Month: January 2012

The Flower Thief…

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If you think this blog is even remotely connected to Markus Zusak – you are wrong!

This blog is dedicated to the sole irritant of my usually extremely pleasant early morning me-time. He is the “Flower Thief” .

Every morning this “respectable” middle-aged man sets off on an early morning walk with many others in my street / neighbourhood.As the unsuspecting morning walkers give him a nod of familiarity this shrewd observer smiles, carries on a bit of a polite chit-chat, and continues his walk in his traditional shirt and veshti. Do not be fooled. For behind those ear-mufflers which protect you from the morning cold are sharp ears – that wait for your retreating foot steps. And behind those glasses (which I presumed were prescribed for myopia) lies razor sharp vision.

And once you are out of vision – this frail man springs into action. He waits a moment – sizes up the houses with gardens. And then the plants that branch out of the compound.  He then zeroes in on a couple of unlucky victims. Then he looks around. (Doesn’t spot me yet!)

And very slowly he takes out a plastic bag that seems to unfold into a rather huge “flower-container”. As I watch aghast – he takes out a long stick (convenient instrument) a la Tom Cruise (in any Mission Impossible :P) and hooks it around a slender branch, laden with flowers – and starts STEALING!

Once he moves from house to house – you can see the thief leaves his signature behind. Denuded plants. Where once you saw beautiful white flowers akin to the jasmine – all I see now is barren green leaves. No more blood -red shoe-flowers to contrast the leafy green background. Did you see the bright yellow flowers that catch your attention from afar? Not now! Silently the flower-thief goes about his work, removing all pretty sights that would otherwise be a visual treat when you return from your morning walk.

But what is interesting – is that the flower thief decided to make his trademark move yesterday in my house. As I was lost in my own thoughts in the early morning, ensconced from public eye in my balcony and enjoying the cool weather that Chennai suddenly seems to offer us – I was disturbed by violent movements in the plant in my house. As I watched again – the leaves moved more disturbingly, and the flower-laden plant suddenly seemed to bend in a really sharp arc towards the compound.

Shocked out of my reverie – I went to the gate, opened it noiselessly and saw the flower-thief. Now, enough of the silent treatment – I decided. “What are you doing?” – That was my opening sentence.  The man was jolted out of his intense concentration. He stared back at me – obviously thinking of a plausible answer/excuse (none of which I can assure you – would have effect in the current situation )

“Taking some flowers” – was his answer.

“But those are our flowers” – my retort

“I’m taking it for prayer” – his response.

(Can you not sense my contempt here? )

“But those are our flowers” -I repeat.

“It’s just for prayer”  – he mumbles

“But those are our flowers” – I say again.

(Deafening silence as he continues staring at me, wondering how can I not understand his point of view).

“Give them to me” – I say

He cannot believe what he heard just now. Give it back?

Did he hear it right?

Was I actually saying the words he was hearing?

Very reluctantly he said – “I have flowers from other places too!” Which translates to, dear people – “how do you expect me to separate my efforts that went into robbing just your house? I’ve put equal effort into robbing every house! “

I’m sorry to sound temperamental or impolite- but it took quite all my effort not to slap the person standing in front of me [looking like a person who works in a bank, who dines out with his family, who reads out stories to his grandchildren, and retires in the evening with crossword in the newspaper.] Maybe my cliched imagination is the reason I get so shocked or disturbed by the happenings around me.

For those of you who want to know how this episode ended – it ended with my family members deciding that social etiquette was more important than me confronting the thief. I was called inside – before I launched into one of my verbal tirades. My father gave the guy a stern warning. Man-to-man.

I guess it works – for the flowers in my house are spared, though I cannot say the same for the others in my street. I still see the man every morning -talking with the security guard of the opposite house (The thief and security in conversation!  – where do you get to see sights like that?) . I choose to ignore him. And he chooses to stare at me till I sense his wrath in the back of my head

But I’m smiling…

Flower thief, about you – I just do not care

For, when I’m back – my flowers are all still there! 🙂


When Normal is Abnormal…

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Consider this – A 19 year old leaps out of his bed at 7.40 am, his instincts prodding him that he will be late for class. He skips breakfast but makes it in time for roll call. Five to six hours and a Coke + Samosa later, comes the important question – ” What shall we do today? Hang out? Movie? Where and with whom?”. Food is sacrificed in honor of the plan to be executed – oh we can eat anywhere when we have time! (The realization of sacrifice in order to achieve a goal!!). Post hanging out / dinner at KFC/ hours on Facebook + Twitter, and checking out profiles of vague people, combined with late night smses – students of today don’t have it easy!!! Easily identifiable huh?

And I bet you would laugh, NO scorn – if I told you I know someone who studies in the morning, listens in class, goes for a jog in the evening and wraps up work by 10.30.

No, I do not intend speaking on time management and its ever increasing advantages! The point I’m trying to make is – we are fast being sucked into a society where abnormals are placed in high esteem. Jet-lagged Bosses who come screaming –  straight to office from the airport , youngsters who have undergone a bypass at the age of 35, career moms who gift their 10 year olds an I-phone are the people who catch our fancy.  People pursuing a childhood hobby, taking care of their health/ family and setting aside time for relationships are almost tagged as LOSERS.

We find it easy to accept that Top managers commit suicide in order to escape stress, when the normal solution is to take a half hour break to rejuvenate yourself.

It is easier to prepare  your neighbor with a suicide helpline number  the day before his son’s results are declared and discussing the injustice of the quota system, whereas the normal solution is to ask your neighbor the simple question ” Did your child really study?”

Which is why we are not surprised to read articles that highlight a 15 year old going under the knife for chiselled 6-pack abs, whereas the normal solution would be to give him a knock on the head and send him scurrying to the nearest playground!!!

All of us seek normalcy in the sub-conscious. That is why the Johnson’s babies are still popular and not the young girl who rebukes her mother’s choice of pursuing a job instead of oiling the child’s hair! We want to see childish children and motherly mothers. Not smart kids and their smarter mothers.

We do not want to see an exaggerated smile from a stressed out visage. We want to see a normal smile from a pleasant countenance. The point is we can feel the difference. Likewise others can also sense the same difference. Expectations are high when it comes to normalcy.

So the next time you take up something – an aerobics class, an ad campaign or you just want to appear confident at a presentation – the sure way to success is this

  • Think Normal
  • Act Normal
  • Behave Normal
With this attitude, you have nothing to lose. The clutter in your mind is cleared up when you know you are going to enjoy your aerobics, you know your ad-campaign will impress your client, and you know that just a deep breath and well-prepared speech will help you breeze through your presentation.
The acceptance of this attitudes relieves us of stress that has now become our constant companion. And as Rudyard Kipling said –
” If you can fill the minute, with sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more
You will be a Man, my son!”

A 1000 words…

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Somewhere in a far- off land…

A Place bathed in gold…

There stands a castle now in ruins, or so I am told…

Majority of their subjects were groups, passive at heart…

And then there were the leaders – eccentric,aloof and standing apart…

Obviously those below and those above did not see eye to eye…

For each perceived the other as cunning, wicked and sly

Finally common sense prevailed, as one group decided working together could not be a crime…

The results were evident for all to see. Footprints etched in the sands of time… !

When simple Nature came under common man…

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Once there was a barren land

So dry, you couldn’t withstand

With no possibility of growth ,

Awful respect did it command.

After a long long time,

One fine day, it started to rain,

And each drop of water on soil,

Slowly eased away its pain

With the rains becoming quite routine,

Brown barren land slowly started to turn green

With some sunshine, it was no longer deprived,

And small little plants, slowly started to thrive,

Plants became trees,

They bore fruit and flowers,

With glowing colour and health

Humility was gone in hours

The Orange!

“Look at my bright hues”

Said the yet-to-blossom orange,

“I think my color is the best”

And thus he threw open the challenge

The Yellow

“Buoyant hues eh?” smirked the yellow

“My colours you must behold

Against the green in sunshine

I’m not yellow but gold”

The Pink (leaf)

“Well, well what do you think?

Garish colours are just not preferred

Stay elegant” – said the pink

The Red

“I’m sorry, but are you a flower or a leaf?”

Asked the red

“Amongst colours, I’m the chief”

It said with a toss of its head

The shy Pink!

The shy pink flower

really truly cared

but being very timid

It had nothing much to share

The Money plant

The money plant like the others, wanted its place of pride

It did strut around in all its wealth

But lacked confidence, on the inside

Sour Lime

The Lime, who was watching silently, said

“All of you are pretty,with your colours

you can just seduce,

But none of you have any talents, that could be put to use”

The Banana bunch

“Well said dear lime” praised the banana 

hanging with the rest of its bunch

“But I’m sweet, and you’re sour,

So I beat you with a punch”

The Man arrives...

And thus did the fruits and flowers squabble

About who amongst them was the best

They heard the sound of distant cattle

Driven by a man who lacked finesse

“Lo, behold” said the man

“Red, pink, yellow and green

I see all the colours I possibly can”

The flowers looked at the fruits and smiled

With a touch of arrogance, though it was mild

The man continued

“Lo,behold – A lime and a banana tree

There also is a money plant

Lucky lucky me”

“I do like this place

With flowers, fruits and trees

I no longer need to worry

From today, they belong to me!”

And here ends the story

With man exploiting nature to this day,

Not humbly , But firmly.

Trip to Auraville… ahem Auroville !

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A friend and I decided to venture to Pondicherry recently, or Puducherry as they now call it – and before getting into the city, we were advised to start with a trip to Auroville. Not there was much to see, but still my trip to Auroville was one of mixed reactions. As much as I enjoyed many a sight and the beautifully maintained gardens – somehow at the end of the day, there were other memories that stood out in my mind as against the time spent at Auroville. Nevertheless – I am here to share the pros and cons of this experience.

The day was quite a warm one with the sun shining brightly – unusual for January, but sunblock would have definitely been a good idea.

Bright blue skies!

We started off really early and reached Auroville at about 9.30 Am, right on time for breakfast. The cafetaria at the center despite limited options on the Menu, seemed to draw a steady crowd. Everyone seemed relaxed and comfortable – maybe it was the aura around everyone that made me want  to believe the same.

Crowded Cafetaria

Well, when my food came – I did look around in amazement as I wondered what all these people were

1. ordering 2. consuming and 3. Why were they not complaining? . The food was bad, so was the service and please do not even get me started on the pricing.

Not as good as it looks!

We had some rock – solid bread, stale croissants, something that looked like an omelet but definitely dint taste like it and yes some lukewarm water that apparently qualified as tea. Sorry to say, breakfast itself  put me into a sour mood and then I made the second mistake of the day – Shopping!

One of the Boutiques at Auroville

Do not get me wrong – the boutiques at Auroville have a wide variety of wares that might well be a shopper’s paradise. Handicrafts, Books, hand-made paper, bags, clothes, stuffed toys, children’s clothes, musical instruments, incense sticks, lamp shades, and aromatic candles – you might just find it interesting if you have a loaded wallet. For someone like me, travelling on a budget, the shops kept  triggering my shopping instincts and my wallet kept curtailing my pursuit of purchases and as a result – my “happyness” too!

It was post shopping that we decided to take the 1km walk to the Matri- Mandir. Surprisingly despite the hot sun, I did see some interesting sights and glimpses of nature’s beauty en route.

Road ahead of us!
This father and son seemed to be having a man-to-man chat!
Through the symmetrical trees..
Sheltered by a green roof
Past the grand banyan tree
And the rock garden
Past beautiful colours
And Thane-wrecked scenes...
First a glimpse ...
And then the whole thing!

You need special passes to go into the Matri Mandir, which we did not have. After looking at the Mandir from afar, and clicking enough pictures we were soon on our walk back to the Center. This was a rather uneventful walk save for one refreshing memory. Solar – cooled lime juice! What the concept was behind this I do not know, but the absolutely chilled lime juice to our parched lips after the walk in the sun, was nothing short of manna from heaven. They also had solar- powered tea , which obviously we did not even try, considering we also just had direct access to the solar heating from above.

We gave our shopping bags and umbrellas some well-deserved rest and were soon on our way to the

A break - for everyone!

city of Pondicherry. More about that later…. A bientot!

Kinderberufwuensche – bleiben Trauemen noch Trauemen?

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Wenn ich an meine Kindheit zurueckdenke, erinnere mich noch genau an verschiedenen Traumberufe, die meine Freunde und ich fuer spannend hielten (z.B) Pilot, Sportler, Journalist. Leider fuer viele hat die Reise schon beendet, bevor sie sogar begonnen hat. Leute die Musiker oder Politiker werden wollten, sitzen aber heute im Buero und beschaeftigen sich mit ueberwiegend Verwaltungsaufgaben.

Warum gibt es diese grosse Kluft zwischen gestrigen Traeumen und der heutigen Realitaet? Fuer viele, sind vergessene Traeume und aufgegebene Plaene ein Teil ihres Lebens, weil sie nach einer gesicherten Zukunft streben muessen. Aber warum sind diese Traeume vergessen? Und diese Plaene aufgegeben?  Mangelnde finanzieller und familaerer Unterstuetzung gehoeren zu den meist genannten Gruenden. Ich will mich nur auf die familiaere Aspekte beziehen.

Wie fast alle Sachen im Leben, hat diese Probleme auch zwei Seiten. Die Kinder klagen darueber, dass die Eltern ihre Leidenschaft nicht verstehen, besonders wenn es um einen kreativen Bereich geht. Sie werfen ihren Eltern auch vor, dass sie ihren mit vorgefasster Meinung betrachten.
Demgegenueber haben die Eltern auch einige stichhaltige Punkte. Nach den Elter ” eine gute Idee oder nur Leidenschaft genuegt nicht in unserer von Konkurrenz gepraegten Welt” Sie empfinden dass, die Kinder unrealistiche Erwartungen haben und nur an den Glanz und Gloria denken. Selbst der interessanteste Beruf, kann nicht lebenlang mit Begeisterung verbunden sein – auessern die Eltern, Sie versuchen deshalb Erfolg fuer die Kinder, durch ihre ” vernuenftige” Entscheidungen garantieren.
In Indien sind die Kinder manchmal durch ihre Eltern gezwungen, ihre Entscheidung aufzugeben, besonders wenn es als einen “riskanten” Job betrachtet wird. Sie haben Angst davor, dass vielleicht ihre Kinder nicht in einem neuen Beruf,  Fuss fassen koennen. Noch ein anandere Argumente der Eltern ist die umfangreiche Auswwahl der Moeglichkeiten in der Arbeitsmarkt. Natuerlich sind die Kinder durcheinander, etwas passendes zu finden. Aber wie koennen die Eltern dabei Hilfe leisten?
1. Also, zunaechst sollen die Eltern nebst ihren Kindern versuchen, ihren Geschmaeck und ihren Traumjob herauszufinden. Die Eltern sollen nicht sofort ihre Kinder an ihrer Entscheidung Kritik ueben. Stattdessen sollen sie zusammen den Beschluss in Erwagung ziehen und ueberlegen ob ihr Kind wirklich dafuer geeignet ist. (z.B) Musiker zu werden.
2. Lobenswert wuerde es sein, wenn die Eltern in die Lage waeren, Moeglichkeiten zu geben, in denen die Kinder ihre Ideen erproben koennen. (z.B) Klavierunterricht.
3. Am Ende sollen die Eltern auch ihren Kindern beibringen, eine Zukunftsperspektive ihrer Entscheidung. Hier moechte ich betonen die Grenze zwischen Argumentation und Ueberzeugung. Eltern sollen sich darauf konzentrieren, die Kinder zu ueberzeugen.
Nach Victor Hugo ” Traeumen – das ist Glueck, Warten ist das Leben”
Victor Hugo

Empfehlenswert waere es, wenn wir unsere Kinder nicht lebenlang warten lassen. Allerwichtigsten ist es, den Kindern, die Moeglichkeiten zu biete, in dem was sie tun, einen Sinn fuer sich selbst zu haben.

Note : Written on 16 Dec 2012

Parents and Children, Life and Death – I

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When I read the news about Ayazuddin’s (Son of Azharuddin) bike accident,my first reaction was – a youngster battling for life, what a terrible thing to undergo. That was my heart dominating my thoughts.Almost immediately – My head came to my rescue! What was a 19 year old doing with a 1000cc bike? Errant driving and then public sympathy. Everyone coos and cringes – offers sympathy and support.The media creates a public drama.  It irritates me. For the UNTOWARD has happened.I wonder – Why cant a 19 year old just be happy with a bike? Why do his parents have to show their love with a 1000cc Suzuki? How do they expect a youngster to be mature enough to handle it? Did they think he would say – ” I have a great bike and must ride it carefully”. Any teenager with a new bike would just be waiting to rip through the streets, wind in his hair and maybe touch 200kmph. That is ja, but normal.

That Parents play an important role in a child’s life, is a fact that goes without saying. Then who are parents competing with, when they shower their children with branded clothes, Ipads, Tablets, cars and sports bikes as birthday gifts ?News flash : They are competing with other woefully inadequate parents who do not want to let go of “their” life to monitor that of their children. These parents are parents just by the fact that they have actually given birth to 1,2,or more. The point is  – they have not yet ” become” parents.

What we need to realize are that “Children and Parents” are not persons – they are Attitudes.Unfortunately like other soft skills that people keep harping about, these were the first ones on the “Endangered species ” list and have almost got to the edge of the cliff.  You can stay a child forever(and by that I do not mean you have to behave like a retard), and you can be a parent as early as possible (And I am not talking about or endorsing illegitimate/legitimate teen-moms) .

When I see a mother walk into a restaurant with her “perfect” 11 year old daughter- both with straightened hair, Gucci bags, and an attitude to boot – I don’t envy the little girl her situation. For her mother is not her “Friend” as you might think, but just a wonderful salesperson who has kick-started her little girl’s primal urge in greed. For this girl along with her mother will be a permanent customer at a salon, a mall, or a club till she dies.

Sadly, the child in her has already died. There will be no pictures of her as a child. For she has already transformed into a precocious adult. There will be no pictures of her child like “scrawls and spelling mistakes”. For they have been replaced with “Swype” texts and “auto-correct options“. There will be no pictures to show that “she has grown taller”, as her clothes have become smaller. Our young girl wears only “short skirts”. There will be no proof of her uneven pig tails. For she has entered the world of “Re-bonded” hair. And there will be no record of her “immature talk”. This little girl “has aged beyond her years”.

When I see the world of children around me, it is no wonder that I hardly feel anything towards them, leave alone feeling good. For I no longer see, children. I see stunted adults. And they do not appeal to me at all. I would never want to be pleasant to a “man/woman – child” who judges me by the gadgets I carry, the make-up I’ve done and the vehicle I descend from.

Children are dead. And it is parents who kill them.

Sadly, 19-year old Ayazuddin has succumbed to his injuries. However great a father/ mother he might have, the fear and thoughts that went through his mind when he was dragged along the last 500 meters, would have definitely been that of a 19-year old. As much as my heart goes out to Azharuddin and family, I request Parents – let your children just stay children.

Note : Written on Sep 16.