You’ve got mail…by Post.

Waiting for a letter, any letter, is one of the many vivid childhood memories I have. I remember the excitement with which I used to ask the postman – “Is there any letter you are dropping to my house?”. It used to be a definitive moment. If the postman indeed was carrying a letter for my family, I took joy in becoming the harbinger to my family, even though it would be as mundane as a promotional letter of no consequence. If there was no letter, well, better luck next time. What I wouldn’t do is miss asking the postman about letters.

I remember all sorts of letters – there was a blue inland letter, which had ample writing space and could be folded neatly into a letter for which you don’t need envelope and stamp. In fact, the written matter was also concealed from everyone. Then there was this khaki envelope, which used to carry letter written on loose sheets. This was also the envelope that was the preferred choice for sending rakhi. There was the telegram, which either used to carry good or bad news succinctly in a format that the postal department had decided. It was a tense moment opening a telegram.

Finally, there was the humble postcard. The cheapest mode of sending your communication across, albeit, open for all. That is, anyone could read what you’ve written. That did not deter people from writing personal stuff and sending it across. I myself have read so many postcards – because we (my friends and I) had somehow known the mechanism to open the lock of the famous red iron letter box where everyone used to deposit their letters for collection. It was a wonderful experience, for it was forbidden and and at the same time, joy of being able to open the letter box.

I cant remember when was the last time I had received a written letter of some importance, or a Post Card from a friend or relative. Only letters that I get are from credit card, banks and insurance companies. and sometimes from a shopping mall or a showroom. Now these are also stopped because of the ‘go green’ initiatives of these organizations. Emails, Messaging, Skype can never bring back the excitement of hand written letters. Waiting anxiously for an email is not at all comparable to waiting for a letter, for it brought joy that is difficult to measure in words. Time, anticipation, patience all contributed to it. The instant gratification of today’s communication mediums just cannot match up.

With internet becoming all pervasive, these mediums may eventually become extinct. Poor telegram has already breathed its last on July 14, 2013. My grouse is that the electronic font’s just don’t convey the same feelings (explains why I don’t buy a kindle). I guess the spontaneity is all gone with back space, delete and undo options. Agreed that we did tear a lot of paper for getting the right stuff on paper, but guess editing and trimming is far more overpowering than it is in the hand written format. Well, as they say, you gotta live with the times, for they-are-a-changing. But, I would still await and continue to ask the postman for letters with that childlike excitement.

Letters were a great form of conversations and exchange of ideas / views in a patient setting, which alas, has lost out to Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype etc. Omnipresence, instant communication and being available 24X7 scares me to hell. At least there were no trolls in between, and it felt way personal.

Anyway, conversations are dying too. More on that some other day.

P.S. I was travelling recently and decided to send some postcards to myself – and felt awesome while I received them back home. Now, I have made a resolution that I will send post cards to myself whenever I am travelling to a new place. If you want to get included in the list, just send a word :).

Lift Please – Are you going in the same direction?

Other day, I was watching the new Sprite ad on TV where a guy with a bike outdoes a guy with a car, apparently staged around the concept of hitch-hike or in common parlance, lift.

I thought the ad is flawed, who gives and takes lift these days? The person giving the lift thinks – you never know who the person is, a creep may be or a thug, and the person taking the lift thinks exactly the same. And in cities, if a guy asks a girl standing on a bus stop for a lift, we all know what the assessment of most people would be in such a case. Finally, there are movies like Road or hitch-hike, that present all gory details of giving lifts.

Lifts used to be such a great help earlier – when I had limited money and no vehicle, lift was like a godsend. My college was in a totally godforsaken place, on the highway in Greater Noida – when the only habitant of that place seemed to be couple of colleges, their students and faculty members. Lift was our saviour, and definitely a mode of travel when all other options like commuting with fellow student who had cars or the college bus were exhausted. The great help came in avatar of cars, scooter and bike riders,  trucks, tractor trawlers, auto-rickshaws (incredible!) and virtually all sorts of vehicles possible. The thrill of saving 10-20 bucks from those bloodsucking DTC and Private buses was immense; and the money was obviously diverted on other excursions.

That was then, 12 -13 years ago. Now, tables have turned. I am behind wheels and travel through a highway. I am fully aware of surroundings and perils of engaging with strangers, especially lifts. I again thought the sprite ad is bakwas, lifts are passé..

Then only couple of days back, I was again passing through the highway and just to reconfirm the route, I asked about my destination to a couple of guys standing near the bus stop. Standing along with those guys was a very old man, fondly called “Tau” in this part of the world. He asked me whether he can come along as he is going in the same direction. I just gave a glance in Tau’s direction and said hop-on.Tau was my co-passenger for around 25-30 KM in my long journey of 180 KM. While driving, I thought WTF, I am sitting with a complete stranger on a highway! I was really pissed off at my decision to re-confirm the direction and agreeing to give lift to Tau. I started to casually chat a little with him. Frankly he was not able to understand most things I was saying and the same is true for me. But like most Indian conversations among strangers, we talked about crops, politics, schools and colleges, weather, four-laning of roads, the new highway cutting across farms, and so on…

Gradually, it became better and one more glance at Tau made me realize that had I not been in the scene, old man would have waited for the roadways bus to arrive and probably reached at the honourable roadways driver’s pace. I have probably saved him some hassle and time, which he may or may not feel happy about.

After dropping Tau at his destination, rest of the journey, I was contemplating the trust deficit between two unknown, unrelated persons in today’s world. The situation is alarming and we are being too paranoid / cynical / insecure by putting all fellow human beings into one basket. Partly the reason why most people are left to die on the road. But then, we read newspaper reports and Police advisory on Highway commuting…Better safe than sorry?

On second thoughts, Sprite TV Ad may not be flawed – lifts may still be in vogue, somewhere.

Simple Pleasures of Life: Why Do We Like to Delay Our Bill Payments Till the End…

Whoa! Its been a long time…very long time since I expressed opinions, made jibes, or just ranted… Something, inside of me, wanted me to end this ‘self imposed exile’ from social networking and blogging. Listen to the heart – as they say, here I am with a better resolute to write and not to be absent for long durations.

I was thinking of a ‘comeback’ post for a while…afterall, it’s not easy to just jump on the computer and start writing… but then it struck me, it need not be a ‘super – duper’ post – it can be a simple musing of my mind as well. So while  I was finished paying my pending bills for the month, I thought why the heck I am paying in advance? I was never like that!! I used to delay my payments till the very end and just loved the thrill of paying just-on-time. Not anymore, I guess it has direct relation to my increasing age and decreasing risk taking capability. Eureka! There I have it – my ‘comeback’ post…

When I thought about it further, I had a revelation of sorts – I delayed almost all my activities to the last-minute, be it work or personal life. Procrastination is all over me.  Blame it on the experience and past data I have gathered on how much time it takes to finish things. Or simply a personality trait.  It has become a way of life for me – mind you, not a pretty situation to be in when you are surrounded by people who love discipline and appreciate before time performance!!

Back to paying bills – I would say in this ‘just-on-time’ game, I have won sometimes and lost too…Lost when the cheque I had written to a biller was wrong or delayed. or the internet connection wouldn’t work on the bill submission date.  As a result, I ended up paying late fee a lot of times. Still, I felt it was worth taking the shot. Cheap thrills, anyone? Here’s my list of reasons to why people love delaying payment of bills:

#1 False Sense of Net worth: By delaying bill payment, I repeatedly login to my bank website see my bank balance and my ego swells with pride! I love the false reinforcement I get in the process that –  ‘dude, you still have a lot of miles in your tank, let’s do some more shopping!!’  This predicament can only be understood by a person whose bank balance rapidly tends to zero by mid of every month and he has 15 more days to spend with prudent spending :(.. So, waiting till the last moment saves you from the embarrassment when you receive bank balance alert SMS and mails…

#2 Hide-and-Seek: Didn’t we all love playing hide-and-seek as children… This is exactly the grown ups’ version of hide-and-seek. Rules are simple here – The billers are out there to get you all the time; you just have to show up at the right time. If you miss, you lose; If you hit, you are a CHAMPION. Adrenalin levels suddenly rise to mountainous levels. Am I going to make it or not? Will they charge late fee or would I get away with this? God! why did I do this – please make it acceptable this time,  I won’t do this  next time –  Replacement for bungee jumping / watching MTV Roadies ? 😐

#3 Last Mile Interest: This is the interest you earn by keeping the money in your savings account as long as you can without defaulting on your bill payments. Thanks to RBI, we get daily interest on our savings bank accounts. So why not earn extra moolah by just delaying the payment of the bill? Why let the biller enjoy some extra pennies of interest on our behest? and people say procrastination is a vice – time for a real interest check!!

#4 Feel Important and Make Others Jealous : Who doesn’t want to feel important and become sought after? Little extra care does not do you any harm…So when you delay your bills, the billers send you SMS and email reminders, alerts and sometime even phone call. Afterall, you have been a loyal customer for so long – can’t they just pay back by making you remind that you have some small bill pending. Otherwise, in the age of Facebook,  you hardly receive phone calls from people. And if you feel your job sucks and you are not doing any good to your company, you can at least project that you are busy in work doing some mission critical work , by making this pretty excuse, when you receive a call – Oh gosh! I am so engrossed in work, I just couldn’t get time – the guy on the other side would totally believe you are a busy guy working on top shot projects and genuinely busy all the while. Instead, he would curse his luck on why he is doing a super boring collection executive job, when other people in the world have so much interesting work that they even forget paying their bills!!

 # 5 ‘No Idea’ Syndrome: This happens to the people who believe they are victim of some sort as they are constantly targeted by Banks, Phone and electricity company and others by weaving in the some extra charges in their overall bill. (PJ Alert) When asked why is it happening – ‘no idea’ is what we get as a reply. So, to ‘get idea’ :), they make huge calls to custome care on how their bill is incorrect, threaten to drop the services of the company and at one point, they actually think of moving to some other service. Nah! too much effort in that, and thinking exactly that the pay up the bill just – on- time. Who says its not a sellers market anymore?

Those of you, who are a disciplined, risk averse lot – please do not try anything written above at home. These are real-life decisions performed by professionals under guidance of their procrastinated minds. My Turf would not have any liability arising out of late fee charges on bill payments of its readers…

“A man who pays his bills on time is soon forgotten…”

                                                                                           – Oscar Wilde

Stella!! Hey Stella!! A Desire Named Love, Companionship and Marriage…

A Streetcar Named Desire (ASND) – strange name for a story, I thought, when I first read of it. I was curious to know more. So, I lay my hands on this Tennessee Williams play book. Engaging, intriguing and thought provoking it was, without a single dull moment. This post is not a review of ASND; neither it is a hosanna. It is exploration of thoughts that flooded my mind after reading the book and watching the fabulous movie adaptation with superlative performance from vulnerable-yet-vanity-preserving Vivien Leigh and raw-dashing-uncouth-‘Polack’ (meaning – of polish origin) Marlon Brando. More on the book and movie, – here and here. For those of you who have not come across this masterpiece, here is the plot summary courtesy wikipedia:

The play presents Blanche DuBois, a fading but still-attractive belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others (but most of all, herself) from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister Stella Kowalski in New Orleans; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named “Desire”.  The steamy, urban ambiance is a shock to Blanche’s nerves. Blanche is welcomed with some trepidation by Stella, who fears the reaction of her husband Stanley. As Blanche explains that their ancestral southern plantation, Belle Reve in Laurel, Mississippi, has been “lost”, her veneer of self-possession begins to slip drastically. Blanche tells Stella that her supervisor allowed her to take time off from her job as an English teacher because of her upset nerves, when in fact, she has been fired for having an affair with a 17-year-old student. A brief marriage marred by the discovery that her spouse, Allan Grey, was having a homosexual affair and his subsequent suicide has led Blanche to withdraw into a world in which fantasies and illusions blend seamlessly with reality.

In contrast, Stella’s husband, Stanley Kowalski, is a force of nature: primal, rough-hewn, brutish and sensual. He dominates Stella in every way and is physically and emotionally abusive. Stella tolerates his primal behavior as this is part of what attracted her in the first place; their love and relationship are heavily based on powerful—even animalistic—sexual chemistry, something that Blanche finds impossible to understand.

The arrival of Blanche upsets her sister and brother-in-law’s system of mutual dependence. Stella’s concern for her sister’s well-being emboldens Blanche to hold court in the Kowalski apartment, infuriating Stanley and leading to conflict in his relationship with his wife. Blanche and Stanley are on a collision course, and Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s would-be suitor Mitch, will get trampled in their path. Stanley discovers Blanche’s past through a co-worker who travels to Laurel frequently, and he confronts her with the things she has been trying to put behind her, partly out of concern that her character flaws may be damaging to the lives of those in her new home, just as they were in Laurel, and partly out of a distaste for pretense in general. However, his attempts to “unmask” her are predictably cruel and violent. Their final confrontation—Williams alludes to rape, but never states it directly—results in Blanche’s nervous breakdown. Stanley has her committed to a mental institution, and in the closing moments, Blanche utters her signature line to the kindly doctor who leads her away: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

As it is evident, Blanche was devoid of love and companionship, which made me wonder – Is it that important to have presence of love and companionship in life? I know everyone’s life isn’t like Blanche’s, but, they surely have a lot missing. What if she would have found someone and married like her sister Stella? Would she have ended up in an asylum? Does marriage really brings the balance required in the society? Is one not ‘settled’  until he/she marries? Is all this relevant in today’s world?

Companionship

Man is a social animal – time and again this statement redeems itself in each individual’s life. As we’re growing up, we feel more comfortable with our friends than our family. We find solace in the fact that we know someone who shares our view on the world around us, is as clueless about a lot of things as we are, and have a lot in common beyond age. That’s where it all begins. Dependence on friends, companions and cronies. Life and age chisels us into an individual with independent thinking and decision making capabilities, which is not at all possible if we don’t have support from companions, as we learn a great deal on real, practical life from these people. Need for companion who share our likes/dislikes, passion etc. remains through out our lives, as all of us want to be heard/listened to, recognized/appreciated/feel important or just to let others know that we exist.

Love

There is no single definition of love. Its highly relative and means different to different people. But, everyone will agree to the fact that they are constantly on a look out for love. Yes, even those people who disagree!! Beyond satisfying carnal desires, we all need to be loved because of the following basic parameters,

  • it is satisfying that you are worth something on this earth,
  • you are desirable by people and they seek your company,
  • you see yourself as normal and not as deviation, following the normal code of society,
  • you have a follower who holds you in high esteem, giving you feeling of superiority over others.

Surface parameters such as – you want to appear cool, happening and ‘not-left-out’ among your peers, admire someone for any attribute of theirs, are in love-with-love or simply convince that you are beautiful/handsome in other’s eyes… 😉

Sentimental/Emotional parameters such as you want someone who can understand, listen, identify with you, has a matching wavelength, acts as a friend, would be there-with-you in-thick and thin etc.

Marriage

Our elders, peers, relatives, friends, movies, media, advertising, industrial companies  – pretty much everyone that comprises in society, makes us believe that we are not settled unless we are married. I believe in love, companionship and marriage. However, I believe its not necessary for one to marry. Marriage is basically seeking life long love and companionship. How true is that – will form a great debate topic. 🙂

Now, back to the question facing me, is it really important to get love, companionship and marriage (LCM)? Yes, it is true. We need at least one of these to make our life worth living. And love / companionship can exist sans marriage. Live-in relationships prove that.

We need it because of the most powerful reason  – if you are without Love and Marriage, and have companionship, I am pretty sure your companion will have/would look for one of these two in his/her life. Eventually, your companion would stop devoting time towards you, may not fulfill your companionship needs and you will be left alone. And everyone fears exactly that – being alone! Life would seem hollow at that moment. Without a purpose…

Companionship can be a short term measure, but for long  term, you gotta have love or marriage to keep you going. For those of you,  if its all about living  in short term, companionship would seem to be the best possible thing. If it works for you, great!! But all of the people I know, can’t stay alone, without LCM…That’s what happened with Blanche in ASND…

LCM is not an Indian concept, that is, its not only in India society gives more weightage to LCM. Wherever you may go, in any civilized society, rules of the game are alike. For example, look at all developed countries’ heads of state – everyone is married or has companion. The perception of man/woman being incomplete without a partner is deeply embedded in people’s mind.

Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives – Bertrand Russell

Whose Life is it Anyway? ‘Virtual’ly Social or Socially Virtual…

Q: Why are you on Social Networking sites?

A: Social networking is cool. it’s hip. It’s ‘with the times’.

Q: Those are its characteristics; good. But, why are you on these sites?

A: It let’s me stay in touch with people. I can tell my friends about my life. Plus, everyone on it, dude!!!

If you ever have/had this conversation with your conscience/or someone, read on…If you are not moved, definitely read on!

That’s what everybody around me says when I ask them – why did you join this? Because, everyone is on it! Worse, I asked myself, and got the same answer!

I have had it. I have made peace with ‘Active’ Social Networking. I define ‘Active’ social networking as something in which I post intimate details of my life on a periodic/intermittent, but frequent basis (ex. Facebook, twitter etc.). I will continue with ‘passive forms’ of networking like linkedin, blogging etc., where neither I expose my life to ‘virtual unknowns’ nor get exposed to things like “IPL weekend photos”, “Honeymoon pics”, “Crazy Status Messages and tweets” and long comment chains!!

Why I did so?

#1 Disillusioned with looking at pictures people post/status message/chain of comments or update and open their life to a stranger like me. Same goes for them.

#2 Amount of time I spend on these sites in office, and in home.

#3 Intrusion of privacy (I do) by checking individual profiles often visibly/invisibly (I felt ashamed!).

#4 Too much Unnecessary Information…overload actually!

#5 Out of 300 odd friends I have/had (?), I follow not more than 5 of  them…

#6 Looking at amazing pictures people post, I am tempted to spend my money on expensive SLRs and exotic travel..moerover, all these m.xxx.com sites and ‘forever’, ’24X7 online’ and ‘on-the-go’ social networking means buying an expensive phone and service…(for me 2G is good enough)

#7 Birthday wishes from random people. People who used to phone, now do it on my wall/via tweet/scrap me. I hate ‘just-for-the-sake’ wishes and double hate people who need to be reminded of my birthday via calendar programs in Facebook.

#8 ‘so-called’ cool apps (like forecast, astrology, tag etc.)/ stupid communities, groups and causes I joined/became a fan off…After which my profiles were spammed with all junk info!!!

# 9 I became lazy (all the time on laptop).. on second thoughts, I still am lazy…:)

#10 Most important – Too little time with ‘real’ people in my life…

I was an addict and I didn’t go to ‘AA‘ to get rid of my addiction. I just gave it a thought.  And I was clear! Enough is enough. If I want a ‘social’ tag, I will keep in contact with core set of people that I would like to talk to, in any manner possible. I have a good plan on my mobile, which is cheap. I am also powered by the Email and Indian Post.

I am happy, peaceful, talking to and spending time with people, reading books and thinking these days. There is no sudden urge or need to connect, belong, communicate, exhibit, entertain, intrude, watch, spy, sell, promote, follow or simply waste time. I think of writing more often. I feel good in office and in home.

I am not a social activist fighting for ‘save the snail mail’ or ‘down-with-technology’ campaigns. Nor I suggest you to do the same. I would just request you to give a good, deep thought to being ‘virtual’ly social or socially virtual’…

P.S> Those of you thinking about thoughts like ‘do-in-moderation’ and ‘do-a-balancing-act’ etc., contact me at once! I would like to be your disciple and learn the dying art. Who knows,  I may walk the alleys of Facebook again…

Like it or not – Comparison is Inevitable!!!

Its everywhere – in the air surrounding us, in our relationships, inside us! Comparison is omniscient and inevitable, and you can do nothing (or can you?) about it...Even it features a lot of times in my previous blog posts...

Comparison is one social characteristic which can be found in any culture…it has nothing to do with education, social status, rich or poor, civilization…its all pervasive and everyone indulges in it…We compare things, places, people, status, wealth, happiness/sadness, decisions, relationships and every tangible or intangible thing possible on this earth. We do this relentlessly from childhood till the time we die and no one seems to notice it !!!

Its debatable (I wonder why all the things I write on this blog are debatable and have no right or wrong answer 🙂…) whether comparison is wrong or right…its relative to people’s perception…So, when your parents compare you with your cousin/neighborhood kid on marks in school/college, its bad. But, when you compare yourself against your crush’s girlfriend/boyfriend, and find yourself way better, the comparison is good and healthy. Your manager talks about healthy competition in the team, by comparing your achievements vis-a-vis his pet. Utter BS!! When appraisal letter is out and you exceed peers by some percentage points, you feel on the top of the world. Perspectives and situations may be different, but comparison has the last laugh…

Comparison is one conditioning every parent gives to their children, deliberately or in ignorance.

In any stage of life, you are in a race (the very platform of comparison) – be it coming first in your bloody class/school/college, in your office, in eyes of your life partner, while amassing maximum wealth. And when you have kids, the comparison thingy reboots and is passed on as a legacy to your kids. Quite a life cycle…like Energy, comparison cannot be destroyed, however, it can be created anew.

You can’t help comparing – should you give up? Problem is, you really can’t! Its a very strong force riding our mind which defines what path we choose, shape our attitude and have deep impact on day-to-day life. Almost all of us have idols, benchmarks and standards against which we constantly compare our progress in life and decide the course of action. So, how to curb it, more importantly, when to curb it? It would be improper on us to expect from a child/teen to give up comparison. But you grown up people, can certainly make a difference in your life. Exerting a better control on your personality and behavior,you better start doing some introspection and look out the areas in which you compare.

In many walks of life, we screw up because we compare. Lets stop this unending chain of comparison from areas which you dislike. Make sure what comparison you had been subject to, you would not do the same on people you have some impact (like your partner, children or employees). You have to break this chain, no one else can do anything for you. While comparisons you have created afresh and your loved ones are being subject to them now, I don’t think any strategy will work – because, they have come out of your mind/thinking and would appear alright to you.

One more argument I would put is to at least not compare people (your lovers, parents, kids, friends etc, etc.). Its difficult as we gain sense of confidence, security and pride when we compare people. But if we can minimize comparing people, it can go a long way in strengthening your crusade against comparison. If you are a ‘compulsive comparer’, do it with inanimate objects that do not possess any feelings….

Lastly, if you feel what all I have written is BS, and there is no harm in comparison as it provides a purpose and direction in life, go ahead and do it. Just make sure you do not tell it to people who you are comparing. It is not cool.

A Thought on Happiness…

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contained,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to god,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, not to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Walt Whitman