A Jumble of Excess

I have an indefatigable sweet tooth for supporting the underdog.

Take, for instance, stem roses. No, they’re not the underdogs. They are the underdoggers. Other flowers almost never get a chance on the edgewise, what with the well-known popularity of these cornucopias of divinity. And this has almost always helped me indulge my sweet tooth mentioned above. But that’s not all — I didn’t think much of roses, especially the ones that make it to the bouquets. Until very recently, that is. If roses were people, I thought,  the very elegant stem rose would be a classy, beautiful, snooty, vain, middle-aged woman. Not my type. (Except the middle-aged bit — middle age is a necessary evil, I’ve realised with time. But I digress.)

You must understand that it makes me uncomfortable to choose anything. It might be because this essentially neutral brain of mine feels alarmed at choosing one over the other. It is actually over the other that discomfits me. In the case of roses, I have found a comfortable position.

Climber and wild roses are, to me, like that person who brings in life wherever they go. My special liking for these varieties helped me begin to see a stem rose-person in a different light. When I look at it now, I realise that the snootiness I see there is, in fact, none of my business. I can just choose to not be around it, because I have life-bringers to choose instead. So, after all these years of mind-rallying against certain roses because

a. I want to support the underdog instead

b. these certain roses aren’t my type

I could stop the spinning caused by choosing over, because I am choosing instead. It was just a matter of one word, and there is now an indescribably wonderful sense of peace in some tiny corner of my mind. I can even see the classiness and elegance sometimes, instead of the vanity.

Phew.

But not so fast! Most of this strange mind of mine is still on a continous spin of choosing, not choosing, supporting, rejecting. It buzzes frantically for the longest time,  and then short-circuits, my poor mind. And then all you can see is a Jumble of Excess.

Superior beliefs

Is there anything like a superior belief? Belief, in my definition, is interchangeable with faith. And faith, for all sensible creatures, should build and create peace. As long as it does that, its superiority is self-evident. To believe that the tangent of your faith is the only superior one is a folly. And, sadly, our world is seething with it. The religious, economic, social anarchy in not just my country, but yours, too is a proof of just this one apparently small mistake. If I look closely, I am on the verge of following this erroneous path of self-promotion at least a dozen times everyday. I quail at the thought of the sheer number of people sitting in all corners of this world, believing that theirs is the mightiest — a dozen times a day. No wonder people lose their minds and then go on to produce peace-annihilating bombs in their kitchens, run governments, control religious institutions, harp about human rights, and make monetary policies.

If God, financial robustness, or social harmony were to be acquired by the belief of one self-promoting sect, we would have reached Utopia in the Middle Ages.

The Lovable and The Lovable

Moti, our peace-loving dog, isn’t aware that people fight to protect what’s dearest to them. He likes to protect his territory, but looks askance if he’s faced with aggression that’s willing to bare its sharp teeth at times.

Bulu, our assertive dog, likes to play as long as it’s not yet time to retaliate to a challenge. When faced with even the slightest bit of aggression or threat to his territory, he knows and sees nothing but a fitting reply to it.

We love them both, of course. But differently. Bulu’s boisterous play time is our time of joy and heart-overwhelming love. Moti’s gentle licking or companionable pawing is for us an assurance of life. To choose one over the other would be difficult, but to not choose one instead of the other for what they’re best at giving would be impossible.

Absorbent?

Turkey invented the Turkish towel, havalu, to indulge a rich bride before her wedding day. The Ottoman Empire knew how to luxuriate in the finest of things, as those of us who have used these pieces of fine craftsmanship know already. Such softness, such absorbency. Such weight, such thickness.

The Indian sun is enthusiastic most of the time, in most of the places, so the thickness of a Turkish towel wouldn’t be much of a problem — most houses don’t have laundry dryers, the sun ‘s heat, which is aplenty, does the job beautifully. (And oh, the divine smell!) But absorbent? The Indian towel, known as gamccha in most Hindi-speaking parts, is handwoven cotton, without the piling. It absorbs, and then dries quickly, even in monsoons. Where does the thick, piled, heavy Turkish dream stand? Well, to me, nowhere. But not to most, only because it is said that the Turkish towel is the ultimate in luxury.

To decide whether to choose or reject one of the most important pieces of cloth on the basis of fashion and trend is nothing but the wretchedness of an indiscriminately absorbent mind.

Act with reserve

India has held its head up high through centuries of organised division of people on the basis of their birth — caste to be exact. The head has remained high despite all evidences against the pertinence of this system initially started to categorise with the intention of delineating the professions, privileges, and responsibilities on the basis of skills and expertise, and not birth. For hundreds of years now, the caste system has become rigid, intolerant and downright nonsensical. But apparently not for long.

In 1993, a mandate proposing educational and social equality of the ‘backward classes’ was implemented. The Mandal Commission was met with enthusiastic jubilation by the said classes, matched only by the outrage of the ‘upper’ ones. The Commission is designed to give reservation of educational seats and professional jobs to the classes that have received little or no educational, professional and hence social facilities over time — just on the basis of their caste.

It seems justified on paper. These people have had enough of discrimination, it is time the discrimination moved in their favour.

____________________________

I could go on with all that’s churning in my head, but I am going to wait. I am going to wait for a wild, or climber rose to show me I can keep my sanity amidst all this involuntary spinning of thoughts wanting to oust the vain, and the snooty. Oh, and also the blind.

Image

Of living, eating, and forgetting

It is raining as I write this. And it was raining when I took the pictures below. And it will continue to rain indefinitely until the monsoon season decides to leave this country. A land at once sated, and harassed. Patience is a virtue you might wish to keep a good stock of while you visit this blog in the coming days, for it will have more of rain. And of the places I visit. Today, feast your eyes on life, as the world lives it. The levels of struggle, the extent of including the unnecessary, may differ from communities to communities, species to species, but the world does live on these — struggle for comfort, struggle for food, and the occasional indulgences.

Adat bazaar at Nainital -- the place we will see today. Adat means a wholesale market for vegetables and fruits, and sometimes grains.

Sitting on a high perch, I looked at the intense interest people have in the one thing that is arguably the basis for all life -- food.

Wholesale vendors look for bulk sales, retail vendors look for the best bargain.

Like these mangoes, most vegetables come to Nainital from the outside. The terrain of the town is such that not much can be grown here.

This lady is oblivious to the sounds of haggling, rain, triumph at a good bargain, despair at the grumbling stomach. She reads her newspaper among her ivy and geraniums.

This man under the umbrella has deft fingers.

To fill this carton with carrots....

... he chops off the unnecessary with a knife. Sometimes two, or three carrots at once. Where do the scraps go? We'll see.

This porter is one of the many, who make life in a hill station like this livable. They carry anything from grocery bags to fridges to homes that are right up on the mountains where no vehicle goes. Where these young boys in their Adidas shoes will not dream of going in slippers.

These women were probably devastated. Outsiders, they did not know it could rain; and the steep climb didn't add to the comfort. But there's always a shoulder to lean on when you're with friends, no?

Though I love the normal fuschia, I am beginning to like these with a white bottom. They display the contrasts so well.

Forgive me for adding the unnecessary. I just love the look of wood. If only we planted more trees to make up for the ones we fell.

This police woman was careful to not let wet splashes ruin her kurta. Holding the umbrella with one hand, she grabbed the flailing cloth with the other. What would she do, if she had a handbag, I wonder.

This young lady was enjoying the drizzle, for it had become a drizzle by this time. Showing off her ponytail (or was it happiness radiating through the ponytail?), she looked around with great interest.

These people don't look too happy, now, do they?

Ah, a lawyer. Walking to the High Court nearby. I love his pinstriped trousers. Don't you?

Jalebis and pakoras. And copious amounts of oil in the middle kadahi. 🙂

These school kids were wondering if they could leave the tiffin boxes their mothers had packed for them somewhere around here, and, when they needed to eat during the school recess, they could sneak into the canteen outside of their school. Tiffin boxes a cumbersome to carry.

Another unnecessary picture. It is here because I love letter boxes. Much more than the email inboxes. And I love the canisters for milk in the background, too.

The clouds were closing in again, the wind vane surprisingly silent.

This fruit section of the market attracts few people. It is expensive.

Our sparrow friend hopped on this electricity line, obviously pleased at the short-term respite from the falling water.

It never ceases to amaze me -- the incredible amount of wires and cables and lines we have to depend on. So many connections, such ugly ones. And so necessary.

Sometimes ugliness has a virtue -- of being quaint, and most of all, of being useful. Someone has tied wires around this tired gutter. It is almost as good as it needs to be!

This monkey stole a roti (chapati) from a shop nearby. By the time I could divert my attention from the drain, he had already tried his loot. And got bored with it, for some reason.

Moving on to the rooftop, he did something more exciting -- got himself de-liced.

And then, returned the favour. The pleasure was doubled, for as he discovered subsequently, lice are tastier than rotis.

Potatoes. The one vegetable that everyone HAS to like. Oh? You don't? Think of all the wow-energy it gives you! For cheap, too. Hill people in India love this vegetable, for it is one of the few things they can grow, it is tastier than the ones found in the plains, and it is comfortably priced.

Grain sacks, brooms, shoppers and wealth. Of sorts.

A local mithai shop. Sweetmeats. The brown thing is chocolate barfi. A favourite among the tourists.

Back to what drove me to sit on this perch in the first place. The sheer energy of this place!

And all for this.

A porter carrying apple cartons to I do not know where. I wonder what they do to their drenched clothes once their day is done. Once it is time to settle in wherever they settle in for the night. Do they have spares?

This caller was calling for gourd takers. He has a humungous task. People usually do not like gourds.

And look at this, this feat of mankind. Standing here for at least a century, defiant. Though it might seem like it is neglected by the successors of the ones who made it, it is simply a matter of choosing aging over botox. Oh, chuckle all you wish. It is indeed so. The day you become as wise as I am today, you'll know.

Laugh at my foolishness. I'll laugh with you. Things are meant to be maintained, of course -- so that they don't leak, look good. But if things are functioning well the way they are, beauty can be found anywhere -- so that the resources can be saved.

Speaking of which, I wish we had not discovered the virtues of a CFL. It is inelegant, and gives off the worst light possible. What resources are we saving?

For whom?

I wonder if these tomatoes will go all pulpy by the time this person takes the sack to his small roadside shop somewhere in the other end of the town. Do you know?

These are more patient witnesses of this bazaar. They might.

This person kept coming up to adjust the plastic roof above his shop.

And here comes my favourite part of the outing!

His master directed him carefully through the veggies.

But not carefully enough! Ha! What a catch! He got one big potato, all for himself!

After he unloaded the wares, the master didn't forget to cover our potato-lover with a sheet of plastic. It helps against the rain.

And now, he's found a tomato!

But this man could use some chai. And an umbrella. Shivering like he could shake off the cold, he kept looking for mangoes.

And here's our scrap user. Remember the scraps from de-greened carrots? This man's companion was collecting edible waste from all the stalls, dumping them here. But the man couldn't wait for her to come back to sit with him and eat. He began his feast without her.

She's got her week's requirement. And is now looking for some fruits. Eventually, she just went away. Perhaps they were not to her taste.

There is such a difference between use and misuse, wouldn't you say? A few years back, this bazaar scene would have made me furious. Why is there so much disorganisation? Why can't they make proper shops? What about the ones who see food in front of them, but have to eat the waste? There are so many questions that probably need no answering. Or perhaps they are answered without words.

Like everything else, everything that is not else, lives. And life is about survival.

But what about reaching for the sky?

What about achieving that one extra inch of height, so that you are higher than the others? Better, efficient, creative, beautiful.

I do not know. But I do know that with time, and harsh drops of rain, only the one who focuses on the necessary will win. In their own right.

I leave you with the images of these birds, who wouldn't say "I lose", no matter the intensity of the rain.

Defiant,

Grumpy,

Each dealing with the rain in their own way,

Some patient, some otherwise,

Some wishing I'd stop analysing.

This is for you, Rosie.

A Saturday trip to the Eternal Land of the Yogis

Lakshman jhula -- the bridge joining the eastern and western banks

Well, not just the yogis, but pretty much everyone.

Neha, my friend of a number of years, is in Rishikesh for almost two months to learn yoga from a visiting teacher from France. Since it is just an hour’s drive from Dehradun (where I live) I decided to pay her a visit and see the historical town. Finally.

Rishikesha, meaning Lord of the Senses, is one of the thousand names of Lord Vishnu, the Preserver in the Hindu Trinity. The town today justifies the name in many ways; it preserves several kinds of sensory experiences, and propagates them. If you are a seeker of divine presence; a practitioner of yogic forms for a more fulfilled life; an enthused wader of the waters of the sacred Ganga at a place where she leaves the laps of the Himalayas to embrace the hot plains; a lover of cheap hallucinogens; or an intrepid traveller interested in trekking, mountaineering, river rafting, Rishikesh has it all for you. And more.

The town — its air, its dust, and indeed its waters — has the ability to make you see divinity, if you let it. At least that is what many people believe.

The Hindus come here to see their beloved Ganga in its final mountainous avatar, to pray at the famous Triveni Ghat, and visit the numerous temples. As most Hindu pilgrim sites are wont to, however, the river bank, the temples, the ghats, all nurse suppurating wounds on propriety and respect. This might be one of the biggest mysteries in this land. We uphold propriety and respect for others as the supreme virtues, and yet have precious little to show for it. Waste lies all around, people defaecate and urinate at the most inappropriate of places and allow the animals to do the same, shop-keepers throw their discards on to the road sides. No nook, no cranny is spared. Not even the ever-loving, ever-patient Mother Ganga.

Curious People from the Worlds Afar come to seek a kind of peace they feel only India can provide: by way of its ancient, mysterious wisdom, or through its sometimes happily lax policies for weed. Some pick a wave from the veritable tsunami of ashrams and schools offering courses in yoga, meditation, ayurveda, and many more concepts most of these schoolists know zilch about, and ride it. (The ones knowing something worthwhile normally don’t accept pupils just like that. And most don’t make inflated promises on signboards in front of their dilapidated huts.) Still others take their yoga mats along the banks of Ganga and sit and try to meditate. Its enormously normal-looking waters promise a quietude they don’t seem to find at any other place. And then, there are those people that mostly inhabit the Tapovan part of the town, who are living an extended rush of the 60s.

Rishikesh is a heady mixture of everything you’d want from a quickie vacation. Or, more accurately, a mixture of things you might seek and things you are bound to hate. My time there was spent catching up with an old friend, who is sure she has found what she was looking for most of her life — yoga. It challenges her, fulfills her, settles her. She is happy. As are the many I couldn’t help noticing even as I drifted in and out between conversations with Neha and with Rishikesh. There are people running booming businesses by milking spirituality; some are seeking their long-elusive dreams. All find some connection with whatever they wish to get connected to.

When I was driving back to my home, to my reluctant-to-let-me-go husband, and to our ever-welcoming dogs, I thought it might be a good idea to tell you about this ʻstrange placeʼ I had heard about, and have now seen. A few hours is of course nothing to gauge a place, but people and places radiate vibes; they either feel good, or bad. Rishikesh, despite its strangeness, felt good. Give it a try some day. It is one of those cliched things — you can hate it, or love it; but it never allows itself to sink unnoticed.

This is the only place around the Lakshman jhula, Ram jhula area where Ganga warbles a little. Everywhere else, it is calm and quiet, like it is for the rest of its journey through the plains.

Another view of the river, Lakshman jhula, inhabitants of its banks and aspiring rafters

An unsure woman, taking a dip in the water sacred to a billion and more

This man was standing with his arms spread wide over the water for a long time. By the time I could decide to take a picture, he'd begun wringing a piece of his clothing

For a long time, I kept looking at these rocks and thought they were elephants taking a welcome bath. I need new glasses. And while you are looking at the faux elephants, try not to see the waste on the hill-side.

One of the big ashrams with a lot of promises

Just about to hit the partially 'white' waters.

Lakshman jhula -- the bridge we took to go for 'the best meal in all of Rishikesh'

Neha, taking a picture of me as I took one of her

Two of the many places for seekers of wisdom of all kinds

Mother monkey, keeping an eye on the people, for the good ones throw goodies

So that they can then pick them up from the bridge floor

But their best performance is as rope-sitters. Windy weather doesn't threaten their perch one bit.

I don't know why he was rubbing these bamboos clean, but he was.

I heard this sadhu saying "Thanks" as we walked past.

The first thing across the bridge is this. A very 'India' place. Every corner has a bit of its very unique identity. The sign on the round-about under the statue of Lord Shiva says "Please take off your shoes before you climb."

This modern dude didn't flinch when I "shoved the camera at his face", as Neha put it.

One of the many fascinating shops, selling Indian-ness

This beautiful building is reminiscent of the ideal architecture for this heat. Most houses are now a silly mixture of confusion. Sad.

Finally, The Little Buddha Cafe aka Buddha German Bakery. We had awesome Tomato and Garlic Bruschetta and Watermelon juice. Rishikesh is a strictly vegetarian, alcohol-free zone. But such places do offer tuna and Ganga-trout, and eggs, too. And pot, should you be brave enough to ask for it.

A glimpse of the ghat, the place where people gather to pray, to bathe.

Seekers of something, all.

But these boys know what they want, now, don't they?

He looked like the sadhu who thanked me for taking his picture. But then, all sadhus look the same.

This photographer stands underneath a lemonade stall umbrella. No takers for either. The signs warn of many things,including photographers like him: "Please check the photographer's credentials before allowing him to take your picture." Another sign reads "Please only give food materials to the monkeys at one side of the bridge. Do not harass the monkeys. Put the food only at the stipulated places."

A man posing as 'monkey-god' Hanuman. He tricks passers-by into putting a tilak (vermillion on the forehead) and then demands money.

My favourite thing in the whole trip. These bright orange Hanuman car-ornaments. They promise all that is good (and beautiful, I think)

But this young man looks completely unimpressed...

Only greed

It is only greed. But it ruins.

Let it be known, I am not just thinking of that 4th bar of chocolate. And who am I to tell you of your choice of poison? I just know from experience that Greed is a clever sneak that waits for you to feel insecure with what you currently have. And then, it pounces, ravaging your promises, resolutions, values and scruples. It is not easy to fight it. You know it, don’t you? But is it impossible? Adidas thinks there is no such thing as impossible (Impossible is Nothing, the adverts scream). No wonder it is admired the world over. Even if it isn’t, it’s doing good.

Greed and I have been reluctant companions ever since I can remember. Well, reluctant me, at any rate. Ankur’s birthday party is engraved in my mind even though it’s been 30 years or so. (I must’ve been four or five). There was nothing remarkable about the party, no not even the cake. But his room, where I’d ventured during my exploration of his home, had the most wondrous collection of pencils and erasers and sharpeners. The best in the world, surely. And it was inhuman to let him have it all. My enthusiastic companion pounced. The frock I was wearing had no pockets. I had to think of something, and quick, because the voices from the party zone told me that someone was going to come looking for me. I gathered all that I could, picked up my frock to my chest and shoved them all into the temporary pocket this ingenious trick had created. Walking gracefully, as I am wont to, I said my ‘byes to an aghast Ankur, and ran out of the door. Or almost.

“Priya! Stop. Would you like a bag to carry that?”

“What, aunty?”

“There’s something you’re holding along with your frock.”

“No there’s nothing, aunty. I just feel like walking like this.”

“It’s not a good idea, Priya. Let that frock go.”

I usually manage to attend parties without being the toast of it. Or even be invisible at the point where the light occasionally limes. They call it limelight, I think. But at that moment, all eyes were on me. If I said no and ran away, my mother’s teachings of listening to elders would all go wasted. If I listened to Ankur’s mother, I’d lose the treasure. The choice was difficult. After a moment’s hesitation, my hands let go of the frock. The pencils and erasers and sharpeners fell at the doorstep. I had lost the treasure.  And I ran back home as fast as I could. Greed lost.*

Unbridled desire to own more, and apparently better, had succeeded in pouncing, nevertheless.

I now keep my frock well in place, thank you very much (the ingenious ideas have advanced with age), but I do find myself greeding after less interesting things like a quiet night under the stars. How do you get that? How does one steal a quiet night under the stars? But that’s not a part of this essay. The question I wish to ask is, how does one stop feeling greedy for the inaccessible or the extra cheese? Or why stop at all (for the more adventurous)?

This sin of excess wouldn’t have survived as long as humans themselves (we know our propensities) if it were easy to eliminate it. Who’d want to get rid of a thing that gives the kind of joy it does? However ruinous it may be.

Sadhus and saints talk of meditation. Sit, and think of what greed does to you. Concentrate on the evils of excess. Focus on the one energy that makes this world worth living in. Thank God there’s more of us walking the planet. It would’ve been such a moderate world if these killers-of-joy had been allowed to have their way. There’s no possible way to stop the Devil from throwing in carrots when I am trying to look at the One Energy. No, sorry. Perhaps meditating on the sins of excesses is not such a good idea, after all. At least not in my opinion.

Try focusing on what you have, if you ask me. And while you’re at it, it’ll answer the “Why stop?”

* If you are wondering about what happened after that, here’s the rest of the story:

My mother was surprised at my early return. Ankur was my best friend and it was surprising that I came back so soon. I just made some silly excuse and hid my pounding heart. The next morning, Ankur and his mother came with all the things I’d coveted from him. He wanted to give them to me, his mother informed. He ran away after putting them on my lap (I was sitting on the verandah floor). My mother later asked me if I wanted to keep them. Strangely, I did not. So, I went back to his home, and gave him all of them back.

It took much toing and froing, as you see, to realise that I did not want to overcrowd what I already had.

The word ‘aunty’ needs to be explained here. Aunt, as it is used in the west, precedes the name and is always capitalised, like Aunt Pinktoes. The same goes for ‘Uncle’ — Uncle Browneyes. But you don’t need me to tell you that.

In India, the British legacy has been customised a little. First, everyone who’s much older to you is an aunt or uncle, regardless of whether there’s love lost or a relation thrust. Second, the word always follows the name. And it is always aunty and not aunt. Like Pinktoes aunty. And Browneyes uncle, of course.

That’ll be all, thank you

Lend this post a little patience, and read this excerpt

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”

“But the Solar System!” I protested.

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

Mister Sherlock Holmes must’ve startled not only Dr. Watson, who was to become his trusted friend later, but also the readers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book called A Study in Scarlet. When I first read this as a dreamy-headed school girl, I was amused at the thought of someone choosing to not know information thrust at him. Someone after my heart, he seemed to be. But I wouldn’t have the audacity to tell my Maths teacher that algorithms and calculus were of no use to me, would I? So I just allowed myself a chuckle or two. Coming back to Mr. Holmes’ philosophy, let me tell you that after subsequent re-reads (and there’ve been many), I began to see some logic in what he has so succinctly put (Forgive me if I mention him as if he did walk this earth) -“…for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before…”

Fast forward to today’s world, where I maintain three e-mail accounts, one for business, two for pleasure (!). The latter ones are inundated with forwarded mails promising good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and several other things that could easily put Mr. Holmes’ spartan mind-room in a spin. And I receive a good amount of them on a daily basis. How will my poor room look like with all the clutter? The pink kittens waving at me, mewing that the world is beautiful; the world’s swankiest hotel rooms telling me I’ve earned zilch; the lovely maple trees in Canada reminding me I love red autumn but will probably not see it today. So much information. Such temptation for a curious mind. It is difficult to handle. Much like a supermarket full of mouth-watering food, or that onslaught of mean reminders at school that probably eating 650.5 calories per day will make me look like whatshername. I’ve been tired of these various suns vying for attention for some time now. Suns that tell me to revolve, just for this one moment.

I open these mails and text messages, not read them and go back to the Inbox to open another. This routine is mainly because I do not like unread mails and I do not wish to read forwards.  Since I do not wish to delete them either, I keep them in store for a rainy day when I might need good cheer/awesome knowledge/memorable laughs/unmentionable humour, and one of the several other things. During this routine, however, someone’s solar system does come within my radar’s sensors, and I add a furniture or two to my not-so-spartan mind-room. The room had to protest. It had to happen. One such promised keep-up-with-the-world forward broke my camel’s back today.

It was a video of mama elephant delivering baby elephant in Bali zoo. How splendid the work of Mother Nature! Despite foreboding of something unpleasant about to come, I kept watching the mother struggle to get the baby out. It did finally come out, along with ponds full of its mother’s body fluids. The presenter was in awe. He had to be, he’s an elephant watcher. But what was I doing, watching the video? I did feel a certain sense of awe, being privy to Mother Elephant’s personal success, and her patience and concern, but why, really should I watch a recorded video of elephant delivery? That is when the back broke.

Information overload is another in the list of immoderate indulgences we face on a daily basis. And like all other things, we notice it only when it is time to consult a  commercial guru. No one else is equipped to handle such blatant imbalance. At least that is what the gurus tell us. Don’t you think it is like having an invisible hand controlling your own and forcing you to eat, eat, eat? All along it is your own hand, actually. But you have to go to someone to help you beat the stars out of the invisible hand so that you can control your own. Phew. So much work will make any self-respecting 21st century citizen say “I’m beat.”

Just a little help from Holmes will be enough, though. I said ‘No!’ to algorithms and calculus back in school and am walking with my head held high, regardless. I might have had the experience of watching an elephant birth while I’d rather have not stared at my computer screen. But I’d like to say now, “That’ll be all.”

Only vanity

It is only vanity. But if you wish to avoid too much exposure to mine, stop right now. The following post is about ‘I’.

In my quest to explore the emotions we humans feel, the one that has often made me stop and throw a confused glance in all possible directions is Vanity. Armed with my own set of virtues, I like to observe and analyse people’s bag of this remarkable emotion (sin, some like to call it), including my own. I find myself quite short of virtues to deal with this one, however. But it makes for an insightful study, so I’ve continued to explore its depths.

To begin handling a concept, you need to know what it means. But like all things I handle, I’ve never had a definition for Vanity.  Perhaps this is the reason my mind feels boggled each time I hear the word. (Oh. And I herewith reveal that all things  I handle leave my mind very boggled. So there.)

Before I began typing this piece on my observations, I sought help at my trusted dictionary.com and it came up with this: “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain; conceit“. While this definition is very definitive (as it should be), I found myself veering towards the example sentence. “Failure to be elected was a great blow to his vanity.”

Given the premise that vanity is a feeling of excessive pride in one’s qualities and/or achievements, I suppose he wouldn’t have seen it coming. (Excessive) pride is blind. But, if he were a not-vain person, would not being elected not be a blow to his acceptable level of pride? I do not have an answer for this, despite my own set of pride-worthy virtues.

To reach a conclusion, I’ll have to dig further.

I have a onerous memory of often hearing the phrases ‘superiority complex‘ and ‘inferiority complex‘ when I was but a little girl. (yes, I rarely hear them these days). I don’t quite remember where I heard them. Could’ve come from my mother who’d had psychology as a subject in college, or could’ve been Juhi or Pallavi or any of those girls who thought they knew the world. I also remember one (or all) of them declaring that superiority complex arises from an inferiority complex. How interesting. Here, I reach my partial view.

All those people who stand out because of a generous share of pride in their heads usually betray a lot of insecurity from time to time. Not always, of course. They are too insecure to betray themselves as a routine. Vanity is much like how Friedrich Nietzsche puts it. “…is the fear of appearing original: it is thus a lack of pride, but not necessarily a lack of originality.” I’d have liked this to have come from my head, but it hasn’t. My vanity does feel a little threatened, but I am going to presently coddle it with reminders that I made these words famous on this blog. That should put it to rest for a while.

It is quite safe to call ego-coddling a global pastime. And I am going to call it just that. Since vanity is nothing but hugging ego till it becomes nauseous with too much attention, the result normally is a bilious substitute to confident humility. The most dangerous (and stinking) result of such a situation is very subtle. Unlike other emotions, this one fails to recognise itself and save the world from its own evil. Vanity is considered to be Satan’s ‘favorite sin’, after all. Embarrassingly, it is the most prevalent one, too. Perhaps the reason is because people don’t wish to expose their actual level of confidence. Show of confidence is unfortunately equated with lack of humility.

I’d like to see people admitting very difficult things like “I do not know” “Yes, I made a mistake” “He/She is a great/beautiful/deserving person” “Yes, I do need to change this attitude”. It is a long list. The people breaching its importance are as many as there are. And most of these suffer from a superiority complex morphed out from an inferiority complex.

Satan must be a happy guy.

 

Of relationships, onions, boats and negligence

Boats are a lovely concept. Besides being a useful one. Much like relationships. And a little like onions. How, you ask?

Onions are

a) useful

b) hardly lovely

c) enhance your experience (of food)

Boats are

a) useful

b) mostly lovely

c) enhance your experience (of work, leisure, sea/lake/pond/river-faring)

Relationships are

a) useful

b) generally lovely

c) enhance your experience (of life)

Sunken opportunities…neglected and defunct

Amazing as it is, there can be more on the list of similarities and almost-similarities. Consider this.  The various layers these concepts comprise are quite uncanny in their likeness. What layers? Onions, with their proverbial layers, need no more explanation, I hope. Otherwise I’ll have to consider banning you from reading my very-intelligent blog. (If you continue reading hereafter, you are herewith not-banned.) So then, relationships have layers too. The layer of genuine love covering that of reluctant resignation, perhaps covering that of deep fear. I don’t know. Relationships come in all sorts of layers, trust me. And a little unlike onions, they are usually very, very unpredictable sheaths of really unmanageable stuff. I mean, you can handle a little tear flow with the onions, right? How about exploring, chopping, uncovering the layers of a relationship? So, very difficult to predict. And copious amounts of tear-jerking.

And then take the boats. It’s a little difficult to see the connection, I know. Let me help. If you know a little about boats, you’ll know anyway. I know practically nothing about boats, but I know. See, the basic structure of the boat is shaped around the hull, which is the part that keeps the boat afloat. If you google the structure of a hull (which I did, to make my case stronger) you will see the intricate, sometimes layered pattern of this crucial bit that keeps these amazing concepts afloat. In this case, the sheaths, layers (also called backbones or ribs) are precision-based marvels, designed to succeed. Predictable, sometimes unpredictably prodigious, but layers nevertheless.

In my opinion, boats, relationships and onions are quite an awesome combination to prove that anything you consider trying your hand at, you better not underestimate it. Throw apathy out of that window you keep staring out of (or perhaps choosing not to stare from, because the Windows (of a plausible version) in the other line of sight keeps you busy enough). So when the connection is established between the three, consider this as well:

You neglect:

your onion – your food is devoid of the lovesome nutrition, taste, wholesomeness it provides

your relationship – your life is devoid of everything*

your boat – you are devoid of your life.

*well, mostly.

Vain obsessions

When I know I prefer a certain trait in me over other’s comparable ones, I feel a sense of vanity that makes me more a friend to myself than to others. I end up being quite unapproachable this way, because my obsession with myself takes up most of my energies.

If I left room for others, appreciated their approach to life and stimuli even if I didn’t understand them and would never endorse them, my heart would be fuller. And less unapproachable.