolled out to them from the entire line of restaurants on the streets, dumping them and moving on.

For all the milkmen, the garbage men, the vegetable sellers, things that we are so used to just ‘being there’, do we even realize how awesome these guys are? Most of the middle level management in this country might suffer from not turning up on time and having the lazy (Indian standard time) attitude but have we noticed how punctual, on time and perfect most of our milkmen and dhobis (Laundry men) are! If they had to be the ‘standard’ for ‘Indian Standard time” we definitely would have a different definition doing the rounds!

I use to always wonder as to how my dhobi manages to collect clothes from some 50 odd flats in my bundling, remember each and every one of them and return them in exactly the same way without misplacing or mixing up a single one! I have the same fascination for my Milkman who comes every evening to all the houses, takes orders (which may vary on a day to day basis about the amount of milk to be delivered the next day) and delivers the exact number of bags the next day! I have still not figured out how they manage this! (And we tend to assume, mundane regular jobs don’t require skills!)

Sometimes I think these jobs are the ones that need the most skill and discipline and enormous amount of creativity to not get bored with the same thing day in and day out!

I was smiling at the beauty of how regularly these cycles keep turning themselves…not a single error and no single delay. I burst out laughing at imagining what would happen the day….the milkman would turn up late .. followed by no garbage being collected… to the dhobi coming late… and the dabba wala never turning up! 🙂

So cheers to these guys out there! And the cycles which keep rolling out, hoping that one day I shall come close to that level of efficiency.

I am sure all of us if we looked at our days had many more of these people and things that decorate our lives and make sure our days stay under control.

Which are your favorites?

What would you do? Which cab would YOU take?

You see a line of cabs parked at the end of a lane, the regular black and yellow ‘Premier Padminies’ (Fiats). (For all the non-bombayites, all cabs are the same fiat model). At the end of the row you see a black and yellow colored car, it’s a cab! But it’s not a Fiat. It’s a Hyundai Santro!

What would you do? Which one would you pick for your ride?

Over the last year, there have been a few of these Santro cabs that have been around Bombay. Whenever I see one, I get really excited and always run to get into one! It just seems like a fun thing to do. It’s a regular cab, same rate, just a Santro rather than a Fiat!

The fun is more with the kind of looks you get as you take your ride. Most people on the streets with expressions of… “Oh that looks different!” to “Do you think that might be costing her more!” to “Oh what’s that thing?” to “Oh what fun!”

When I was in one of these rides today I got thinking of how these simple things are somewhere connected to whether we see the different things that ‘pop up’ out of our otherwise routine canvas as “quaint” and “fun” or just “absurd” and “weird” ! Would you like random changes and take detours or just prefer routines?

Just in case any of you are thinking I am cooking up a baseless theory of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ based on a simple ‘cab ride choice’ I have evidence to back this! 🙂

To quote one of my friend with whom I did have this conversation, she told me she had left a Santro cab just last week cause she thought it looked ‘different’. So that at least makes the two of us, one on each side!

So what would you do? Big theories are always made of small gestures! I hope there were more random out of pattern cabs, buses, or thing we use everyday to choose from! Wouldn’t they add that random variety to life!

P.S: That reminds me of another random conversation I had with a group of friends a while ago, when the topic of discussion was, “Why does a refrigerator always have the freezer on top?” Given that actually we use the lower section more and keep bending down to get things. Wouldn’t it be more convenient to have the regular section on top, so things you use everyday will be at your regular height! None of us could really conclude whether this design was for any scientific logical reason or just a pattern we got habituated to. Not only as ‘users’ but as ‘designers’ would you defy a set pattern?

Disconnectedness

I migrated to the world of techies about a year ago, joining my husband in running our small software startup. Before this I worked in a happily “disconnected” environment with a million woes of technology that one could crib about.

Technology woes can be super magnified within the environs of those proclaimed to be “not for profit”. No, this isnt because “social workers” aren’t tech savvy – we surf the net, understand words like “server” and “trojan”, understand blogging and widgets, know what a bluetooth transfer is, understand how wifi works, are plugged into the iphone hype and the rest of the related blah. Rather this annoying jinx with technology is a result of the complicated measures that somehow seem to plague even the simplest of IT solutions in an NGO setup. For example in my previous job, we used Microsoft Exchange Server for email and (ahem) collaboration. Combined with strange connectivity and virus issues that seemed to be confined to the periphery of the organization along with troublesome server settings that seemed to magically change with every single breath, we did anything but “collaborate”.

Most of us were in a perpetual state of “where is this file” , “where is that folder” , “oh that mail dint come” and “all my mails are bouncing back”.

But the QTOL thing about being in such an environment is the fact that one can continue to resemble “humans of this age and time”. Yes, we could all afford to miss the bus of evolution resulting in ” the next generation of humans” and enjoy the bliss of “disconnectedness”.

The happily disconnected lot – surf, use the mobile and perhaps even blog – but they:

1. Do not open a million browser windows (with a zillion tabs within each)

2. Do not need maps for directions in India

3. Do not need something like Twitter to tell the world that they are bored, or super smart, or sleeping or yawning

4. Can do without reading their emails for a week and can stay off their IMs without falling into social isolation

5. Do not substitute Google with plain simple “hellos” and “business cards” in a social gathering

6. Do not get into depression because there is no internet or mobile connectivity

7. Do not need “a Second life”

There are several other such lovely traits of this happily disconnected lot – the fact is that they are so well connected to the presence of living forms through the traditional medium of “air” that they do not crave for the modern “connected” mediums like emails, IMs, tagging, scrapping, linking and the blah.

At a recent conference that I attented, face to face interaction dint seem to suffice and people wanted to get online on their super cool laptops (almost compulsively) to browse, even though listening could have given them the very same information. I swear I could see antennas growing out of their heads, so you can imagine their need to “connect” virtually with the mere whiff of the presence of such a network.

I am happy to say that in spite of being a part of a software startup, I am still miles away from growing an antenna. I blog because I love writing and its a free and convenient way to communicate what I write, I use IM largely to save on phone bills. I recently bought my mobile on the internet because it took me less than 10 minutes to do so, as against several tiring hours negotiating the crowd at UniverCell. More importantly I avoided the mental fatigue resulting from trying to choose between many many models with a zillion features presented by “as a rule I shall be unhelpful” salespeople.

Yet I am not hooked or addicted. I am not in love with the virtual connections and I can live without it.

My happiest moments continue to be random moments that crowd the monotony of life – like puris puffing into full sized balloons and bobbing on the surface the very first time I make them. And I’d exchange “a lifetime of connectivity” for the feel of a vast green virgin beach (minus the “meen fry”, “mulagai bajji” and “xxx chaat” of course).

I am proud to be still swimming in the bliss of “disconnectedness”!!

The Parallel Reality! Magic!

In some of  those pondering moments, when one wonders whether there is a heaven and if there are magical alternative realms, I realize that  there is one parallel reality that I drift away into almost on a daily basis – I drift into the reality of things beyond the earth!! Something you can see everyday and yet it’s an endless fascinating world of its own, which you realize only if you looked at it as often as you noticed the road you walk on.

I am talking about the world on top of the horizon! The sky!

Today morning as I was on my cab ride to work with the sky dotted with a few rain clouds, my mind wandered away. Like a flash of having a dejà vu, I was thinking of all the awesome things that the sky keeps treating me to. I don’t know if any of you guys love staring at the sky but I do, and these are the kind of things that I love staring at on random afternoons, evenings and nights.

Do you follow any of these? Or do you have any more to add on to my list?

Have you ever followed clouds and tried to see everything in them? From animals, to people, to chariots to the big elephant breaking away into smaller bears. As they drift and move, disintegrate and merge into one another, they seem to tell so many stories! And have you ever tried looking out of the aircraft? It’s when I just want to go hopping and jumping on all the clouds hanging in the middle of nowhere .They seem like little rocks in a pond which you could jump on. The sight of absolutely nothing hanging in the middle of air is perhaps the most beautiful sight ever.

And have you chased the Birds around? All the mad groups and the lonely ones, the ones fluttering in circles and the ones taking such long flights that they disappear out of your sight. The pairs of birds that seem to follow one another, its almost as though you are flying around with them.

And then my personal favorite – have you felt like creating your own box of colours to capture all the shades that come up at the sunset and the sunrise? The purples, the oranges, the blues, the yellows. Wow! I really can’t ever stop marveling at them. I know for sure, every day it’s a new colour, although it may seem the same shade its always different. I am forever fascinated by the million shades that exist in the sky. It  feels as though the sky is a massive multicolored screen which keeps throwing these different shades at you. I am sure there is a very ‘scientific’ explanation to this, but my imagination thrives at seeing the sky as a canvas with colours being splashed on it rather that seeing it as a set of molecules and atoms and because of light refraction creating an illusion of colour! Lol. 

And of course how can we forget our stars, the moon and the sun. The moon is by far my favorite. The part that’s most fascinating is when the moon and the sun keep playing their hide and seek with the clouds. I  feel like I am part of their team sometimes! The light emerging from behind when the clouds have completely covered them….and  when this happens over the ocean with the reflection on the water…..I haven’t really found a more fairy tale magical moment than this! 🙂

So here’s a loud cheer to the parallel magical world that’s as real to me as my world on the ground! Who said you had to go to Hogwarts and Hogsmead to get into the magical world of the wizards? We muggles seem to have our very own magical land, if we only let our imaginations have some fun. So here’s a to all of us discovering our private magical lands! We can all give company to Alice for creating and discovering more of her wonderlands in our very own backyards. 

The Little Princess and the Pigeons

There has always been something quaint about ‘games teachers’ in school. I’m sure everyone at some point in time has encountered a games teacher who believes in punishing kids more than really letting them enjoy their games! I wonder why ‘games’, perhaps one of the most fun things in life, are always equated to strictness and exercise. Perhaps this is just one more of those things that adults diligently make boring.

The temple that I go to also has a primary school in its compound. The compound is shared for the school’s games classes. As I sat there today morning,  a neat set of four rows of ten each in red, blue, yellow and green lined themselves up, with a 40 something man with big spectacles and a big moustache! It was of course our Kindergarten boys out for their exercise regime. I wonder if this typical look of all games teachers is just a coincidence or is it a criterion they have to adhere to in places where they get trained?

The 1,2,1,2 begins……hands going up and down, hands going side and up, heads going up and down. The horribly monotonous things we get kids to do in the name of building fitness and discipline! !!!. lol. And so as this ‘extremely engaging and interesting’ session continues, the odd kid in every row can’t help but miss the ‘fun’ of it all. With all hands going up, these kids would have their heads going down, or with the hands going up these little smarties having their heads down! Mix ups are fun, aren’t they?

Just when this boring routine had reached its peak with the odd lost smarties becoming the norm rather than the exception and the majority of the class looking around the compound,  which also shares the space with pigeons, we had a new visitor on the scene.

A toddler about the same age as the class , in her bright pink t-shirt and a blue denim skirt, with sport shoes and a high pony tale swinging from right to left marches across the space with her mommy dearest to feed the pigeons. The heads turn, our entire last row takes a complete 180 degree turn, away from their very interesting games teacher to our little princess who has definitely caught their attention! She was definitely distracting all the little princes from their ‘physical fitness’. 

Once the pigeons were fed, she walked away and  leaving most of our distracted souls  to return to their monotony. But one boy, the last kid in the red row was not going to return just as yet. His eyes followed her till she disappeared from his sight.

The result? The 180 degree turn had lasted far too long to have been missed by our teacher. A nice pat on his head followed with a demand to get back to class, to which our little prince had to just nod his approval.

I had a hearty laugh. Are we really trying to teach kids that putting our hands and heads up and down is more fascinating and worth learning than seeing a little princess feed pigeons?! Or perhaps we are simply training to negate the fun things and substitute it with the boring, mundane, routine tasks. Perhaps training for the 9-5 job does begin very early in life! Or am I missing the “fun angle” in routine jobs?!!

But I felt happy there was at least one kid in that bunch of 40 who was going to wander away from the routine, at least for a bit if not forever! Cheers to all the wanderers and wandering moments!

A Frothy Affair

Holidays at our ancestral home in Kulithalai would always be filled with lovely incidents – moments that you can look back on years later and smile.

My brother and a cousin, Sridhar, both kindergartners at the time of this incident, had gone snooping around the largish family house, while another older cousin, Krishna and I were buried in our books. As the older kids we indulged in more discipline and sitting tolerance while we waited for our daily dose of snacks at regular intervals. Obviously the two smaller kids left to entertain themselves indulged in a variety of unconventional games, from poking toads in the back garden, counting cobwebs in the attic to collecting weird shaped stones.

Life was beautifully lazy and the day just seemed to fit into this description till my chitthi (aunt) spotted some figures peeping into the well in the front yard. Soon she figured that what seemed like “peeping” from a distance, was actually “throwing” rather enthusiastic “throwing”. My brother was busy emptying packets after packets of something while my cousin was egging him on “Pooduda Podu” (roughly translating as “Throw, come on throw” in English).

Oi, you kids scoot from here. What do you think you’re up to?”, my chitthi called out. She approached the well and let out a horrified scream.

The well had transformed into a massive bucket of froth!! The kids had emptied a few packets of Wheel detergent powder into the well!!! It was simple enough for them to give blank stares and get inside the house quickly for some delicious food.

The real project of the day had however just begun. As the news of the latest prank spread, no one thought of scolding the kids. On the contrary, everyone seemed quite entertained in spite of the mammoth task that was ahead of them – the well needed to be rid of all the soapy water. My dad and my uncle began emptying out all the water, while the rest of us watched the show. I dint think it was possible for a well to be emptied!! It took several hours for them to successfully skim off the layer of soapy water. In the process they discovered quite a few random objects like a soap bar, a mug, a soap box which had found their way into the well.

Though no one was admonished for the prank, you can be rest assured that the Wheel detergent packets at Kulithalai have never been anywhere close to the well since that day. In fact no one ever knows where they are hidden, away from the prying eyes of pranksters.

The Pencil that wouldn’t grow

Lower Kindergarten was a wildly interesting year for me. I had met a bunch of other kids and found exciting opportunities to experiment and dabble in all the strange stuff around us together. Predictably much of this was baffling for my mother, who could never figure reasons behind strange phenomena, like a missing lunch box or sudden body rashes (from playing with Parthenium grass) . Though she was clever enough to figure that “I” was involved in some way or the other.

I remember this one particular time when my friend and I decided on a new experiment. We had noticed that each time a pencil was sharpened, its lead grew longer than before. My friend’s hunch was that if we kept sharpening, the lead will probably touch the classroom ceiling. I wasn’t so sure though, after all the lead seemed to be growing with the pencil was shrinking. So my take was that it would probably be as long as the pencil at the maximum. But this of course needed observation and some validation, even as kindergartners we were quite conscious about factual inference. So about five or six of us got together and decided to experiment.

Break time was spent in sharpening all our pencils continuously but none of the leads touched the ceiling or came anywhere close to a pencil’s length. The teacher would be quite bewildered that a whole bunch of us had no proper pencils to write after break. Each day I would return home with one inch pencils, and my mom would patiently lecture me on how I need to use them wisely and give me a new set. A couple of days passed with no success.

Finally my mom, who was growing sick of the “two new pencils a day” norm, threatened that she’d remove the sharpener from my pencil box. In my language this meant reducing it to cave man standards and losing my status as “the kid with the complete pencil box set” in lower kindergarten. She had successfully put me in a spot – I decided not to persist with our experiment of trying to make pencil leads grow. By the end of the year though I did figure how pencils worked.

Who deserves the Chocolate?

Trains journeys are always fascinating, especially when you are stuck in a three tier a/c compartment on an evening 5 hour journey. You can neither kill time by sleeping nor can you really kill time eating your meals. That leaves you stuck with 5 other people in your coach with no sound to distract you either. It’s at such times when it’s almost acceptable, that someone choosing to have a phone conversation within such silent confined spaces is almost volunteering to share their conversation with others.  It’s no longer over hearing and impolite! 🙂

So of course, all of this comes with me being stuck in one such compartment! I was trying to kill time and that’s when I usually bump into the most amusing moments. So as I was fiddling with my book, trying to read something,  my ears lead me on to something.

My fellow passenger about 30-35 years of age, was on the phone, and this is what I heard him say, Beta appne mummy ka chocolate kyun le liya!”  (Sweety why did u take away mommy’s chocolate! ) – in a tone which adults use to explain children things without wanting to scold them.

And I just smiled to myself! Wow! Now there was some role reversal happening here…

And then the second line…

Usne aapko chocolate wapus kiya ki nahin?’ (Did he/she return you your chocolate?) – In an extremely concerned, caring tone.

Now how often do adults recognize that sometimes their fellow adults need that chocolate more than the kids! So what if children claim to have had the birth right over all the ‘fun’ things? Sometimes mothers need the chocolates as much or perhaps more than their kids!

Somehow that weirdly confined compartment did not let me put my thumbs up and my ‘Cheers!” to my fellow passenger but in my mind I smiled and was glad for what I overheard! And glad for him having given a boost to all the kids in us!

 

Ice Cream Cone: Eating Techniques

I had always thought that there was only way to eat an ice cream out of a cone. Start from the top by licking the ice cream scoop and finish by chewing the cone all the way to the bottom. My amma had told me very strictly that this was the proper way – “clean and no spilling”. The right speed of ice cream licking was also equally important, it had to be fast enough to prevent the ice cream from melting and slow enough to savour the taste.

But while attending a largish family wedding in Srirangam when I was around five years old, my cousin busted the myth of “one clean way of eating cone ice cream”.

She was as old as me, but seemed far more experienced when it came to enjoying ice cream in a cone. She said she could eat it bottom up – eating the cone first and savouring the ice cream last. Another interesting technique involved pushing the ice cream all the way to the bottom with your tongue, this again ensured that you ended with the yummy taste of delicious ice cream. She also pointed out that one could always just eat the ice cream and throw away the cone, although I wasn’t convinced about this being another technique. Apparently one could also wait for the ice cream to melt inside the cone and drink this like some kind of a shake. Again, I wasn’t sure if the ice cream would melt on the “inside” or “outside”.

But it was clear that she had experimented with several different innovative ways, this made me feel jealous and unsettled. So highly unsettled that I decided to ignore being a “good obedient girl” for a while. She promised that she would demonstrate at least one of the techniques in the evening when the ice cream vendor usually did his rounds.

The wedding was over and it was time for the quick afternoon resting followed by some good ice cream for the kids. Most kids opted in for the Chocobar, while my cousin and I went in for a scoop of chocolate flavour in a cone. I decided to try the bottom up approach, not too experimental yet unconventional.

Of course my cousin had to first demonstrate and prove that it was a method that actually worked. So she took a neat little bite of the cone’s bottom. Well, nothing awful seemed to happen. I was of course licking my ice cream away, I would switch to the bottom when I was convinced that everything was under control in the alternative method. My cousin progressed quite seamlessly to about the quarter of the cone. “See, I told you, nothing will happen. This is the best way to eat cone ice cream”.

I considered for a second and was just about to switch, when I suddenly saw something dropping out of her bottom side of the cone. She had chewed up to half of the cone and the ice cream had started to melt!!! I was rapidly licking away mine, biting the cone while watching her struggle to keep her technique going. Her ice cream starting dropping from the top half as well, and over flowed on to the sides. Her brave efforts to save the yummy scoop dint work and in the next couple of minutes it was all over her dress with a larger generous portion plopped on the muddy road.

I was starting to feel much better, after all my conventional method gave me the joy of eating an ice cream. But then she threw a coup and took me by complete surprise. She started to cry, actually, make that “wail”. Soon a group of concerned adults surrounded her. “Poor kid, her ice cream melted, let’s buy her another one”.

What??!!! Here I was, a good girl eating ice cream the proper way and she was the one getting all the attention. She got to choose a bigger and better Cassatta. After all the adults had to give her the best deal to make her stop crying!!

I consoled myself by saying that at least I hadn’t spoilt my dress and that I dint suffer from any ignorance – there wasn’t any bottom up approach of eating cone ice cream.

The case of a false ticket

The unassuming gullible Mama (uncle) was traveling with his four year old nephew – their destination was a few hours away, and Nikhil was already getting restless. He was just into kindergarten and wanted to have some fun….what could possibly be a fun thing do on a train?

Just as his imagination started to run, a middle aged man in a black coat holding a bunch of papers appeared – it was time for the routine ticket checking. Just as Satish, the uncle supposedly “in-charge”, reached for the ticket in his pocket, Nikhil held Satish’s hand firmly. The kid pulled out a shaggy piece of paper from his pocket instead and handed it over to the Ticket Inspector. “Here’s our ticket.”

The Baffled Ticket Inspector said, “No no, this cant be the ticket. Please show me the real ticket”.

Nikhil, “No no, this is the ticket”

Ticket Inspector, losing his patience by now, “This is not a real ticket, I cannot accept this”

“No, this is the real ticket. Please take”. A volley of such no-no’s followed interrupted by some scuffling with Satish Mama and his requests for being allowed to fish out the real one from his pocket. But would this bored kid listen? Nikhil persisted with his argument, though finally within a couple of minutes the “real” Indian Railways ticket emerged.

Needless to say the Ticket Inspector moved on as quickly as possible rather relieved but still flustered.

Nikhil was smiling though. “I was just having some fun Mama” he said with a naughty glint in his eyes.