Saturday, December 16, 2017

Games People Played

I am 52 years old. And I am from India.

Both these information are relevant to this blog.

My generation has probably witnessed the greatest transformation in how we as individuals and a family, spent our leisure time.

Today, on those rare weekends when the family is together, the following are how we are engaged.

I explore the possibility of going to some mountains or for a bike ride with my friend.

On the rarest of the rare occasions, the family goes to the mountains together.

If it is biking, I am on my own.

Usually however,

My wife spends her time in the kitchen, or the garden or connecting up with friends through whatsapp and facebook. 

My son, would use the excuse of holidays to sleep when the others are awake
and stay up all night while we sleep.

My daughter would be tuned into her laptop, watching some unwatchable shows and listening to elevator music.

Me, I will be moving about, getting on everyone’s nerves with my misplaced wisecracks, and end up reading or watching comedy clips on YouTube.

When the family ends up something together, it is one of the following three.

Watch a movie.

Go on a holiday – visit new places.

Play Scrabble.

When I was young, the choices of what to do in our leisure time were multitude. 
Surprisingly, even the leisure time was plenty. 

The distractions were less.

We had no TV, no internet, no malls, no multiplexes.

The TV entered the homes in the early 80s and stole the leisure time.

It reduced the conversations at home. 

The only time the members of the family spoke to each other was when they had to fight for changing the channels.

In the beginning, even this was not happening, as there were no channels to change and most TVs did not come with a remote.

Subsequent home invasions like internet, connection of internet at home, first through dial in connection, then with modem and finally with wifi, smartphones and cable TVs totally obliterated any family time possible.

Nostalgia is addictive, as strong as opium, and I take a trip down the memory lane.

When I was young (remember I am 52 today)

Every day, after the school, we played.

When I say, we played, I mean we the kids, went to the playground and played physical games.

Cuts, bruises, dirt, dust, torn garments, broken nails and damaged equipment were the norms.

The games that we used to play are all now part of folklore.

No one, at least not in urbanized areas, plays them anymore.

A top, marbles, balls thrown at each other, hop on elaborate patterns as complex as crop circles.

I shall not spend time on elaborating them as they were all games the kids played.

My starting point was how the family spent its leisure time.

The first that comes to my mind is a game called “Thaayakattam”


My grandmother was the champion in this game. This game could accommodate 4. So someone usually waited for their turn when one game ended. My grandmother was a constant participant. The game was almost like chess, with some chance thrown in, but once the chance part was done, it was left to the player to marshal his/her resources with cunning, strategy and deception. My grandmother was a serious player. Gone were her gentle demeanour and kind words once the play started. 

She would shout, holler, hurl expletives, plead with Gods, curse her own grandchildren with fate worse than death, accuse others of cheating, play the poor me card to perfection and in extreme situations (read as close to losing) end the whole game with her matriarchal authority and sulk for a period of a full three minutes after which a fresh game would start again.

At times, the games stretched endlessly and theoretically it is possible for the game to continue till eternity.

Shakuni  from the epic Mahabaratha was an accomplished player of this game.

In the early days, we drew the pattern on the floor with chalk, and later laminated patterns or some exotic cloth versions were also available. But nothing could equal the patterns drawn on the floor.

The second was the family favourite “ Paramapadam (literally God’s feet) aka Snake and ladders”

Unlike the previous one, this did not have any limit on players. You could play with as many as you wanted. It just needed a distinct piece that you could associate with the players. Coloured stones, chessmen, carrom coins, cowry shells , seeds…. 

This was actually a two-in-one. It was not just a game, but also a Moral Instruction class delivered at home while you play. 

The ladders that helped you climb were all virtues, like honesty, faithful, pious, generous etc. The greater the virtue, more rungs to the ladder. Honesty may help you ascend two rows while pious took you seven rows above. 

And the snakes were the sins. Jealous, greed, envy, anger, etc. The same logic again, greater the sin bigger the fall. I do not remember the exact name of the snake, or its associated sin, but this blasted snake rested on square close to 100 on a game with the final square at  132. And this brought you all the way down to square 2. 

Must be a real mean snake or a damned sin certainly. 



With its tone of piety thrown in, each square was attributed to some God form or other, the cursing of my grandmother was restrained while her pleading to Gods were exponential.

The third was a game called “Pallanguzhi”

I do not even know what to call the main part of this game. 

It was not a board, nor was it drawn on the ground. It was a compact foldable wooden plank, often shaped like a fish, and it had 14 cup like indentations, arranged 7 to a side. 


This game was also quite a complicated one. I am not sure if I remember all the rules. It was played with cowry shells or tamarind seeds if the family was less affluent. The person who started first had an advantage. There were some patterns that could be repeated to give you a winning start.

The last of the family game I recall is the one that involved cowry shells. This needed dexterity, as you did some "Matrix" like manipulations with your hands and fingers.

There was yet another game called Trade. A diluted version of monopoly. The grandmother never participated in this. We bought cities, built homes, collected rents, in short we were transformed to the heartless capitalists for the duration of the game, sucking blood out of proletariat like a leech. My father was usually the banker. Years later we learnt that he was giving money to one of my brothers on the sly. No wonder he won most of the times.


Years later when I moved to Bombay, I knew all the parts as I had bought them, built homes and collected rents when I was a kid. Thus Dadar was always cheap compared to Zaveri Bazaar, though by the time I moved in, both were out of reach, to even live in.

The death of my grandmother happened before the TV invasion and sadly most of these games died with my grandmother.

With my grandmother gone, and an ever absent father, constantly on travels and a mother who was happy to cook or sleep given a choice, the three brothers still managed to keep a tradition of games at home, played together.

Chess, Carrom and playing cards.

These games are playable today too, but the drama and fun part of the above mentioned games are gone forever.

In 2004 or about, I bought these games from a fancy shop in Madras, selling “traditional Indian games” at an obscene price, thinking I will reignite the magic of those golden years.

The wish remains a dream till date.

Readers of the blog, closer to my age, please mention some of the games that you played in your childhood, if you feel like, that is lost today. Let me compile these games. If for nothing, at least for records.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Make an ass of u and me

It was circa 1994, when one of my new colleagues, Amitava Chatterjee introduced me to the concept, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me” 

I was addicted to wordplay and I loved it the first time I heard it expressed thus.

This was, naturally, a discussion on technical matters. We were constructing a fish-bone diagram. The most trusted tool in technical matters to cover your ass, a presentation, conceived and constructed, to convince the management that we were right on top of the things, that things are absolutely in control.

If everything were to be in control, you would not need to construct a fish-bone diagram in the first place.

πŸ˜‰

The underlying message was, do not assume, look at data objectively, without prejudice, and do a thorough analysis to find the real cause.

It was common then, and even today, 23 years later, to see qualified persons making the cardinal error of confusing cause with effect.

I was so much impressed by the simplicity of the doctrine, that for many years I had this poster on the wall behind my desk, in my office.



As years rolled by, and with salt overtaking pepper on my cranium, I realised this is so much true to the social life as much as it is relevant to technical matters.

No. Make it more relevant to social life.

I have been a witness to brothers not on talking terms, parents distanced from their own children, broken marriages, destroyed friendships all due to this single malaise, assumption.

I like to compare it with cancer; just as it is invariably always too late when you diagnose cancer, so it is with assumption.

You may identify the assumption part, but never be in position to cure the damage caused by it. 

As with cancer, the effects are terminal, irreversible.

Before I try to explain the malady, as I see it, in current world, let me take you to another aspect of this problem. The powers of assumption have been harvested to its fullest by one of the most evil types to walk the earth; the manipulator.

The manipulator understands the powers of assumption. A manipulator is essentially a person who likes to control. A person with no interest in power, has no interest in manipulation. 

Feed the gullible with the well formulated manipulated manifesto, and Voila, the person is your slave forever. And what is more, you have successfully distanced two individuals.

Let’s start with M (a manipulator) playing the game of manipulation, using the tool of assumption, on an unsuspecting duo A and B.

In most cases, M, A and B are reasonably close to each other to start with.

M drops hints to B about “certain” things that A mentioned about B. It is always with a preamble, “please do not misunderstand me”, “I am actually embarrassed to even talk about this” and “for heaven’s sake do not go and ask A” and “please let this not change your behaviour to A” and the final twisted barb “maybe I misunderstood, do not take my word, you be the judge”

The basic human nature is thus, of all the options that are available at disposal, the one option that B will never do is talk openly to A or confront A and M together.

B starts viewing everything that A says with suspicion, jokes cease, doubts increase, absolutely normal occurrences take on monstrous hues. 

B loses the ability to smile and be normal. Driven to edges of paranoia, B starts imagining malaise where none exist.

Now is the time for M to approach A and start “am concerned about B”, “B is reacting too strongly”, “it is not possible to be casual with B around” and “you would not believe, just the other day B said….”

Both A and B feel they are obliged to M as it was M who brought the “disturbing revelations” that they were unaware of.

As A and B grow distant, become more formal, M basks in an achieved glory of staying close to both A and B, now separately, and feeding them the periodic fodder to foster their insecurities, rendering them a phantom anchor.

M achieving the “divide and rule” strategy will never work if A or B resort to the most logical and obvious of the options available to them, but 10 times out of 9 <πŸ˜ƒ> A or B or both will “assume” the worst and move on and apart.

Why M does this remains a mystery. The gains are insignificant. As a matter of fact, the “gains” whatever they are, are possible and much easier to reap in a collaborative atmosphere. If the “end” or the “gains” are not the main drivers, then the only possible aspect I can ascertain the behaviour of M is the “need to control” and the “obsession to stay in control”.

M likes “authority” and is never comfortable when the authority is questioned. 

Or when perceived as questioned.

In a convoluted way, I would stretch the theory that M uses “assumption” as a major tool, with cocksure certainty that the two being played with will never cross check and will always “assume”, probably on the “assumption” that M’s authority is being questioned.

😁

To a neutral observer this will never make sense. 
People throughout the history fed on this insecurity and the “assumption gene” to achieve their ends with minuscule efforts. 

Be it Hitler and Goebbels spreading rumours about Jews to gentile, a white supremacist branding blacks as filth, people of one religious faith spreading suspicion about another in any communal riots, the Christian inquisitions, the persecution of any minorities, the lynching mobs, the list can go on………..

Having spent, a considerable amount of, time on one off-shoot benefactor of the malady, the M, let me now get back to the basic evil itself.

I reproduce a paragraph from earlier on, to relate to it, instead of making the reader scroll up to refer.

(It makes my blog longer too <πŸ˜„>)

I have been a witness to brothers not on talking terms, parents distanced from their own children, broken marriages, destroyed friendships all due to this single malaise, assumption.

Do the estranged brothers not look back?

Do the disillusioned parents not cast a forgiving eye in their autumn years?

Can the couples completely forget all their glorious moments?

Does not a friend revisit the good old free years, at least when totally inebriated?

All of them do.

But they all do with a vehemence that is frightening.

The adage “Time heels everything” falls F.L.A.T. here.

If the assumption is not blown to smithereens at the very first instant, it is already too late.

The intervening years only cement it harder, making it impassable, an ugly past forever stored away, never to be retrieved.

Like an old excel document that was saved with a, now forgotten, password.

The longer the separation grows, the more impossible it is to repair.

The growing sense of dread, “it happened once, what is the guarantee it won’t happen again?” combines with the most unpleasant sensation of “if I break the ice, the blame of all these years shall come to rest on me” and I give the other the chance to gloat (another assumption) “we wasted these many years due to your stupidity and pigheadedness” never will allow to mend one’s way.

One seeks comforts in such spoken wisdom “a broken glass can’t be fixed” “a crumpled paper never regains its crease” and yada yada yada

As a writer I have a responsibility to conclude. I am not one of the recent species of authors (books and films alike) I am frequently coming across who thrive on leaving a story open ended. 

What is one expected to do? 

“Assume” an ending? Compare with other idiots who do the same? And then enter into an argument as to which of the “assumed” ending is correct.

πŸ˜ƒ

My conclusion:

Relationship by its basic nature is fragile. It needs to be nurtured, cared, tended and loved. It is not a plastic toy immune to disintegration. On the contrary, it is too fragile. 

If you want a relationship, start slowly, invest time, let it grow in its own pace, let the mango ripe in the tree, don’t try to ripen it by plucking it raw from the tree and burying it in a container of uncooked rice; and once the acquaintance and association blossoms into a relationship, let not even Armageddon try to shake it.

Mistakes are normal. 
Errors occur. 
Manipulators prowl. 
The best laid plans, often, go awry.

But what kills the relationship is assumption.

I “assume” I have been explicit.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Till death do us part





Couples who do not love each other are abnormal.

Couples who do not fight are even more abnormal.

We love, we fight;

We laugh, we cry;

We argue, we agree;

We splurge, we scrounge;

One likes music, the other reads;

One likes outdoors, the other is stretched on the sofa;

One likes the sunlight, the other has vampire blood;

One is hooked onto movies, the other sleeps the moment the lights dim;

One likes women, the other likes men;

Who likes who could make a marriage more interesting.

πŸ˜›

We begin by being physically attracted to each other.

Then we learn to love each other.

We can’t stand separation, however small.

We delight in small pleasures.

We bask in important achievements.

We earn

We save

We own

We grow

We settle

We stabilise.

We become parents.

We struggle to understand our children.

We understand our parents better through our children.

On many things we disagree.

We all pass through a phase where everything that was once attractive, is now a matter of dislike.

What made you smile now makes you scorn.

The surface is scratched, and what you find underneath is not what you expected to see.

Then, as fog clears with rising sun, this phase also passes by.

The cracks heal, the scratches disappear.

You learn to accept and not be judgemental.

In the end

In the long run 

The marriage that is successful is the one 

In which the two learn to know how to respect each other.

Dedicated to two of the best couples that I have been blessed to get associated with who celebrate their anniversaries in the coming week.

Happy anniversary my friends.

Being the private people that they are, I shall not name them.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Pursuit of happiness

The CEO of a mid-sized company

Knitted his brow and frowned in thought

How can I make the firm grow bigger, and swell its coffer

How can it reach more, and make the competitors sore

He noticed not his loving wife, nor the adorable kids

All he saw were numbers, till they numbed him

He had no life, no fun, never saw the life under the sun

Till one day to his stunning horror

The management showed him the door.


The volunteer in the NGO

Beamed each day in delight

His thoughts were not shrouded in results of the quarters.

His life cycle did not revolve in 3-month brackets.

All the day he attended to people in pain

Never losing his ear to ear grin.

His problems were global, his jobs swelled with

A war in Syria

When ISIS flexed its muscles

When Trump taunted Kim

Whenever X targeted Y

While who is X or who is Y was never clear

The Z was always the constant.

The innocent bystander who always bore the brunt.

He spent his life in tending to the Z

Ready to let go his much needed zzzzzzzzzzzz

A bank balance he did not have

But a life in balance, certainly yes.

This volunteer in the NGO is today nervous

For he has to interview a former CEO, no less!

 VΓ½sledek obrΓ‘zku pro chasing happiness




Saturday, November 25, 2017

Zero Sum Game ?

Humans have a tendency to conserve energy.

If there is a shorter road, an easier way, a simpler method our mind is 
programmed to embrace it.

Unless you are a Kipchoge. 😊


And so, it remains a mystery as to why humans spend the bulk of their energy in complicating their life.

Is the total happiness in the world, a fixed number?

Is happiness, then, a zero-sum game? That, if someone is happy, it has to be at the misery of someone else?

Looking at certain people I would be compelled to come to that conclusion.

Are you happy is not just a simple question anymore, it is rocking the very foundation of human society.

It used to be a simple question and is still a simple question when posed to a child. 

Though the threshold of the age of the child is dropping continuously which is a major concern.

"Of course, I am – fit as a proverbial fiddle" – this answer is certainly fake. A happy person does not explode with happiness. Cheery demeanour, back slapping merry and outward manifestations are usually a fake screen to hide the real disappointment brewing inside.

"I don’t know, probably I am, no major concerns" – this is in all prospects a human being as close to happiness as we know it.

"It can be better" – this is just a micron-thin coating begging to be scratched. Scratch it and you will encounter Armageddon.  Wisest thing is to absorb this and slink away.

Instances of happiness are multitude. Each happiness is attached to some material thing or other.

The absence of happiness with a person of such disposition is still manageable as this can be compensated by more, albeit meaningless, possessions.

Beware, however, the person who is perennially unhappy, whose countenance is a scowl or a knitted brow, whose eyes dart around locating emotional chinks in the armour, and who has a false big laugh, whose eyes never smile, the one that is constantly scheming, who spends all the time evaluating if others are happy or miserable, whose happiness is derived by the equation 

         X- (sum of others happiness), 

the starting X itself too meagre to satisfy one individual of normal composition; for, this person has an inherent non capacity to feel happy or to nurture positive thoughts.

And like a black hole sucking everything that passes by, this person is almost a dementor from Azkaban, sucking out happiness from those around.

There are happy people and unhappy people. The world is full of them. Then there are people who are incapable of being happy. Like the school bully, who derives pleasure by kicking the sand castle built by other kids, or the proverbial monkey that climbed a tree and destroyed the nest of the birds because the birds could have a place to stay dry in the rains while the monkey did not.

Or like the tale of the magic fish emanating from Russia where the peasant, on being offered whatever the peasant wanted by a benevolent Angel in the form of a magic fish, with one caveat that the neighbour gets double, pleaded that his one eye be gouged out.

J.Krishnamurti said that Truth is a pathless land, the same is true for happiness too. It is natural too, as, can there be happiness without truth?

Darkness is dispelled with light. Thus it will be simpler to eliminate causes to bring in a greater level of happiness. What is a life lived if it was not lived happily?

Things to eliminate – as a simple ABC to happiness

Anger

Bitching

Comparison

The best things I learnt in my life I learnt from reading.

So, to quote Atticus Finch “Whatever the provocation Scout, I forbid you to fight”


Ignore the provocateur and move on, for the happiness of the provocateur hinges on you losing your composure and your happiness, stemming from the belief that happiness is a zero-sum game.

It is not.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Friend Indeed!

There are acquaintances.
There are friends.
Then...there is Bharati.




It is impossible to be good to everyone; whatever you do, it is ceratin that some people will probably say unpleasant things about you.

The doctors start learning being a doctor by the famous oath "Primum non nocere"

We try to live our lives the same way.

Middle class, god fearing, upbringing coupled with a honest to a fault father in one of the most corrupt government instituitions possible, left an early mark on the value of honesty and integrity which continued as a guiding pole star in your tumultuous life.

When your father was held in greater esteem post retirement whilst his erstwhile prosperous colleagues were treated with outright scorn, it resolved the early mark into a lifelong practice.

It was rather easy, as the practice was not a performance to an audience but emanated from within.

A way of life, so to say.

Years passed. The father is no more. The chosen path did not give any material benefits.

Temptations were always abound.

But a steely determination held on.

Recently one of my recent colleagues moved places and happened to work with another colleague of mine from yesteryears.

It is impossible to be good to everyone;

Thus it came as no surprise that the earlier colleague from years gone by mentioned, in a cahnce conversation, an observation that questioned my character and integrity.

My recent colleague, ever the timid person, 11 times out of 10 demonstrating decorum, was left flabbergasted.

He was rehearsing proper statements that would convey indignation while not losing semblance of civil behaviour.

Elli Wallach famously quoted in the timeless  "The Good Bad and the Ugly". shooting from underwater from a bathtub

"When you gotta shoot, shoot; Don't talk"

Bharati, wife of my recent colleague, unknown to herself, is a disciple of Elli Wallach.

She stood up, bristled (it takes little to bristle her up anyway) and said

"We do not know if you know him well. But we know him. What you say is impossible"

And walked out gracefully.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. -- Bharati.

I am not basking in this as a show of compliment. It is a vindication of what my father stood for and managed to impart to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Right hand on shoulder while the left is delivering the haymaker !

Beware the smiling assassin
For there is no worse kind
The twist of the knife is
Oh! So painful
When the hand belongs to a friend!



Betrayal by an enemy
Is a contradiction in term!
Knowing this well, surprised are we still
When the killer blow comes
From the hands of a friend!

Et tu Brute!
Would not have been
A gut wrenching cry
If Brutus were to be an enemy!

The cry and its anguish
Stemmed not from the
Fatal stab, but, that it came
From the hands of a friend!

It is known that chemo
Is as painful as cancer
So is looking for a reason
When the hand that delivered
The killer blow belongs to
The hands of a friend!

Find the reason
You are left disillusioned!

Don’t find the reason
You are left miserable!

Can’t find the reason
You are left confused!

Won’t find the reason
You are blinded!
By the misplaced, undeserved love.

Catch word in
Unravelling this shamble is
Reason, the why of it and not the how!

Take the R out
And you see that
Your erstwhile friend is now a
Fiend !!

So, when reason
Takes leave, as it often does
For reasons unknown (πŸ˜„)
Make sure that the
Burden of carrying the cross
Belongs, not to you, but to

The hands of your fiend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brave New Word !!!

Language is a living thing. It grows and each year new words are added to its vocabulary. Even though a complete edition of an Oxford English Dictionary could weigh about 10kgs (or a GB in soft version) I offer the following new words to be introduced in the next edition.

Or at least considered for inclusion….



Stalejokecue:
You are in a party with few of your regular friends. The conversation flows, as does the alcohol. One of the newcomers happen to mention that particular word, that is a trigger for your insufferable pest of a friend to launch into his endlessly repeated and absolutely humor less stale joke. And you squirm and survive yet another ordeal of this till the next time when another hapless one utters the stalejokecue.

Traygymnast:
Ever flown economy class and seated in the middle of the middle-4-seater section. Then you already qualify to be one. The skills you need to call upon and demonstrate in having your dinner/lunch on that miniscule tray, where the difficulty level is further compounded by everything in wrappers, pickles in containers that will not open, and when they do, spray the entire content on you or your fellow passenger, clashing elbows as the person sitting on either side of you undergo the same torturous routine, where each dish comes with a plastic cover that you do not know where to stash away, and when you are totally exasperated the hostess comes with an offer that you can’t refuse ‘Sir Scotch or Vodka’ make you eligible to be called a traygymnast.

Iscream:
Ever been to an ice cream parlor, recently. The mental condition that you reach on the endless choices you need to make, the flavor, cup or cone, number of scoops, toppings, type of topping, hot or cold and so on is to be called, with a flair for the wordplay, iscream.

Petripizza:
Similar mental turmoil as outlined above, this time in a Pizza Hut. Your condition at the end of homemade, stone cooked, chef’s special, green or black olives, soft crust or hard crusted, grated or sliced cheese and so on will leave in a condition to be known as petripizza.

Simplens:
The person who reads up Ken Rockwell, idolizes Ansel Adams and does a four month research on DPreview to select the best DSLR that money can buy and then shoots all his pictures in



Staircount:
That reflective, uncontrollable habit of sub-consciously counting the stairs when you climb up or down.

Impervix:
This person is a constant in almost each organization or a friend circle. There is NOTHING you can do to insult him. All your sarcasm, wit and outright abuse skittles over him. He can\t be insulted. Period.

Chaosologer:
This person sits up way high in an organization. The journey to the top is achieved by this simple trait. When everything is running weil, create a chaos, blow it out of proportion, complicate it beyond recognition, make people tear their hair in a frenzy and then restore it to its original condition by removing all the complications that were created in the first place and stake /take claim for having solved it. The study of this esoteric science is called Chaosology.

Lexiphil:
A person that gets high on words. Has an obsession to use the new word that was learnt in every conversation. It is a lexicon and not a dictionary, someone is an adept and not an expert, it is a serendipity and not just a chance…..

Caretwohooter:
This person is exactly the opposite of the lexiphil. Not the one for nuances. Remember and remind are interchangeable. (I remembered him last evening!) Loose and lose are the same.

Essemdee:
This person is the Social Media Disaster! Always present on all forums Facebook, messenger, twitter, whatsapp, multiple whatsapp groups, Instagram, snapchat ……. And spends all the time reposting from one forum to another and often ends up forwarding it to the same forum