Thursday, March 28, 2013

Switching Off for a Few Days; Suggest You Do That Too!

In every life there is a winter and a summer. I don't know the exact quote attributed to some Brit writer. I am not bothered to try because internet failed at home and I am in a cyber cafe and, unfortunately, the keyboard in this dingy place - like in other cafes - is just horrible.  If I press a key I have to manually raise it again to type the next word.

My winter came sometime last year. All of a sudden from an earning, hard working, concerned individual I became this bloated and sluggish individual because of a certain affliction. I won't divulge details. Good that my son is working and wife is working, too, or, else, I don't know what I would have done. They are my safety net, which also includes my sisters, brother, and friends. No amount of medical insurance can help you when you are afflicted. They show you the rule book of you claim some expense.

I never imagined it would happen. I had to perforce retire, enough was enough. I couldn't sit for long hours in front of a computer, which is what I was doing. It's an offshoot of the hectic, connected life I led. An internet connection and an airconditioned office can be a hellish trap. Which I realise now. So I am unwinding, getting away from it all in a residential nature cure centre in Ernakulam. I will not be online for the next 15 days, will not be checking mail, blogging, or, social networking. I wish to find out if all this is sine qua non of our life.

Just now, in the cafe, a guy, a harassed-looking one, who keeps smiling at everyone, left. His hair is standing on ends and he was doing something very involving on the computer. Chatting, or, social networking I don't know. But he is coming straight from work. His face shows his fatigue. In him I see traces of the person I was.

So I am switching off for a few days. I suggest you do that too!

(Managed to type this with great difficulty. Hurray!)

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chinua Achebe R.I.P.

I know the New Yorker is the best place to go for an obituary. So, I found this obit for Chinua Achebe in New Yorker written by Philip Gourevitch.

Though I have heard about him (Achebe), I, personally, shamefacedly admit, haven't read any works of Achebe. So I hasten to the bookshop today to hunt for books of his: Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and A Man of the People. And, of course, Girls at War.

I have great respect for African writers in English. I would venture to say that they are far ahead of Indian writers in English (IWE). Why? Because we haven't found an idiom, as yet. An idiom like the African writers have found. They can switch easily from their own language to English and are quite unapologetic about it. Yes, their novels have a lot of African words and usages. Whereas in India we shy away from this thinking, "What will the white reader say?" So we explain our "Lota" as a "small vessel for carrying water" rather than call it "Lota." (Pardon my ignorance, this is just an example.)

Finding an idiom is a struggle for most IWE. We struggle a lot with our cultural expression in our writing and in the end turn out as foolish and fabricated. Well, it's something we as IWE have to deal with. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Friday, March 22, 2013

John Lennon's Glasses

I am a great fan of John Lennon. (Nothing to do with the first name, I hasten to add. John is a very common name in Western countries.) Have always been. So when Yoko Ono tweeted the glasses John wore when he was killed by a crazy fan to gave rise to a train of thought that chugged right through the afternoon. So, this blogger, thought of immortalising it with a blog post.

John always wore glasses with round frames. Don't know why, but he did. May be, he loved the shape, may be, it went well with his rather straight and narrow facial features, may be, he liked to look at himself wearing round glasses. Gandhiji wore such similarly-framed glasses. My mother wore them too. 

However, be that as it may, walk into an optician's store these days and ask for a round frame. They aren't available. They have: teardrop, stretched, luminescent, thin frames, frameless, all kinds, except the round shape. Guess they avoid it like the plague after what happened to John. In which case, it is a tragic thing.

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don't Fall into the Credit Card (Loan) Trap; Promise of Heaven, but It's Hell

Sad is the story of Donato and his wife Elizabeth who had to kill their children and consume poison because of financial troubles.

True for some time Donato lived the Bombay dream of a flat, a car (a Fortuner SUV) and a lifestyle that included travel and eating out. But when he lost his job and bills kept mounting he had no alternative but to kill himself and his children. But why kill the children for his excesses and sins? His agony and anguish must have been great, as is for most of us. 

Today, finance is something you should treat with kid gloves. A credit card is a trap and you can fall into it any time. There are executive out to sell you credit at all times, promising you easy EMIs for anything you want: vacation, flat-screen television, computer, tablet, anything. They are concerned not for you, mind you, they have to meet their targets. Do not fall into their trap and buy with your credit card thinking you can pay it as you go on. A job is a job and these days you can lose it at any time. 

Of course, you get momentary joy from these gadgets, but all that disappear when the bill comes and you have to pay. Try getting money from relations or friends. They are all in their own personal hells to even think of helping you.

This world is progressing into a world of the rich and the affluent who suck out the money from commoners like you and me. All high-profile business owners are in the docks these days for their indiscretions. Thankfully they are caught, but they have already done the damage. 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Writer as Cuckoo - a Lonely Bird

Oh if only I could write without disturbance. I read this piece by a lazy writer on salon.com which went viral recently. He is a bit laid back and a little out of confidence. He wants to be writer, but for providence sake can't figure out how. Naturally, this happens to almost all writers. There are frequent blackouts and mundane things that intervene in the process of creative cogitation and writing. And then we lose track of our writing, continuity is lost. That's why I am mostly struggling to write this blog, to keep things going.

Quite naturally! Hm.

So, for that space and time when one can write. People write well early in the morning, or, so it is said. But I am late morning person. I believe in early to bed and late to wake up, and I am not an insomniac, mind you. I have fast and good sleep through the night, yet I can't wake up at say six or even seven. Nine is wake up time for me, when the cuckoo is singing its sweet song - these days - outside my window.

I think we writers are like cuckoos, really. Yesterday, on my morning round, I sat close to a tree, on a bough of which was a cuckoo. It was a lonely sight, all alone, no one for company, a dark bird, shy of human beings, seasonal in its appearance. I think writers are like cuckoos. They sing melodiously, and then they disappear from the scene, for whatever reasons, only God knows! And, they, too, sing a lonely song. And, they, too, are treacherous birds, laying eggs in the crow's nest.

Good! Writers need to be less like cuckoos, but I am not complaining! 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Encounter 2: Being Conned in New Bombay by a Smart One

Since I wrote in an earlier blog on writing about my encounters in the past few days, here's one that might interest you.

It's evening and I am walking to the bus stop after visiting my optician in Vashi. Then I see him. He is dressed in a white trouser, shoes, a patterned shirt - worn outside the trouser - buttoned at the wrist, and is chewing on the concoction of betelnut and lime. As he walks confidently towards me he offers his clammy hand for shaking. I wonder why his palm is sweating so much. His greeting is familiar, "You know Kadam, I am a friend of his, don't you remember?"

I don't know any Kadam and say so. 

"You know the one who lives in Belapur."

"Where do you live?"

"I live in Vashi though I come to Belapur. I have seen you," he says familiarly, his voice oozing confidence. But I have not seen him in my entire fifty-odd years of existence. That coupled with his rakish appearance (you know only crooks wear spotless white trousers) has my proboscis up and scanning. 

"So where have you been?"

"I went to the optician."

"Let me see your glasses," saying this he tries to pry open the plastic bag I have with me. I resist. Who is this shady looking man and why is he being familiar with me at 7 p.m. in the evening? There are people around me who would give him a thrashing if I create a minor stir, raising my voice as I speak, or, hollering, "thief." However, let me admit, I am not one who offends anyone, and, may be, just may be, I know someone named Kadam. That seems a remote possibility since Kadam may also be as badly behaved as him.

"Look here, I don't know you, or, anyone who looks like you. You are probably mistaken." I say.

Perhaps he realised this and started apologising and walked away. I walked to the bus stop realising I had escaped from being conned by a smart operator. What do you think?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ramu Singh Commits Suicide - Nirbhaya Saga Continues

The rapist who assaulted Nirbhaya hanged himself in jail, which is the latest news flashed to me by the social media. I am not shocked because a man who is condemned by society and the media has little chance of survival.

Hm.

So what did he think? He could get away with rape? He may have, and that's a worrying thought. Such men are known to have a history of such crimes in their past. Then they go on to do more.

So whose fault is that? The government (on which we blame everything), the education system (that produces such uncivilised men), the entertainment media (which is complicit in many ways), or, maybe, just maybe, corporatisation. 

Now that I am out of the corporate world I can write boldly about what happens inside those corporations, which is what my novel is all about. India has been changing of late and malls, celebrity culture, and high fashion are the latest in trend. We live in a world where there are no watchdogs. The watchdogs are busy keeping the rich politicians from being lynched, and, the critics and social watchdogs - writers - have deserted newspaper and media offices. They have paid news now. If you are a celebrity your appearance, your clothes, your brand of aftershave cream, length of your beard will be written about, which is paid for by companies selling related products. But if you are poor, well, don't go out after dark and avoid dark lonely street corners.

This is a country that imports cheer girls for its cricket tournaments and thinks nothing of paying foreigners millions to come play the game. All the while, there is a drought going on in vast swathes of land and people are willing to die for a pot of water. I being jobless and abjectly poor don't have the data to show here but the fact that only 0.1 per cent of the land in Maharashtra is irrigated despite it spending Rs 269 trillion since 1950 on irrigation (which is 269 lakh crores). Where did the money go? But I am digressing. Probably - this is a joke - it went into the pockets of criminal men who were given money to dig wells in a certain village. When they came to inspect the wells, they said the wells have been refilled as it bred mosquitoes.

Now imagine this:

Ramu Singh (fictitious person) sees all these girls - straightened hair, high heels, tight jeans, short sleeveless top - walking around in malls and multiplexes with their boyfriends. Now Ramu has heard about what happens in this "high society": free sex, drinking, dancing, in fact everything he can't have. (He doesn't know much of this is the creation of entertainment media.) He feels he is being denied what he should have because he lives in a free country. He becomes maniacal thinking about what those boys and girls would be doing when he is driving his "dibba" of a contract bus. (He doesn't know or care about laws because he is already a law breaker.) So he goes about getting what he lacks by force having as his accomplices similarly deprived men. 

Hell happens afterwards. He is put in jail and the inmates of the jail give him hell, because he is tainted, you see. So he goes and hangs himself.

(This is fiction conceived by a fallow unfertile imagination of this blogger who has a habit of blurting out things of no consequence on his blog.)

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Shouting Matches. Why Can't Our Electronic Media Even Lick the Dust of the BBC?

Just now I finished watching BBC's Nik Gowing and then sat at my computer to watch an interview with Arindam Chaudhari by Sagarika Ghose and Maheshwar Peri (formerly of Outlook? I don't know.).

Oh God!

Why is our television so strident? Why do they have to shout so much? Is it a failing of we, as a people. All of them were shouting at the top of their lungs. So much high-octane trading of allegations. Charges and insults were being exchanged. Absolutely no mass media manners. "Bull shit" one says. Is saying "Bull shit" okay to a billion people? Is there no manners here?

We, Indians are not known for our manners. A train journey will prove that.  Read my earlier blog here. The sad fact is that, of late, people have been imitating those talking heads on television.

How can BBC get it so right and we can't get even lick the dust of their good manners. Sagarika, Arindam, Maheshwari, could you please listen to BBC, pleeeeeaaaaaaasssssseeeeee?

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Some Encounters in Long-distance Trains

A couple of strange encounters in trains the past few days had me, dazed, or, flabbergasted, which is a word I don't like. But, anyway, here it is.

On the journey to Kerala to attend wifey's mother's funeral we travelled by the superfast express Durondo. Our co-passengers were a very strange group. Strange in the sense they kept eating tobacco all the time and making fun of other co-passengers in their language. Now what was that language? I didn't know a word of it. Usually my antenna is sharp in recognizing languages, and, I can say with pride I recognize most languages of India. But this beat me. So, I assumed it must be Sinhala or some other language. They were a rough bunch and looked like laborers of the Persian Gulf from their habits. They also frequently went to the toilet, may be, to drink, who knows. You may know that I had a stint in Saudi and I could recognize them, just like that. They were in a group and knew there was no one to challenge their bad habits and brashness. Therefore, they did a lot of unacceptable things like talking well into the night, not switching off the lights, waking up too late, and then making fun of co-passengers and laughing. It was drunken brash behavior. I was thoroughly depressed by their attitude, but I kept quiet, as I was outnumbered and I had my wife to think about. She was in a tender state of shock and any disturbance would further affect her equipoise. So I said nothing. Silence is best resorted to in such situations. Of course, it's their choice to travel but Durondo or any other train, but couldn't they be more civil?

On the way back we had only sleeper accommodation in the train. There were a bunch of carpenters returning after installing some furniture in Kerala. They also exhibited the same characteristics as the above alluded group. I guess, when they are in groups Indians (like political activists) thing they can do anything. May be I am growing old, but, I don't remember having seen such behavior in my fifty-odd years of travelling in trains.

Yeah, I think it's the growing old thing. People are banding together for security. Soon, will polarization along various lines result? Or, are we already polarized? 

John is @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. He blogs here. His Youtube Channel Page. His novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.