Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crossing that thin line!

I've always been a hygiene conscious person right from my childhood. People who know me almost find it amusing that I can never eat without washing my hands - even if it means using a little bit of drinking water from a water bottle. I remember one of my friends calling me to give "good news" when hand-sanitizers were launched in India "Dude - this will save some drinking water next time we are out". While my need to wash hands may be part of good hygiene, it is definitely more a psychological need!

Same applies to my being conscious about where I would eat etc. The only exceptions I have made are my travels, treks and funnily if I'm in Parle where I grew up (it's almost like dirt there on the street food is familiar and cannot harm me!!!!). 

For a long time in my life I enjoyed the food served on Mumbai-Pune trains and especially the "cutless" - frequent travellers would know that for some strange reason cutlets would be pronounced like that!! As the time passed by my train journeys stopped altogether for last few years. Due to my work, my Pune Mumbai travel became almost a weekly affair and of course always by the road - the Express highway connecting the two cities. 

This week I finally got fed up of Express Highway and decided to take the train. I boarded the "Deccan Queen" which departed sharp on time from Pune. As I settled in my seat, a fellow in the railways uniform asked me if I would like to order some breakfast which I politely declined - of course for hygiene reasons! I guess over the period, I've excluded my work related travels from the hygiene exception list :-)

As the journey began, gentleman sitting next to me started enjoying his journey - first he had his tea - then wiped his hands with his handkerchief and started enjoying his food one item after other as it came by. The man was in his sixties and did exactly what I would do earlier on my train journeys between Pune and Mumbai! I did my best not to look at him - I guess it's odd to stare at someone enjoying his food! I was distinctly uncomfortable and I thought my feelings stemmed from my concern about the health and hygiene of the old man. But the man looked at peace and was enjoying his journey. I could not understand why would I feel so concerned about a man whom I did not know.  It is then I realised that my feelings had nothing noble about it - it was just pure envy - envy that someone could still enjoy what you enjoyed once upon a time!! Once realised, only right thing then to do was order my breakfast! As I started eating my breakfast - first little hesitantly and then with a supreme bliss my emotions settled down. World that now looked more familiar lulled me into my nap!

I guess the line between being conscious about something and being hyper is very thin!! You don't even realise when you cross it, intellectualise about it and start being plain stupid!!

Yogesh Patgaonkar 
23rd September 2015

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Travel freaks

While browsing internet, I came across an article about a small-time tea-stall vendor. He and his wife have by now travelled the whole of India and 16 other countries – every day the man puts aside some money, then takes some bridge loan and travels …. Works hard for some time to clear the loan so that he and his wife can travel again…

….. Long back we had driven down to Kanyakumari from the city of Bangalore for a short vacation… Standing in the Queue for the ferry to “Vivekananda Rock” Pallavi and I were chatting with each other. Suddenly a man standing next to us asked me if I was from Mumbai …. A little irritated at being disturbed I nodded silently …. He introduced himself and narrated his travel story … he and his neighbours who mostly worked on low wages / daily wages regularly kept aside some money and then once in the year, hired a bus to travel to far off places …. They would carry their grocery, cook themselves during the journey and visit the tourist destinations ….. I think they had seen most of India …..

Standing in Kausani, which is about 2000 Km from Mumbai, as I bragged about my long-distance driving, an old man listened quietly ….. when he introduced himself, I realised that he was in his 60’s, drove a small car and had driven from Bangalore ….which meant he had driven at least 1000 km more than me ….

These are true stories and stories like these always inspire me. These are stories of people who may not be great achievers but they quietly believe in following their own dreams and passion….. they live hard lives but do not lose their hearts …….hard life does not become an excuse to not enjoy life ….meagre resources do not come in the way of chasing something which is always considered possible only when you have excess of resources…these are simple stories of simple people who teach us a significant lesson – living a happy life is not a function of your resources but a function of your attitude!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Freedom of expression

I do not remember much about my grandparents as they used to stay in other city and were quite old by the time they came to stay with us. Though one incident about my grandfather has stuck with me and I guess I will never be able to forget it as long a I live!

My grandfather had lost part of his memory due to an accident, so ,some times, he could not relate to his immediate surroundings. One day my elder sister went up to him to give him a 'pedha' - one of the most popular Indian sweets made from milk. My sister had cleared some important examination and was distributing 'pedha's as per tradition. He took it, muttered some blessings and kept the pedha in his hand. My mother smiled and told him that she would also give it to his son - my father! He said ok and he would eat it little later. My father came home from office after a few hours. Irrespective of my grandfather's condition, he would always know my father's arrival. He called my father and gave him the 'pedha' that he had kept in his hand for his son. The old man had kept the little sweet in his hand for a few hours just to give it to his son. It was such a touching moment that all of us were deeply moved! But as was the tradition, nothing much was said about it!

Many things rush to my mind whenever I think of that incident. Parental love is universal - whether it is expressed or not! My earlier generations carried an enormous pressure of never expressing their true feelings as it would be seen as sign of weakness or arrogance. Howsoever strongly you felt, you nevert talked back to your elders lest you should hurt them. My grandfather and my father never sat across each other and talked expressing their feelings! But the intensity of their relationship was no different than the one I share with my son! Today I feel blessed as we can express ourselves freely and enjoy the moments of life enriched with bouquet of feelings!

There were some merits of earlier ways of life - there was an uncompromising sense of responsibility and duty. So while we enjoy the freedom of expression that relieves us from burden of carrying unexpressed feelings, we also have responsibility to care. Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to hurt anyone or freedom to walk away from responsibilities just because we have a freedom to express! While we enjoy freedom of expression, let's carry with us the good old values of caring for others with a sense of duty! Extreme positions may tempt you to choose either this or that but pleasure of life is in striking balance!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pain of your child growing up!

Whosoever says kids are innocent are perhaps ignorant themselves. My observation, being  father of two kids -  kids are extremely sharp and generally read people and situations like an open book…

It is a well-established fact in my family that both my kids “figured me out” before completing their first year of existence on this planet. Pretty early they figured out that this fellow is malleable and ductile and can be pulled in any direction. Not that I am not aware of this weakness - it is just one of those rare occurrences where you actually enjoy being manipulated. This also is reason why my wife keeps me at a safe distance when some discipline related decisions need to be taken!!
My daughter, just like any normal child, freely used her charms to get her way – be it about choice of her clothes, food and now her career (she is 17 and has decided to pursue a career in archaeology for some reason which I am yet to figure it out!).

Of late, what annoys me is she has stopped demanding anything from me. Whenever I travel (which is every week!), my 7 year old son is always ready with a new shopping list and patiently explains me his priorities in that list. My daughter used to do the same which she has stopped.
Yesterday, I had gone out to meet a few friends when I received her text message saying she needed a specific brand of pen. Finally!! I was happy that she demanded something. A few minutes later she called me and said, “Look, do not go around searching for that pen. If you find a shop on your way just get it, otherwise it is not all that important. Knowing you, you will roam around half an hour to search for that!” she giggled and disconnected the phone!

I was stunned at the accuracy with which she could predict my behaviour! It is strange that she continues to read me the way she did right from her early childhood – only the end-application of that knowledge is very different now. Though it is very sweet of her, I am still not sure I like it – somewhere deep down I just feel a pain of her growing up!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Even success hurts …

During early Seventies, Bollywood released its biggest blockbuster  – “Sholay”. It ran in the same movie hall for over five years and till date whenever it runs in cinema hall – there are many who cannot avoid the temptation.

Today I went to watch Sholay as it was released in new 3-D format. What defines its class is the movie released almost four decades ago appealed to my kids also. Actually it is a simple movie on the lines of good old western movies with horses and gunfight. Another peculiar point about this movie is it portrayed the most famous villain of Indian film history – dacoit Gabbar Singh – played my actor Amjad Khan who made his debut on screen with that role.

While watching the movie, I suddenly remembered an interview given by actor Amjad Khan to a magazine. I had read this interview more than couple of decades back and a peculiar statement in that interview lingered in my mind. Amjad Khan said, “Sholay ruined life of two people – Amjad Khan and Ramesh Sippy (director of the movie). Because whatever two of us did in professional life after Sholay was never appreciated – people said that it was not up to Sholay’s standard”……

One would think that Amjad must be grateful for getting such a dream role on his debut. Had he not acted in any film after that, he still would have been a legend in his own rights. As I thought more about that peculiar statement I realized that it was a statement from a sincere and sensitive professional. He must have equally poured his heart in his later roles. Being a refined actor it must have hurt him that those roles did not get their dues…….

I guess even success hurts. Sometimes you do certain stint passionately which gets you your glory. But it also gives you a brand which is difficult to shake off ….. Whatever you do in life after that, get compared with your glorious stint and though you yourself have enjoyed other stints, they never get the due recognition….. It can’t be easy and there are no simple answers

The more I think of, I admire Amjad Khan even more. Amjad Khan is no more in this world …. Otherwise I would have loved to tell him that apart from giving Hindi cinema its most celebrated villain, he has given us a something to think about with that one statement  - RIP Amjad Khan!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Walked to my birthplace Day 73 - 240 Kms done!

Ah! Finally covered 240 Km today on my birthday …… finishing this journey with a story close to my heart … a story that has guided me through life ….

There lived a man called Bhiku who was a devout follower of lord Shiva. Bhiku was a poor man and worked very hard for his living. He always cursed his misfortune and remained depressed most of the time. Bhiku lived in a small hut little away from the town. Road from the town to his house passed through a small forest. Bhiku walked alone on this road at the end of each day cursing his misfortune …

One day as he walked down the forest road, lord Shiva and lady Parvati were traveling through the heaven. Looking down at Bhiku, lady Parvati said, “O lord, this is not fair. He is such an ardent devotee and you are not doing anything to help him.” Lord Shiva sighed, “I would love to, but I can’t”. Lady Parvati said, “O mighty one, how can you say you can’t – I don’t believe this”. Lord Shiva being the evolved one knew better than to argue with his wife. He said, “Alright, tell me how I can help him.” Lady Parvati said, “He is walking down this lonely road. You can leave huge brick of gold in his path just ahead so that he can live happily after that.” “Ok. Is that all? “Yes”. Lord Shiva ensured that there was a huge gold brick just ahead on the road where bhiku walked….

Bhiku was busy cursing his misfortune as usual. Suddenly a thought came in his mind, “Right now I am quite fit – so I am at least able to earn my living – what would happen if I become physically disabled?” Bhiku stood there thinking about what would be the worst handicap. Then he decided that life would be worst if he became blind! “Luck is not on my side” Bhiku muttered “so let me practice it while I am on this lonely road, at least someone will not knock me down and if I really become blind I would be ok if I practice everyday.” Bhiku pulled out his handkerchief and tied it around his eyes to blindfold himself and resumed his walk … He came to the place where Lord had left the huge gold brick and stumbled over the brick. “this is what I was scared of, even on my daily path, walking will be difficult” Bhiku walked passed cursing his misfortune. Lord Shiva sighed and looked at his wife. She understood in an instant what he meant ….

This story talks about self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether god helps you or not, you always orient yourself based on your belief system and meet your prophecy. While you can admire your prophecy, you could have missed a fortune on the way if your prophecy is negative. Nobody has ever achieved anything by cynicism – keep hoping positive and you will find your gold!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

A walk to my birthplace Day 72 (236 Km covered so far)

The stories keep coming as I am just four Km away from my target …..

This is a story of the famous duo of Indian folklore – Emperor Akbar and his wise minister Birbal. Once, Akbar and Birbal were taking a walk in the royal garden. Among other things they discussed food. Emperor said “Eggplant  is a wonderful vegetable”. Birbal nodded “Yes Jahapanah (emperor), it is very good. It tastes great is also good for health”. Birbal described the qualities in detail. Hmmm… the emperor nodded and walked on.

Next day as they walked, the emperor suddenly said, “Birbal, eggplant is a worst vegetable”. Birbal immediately replied, “Khavind (master) I couldn’t agree more – it is terrible”. Emperor smiled and turned around and said sarcastically, “Birbal, don’t you have an opinion. Yesterday I said that eggplant is great to which you agreed wholeheartedly. Today when I said eggplant is worst, you seem to agree with that as well!” The wise Birbal stood there for a moment and quietly said, “Khavind (master), I am your servant and not eggplant’s servant!” Emperor smiled at his favorite minister’s wit and asked “What does that mean”. Looking at emperor’s mood Birbal mischievously said, “Khavind (master), you generally do not like opinion contradicting yours but eggplant does not mind!” Emperor burst out laughing….

There are many leaders who do not tolerate a dissent. With an authority they almost dictate what should be everyone’s opinion. Smart people working with them quickly figure it out and align themselves to the boss – never bothering to express their real opinion.

Funny part is many leaders do not even realize this and bask in the glory of their ideas. They also fool themselves by thinking that they have a great wavelength with their team! What they lose out is numerous possibilities that were never expressed and may settle for suboptimal solutions!

So, if you feel that you have a great wavelength with your team, please watch out for eggplant syndrome!!