Stand-At-(Un)ease

 

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It took me some years as a child to realize that it was ‘stand-at-ease’ and not ‘standardees’ in those march-past practice in school and I remember never standing at ease even then. The shout of ‘stand-at-ease’ and ‘attention’ still reverberates in my ears as I write this. I wonder if standing at ease is ever possible.

In another matter but in a similar context, earlier last month, we hired an attendant for my father who is not keeping well. The attendant, as the title says, is to attend to him for around 10-12 hours daily. Since my father has an inactive life the attendant is usually just sitting by his sofa-side and/or watching TV or sometimes goes out in the sun for a stroll and bond with his ilk. Initially we were quite uneasy to see him just sit and do ‘nothing’. After all, what was he doing really in those daily 12 hours – helping papa with his 5 meager meals through the tube that takes barely 5 minutes every time – so that is 25 minutes, cleaning up his dishes and room and clothes (another 20 minutes) and give head and arm massages (40 minutes). Papa’s half an hour daily ambling was also cut short after another emergency surgery two weeks ago, which meant that the attendant was doing papa’s work even lesser than before.  But that was precisely what he was hired for. Just to be with papa! Of course when papa is asleep or just sitting down, he has no choice but be idle. It took a few weeks for our uneasiness to go (almost!) and accept his idle time at work. Having said this, we still ask him to dry clothes daily and peeling of veggies  once in a while.

Why is idling in between work such an issue? I remember working full-time some years ago and editing documents in real-time and meeting the turnaround time.  But what were we to do while awaiting those documents? How many times can one take tea and loo breaks? So I got myself a novel to read from home. What was the harm in reading while waiting for work? However I could see a few uneasy seniors giving a look of reprehension but unable to find a rule to tell me off! In fact I felt I was better than one of them. I was not browsing websites and using the company’s electricity, Internet and taking printouts! This particular fellow was fond of browsing health and fitness related websites (social network sites were blocked) and standing up at his seat and doing yoga-at- work stretches or discuss the pros and cons of nuts and fruits, etc with others who could lend their ears to him. So that was supposedly an okay thing to do. I  was not told-off ever but after I had left the job passing on the legacy of reading a book when idle at work to another colleague, I was informed that there was a hullabaloo with this book-reading business and the health-fitness freak was shown his place.

In my neighbourhood, it initially nonplussed me to see why people in my area made their uniformed security guards perform errands like watering plants, sweeping the area outside the house and/or walking dogs. It is that nature of uneasiness to see them idle.Why can’t we just let them do their roles assigned?

I can blame our culture for this inherent nature of ours as what I thought was just an issue with me and around my surrounding was not so. It  was on the prime-time national television last month. The topic was not about to idle or not to idle during the free time at work but about army officers making their ‘buddy’/sahayak do things that they shouldn’t really be. While an officer defended his fellow colleagues asking what was the harm if the army officer got his shoes tied from the buddy or/and get his guns cleaned as the officer had a bigger role to play in defending the nation and going to the battlefield. Fair enough! But when somebody asked him what about the officers’ better halves making the buddy walk their dogs and do grocery shopping!!! I don’t remember what he answered. These clamorous news debaters never give direct answers, do they ?

Now when I say this problem is of our country (and perhaps of our neighbouring countries as we tend to have the same mentality mostly)it is purely because I am trying to recall if I have seen such an act in the West where I have lived for a short while or if I have even heard of it. Probably it doesn’t happen there for the following facts:

  • Acute labour shortage. They can’t afford to make them do extra things just because they find them sitting idle.
  • Workers there know their rights better and don’t mind taking their master to court.
  • There is respect for humans even if it happens to be a blue-collared worker. You won’t see customers clicking their fingers to call for the waiter or addressing them as “aye waiter!”

So, it is time we learn to inhale, stand at ease and let others do the same in between work.

….

 

pic: Happy, our lane stray and my daughter’s friend, can never be at ease! 🙂

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In defence of Friendzone

So if you have been friendzoned you will in all likelihood be jeered at or frowned upon by friends. The Internet has articles giving tips on how you can avoid being friendzoned. It is a derogatory word and I seem to wonder why.

Firstly, for those still unfamiliar with the term Friendzone and are too lazy to Google, it simply means a one-sided love/sexual feeling with a member of opposite sex who considers you just as a friend.

The term Friendzone may have been coined in the recent years but the situation has existed forever.  There has been more than one time that I have flatly refused to go beyond platonic with a few dear friends of mine. No, I didn’t look down upon them then or even now. Rather it was the fear of losing them which was greater than any other ephemeral feeling. I can proudly say that all of those platonic friends continue to remain my very good friends even decades later. The bond has only become stronger. And for those few that skipped entering the friendzone, I really don’t know where they are today and frankly, I can’t be bothered.  I remember then shedding tears (and yeah, my wears!) for them then. Over the years it has made me simply laugh at my past follies.  Those ephemeral relationships gave me only headaches and heartaches.

It is awkward dealing with a Friendzoned friend as you are not stupid to not know what is going on with him/her. After much time (hoping that it will be understood), I usually bring the awkward topic up to break the ice. It is not easy. The emotions are running high from one end. There are those deeply rooted ideas that need to be dissected and discarded. It ironically jeopardizes my relationship temporarily with them but I know I will eventually make them see my point.

I don’t see why all relationships, especially with a very good friend should have a need to culminate into having sex or ‘blossom into love’. Are we too tired to have a variety of people in our lives that can fulfil our various needs? Why are we lazy and hope that this one friend can handle all our emotional, physical and other needs?

Nothing wrong in being friendzoned, really!

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(image courtesy: http://www.davidwygant.com/wp-content/uploads/635723523920520029683466699_Friendzone.png)

 

Upping our Cultural Heritage

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When you think of heritage you think of forts, monuments, old temples and other historical places. I was in awe of Kolkata when I visited it last weekend. Perhaps if I had not visited London umpteen times in the past I would not have been able to construe what others meant when they said that the city has a ‘colonial’ feel. I could feel it in the air, though not literally since we visited this city when the mercury was soaring to 40+ degrees and we were dripping sweat due to intense humidity. We purposely chose to stay downtown to get a feel of the city for our short stay. Sitting on a tram – an old mode of transportation just upped the city’s heritage status.

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It was a visit to Flurys – a heritage tearoom and bakery that fuelled the dilemma side of me. I felt short-changed. Not, price-wise. If it had not been for my father who told me of the place’s history I would have thought of it as a just another any day modern cafeteria. For the first-timers like me having a somewhat none-to-limited knowledge of the city I could not see anything heritage about it. The restaurant is not obliged to make an effort to make it look like a heritage site unlike, say a monument where you pay an entrance fee and expect to be connected historically with it. This is just a restaurant that has sustained itself remarkably for nearly 80 years and that itself is commendable. And paying some 250 bucks for a plate of 2 fried eggs along with toasts is not much these days. However, you feel the awe factor missing.

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I don’t have the facts but you can tell the place has a competition, if not a stiff one, from a renowned American cafe just next door!  The complacency that accompanies such heritage places unless supported by the government or an NGO is dangerous. The only key to keep the competition at bay is by using the ‘heritage’ card. So how do you do that? Simple! Give a heritage feel to the place. 1) Get a designer to work on the staff’s uniform. What was the uniform in the olden days and how it can be replicated or adapted in modern times. 2) Get a photo editor to work on the menu and give it an ‘old’ feel with a sepia-effect to the pages. 3) Get a creative ad agency to work on trivia-posters that can be nailed to the walls. And many more ideas can surface if need be. I have not invented the above-mentioned ideas. I have visited so many pubs and restaurants abroad that have maintained the feel of the olden times. The cobblestone-plastered walls, the original bells at the door, the old oak table at the reception and much more. It takes you back in time. This is how heritage should be dressed up as! You should be in awe as you step in.  And perhaps the customers will be happy to even pay more. They have got more than what they had expected. And you have no competition. A win-win situation for both the parties.

So when you see the royal princess from the UK visiting India dressing-up elegantly all the time it is for a reason. She is part of a heritage that she is maintaining in the public. For all you know, she maybe wanting to rush back to her room and wanting to change into a pair of shorts and a tank-top to beat the Indian summer heat! What a time to visit India!

So all you heritage-based places, time to pull up your socks!

(pic 1: Victoria Memorial Hall; pic 2: me on a tram; pic 3: happy tram drivers with my papa; all clicked by my phone in Kolkata – the City of Joy)

 

 

 

To go or not to go

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Visiting a doctor is a big no-no from where I come from. Basically, just a big no-no from my mum. Going to a doctor, as she says, is like inviting trouble. So, besides visiting the dentist once a year (which I have to) and the optician once in two years (which, again I have to), it is very rare to see us making a trip to the doctor’s sanctum sanctorum. Besides, you do have round-the-clock chemists or even an alternative therapy for the ailment that is causing you misery. Until a few months ago this doctor-visit-phobia was exclusive to my mum but recently it caught up with me too. So much so that my trip to the optician (after a year and a half!) yesterday was filled with extreme horror. I was full of nerves and was just waiting to be told that I would be losing my eyesight soon.

The root of all these awful thoughts got embedded a month ago when I got to know that one of my very good friends, who recently touched his mid-thirties, has a cataract in his left eye! Considering that his eyesight is 6/6! And there were no complaints from him before. And neither did he make a trip to the eye doctor! The eye doctor, in fact, made a trip to him! In the sense, it so happened that there was an eye-checkup camp at his office building a month ago. Just for the heck, he went there along with his colleagues. And it was then that the penny dropped!

So if you look at it, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It would have been much severe later on.  But what if he had never been to the eye-checkup camp at all in the first place? He would have possibly been just like he was now? No? I know it is a contradictory state of mind that is right now hitting the keys.

After months of suffering from an ulcer in the tongue, my father finally decided to get up and visit the doctor. No gel or pill was helping him. And it turned out to be a terminal disease! Glad that he didn’t wait any longer to make that trip!

I still fear visiting any doc for any kind of pain that I suffer from (and mostly, it is in my head), sometimes it’s a lump here or there but it is about time that I start to see the positive side of making a trip to the doctor. And for all the other days, do like my mum says, follow moderation in life!  Life’s dilemmas…

(image courtesy: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e2/bf/8e/e2bf8e4ceb45c2b6273e88d07e370e3c.jpg)

In the loving memory of Lovie

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I have just one picture of Lovie. And I am glad that I do. I have a few pictures of Happy and Aie Choo Choo too. These are the names given by my daughter to our frequently-visiting stray dogs. Happy always looks happy so she was named Happy. People always try to shoo the other one away and keep saying, among many expressions, “Aie Choo Choo” and hence he was named the same. And Lovie was named Lovie because she was so affectionate, so lovable. She would be wagging her tail and climbing onto our legs every time she would catch the sight of us. She came to our neighbourhood quite late as I hadn’t noticed her before. A month later after witnessing a handful of dogs after her I realised she wasn’t neutered.

I wondered if it was too late to get her neutered now when she was on heat. Other than donating money sporadically to animal welfare organisations (AWO) I haven’t done anything active as such for the cause of animals as much as I would like to and I do admit that I don’t have that volunteering spirit in me (read:boldness). So was this a calling for me, I wondered. I had to do something for her. I could see her getting tired with all those dogs vying for her. I called up our local AWO who explained to me that the dogs can get neutered even when they are on heat. They would be happy to help me. The process was relatively simple: They call you an hour before they come to pick up the dog. You chain the dog before they arrive.  The dog is then neutered and kept with them for 2 more days as a post-operative care. Easy. The only bit that I wasn’t comfortable with was that they returned the dog to the same person who handed it to them. Why would they return Lovie to me? She didn’t belong to me. I was just trying to be good. I nevertheless wanted to go ahead with this mission. I could of course release her once she was handed over to me. All I had to do now was to arrange for a dog chain and tie her an hour before they would pick her up. It was to happen the next day.

I warmed up to the whole plan. After all I wasn’t going to be the first one who would be doing this. Somebody had already got Happy and Aie Choo Choo neutered before, along with many other stray dogs in our neighbourhood. So after unsuccessfully asking a few neighbour friends who owned dogs if they had a spare dog-chain (I must confess that in a way I was boasting too of the deed that I was going to perform.) I bought one from a pet store an evening before. Next day I saw Lovie roam in our lane with one alpha dog who didn’t let any other dog come close to her. He only subjugated before Lovie’s barks at him. The AWO was to call me up in the noon which they did. I looked out and couldn’t see Lovie. I took our domestic help along to search for her.

“You are not doing the right thing,” my domestic help said to me unexpectedly. I understood what he was up to. Coming from a village, he has a conservative view on life, despite having two wives! “What do you mean?” I asked. “Lovie must have conceived. Why would you want the pups to be killed. Let her have babies this time and then you can get her neutered,” he said.  “You know what will happen to all the stray pups, don’t you? Some of them will die of hunger and some will get crushed under the cars. So why should they come to life?” I said rhetorically. He just nodded his head from left to right and walked with me from street to street looking for Lovie. Unfortunately we couldn’t find her. I called up the AWO who were equally upset to hear this and told me to keep an eye for her and let them know if I found her in the next one hour. I didn’t. Well, at least I had tried.

I didn’t see Lovie after that for nearly a week and when I did I was happy to notice a shaven patch on her left side of the body. It was as if somebody else had read my mind and got her neutered. I felt so thankful. At least a litter of stray pups were saved from being born in this cruel world and Lovie too was saved from going through the traumatic process. Every thing was fine. At least I thought so.

After a week or two seeing Lovie in the neighbourhood I didn’t see her again then. She must have shifted her base, I thought, to a place where she was being fed better. Now that the weather was getting chillier, I even saw her wearing a coat and was happy that she was being specially taken care of. She had a new benefactor. Perhaps the same one who had got her neutered.

And then I got to know.

On a long journey last Saturday I asked my domestic help, who is also our driver, if he had seen Lovie.

He looked at me from the rear view mirror of the car with a face of disgust.

“I told you not to get her neutered,” he said.

“I didn’t and you know it too. Somebody else did,” I retorted. I continued, “why what happened to her?”

“She died,” he said in a staid tone.

“Died? How?”

“Infection,” he replied.

“So nobody helped her ?” I asked as I began to feel the shock.

“Nobody got to know. She looked fine. And one fine morning she was found dead . The security guards then took her body away,” he said.

I was speechless for a while and looked out of the window trying to grasp the entire conversation that had just taken place. I wished I had looked at Lovie one last time and spotted the signs of infection and taken some action. I wished she had climbed onto my legs one last time as I walked out of my house.

My dilemma?

Does our responsibility end after we have performed our duty/volunteering act? In this case, after the stray dog was neutered do we just shrug it off?  I must admit I would have sent her to the streets right after she would have been back after the surgery. My job was done and I had done a good deed.  Were 2 days of post-surgery care by the AWO enough? Or was I just passing the buck on to somebody else?

Or like my domestic help said, was Lovie better off having the litter of pups this time? Did we play with nature and tried to hamper its course? He proved his point whereas I couldn’t. Only if Lovie had lived longer I would have told him how important it is to change his traditional way of thinking. I lost. The village boy won.

Lovie’s blood is perhaps on our hands. Volunteers need to do beyond just this. What would I do if I was to come across a similar situation in the future? Will I be then bold enough to resist my parents, and some neighbours who disapprove of the acts of the stray dogs in our area and get the dog neutered? More than that, will I be able to give shelter to the just-operated dog for a few days?  Or will I just ignore like most of the people around me and carry on with my work and just give that one-off donation to an AWO? I don’t know.

RIP Lovie

(pic: my daughter and Lovie some months ago in our local park)

Friends and money

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Money is the root cause of all evil, the saying goes.  Evil being an abstract term attracts many things on its list depending on one’s perception of evil. Is it not the root cause of all luxury too and who doesn’t want a piece of luxury? This blog is not about luxury though but something that is more precious than it (and I know I am sounding a moralist)- friendship. Money and friendship do not go hand in hand. I have seen a beautiful group of friends break-up over money and never to be reunited again, despite my efforts. (Un)fortunately, I have retained most of my friends and money has never been the cause. Perhaps because I’ve never had enough to lend it to anyone and never had less to borrow from others. (I can still rely on my amazing set of parents and a ‘Good Samaritan’ who know that my freelancing is more of a  hobby than a regular source of income and they continue to support me.)

So yes, that means I have more to offer in kind than in cash.  Therefore, lending money becomes almost impossible for me. I am glad I was still able to extract a meager amount of money for my friend many years ago who must be then in a dire need to ask me despite knowing my situation. He even returned the money as soon as he was able to and best of all, we continue to remain good friends till date. But honestly, as far as I remember there was a slight sense of discomfort then. I wanted to help him and I was glad I was able to and somewhere at the back of my head was a thought lingering in my head as to should I ask him when he would be returning the money or would it sound rude.

A somewhat similar situation arose a few weeks ago, after all these years, with another very good friend of mine. Only this time there was a twist. The friend was smart enough to know that I really couldn’t loosen my purse strings there would be no point in asking me, however the friend wanted to check if my ‘Good Samaritan’ could help. This pushed me even in a graver dilemma. Here it was not me being asked from (where again saying No would not have been an easier task) but I had to do the asking for the friend from another friend. I was the chosen mediator. Could they both not do the talking on their own (since they also happen to know each other?) Would it be a source of embarrassment for both the parties and hence they included me? I never asked my friend.

But this was a sticky situation to be in. I was neither the borrower nor the lender and they both happened to be my good friends. How could I advocate on behalf of one and not the other? Yes, the borrower is always the vulnerable party but being a lender, even a friendly one, is not easy too.

I tried my ‘be cool’ policy, and casually talked of this ‘urgent’ business with my Good Samaritan- the lender friend. The lender-friend chose to be ‘quiet’ and that’s what I replied to my borrower-friend.

If only he had said a direct No,, I would have felt better, my friend said, rather than choosing to be quiet. Perhaps choosing to be quiet was the best option, implying a No anyway, for my lender-friend. I do not see them in the same old terms again despite my borrower-friend making it clear that a yes or a no would have no impact on their friendship. I see another friendship, not a great one though, being crossed out. No group Whatsapp forward messages being exchanged in future.

But then, I wonder if you are in dire need of just anything, including money, wouldn’t you anyway seek help from your friends (after having asked family members or perhaps even before them)? My friend did end up taking help from a bank but then banks are never your first options with a huge interest rate, are they?

Dilemma, eh?

 

 

 

 

Being a non-native in your native land

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As a freelance voice-over artist with a distinct Indian-English accent I only look (but obviously!) for clients that are also specifically looking for an Indian/foreign accent and the demand is pretty disappointing when compared to the UK, the US and Australian accents. Freelance voice-over is still a niche market here. It doesn’t upset me that much to see online job pages full of voice-over work for other accents than to see an Indian client for the Indian market seeking a western voice!  Our fixation with west can get frustrating.

I have lived in the West and have never seen or heard a foreign (non-native) English voice for their local TV and radio programs unless it is a foreigner who is doing the talking!  It is understandable in countries like the UAE where the country has to cater to thousands of English-speaking expats who live there.

What’s wrong with our accent anyway that some of our very own prospective clients don’t want to give us work? Ok, we don’t sound ‘posh’ like the Brits and have many Westerners poking fun of our accent but that’s how we will be speaking all our lives.  Variety makes us distinct. Imagine all of us speaking alike, what good that will be? Imagine all birds tweeting alike! I live in an area where I am blessed to hear sounds made by different birds and I enjoy guessing the species of the bird by the sound it makes – sometimes it is a koel,  sometimes a parrot and sometimes even a peacock with that voice that deceives its graceful appearance and sometimes all these sounds just overlap! Now, imagine all of us speaking the same accent and having a similar intonation! The world will be a boring place.

And why just voice-overs, we are so fixated with everything West. Why do you want your ramp model wearing a heavy Indian costume for fashion shows that are showcased in India and are exclusively for Indian customers? How many times do you get to see a foreigner wearing a sari other than it is a celebrity attending an Indian function!

We are not a cosmopolitan country like the UK where you see people of many diversities living together – natives, hispanics, Asians, middle-eastern. It certainly makes sense to showcase global models for the fashion shows there.

Ours is an outright Indian market. And if we are so obsessed with the West let’s also pick up good things from them. Like the other day my beautician was telling me that instead of copying all the ‘special days’ like kiss day, flower day and even a slap day (I didn’t know there was a slap day!),lets pick up some civic sense too from them! Instead of just taking our streets and roads for granted and throwing about garbage just about anywhere lets also make an effort to throw it in the right place!

As much as I hate to write this, it does please me then when I see an out-of-the-blue Indian model on the cover of Gap. It is a rarity. And that unfortunately got popular for all the wrong reasons!  Maybe Gap had a reason to make a Sikh guy its model and it must have been indeed a big deal. They chose a very unconventional model belonging to a minority even in its own country of origin. You don’t have many turbaned-sikh models and actors in India too!

gap-sikh-hed-2013(image courtesy: http://www.adweek.com)

Well, the only way I see the demand for Indian voice-overs and everything else that should be Indian atleast in India going up is when a foreign client pushes the demand for it. Why would they do that, you ask? I have no clue! But then we, well many of us and there is no denying that, ape them and it will certainly work!