My wife my companion- 3

My regular readers would be familiar with my earlier blogs around this theme, their essence being the importance of my wife’s company for me. Whenever she plans a trip alone, I look forward to some private moments, some serious reading, blogging and pursuing other interests, but within the days of her departure I start missing her bubbly presence around me. I just cite small example of this.

She’s highly ambitious, fiercely independent and strong willed. Once she decides on something, it’s very difficult to let her change her mind. And here for a moment I don’t mean ordinary matters! When she wanted this particular flat where we reside currently, she was fixated on it thought it was seriously out of budget for me. She exhorted me to take some risk and ultimately booked the flat, which we have since paid for fully by the grace of God. And yet today, while she’s on a personal visit to Delhi, she was giving me repeated calls while I was in a serious official meeting. And guess what she was frantically calling me for? To take my permission whether she should buy a large sized plum cake or a smaller one, the price difference between the two being a princely sum of Rs50. For someone who would be with her, she would be the most obedient wife who doesn’t move an inch without her hubby dear’s consent! It’s her this unpredictability and ebullience that makes me crave for her company, especially when she’s away!

She returns tomorrow with a permitted purchase of Rs280 and not not asked for stuff – only God knows! 😊

Perception

This COVID lockdown has given people an occasion to take a break from the daily rat race and reflect upon themselves – as to their vices, virtues, strengths, weaknesses and the very purpose of their life. Is it all about materialism – acquiring assets, gadgets, swanky cars or is there something beyond this? What about our inherent self and the way people perceive us? Are the two things aligned? Do people see us as we are or do we need to put up a facade to attract their attention and impress them? What if we decide to lead life on our own terms caring a hoot for opinion of others about us?

I am no psychoanalyst and the above aspects of of human personality are layered and complex. The decision to write this blog actually came from a friend who believes in living life on her own terms. She’s fiercely independent, courageous and the last thing would she ever do is to appease anyone – be it her boss, family or any other person of some importance.

Generally speaking such people don’t enjoy good perception in the eyes of others. Such people are considered to be haughty, conceited, unfriendly, difficult to get along with and best to be avoided. However, those who know her are fully seized of the fact that the above qualities are not at all representative of her real self. Independence is not haughtiness, self respect is not conceit, to be choosy about acquaintances is not unfriendliness and minding one’s own business is not difficulty to get along with!

Actually, the best use of this COVID lockdown would be to change the way we think – about ourselves and others. There’s so much that we need to to improve about own selves and there’s so much for us to learn from others, especially the kind mentioned above. It immediately brings to my mind a famous doha that reads –

बुरा जो देखन मैं चला, बुरा न मिलया कोई

जो दिल खोजा आपना मुझ से बुरा न कोई

When I started looking for a devil, I found none

When I dwelt deeper into myself, I was the one!

In English, there’s an adage – to each his own. Kaleidoscope of this world is colourful because it’s composed of people of all hues and colours. We need to remove the filter from our eyes to see this world in its original and real colours. And of course, my unsolicited advice to my friend would be – don’t change for the heck of it, but embrace those who accept you as you are! In this COVID lockdown apart from trying new hobbies, eating new dishes and watching new movies let’s also practice this habit of accepting people as they are instead of making false perceptions about them and developing an insecurity against strong and disdain against weaker personalities!

Happy birthday Papaji

Official Father’s Day is still a few weeks away- I think it’s celebrated on 21st June. But for me, this day falls today as it happens to be my father’s birthday, who would have turned 92 had he been alive!

He was the most simple person I had ever come across in my life. A self made man, I always saw him working hard with utmost sincerity and diligence. Always punctual for office, never missing office for a furlough and treating his office as a place of worship, he had to earn each penny, never receiving anything on the platter.

He amassed no wealth, met with limited professional success, hardly made any friends, had no bad habit apart from smoking a cigarette a day, which too he quit quite early in his life and hardly digressed into anything apart from going to office and coming back home to be with family. He read and wrote – nice little messages and once in a while some poetry, was fiercely nationalist and was an atheist, though God fearing.

Nothing spectacular, nothing great, yet such a lot to earn and emulate. Never hate anyone or envy his/her success or wealth was his life long motto. He cared for the most lower strata of the society and shared happiness with them in his own inimitable way. He never chased material things and was most satisfied with whatever he had.

Having enjoyed perpetual good health all his life, his old age was made painful by almost fatal accident he had! He fought back but eventually surrendered himself to cancer as he wanted to avoid painful chemotherapy in his ripe years and wanted to transit into eternity most peacefully.

A friend today wrote a most poignant blog on her mother and what I commented on her blog would be my concluding remark on this blog too – God no longer produces such specimens!

RIP Papaji, as we fondly use to call him!

Lockdown 4.0 – Is it going to be the end or beginning?

As we gear up to enter into lockdown 4, people are agog with hope that they are going to be a step closer to life before COVID. Train service has resumed with some restrictions, then there are Shramik Express trains taking labourers to their destinations, some pleasant change from the heart rending scenes of thousands of migrants walking hundreds of miles to their home towns , lock stock and barrel, with family and children in tow. Liquor shops and queues outside there has already been covered by me in one of the earlier blogs. As aforesaid, while the Prime Minister has raised hopes in his address to the Nation by declaring that lockdown 4.0 is going to be very different from the previous 3 lockdowns, we will have to wait for the final details. In any case, different state governments will take appropriate decisions keeping the local ground realities in their respective areas.

But all said and done, it’s simply clear that lockdown as we have witnessed since the Janta curfew is not going to continue in this form and life will start limping back to pre- COVID days, albeit slowly. Offices are expected to open with limited attendance, factories are going to start production, markets will open, e tailers will start deliveries, private vehicles may be allowed on the roads – in short it is expected that the nation is going to take a step towards business as usual.

Does it mark the beginning of the end of COVID menace, especially now that PM has announced an economic booster dose of 120000 crore to uplift poor, downtrodden, farmers and businesses, especially small? Yes, to my mind it’s going to be the end of one phase, but not conclusive or in finality! In fact, it’s going to be start of a much more difficult phase that will entail a very high degree of discipline and observance on our part to live alongside Coronavirus! Corona is not going anywhere too soon, vaccination still seems some distance away and treatment of choice is elusive. But when we have overcrowded cities, public transport that’s tested to the hilt and an enemy that’s so contagious that it is raring to go to a new victim, unless we maintain social distancing, wear masks, wash hands regularly, stay indoors in self quarantine if unwell and learn to live the life entirely the new way, the survival of humanity is going to be tested severely!

Lockdown 4 is not going to be a countdown to carefree pre-COVID days; it’s going to be an entirely new way of life – careful, disciplined, regimented, regulated and respected ( towards nature, fellow citizens and everything else that we had so far taken for granted).

COVID COVID Go Away

COVID COVID go away,

Human suffering is unbearable making all distraught;

Daily earners are starving to death,

Should they survive Covid’s onslaught!

These are heart rending scenes almost at par with the tragedy observed at the time of partition! Hordes of people, with whatever they could get hold of, children in their laps and elderly on their backs , unaware of the journey or destination just leaving the places they had lived for years in search of safer refuges!

This is the kind of havoc COVID has perpetrated on human beings. The lifeline of major cities – labourers, servants, drivers, in fact daily wage earners of all kinds- are fleeing these major cities like Delhi, Mumbai carrying whatever they can with their families in tow for their hometowns and villages. There are no trains or buses or any form of transport to alleviate their suffering ! They are absolutely unsure how and in how much time would they be able to reach their destination? Also, their movement is contrary to the current doctrines of getting locked down inside your homes, maintaining social distance and not to undertake any travel. There emigrants are exposing themselves and their families to grave risk of contacting COVID. Many of these could be active/passive carriers of this deadly virus, defeating the Government’s objective of confining this pandemic to pockets rather than let it spread everywhere. How will they survive days of journey on foot with kids and women? My heart bleeds ! Can something be done to assure these families to stay put and that their food requirements during the lockdown will be assured? Can governments facilitate their journeys by providing them with free transport?

I feel miserable, helpless and clueless ! I look skywards and pray to the almighty that:

COVID COVID go away

Don’t show your face again

People are starving and dying

And poor children just want to play!

Expect the unexpected

Read two interesting items that led to the ideation for this blog. In a popular strip published everyday in a news daily, the proponent having lunch with her friend, tells her with great anguish about her visit to a marriage counsellor along with her husband. She tells tinged with sadness and disappointment, ” the counsellor labels us a happy couple with no requirement for any counselling”.

Second is an anecdote from a popular English magazine. Narrating the incident, the writer tells about an occasion when a golden fish in a home aquarium dies and fearing a very extreme reaction from her young school going son, she flushes the dead fish before his arrival from the school. Expectedly, child cries inconsolably for guess what? – Not for the fish having died, but he being deprived of the opportunity to flush the dead fish.

In both the above stories, it’s the twist in the tale that makes the story so fascinating. On both the occasions, I was caught on the wrong foot – in the first story for guessing wrongly that the lady’s disappointment was due to marriage counsellor calling the couple incompatible and in the second for child crying for the dead fish.

Similarly, our lives are full of twists and turns at each juncture and all of us should be prepared to expect the unexpected.

Man with a steely character and golden heart

He was a bright student, an avid sportsman, an obedient son, a caring brother, a doting husband, an affectionate father and above all a great friend ready to go to any extent for a friend!

You can ask me what’s so unique about him? Almost all of us would fit the bill on the above traits!

You are unique if you’re Sunil Babbar. In spite of being born with a golden spoon in your mouth, if the life tests a chocolate boy with tragedies galore, and if you come out triumphant unscathed, you are no ordinary man, but Sunil Babbar. Falsely implicated in a sin not committed, seeing the loved one dying a painful death from cancer, facing uncertain careers in hostile terrains, being conned by business partners…. et al, the list is fairly long! And yet if you maintain your character comprising love, affection, trust, helpfulness, mildness, patience…. again the list is endless- you ought to be a special person,

I will close this ode to Babbar by saying that lucky are those who have a Sunil Babbar in their lives!!!!

The light from the God’s lantern may always shine on your face;

And you are always safe being protected from evil by God’s mace.

You have never fought shy of struggle, hard work and difficulties galore;

In spite of that you’re a true king with a leonine roar!!!!

Happy birthday

Victory of good over evil

Let me start with a bit of nostalgia. Dussehra in my childhood meant autumn vacations, 10 days of performing of Ram Lila by amateur artists, burning of effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad, setting off of winters with weather becoming mildly cold in mornings and evenings, mandatory consumption of jalebis and all that.

My first major shift from Delhi was to Kolkata. In Kolkata it meant a long list of holidays when everything came to a grinding halt, beautiful Pandals housing beautiful Durga statues, pandal hopping, snacking and complete immersion into the festive spirit.

Mumbai, my home for last 2 decades has an altogether new connotation of Dussehra. Here it’s all about celebration by dancing and eating. It’s as if the whole city, recovering from the spirit of the favourite lord Ganpati, now getting immersed in seeking blessings of the most affectionate Ma Durga or Ambey or Vaishnodevi or with whatever name you want to call her.

Historically, there are three reasons for celebrating Dussehra – slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama, Killing of all Kuru warriors plus 1 lakh soldiers by Arjuna and assassination of buffalo demon Mahishasura by Ma Durga. All represent victory of good over evil.

Let’s all kill the Ravana like demons of communalism, hatred, narrow mindedness, dishonesty, avarice, selfishness etc that have made us their abode and make ourselves and our environment clean, green and happy!

Happy Dussehra to all !

Routine

Ahmet Altan, born in 1950, is one of Turkey’s most important writers. In the purge following the failed coup in July 2016, Altan was sent to prison pending trial for giving “subliminal messages” in support of the coup. In February 2018 he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for attempting to overthrow the government. Fifty-one Nobel laureates have signed an open letter to President Erdogan calling for Altan’s release. Altan is the author of seven essay collections and ten novels.

In a translated version of his memoirs, the importance of freedom, not the freedom intellectuals talk about, but the freedom that people like us take for granted in leading our day to day lives, has been so beautifully depicted that it shook my heart. On his way to prison, following his arrest by security forces, Ahmet describes the following

It is said that the dead do not know that they are dead. According to Anatolian mythology, once the corpse is placed in the grave and covered with dirt and the funeral crowd has begun to disperse, the dead person also tries to get up and go home, only to realize when he hits his head on the coffin lid that he has died.

When the door closed, my head hit the coffin lid.

I could not open the door of that car and get out.

Never again would I be able to kiss the woman I love, embrace my kids, meet with my friends, walk the streets. I would not have my room to write in, my machine to write with, my library to reach for. I would not be able to listen to a violin concerto or go on a trip or browse in bookstores or buy bread from a bakery or gaze on the sea or an orange tree or smell the scent of flowers, the grass, the rain, the earth. I would not be able to go to a cinema. I would not be able to eat eggs with sausage or drink a glass of wine or go to a restaurant and order fish. I would not be able to watch the sunrise. I would not be able to call anyone on the phone. No one would be able to call me on the phone. I would not be able to open a door by myself. I would not wake up again in a room with curtains.

Our daily lives, which we choose to call as boring routine or rigmarole are so very important and crucial to our existence. There are many who having nothing worthwhile to do post requirement and they just go into their shells inviting troubles like dementia. They just become vegetables, burden on their families. We have to have a routine, hobbies, interests, in short a zest to live life or what we routinely call “routine”.

Security in this unsecured life

The typical middle class milieu is – studies ( preferably to become a doctor or engineer), followed by a good job, marriage, children and to live life happily thereafter. In job, one is expected to work hard, get promotions, accumulate money and assets, get freedom from all one’s liabilities, including repayment of loans and marriage of one’s children before retirement and then happily live life in old age on retirement benefits.

But seldom the life’s script goes on the desired lines. One faces trial and tribulations at each stage of one’s life – when IIT or MBBS entrance exam is not cleared, when admission to St. Stephens , St. Xavier or Presidency is denied, when instead of PO, one has to start in clerical cadre, when promotion is delayed, leading to delay in buying car or home, when children perform below expectations, when suddenly a debilitating ailment affects one or his/her near or dear and such instances of intended script going awry are numerous!

Currently, in the face of recession and transition, several employees and workers are facing job cuts and attrition. There are worries on outstanding loans, children not settled, impending liabilities, stoppage of income flow, no new jobs in the market etc. People are worried and scared as they are fearing eviction from their respective comfort zones. The security that a cushy job with fixed income gives one is matchless in its scope of giving happiness in life.

In the above scenario, one looks at God and his messengers to understand the philosophy that explains such uncertainties affecting our lives. Read a beautiful message from the great Mahatria, whom I quote quite often, being totally inspired by his teachings that have relevance for the situations arising in our day to day life. It says:

Life itself is not secure. Then, where is the question of security within life?

In searching for security, don’t get transfixed to your comfort zones.

Your comfort zone becomes your prison, a prison within which your potential stays locked up.

No situation should be viewed as if it heralds end of life, because life has this strange penchant for giving surprises when everything seems to have been lost, the only requirement being that zest for the life should never be lost. There’s an old Punjabi folk song whose opening lines can be loosely translated as:

Can’t bear your separation oh dear,

Romance of rains is being missed

For losing your job of 2 cents your heart is full of fear!!!

Given the uncertainties, nothing in life, save the life itself, is more than worth of 2 cents. We should all seek the sense of security in the Greater human sitting somewhere up in the sky, rather than a person temporarily wielding power.