Picking on memory

Books have a way of growing on you. Sometimes when you read an old book again, you see new things. It is but obvious that the book is the same but you are new. Some books evoke memories like most others don’t far they embed themselves deep into the mind. Here is one: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I remember them from school. My school life resurfaces every time I chance upon someone with a name Tom or with a chance reference to anything remotely connected to the fascinating novel. A white fence is one of them.

The incident about the white fence goes something like this. Tom skips school and is meted out a punishment: paint a fence white. He goes about enlisting a bunch of friends to partake some of their prized possessions to be allowed the privilege of the fence. It is a fascinating read and over the years ‘Paint Fence White’ has stood in for several things as I moved roles, managers and teams:).

What is exciting to one is a chore to another. With skill and some luck, you can make what is exciting look like a chore. And with some imagination and a sense of play, it can indeed be so!

We went Strawberry picking in somewhere close to the Bay Area. The little miss had a giant whale of a time. Yes.
Giant. Whale. Of. A. Time.

The set up is simple.
You drive to the farm.
You pick boxes.
You pick the produce.
You put the produce in the box.
You bring it back. ( You eat a few as well)
You weigh the produce.
You do the math of how much you need to pay.
You swipe your card.
You pack your stuff.
You leave in joy.
And then, when you come home, you ask for more.

I mean, isn’t this awesome.

Sure, strawberry picking is not something that you do daily and it is one of those things that you do once in a while. To seek different experiences and tell stories to ourselves ( and to the world) about those experiences make our lives. Or so I think.

And as the Pacific Ocean’s blustery moods rearranged the clouds above us in a hurry, kids punctuated the moves with shrieks of joy. Strawberries were the bright red trophies to take home along with a fresh coat of pride on tired parents.

Speaking of parents, I remember running about amongst paddy and sugarcane fields with my dad just letting me and my brother be. We didn’t have anything to pick those days except a fight or two between us. I recall the sweltering heat and the odd steady rain. We were free to do as we liked. Even as I wonder why we did precious little, I realise, we grew up.

Or so I think.

Mission Peak memories

Mission Peak is a peak that is Fremont, California. Well, I scaled it. This post is about that. That’s about it. This post holds no intrigue or a labyrinthine weave of how a chief minister can be such a stickler for the chair, or how an MP can be so brazen about claiming dementia. And if you want to take it International you could well tune to a circus show over debit and credit in the US of A !

As said, this post wont scale those heights. Mission Peak is a 2500 odd feet ‘peak’. If that ‘I scaled it’ in the first line of this post, makes you imagine a Tom Cruise kind of mission, well, that’s the as farther than Pluto if Earth was about truth !

‘Mission Peak’ has a long winding trail that takes you all the up. Forever on an incline mode. Steadily. Gradually. For what seemed like an eternity. One early Sunday morning, prompted by an infectious enthusiasm that friends put on display; the ‘climb’ was attempted.

For someone used to running the ‘hills’ in Powai, this wasn’t exactly tough. But it wasn’t a walk in the park either. It seemed as though it was going to take forever. Occasionally, when the head turned to take a look at the distance covered, the long winding road with people, ant like in size and movement all making their way up was indeed a sight.

There was chatter. Endless chatter. Wafting in the air was Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam. And of course, English. Of course there were other languages that was gibberish to me. Well, that’s besides the point. The point is, that was my convoluted attempt at letting readers know that there were a lot of people !

Watching people as they climb turned out to be an exercise that I highly recommend that everyone should indulge in, if you want to get to the REAL story. Well that’s another convoluted attempt to let you know that people who overtook us in the initial parts of the climb had such sophisticated accents that the TOEFL test examiners would be proud of. Only to lose their accents and being reduced to ‘amma’, ‘meri http://pharmacy-no-rx.net/paxil_generic.html ma’, and other forms of calling out their mothers / other relatives in their native tongue.

There were the others, with dogs. Some of which, could have passed for cows, save their bark. There were a few who were cycling all the way up. Yet others, running. Young. Old. Men. Women. Straight. Gay. Bisexual. (well, the last two, are assumptions. Just in case you were wondering). All of that, in all shapes and sizes.

Right at the top is this pole with multiple openings protruding at different ends. Looking patently odd and misplaced. Even as I was standing there, drinking in lung fulls of fresh air and blue sky, one ‘dude’ was explaining this to another.

Panting, yet talking. Producing funny sounds, further complicated by a phoney accent. From whatever I could gather, this was a ‘preset view finder’ of sorts. You could look at Fremont through one of them. Milipitas from another. And so on.

Boring I thought.

You climb all the way up to catch up the sky and air. Not to look at specific parts of the city. Which was when one of them exclaimed, ‘They don’t have a zoom facility’ he said. I instantly recognized that voice. It was the one whose accent slipped as the climb heightened. Perhaps he had left some food in the microwave to warm up and he wanted to zoom in and find out how they were cooking !

The place itself was pristine. The sun came out bright and early. It isn’t often that one gets to stand above the clouds. If nothing else, paving the way for a few snaps and loads of memories.

The energy & enthusiasm that the group I went with, brought along, was so infectious that if enthusiasm was a disease, we would have had an epidemic of sorts. We discussed myriad topics so much so, if we assumed the role of an Indian MP, we could have actually got a few laws passed!

So the next time, if you belong to the tribe, that shakes its head upon reading what I write and mutter ‘this is heights’, may I suggest you try ‘Mission Peak’ ?

The Indian Auto shows !

The ‘Auto’ industry, to the layman, refers to the three wheeler : the Auto rickshaw! That mode of transport that gets you from place A to place B, with minimum comfort-maximum value, basic courtesy ( depending on the city you take the auto in) -maximum noise !
The Bangalore Auto rickshaws gave me a tough time in haggling. I had to polish, and re polish basic kannada there ! In Mumbai, things are a lot more professional ! In Tamil Nadu, ‘metered fare’ is as alien as aliens can get !! ( And with no meters, ‘at the mercy of’ takes a far greater meaning) !

Whatever the case, these three wheelers form an indelible part of the Indian city landscape. Through narrow roads, crowded streets, early mornings, late evenings, for every occasion, the Indian ‘auto’ rides them all !

On the way to Goa, we spotted some ‘hard top’ auto rickshaws, with doors et al. Wonder why ! That seems to be a variant of the konkan region. Colourful, ‘decorated’, interior worked, these hard topped vehicles looked majestic seen in the backdrop of the pristine mountains and roads !

Notice the spade work on the door ! The curtains inside. And those elaborate frills that adorn the drivers seat. Not to miss the ornate name board on the ‘forehead’ ! Perhaps the hard top and doors comes in handy during the monsoons, when the rains would hit mother Earth with persistent ferocity !

The Mumbai autorickshaw is a study in contrast. Functional. Fast. And sometimes, just way too omnipresent. Especially if you are stuck in a jam ! And when it rains, the resourceful auto ‘driver’ just pulls the string to roll down a tarpaulin / leather / rexine / plastic sheet, to shield the passengers from rain. If rain water makes it through this, which happens invariably, too bad for you!!

All said and done, the auto rickshaw define a city to many a traveller. For it is them and their drivers that you come in contact with as soon as you set foot in a city !! Just ask a non-tamilian’s about his first trip to Chennai, and i can bet you that there would be an invariable mention of the auto rickshaw at central station !

That said, did you know that auto rickshaw runs in the UK as well ? (with seat belts, shock absorbers et al) ! Well, at least that’s what the papers said back then. And i blogged about it two years back ! You can read it here.

If there was a permanent fixture on Indian roads, (other than potholes), it would be the good old auto rickshaw ! And for all of three wheels, they can get spinning like nobodys business !

Alright, it is a three wheel drive ! But one that could give all four wheel drives a run for their money, within the city ! This Indian Auto truly shows, who is the king of the Indian road !

A captain bids adieu

What does it mean to retire ?!?

Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement was the first retirement that i had to come to terms with in my life. And there was something said like, ‘its better to retire when everyone is asking, ‘why retire’, than retire when everyone is asking ‘why not retire’ ! That comment stayed.

Some months back, amma retired. Then appa retired. And it left me with some basic questions. How does it feel to walk away from what you have been doing for ages. For most parts of your life. How would it feel to just fade away from the scene ? To see all the striving of a lifetime come to a day in life, when life changes from the next day onwards.

The thought appears scary. With the only background on retirement coming from context provided by being a son of just retired parents, i attempt to think through. Perhaps the most fulfilled retirement years are for those who left an imprint by being who they are. An imprint in the minds of people, that will stay permanently etched in the DNA of those that knew & worked with them!

To retire with grace and happiness, to me, seems to be a result of ‘working with love’ when it was time to work! And as Khalil Gibran says….

And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Young colleagues & friends talk of retirement as if it were something that happens in remote corners of a forgotten land, only seen on a BBC documentary, by the mistaken flip of the familiar TV remote !!

Every rail track tells the tale of a coming train. If only you put a ear to the track, the rumble runs through the ear ! A tale which the eyes cannot see ! But the train and its hurtling are indeed reality ! And the train does appear, faster than one can get to spell ‘retirement’ without doubt !

And when a captain hangs up his boot & the world takes a bow, you realise that he has lived his life, by leaving a mark. More often than not, the mark is not a result of a herculean special effort but more by being himself. Living with passion. Striving for perfection & a love of work thats best complimented by simplicity of thought and execution !

When such captains retire, you stand by the sidelines and clap hard. And just as the sound of the clap reaches the world and your own ear, you relalise that your zest for work and making a difference, grows.

What more can be a true tribute !

This post is written just as a captain & a gentleman that i have only known from afar, retires. today. He left a mark. On many.

On me too.

Weekend Trial

Some parts of the weekend was in the malls and other sundry stores. With the better halfs birthday coming up, this was well..inevitable ! Every single store that we went to was teeming with people. Each carrying bags and bags and more bags.
The consumerist Indian has arrived and is here to stay too. He and she has money in his wallet. Ok substitute money with credit cards. And the bags on display proved that and more !

This post is dedicated to my experience outside a trial room (Room for trying out clothes.Not a court room) at Bangalore’s ‘Brand Factory’ outlet. S went in with two sets in her hands. We reached the trial room corner for women and there were four partitions to make rooms in a line.

And as we waited for her time, i looked at the motley crowd that was present outside the trial rooms. Well, as their wives, daughters, sisters were inside the rooms, the support group held all belongings (handbags, children, footwear etc) besides a few more new clothes to try.

Once in five minutes, a door would open, and someone in the crowd would step upto the room, give comments on the new stuff that the lady was trying and help her choose. And in one particular case, give her water, and other refreshments.

It almost resembled a pit stop for a formula one driver. Well, the speed at which credit cards were swiped it would have any which way given serious competition to a F 1 driver! After sometime, my time came too. And i took my exalted place among a few other ‘gentlemen’ & a young girl, carrying the usual stuff. They were there for some time. It showed.

S finished trying and i made the standard routine of offering comments on the clothes and we chose quickly. We too used our credit card !

And after about 30 minutes after we were there at the trail room, we were walking out. Which is when i looked at the trial rooms, for some reason. And there they were. All of them.

The gentlemen and the young girl ! This time, the young girl had squatted on the floor ! Awaiting the next turn to give expert comments. Bags, baggage et al. While the other trial went on inside !

There is no end to how much you can buy ! Or Try !

Today i go back to Dylan.
” People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed..”

SPAM anyone ?

Have been having pretty trying times at work.

And to spice it all up, Murphy keeps visiting me via the mail box. Through numerous mails which advertise a variety of stuff. From used cars. To Books. Training Programs. Kitchen Utensils. Toys (of all kinds). Electronic equipments. The list continues.

I used to religiously delete these mails. But now, their intensity has grown by leaps and bounds. Some are so very well camouflaged that i end up opening these. And therein lies the rub. More than the content, it is this passage at the end of the mail that works me up.

“Since India has no anti-spamming law, we follow the US directive passed in Bill 1618 Title III by the 105th US Congress, which states that a mail cannot be considered spam if it contains contact address / removal information, which this mail does.”

Well, a patriotic Indian that i am, i am distraught that we dont have an anti-spamming law. We have the likes of Mandira Bedi, Bipasha Basu… The nukes. The best film makers, politicians, judges, lawmakers, cricketers ( sic) The best…of everything. But no anti-spamming law ! Unfair !

Ok, so whoever asked these folks to adopt an American Law ? The folks that run America, well, they dont stand for me or Indians like me. (Neither do the folks that run India, but thats a different story). The 105th US congress decided that all this junk is not spam ? Just because some nitwit got my email id ? Come on 105th Congress !

I am seriously considering suggesting to some wisecrack in the higher echelons of power to do something about this. Pass a tit for tat law in India. The first step is to find out what the US doesn’t have a law on.

And then pass a law here. And then send mails to all and sundry saying “US doesn’t have a law against this therefore we follow Indian law on this subject, vetted by a district judge, passed by parliament and rubber stamped at the presidents office.

I am thinking of subjects like “kissing on stage, Artistic Expression, Reading of newspapers in the loo…..” Huh !

Ok. Am Feeling better !

A friend of mine passed this info to me that SPAM actually stood for “Shit Posing As Mail” and / or “Stupid Boring Annoying Messages”. Which was promptly contested by another colleague. In the end we came to know there are some 90 billion SPAM messages sent everyday. 90 billion. Holy Cow !

And some of course with disclaimers like ” he he..you guys don’t have a law in your country. But we follow the law of Great Western USA or South Eastern Timbuktu or wherever, ratified by his highness PC Sorcar, the magician and therefore this is legal..

BTW, i have got a comments on this blog that i have discovered to be spam. Later ! Intelligent comments. I thought i was alone and was the chosen one. I was wrong. Sample this.

God. May you spam them. All of them. All over.

I chose “You Cant Touch This” by MC Hammer. Well, no explanations. You just cant touch this.