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When I get time, I listen to music, or read books. If any is left, I blog!

Wednesday 8 December 2021

SWIM - Smart, Wise, Intelligent, Mature?

We all love to be, but seldom care about its content or context.  Take for example the oft repeated expression, 'Beauty & Brains'.  Its relevance caught our attention for the first time when an acclaimed danseuse, besotted by a Nobel laureate's brilliance, wondered: “Imagine, we both having a child with your brains and my beauty?”  The response was: "What if the reverse happens?"

Here are three such interesting anecdotes (Authors: unknown) to help you 'SWIM' better:

Once a horse and a donkey started arguing about the colour of grass.  The horse said it's green; the donkey said "no, it is red".  With no agreement in sight, they approached the lion, king of the forest.  He listened, and then sentenced the horse to imprisonment.  Shocked, the horse sought: "Why punish me, king when you know what I said was right?"  The lion replied: "You forgot, you were arguing with a donkey."  A great story to remember in these days of crass political squabbles!  George Bernard Shaw drove home this point, when he cautioned: "Never wrestle with a pig in the mud.  You both get dirty; the pig however enjoys your discomfort no end!”

Driving on the highway, a man was forced to stop his car because of a puncture.  While changing the tyre, the nuts he removed, rolled into a nearby drain.  As he struggled to retrieve them, a voice reached him from the lunatic asylum across the street:  "Hey buddy, take one nut each off the other wheels and fix the tyre".  Impressed, he queried: "But what are you doing in the asylum?" The guy said: "I’m only crazy yaar, not stupid like you!"

An elderly woman recuperating from a heart attack, asked God: “Is my time up?”  God replied: "No. You have another 30 years to go".  Assured of the long life ahead, she underwent a face-lift surgery.  On discharge from the hospital, while crossing the street, a speeding truck mowed her down.  Angry, she confronted God: “You said, I had 30 more years to live.  Why then didn’t you save me from the accident?”  With a blank look, God asked “Sorry, but who are you?”

That is how one sets out to be smart, wise, intelligent and mature!  Observe; Think; Be different.  As the 13th century Persian poet, philosopher and mystic Rumi said:-

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."

Friday 8 October 2021

Wafer-Thin Snacks

Do you snack?  Well, who doesn't?  But how many of us know, the word 'snack' that paraphrases our most engaging pastime viz. 'eating between regular meals' had sneaked into English from Dutch in the 17th century? 

Snacking, many say even as they nibble a biscuit or lick a lollipop, is addictive and unhealthy.  I am not a hypocrite; so nothing stops me from reaching out to these goodies.  And pampering people like me, is a greedy industry which keeps serving cocktails of tactics and tricks, vying to outperform market growth. 

All branded snacks, sport dazzling packages with catchy punchlines and irresistible offers, but non-standard weights and prices.  Years back, such products used to be sold in packs weighing 100, 250, 500 and 1000 grams.  Sans such restrictions, it is now easy to confuse and coax the buyers to buy more than what they really need, while paying more for less.  This clever strategy lines up countless brand extensions, multi-pack offers, spot discounts and schemes like BOGO (Buy One Get One)!

Look at Potato wafers for example.  They come in a wide variety of flavours like Lightly Salted, Simply Salted, Classic Salted, Tomato Twist, Tomato Madness, Spanish Tomato Tango, Spicy treat etc.  Their weight-to-price mix challenges every conceivable and inconceivable combinations such as 27g (₹10); 35g (₹38); 45g (₹10); 78g (₹27); 115g (₹38) and so on.  So precise is the strategy that Pop corns are sold in packets of 99g, and Kukure in 21.5g!

If you are price-sensitive, the task of picking up a suitable product strains your basic arithmetic skill.  Naturally, in such circumstances, I am reminded of the saying:-

"A fool and his money are soon to be parted.
And, it is  just the beginning!"

Monday 30 August 2021

A Penny For Your Thought!

This idiom, an innocuous way of enticing one to reveal his/her thoughts is about to lose its age-old charm in a way impossible to apprehend, appraise or avert.  This is happening at a time when we are subjected to Phishing, Hacking, Hijacking and Morphing, and are tracked through Smartphone cams without warning.

'Cutting edge technologies' have always been double-edged swords. The 'Speech-to-Text' feature in Smartphones, for example, added a new dimension to the way we communicate.  Now, close on its heels, comes a 'Thought-to-Text' programme with the noble intention of helping speech-impaired paralytic patients convey their thoughts.  Akin to a 'Thinking Cap', this wearable gadget automatically converts into readable text, any thought that normally precedes our utterances.  A marketable version may still be years away because of the difficulty in accessing thoughts without surgical implants.  But it is only a matter of time, before we fall directly on the second edge of this technological sword!   

What is grave, is the concept's all-pervasive ability to 'eavesdrop', and its potential to rip off the last and most sacred fig-leaf of our personal privacy.  Research studies put the number of thoughts occurring in a normal human brain at around 6000 in a day.  (Now, don't start counting! You might end up like those jokers in Akbar's court who asked Birbal “how many stars are there in the sky?”, and were told “as many as the hair on your heads!”). 

For the sake of sanity, decency, respect and relevance, we have so far been able to decide what to talk and what not to.  Credit it to our judgement, discretion or wisdom.  It has helped us preserve and promote our personal attributes and equations.

Imagine the consequences, if every wanted and unwanted thought is laid threadbare for others to read!

"Our thoughts are private to protect others not ourselves because people don't have the ability to handle what you really think about them."
-  Morena Baloyi 

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Think Your Way Out

A money lender who used to give credit to a neighbourhood trader, approached him one day: ''It's time you repay. However, knowing your hardship, I am prepared to forego the loans, if only you'd let me marry your daughter.”  The trader and his daughter were aghast.  After much thought, the daughter came up with a plan.  From a box containing a black and a white pebble, the lender must pick one without looking.  If it is black, she would marry him, and he would write off the debt.  If it is white, he would give up both.  The lender stipulated that he would pick up the pebbles, while she could make the final choice.  On the agreed day, at the riverbank, the lender collected two pebbles, deftly both black dropping them into the bag in a trice.  The trader's daughter who saw this vowed herself: ''I will not let him cheat me.''  And she did not.

How* she outfoxed her opponent is a defining example of 'Lateral Thinking'.  Edward de Bono, the architect of this unique method which The Sunday Times of London called "the biggest craze since Scrabble", wrote over 80 books including the bestseller “Six Thinking Hats”.  In a challenging situation, it encouraged one to imagine wearing six different hats, and think like six different guys!   In the process, the obvious step-by-step logical approach (which De Bono called 'Vertical Thinking') was skipped to let the mind transcend usual thought patterns and perceived restrictions, until reaching an innovative outcome no one ever thought about.

Edward de Bono, even as he propagated dynamic thinking concepts and tools, produced a documentary film “2040” where he envisioned a cryogenic freeze to build a future society.  He also compiled a Code Book of communication to integrate linguistic multiplicities.  But what caught everyone by surprise was his 'out of the box' theory about low Zinc level in the food consumed, was fuelling conflicts in the middle east.

With De Bono's demise on 9 June 2021, the world lost an original thinker who inspired, encouraged, and enabled us to think differently, and strive to enrich our planet and lives.
*Think laterally to find out how!   

 The mind can only see what it is prepared to see.
- Edward de Bono 

Thursday 3 June 2021

The Wait For Good Days

The other day, a friend asked: "What is your biggest fear in life?"   I didn't respond promptly, as I always do.  "Ha ha", he said: "You seem to be like me, harbouring more than one fear, right?"  “Wrong”, I said: “I was in fact searching for one that frightens me.”

He wasn't convinced:  “How can you say that?   Everyone experiences fear.  It is like any other emotion that grips you without warning.  Why are you ashamed to accept it?  Don't you think, fear in a way, helps us to counter or circumvent an imminent danger?  Most often our reflexes help us.  Only in its absence, does fear keep haunting us, and disrupting our thoughts and lives.”

He continued: “In my case, loneliness is at the root of all my fear.  Seclusion, solitude, isolation, alienation..., call it whatever you want.  Even within the family, I feel like an island without a bridge.  Covid-19 has made that feeling worse, imposing unimaginable restrictions, and threatening to wreck my faculties.”

You may wonder.., has this guy gone bonkers?  No.  He was openly expressing his concerns.  And the reality is, he is not alone.  Many people I talk to, express increasing levels of boredom, lethargy, and fatigue.  There is an air of all round uncertainty.  The question is, how long is this going to last?  Would we ever see ''good days'' again?

Life, we are told, is beautiful.  But we tend to forget, how that beautiful life shocks us at times.  In such moments of anxiety, fear, and helplessness, if we have to retain our mental balance, we must stay calm, confident and optimistic.  

The one-liner below tells us, nothing is ever totally lost, even when we fear falling into an abyss!

 When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
Franklin D. Roosevelt 

Saturday 10 April 2021

Spilling The Beans

Both my mother and wife were excellent cooks.  Under their loving care, I hogged, commented like an expert, and chose the next day's menu.  Whenever I volunteered to help, my wife would tell: “No, butter-fingers, for heaven's sake, no!”  Her respect for my uncanny ability to drop, topple and litter was 'sacred'!

Things changed.  Nobody is around any more, to feed me or shoo me away.  Today, I use my unrestricted access to the kitchen, not to help anyone else, but help myself to survive!  On day one, while attempting to make Chapatis, I made a sticky mess of the dough.  Somehow I managed to roll it into shapes beyond Geometrical definition, ending up burning some and half-baking the rest.  A friend consoled: “When you are the only one to eat what you cook, why worry?”

As if possessed, I plodded on to recreate cherished tastes.  Overcoming my deficiencies wasn't easy.  I couldn't distinguish Mustard seeds from Sesame, Aniseeds from Fennel, or Cumin Seeds from Caraway.  Unsure of the time the cooker took to boil, rice often ended up either semi or over cooked!  Then came COVID 19.  As eateries shut shop, I began dreaming about the day when ready-to-eat food could be directly downloaded from the internet!

It was amidst such wild thoughts, that I stumbled across a YouTube cookery site, where preparing food was made to look like kid's stuff.  Encouraged, I began to experiment.  The slips “'twixt the cup and the lip” were numerous!  Yet, I carried on.  Today, I can just about fill my stomach, also fulfil my appetite to some extent.

However, my Primary school days and the weekly 'Craft' classes, where we learnt to stitch, draw, paint and so on, often come to mind.  No one then had the vision to include Cooking in the syllabus, or familiarise us with basic recipes and common ingredients.  If kitchen didn't excite me all these years, and remained just an extension that came with the house, I now know whom to blame!

 A kitchen is the shrine, a cook the priest, the table an altar, and belly the god!
Charles Buck

Friday 19 March 2021

Whatever Will Be, Will Be...

I heard it first, as a teenager.  Years later, its relevance to life's ambitions and anxieties caught my attention.  Today, I know: "Whatever will be, will be".  I also agree: "Whatever happens, happens for a reason", but not with the silly presumption: "Whatever happens, happens for good"!

I am referring to a song that has defied time, tastes and trends.  Considered the signature song of the iconic singing star Doris Day, it appeared in "The Man Who Knew Too Much" an Alfred Hitchcock movie, winning the 1956 Oscar award for the best original composition.  The verses cite a child's questions about life and her mother's responses.  It is a different matter that the 'hugely inspired' musical geniuses in the Indian film industry lost no time in indigenizing it!

If Que sera, que sera meant: “Whatever will be, will be”, another aphorism that surfaced around the same time suggested: “If anything can go wrong, it will."  Attributed to Edward Murphy who, fed up with his assistant's lapses during an intricate experiment, is said to have uttered in exasperation: "If there's a way of making a mistake, he will.”  The immediate response of the community of assistants was: “When things go wrong and your boss smiles, rest assured he has found something to blame on you.”  Numerous spin-offs surfaced soon.  The original however stayed on among management executives as “Murphy's Law”.  Here are some interesting variations:
  • If anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible time, causing maximum damage. 
  • If everything seems to be going well, something has obviously been overlooked.
  • It is impossible to make anything foolproof, because fools are ingenious.
  • If there is a wrong way to do something, then someone will do it.
  • When in a queue, you will find the other line moving faster.

Two simple phrases - “Whatever will be, will be”, and “If anything can go wrong, it will."  One makes us think about the major phases in life, the other hints at how unpredictable they are. One cautions us against pinning our expectations high; the other suggests:

 “Failure is only a detour, not a dead-end street.”
- Zig Ziglar

Friday 12 February 2021

A Day In A Double Fast

Those were the days, when time and train waited for no one.  With a 'Vada-Paav' in the mouth, and a briefcase in the other, a commuter scrambling through the crowded platform was a familiar sight.  The compartments meant to carry 2000 passengers, accommodated thrice that number.  Those inside, huffed and puffed to redefine the concept of space!  Like 3 million odd daily commuters, I too survived this ordeal for years. 

So, when I had to travel to the city recently, like a seasoned commuter I reached the station well past the rush hour.  The platforms were still crowded, and the trains jam-packed.  My intent was to board a compartment and move right inside, to avoid getting caught in the crosscurrent of commuters desperate to exit and eager to board at the next station.

As I stood taking stock of the situation, a pleasant surprise appeared in the form of a good old co-commuter.  We talked for 30 minutes or so, before managing to get on to a 'Double Fast' train and find space to stand between two rows of seats.  That was where one could find some comfort, and grab a seat as soon as it fell vacant.

“Remember?” my friend whispered: “We used to offer our seats midway to the standees.  Nobody asked us. but we did it out of courtesy.  Times have changed; with it manners too.  Look at these college students.  People as old as their fathers and grandfathers are standing.  Is anyone bothered?”  I pacified him: “Don't be judgemental”.  My friend quipped: “Yeah yeah... You've always been like this.  Indifferent and unconcerned!”

At the next station, a passenger got up to disembark.  Since my friend declined, I occupied the seat.  However, among the new entrants, was a frail old gentleman.  I offered my seat to him.  My friend couldn't hold his tongue: “Wow.. I am impressed, Sir!''  As if on cue, a student got up: “Uncle, please sit here”.  Three other youngsters followed suit.

I turned to my friend: “The new generation grows up observing us, just as we did in our younger days.  Be fair to them!''

 Elders who wonder where the younger generation is going 
should remember where it came from."

Sam Ewing -

Friday 22 January 2021

Man Proposes, God Disposes

When I reminisce, I feel having what P G Wodehouse called, “the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom”.  Don't gloss over it with a casual laugh, because life to every one, is a see-saw battle between expectations and disappointments.

We all started our journey of life on a tiny boat of hopes, not knowing where we are bound.  Caught in the winds and tides, and threatening to capsize at times, the boat kept sailing, at least until now..., and hopefully for some more time!

Without hopes, life has no desire, direction or drive.  No wonder, we find idioms like 'sky’s the limit', 'chase our dreams', 'hit the jackpot' etc. so luring.  They elevate our hopes into expectations.  That most of them are unrealistic or unachievable, seldom cross our minds.

To hope is not a crime; but expecting every single hope to materialise, is.  Not convinced?  Look at relationships.  We enter into them and nurture them with hopes.  But somewhere along the way, these hopes turn into expectations, expectations into demands, and demands into entitlements.  Naturally, when things don't happen as expected, we get upset, angry and hurt.

“Tone down your expectations”, the wise would advise, “to avoid disappointments”.  I haven't succeeded.  For me, every single hope has had an extension.  Yet, disappointing experiences one after the other, have given me the disposition to stay calm.  Whoever coined the saying: “Man proposes, God disposes”, needs to introspect.  Why blame God, for one's own weakness?

Catherine Pulsifer author of 'Inspirational Words of Wisdom' said once, “If you put in little effort and expect big returns, you will be disappointed”.  She went on to add:

 You don't get apples by planting lemon seeds."

Catherine Pulsifer -