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.
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?
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.
A cheap to expensive product costing one rupee less is a tried and tested marketing strategy which has gone down extremely well with both consumers and sellers globally. Consumers of course, like always, are the gullible lot.So the consumer believes that he/she is paying nearly hundred rupees less where as it is just the other way around.
That one rupee-less marketing strategy is not my woe. It is the one rupee that we do not usually get back from the shopkeeper is! Of course, if you are paying by card then the exact amount is debited but if you pay by cash, it is very likely that you are expected to forget about that one rupee. I usually sense embarrassment in asking for that one rupee back and I am sure many others can relate with me. Imagine the scene with other customers around you and you asking for your very own one rupee! After all, what can one rupee buy these days? And why should that one rupee matter to you after purchasing, lets say as in the picture above, a book for Rs. 299? What is one rupee, after all?
A couple of months ago, I remember the embarrassment I felt when my mother asked for that one rupee back from a reputed shoe shop in a plush mall. I behaved as if I was just not there. And I was even cheeky enough to nonchalantly walk out of the shop as my mum gave the shopkeeper a well-deserved piece of her mind.
However, when I went to a book store in my local market a few days ago I felt awkward not getting my one rupee back. Would they have sold the book to me if I had one rupee less? No. Where does that one rupee go? I doubt if it goes to a good cause else the shop would have flashed it in their shop or even kept a charity box. And like my mother says, you rather give it to a handicapped beggar sitting outside the same shops than to shops who have found another way to make profits illegally.
Well, I didn’t ask for that one rupee back.
Time to finally not look down upon one of those shrilled-voice women who wear garish makeup, carry a Gucci bag and Prada shoes (no, not describing my mother but how she would love to have these high-end products one day!) but when it comes to their one rupee, embarrassment is not in their dictionary!
A few recent events has made me conscious of the dilemmas or dilemmatas (how I love irregular plurals!) that surround me everyday. How grave or trivial these dilemmas are is highly relative. A trivial issue for someone can be grave for the other depending mostly on the environment of the reader/spectator/actor in which he or she has been brought up and/or is living in.
Coming back to me, this blog captures my everyday’s dilemmas. Is it because I have started reading more on social issues, moral issues (besides devouring on hard-core fiction books) or have these been thrust upon us owing to the increasing presence of social media and the 24 by 7 news channels? Or is it because I have possibly and finally come of age? I cannot tell.