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The waves

As the Wind Blows

Location: Chennai, Tamilnadu, India

27 October 2003

To me, there is nothing like sitting down with a “Erma Bombeck” when I really want some good laugh! The American columnist who died a couple of years ago ( or three / four years?) was a wonderful writer and almost all her books were bestsellers. Her hilarious anecdotes drawn from her experiences as a wife and a mother used to throw me into splits. How often you enjoy listening to your own laughter? And the feeling of joy that envelopes after a good hearty laugh? So, in one of my such moods this week, I went back to one of her bestsellers “A Marriage Made in Heaven (OR) Too tired for an Affair!!”

and here she goes: on adjustment

“Psychologists and marriage counsellers say that the first year of maaraige is the toughest because of the adjustments each one must make to the other…. From time to time, I thought of murder. I considered becoming Sister Erma Louise in St. Mary’s convent. I even thought of going home to my Mother’s ( What for? He’d have been there in the kitchen having coffee with my parents) …….”

On falling sick

“in our marriage… we didn’t know how to deal with our own illnesses – let alone any one else’s. It was something our mothers had always done for us. If I announced that eyes felt like round razor blades, my throat was parched ….he would look at me and say, “Let me get this straight. What you are really saying is that you want me to pick up the cleaning”. … or “…he would say, ‘well, you finally got your cold, didn’t you? ( Like I shopped for it)

when Bill fell sick,

“I was no better. …I’d say, “Fine, you are going to die. Just tell me what weight of motor oil you use in the car before you go.”

“.. a month or so later I came down with mumps…. Bill wasn’t as compassionate as he was puzzled. “why would you wait till you were married to have mumps?” “ I thought it would make the time go faster” I said icily.

“A few months later when I landed in the hospital with a kidney infection, I overheard Bill tell my father, “ I have to take my hat off to you. You sure knew when to unload her.” My dad just smiled. “Look upon it as an Investment Son.”

“…. the major problem with bad back is that it’s as common as dirt. Everyone either has one, had one, is going to have one, knew someone who had one, or took someone to lunch who has one…. The second major problem is that everyone has a cure to make it go away…..Sleep with a teddy bear between your knees…sleep on a vibrating bed of river rock…Go to this doctor who unfortunately died two years ago…..

“what to do with a man who saves instruction manuals; thinks a fishing license makes a great anniversary gift; and thanks to the remote control, has never seen a elevision commercial…

On handling first baby.

“We called the pediatrician at any hour of the night to report a gas bubble..”

“The lines were drawn early for who did what. Bill was the Daddy, and his job was to go out into the real world ….and as the mother, I was in charge of house and everything in it….But something bothered me. My hours were getting longer and my job descriptions kept growing. Finally I said, “ Why don’t we split this wondrous miracle between us?”

“What are you talking about?” he asked sleepily.

“What part of the baby do you want? The top or the bottom?”

"You can’t separate the baby.
"Of course you can, .. Do you want the top part that you have to feed every three hours or the bottom that has to be changed every three minutes?….."

Erma Bombeck, sure, has a way of making you laugh on things which you'd classify as mundane...

I wish I could go on on transplanting from her books - but I don't want to be sued for plagiarism, you see... :-)

20 October 2003

A Good Human being.

Watching the sea of human heads at Vatican for Mother Theresa’s – how do I address her now? Blessed Mother Theresa? – beatification, a mixed bag of feelings / thought waves surged in my mind.

One, the feeling of watching a long drawn process coming closer to the grand finale`. OK. folks, One more saint in the gallery of spiritual halos. One more holy place where worshippers throng with their multitude of prayers; Now, next....

Two, the sense of pride – after all she was an Indian by her choice of residence. Like all Indians I was / am proud about Kalpana Chawla, though she chose to live in the US, and am proud of Mother Theresa, though she was not born an Indian.

That made me curious; do Albanians or Britons take as much pride in Mother Theresas or Ruskin Bonds as much as we do in Kalpana Chawlas or Naipauls or in all those NRIs /PIOs ( Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origins)? OK. Let me take this up later. For the time being, I admit that Indians anywhere - either by choice of residence or by destiny of birth – have my cheers as long as they are in the achievers / Nobel Prize category.

Three, why is this particular sainthood is so much in the news – to headlines? Seems there have been quite a few Indians attaining sainthood before Mother Theresa? I also thought of the scores of enlightened souls from other faiths. Most of them have huge followers – abroad and in India. And miracles keep “happening” to most of these followers of various spiritual leaders. But they don’t hog media light. May be because the other faiths don’t have this kind of formal and ceremonious “drill” to “Sainthood”? I remember Buddhists have some rigid selection process to choose their spiritual heads – again, the rituals vary from one sub sect to another. But the process hinges solely on the re-incarnation theory. There have been instances where toddlers have been “identified”, as a spiritual head. The toddlers may be interested in playing in the mud; and may not grasp all the "honour" bestowed on them; elders bow to them as they are “groomed” for sainthood.

But I think what distinguishes Mother Theresa from other scores of spiritual souls, is / was her ability to touch people at grassroots level. Her practical approach in giving unconditional care and love.

In day today social interactions, how often we have justified our pettiness /unkindness with a quip – “I’m not a Mother Theresa... ” How often we get away with our rudeness or lack of sensitivity to others’ sufferings with this one liner? Just a few days earlier, walking down another sea of heads on Usman road, Chennai, I cringed to see a plain clothed policeman ( I guessed from his ID peeping from his shirt pocket) kicking an old man lying on the middle of the road with a begging bowl. The passers by – including myself – walked past watching helplessly. I was half a mind to stop and howl at that arrogant “policeman”. But the surging crowd around me on the street and the intimidating look of that man stopped me from intervening. I am ashamed to say – but I did avoid a nasty response - and that too in typical “Madras Tamil” from that fellow or a row on the public place. I went on with one more - “well, I’m not Mother Theresa…” justification.

In such a social milieu, Mother Theresa did what she thought she ought to do.

Of course, there have always been critics who criticized her methods of “service”. Most critics commented on the "unhygienic" (??!!) conditions in the “Homes for the Poor” and there were even some critics who alleged that she unabashedly promoted her own cause – that of mobilizing funds for her charity work and that she was ‘selfish’ in that respect.

In my opinion, miracle or no miracle; sainthood or no sainthood; Mother Theresa was an excellent human being and would remain a role modal for generations to come.

17 October 2003

Living is like driving.

My pearl of wisdom today - born on a particularly difficult traffic moment :-)

You negotiate critical situations using your presence of mind swiftly. You keep your focus on the road ahead without getting swayed by all the cacophony happening around you – the horns, other overtaking vehicles (often on the wrong side), the zipping ones in the few centimeters of gap, the criss crossing bovines, darting pedestrians – you can’t afford to let any of them distract you.

You just keep your cool,

with steady hand on the wheel, ( doing what you should do as part of your duties),

your vision on the road ahead, behind and all sides ( the mission in your life and the surprises you may have to take into account in reaching your goal in life).

09 October 2003

I think I have no other option but to turn to the cliché –

"Better late than never.. "

I mean I just made up my mind to read what Ayan Rand is all about, though my sons have all along been proding me to read her – particularly Fountain Head. (when I started searching the book shelf for this book, I found it was missing. And it took an ISD call to find out where it went :-) and he quips over the long distance – “get yourself another one amma. Web bookstores offer discount.” However, I am not really keen – not yet - to buy another copy. So, if anyone knows of a good library to lend me this title in Chennai, do let me know.

Anyway, right now I’m flipping through her first work, ‘we the living’ – all about life in Soviet Russia. If you think that’s all about the novel, she immedietely clarifies – forcefully – (this conviction and clarity of her ideas is what impresses me about her.) “We the living is not a novel ‘about Soviet Russia’. It is a novel about Man against State…. It is a story about Dictatorship, anywhere, at anytime, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or – which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent – a socialist America.”

A socialist America? May not be. But when I read a particular passage where she describes the opening scenes when the protagnaist Kira’s family leaves their city and travels far beyond, I couldn’t help a weird thought flashing in my mind.

A poster in the station cathces Kira’s attention. “LONG LIVE THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT! WHO IS NOT WITH US – IS AGAINST US!

Well, doesn’t this last sentence sound very familier – heard somewhere very recently during the “smoking them out of holes” exercise in Afghan?

The introduction in the 60th aaniversary publication of this book by Irvine, California, talks about how strongly Ayan Rand hated the way of life in Soviet Russia. “ the novel’s original title was ‘Airtight’, the meaning being that under dictatorship man cannot survive. Dictatorship, she writes in her journal, “crushes a whole country and smothers every bit of life, action and air….(it) makes the atmosphere choking, airtight……’

Well, I sincerely felt Rand can actually make the reader feel what she feels. Anyone who values individual freedom will appreciate her.

I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but her hero Leo sounds like Margret Mitcheel’s Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. And if I am not mistaken both novels came out more or less same period – middle thirties.( that both novels were turned down by several publishers at the initial stage is an irrelevant postscript :-)

I did like Rhett. I don’t know yet about Leo. Similarly I wonder if Ayan Rand’s “noble” Andrei is Mitchell’s Ashley’s counterpart !!!

Btw, what made me pick up Rand suddenly? Well, I was workng on my column for “U” magazine. (sorry no link – the magazine is not on the web) And this time I chose to talk on handling ego at work place. And when I was thinking this topic aloud, a friend popped the question. “ don’t you believe in Ayan Rand’s theory that selfishness is a virtue and that it is the fountain head of life?”

Now you know the rest of the story :-) OK let me read more of Rand and then come out with my verdict – whether I agree or not with her theory on ego. thanks anyway to my friend for pushing me to Rand. Remarkably forceful writer, her words can hit you like bombshells. You may agree or not with her, but certainly can’t ignore her.

btw, i apologise for not updating for sometime now - my routine got erratic on personal front - shuttling between two homes - one to look after dad and another my own nest - and i wasn't logging in much - at least not enough to blog ;-) and in this laptop that i am logging in from - the shift key not working properly - so all my smilies and underscores and caps are falling in respective lower keys... ugh... ;-0 like this... 1 - get the idea / - i mean get the idea?