Monday, June 25, 2012

The Summit

“Summit”- the word denotes the highest or extreme point of something (usually a mountain or hill); the highest degree of achievement attainable, the acme; and a meeting of the heads of governments.
The just concluded G20 Mexico and the G20- Rio summits in the one of the most environmentally threatened and polluted cities in the world flatter to fall in any category perse except the last. For it to denote the pinnacle of something great is a misnomer. I would call it a retreat and a jamboree cocooned in hedonistic opulence amidst the surrounding filth and squalor of Rio de Janerio.  Thanks to the insane ideology of development and the privileges that go with political and bureaucratic positions of power, the pageant was enacted.

Rio de Janerio- the concourses that swarmed into Rio for the conference of G20 behemoths and the United Nation’s sustainable development may have dreamed of white and pristine beaches straddling deep blue waters on the Atlantic coast But like any visitor who flies into the financial capital of India, “Mumbai” would notice- the slums and squalor around the landing strip of the airport, what the summit men in Rio would have seen and felt was the stench of sewage and filth. This is because the airport in Rio is by the bay that takes in more than a billion liters of untreated sewage water. However when you are cocooned inside the air-conditioned and super filtered environment of the seven star hotels and condominiums one erases the realities outside. An avoidable and unnecessary nuisance best wished away and forgotten!

The citizens of Rio are certainly poorer by a good millions of dollars now that they have to foot the bill for the epicurean confluence.

What did the mela achieve? The G20in Mexico that preceded was attended by the heads of the two largest economies, the USA and Germany. However, they chose to see the G20-Rio summit for sustainable development which followed as trivial and avoided Rio. The moot question is what has such summits, be it the Cancun, the Rio and the many others  achieve? Apart from burdening the tax payers of the cities that host the fantasy, what else have they given back?

An underdeveloped or developing country like India had to honour her commitment as the member of the IMF and dole out a few billion dollars to the charity fund to bail out the extravagant lots in the developed world from the nook they have got themselves in. It is ironical that institutions like IMF and the developed economies of the west that has always been sententious and condescending to the developing and under developed world, now need doles from the later to resurface from the abyss they have went down themselves.
 Since seldom has such fĂȘtes changed the world, is it necessary for the group to come together like this and waste millions in cost when technology like video conferencing can be used at almost insignificant cost? The millions that go for hosting of such circuses can be diverted to clean up the squalor around. It is plain and simple truth that developed Europe and the Americas are adept in keeping their environmental stables clean while their excreta and garbage is shipped and thrown into the third world. The intertwining of the global economy has ensured a safety net for the developed world. And a Damocles sword for the underdeveloped and developing world! A hiccup in a distant economy among the developed countries will create flutter and tremor in the far off impoverished Timbuktu.
The myopic and narrow concept of GDP as the measure for success and economic growth is outdated and should be jettisoned. If the world in its scramble for growth or development has nothing to sustain and leave for posterity then such agenda is not development but a death knell.

The end of the story is that opulence and extravagance or living beyond one’s means by a distant cousin on the other side of the Atlantic will siphon the meager savings of the poor cousin on the far side of the world, in the Indian Ocean. In fact the perilous fellow has to borrow to bail out the other-his rich distant cousin! It is like the annual UN General Assembly and frequent Security Council meetings! Have these prosaic conferences managed to stave off  wars, a systematic genocides? 

As for sustainable development it is a well coined phrase and pickled in hypocrisy. I wonder if there is any one in the world who would bate an eyelid for something beyond the threshold of his comfort.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Forbidden Fruit

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:16:

 The moony naked couple in the Garden of Eden has been a curious and interesting subject and so are  the paintings and caricatures of the first couple as scriptures tell us. It is curious and interesting because of the dress code they followed in the early stages and in due course of their evolutionary process and damnation. The serenity of the Garden itself with the sole exception of the serpent was wondrous and ran pleasantly in the imagination. 

As a child of about eight, I was taken to the cinema to see the film, “The Bible”, directed by John Huston. The film recounted from the times of genesis to Adam & Eve, Moses, Abraham, Noah, tower of Bable and almost a good number of chapters from the Old Testament. Honestly, the serenading nude couple did not titillate my imaginations as perhaps I was too young to decipher and provide attributes. However the film invoked a spark of fire that in later times proved to be exasperatingly inquisitive to some but a means of immense acquisition for me and my thought process. (Later in my teens, I sneaked into watch a film of the same name produced by some non-entity in Malayalam knowing well it was much sleazy and titillating is another matter held secret). 

Exiting the cinema after watching John Huston’s Bible, the questions that I asked myself and some other elders were not answered. One such incertitude was about the great deluge and Noah’s ark. A naturalist of sorts and a conservationist, his love for animals and other living things was app laudable. But I wondered why did he leave out the dinosaurs from having refuge in his ark? And there seemed to be all possible beasts of the wilderness in the Garden of Eden but dinosaurs was nowhere to be seen. Did the great flood precede the prehistoric times when those beasts roamed in abundance? Or was creation as laid out in the Genesis precede the advent of the dinosaurs? Well those were too impertinent asking by an adolescent. And later I found to my amusement the answers!

It is indeed matters of food for thought that we seek, read, and spend considerable time of our short life to learn and acquire knowledge or information on matters that do not concern us, affect us or about people whom we may not even ever meet in life; of people dead and alive we have no business to learn and know about. We go to many frontiers to know about matters that are hypothesis, conjunctions and those that may be probable in the future, by when we would be dead and gone, to be recycled back into a pinch of stardust. We often show childish curiosity in many matters that are around- a “neotenic” trait that baffles. And as some would argue, should not be cared a hoot as it is not pertinent to our living. But then why do we go about ravenous, hunt and devour knowledge that may in fact be insignificant or of no use to our living?

Old Testament mentions the decree of God that Adam & Eve desist from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge- the forbidden fruit. Clearly God’s way of telling that he shall rather not have his creation enlightened and acquire ideas that can also be used to usurp his position. He did admit to his jealous nature when he without mincing words said, “I forbid you from worshiping any other Gods, for I, your God is a jealous God”( Exodus). This is precisely what we hear and see politicians and authority go about desperately trying in their vile and cunning ways to enforce- proscribing books and banishing artists, their creations, snuffing opinions and expressions. The officialdom and the seat of authority have always been wary of acquisition of knowledge and ideas by the masses. The diktat Catholic Church pronounced against the fairytale of “Harry Potter” is one among the many recent examples. 

All of us have been fed with fairy tales and stories of witches and sorcerers in our formative age. I wonder if that have in any way distorted our character, inhibited our intellectual growth or displaced our moral values. It is in us that we have to seek knowledge. It is in the acquisition of knowledge and information with the naughty intensity of a child that makes us human beings. It is perhaps that what has aided in distancing us from our primordial cousins’ the apes and primates. It is in us, that juvenile characteristics are continued by the adults of our species. And it is that which keep us from plummeting into an insipid and inodorous life, where skepticism and hunger for knowledge is banished, muffled, and is nonexistent.

The aphorism that there is enough in the world for man’s needs but not for his wants is true and if man can substitute the seamless material bounty he seeks unashamedly and greedily with hunger for knowledge, then, that would make life a splendid dream to live.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Super Salesman

Perhaps a long forgotten post may come handy when one is snowed under by blocks and lack of ideas. A total famine of topics and one gropes around in the dark. Something here , to feel enlivened. I guess.

This is the story about a sales man, a Super salesman!

 Into a department store in the English country side, one late summer day, walked in a salesman. In fact he was not a salesman, not yet. He was prospecting for the position. The young fellow managed to get to the General Manager of the store and put forth his resume and his case. All that he could tell the General Manager from a persuasive point was that he was a sales man and he would appreciate the sales job in the store. Though the credentials where vague and rather plain the General Manager decided to take a call on the fellow and then conclude a judgment of the fellow for the job. He offered to put him on probation for a week and would reach a decision after surveying his skills in selling.

  Later in the week the General Manager walked into the floor of the store and watched from a distance the young lad selling a fishing rod to a customer. The young fellow was enlightening the prospective customer about the fishing rod and smartly convinced the client about its quality and value. He concluded the sale. He then continued and offered the customer a choice of buying a can of superior quality fishing worms. The sale was done too. The lad was in no mood to let the client go. He suggested that the weekend might be a bit cold and nippy as it being the fag end of autumn and would be perfect if he could keep a mackintosh, which would be handy while he fishes by the stream in the woods. It did not take long to convince the customer about the comfort and quality the mackintosh can offer. The sale was done too. The young sales apprentice continued, “Sir we have some fascinating new books to choose and you can read them in comfort while you fish and wait for the bait to do its job. I strongly recommend, you buy one and enjoy the week end fishing trip”. The customer was acknowledged that was a good proposition and he chose and bought a book as well.

The General Manager who was keenly observing the sales was awed and went to the sales man and tapped him appreciatively on his back. “Well done young fellow! But let me ask you how the heck did you managed to sell all these assortments to a guy who came in here to buy a fishing rod?”

The apprentice sales man politely said, “Sir he did not come in here to buy a fishing rod! In fact he came here to buy a pack of sanitary napkins for his wife and I suggested that he go fishing this week end”.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reflections on a Sunday

Often I question myself if I would follow the dotted line and the high plateau of correctness in thought, words and deed that I sometimes seem to shamelessly profess. Dishonestly, yes I do! And well, if so what alibi and excuse would I base my stand? I guess, a silent owning up of my infallibility and not so strong power of will of the mind. What in fact is sheepishly comforting is that there are many Jones next doors who would be my companions.

If someone ask me what is the quality that one must not have. I would say “self-pity”. And it is that one loses self-respect when one succumbs to its wiles. One is self-deluding when one cohabits with “self-pity”. And when I hear people condescending about self, honestly it nauseates and is repulsive. I guess I score here and often at my peril and distress. But there is pleasure to gain in the end that I have not sold out weakened. Or is it my ego?

Are we all conceited? I guess we are in our own ways. And the vain vanity that we have, we allege on even God as well. What else would explain the constant praise we shower on a Deity? The lauding we extend to a politician and his vulgar appetite for such lauding and adulation? But should I categories pleasure of recognition in the same genre? Yes, but is it not a part of us that is gored out when recognition does not come about?

Once, I happened to be in the office of a very wealthy business man from Kerala. He has a chain of ‘financial operations’ all over the country and virtually had hit the rainbow. I accompanied an acquaintance who was his chum and I was timidly seated in the fore room while he went in to meet his friend in the ante room. I saw , a host of books like The Bible, The Koran , The Gita and  some writings of mystics and spiritualists, that were laid out on the side table next to me .It, in fact gave me affair idea of the person cocooned inside!  And later day information about him proved me right. That was a vain way to impress upon the world his areas of interest which was not. 

A profoundly distressing situation it is when you are  loaned something by another, especially a friend (exceptions to the rule do exist, mercifully).A couple of years ago, during the turmoil I went through, I was short of a decent sum in funds. Budget and plan clearly determined that some capital had to be brought in for a short term to smoothen the cash/fund flow. Since the figure that was required was not quite a wee little and the delicacy of discussing the matter with a few friends who had the wherewithal saw me vacillate for a dangerously long while. Finally, I zeroed in on a friend, gathered myself and placed the overseas call. I disconnected impishly after a few rings, I was ashamed and too flummoxed. I did that exercise a few times and felt weak. A little later he called back and I did not answer the call. I was too timorous and infirm. He text-ed a message and it was apparently in consternation. ”Hey A, what is it? I saw a few calls from you, is everything OK? Call back, I feel unease.” That, in a way, smoothed my nerves and I placed the call again. When he picked up the call, I stammered that things were ok and I wanted to only ask him, if it was possible to loan me some money for a three month period. He asked me the amount and when I told him, he was not a wee bit hesitant, but in fact he was affirmative straight away and asked me to email him my bank id. He only told me that since he had no fund holding in India, he would appreciate if I can wire him back the same amount in USD when I decide to return the money. He in fact sounded concerned that I was in a kind of distress. Do I have to further describe the sigh I heaved?

Well, as matters began to tumble, things got worse in the succeeding days and all planned funds that were expected were stonewalled. My three month promise went by and naturally he began to feel exasperated and some of his emails and phone calls suggested between sentences that he was being prompted. I was quite upset and cautious at the same time that a friendship from toddler days should not be led into ruins. I was in fact stunned by the severity of his messages and his total lack of understanding (or was it disregard) of my impossible plight and predicament. I tried to think in his shoes. Well it is a delicate matter this relationship entwined with money!

Mercifully, the manna came from a source that I almost wrote off as bad and irrecoverable. When I wired him the funds, it was probably the only time I may have wanted to pray to some figure up in the skies.