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! 🙂

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)