Shoes or feet?

I’ve been thinking about the age old saying, ‘One shoe doesn’t have to fit em all’. Ok, I lied. Twice. Just thought of it and that’s not an old saying at all!! Talk about a deceptive way to kick start a Friday morning.

Humour me and indulge my thoughts for a minute. What if I told you that the shoe is not the problem. It’s probably the feet that are off. The one shoe doesn’t fit them all feet is a wonderful example of how we choose to find fault with the world of things rather than having a moment to introspect. Why blame a shoe. It isn’t even sentient.

I’d like to believe that customer engagement is my forte. I’d very much like to believe that I’m usually the bloke who gets sent to the front line when all things go wrong. Some of it has to do with how I manage issues and most of it has to do with the choices that I make to manage people. While I’m not a designated leader, time and again, I inherit that role. Once my job is done, I strip myself of the title and resume being a peasant.

This ties back to the shoes and feet. Leadership is similar to that shoe. The people who don that role, well well well, we are that feet. It’s good to sit back and see if its the shoe or the feet.

From a resolution point of view, there are a few commandments that I always follow.

1. Listen to the customer erupt

2. Set the first view of the expectation and promise to revert with an updated view

3. Sit back and understand the issue

3.a Evaluate the boundaries around the issue

3.b If its got nothing to do with us, Push back and Push back hard

3.c If its got to do with us, focus on resolution than witch hunt

4. Reassess and reset the updated expectation

5. Do whatever the hell it takes to meet that commitment

And that’s how I wrap a given Monday.

The things that I’ve called out are not a formal framework set in stone. These are the few steps that I follow , which I’ve learnt by getting yelled at for years. Get yelled repeatedly, you are bound to see a method to the madness. The steps are still attributes of the shoe that we spoke about. Most of us end up doing them in varying capacities. They do get done.

The difference between a bloke, a better bloke, good bloke and a great bloke, is how individuals carry those steps out. Feet.

A failure or a challenge is a fantastic way to understand how our mind works. We react to a challenge based on our limitations, our fears and insecurities and our strengths.

The ability for the feet to not take a failure personally goes a very very long way. When hell breaks loose, which it usually does on Fridays, there are specific ways where the feet of the IT world react

1. There are those who find the source to blame and end up making someone’s life miserable

2. There are those who panic because they freeze

3. There are those who start worrying about the consequences and how it might impact their plans of paying off those EMIs

4. There are those who stop, think, plan, act and solve

5. And there are those who call on help , wash their hands off the responsibility, let the right people do their jobs, come back for the laurels

6. Oh and there are those who call on help, let the right people do their jobs, support them, take ownership of the situation and when the time comes for passing the due credit, they generously award them to the folks who got things back on track

The point is, there is no right and wrong. Leadership is not a trait. It’s usually a necessity because the situation warrants it. Managers and leaders are not born. They just happen to be blokes, caught in the wrong time at the wrong place. Some make their hay when that sun shines, some don’t.

The leadership trait that we express is a culmination of two significant factors. The things we read on benchmarked leadership traits and the other important thing, WHAT WE BRING TO THE TABLE. Besides our skills and years of experience, sore backs from the inertia of those lousy chairs, we also bring our personal and professional demons .We exhibit our strengths and limitations. If our limitations worry us, we tend to display a defensive approach to situations. When we stay assured of our strengths and stay wary of our limitations, we play to our strengths.

Always remember, there are no bad managers, just people bringing additional skills to the table!

So there you go. Shoes, feet and Management ! Fancy that sentence. Fancy that indeed!!!!!!

Karthik

Advertisements

[Book Review] The old devils

The old devils, Kingsley Amis

Cover page of The Old Devils

This is a book about old timers who’d have lived all their lives in the same town in wales. Their lives take a turn when Alun and Rhiannon decided to come back to the Wales and spend the remainder of their lives there. The arrival of the couple stirs up the neighbourhood and it does for a very good reason. Love.

Alun is an established author who follows the footsteps of Brydan, a welsh poet. Alun is a celebrity of sorts. Books, public appearance and interviews for the telly and the radio are his way of life. His wife Rhiannon, she’s something else. She coexists with her husband, doesn’t really come in his way. Together, they do make an enviable pair.

Alun’s friends , Peter & Muriel, Charlie & Sophie, Malcom & Gwen spend most of their time drinking the town dry. Everyday is an occasion to bid sobriety a farewell. Alun and Rhi quicky get inducted into the drinking games. The tale picks pace in establishing the lives of the old couples. Complications arise, because they bloody well would. Alun is promiscuous. Peter and Rhi were a couple at some point in the time before Peter got her knocked up and dumped her for someone else. Malcom and Rhi were a couple at sometime too. The men in the book go around rekindling the flame that had gripped their lives in the past. While secrets are kept close to the chest, the unspoken truth grows into a white elephant that is deaf, dumb and blind. Truth becomes an inconvenience which is not worth uncovering.

The tale is a wonderful example of how appearances can be deceiving. As we continue our journey through the tale, we take a closer look at the lives of the couple. Peter, for example, was a player in his youth. He was charming , seductive and had his way with women. In the present day where he is pushing 70, Peter’s life is lacklustre. He lives an isolated , alienated life with his wife who barely even acknowledges his presence in the house. Gone are his days of love and raging romanticism. His reality is void of any emotional connect at home. The two stay clear off each other. Peter longs for companionship and Muriel resents the very existence of Peter.

Charile on the other had is a man born for drinking, He drinks and drinks unconditionally. He battles his demons in the form of panic attacks. Charlie can’t endure being left all by himself. The dark and the loneliness gets to him. Sophie , and his brother Victor, ensure that they accompany him whenever they can. While it’s not explicitly implied, but one can fathom the dynamics of the relationship that Victor and Sophie share.

Malcom and Gwen’s lives take a turn because of Alun. Gwen an Alun were a thing. Alun and everybody else were a thing. Alun being Alun, complicates Gwen’s life. Gwen retaliates vocally under the influence of alcohol in a party. The friends reduce her hateful words as booze driven rage and set things aside.

The book is painfully slow. It does offer a subtle insight into a life of regret and resentment. In the book, nobody marries for love. The marriages are for convenience. Everybody harbours a longing that goes unrewarded for as long as it can. The stark difference between life in the prime of our youth and life of old age is wonderfully drawn. The strengths that we took for granted do vanish with time. While it’s easier to live a lie when we have the energy and zeal to compensate it, when it’s the time to slow down and sit back, the lies turn around to haunt.

My biggest take away from the book is about closure. I think it’s easier to wrap up a chapter in life and move on as long as we bag and tag the past and cast it aside, beyond our line of sight and hence beyond our realm of thought. Unless we reconcile with it, we’d never find peace with it, should the past catch up with us in the future. Considering life, the past always manages to catch up. The characters in the book are both victims of circumstances, are instigators of actions made of choices, and are aloof to owning their choices in a befitting manner. They all take to the bottle to keep their demons locked. They carry on for as long as they can maintain the façade.

This book ushers us to take a good look at the lies that we tell ourselves.

This is a slow book and it lacks sudden jump surprises. This book takes its time to establish the characters really well. If you endure it, it does reward you in parts. This is not a definite must read, but there is a happy ending of sorts, should that matter to you.

Karthik

Trains and coffee

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck.

“I’ll figure something out. Please don’t cry. I’m here now. We’ll find a way and do what needs to get done” he assured. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a girl could manage to get a break from the cruel talons of life.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone. I didn’t know David for all my life. The first time I noticed him was the morning train to work. He stood by the door, facing me. I glanced at him without an afterthought. That was that. I got off my stop and made it to work. I didn’t have a reason to spare a thought about him.

My life is a little complicated. I’m a simple girl and I’ve had a rather humble beginning. I walked into this land with hopes of a better life. I did find a better life and it was good for a while. I met my future husband at work. We both felt a mutual spark and we married soon. The troubles started slowly. There were days when my darkened glasses would mask my bruised face. The loving tender and care had soon vanished and had left behind booze fuelled rage and resentment. There were days when I saw more of his roughened fist than his caring face. I had quietly accepted my fate and had opted to succumb to the cruelties of destiny. This was my life and I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was one of those days when I noticed David. He had been taking the same train, always standing at a safe distance away from me. I was always in his line of sight, as was he on mine. I had seen enough of him to find his face familiar. He had the same kind blue eyes. I secretly wondered if he also had demons locked away behind his innocence.

A good two weeks later, he managed to muster up the courage to approach me. We had been neighbours on a train all the way. The one off glances had changed to acknowledged smiles. It wasn’t long before he had braved to speak. It wasn’t much. A generous offer for a cup of coffee. I didn’t see a harm in that. Sharing a cup of coffee with a stranger wasn’t the same as cheating. It wasn’t the same thing. It was always going to be an innocent cup of coffee.

A few cups of coffee later we realized that we had become friends. The Friday was sunny and the clouds had made way for the sun. It was a beautiful pleasant day to be outdoors. I had carried my dark sunglasses with me that morning. Things had gotten rough the previous evening. I needed someone in the world to know what I was going through. I needed someone to see me for what I was. I wanted someone to hear my trapped misery. David was all that I had.

I told him the horrors that I had accepted into my life. He was deeply saddened by it.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. It was all that I could manage to do. I had given my life the best that I could.

I do believe that in a world where Karma catches up. It wasn’t long before David came up with the solution. In his mind, a murder felt justified. It justified my pain. It justified a revenge and the most important thing to it , he knew it couldn’t be traced back to us. The simplicity of his plan terrified me. I couldn’t have imagined a sinister mind hiding behind his innocent eyes. I had made up my mind and had accepted to let fate take its course. I had to endure my cursed life for a month. Liberation was waiting for me on the other side.

It wasn’t long before David popped a proposal . It was the same coffee shop. It was the same David. I felt newer and livelier. Of course I said yes. I was always going to say yes. For good and for worse, David was the one that set me free. He had both my heart and my gratitude.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. I had broken down in front of him.

Six months of a marriage later, I had met Michael. Same blue eyes. Same innocence. I knew there was a demon hiding away in plain sight.

“Please don’t cry. I’m here now. I mean it’s fate now aint it. We met on the train and now you have a problem and I think I know how to get that sorted” , Michael tried to console me.

As I said, I’m a simple girl with humble beginnings. Our coffee had arrived. A murder was in the horizon.

Karthik

A shoulder to go

I’ve never had trouble lending a shoulder to lean on. Offering a shoulder for folks to lean on is both a gesture and an emotion. It transcends the boundaries of age and gender. I’ve had friends across the spectrum rely on my shoulder , lean away in a comfort and loiter away in a maze of crisscrossing thoughts. Some times, being a good listener is all about keeping your shoulders open and mouth shut.

The comfort, as I’d call it, also was a service offered to the general public that was either in transit or on a routine commute. Yes. I’ve had strangers doze away in happy oblivion. I never did have the heart to discriminate and rudely awaken people. I let the heads be in their resting position and carry on with my book or music.

The thing about different days is that I usually can’t predict about the people who’d turn up and turn on their snooze button. I had the most awesome girl in the world who found her cozy comfort in my shoulder. Left shoulder to be exact. I’d place her at about less than a year of mileage in life. The morning train, as crowded as ever, she sat obediently for a while watching the strange giants around her. Her boredom inspired her to brave new conversations. A few stops later, the little lady got chatty. A world of her own, a language of her own. Rest of the world would find warm smiles , thanks to her presence.

As the train progressed on its predestined path, fatigue crept up on the little girl. She started to doze away into her slumber land. I’d sneak a glance from time to time and return my eyes to the book that I had in hand. A little person who had just started life , on my left. A book about a bunch of 70 year olds on the spectral end of life, in front of me. It wasn’t hard to ditch a concentrated focus on reading about life fading away into retired obscurity. With the little one now asleep, with the drama from moments ago vanished, I had no choice but to pay more attention to the book.

I felt a tender tug on my arm. The little one had lost balance and had found cushioned comfort in my arm. Her mother , in her pursuit of maintaining public decency and decorum, repositioned the kid a few times. Repetition ushered monotony. Thankfully, the mother gave up and let the kid be. I hadn’t even considered thinking about protesting for my personal space. It was a victory of convenience.

The thing about babies is that there are only two easy ways around them. One, either you make one or Two, you take one. I’ve not aligned myself to either of those opportunities. That said, I’ve not been a stranger to thoughts on having one. I still remember the pointless conversations that I’ve had in the past about them kids. Conversations destined to fade away in time and fade slower in thought. As chance would have it, I bumped into a wonderful kid the other day, when I was in Chennai. This kid was not any cuter than any other kid I’ve come across. This kid was not as familiar as other kids have been. Yet we shared a very small connection. We both knew it’s mom. If life hadn’t taken the course it had, there was a definite chance that that kid wouldn’t have been a stranger to me. Could have been mine.

It’s funny how life introduces moments. They pop in at a time least expected, they leave us impacted in ways unimaginable. When the events conspired, it left me with very few thoughts. A sign that I wasn’t the same bloke from the past. A sign that I had travelled a few miles from where I had once started.

It’s nice to know that an open shoulder goes a long way. Unperturbed by the comforts of once being shackled by chains of choice. Unperturbed by the uncertainties of chance. It felt nice to know that a shoulder left open ushers limitless possibilities that the future lines up. A shoulder to go on is a commitment to stay away from inertia. It is a reflection of an open mind, it’s a reflection of a willingness to give oneself a fair shot at life. Despite the challenges, right through the curve balls. It’s nice to know that I don’t know who the next stranger is who might make a dazed effort of borrowing a strangers shoulder. It’s a fantastic , insignificant, inconsequential subplot of the tale called life.

A smile and a toast to the many journeys in life.

Karthik

Coz everybody knows!

A week in the new land and I’m already a creature of habit. The virtue of sharing a living room inspired the gentleman in me. I make it a point to wake up around five-ish in the morning. I brave the cold with my trusty beaten up cardigan. A phone in hand, cool winds that play seek and freeze, it’s a beautiful feeling to listen to the voice of my parents that way.

While Chennai is warm and cozy and London is at its unforgiving best, I do like the peace and quiet of the morning. There is nothing like disrupting peace , early during the day. Back to being a creature of habit, I am a kat of music. I like the empty spaces and silences of my life filled with the sound of music. This morning, I reached out to a personal favourite of mine. It’s from the repertoire of the movie The Justice League. In my pompous , arrogant, condescending and mighty judgemental view, the first 5 minutes of the movie is a masterpiece. Things spiral down from there.

Elevating the master class that is the first five minutes of the movie is a wonderful song called ‘Everybody Knows’. Very similar to my writing and the music that I make, this song oozes with emotions. This particular song is a testament to optimism. This comes at a time when the hope (personified by the, *Spoiler alert and in case you haven’t watched it yet, I don’t see why you might want to give it a shot now, death of Superman. Another spoiler on that note, he comes back alive!!!!!!! Bet you didn’t see that coming!) dies.

The voice of Sigrid is at its melancholic best. I fell in love with the voice the moment I heard it. That love has no means of faltering. It’s here to stay.

The lines of the song got me thinking.

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.

Everybody knows that the war is over

and everybody knows that the good guys lost.

Everybody knows that the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor and the rich get rich.

That’s how it goes and Everybody knows”

While the song and it’s context are tremendously appealing, I couldn’t help but wonder about the simpler subtleties of life. The minute we are born, we are against the clock. The timer ticks and with every tick, we are a moment closer to death and simultaneous a moment away from life. All of us will eventually fail. All of us fail a lot of times along the way. Some fail and stay a failure. Some fail, fight , fight back and are victorious and go on to fail another day. When nothing else fails, they just die one day.

Some find luck and are happy and others are lucky if they find luck. The point is, Everybody knows 🙂

Life seldom is picture perfect. I wont take the liberty of speaking for others. My life ain’t picture perfect. It aint a fairy tale. It aint the tale that brings warmth to the heart and inspires courage and wisdom when others get to hear it. But that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be any of that. I have my wins. I have my loses and I tread upon life hoping to make that miracle win each day. There are days when I fall flat and there are days when I sing my song of victory. It doesn’t matter what everybody knows. I know and I can make my peace with that.

The above passage is not my birth right. It’s not an exclusive story of my life. We share that tale. We share many similar and dissimilar fates. We are not alone in our misery and we aint ever going to be alone in our moment of triumph. With gazillion people walking the mortal earth, nothing that we do, ensure, survive, succumb to, rejoice or mourn is a 100% exclusively unique deal. While the factors change, while the contributors change, the sentiment itself is shared.

Everybody knows that. We have trouble believing in that. The irony screams at the top of its lungs everyday. Was it the Gita where the good lord said it? ‘Humans are the only ones where the dead of the future mourn the dead of the present. I don’t advocate a stone cold stoic disconnected way of life. At the same time, I don’t advocate that we are here, surrounded by eternal misery.

If you have your bed cover wrapped around your face, all you might get to see is the darkness that surrounds you. Lift the blanket and let yourself view a wider world. Coz, that’s how it goes and darling , everybody knows 🙂

The best the world can do is either Jeer you or Cheer you. The world is a huge spectator and it spectates. It usually is up to you to put on the greatest show that you are capable of putting and nothing else has to matter.

Karthik

T’was a good day

“Local youngster found brutally hacked”.

It wasn’t the best of the headlines to read out loud at seven in the morning. I did so nonetheless. I’m habituated that way. I’m 70, I live with my son and his family. The nice comfy cane chair is mine for the taking and I take to it everyday without fail. The routine is the same. I sit and read the paper. I’m usually quiet, but there are those few headlines that I make a point to read out loud. It’s an old fool’s cry for attention. My son and daughter in law don’t have the time for me in the morning. Peak hour rush to the office. They usually don’t have the time when they return from their offices tired. Their weekends are packed. They don’t have kids.

I’m not the kind of a person who enjoys complaining. There is no point. I’m only making an effort to call spade a spade. I had never imagined my life to take this shape. As a kid, I aspired an education. As an adolescent, I aspired a good job. As a man, I aspired a good wife. As a husband, I aspired a good son. As an old father, I don’t aspire much. I hadn’t thought of a life post retirement before. The slogs of the daily rat race had kept me too busy to sit back and contemplate about the life beyond a job. The day I lost my wife was a stark wake up call to my evolving reality. These days, I’ve accepted this way of life. And so I sit on my chair. I call out a few headlines and hope it attracts a few words of a conversation either my son or my daughter in law.

The bait worked today. The headline caught my daughter in law’s attention.

“Oh that’s bad appa” she stoically replied. “Don’t go out alone. Stay away from deserted roads”. That was the extent of her concern. I knew I shouldn’t expect much.

“Don’t be silly pa” my son joined in. He usually joins in whenever she has something to say. “Things happen. If it’s meant to happen, there is nothing we can do about it. Stay in the house. Why do you have to go out”.

My son’s words were for me to hear. He didn’t have the time to hear what I had to say. His words conveyed, I saw him pick the car keys that were dangling on the keys holder that was mounted near the door. Like always, no goodbyes. And just like that, he had vanished. Soon after my daughter in law left for work too. She always has been kind enough to tell me when she leaves for work. Today was no different.

For a man my age, most days are no different.

I ate my breakfast in silent loneliness. I was used to the quiet. It funny when I look back now. I had always assumed that the words peace and quiet coexisted. I thought the two words were a pair made in heaven. It happens that they aren’t. I’ve embraced the quiet. Peace continues to remain elusive. With the breakfast done, the dishes cleaned, I stepped outside. I have a nice little routine of sorts. Temple, that’s a few blocks away from the house. Then I hit the little shop by the corner of the street. There is a school, a few minutes away. I enjoy walking past it. I don’t have distinct memories of watching my son play in his school’s playground. I like to see the energy and enthusiasm of the kids. The noise brings me a momentary peace. Not the quiet, the noise.

I then walk a bit longer before I make a U-Turn and head back home. The roads are usually empty. It’s fine during the day but it gets rather dark at night. The lamps don’t work well here. A man’s got to make due with what he has. A routine is an old man’s companion. It keeps me alive. It keeps me moving. It is the only thing that helps me maintain a sense of purpose to waking up every day. Don’t let literature and movies fool you. One doesn’t quit on life that easy. While I have harboured a few suicidal thoughts in the past, they have always been just thoughts. It’s like wishing upon a million bucks or a fancy car or that dreamy vacation. It’s fun to think of an exit from the misery. But that’s all there ever is it to. I lack the conviction to see things through. I’m well accustomed to stay in the land of the living. I’m neither immortal nor eager to end my time. When it’s time to go, I shall go without a fight.

Walking is fun. I’ve never really walked much before. I used to drive in my youth. The time came to pass the baton to the next generation and along with it, I passed the keys to my cherished car. Truth is, it was a car that my wife loved. It was her very first car. She wanted black but her beliefs wouldn’t let her live with the shade. She chose grey instead. After her, I didn’t feel that bonding attachment to the car. It was just a bucket of metal and plastic with wheels. My son took it. He complains about it from time to time. I’m sure he’d pick a new one too.

Walking has been a different experience. The world treats me with smiles and hostility. I’m usually called a nuisance on the road. Angry drivers honk and remind me to stay locked indoors. A few nice folks greet me every day. It’s a balance of smiles and frowns. I like the surprise that the world brings every day. Today was no different. Unlike yesterday, today has been relatively quiet.

Yesterday was an inconvenience. I saw this boy stalk a girl. As the distance between the two narrowed, I could see the girl feeling apprehensive. I stepped in to remind the boy that what he was doing was wrong. The rascal shoved me away. An old man takes a fall, a girl walks home safe. I could live with that. I collected myself and made it back home. I sat restless through the day. What could an old insignificant invisible man do anyways.

As luck would have it, I spotted the boy again on my evening walk. As I said, the roads are empty and the lights are dim. I continued my slow paced walk. The boy was busy on his phone and hadn’t bothered to register my existence. That was that.

I smiled thinking about the headlines today. Insignificance and invisibility are an old man’s friends. T’was not the first day of the kind. T’was a good day. The things I did for a little attention! Another day to look forward to. Another headline to read out loud.

Karthik

*Inspired by this old man that I met on the tube.

It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way 😉

Karthik

Because, it’s easy!!!

I absolutely don’t think that this world would have gotten here if it had all the enablers it has today.

I mean , lets take a very simple example. Ten commandments. Moses has his day with the inscriptions. If one were to pause and wonder about it today, how would the immediate reactions be like?

1. Google search string : What is ten commandments?

2. Google search string : Does the ten commandments exist?

3. Google search string : is it true, the ten commandments ?

4. Google search string : Ten commandments Fake/Ten commandments scam

5. Google search string : Did god really write the ten commandments ?

And so on and so forth. The average Joe today endures a conflict of belief. For any acquired snippet of information, we are inundated with “facts” and opinions that either support the cause or debunks them. For every snippet of information, a controversy is waiting to be uncovered. We’d have passionate theorists across the table, defending their views with gusto.

There are two ways of viewing this situation. One, are we making smarter informed decisions? Two, are we banking on convenience which drives us to pick a side and consolidate all the justifications that we can get hold of?

I used to think that by virtue of asking questions , by virtue of doubting the world around, just by being a skeptic, we were better placed to understand the world better. I used to think that being a skeptic was a means to challenge the status quo. I soon realized that being a skeptic was a cover to mask a simpler agenda. It was easier to debunk , dismiss something rather than believe in it. I reckon the wiser term the occurrence as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias refers to the ability to isolate evidences and see ONLY the things that we’d want to see. So when one doesn’t want something to be true, One does burn the midnight lamp in order to prove that something isn’t true. It’s quite natural for humans to pick a side and die defending the chosen side.

I do wonder at times. Is the foolishness that inspires a blind faith any different from the foolishness that drives people towards blind scepticism ? Once again, like everything else, context comes into play. I’d rather ask my questions to see if I’d want to believe in something rather than ask those questions to keep myself away from believing in things. The nature of questions remains to be the same. The intent varies.

And so as I coast through another day of musing over the idiosyncrasies of what it means to be human, I do find myself pondering about faith and belief. In today’s world, sages can never meet gods. Doctors and WebMD would tag the saints as blokes suffering from Dissociative identity disorder. In today’s world, the passion of the Christ wouldn’t be made of gold. The big J would exhibit classic attention seeking behaviour, would be found guilty of punishing oneself and restraining oneself from staying free. In today’s world, miracles don’t happen. Mostly because we’d not let it happen.

Science has never been a good antagonist against faith and belief. Misguided people have always served as the apt villains.

What do you believe in ? Rather, what are the things that you refuse to believe in? Was it because it was easier to remain an atheist ?

Karthik

Book review : The high mountains of Portugal

The High mountains of Portugal, Yann Martel.

Straight off the bat, this is a weird book. This is a tale of three different blokes across three different periods of time. The year is 1904 and the story starts with Tomas. Tomas is a different person. He walks backwards, always. Tomas has a bone to pick with god, whom he blames for the death of his wife and child. Infuriated with God’s grand scheme of everything, Tomas decides that walking backwards is the ultimate insult to god. And so, as an act of unrivalled rebellion, Tomas continues to walk backwards. He is quite efficient in gathering the attention and curiosities of the town.

Tomas finds comforts in the diary of Father Ulisses. Father Ulisses had been very vocal about the salves during his time in the 1600’s. Tomas finds himself in the same state of mind as Father Ulisses. Both had abandoned their faith, both were in conflict with the hierarchy of man. Both had rejected god because of god’s indifference to events occurring across the world. Both reject god because in their mind, god had rejected them. Ulisses apparently had created an artefact that would challenge the status of god in this world. Tomas embarks upon a quest to find that artefact. Tomas would never rest till he impeaches god from the pedestal.

Tomas reasons out that the artefact would be in one of the churches in the high mountains of Portugal. He begins his adventure on a brand new contraption that is believed to change all of humanity. An Automobile. Does Tomas find the artefact? Does Tomas exact his revenge against the mighty G?

And the in 1938, a Pathologist Eusebio is burning the midnight candle on the new year’s eve. He has a couple of cadavers to work through. He is interrupted by his angelic wife, Maria. Maria drags a present for her darling husband. She also lets him on a theory that she has been deeply contemplating. She questions the nature of god and reasons that most of God’s tales are through fables. She reasons that it is the nature of god’s existence through fables, is what that makes him endure and survive through ever changing contexts of the world. She also goes ahead and compares the works of Agatha Christie to that of the Bible. Her reasoning is flawless and does leave Eusebio wondering about the nature of god. Maria leaves and Eusebio is left missing his wife.

The good doctor is disturbed again by a woman. Maria, not his wife, but another woman. She says that she’s from the high mountains of Portugal. She walks in with a very weird request. She had dragged the body of her recently departed husband and expresses desire for Eusebio to conduct a full autopsy. Esuebio declines the request at first but eventually relents.

What killed Maria’s husband? Will Eusebio ever manage to balance work and life and return back to a happy life with his Maria?

And finally in 1981, Peter is a Senator in Canada. After the death of his wife, Clara, Peter is jaded with life. He happens to bump into the cage of a chimpanzee, Odo, and for whatever reason, he decides to buy the chimp and move out of Canada and live in the high mountains of Portugal. Peter’s ancestors had once lived there. With nothing more to look forward to, Peter decides to take Odo and live in Portugal. It’s a brand new start for both Peter and Odo. The two learn to exist and eventually live in each other’s presence. Peter doesn’t speak Portuguese fluently and neither does Odo! They manage to establish themselves into the lives of their new neighbours in the high mountains.

Peter is fascinated by Odo. He starts fearing the animal at first and slowly he moves away from fear. He feels alive in the presence of the chimp. Peter also starts to question the nature of Odo. Odo is extremely friendly and at the same time he is capable of causing bodily harm. Odo is usually pleasant and loveable but he also has his moments of rage and unpredictability. Peter tries to understand Odo and the two start to adjust their way of life to living in the high mountains of Portugal.

Will Peter figure out the evil that Odo is? Will Odo ever pose a threat to Peter? Will the villagers coexist peacefully with Peter and Odo? Will Peter ever want to go back to his life as a Senator in Canada?

The book’s central theme can be described in just a word. it’s a Search. God is plastered all over the book. Tomas and Peter, reach out to God in their time of need. The two deal with grief in their own separate ways. I’ll skip the good doctor because there is a nifty little twist to his tale.

This book is overambitious and is neither intelligent nor profoundly deep as it wants to be. The book does have a great potential in talking about our individual relationship with God. We are angry with god when we don’t get what we want. We make our peace with god when we decide to reclaim our life. And then there is hope. We live on hope and that hope defines our relationship with god. In fact, the three characters are wonderfully placed to have their distinct relationship with the almighty. Tomas represents anger, Peter represents acceptance ,The good doctor represents what it means to stay a human.

This is most definitely not the kind of book that one would absolutely feel compelled to read. It’s a kind of book that you buy because it was sold at a 70% discount. I got this as a gift. I enjoyed the book in parts.

Karthik

Of dentists and enlightenment

‘Don’t walk in the middle of the road. Here hold my hand , we are going to cross a busy road’.

The father was unperturbed by the child’s endeavour to conquer the road. The roads had not changed a bit in the many years. The cars grew in number, the world grew in number. The child and the father grew a lot too, in time. The child walked slowly and a bit carelessly too. I reckon that it’s in the nature of the child to enjoy that carefree liberation when walking the roads of the world. Children are children and fathers are fathers.

I remember the time when my father used to walk me to the toy shop. It was a bit far from where we still live. I’d hold on to my dad’s finger and I’d chat all the way to eternity till we’d reach the shop. Once in the shop, I’d usually forget the whereabouts of my dad. I’d lose myself to the many toys that the heart would long and that the wallet of my dad couldn’t aspire to conquer. I’ve not been a greedy child. I’d enquire about the biggest of toys but would always settle down for affordable ones. If memory serves me right, a figure of GI JOE was around 29 bucks. Inflation is the best yardstick to measure one’s age. Yup, that was a few decades ago.

I do take pride in acknowledging that I’ve always been a tough kid to raise. I’ve always been free spirited, and yeah, a bit lot spoilt too. My folks have always been patient with me. The perfect example of how to cope up with a kid, how to encourage it to improve its strengths, how to slap some sense into it when it goes wrong. My dad is epic huge on character. He’d tolerate a lot of nonsense from me, but would never compromise when it came to the value system that I chose to inherit. My folks didn’t drill religion into my head. They helped me understand what it meant to be a better human. Of course, I’ve always been a slow learner.

All said and done, I did manage to chip of my tooth when I was in the UK. The fears of a massively hefty bill deterred me from seeking an appointment. I endured the broken tooth and waited to head home to fix the issue. Fix the issue I did. Learnt a lot , I DID.

Don’t walk in the middle of the road, Daddy, I told my dad a lot of times yesterday evening. Here, hold my hand. We are going to cross this busy road. I held on to his hand , instinctively , and instead of rushing him, I enjoyed slowing down my pace and tried to make him feel comfortable and confident. The Karthik from a few years ago would have disgracefully failed the situation. It’s not about judging. It’s not about guilt. I accept what I was and I acknowledge what I’ve become.

I couldn’t help but realize that my folks are now kids. My kids, to be precise. I’m single and yet I am helping raise two kids. My mom and dad. We walked slow. I saw the children that my parents currently are. They keep their secrets about health and their world. I engage in conversations and they confess without realising their confession. I choose to not scream, most times. I hear them out , make a mental note and see what I can do better.

My folks have always been nurturing and supportive in my formative years. They did a great job on me. It’s my turn to offer that nurturing and supportive environment for them to grow confident and self reliant , all over again.

I sat on the dentist’s chair, I endured the probes of the pokey metal thingy and my mind was focused and determined in a chain of thought. This wasn’t a time to feel guilty that I’ve not been the perfect son. This aint the time to throw a career and reprioritise life choices. It was the time to accept the effects of time on us. We live, we grow old. It’s an inevitability. We try to do the best that we can.

I cant help but see the similarities of choices. My dad didn’t quit his day job to spend more time with me. Neither am I going to adopt that approach. Living each day amidst the rush and hustle of survival. Living each day, a foot in the past and an eye on the future. ‘Jeena isi ka naam hai’ moment (Cest la vie)

This aint a preachy tale of adjusting one’s priorities in life. Our choices are ours to make and we have our reasons. This is a modest acceptance of time and the effect it has on us. My Granny’s ‘cursed blessing’ has come true. ‘Someday, when you have kids, you’ll understand’, she had said. I kinda do get the point today.

I walked in to pull a tooth, walked out with realized wisdom.

Karthik