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!

 

where are the new ideas?

writers_block                                  (Image courtesy: www.jenniferheath.com)

Although I have never submitted my work to online magazines (barring some for a few story competitions where the entry is free) I do make it a point to visit many such websites. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the thought that I might submit my work to them in the near future. I even bookmark them and then rarely visit that site.

However, one site caught my attention recently and more for personal than literary reasons. Ironically, the homepage instead of having your usual articles or even a welcome page had a ‘au revoir’ message. The website was shutting down – technically, going from premium (paid) to free! Not that websites don’t shut down regularly (one of my favourite website has in the recent past and I do miss it) but the website owner of this site had given a low-down on why he (it could be a ‘she’ but I just imagined a man’s voice) was shutting it down. I expected him to talk about the usual financial reasons but no, it went beyond that. It had 3 main reasons and eerily, two of the three are the same reasons that dissuade me from writing or starting anything new online as much as I would like to. I could empathize with the author. We would have given each other a good company and discussed it over a nice bottle of wine. It somehow didn’t discourage me as much as it meant to but on the contrary stimulated me. It was as if I had seen a Tsunami closely and was happy to be alive and wanted to now make the most of my ephemeral life.  I don’t intend to shut down my website (metaphorically mentioning that is, not that I have a website but I believe that website was his dream to which he/she let it go) but would instead work harder.

One of the three reasons was the fact that how dangerous it had become these days to express your views on the Internet. I fear the same. I do remember how couple of years ago a girl who had merely pressed the ‘like’ button to a strong status message of a friend for being forthright on the Facebook about a local policy had her house broken in and was dragged to the police station along with that friend who wrote the status! She was not living in the middle east or any other conservative country but very much here  the largest democratic nation of the world! I do have few fearless people on my Facebook too who are so close to being termed as ‘communal’ but I fear liking or even commenting on any of their views would drag the police from somewhere to my house and that will be a traumatic experience. The very freedom of speech and expression that we should be enjoying in our democratic set up has been lost. Our celebrities have been retracting their views on Twitter for the fear of backlash by the trolls and by self-appointed moral police of the country. Imagine the plight of commoners then. Or maybe the commoners are better off as lesser number of people are reading their thoughts!

The final reason and the reason I could relate but not express well before was all summed up in this one..the author’s ‘esoteric reason’. He writes that he has been struggling with his writing and has nothing new to write. He asks, “is there something that can be written, which nobody knows already? ” I feel the same. And not just in the world of writing. Everywhere. You google just about anything and lo! it is there. You wonder if there is a YouTube channel that nobody else has thought of, and there it is.

But then why write something new then? We have seen and read them all yet we don’t mind the latest work. We don’t stop reading the latest books or watching latest movies. We enjoy them or even hate them yet we look forward to more. I met a friend recently and on this very topic he gave me a wonderful example. Both of us share a liking for health-related subject. He explained me by giving the example of  asanas (poses) of Yoga: they have remained the same through the centuries but you will find them in all kinds of packaging – some done by the babas, some by Hollywood and Bollywood actors and now even we have a soft-porn version by a wannabe Bollywood actress! It is the new packaging that piques your interest. You don’t stop making videos on yoga or stop writing about it just because it is not new. Rather, this is an ancient subject which is still churning new books and videos daily with some twist or the other. A head-stand will remain a head-stand but it could be the yoga teacher doing it by the beach or on the peak of a hill in Africa or it could be a little boy of seven doing it marvelously! Or may be the boy doing it with his pet animal (now that would create sensation on the Internet!)

Yes, so till you don’t have a ‘new’ idea germinating in your head which you are sure has not been done by anybody else on this planet (just don’t Google it!), why give up on something you like to do. Do it the way you want to do it and then move on to the next. Giving up is easy. Don’t.

 

 

 

the bees, the snake and a dog

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It is quite close to being called a bucolic setup where I live in an otherwise busy city which is home to many call-centres and multinational companies. I am barely five minutes away (car drive) from a popular road which is chock-full of malls on both its sides. Yet, as soon as I am back to my enclave, I am surrounded by trees and greeted by variegated tweets of the birds – some shrill, some soothing, some musical and some of them sound so impatient! Oh yes, then the peacocks and the peahens. They have a baritone! You can hear the human and motor sounds too but they are subdued by the sounds of these birds.

Living in harmony with them (the birds, the bees and the other animals) often clashes with living in harmony with my neighbours (some of them). And then the dilemma arises. Who do you side?

As much as I like to feed stray dogs I cannot let them in in my three-floor apartment as the neighbours on the other floors get peeved. The dogs have been very understanding in the past except for one who with one foot in her grave already chose to sit on the marble floor of our stairs or on the porch to escape the scorching summers. I chose to ignore her as this allowed her to sit there for more time until I could hear my neighbour screaming and shouting and even kicking her out of the gate. I didn’t put up a fight. Teaching compassion to a full-grown adult, who also came across as a nuisance otherwise, was like hitting your head against a brick wall. I also overheard him saying once that if I was so fond of the dog I should either live in an independent bungalow or adopt the dog and allow it inside my house. Maybe he had a point. Unfortunately I couldn’t do either of them. I chose to remain passive. The dog died one day and the saga got over. In fact the nuisance neighbour also shifted from there . And then history repeated. Recently, a new stray dog decided to come right up to our door (see picture; first image from top) and sit there. Only this time, I did not ignore its presence. I drove it away – nice and loud. I drove it away the next day too. I perhaps did it because I wanted the neighbours not to react like their predecessor. I didn’t want to get into an unnecessary argument. I had perhaps matured with time and experience, or had I become more timid and even hypocritical?

And then came in the bees – a swarm of them who decided to make not one but two beehives right outside our floor on the roof. The beehives were becoming bigger every day and so was the cause of worry for everyone around. I remember being stung by a bee two years ago. I was asked to get rid of them which I delegated to my house-helper. He came in one fine evening when it was dark and with a big stick demolished both the hives. I could see the bees feeling lost the next morning. They were clinging on to the fallen hives on the floor (see picture; 2nd image from top). My guilt only went a notch up when I happened to read a few days later that the beehives don’t do any harm and should be allowed to thrive. Should I have ignored them in the first place?

I believe there are many passive people like me who choose the easier path perhaps to live in peace. Passive pacifists?  It takes a lot to be an activist (for animals or any cause)- both mentally and physically since it can drain you completely. However I am happy that the activists do exist and unknowingly they fulfill another role – to put people like me to shame who wish to take a stand but choose not to. And one such activist happens to live across the road.  Two Sundays ago, a snake, cobra to be precise, paid a visit to our lane (see picture; last in the collage). It was an unusual sighting though there had been instances of snake-spotting long time ago. This cobra had got stuck in a drain pipe. Presumably due to overeating. (You can see its bulged tummy in the picture…mouse dish?) This led to a brouhaha in the lane.  Everyone started gathering near the drain pipe. Nobody dared to go any closer lest the cobra got out of the pipe and stung its venom out on someone. At that point nobody knew it was stuck there. You could just see its tail. Had it not been for my animal-activist neighbour, the cobra would have been, after sometime, beaten to death by the onlookers with sticks and stones. She called up the wildlife helpline and a snake-catcher reached in no time. He managed to rescue the snake and take it back with him where he said the snake would be checked by a doctor and then released in the wild.

My neighbour, my hero, I wonder if she has any dilemmas in life at all?

Bad blood, is it?

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So all this one year I’ve been preparing myself, not that hard though, as to how and when to break into a discussion on menarche/menstruation with my pre-teen daughter. I was never told by my mother. In fact, unlike many friends and relatives who happen to remember vividly when they got their first period and how they were told about it, I have a blurred memory of mine. All I know is, it happened and there wasn’t any drama involved. Possibly because I was then in an all-girls residential school where there were classmates and seniors borrowing sanitary pads from one another and declaring it openly every month when ‘they got down’ besides the one-off visual glimpse of  stained pads in the toilet bins which at times were not wrapped properly.

Just when I had forgotten about it earlier this month, my daughter came up to me after school one day and looked upset. All the girls of her class were called separately (it is a co-ed school) and were given a primer on menstruation. (I must confess that I was relieved that I no longer had to introduce the topic to her!) She was then apparently harassed by the girls in her class for sharing it with a boy who had asked her what the gathering was all about. I can imagine the look on their faces and the tone when they all said to her ‘why did you tell him?’ which culminated to ‘what did you tell him?’ before she broke down. She had no idea what the fuss was all about.

To be honest, I was a bit shocked too when she said that she had told a boy in her class about it but I just stopped short of being like one of her female classmates. I was brought up in the ‘ancient’ times and I belong to the Old School but with all the current global propaganda on talking openly about menstruation I was surprised that it was still the same as it was in my time. Maybe it will take some time to catch up but by then it would have been embedded in my daughter’s mind (which I am sure somewhere already it has) that it is not something she is supposed to talk or tell the opposite gender about. She still can’t figure out why. What is there to hide if my teacher tells me it is healthy to menstruate and all girls do that, she asks.

I was more amazed as how other girls of her age had reacted. Certainly they were told or made to believe that it is a hush-hush topic not to be shared with the opposite gender. What explanation were they given, as I am sure at that age with their curious minds just like my daughter, when they had asked for a reason?

I told my daughter that what she did was not incorrect. There was nothing wrong in telling the boy who had asked her. I can imagine his and the other boys’ curiosity being piqued when only girls were called separately. Perhaps, they should have been called too and made to understand puberty. This could have led to an onset of a healthy and respectful relationship for both the genders. They are the new generation. The future. I am happy I did my bit. I can’t pollute an innocent mind with all the unnecessary taboos.