Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Of Human Bondage




The formative stage in one’s life, experts say, is during the period of one’s adolescence. Some even go farther behind and state character and one’s idiosyncrasies are formed during the life period ensconced in the womb. 

I have known a couple of brats (formerly) in their toddler days and would be horrified at the thought of them coming home with their parents on their evening strolls. They were enfant terrible while awake and in sleep. Two score years have elapsed since and they are now perfect gentlemen; two charming young men and both in respectable positions in life certainly capable of enchanting any potential bride. And loving grateful sons to their parents!

I look back at myself and wonder if there has been any change in me as a person. The temperament and character I have possessed score and five years ago and what it is now. Being wed locked to a woman changed me, my foibles -my outlook, my temperament, my fear, my fads, my obsessions, my hypocrite shadow? Honestly a self-assessment is possible. But I fear that may be understood as conceited and infelicitous.

I feel that one cannot deny that a person with whom one has been associated in life day and night will not have extended his/her influence .Can we deny? The proportion and the depth of the tentacles of influence and ensnaring as we can call it vary from person. From trivial mundane matters to subjective things with deeper resonance, spouse can influence and again it varies from person to person.

The bloke who relished mutton and beef steak or hot spicy veal in Kerala masala suddenly confessed to his greener and vegetarian ways of gastronomic shift. He claimed that his physiological propensity to retain flab around the midriff and the fear of losing battle of the bulge made him forsake the most relished of all viand. The amusing fact was that his physical appearance had not changed an iota horizontally since the teen age while in college. The fact understandably was that after having married a Telugu Brahmin lady he found the going unpleasant with his gastronomic indulgence. He later said in passing his abstinence helped as his spouse was Brahmin. Call it sacrifice, relinquishing, pliability, adaptability and so on. Perhaps to some the latter is the way to extricate from the quagmire.

In a yet male dominated society, I guess that women are far more influenced or forced to adhere to changed ways and habits to suit the fantasies, fallacies and habits of their spouses- their idiosyncrasies in general. But men are pliable and do so to suit to the whims of their spouses. Survival, adaptability, ingenuity and sometimes helplessness ending with biting the bullet to avoid a bitter home! A bondage and bondage is – “subjection to external influences and internal negative thoughts and attitudes”.

Though there may be visible shifts in one’s character, attitude and other characteristics after the alter ego’s influence post wedlock, I guess no one is impervious to change ipso facto. There may be subtle change in one’s self, which may be conscious or otherwise. Some hit the bottle in worse case scenarios. Difficult to pity them but one can be amused.

I wonder what will be the general take on this matter. The cliched argument and supposed platonic statements such as, “give and take or quid pro quo is petty and doses not retain heart and soul.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Le Philanderer




I often reminisces Ian Fleming’s fictional spy James Bond when I hear his fantastic experiences. But the contradiction is so glaring that except for the guile and prowess James Bond exhibited over beautiful women this man has nothing that will even palely compare him with the “Spy who loved me”!

He has a falsetto voice. And that is quite annoying. He sounds very churlish, seemingly too, but he is not rude or a moron. Still his knowledge and practice of social etiquette are abysmal. It often offends me and gives me a feeling of shame and stupid. His habits at the meal table are, be it in the office pantry or in a restaurant, devoid of customary decency. He chews like a bovine masticating and produces the grunt and chuckle of a hog hogging. People around turn and stare at him in disgust and irritation. He seems to be oblivious of the attention that he has gathered. Ignorant of the stares he goes on and then occasionally expels on to the table the chewed remains of a vegetable, a fish bone or meat. While then stares turn to frowns, but the man is unaware and unmoved.  

He has receding hairline and occasionally sports a wig, which in fact presents him with a more respectable appearance. His jowls are wide and his cheeks are puffed. He sports a moustache and is not forgetful of shaving the stubble each day. A five feet 8’ frame is liberally decorated with a prominent belly .The battle of the bulge seems to be a one sided affair. He looks about in the mid-forties and with the life style he follows it is a wonder why he does not appear older than he looks. He is just into the forty.

What is sometimes amusing and equally ragging is his penchant and obsession with sex. He has had countless one night stands. Sometimes the analysis and rewinding of his exploits are entertaining but again infelicitous and exasperating. Anything in excess is irritating! He throws quite a sum on women. The oddity is that he takes awful lot of care in spending on his telephone calls but has no restraint in spending tidy sum buying sex. His dictum is that at the end of his days those wonderful moments he spent with women is what would stay enlivening.

It is not polished ways or a distinct panache that he displays that often entices women, be it the ones who sell pleasure for money and the ones who like a flirt. But then, what else could be the juggernaut I do not understand. I’m astonished by a woman from Pakistan who is so obsessed with him. She is perhaps one of the most beautiful, charming and elegant looking I have ever seen. One day it was when I was sitting with him in his office and chatting, that she walked in like a prima donna. I was stunned by her debonair elegance. Tall at five feet and about eight, with wheat-ish complexion, slim and immensely attractive, she was dressed in stylish skirt and blouse. She spoke chaste Urdu, Hindi and accented English. She may be in her late twenties or very early thirties. A mother of two little children she displayed no signs of that. She was the wife of a very rich man and lived in opulence. 

He had told me about this lady whom he met and gotten friendly with. And that she was hounding him for a date. It left me wondering and unable to comprehend how a woman such as she can fall for a very unattractive looking man like he and who has no charm in manner or spoken language.

It was Oscar Wilde who said, “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.” But then our contender is neither.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dandelion



I was on the move from the age of 23. I mean have been travelling to places that my work decreed and. On a few journeys C has tagged on and the liberties with a roving pair of eyes were more discreet than other times.

It has been always an anxious moment before boarding a train, a bus or a plane or even waiting for a passenger to occupy the adjacent seat. Though I‘ve kept away from any bonhomie with Gods, I used to discreetly enquire if they would ensure a pretty lass to occupy the seat next to me. But, perhaps they having seen my opportunistic friendliness, have ignored my ask.

So the journeys were always braved with a miserable co- passenger next to me in the form of a hag, an old fella or an insipid middle aged stranger who probably thought that my proximity was a nuisance. The journey was then weathered with a grumpy face and a spoiled mood, mostly feigning sleep or fighting with a book to read.

Once perhaps the Gods smiled and relented or erred in their resolution thence far. I saw an attractive lass in the attire of a flight stewardess joining me in the queue at the immigration clearance in New Delhi. She was wearing a Lufthansa cabin crew uniform. She was very beautiful and elegant that it was trifle difficult to desist from admiring her in spite of the long jet haul and tired, sleepy eyes. I admired her very discreetly (I thought) by ensuring glances that were inoffensive. Outside the terminal, I lost her and made my way to check in for the night at the hotel. 

The next morning on the flight to Coimbatore, I was seated in the seat 1-C, which was an aisle seat. Aisle seats are comfortable as one can move about at will! As usual I tried to have a rapprochement with the Gods, gently reminding them there were two vacant seats next to me and perhaps they can let by gone be so and dispense some favour? For once , as I mentioned they seemed to have relented and a pretty young girl walked in and smiled before she said in sweet lark voice if I would mind her occupying the seat 1-A? I was bewildered and like someone somnambulating, took her bag from her and kept in the overhead loft before making way for her to be seated. The three hour journey down south saw me in close conversation with her, though it was she who let the ball rolling by opening herself. She told me that she was an airhostess with Lufthansa. I told her I did meet a girl who was on the flight from Amsterdam and she was a passenger but in the Lufthansa attire. She laughed and told me it was she who was the one. I failed to recognise her in jeans and tee!

As it turned out she was the daughter of a business man from Kothagiri and she was going home to her father’s Tea estate on a short vacation. When we alighted at Coimbatore, I suggested that she meet C, who would be there to pick me. The elation of the fantasy flight was rather blunted a wee bit when I sensed that C was not too keen to appreciate my new found friendship and rather noncommittal when the girl invited us to her estate. I let the piece of paper on which I noted her telephone number fly out like a dandelion through the car window while we drove home.

It was once on a KLM flight out of Delhi to Amsterdam. With the flying miles I acquired, I could upgrade to the Business class. As I took my seat in the two abreast business class, I wondered who would be joining me in the seat next. Thence upon came a lady who looked most likely to be in her mid-forties, dressed in elegant sari and a pashmina shawl lazily thrown on her shoulder. She was to be my co- passenger. She looked sophisticated and classy. And indeed she was. She was an undersecretary in the ministry of commerce and she was going to the European parliament in Brussels for a meeting. We spoke about issues in Textiles that were vital to India and she narrated how vested lobbies were derailing every effort by the government; how the EU and the US saw with some apprehension the rise of the BRIC nations.

We chatted late into the night and I noticed that she was quite a person with liberal indulgence in matters of exquisite spirits and she may have washed down more wine and champagne than I.  When she knew that I was from Kerala, she told me that she was often in Kerala. I asked her if she hailed from there. She did not reply to that, but her knowledge of even some cities and their roads gave me a feeling that she was a Keralite, but was rather not keen to neither admit to me nor reveal her surname which would have told more. I felt some reticence in her.

It was sometime well into the flight when I woke up to find that someone was holding tight around my arms and cosy up against me. Through sleepy eyes I got startled a bit as it was this lady who had coiled up in her seat and leaned on my shoulders, her head resting on my chest, with her arms holding around mine, blankets thrown over our torsos and limbs. She was in deep sleep. My senses were awakened and to me the startling transformed to awkwardness and later to amusement. I let her sleep undisturbed. 

When the stewardess woke me up for the early morning breakfast before the plane landed in Amsterdam, I found the lady awake and dressed up elegantly as she was when she boarded the flight the previous night. She just nodded at me and once the flight landed, taxied and stopped at the terminal she was the first one to exit and without even a friendly glance.
I gathered my cabin baggage and while leaving the aircraft, wondered if I had a dream or was it a hallucination? It was like a dandelion flying away.


Monday, August 6, 2012

A Matter of Trust


Trust in me, just in me, shut your eyes and trust in me” – Python Kaa in the Jungle Book

 
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway

But then what if trust itself is a quality that is distant and foreign? To some it is. By quirk of what one may call fate, I have come to be acquainted with a man who does not trust even his shadow. It was shocking to hear him say that he does trust neither his wife nor his children (who are in their adolescence and teens). He feels that they may be waiting for him to die to corner his wealth. Why and for what he needs his wealth once he is gone is a mystery kept close to his bosom! But, the thought process that prompted such an observation seems hard to comprehend. He is so distrustful of people around him, that he deftly and often crudely plays his associates and employees against the other. His way is that he has everyone so mistrustful of the other that they spy on the other not being aware or sometimes regardless of the fact that they are being spied too. He runs his organisation in such Machiavellian way, which inbreeds shenanigans. As it is the natural law outside physics that every action permeates down to consolidate and react in certain way that we call natural or cosmic justice. So, the man oblivious of the fact that his distrust of even his shadow keeps him sleepless and always glancing backward over his shoulders, continues to survey his domain. While the malicious ones at his feet thrive in his frailty.

 I guess it was in the language class in college- that the professor who taught me my optional language Malayalam was a keen and erudite person who had the uncanny ability to paint like an artist the essence from the works of great poets of yore and recent history. I vividly remember him once lecture in his inimitable style a couplet from the play “Shakuntalam”,wherein the great bard sketches a stag deer deftly using its antlers to remove a tiny niggling piece of alien speck from the doe’s eye. The doe in absolute trust abandons herself in bliss and gratitude to the stag that she knows he can never for a moment waver and let his antlers pierce her eyes in the process. The sublimity of faith! Trust among spouses, man and woman which in this fast paced impersonal world is a premium!

In moments of great stress and distress when madness fleetingly envelops I wonder of the piety of trust. Should I be a python Kaa or the Stag? Perhaps it is easy to trivialise trust when it is once breached. It is not just promiscuity and morals related to that I refer to. Unfortunately trust and morality is seen only synonymous with sexual conduct.


But then is not trust something that can be felt only when it is abandoned? The intensity of trust can be known only when the pain of breach is manifested? It  can be truthfully said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Passion



 
How passionate one can be in what one does?

I look around and feel awed by some –friends, business associates and just some others we know in public life. And I find myself lagging far behind. I do not want to hide behind the apron of excuses and frivolous reasons. I have been less severe in what I do. Has it not been a less than cent percent of energy, effort and dedication? Yes it has been. I do not know if I could not grab or latch on to what I love doing most. Nevertheless I have been less devout. I can recall the same story from my days as a student – school goer and later at the university. Am I made up so? Alibis as I mentioned are not what I intend to seek.

I have been watching the thirteen part episode of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”. A faithful exercise I indulged in every Sunday morning in the 1980’s when the insipid Doordarshan quite astonishingly aired it as soon as it was released worldwide. Later the book “cosmos” was added into my prized possessions. I was inundated by the personality, passion, knowledge and sheer eminence of Carl Sagan the astrophysicist. He wrote and narrated the episodes and each word he uttered overflowed with emotion and sincerity .Though he succumbed to a strange variant of  leukemia at a relatively young age into his sixties, I gather that his was a life lived to the brim relishing in doing what he loved most-“ gazing at the stars”. 

A friend I admire and respect is among the top rung officers in the Indian Army. And I still am dumbstruck by his sheer will and dedication. His maniacal aim and purpose of getting into the army saw him dedicate himself solely for the rigours of the Indian Military Academy. Though from a Spartan family he was unnerved by perhaps a less understanding folks and succeeded in his aim. He has been exemplary in the service and I do not think there is many such one in his breed who are honest, upright and dedicated to one’s profession. He loves being in his boots. And he has I’m sure a couple of more notches to traverse in the hierarchy of the armed forces. He is now a Brigadier.

A business associate and friend I have known since almost two decades, his wife confided in me when I met her in Blore a few weeks ago that she feels utter ennui during his long absence from home on work but she feels happy that he enjoys what he loves most .He himself asserted that he will unstring his boots the moment he feels alien to what he does. An honest, sincere and no push over, he brims with absolute knowledge and mastery over his arena.  A person who can articulate with admirable powers! And, as appreciation of his caliber and dedication, have come to him the unquestioned faith and approval of his boss who seldom stretched his neck into his domain. I have not come across many others who brim with confidence as he.

These examples are just a few that came to my thought. It is tiresome to see people needing a reason to do things in life they love. Come on do it because you want to, it is fun , it makes you happy.

And there are others who crave and long to do what they love most. But the sheer guts to plunge into seem absent. The result is frustration and unpleasantness of the mind. The beckoning may not visit from outside, it has to come from within. It is the fear of the future that restrains. The commitments that are supposedly put forth as alibis and lame reasons are mere aprons to hide behind. They quibble when confronted. And with such people, I feel the misery is accentuated and life is sulking.