There are only 2 perfect solutions – 1. You control everything in the world or 2. You control yourself for everything in the world! 🙂
When I stepped out of my bachelorhood, I certainly knew there was something called Grocery shopping.. ‘coz you need milk, you need vegetables, you need soap, toilet tissues.. the list goes on. But before marriage, I was sort of noncommittal towards it. My mom would ask me to get something and I would get it. Marriage on the other hand, brought this commitment much closer to my heart and wallet! Just when I think I can laze around on a rainy Sunday – lying on the sofa, sipping tea, eating junk food, and such.. my wife tells me to go get some Milk. Now why does milk have this uncanny ability to get over suddenly?! In my childhood, a milkman used to deliver milk at our door. How convenient, isn’t it? But even he used to miss a day or two, and I used to have to get up right in the middle of my early morning sleep to get milk from the store.
Anyways, I remember in my childhood, we did not have supermarkets. There were small grocery shops. One would go there with a list of things written on a piece of paper, and the shopkeeper would go in and get those things for you. You paid him the money and got out of there. At the most, you would buy a candy in addition to that because it was kept at the counter.
Come supermarkets and you started seeing everything stacked up in front of you and you actually started walking through the store. This is a big setup! You started thinking you needed to buy each and everything in the store, even if you just went in there to buy a toothbrush! So as you are going through the aisles, you are thinking – “yeah, I think I do want my commode to smell like a melon, so let me get that liquid that makes it smell like that!”. You go through the freezer section, the bread section, snacks, cookies, coffee, fresh produce, toiletries.. different types of tissues.. you know, toilet tissues, car tissues, scented tissues, bathroom tissues, kids tissues.. one ply, two ply tissues.. with pictures of a bear and his rear! 😉 You are standing there and thinking – just what kind of tissue should be entrusted to do the job for me!? You just can’t make up your mind..
Choices.. and too many of them.. they make your life hell!
Supermarkets are truly amazing though.. before they came on the scene, I didn’t know Milk had so much variety! Fat free, 1%, 2%, 3%, vitamin D, organic, soya, half and half.. I never got this name by the way – what is half and half? Half of what? And then you add half of something else and it becomes 1 of some new thing? Anyways, all this variety is out there to confuse you, to trick you into buying something that you don’t really want. Just see the checkout counter.. it has things like lip balms, chocolates, face tissues, batteries, all the way to cameras! It’s as if you come to the checkout counter and go – “oh, I almost forgot, I did want to buy a camera to take pictures of my grocery today!”.. I mean, what is the thought process behind having things like that there..? I once saw a torchlight with nail clippers hanging by the side! Sure, while you are trying to find your way through the dark, why don’t you cut your nails too?!
So you are at the checkout counter, and you purposely did not get more than 10 items, so that you can qualify for that “10 items or less” fast counter.. You might have 5 veggies, bringing the total to 14, but you count them as 1 since it is all vegetables anyway! This is still, in my opinion, an acceptable level of cheating.. But invariably there will be someone who is trying to sneak in with 30 items in this lane.. Now is it so horribly difficult to see that you clearly have way more than 10 items in your cart? This person will completely ignore your angry glances at his/her cart, and manage to say something like “oh, I didn’t realize this was 10 items or less” to the checkout lady and move on!
While you are waiting there patiently, there are these middle-to-old age ladies who refuse to like the technological advances of the 20th and 21st centuries! They will either pull out a stack of coupons, a checkbook or a wad of $1 bills from their oversized purses when paying for their grocery! I always wonder if these people are just trying to make a statement? Something like – “I am old and I have loads of money.. and I don’t need no stinkin’ card to buy things!?”..You know what? – we get it, alright?!
Finally you face the person at the counter and throw the usual “How are you?” at him/her. Now this, “How are you” must be one of the most abused questions of modern times! There isn’t another question quite like this one, that gets asked without a real desire for an answer! But it’s okay.. I guess it was born out of a desire to greet someone with more than just a single word like “Hi”..
“Did you find everything okay”? – that’s another one of such questions. Have you ever answered that question with a “No”?! You can’t, because “No” is not a valid option for this question! It’s just like you go to a restaurant, they bring your food and then ask you after some time – “How is everything today?” – you say “It’s great” even if you didn’t like the food!!! So you can’t say “No” to questions like these – have you tried saying – No, I think you guys are cheating, you keep the milk cans that are expiring tomorrow in the front so that people will pick them up instead of the ones that are expiring a week later! Or No, I wanted to ride in those battery powered wheelchairs for the disabled, but your store assistant did not let me!.. Ever tried that? 😉 Have you seen those battery powered wheelchairs? Ever wanted to ride in those? I have, not as a handicapped person.. but as a normal healthy person whose feet hurt while his wife is looking at each and every item in the store!!
An alternative way is to go for the new Self checkouts.. They are a great invention, don’t get me wrong.. But you know, I have real privacy issues with those! So the machine keeps announcing what I have purchased – “Weigh your bananas, weigh your red delicious apples, or Enter your donuts..”. Now why is that? Whatever happened to plain old fashioned privacy?! And then you keep something on the side and the machine keeps telling you to “place the item in the bag”, so you keep it in the bag, and then it says “take it out of the bag..”, so you take it out again.. and finally it says “wait for the attendant!”. Now you are trying hard to appear tech-savvy, but now everyone behind you, thinks you are an idiot who can’t even operate this simple machine!
Somehow you pay your way out of all this madness and come out with at least 5 bags of stuff when you should’ve just been carrying a toothbrush! But you just came out of a supermarket! You can’t help it! The whole thing is designed to make a fool out of you! So you gladly oblige and pay for it too…!
“I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing”
I wrote this sometime in 1990 – 1992..
When you were just born..
a few minutes back,
They say, there’s a newborn
and they clap.
A day after that..
they look at you,
And say, he is a day old
and not new!
Strange are the ways of this world..
that make you grow fast,
Every second that ticks away
pushes you into the past.
That somewhere along the way..
you learned how to walk,
And pretty soon you are running
all around the clock.
Once you never bothered..
even to change your nappy!
And soon you start worrying
just to stay happy!
It’s no more your right..
to get everything you want,
YOU have to pay for it all,
even if sometimes you can’t.
There is no one ..
more responsible for you,
Hey, you are on your own…!
Kedar (dated: 1990-1992)
I never thought I would even consider a phone other than the iPhone. I went from the 1st Gen iPhone to the 3GS mainly because my son and I together killed the 1st Gen in a toilet 😉
Once the love affair settled down, I started developing Apps for iPhone and I saw a new world opening up for my programming skills – the world of mobile app development…
Read the actual technical comparison on my tech blog : http://blog.softricks.com/apple-should-be-afraid
I am going to tell you 2 stories today, and I hope to make my point in the process. The first story is of the days when I could openly disclose my age to anybody – when I was in my teens I mean..! It was a fine summer night, when I faced the truth for the very first time.. There on the wall, was the test to my bravery, a test to my being a man.. My father was out of town and I was the only one to face this ultimate challenge..! With my 48 inches of frame at that time, I think now, that I posed a formidable challenge to my challenge on the wall. But it didn’t feel that way in my mind..
Read more here..
All your life, you eat, sleep and do stuff in between. Everybody has a different way of doing these activities.. The way you live your life, sets certain expectations about it for you. You expect things to work out in a certain way, you expect people to treat you in a certain way and you expect people to see you in a certain way.
Only sometimes, there are situations.. where you have to compromise your aura, that decency or that level of sophistication.. You just live through these situations from time to time and get on with your life as usual. We have all experienced these.. I just thought I might remind you about some such situations here..
1. With a Haircutter –
Most of us have been getting a haircut since we were maybe 2 year olds or even before that? You must have noticed that no style or no arrogance on your part works here.. you simply sit in front of your haircutter with your head bent forward and the guy or the lady in charge of your head at that time, twists, turns and moves your head the way it suits him or her. He can even hold your ear, turn it aside to get to that lock of hair he wants to cut.. well, nobody or nothing is allowed to come in the way of his cutting tools and your hair.. not even you!
It is as if you sign off on giving special privileges and access rights to your haircutter when you go to his shop.. as if you are saying – “go ahead, it is safe for you to do whatever you want to achieve the end result..” ! He arranges your hair the way he wants, he combs it the way it suits him, he brings them forward on your forehead to level them off.. It is a mess, I tell you, you have hair falling on your face, in your lap, on your shoes.. the water he sprayed on your hair is trickling down your forehead, you are all tucked inside a towel, you can’t take your hands out to clean your face, it’s itchy, you don’t like how ruffled your hair looks in the middle of the haircut.. you prefer not to look at yourself in the mirror at that time but realize that he/she is watching you nonetheless.. just when you are not in the best of your presentable self!
Then there is conversation.. between you and your haircutter.. ranging from what style suits you, you are losing hair, some expert advice on hair, to current weather, politics and everything in between! With your head within striking distance of his sharp tools, you can’t afford to have a lot of strong opinion (!) but you manage to keep yourself engaged. If you signed up for shampoo, you get your hair washed and return back to your seat to wrap it up.
I guess you don’t want to meet your haircutter in a mall, in a party or a restaurant because he/she has seen you in that, umm, messed up state! I mean, he has seen your face at its worst, so if you see him, you just wanna walk away, you don’t wanna look him/her in the eye.. 😉
2. With A Dentist –
A dentist is one of my least favorite types of doctor. Not that I have a favorite type.. but I mean you are sitting there in a chair with all those tools menacingly staring at you with lust.. and your mouth is wide open, you are getting your teeth drilled into or pulled out or scratched up or in general getting tortured.. it’s something straight out of a horror movie in my opinion!
Your visit to a dentist starts with you going in with a cautious smile on your face.. you await your turn and when it finally happens, you find yourself in this otherwise comfortable looking chair that packs two thousand different positions and adjustments to make you presentable to the “craftsman” – err, dentist – who is going to operate on you! Sitting perched up high like that in that chair, under the huge “limelight”, you prepare yourself for the ultimate “harakiri”.. you remember all the ice creams and chocolates you ate, remember last night’s BBQ.. all the smiles, memories flashing in front of you.. you think about how everyone else in the world is happily living their life away from this torture chamber!
Meanwhile, the craftsman.. the dentist, is getting ready himself.. he now has a mask to hide his sadistic smile (!), he has gloves so that you can’t take revenge on him with your saliva and dirt in your mouth, he has an apron so that you can’t spit on him..
With both parties ready in their own way like that, the ordeal starts..
The craftsman first gives you a mirror to see how dirty “the machine” has become, he will then blurt out a few familiar words – tartar, gums, molar, nerve endings, cavities… and finally the first command – “open wide“…..!!
.. we need to clean your teeth first.. all those pointy, curvy tools eagerly waiting to carve into and between your teeth.. the tweezers, sickles and all kinds of hand probes going after the leftovers of delicacies you have enjoyed all this time.. They pull, scratch, and lug at your teeth and you feel as if your teeth will just give up and come right out with those leftovers too! Your jaw is almost dropping with pain and fatigue.. and suddenly you come out of that trance of helplessness.. “Open wide!!“.. orders the dentist.. part of your brain orders the muscles in your mouth to oblige.. and it continues.. on and on.. scraping, scrubbing, pulling, carving.. somewhere a nerve gets surprised and takes you to new levels of pain..! Suddenly the craftsman feels a surge of sympathy, and lets you spit or uses his vacuum to clean out your saliva.. somehow your mouth has forgotten the instructions to close itself!! Your muscles have developed a temporary memory of that “wide open” state! You lose track of time… and you wake up in front of the same mirror – the dentist, the craftsman in him is proudly showing his work to you! All white, all clean.. you try to smile.. a wry weary smile – if you can call it a smile that is – appears on your face.
If you are one of those fortunate people who get away with just this much in life, you should consider yourself to be one of the luckiest individuals on this planet.. But those who have to suffer a tooth filling, a tooth extraction, a root canal or more, deserve my utmost pity! The ordeal will last many more hours and visits and will leave you scarred – dentally and mentally – for days to come!
There, you face the ultimate in human torture tools. You will meet the much dreaded dentist’s drill, the unusually long needles of the anesthetic injection, the tooth extracting forceps, the bone cutters and more!
The craftsman almost appears like a car mechanic at that point. It is as if you have opened your hood, the mechanic puts a block in your mouth to keep it open just like a car hood has a support rod, there is a suction pump hanging by the side of your mouth to keep the place dry, and now the place belongs to him!.. he drills, polishes, vacuums, sprays water to clean his “work area”, goes for a walk keeping “that hood” open (!) on the support block, he pulls stuff out of it, he cuts, saws, welds, takes pictures… and in all this, he might just throw you a question that you can’t answer anyway – “are you okay?.. I am so sorry it hurts“! Ye, right, you think..!
When it all ends, you can hardly manage to close your mouth.. forget opening it!! So you just pay and go home.. leaving the horrors of that place in an attic for such things inside your brain….
3. With A Doctor –
A doctor’s visit is another such situation.. now if you are lucky, you just visit the doctor for a little cold here and there or a checkup.. occasionally you have these annual physicals and sometimes complicated procedures.. And one not-so-fine day, you find yourself sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with just a little apron on your birthday suit and a string tied at the back to hold it together! You are trying hard to make both ends of that apron meet at the back when you tie the knot, but it’s not working to satisfy your decency..
You are given a magazine, the nurse comes, checks your vitals and leaves, leaving you to your destiny in that waiting state.. you can’t even venture out much – dressed up like that.. Every time you hear a sound at the door, you try to sit upright mustering a little bit of panache in your posture (!). You lose track of the time as several minutes pass by.. and finally the doctor arrives.. in his nicely dressed self.. you might be the bossiest of bosses at your workplace or the strictest dad at home or the most stylish person on the planet.. but that moment, in front of the doctor, in that apron, you feel like a specimen of some alien species!..
The doctor examines you.. checking which part of this machine has gone wrong or might go wrong! I always think of this as an amazing form of interpersonal situation. Your other identity is right there.. your coat, shoes, your nicely perfumed shirt, cowboy jeans, your iphone, .. all of them waiting for you on that chair by the side of that examination table.. but you have to pass this moment on your own..
4. and all others –
There are many such moments which threaten your decency, your pride and your position in society apart from the three I have mentioned above.
As a child, you were never shy to show the “urgency” when you wanted to answer a nature’s call! As you grow up, you feel compelled to act in a manner suitable to your personality and age, even though you as a human being are still the same. Imagine you need to go and you are not finding the bathroom in a mall or you find it, but people are waiting in line..!! So you need to wait for your turn and at the same time, wait in a manner that will hide that urgency, that desperation, that irritating unrelenting unreasonable need to answer the call! 🙂 You are walking a tightrope between your decency and nature in this case!
If you think, you encounter many such threats to your stature in your day to day life – when you use public toilets, or you get sick and throw up, or when you sneeze, or snore.. the walls of decency are always ready to crumble upon us like the leaning tower of Pisa and we are constantly trying to hold ’em together..
It is funny how the very society we built with sophistication sometimes forces us to compromise that very promise of human life. It brings home the fact that in spite of all those layers of society there still remains a vulnerable living being underneath who has to shed all that when he perishes anyway…
I did not have a car back in 1996 and I badly wanted one. It would be 3 more years before I would get my first car. In one of those moments of wanting one, I wrote this back then.
Do you remember – ?
the days when you struggled to get it..
and the nights when you dreamed about it?
Those roads you walked on.. the taxis you hired..
the cabbies you fought with, and the car-owners you admired?
The distances without those 2 pairs of wheels..
the suns you faced and walked after heavy meals?
do you really remember..?
that occasional rain and their cars splashing water..
your umbrella, the heavy bags and your drenched sweater?
They rode the highways.. warm in their cars..
when the streets at night, were cold below the stars..
oh.. do you still remember all of it..?
the pain, the longing, the desire, for that car..
yes, the one you always saw, but the one that looked so far?
yes I know it too, I really do.. because, I am still without a car!
Jan 10th 1996
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”