Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

The Constant Ambassador January 19, 2010

Filed under: ego,Ethics and Values,India,Inspiration,Me — gurdas @ :

That is what we are. Constant Ambassadors to what is outside of us. From what is inside of us – our self, genders, faiths, nationalities, and race to name a few. When you talk to the barista, or the waitress, or the bus driver, do not take your words or actions lightly. Because you represent not just a stranger. You represent yourself. Your smile and kind words would be remembered. Your heartfelt “thank you” would make somebody’s day. The Universe is keeping score, even if you are not.

And it always comes back. Yes, you reap what you sow. So keep your seeds top class. And water faithfully.

So I am from India. And I am a Sikh. And I am a man. That is three full time jobs. And I take each responsibility very seriously. And the ambition is sky high. Every person I cross paths with, must remember me as a gentleman, a thinking, loving, compassionate, and respectful human. And when they see any of my kind, may they proclaim welcome with a smile because I left them with one.

Too often we are consumed by petty short sightedness. How easy it is to be rude thinking the other person does not matter because you do not expect to run into them ever again. And then we wonder why someone was rude to us without reason. It is simple. Most of the time strangers are rude because someone like us was rude to them in the past. Imagine this; you meet a Mexican (or Indian or American or Chinese, whatever) woman who was very kind to you. She helped you with directions or offered to jump start your car or let you cross the road first with a smiling wave. What will you feel when you see a similar person again? Can you feel anger or hatred? NO! Your mind will race back to the pleasant experience from the past and you will at least make an effort to be nice.

I occasionally encounter stereotyping. Oh, so you are an Indian, so you must be so and so. Why? Partly because of the ignorance of the other person, the danger of a single story (from this talk by Chimamanda Adichie), and partly because they may have had one or two experiences that confirmed their stereotype image of an Indian. But what if every single Indian they meet breaks that stereotype? How long before they correct their image? Not very I’d say.

Our actions are what we bequeath to our children. I’d say we strive to leave them a world full of loving strangers.

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thumbs-up to pat-down January 13, 2010

Filed under: ego,humour — gurdas @ :
Tags: , , ,

This post got prompted by my facebook status message where I said:

 “Gurdas does not understand people having an issue with full-body scans or pat downs at the airport. He’d rather have his willy outlined on a scan monitor than have it blown mid-air by a terrorist. Gurdas also proposes the government collect all kinds of data about private body parts and publish impersonal statistics. Like average willy length or cup size of flights to Honolulu broken down by day, week, month, and year.”

I just do not get it why some people will object to a procedure which is ultimately meant to save their lives. But oh well, it takes government regulation to make people wear their seat belt and not talk on their phones while driving. Maybe some people just do not like being touched. But I doubt that is the case with most of the people who are going hoarse about their privacy being invaded. Really, I ask, what privacy? If your full body scan shows you are wearing frilly lace panties and garter belts and what not, and this fuels your invasion of privacy agenda, my advice – don’t wear all that gear while flying. It is not one of your fundamental freedoms, and so I just don’t care. Or if you are a man who is very insecure about his willy length and thinks the woman officer will laugh for years to come when she talks about it with her friends, all I can say is – sorry, you are all hung up about the myth of length. Get a life and let it hang.

Really, I ask again, what privacy is lost during a full-body scan or pat-down? It is just your body, folks. Nobody is peeking into your mind to find out all those dark secret desires, naughty thoughts, and misdeeds of the past. You have them secure, so stop shouting foul.

But wait, I think we can improve the situation. We can actually derive genuine entertainment out of this process. If you would allow us to, that is. Think of all that statistics that can be generated from data about private body parts. Imagine walking into an airport and having a big screen display:

– Luxembourg leads the world in percentage of women with cup size D as incoming travellers. (Wouldn’t you like to go to Buxombourg next time? And if you are women with a size equal or larger than the average, Luxembourg might even discount your air ticket.)

– Afghanistan has the highest percentage of men with willy length less than 5″ leaving the country. (Makes sense, with all that bombing going on, they better retain men with good fire power.)

There is a downside though. People might cancel flights out of disappointment and/or get an impromptu urge to visit another country. Mayhem might prevail at the airport. But yes, the possibilities are limitless. Your imagination is the limit, really!

But wait, there is more. We can have the actual screening process made pleasurable, too. With the full body scan, you will have a choice to see the full body scan of another person, provided you allow your scan to be available for another traveller to view. You can choose from tens of kinds of scans to view – “size zero model” to “blocks your vision fat” to “lean and muscular” to “cuddly love handles”. All information that can identify an individual will be removed, so you are safe. Do not worry.

Or if it is a pat-down, you can choose the free option or the paid option (nominal fee, very affordable). In the free option, you will get the pat-down from the regular security officers (same gender as you) whose touch is only as intimate as brushing your ass cheeks against a cardboard. You get the idea. In the nominal fee option you can choose the gender, and the person will be trained in not only security related efficiency and accuracy, but also pleasure. This person will ensure you are all sweety-tweety and smiling by the time the pat-down is over. And no, you cannot get a repeat pat-down. There are other ‘normal’ people waiting behind you.

All you ‘hung up about privacy’ people, stop giving yourself airs. This is 21st century air travel and you are better off nude, laid back, and more social.

 

The WC and the guard December 3, 2007

I had purchased an apartment last year and, as the building nears completion, some families have moved in. I decided to move in only when the building is fully done. But I am involved in issues of common maintenance and upkeep.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog: the common water closet (WC), its usage, and maintenance.

The ground floor is dedicated to parking and there is provision for a guard room which has an attached WC. Who would have thought the WC would reveal as much as it did how people think and if I am say so, what ails the Indian’s mindset.

My neighbours in the building (some 5 other families) have a major grudge that people other than the guard use this common WC. I on the other hand thought that was exactly its function – that anyone who attends or visits our building and does not have access to the apartments should gladly use our common WC. And since it is in our building, we should be keeping it as clean as we would the bathrooms inside our apartments.

But was I wrong!

Everyone else was of the view that allowing anyone other than the guard to use the WC was unacceptable. Here’s more or less the conversation that took place yesterday during a flat owners review meeting:

Mr. X: And there is the issue of the common WC

Mr. Y: Yes, yes! We should lay down strict norms and ensure the guard does not allow anyone other than himself to use the WC.

Me: I think we need to use a softer approach and one which is both practical and human. I am uncomfortable that someone visiting our building who has the urge to answer nature’s call be refused to use the WC. It is almost inhuman.

Mr. X: You do not understand. The servants and labourers misuse the WC and dirty it. If we enforce upon the guard what is expected then the WC will remain clean.

Me: The best way to keep the WC spic and span is to lock it and not let anyone use it. Not even the guard. (Continuing) On a more practical note I think we need to accept that the WC will get dirty and will demand frequent cleaning. I suggest we simply do three things (1) Ensure we supply adequate cleaning material for the common WC (2) Tell the cleaning person to give the common WC a little more effort (3) Tell the guard he must make all possible efforts to keep it clean and convey the message to whosoever wishes to use the WC

Mr. X: That way we will soon have people from adjoining buildings also using our WC!

Me (I wanted to say “so what?” but toned down to say): We can ask the guard to not allow that. However, we cannot create a fight over it.

Mr. Y: Why should we be concerned? What were these people doing before our WC?

Me: We must accept that going to the toilet is not an act of fun. One needs to do it when one needs to do it. So, either we make our WC available by choice or someone will use it by ‘stealing’ or worse, not use it and take the call in public view (which is a common sight in India).

Mr. Z: The guard will still allow people because it involves his relationship with some of the people working in our building. However, if he knows we discourage this, he will limit the use to minimum.

Me: I again disagree. What you are saying is we force the guard to cheat. We know he must allow some people and at the same time we are telling him not to allow anyone. So, each time the guard allows someone, he knows he has cheated. Which in turn means he will come to dislike the WC. Which in turn means he will disown it. Which in turn means he will give two hoots whether it is clean or not.

Me: I believe we must give the guard the “ownership” of the WC. He is expected to allow anyone. At the same time, he can take the call of not allowing someone who he knows is not taking due usage care. We make the guard the owner and that automatically makes him responsible for cleanliness. Our job is simply to review and supply cleaning material.

They were staring at me as if I was talking Greek.

The gentle argument continued and I was out voted 4:1. It was decided that the guard will be asked not to allow anyone to use the WC.

I came out amused and saddened by this instance of short-sightedness and policy “made to fail”. We were simply creating a liar out of the guard. For no fault of his. We know what is going to happen – many people other than the guard will use the WC.
And what do we do – we do not provide to counteract the truth, we simply make a policy to circumvent the truth. How I wish we had been proactive. What stops us from going so far as to laying an award for the guard if we find the WC as clean as expected? An award of 450 rupees a month would mean just 50 rupees extra contribution for each apartment owner. The benefits are far outreaching than a clean WC. The guard gets more responsible and it will show in his other duties. But most of all, we create a system which functions on its own force.

To me this episode is a mirror to how India functions. From the Parliament, down to nine apartment buildings like mine.

In India, we want to assert our rights on people less empowered than us. We will not provide for what is bound to happen. We will simply create enough laws so that accountability goes for a toss and everyone wins by lying and cheating.

That’s why the country has gone down the flush pipe of a WC.

 

A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 4 October 5, 2007

This is the 4th and concluding part of the dialogue. For part 1 go here, part 2 go here and part 3 go here.

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“Ladoo! which world are you in?” asked a bemused Sanjeev, his face like a child who has caught his mother eating cookies on the sly.
“I saw you staring at our wedding picture with a look that was rather funny”, he said in a jovial tone.

“Sorry love, I had drifted away. Thank God!”, said Nandita

“Thank God what?” he said sounding very curious.

“Nothing, just a bad day-dream. Let me hurry and set our breakfast. I am famished”, said Nandita, rising from the sofa.

“Hello? it’s Sunday. Remember, my day of setting the breakfast?? You seem really lost. Are you OK?”, said Sanjeev, now sounding doubtful and a little worried.

Nandita smiled and sank back into the yellow-blue pillow covers on the sofa.

 

A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 3 October 4, 2007

This is part 3 of the dialogue. For part 1 go here and for part 2 go here.

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“I would not call it a problem but I wish it were better than what it is.” said Sanjeev with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Nandita looked at him. He seemed like a child in need of love. Like someone who has lost his way and needs to be held and guided back.

“I love you,” she said and let go of the tears she had been holding back for so long.

Sanjeev felt lost and kept silent. He had no clue what to do or say. She wished he had walked over and hugged her.

Nandita, mixing words with sobs, “Sanjeev, I know there are problems at my end too. I am ready to listen and make every possible effort to correct those. At the same time, I want you to acknowledge issues at your end. Let us work together and get this moving. I want back the man I married. When we started out nine years ago, I could feel the assurance of your presence even when you were not at home. Now, when you touch me it feels strange and cold”.

“OK. Let us begin with me,” said Sanjeev, feeling more responsible and more emotional than he considered appropriate.

“Do you love me?” asked Nandita
“Yes I do,” answered Sanjeev
“Then what stops you from expressing that love?” she continued
Sanjeev, “Maybe I have changed. I find it silly expressing love the way you want”.

“But then you are expressively loving, kind and considerate to everyone else, your parents, friends, colleagues and even the car mechanic and pizza delivery guy”, she blurted feeling a little choked.

“I need to present myself like that with them. With you the presentation is not needed. You are mine.”

“You mean to say what is yours needs less love than what is not yours?” she asked sounding a little shocked.

“That is not what I meant. What is mine should know that and I should not be required to keep proving my love.”, Sanjeev said, not very sure he worded it well.

Nandita, “We all need to be reminded that we are loved. Tell me, do we water our plants or our neighbour’s plants? Relationships are like plants and they continuously need the water of love. If we do not nourish our relationship, it will die, just like the plant which was not watered”.

Nandita, “I have no issues with the love and affection you have for other people. Infact, it tells me that you are a nice person. My only problem is that the way you treat me is such a contrast to the way you treat others. How can your love be selectively missing for me but present for others? How can you be polite to others and not me? Show respect to others but not me?”

Nandita, “Lately you have also started shouting at me. Something you never did and still never do with other people. And you shout at me in the presence of other people. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be shouted at, to be humiliated in the presence of the very people who you say are not yours and yet who you never shout at?”

Nandita, “I know I am not as smart as you are. But this is nothing new to either of us. One of us has to be smarter and it is you. That is something we knew even before we got married. But now you are intolerant of me and my mistakes. You pick on me so much that I am fearful of being myself. That is suffocating me.”

“Oh come on! you are not the only one suffering here” he said.
“Look at yourself. You have become unfit for any outdoor activity, have age old ideas, are usually incoherent, and want to shop eight days a week”, he continued.
“While I have been keeping fit, am considered smart, well connected, aware and good conversationalist”
“You are an embarrassment to me Nandita”, said Sanjeev.

Nandita felt numbed. Like lying on an ice bed. She stared at the floor, her eyes motionless.

“Sanjeev, you are not wrong there. But then not all of it is my fault. When I had that job offer from the accounting firm, you put your foot down saying the kids need me”
“I have never been to a workplace even though I wanted to work and was qualified to work”
“You wanted the kids to have the best – their mother’s full attention. But what of the mother? Does she have a life outside the kids? And when the kids grew up, you took that posting in New York. A new place and new culture. So, while you were building your resume and persona by spending time at the office, I was again left to the mundane task of attending to the house and keeping it warm and equipped for you, because we could not afford a maid”
“Time and again, I requested for a life outside the house. Time and again you put forth a compelling reason to refuse me my wish.”
“I agreed not because I could not disagree. I agreed because I loved you enough to not disagree”
“Maybe I should have loved myself a little more”, said Nandita, in a wishful tone.

“Most of what you say is an excuse”, Sanjeev replied.
“How do you explain being overweight?” he continued.

“One thing led to another. My spirit felt so crushed, I hated myself and my body. I have no excuse for being unfit but that it was the only way I could punish myself”, said Nandita, now flat and totally devoid of emotion, as if the fact had no meaning for her.

Sanjeev had not expected this and it hit him like lightening. There was so much pain in that thought. The guilty feeling was coming back. His thoughts floated back to Nandita being crowned as the most beautiful girl in her college. And she had celebrated it by buying a swimsuit and enrolling at the same pool he visited. He could not take his eyes off her when she first walked into the pool area that summer evening. The sea green swimsuit made her look like a Goddess.

“Sanjeev?” she said and broke his train of thoughts.

“Nandita”, he said with the practiced speed of a top level manager about to accept his mistake, “you are right on many counts. I had no clue you were so eager to work. Maybe I was simply blind to your needs. I am sorry!” said Sanjeev, for once feeling light and warm.
He cupped Nandita’s palms within his own. She was a cosy warm and that felt good. Her skin as soft as the first night they made love.

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Continued as part 4 here.

 

A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 1

The yellow-blue pillow covers carried Nandita’s thoughts to the friendship band Sanjeev gave her 9 years ago. “Those were the days!,” she thought, almost aloud. But her face gave no indication of the joy of that thought. She looked sad and wishful. And her fingers, knotted out of anger, nervousness and frustration, revealed the story of what had happened between then and now.

Sanjeev was taking a shower and she was waiting on the living room sofa, prepared to broach the subject of their loveless married life. A thousand thoughts whirled about in her mind. Some happy, some not-so-happy. It was as if she was being thrown about in a tempestuous wind. And she was frightened which way her life will go.

At last, after some 45 minutes, Sanjeev emerged, water dripping from his broad shoulders. He looked at her and then looked away. As if she did not exist.

“Sanjeev, I want to discuss something,” Nandita blurted. She surprised herself because she had intended to wait until Sanjeev had dried, combed and reached the dinning table for his breakfast.

Sanjeev, with a shade of irritation, “Can it wait until I get dressed?”

Nandita, still shaky with her false start, “Yes”

Sanjeev disappeared into the bedroom, out of her sight but very much in her thoughts. Minutes slipped by.

“Why is he taking so long?,” Nandita thought.
“It is because he does not want to talk. That is how it always is with him. I am the last in the queue for his time and attention,” she answered to herself.

Sanjeev was struggling to locate his crimson t-shirt. And the idea of Nandita waiting outside did not help focus his mind on where he had kept the garment. After a few frantic minutes he finally found it, neatly folded and placed along with his other clothes.

“That is not where I kept it! Why must she keep re-arranging my stuff when she knows I dislike it?,” he thought. He did not notice that the neat folding helped create space in the wardrobe or that it kept the garment’s crease just the way he liked it.

He hurried with getting ready and walked into the living room, glancing sideways at the dinning table to see if his food is served.

Sanjeev, “You haven’t set the table yet?”

Nandita, in an explanatory tone, “I did. But since you were taking longer than usual, I kept the food back to help keep it warm”.

Sanjeev, almost shouting, “Why do you need to do that? You know I am OK if the food goes cold. Now hurry up, I am hungry.”

Nandita, “It won’t take a minute. Why are you shouting at me?”

Sanjeev did not answer, picked up the newspaper, and sat down at the table. He did not even look at her.

She arranged the food and took a seat opposite to Sanjeev. He had not changed much since they first met nine years ago. Both, in outward appearance and the person he is. Those warm eyes were as attractive today as ever. It is just that the warmth did not get expressed in little deeds and actions like it used to. It seemed he was holding back his real self and all that she was presented with was this man who sat before her now. And this is not the Sanjeev she met, fell in love with and married!

“What are you dreaming of? More clothes to buy?” said Sanjeev, breaking her reverie.

“No,” she replied.

“What was it that you wanted to talk about,” he asked, staring at the plate before him.

He knows and wants avoid it, she thought. But today she wanted some answers.

“About our married life,” she said.

“What about it?” he cut in.

“There is something missing in it. This is not the life we imagined, is it?” she said, half-heartedly. She was already feeling lost.

“You have an enviable house, chauffeur driven car, two lovely kids, and excellent living standard. What is missing?” said Sanjeev.

“That’s not why I married you!” Nandita replied with a hint of anger in her voice.
“Love is missing. Companionship is missing.” she added.

He kept silent and looked out of the window. She waited. The sudden quiet was uncomfortable; like the silent space bounded by clanging of swords.

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Continued as part 2 here

 

A dialogue between husband and wife, Part 2

This is part 2 of the dialogue. For part 1 go here. 

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“Love is not missing. It is just that its definition has changed while you still want it like before,” Sanjeev said in a composed tone.

She expected such an answer. And yet it was infuriating. It is just one of those trap sentences which are put into a discussion to delay the arrival of truth. And she knew it would be difficult for her to go around these polished but untrue arguments. But today she is going to try her best.

“Is no expression of love an acceptable form of expression?” she asked, regaining some confidence.

He noticed the change, shifted his legs, and looked into her eyes.

“I care for you above all else. And I slog 14 hours a day so that you and our children can have all possible comforts of life,” he said.

“Yet love is missing and for me that is the essential comfort. I am ready to bargain some material comforts for more of your time.” said Nandita.
“Your care is expressed only in the stuff you buy for us?” she asked
“What about time, words, intimacy? What about simple gestures like holding my hands and expressing love in as many words” she stated, the anger returning. She made a mental note to calm down.

“You sound like an eighteen year old teen. We are both twice that old.” Sanjeev replied.

“So?” she retorted.

“So, grow up and understand the difference between age groups,” he replied with a touch of sarcasm.

“From what I know, the form of expression can change but expression itself cannot disappear. While a child needs to be held against your chest, suckled, hugged, and kissed. An adult needs support, warmth, space, respect. Look at successful marriages. Invariably you will find the couple indulging in small gestures as frequently as permissible. Like holding hands, a gentle caress, looking into each other’s eyes and smiling, calling to say “I miss you”, buying spontaneous gifts however small in value, asking for advice on both trivial and critical issues. Sharing their dreams, aspirations, struggles. Asking for opinion. Showing respect. Never being rude. Never shouting.” she said, not stopping for breath.

She left lighter, as if a burden taken away.

“You mean to say I don’t do that,” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised.

“Do you?” she replied.

“This is how all marriages are. You have no idea of reality and I have no idea why we are having this discussion,” quipped Sanjeev

“If you do not acknowledge there is a problem, then there is no way we can find a solution,” she said, feeling lost again.
“And since I am feeling increasingly suffocated in this relationship, the only way I can continue is if we work on this together. Otherwise I think we should call it quits,” Nandita said, surprising herself with that statement.
“So, I ask you again Sanjeev, is there or is there not a problem?”

Sanjeev looked at her. For the first time feeling threatened and not just irritated. The idea of losing her had never occurred to him. Was it because he took her for granted? That thought made him uncomfortable. How can he be like that? He considered himself a loving person and that is what people around him say he is. Then why is his wife feeling otherwise?

He saw a woman completely in love with him. Ready to forsake all she had for his companionship. And that made him feel  guilty for the crossroad their relationship had reached.

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Continued as part 3 here.