If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Bliss and Misery of a Long Married Life


John Sebastian

[The author of this lovely piece was my senior in our bank and I spent three years with him under the same roof in an office building, but in different departments. And how happy I was that the redoubtable S John, as he was known in his then avatar, was not my boss!

I have seen many a colleague coming out of a thirty-eight-minute meeting with him bruised, battered, and seriously contemplating retirement and moving to a remote corner in the Himalayas. John was famous for his acerbic tongue and caustic humour, and yet, for some unfathomable reason, everyone loved and admired him. So whatever inner qualities he might have, spending 38 years with the same gentleman would call for Herculean strength of mind, the patience of a mountain, and the perseverance of an ant. I bow to you Mrs. Lucy John. I am sure you have all this and a lot more.

To end this brief intro, I am proud to have John on my blog as a guest author and I'm sure you'll love reading this.]


Here is the riddle of a criminal case I have been trying to understand for a few months – an accused lady, on her own right a celebrity, is charged with murdering her daughter by her first husband, with the active assistance of her second husband, who is a co-accused in the case, and also with the connivance of her third husband, whose son by his first wife had been having an affair with the murdered daughter of the said accused lady!  And another twist in the tail – the third husband of the lady had adopted her daughter by her second husband as his own daughter, whereas the accused lady wanted her murdered daughter to be known to the world as her husband’s sister-in-law! I sincerely wish I got the facts straight!

Why am I writing on the topic today? Please wait a bit! Reading about this sordid episode has left me wondering about the BLISS of a very long married life most us ordinary mortals are enjoying, something which many have taken for granted. A few of my ex-colleagues / friends have celebrated more than 50 years of married life and many more, who are still masquerading as young, have been revelling on 40 years of marriage, sadly of course, devoid of any variety, married only to each other.

There have been many interesting / stimulating quotes on marriages, some of which I would like to share with you:

All those who marry do well, and all those who refrain, do better!

The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis. – G. K. Chesterton

When I married her, she was awfully simple; now she is simply awful.

During a famous debate in the British parliament during the time of the redoubtable Sir Winston Churchill, a lady member from the opposition concludes her speech saying, “If I were your wife, Mr Churchill, I would put poison in your soup.” And pat comes the reply from Churchill, “If you were my wife, I would gladly drink it”. Period!

That brings me to another interesting area, spouses greeting their beloveds on their wedding anniversary. Some comments are poetic / superlative and out of sheer bliss, I would like to believe. Here are some samples. (I wouldn’t name the authors; they are all my dear former colleagues.) My prize goes to this one:

… years of vintage goodness, of undeniable classic that cannot be matched … a man who hasn’t asked for anything, but who got the best of everything is truly blessed. (I too am, I would like to add.)

Another illustrious husband confesses: “She ought to have listened to her parents and not fallen for this mischievous rogue”. (Arrey, give her a chance even now, she might run away!)

And a gem from the same lovable “rogue”: “I always remembered my wife’s birthday till we got married.”

And a more forthright one from a lady colleague: “Love because you don’t have a choice, and as killing is a legal offense!''

Hats off to this forthright lady!

And finally, why am I writing all this today?

It's our 38th wedding anniversary.

Lucy and I had a fairly long courtship / period of waiting for six / seven years before we could get married. Whereas my bosom friend, who had lost his independence on the Republic Day in 1976, literally flew down from Calcutta to Delhi to hurriedly get married to his current (and only) wife and flew back, all in a matter of a day or so, because he was afraid given some time, she would change her mind. On the other hand, I waited for six or seven long years hoping that she would change her mind, but ….

And, finally, how some husbands lead us astray! Here is my experience. My Bangali Babu friend, when in a romantic mood, with or without beer, corrupts the beautiful name his wife carries (Arundhathi), and calls her "Aru''. I found it romantic too and worth emulation, and tried it with rather disastrous consequences.

“Loo… Loo…” I called out one morning while she was busy in kitchen. But instead of my dear wife, a heavy steel spoon came out of the kitchen, flying, followed by some other utensils, and I escaped with a minor scar on the forehead. So much for imitating!

But I comforted myself thinking about the fate of many of my friends who might wish to follow this experiment.

To conclude, the simple fact is that we cannot live without each other now, more so me. We do argue, but only when we meet face to face, which is rare. She is deep into her kitchen and gardening and me,  into my hobby of reading ... quite comfortable life now looking back for more than 44 years knowing each other. And my only wish now is to die at least a day before she does, for I cannot live even a day without her. Selfishness, you may think, but, doesn’t true love mean a lot of selfishness?

Folks, on our 38th wedding anniversary, I have presented her with a diamond ring, but she is infinitely more valuable.

Kochi / 29 May 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Facebook, a blessing or a curse?


As a platform, Facebook is both a fantastic source of information and a huge time-waster. Besides, it cheapens us without us knowing it. I am copy-pasting a post and some of the comments under it. (There were a few sane comments too, which I’d ignore as they are not relevant to the point I’m trying to make.) I would request you to go through the text and then answer my question at the end.

Let me call the protagonists of this discussion as the Author, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd commentator respectively.

***

The Author writes on his Facebook wall: “Saw an interview of Smriti by barkha on NDTV. Smriti simply swatted her off. All of barkha snide remarks supercilliousness [sic] leading questions were handled beautifully. Barkha looked totally pedestrian and outclassed. when she asked a question on bharat mata ki jai.. the crowd spontaneously roared the slogan. Just watch barkha at that moment. you can see her hatred for the slogan. flashed on her face. watch. Barkha, Shes [sic] dangerous. You could feel her anger at Smriti. And it happened at Amethi. No wonder there's a section of press out to smear Smriti. I feel she will make a great politician. watch her”

1st Commentator: Irani has married a person whose ancestors are [sic] from Iran and became his second wife. she is determined to have whatever she wants at any cost. Her children are half Iranians and she is the bahu(daughter in law) of Iran. That was the connection of Smriti has with Iran and it is appropriate to recollect her emotional bond with Iran.

2nd Commentator: So how does that in any way change the way she replied to the presstiute Burkha Dutt? [How easily we abuse highly qualified and competent people who have proved their worth over decades.]

Author: Q is highly prejudiced and shows. pity. Again a vilification campaign against smirti because she dared to oppose the prince how dare she.

1st Commentator: She is no doubt a daring personality. Else how would you explain her claims of BA degree, BCom degree in election affidavits and Yale University degree openly when she is just 12th class? She has taken real life as TV screen life.

3rd Commentator: She has exactly the same qualification as Sonia Maino Ghandy. Will anticipate a tip before service

***

Incidentally, I respect the 1st commentator as I have come across many of his insightful posts and comments on Facebook. The 3rd Commentator is a good friend of mine, and I admire many things about him except his acerbic tongue.

And this was my two-penny bit to add to the confusion:

“Just as a personal attack is obnoxious in politics, so is untenable glorification of individuals. I beg to differ with two of my good friends. Neither Smriti Irani's marriage, nor Sonia Gandhi's ancestry matters. What they are doing as politicians does.

“Dear Author, you have just called someone prejudiced, but this post in favour of a controversial politician and your joy in seeing Barkha Dutt what you consider “outclassed” and your presumption that she hates the slogan Bharat Mataki Jai, shows deep prejudices in your own mind. So, it might be good for you to remember the adage: "When you point a finger at someone, remember that four fingers are pointed at you."

“Once again, I have been dragged into an argument although I know these arguments are useless. Once people sell their soul to a political ideology (be it Hindutva, be it Communism), arguing with them logically is like arguing with a wall built with Ambuja cement :).

“I don’t see any point of continuing as your friend on Facebook, so I am unfriending you. Goodbye and Good luck.”

***

Incidentally, until today, I unfriended four or five people on FB only because I was uncomfortable with their reckless use of expletives. (I don’t think I am a prude, but there should be a limit to the cuss words you use in public!) I don’t think I have unfriended anyone so far because of political differences, because I genuinely believe that we ought to listen to different views and learn to live with disagreements. But is there any point in talking to this individual or others like him who dirty the Internet space with unsubstantiated opinions and hurl abuses at anyone who doesn’t share their views?

Have I done the right thing by unfriending this individual?

I’d love to hear from you.

Bengaluru / Friday, 27 May 2016

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Shame, for want of a stronger word


 
The elections results in West Bengal and Tamilnadu have proved beyond a shred of doubt that a majority of the peoples in these states had left behind baggage like “ethics” and “values” at their homes when they’d gone to cast their votes in April/May 2016. Sadly, it hasn’t happened in India for the first time.

Please think back to the so-called Gujarat riots in 2002. (While the people responsible for the Godhra massacre cannot be condemned strongly enough, what followed was a pogrom according to some, and state-sponsored terror by others. In three days of organised violence, over 1,400 Muslims were murdered, countless women raped, and thousands of families destroyed by the killers from the Saffron Brigade, which included ministers, while the state government, who were morally and legally bound to protect its people, looked the other way. But the voters of Gujarat chose to vote back the same government to power with a slightly bigger majority. Shame is such an inadequate word to describe the situation!

Moving back to the present, let me focus on West Bengal, where I have lived more than half my life. Just before the poll results were declared, I wrote on my Blog:

“… let me stick my neck out and predict that … (the) ruling party will lose and lose by miles. But how can I be so certain?

“My prediction is … based on an unshakable faith on human beings. Firstly, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal have become so corrupt morally that they would vote for the leader of a bunch of goons whose sole purpose of being in politics has been to make money in every possible and often impossible way. Secondly, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal have suddenly become politically illiterate and not notice that under the present government, all the institutions, from education to policing have been nearly destroyed. Finally, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal could be so stupid that they wouldn’t realise that if this evil force is given another five years to rule us, nothing much will be left of West Bengal by 2021.”

I admit that I have been stupid. A majority of the people of Bengal have indeed become morally corrupt, culturally insensitive, and politically naïve. In this rather gloomy morning under a bright sun, let me try to find out why.

It does seem they haven’t forgiven the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI M and their opportunistic allies for all their past sins, which is fine.

But the option they have chosen over the Left is much worse. And there WAS an option called NOTA or “None of the Above” on the voting machines! Of the West Bengal electorate, only 1.5% has chosen NOTA. I salute them because although they didn’t put their weight against the TMC, they did take a morally sustainable position.

How I wish that the percentage of NOTA had been 15 instead of 1.5. Instead, 44% people have voted for TMC (6% more than the last time). By neither voting against the rulers nor remaining neutral, they have
·         Condoned the large number of murders and rapes and deliberate actions to protect the perpetrators.
·         Condoned the systematic loot of poor in Sarda, Rose Valley and other scams with the active connivance of the ruling party leaders.
·         Told the world that they don’t care if their so-called leaders are clearly seen taking wads of currency notes from fictitious companies in exchange of political favours.
·         Announced that they don’t give a damn that ruling party stooges run a parallel economy of extorting money from common people and civil contractors, that they don’t care if a bridge collapses over people under the unbearable weight of rampant corruption.

And it seems shameless bribery by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government has done the trick. In a state where people are morally corrupt, the most corrupt should be the master. I cannot think of another reason for the TMC coming up trumps. And before I end, I would like to ask a few questions to the people who have voted TMC back to power.

Will you have the moral right to protest if your uncle, the principal of a college, gets beaten up by TMC goons? After all, your local club gets lakhs of rupees every year so that your son can make merry with public money!

Or if, God forbid, a girl from your family gets raped? After all, your daughter has got a blue bicycle from the government!

Or if, God forbid, your son is murdered and the killers roam around free and threaten you to withdraw the police complaint? After all, the government is paying a monthly stipend to the imam of your mosque!

Do you have the moral right to feel unhappy when thousands of young people from Bengal go to Kerala or Gujarat in search of work where they live like animals? After all, you get rice at Rs.2 a kg!

Dear People of Bengal, Shame is such an inadequate word to describe you!

Bengaluru / Saturday, 21 May 2016


Post script:

I posted this on my Facebook page. (I am posting it on my Blog now, the original was only marginally different.) Quite a few people shared it and there was a flurry of comments. So I guess there are many among my friends who agree with these views. But there were contrarian views too, which I am trying to sum up here.

1.       The view that the people at large have become immoral and foolish, besides being audacious, is uninformed. 
2.       It takes more sensitivity to understand the relationship the rural and urban poor have with politicians. A friend has referred to a brilliant article by Raghuram Rajan, who says “Our provision of public goods is unfortunately biased against access by the poor … This is where the crooked but savvy politician fits in. While the poor do not have the money to “purchase” public services that are their right, they have a vote that the politician wants. The politician does a little bit to make life a little more tolerable for his poor constituents – a government job here, an FIR registered there, a land right honoured somewhere else. For this, he gets the gratitude of his voters, and more important, their vote.”
3.       Another commentator was unhappy with the tone of rebuke towards the people, and not the political opposition which have failed to bring together a popular movement against all these issues. It is unfair, according to him to criticise the majority “without … pondering over the fact as to whether there was any suitable as well as strong alternative available … to them.”

My response in the same order:

1.       Let me paraphrase the first objection as (a) “Although individuals can be corrupted, people cannot be” and (b) it is audacious to say “a majority of the people of Bengal have indeed … morally corrupt, culturally insensitive, and politically naïve.”

I have already mentioned BJP’s electoral victory immediately after the Gujarat mass killings. Let me expand the idea a little. These are the number of seats own by the BJP since 1998 out of 182 seats or thereabout.
1998 – 117
2002 – 127 (post killings)
2007 – 122
2012 – 115

This roughly indicates that BJP’s vote bank in the state has remained intact since 2002. Interestingly, Atal Behari Bajpai famously said that BJP lost the 2004 national elections because the people of India hadn’t condoned the Gujarat riots. Extrapolating this statement to the state elections, the Gujarat voters did condone one of the most brutal mass killings in post-independence India that was almost shown live on TV. If this is not moral corruption, what is?

Let me end this argument by quoting a friend Sayantan, who defended my position saying: “There is no audacity in calling the common people's decision stupid. Hitler's NSDAP won maximum seats in 1932 and I guess we all know what happened next. The fascist rascals in Kampuchea killed millions of Buddhists wearing the mask of Marxism during the late 1970's and they had been elected by the common people as well. Mass hysteria is common in social crisis and people do stupid things to survive. We’ve already seen how corrupt the [West Bengal] ruling party is and the amount of vandalism they’re spreading. It doesn’t make one a saint if they kill an innocent and blame it on their political predecessors. A crime is always a crime and if you support the cause, you’re just being another block in the domino, waiting to fall.”

2.       Dr Rajan’s description of the voter’s dependence on the corrupt politico is incontrovertible. But considering the situation as immutable betrays a cynical acceptance of the unjust order of the day. People will be able to come out of the vicious cycle only if they think beyond the imperatives and if their judgement is rooted in ethical values. The people of Bengal have miserably failed in this respect.

3.       Finally, I agree, the opposition, particularly the Left, did nothing to inspire confidence. They are one political group which neither changed their leaders, not their policies after the colossal debacle of 2011, which was followed by a series of electoral losses, albeit in elections vitiated by widespread violence by the ruling party. So if the electorate has turned their face away, it’s fine. But the only problem is that the remedy they have chosen is worse than the disease.

Let’s wait to check the position in 2019. From what we are seeing around us, I have absolutely no doubt that the situation in West Bengal will be far worse than what it is now.

Bengaluru / 25 May 2016



Thursday, 19 May 2016

Weblog 19 May 2016





We have moved …

From the heat and dust of Kolkata to the traffic jams and torrential rains of Bengaluru, something I didn’t believe – even six months ago – that could ever happen. Life is so beautifully uncertain!

In 1996, we moved into our Kolkata flat bought after spending on it every penny that my wife and I had had, and a few lakhs of rupees that we hadn’t. At that time, I proudly told my friends I would leave the flat horizontally, and in no other manner. In fact, it was a promise I made to myself. After living a peripatetic life of transfers every two years, I was disgusted of moving homes and desperately wanted to “settle down”.

But at that time, our two grandsons were in the wombs of a distant future. And I was way too young to imagine what gigantic pull two tiny boys could have on us! So Goodbye, the city of my birth and growing up! Goodbye friends, relatives who I can still relate to, cinemas, theatres, art galleries, coffee shops, pubs, the beautiful always-full-of-water river …. Goodbye, my colleagues who have taught me so much. Goodbye, Kolkata, a place difficult to live in, but difficult to leave behind.

*

For the West Bengal Assembly elections 2016, the pollsters have predicted a thumping victory for the Trinamool Congress (TMC), or rather, their supreme leader, a barely-educated, megalomaniac enigma who believes she knows everything from painting to what animals in the zoo should eat, but who actually knows nothing. And the results will be known in a few hours from now.

Indian Bengalis, who have long become an insignificant community on the map, always prided themselves of their intellectual achievements. It was not unfounded on facts. From one of the greatest poets of all times to the scientists who invented the radio, discovered ORS or the oral rehydration salt that has saved millions of lives, to the unsung doctor who had to commit suicide after creating the first test-tube baby in the world, to some of the finest novelists, actors, and film-makers ever born, the short and often pot-bellied Bengalis had no dearth of brilliant men and women. So it was odd when a woman with zero academic achievements and who had once started calling herself Dr Mamata Banerjee, based on a fake degree bought from a fictitious US university, became the chief minister of West Bengal. Sadly, she had to be, we had no choice. The previous rulers had becomes demons in human shape after enjoying unfettered power for thirty-plus years.

The five years of this lady’s reign hasn’t been without some positives, such as civic facilities, which are certainly way better than what they used to be. But they look insignificant beside the colossal damages she has inflicted on a nine-crore (ninety-million) population.

Coming back to pollsters, let me stick my neck out and predict that in a few hours’ time, they will be proved horribly wrong. The ruling party will lose and lose by miles. But how can I be so certain?

My prediction is not based on statistics or any careful study. Rather, it is based on an unshakable faith on human beings. Firstly, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal have become so corrupt morally that they would vote for the leader of a bunch of goons whose sole purpose of being in politics has been to make money in every possible and often impossible way. Secondly, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal have suddenly become politically illiterate and not notice that under the present government, all the institutions, from education to policing to the recruitment machinery for school teachers, have been nearly destroyed. Finally, I refuse to believe that the people of Bengal will be so stupid that they wouldn’t realise that if this evil force is given another five years to rule us, nothing much will be left of West Bengal by 2021.

A CAVEAT: I must quickly add that everyone who has voted for the ruling party in 2016 doesn't fit the above descriptions. In fact, many of them are my closest friends who have excellent sense of judgment otherwise. I fail to understand why they support the TMC, but I have seen a common thread among them. Every one of them was a victim of the misrule of the political parties who are in opposition today, and who I believe are the only alternative for us at the moment.


Bengaluru / 19 May 2016, 5.28 AM