Monday, April 28, 2014

Very, very spoilt

We are becoming exceedingly spoilt, with all the options available at our fingertips. More confused, perhaps, and less tolerant. And very, very spoilt.

I remember when I discovered Myntra a year ago (and with it, opened the door to online shopping). For several days, Myntra had been tormenting me with their ads in TV. Finally I decided: let me just try. Once. The star attractions were ‘cash-on-delivery’ and ‘30-day return’. Then, you know how Myntra pampers us with all their attention and their warmth and their SMS-es: ‘Your order is packed,’ ‘Your order has checked in,’ ‘Your order is now getting its security clearance,’ ‘Your order has boarded and is now switching off,’ ‘Your order has now landed’, ‘Your order is picked up by the delivery guy, he has just stopped for a cup of tea and will be on his way soon!’ ‘Your order and the delivery guy are turning in at your gate,’ ‘Your order is right outside your door – ting tong!’ And you feel as though you have just hit the ‘purchase’ button when the delivery guy knocked on the door – the delivery guy with his pleasant smile and bowing to the ground ‘Thank you Madam’ and everything. And what’s more, the two kurtas were even better than I had hoped for.

Forget the confusion arising from a million kurta options - we can wallow in confusion for hours - it's so much fun (and probably healthy). We can even dream throughout the night of wallowing in kurta-confusion, what better dreams can you hope to have?

Some time later, I purchased something on Flipkart. (No, I was still a loyal Myntra-buyer, but some products could only be bought on Flipkart.) After the process was over, I called up my friend and whined, “They charged Rs.40 for delivery, and took one week to deliver.”

“You are spoilt,” she said. “If Rs.40-and-one-week-delivery was the only option available, you would have said, ‘This service is amazing, I don’t even have to budge from my home, they deliver it to my door within a week!’ But now that you have experienced something better, you will never settle for anything less. And it only gets better and worse. One service gets better in your eyes and the others become worse, in comparison.”

True, I thought. Not far off was the time (well, it is a little far off in technological time scale – a couple of decades or so ago) when my parents took me to buy dresses for special occasions or festivals. There were about two shops in Trivandrum that we frequented. They offered dresses that were affordable and comfortable, with bored, uninterested sales people and limited options. I would pick one because I had to, not because I was excited with it. And it was okay – something was better than nothing. Once, the kurta I chose was slightly damaged, but we never bothered to return it or anything, thinking of all the trouble we would have to go through for a mild stitching defect.

Yes, indeed, I had become spoilt with all the options thrown at me - door delivery, unimaginable discounts, cash on delivery, return and exchange policies, complaint resolutions, customer pampering, and so on - that I could not tolerate any lapse or neglect from their side. I am the customer, and I am always right. And totally spoilt. Where's my candy?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Good Memory from a Bad Time

Strange how some conversations stick to our minds years after they happened. 
It must have been this week, could be even today, but years ago. 
The words that were spoken, those that were not, as though from yesterday. The bright lights outside, the dimmer ones inside.
The table, largely empty. Which became the object of focus when speech became difficult.
The colours, or the absence of. The room temperature, even. The heat outside, the cool within. The calm outside, the rage within.
The awkwardness of saying Thank you.
The dismissal, a wave of a hand, a shrug of the shoulders.
Underneath it, the deeper meaning, unspoken, unacknowledged; but felt.
Strange, how they keep coming back every too often, unbidden, unannounced, like a-... I don't know, like a good memory from a difficult time.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Vacation Situation

For all the brave face that we put up, we Indians aren't very proud of ourselves.

We (proudly) claim to be the largest democracy in the world, which only means that in area we are much smaller than the United States, and in terms of population we don't have an inch of free space left in the country.

There are more people crowding offices, there are more children in schools, there are more unemployed, there are more beggars on the street, there are more roadside vendors, there are more of everything.
There is such a thing as the poverty line and there are a huge number of people struggling under its shadow. The gap between the haves and have-nots is large.
There are too many people and too less services to cater to each. There is little to be shared, so the first ones to get to it takes it all. There are too many vehicles on the road vying to get ahead and too many pedestrians shoving forward, because no one wants to get stuck forever. There are too many bad roads than anyone can fix.

We have no option but to find ways to dispose of the garbage within our own country and by polluting our own air, and by dirtying our own seas.

In the crowded, humid scheme of things, frustration and annoyance and rage does escape even those of us who normally are in the best of behaviour elsewhere.

We are located towards the warmer zones of the planet through no choice of our own, but that has gifted us some of the most picturesque places in the world. We have a rich culture, we have many religions, we have several languages, we have an outstanding history, we have more good men and women than any of us care to remember (or admit).

We have a fairly good education system that churns out millions of bright kids every year.
Some of these children go abroad to put their education to good use and make better lives for themselves and their own. We send them. We tell them, Go, show the world who we are.
And then.
And then, they come back for a week every year to visit their homes and relatives.
And then, they complain about the bad roads, poor governance, vanishing greenery, stifling traffic, heat, illiteracy, unclean food, mosquitoes, toilets, rooms, water, air, sky, land and the people. The people, most of all, the unbelievably unbearable people.

We, who live in India, might whine like a child complaining about her mother. (Or a mother about her child. But if a stranger utters one bad word about her child, you can see how fiercely the mother could turn against them.) We live here, we are a part of the system. We can whine, and we will whine. That's one of the rights of the resident citizen. But when we hear you, our blood boils. And in the crowded, frustrated, helpless, distressed scheme of things - you know what happens to the best of us.

Please, please, go elsewhere for your vacations.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

5 Reasons why bad words should be made legal

5 Reasons why swearing aloud* should be made legal and even encouraged:

1. Mothers don't have to be concerned about their children throwing bad words around. The more we try to suppress them, the more likely they are to yell those out. Tell them those are great words, and even utter a few yourself.

2. Anyone who has tried swearing or muttering curses of any order knows how relieving it can be, even if we whisper it under our breath so that no one else can hear. So many pent up feelings get released because of the medicinal effect of a few of those phrases. (Studies show a significant normalisation of blood pressure after curses are uttered by people under severe stress. In fact, there is a group of activists fighting for the cause of bringing Swearing Treatment into mainstream medicine.)

3. Those with violent tendencies may find that cursing their enemies (or friends who have misbehaved) could significantly reduce the pressure on themselves to break things in their reach.

4. You cannot call them names to their face, and sometimes you are forced to smile and act nice to them. So calling them not-so-nice names when they are not around even brings some harmless joy. Not to speak of the soothing effect on the nerves.

5. There is absolutely no need for the dudes at the other end of the television to scan every word uttered in movies/shows and insert bleeps wherever needed. (Apparently that latest Di Caprio movie cannot be screened in India because they might have to cut all the dialogs out and insert one long two-hour bleep.)

*Not to be confused with swearing-in.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When is the Aam Aadmi Party?

"We should go to the Aam Admi Party", said my son, a few days ago.

I was surprised. Did they show election news in Cartoon Network, or did the children discuss politics while playing football? I considered making a "good-parent" statement that I appreciated his views on politics. ("Wait a minute," I said to myself. "He is only eight years old.")

I then pondered over giving a lecture on different ideals and mottos and purposes and even venturing into each party's manifesto (I love the way he listens, wide-eyed), but thought it better to simply ask, "Where did you hear that from?"

It turns out that there was an auto rickshaw (with loudspeakers playing songs) that had been touring the neighbourhood a week ago, distributing AAP caps and asking the kids to make sure their vote went to the common man's party. Needless to say, the kids were impressed. If there is a common man's party, that's where they will go.

While we're on the topic, I'd like to suggest that political parties seriously consider recruiting these under-12 beings for their campaign. For one thing, they don't charge a paisa, as long as you give them a free cap or just allow them to hang around. For another, they will yell their throat out Inquilab Zindabad-ing for you. As in the case of everything that comes free, there is a downside to this too - in the middle of a burst of "AAP Zindabad", someone would insert a "Modiji" and the whole chant would swing to "Modiji zindabad" from which, recovery is tough. (Congress hasn't caught up in this part of the Little World yet.)

"The Aam Aadmi Party is the best," my son added. "When is it?"

That's when I realised that all the while, my little one had imagined AAP to be One Big Happy Party where the Common Men got together and shared free drinks and food, and chatted for a while, probably danced a bit too, and then went home.

And at that moment, I hated all political parties for misleading us all by calling themselves "Parties."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Job Satisfaction

A few days ago I had a discussion with Twitter buddies regarding Job Satisfaction. Several interesting thoughts came up from everyone, and I do not want to lose those. Here they are:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


We are not silent
Because we don't care;
We are not quiet
Because we don't dare;

We have been watching,
We have been waiting,
We hope change is near,
The muddle will clear;

The leaders we chose,
Who'd show us the way,
Who'd free us of foes;
Not far is the day;

They are the rulers
Who lead us astray;
For each of their errors
They do make us pay;

They've clipped our wings,
They've bound our arms,
Crushed our dreams,
And left us to die...