Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Funny part of Getting Old

If you continue to live and not kick the bucket in a hurry, one day you will become old. Old age is inevitable. There are a number of things associated with old age - failing health, falling teeth, loss of hearing, balding, decreased physical fitness, forgetfulness, boredom and so on. These are well known and documented exhaustively. What I find funny are some hidden aspects of old age which no one wants to talk about.

As we grow old, we slowly develop unusual ways to communicate with our friends. This new development afflicts one and all in some fashion or the other.

We tend to become repetitive in our social interactions and sometimes narrate the same incident or anecdote over and over again. There is a friend of mine ‘Repeat Raja ‘who joins me occasionally on my walk. I have heard his narrative on how he repaired a boat engine some thirty years back, at least a dozen times. I know all the details of the repair, the leaky ‘Gearbox Lube Oil’, why Vertex Ratchet is better than ‘Montstar 17 mm Two Way Wheel Spanner” etc. If I should even dare to try and change the subject, he brazenly tells me not to distract him till he completes his narration and the story continues. His repertoire includes many exciting and captivating stories such as – “How he transferred 243 tons of Furnace Fuel Oil in 6 hours flat (1974)”, “Exchanging used oil for prawns in the Indian Ocean (1977)”, “Boiler cleaning and black soot” (1980) and so on.

Recently, my friend and I drove long distance by car to attend our common friend’s 70th birthday party. This one loves to hold forth on some obscure topic and talk endlessly in a monotonous tone. There is no escape from this onslaught. Unlike the repetitive kind, ‘Boring Babu’ embarks on a fresh topic each time he pontificates. This time, I had to endure him for more than an hour, while he educated me on ‘Sewage Treatment Plants’ and ‘Composting’. Fortunately for me, the host served lots of chilled Tuborg beer and loads of meat for lunch. The return journey was extremely calm and peaceful as we snored our way home.

Another kind is the one who offers unsolicited advice on almost every subject. Some of us sit in the garden in our colony after the end of our evening sabbatical and exchange pleasantries and indulge in some harmless banter. I happened to mention that I was to attend a function the next day in a nearby locality and was travelling by ‘Uber’. This was sufficient to trigger an unsolicited response from my friend ‘Helpful Hari’. He then went on to dole out advice (unsolicited, of course) on why I should not use ‘Uber’ and instead take my own car. Unfortunately the conversation did not end there. He went on to explain the entire 12Km route in great detail, with all the turns, road names, land marks, one way streets etc.

The next morning I went by ‘Uber’.

Then there is the harmless variety.  This one gets easily distracted and mid way through the narration he forgets what he was saying and slips into silence. I am still in a state of suspense regarding the final outcome of his dog biting his mother in law. He is yet to narrate the ending of the fateful night when he returned home past midnight full of spirit from the local club.  ‘Forgetful Frankie’ is yet to complete any narration in a single attempt.

The next is the ‘Hop Skip and Jump’ variety. He will start in right earnest, “Pubs you must hear this funny incident, I was returning from the airport and … talking about airport taxis, we took a Toyota Etios…  Roads are in such pathetic state …GPS is not for India…I must say this new phone 1 Plus 3 is damn good… see the hospital on the right, this is where my grandson was born … and he continues to HSJ through the entire conversation.

The worst one is ‘Hypochondriac Haridevan’. He starts “Hey, not met you for a long time, how are you?” Then you make a tame but conventional comeback, “I am fine, what about you?”This one statement is sufficient to trigger a massive response. “I am not well, in fact the doctors have told me to stay indoors as I am just recovering from ‘allergic bronchitis’, added to this I have ‘Gout’ and not forgetting sleep ‘apnea’ at night. Just about the time you have recovered from this medical impact, he starts again,” be careful of this strange skin rash my neighbor has got – OMG, it’s all over him, to top it all it’s contagious, I too may have contacted this”. That when I do an Usain Bolt on him.  

I do not know what diet they eat at home but it makes them go daggers at all things they see and hear. ‘Angry Arun’ is let out of the cage every day from 5PM to 8PM.  He occupies a vantage point in the park and methodically stalks his prey. Once in his deadly grasp there is no escape, you have to hear all his cribs and complaints till some other unsuspecting prey happens to fall into the trap. Hopcoms vegetables are rubbish, Nandini milk is adulterated, security staff is useless, dhobi requires a kick, my neighbor stinks and so on ad nauseam.

And finally it’s ‘Silent Satya’ who takes the pride of place. He joins us regularly on the bench in the park and does not utter a single word. He has no news to relate, gossip to narrate or information to share with others. His stony silence is extremely exasperating to say the least. Yet he sits through the entire evening – physically at least.

 I am very sure I belong to some group or the other for believe me, there is no escape from this syndrome unless we try really hard. Even then, we may just come up with a new category at best…which someone else will probably write about.

It’s up to you to see where you belong.

Till then, cheers and happy reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Musings – A ride with Raju the Driver Philosopher. His take on Marriages, Worship and God

Last Thursday we were invited to a wedding reception by friends of ours, whom we had not met for thirty long years. Their daughter was getting married. Thursday also happened to be the last day of ‘St. Mary's Feast’. Our Vahan Chalak, Suresh had taken a day off to attend the feast. During my morning walk I was contemplating on how to reach the marriage hall in the evening. I was considering Ubering, self drive or hiring a driver for the evening. 

Just then I heard a voice wishing me ‘Good Morning Sir, how are you?’ – It was Raju.

I first met Raju when he was fifteen and working in Jalavayu Vihar as an errand boy. He was extremely hardworking with a very pleasant disposition. I used to call him home to undertake vacuuming, taking out items from the attic, polishing brass items and so on. I always sensed a bit of harmless restlessness in him and he exhibited a strong desire to improve his position in society. One might say ‘climb up the ladder’.  One day he told my wife he wanted to learn English. He probably felt that learning English was very essential in climbing the ladder. We gave him some books to help him pursue his ambition. Then on he would always insist on speaking to us in English. Regardless of his limited vocabulary and lack of grammar he used to communicate with us only in English. Sometimes it was all gibberish and unintelligible, but he bashed on regardless. Overtime he improved his spoken English.

On the work front, he graduated from an errand boy to a gardener and in no time at all, had become a car cleaner. He started cleaning my Maruti Omni in right earnest. During this tenure he also learnt how to start a car, take it forward, reverse and probably go around the colony. We encouraged him to appear for a driving test, which he promptly did and got a valid driving license. In quick time he became a qualified driver and got himself a good job. He continued to work hard and in tandem continued to improve his English. Today he speaks simple but grammatically correct English. He started sending SMSs to wish us on festivals and important occasions. One day I received a friends request on FB which I promptly accepted. Thereafter, I keep getting some messages and forwards from him. He is now on ‘What’s App’.He even has a 'Twitter' account.I am yet to graduate to Twitter.

Along the way he financed his sister’s education and encouraged her to complete her B.Ed. and also got her married. Two years ago he got married and now is a proud father of a lovely eight month old girl. 

After exchanging pleasantries I enquired whether he would be free to drive us to the wedding reception and back. He came home at 1900 h and willingly drove us to the wedding hall some 14 KMs away. On the way back, I noticed he was visibly upset. He expressed his disapproval at the way people splurge money on marriages. He said “Sir, each wedding must be costing 1cr rupees, what a waste, instead these people should put their money to educate poor people from the villages. Nobody will remember the wedding after a month but if one educates a person, he will remember the gesture throughout his life”. I totally agreed with him.

His observations of life did not end there. He said, “Only two things which matter in life are ‘good health’ and ‘peace of mind’, rest all are less important.” On the way we saw a large herd of goats being sold for Bakrid. I said ‘It’s odd that we have three major festivals to celebrate within a span of 7 days – Ganapati followed by St Mary’s Feast and Bakrid. Our driver philosopher said, “There is only one God, because we do not understand this phenomenon fully, we debate endlessly, propagate our own perspective and confuse the public”.

He then fired his final and deadly philosophical assertion, “God is there and shows himself to everyone on two occasions only, one at the time of birth and other at the time of death”. Moments after the birth, he appears and welcomes the child to be a part of his creation. The child is engulfed in this ultimate experience for a moment and totally forgets the episode thereafter. A moment short of death God appears again, creating an envelope of divine happiness thereby making the ultimate passage one of bliss and not pain. Dead man cannot speak. The mystery that surrounds God continues.

I do not know if this profound philosophical claim exists in some religious text or it’s a ‘Raju original’. 

Either way, it’s very interesting and thought provoking.