Friday, August 26, 2005

Look who's talking!

I always thought that the art of making conversation is something everyone is born with. After all, how hard can it be to actually listen to another person, keep an open mind and respond accordingly? But I've realized that it is VERY difficult. There are some who are natural conversation killers. You can have three kinds of conversations:
- The person you're talking to actually understands what you're talking and responds relevantly. This is the ideal case.
- The person doesn't understand what you're saying but *thinks* that he/she understands. Half the time, they don't want to really see the meaning of what you're saying; they just want everything that you say to fit into their image of you. This conversation is bound to lead you nowhere because you'll hit a firewall called Presumptuous Ignorance. Most Customer Support people and many relatives belong to this set.
- The third variety is totally hopeless. The conversation is like one of those Shakespearean asides. Except instead of it being an "aside", unwary onlookers will be made scapegoats of this sudden eloquence. The topic will usually be tangential to the ongoing discussion. These people are totally untouched by the likes/dislikes/opinions/boredom of the crowd because they think the world should know of their brilliance. Telemarketers and a few pedantic, pompous specimens are an obvious example.

I am sure all of us get into each of those robes once in a while as our mood, context and surroundings dictate; but some people are permanently stuck in one particular type. I don't know which one is more irritating: the second or the third. Category 2 people are usually the insufferable know-alls of this world with tinted corneas. No matter what you say or do, they'll get you exactly wrong and propagate that wrong perception to the world. The third can be kind of amusing at times if you have the right sense of humour...:) You can tune off when you want to. When you return, you can give a vague smile and nod and they will be perfectly satisfied because all they wanted was an audience for a monologue!
But all in all, I've found that 95% of the conversations we have is utter nonsense because there is no giving, receiving and understanding. We stand from our own comfortable vantage points and try to get a view of everything right from where we stand; If something doesn't come into view, we simply ignore it. Jeez, what a boring prat I've become! And I wonder how many will be putting me in Category 2 or 3...:) So which one are you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Confessions of a mellowed mind...

Ages 6-10: (Cranky, smirking kids' voices) "My Dad can beat up your Dad!"
Ages 11-20: (Angry, embarassed, annoyed adolescent voices) "You don't know anything, Dad; you don't know anything..."
Ages 23+: (Nostalgic, wistful voices) "My Dad used to say..."

Once when I was up in arms against my Dad over some matter during my teen years, my exasperated father repeated the above dialogues to me. I guess he couldn't stand his little girl arguing against everything he said. He said that one day I'd reach the last phase when I'd see the value of his advice. The cranky kid that I was, I shouted that I'd never, ever state that my dad had taught me anything useful! After all, what special thing had he taught me and why did he have to think that he was the best judge in most matters?

Well, those days are gone. Curiously enough, today, I think about the hundred times over the past few months I've prefaced my utterances with, "My dad used to say..."! A sign that I have grown up?! A sign of maturity?! Perhaps it is a sign of acknowledgement that as the years have rolled by, I've come to see the wisdom and temperance in my father's and mother's words...:) A wistful smile creased my forehead as this thought crossed my mind today. You know, my Dad used to say....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Dreams May Come..

"The famous co-discoverer of DNA who also became renowned for his work in neuroscience, the late Francis Crick of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, and molecular biologist Graeme Mitchison of the University of Cambridge have maintained that we actually dream to forget. According to their theory, dream sleep is a self-cleansing program. Unencumbered by the constantly flowing signals of the waking state, the brain uses the calm of the night to free the system from informational refuse. Superfluous and disturbing images, memories and associations are brought up in dreams, checked for value, then erased from the cortex."

"Sweet Dreams Are Made of This"- Read this article at Scientic American Mind

From now on, if someone asks me why in the world I sleep for 8 hours a day, I'll say, "Hey, I need to cleanse informational refuse from my clogged neuronal network!!"..:)

Jokes apart, I know many friends of mine who survive on 5-6 hours of sleep per day and are consequently irritated, forgetful and cranky. I daresay there are thousands of others out there who cut back on sleep to maybe party, work hard or watch television. To my friends and all those others, there's nothing that a little bit of planning and prioritizing can't accomplish. Nothing is worth your sleep!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Of Baddies and Hum Tum and so on....

Have you ever noticed how baddies in movies get all scared when they're about to die?! This is a universal truth in all Holly,Bolly,Golly,Tollywood flicks. I mean, these villain guys (it can be women too. I make no distinction between the genders here)shoot,loot,defile,ravage,rape throughout the movie; but when the hero points a gun at them, they suddenly start cowering and begging. Huh? I'd think that if you heartlessly kill and maim for a considerable period of time, you'd either

a. have thought about the fact that someone is prone to do the same to you or
b. devote sometime to the concept of dying and how your victims would feel during their last moments since you spend so much of your time bumping them off.

After all, they can't be successful villains without some intellect! Actually, let me extend this observation of mine to something else too. This might be rather controversial and I might be called a FCS (Female Chauvinist Sow- courtesy ethiri. Supposed to be the opposite of a Male Chauvinist Pig). But honestly, this is just a general observation and I am sure many guys would agree with me.

Now, we all know that guys in general (and the 18 somethings that are in college, in particular) will tease/pass comments/jokes on girls' appearance rather indiscriminately. These comments are often humorous, funny and might not necessarily be extremely harsh but nonetheless, they are at times unwarranted and hurt/provoke girls. Usually, girls ignore such things or cry (if particularly sensitive) to their girl friends (Face it, guys. What's a non-issue to you might be a BIG issue to us..:)). Oftentimes, the guy involved might walk up and say "Naan joke-ku dhaane sonnen. Adhai yen serious-a eduthukittu azhara?" and it will assuage her feelings.

But if the girl just turns around and says, "Dhoda, comment adikkara moonji-ai paaru! Enakku sirippe varalai. Konjam improve pannikko" or something to that effect, the guy (s) usually gets totally incensed at this. I don't think a simple "Naan joke-ku dhaane sonnen. Adhai yen serious-a eduthukkara?" by the girl would work here..:) How dare a girl (after all, a girl!) insult him? It is tantamount to blasphemy, heresy! Aren't you supposed to be able to take back as good as you get?! How is it that people don't realize that the same thing that they do day in and day out might not be as palatable when it happens to them?! I spent four years of undergrad trying to figure that one out..:)

Well, I've seen similar situations in other places too. For example, guys in a big crowd and a few girls. Suddenly guys crack a joke and laugh raucously amongst themselves and the girls are left to wonder if it is about them. Ask them and they'll tell you, "Hey, why does everything have to be about you? We are just having some guy-talk!" and girls are supposed to be satisfied. If they persist in asking, they are called nags. Now turn the situation around. Girls start giggling about something amongst themselves. Immediately the crowd goes silent. Somehow, the dialogue about it just being girl-talk doesn't work here....:) If the men persist in asking what's going on, well, they're just being curious, that's all! After all, what is girl-talk anyway? Guys usually think girl-talk is just a subset of guy-talk; they are the universal set; we are just a poor little subset and they'd know what we're talking about anyway....:)

Hmm..I guess what I am trying to say, in general, is that people who know to dish it out should well know how to take it too! Oh well, I guess I've added my portion of the fuel to the "Hum Tum" debate. Guys, no offense and gals, you know what I'm talking about! :))

Monday, August 15, 2005

Vaishnava Janatho...

Mahatma Gandhi's favourite song was said to be "Vaishnava janatho..". Recently, SB had written a post called "Main Nathuram Bol Raha Hoon" and in a sudden impulse, I chose to look up this song up on Google. The words of the song encradle some very simple, high thoughts; thoughts which every human should have but unfortunately, many don't. A man who harbours such noble thoughts is indeed a Mahatma and it is fitting that this was Mahatma Gandhi's favourite! Here's my salute to the Father of the Nation and the country that he unshackled on its 58th birthday....

The lyrics and meaning were originally taken from

Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je
PeeD paraayi jaaNe re

One who is a Vaishnav (Devotee of Vishnu)
Knows the pain of others

Par-dukhkhe upkaar kare toye
Man abhimaan na aaNe re (Vaishnav...)

Does good to others
without letting pride enter his mind.

SakaL lok maan sahune vande
Nindaa na kare keni re

A Vaishnav, Tolerates and praises the the entire world.
Does not speak ill of others

Vaach kaachh man nishchaL raakhe
Dhan-dhan janani teni re (Vaishnav...)

Keeps his promises, actions and thoughts pure
your mother is blessed indeed.

Sam-drishti ne trishna tyaagi
Par-stree jene maat re

A Vaishnav sees everything equally, rejects greed and avarice
respects women as he respects his own mother

Jivha thaki asatya na bole
Par-dhan nav jhaalee haath re (Vaishnav...)

though his tongue may tire he will utter no untruth
Never touches the property of others.

Moh-maaya vyaape nahi jene
DriDh vairaagya jena man maan re

A Vaishnav is one who does not succumb to worldly attachments,
Who has devoted himself to staunch detachment from worldly pleasures,

Ram naam shoon taaLi laagi
SakaL tirath tena tan maan re (Vaishnav...)

Who has become addicted to the elixir coming by the name of Ram,
For whom all the religious sites are in the mind.

VaN-lobhi ne kapaT-rahit chhe
Kaam-krodh nivaarya re

A Vaishnav does not succumb to worldly attachments
he has renounced lust of all types and anger

BhaNe Narsaiyyo tenun darshan karta
KuL ekoter taarya re (Vaishnav...)

The poet Narsi will like to see such a person By who's virtue,
the entire family gets salvation

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tomorrow Never Dies...

"What would you do if the world were coming to an end and today is your last day? What would you do different from your regular life?"

I was faced with this poser of a question recently. No light bulb went off immediately in my mind. After all, tomorrow never dies or...would it? Would I have regrets about not doing something in this lifespan?

It is amazing how much effort it takes to consciously probe one's own mind. Sometimes thoughts simply don't wish to surface from the depths and you have to fish them out! There are a lot of things I'd do if this was my last day on earth but wouldn't do if there is a tomorrow. Why? Am I scared of the consequences? Yes. Am I scared that perhaps if I give in to my wild ideas today, it might be a disaster all around? Yes. Am I scared of doing things that would spoil my relationships with people I hold dear? Yes. These are not necessarily bad things I want to do or say. There have been times when I've wanted to say more, do more but refrained because some invisible barrier left me tongue-tied and paralyzed. Everytime I wanted to say a few caring
sentences or extend a hand of support or express empathy, a cynic would pop up in my mind and whisper, "Who needs your affection or care? Move on. Don't be a sentimental fool!" There were times when I wanted to speak up and let people know that I respected and admired them and again the cynic would play spoilsport: "Bah! They would've a thousand admirers. What difference are you going to make?"

Venky told me he'd read somewhere that the repentance for having done something heals with time; what doesn't heal is the repentance for NOT having done something. So why does having no tomorrow prompt all these reflections? Perhaps it is the freedom of not having to protect or save anything for tomorrow; perhaps it is the certainty that I don't have to live with the burden of appreciation,expectation,jibes, taunts, brands, judgements that people may choose to anoint me with. Ultimately, I think it is the knowledge that 'today' will forever be buried six foot under the earth alongside me with no spillovers to a tomorrow...

There are the 'Carpe Diem' advocates who ask us to "live life as if it were the last day". I think that is ridiculous. Psychologists say that what separates adults from children is the fact that adults can delay gratification. I work today so I can save for tomorrow and so on. Maybe children are so happy because they only care about the present!

Amongst the zillion things I can think of to do on my last day, there's one thing that is close to my heart. This might sound like a typically girlish thing to do but here it goes. I am not exactly a demonstrative person. There are very few personal things that I'd let show through to anyone in this world. I know some of my closest friends have told me that as much as we were totally comfortable with each other, sometimes even they'd like to have a verbal statement of "I
care". I don't believe too much in PDAs but I do think I owe a lot of people in my life for what I am right now. There are my parents, relatives, close friends, well wishers, ill-wishers, even passers-by in this chapter of my life who've written a word or two. Even if a syllable goes missing, I think I'd be incomplete. If this were my last day, I'd tell all my friends and people who've touched my life in one way or the other:

"Thank You for being there and making my life better!"

So why are you writing all this, you ask? A few incidents reminded me of mortality. And I thought it would really stink if I died without letting people know that I value, respect and care for them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And Lexington Stirs to Life....

Freshers for Fall 2005 have started arriving at Lexington. Eager questions about on-campus jobs, RAs, TAs; anxiety at being at a new city, home; worry about finding their way through the campus; ponderances over where to have lunch/dinner; I looked back to the time when even routine things seemed daunting to me. At the risk of sounding patronising/maudlin, yesterday, I somehow felt a lot older at 23 than these young kids. It was as though I had suddenly grown up and I had a responsibility to make them feel comfortable, even if only to a small degree. And in their shining eyes, I saw a reflection of me two years back!

But the good part of all this is that Lexington has started to fill up with young blood. The campus will be buzzing again with chatter, laughter, worried sleepless kids doing assignments/projects, running here and there. The mid-summer lull and laziness at Young Library will be replaced by brimming study halls. I am smiling..:))

Friday, August 05, 2005

Up, Up and Away....

Google Earth is one cool tool. I had flights of fancy to all the different places I have been to in a matter of minutes. Speaking of flights...

Ever wondered how airports have their own feel and reflect a city's culture? Boring, digusting, smelly, bare, conservative, glitzy, elegant, comfortable; airports have their own unique feel. Kualalampur, Malaysia is an airport I don't associate pleasant memories with. I was flying for the first time , that too just 10 days after a severe bout of jaundice. Orange juice and plain water were the only things my dad would allow the airhostess to pass me. I remember sitting at the airport with longing eyes while my brother was devouring some chocolate mousse..:) The airport in itself resembled Chennai Central Station with a huge waiting lounge cluttered up with people sleeping on the floors. I don't remember if there was some problem with the flights out of Malaysia or if that was the general nature of the airport. Seoul, Korea was really bare. I was there in-transit and all I remember are cold, hostile marble floors. Heathrow, London bought back memories of India. I was flying from Canada back to India and I got my first feel of India in Heathrow! Back to bare, uncarpeted floors and signs reading "Toilets" instead of the "Restrooms" of North America. I didn't really like Heathrow that much because of the nasty, snotty Immigration Officers.

Vancouver, Canada is a really friendly, quiet, elegant airport. It doesn't have the hustle and bustle of a JFK or LAX but is quietly busy. LAX was typically hollywood-ish. It was friendly, glitzy, attractive but not all that comfortable. I had a bomb scare at LAX. And I was hustled out of the airport in a huge wave of humanity into the hot blazing California sun and none seemed really worried. Finally, it was a hoax. Duh. JFK is a HUGE let-down. Unfriendly, smelly, crowded. I hated it. Of course, our own Bluegrass Airport at Lex is pretty cool. The best thing I like is that there are no huge check-in queues and I admit, it is pretty beautiful too. Dulles is like Washington itself: sombre, formal.

I had a brief taste of Paris at deGaulle. I checked out all the perfumeries at the airport and I can see why they call the city the "Fashion Capital". Tokyo was an amusing experience. We had one of the worst landings at Tokyo, Japan and I remember holding the airsickness bag all through the landing process. Our flight made a steep banking turn and my ears painfully plugged up. My brother and I were cursing the pilot as we tried to hold onto our sickness bags for dear life because we didn't wanna have it smattered on the person next to us!
But the "Best Airport" title goes to Changi, Singapore. One of the most beautiful, aesthetic, comfortable, charming airports I've ever set my foot in. It is as friendly as the city itself, has some of the best eateries, cool soft music playing in the background. And it is one of my favorite cities too!

If you think this is a miserable post, I am sorry. I was having my Friday afternoon indulgences...:) Oh and on a parting note, I think "Anna" as a name for an airport stinks. It could be Annadurai but to call an airport "Big Brother"....I wonder what Sai Santosh would have to say to it...:)