Friday, March 25, 2016

Tea and Society

This is an ad for Lipton Red label Tea , sourced from Youtube.  It is shown often on regional TV and I have watched it in Marathi.

I often wonder how , when and why things change in our society. If at all they do .  The casting of folks in this ad is so perfect. I have met people like this. Whoever scripted this,  appears to be a great observer of human behaviour and double standards in society. . 

I grew up at a time when there was no TV. Only radio. No ads. Societies then had different standards, that basically trickled down from older days, and "inconvenient"  thinking was blithely pushed away , in favor of good old hand-me-down standards .

   And it intrigues me to think about what kind of reactions this ad might have evoked then , vis a vis , now.

Circa 1950's , the fellow's role would have elicited  nods of approval. "Sensible" conservative thinking,  "prudent" unsmiling  behaviour;  "I-told-you-so" reactions to the wife not able to find the key she is sure she put in her purse; "Pat-on-the-back, that's-my-son"  reactions to the guy coming up with concerns of his wife's knees paining. With a knowing disregard for the timing of that statement.  The woman (wife), with excellent acting skills, highlighting the "Now, wouldn't you know..."  twist the story takes, when they decide to go in for the offered cup of tea.   And so on . 

More than half a century later, circa 2016 ,with millions of channels and TV ads ,   such guys still exist.  The lost key and the need to wait for whoever to land up, is implied as the lady's fault.  Unsmiling reactions to the hospitable neighbor lady.  Then the guy gets distracted by the fragrance of the tea, as it wafts out of the main door of the neighbors. Still maintaining his  unsmiling countenance, he hears his wife say how inviting the smells of tea are, emanating from the neighbor's open front door.   

He could have taken a deep breath, smiled, and said ,"Yes,  so true, why don't we take her up on her offer and share a cup while we wait ? " .  

But no.  The so called image of a benevolent man of the house, must be maintained.  His wife's knees are suddenly in the picture. Her knee pain tugs at his heart springs , or should I say taste buds.  He zeros in on them as an excuse . And very clearly impresses no one when he says "Your knees must be bothering you; lets go into their house and wait. ".  What follows is a hearty tea session with the fellow shamelessly asking for seconds.

 I don't know who he thinks he is fooling.

It tells you nothing has changed in sections of society which attributes  a plethora of qualities to someone the minute he belongs to a certain sex. These sections of society , still applaud the fellow's generosity in showing concern for his wife's knees. And the sudden catapulting and going in for tea ?  Aiiyo, why mention the knees ?  One needs to be thrilled at the feet crossing the threshold to have tea !

I don't think the maker of this ad set out to show a universal truth regarding human evolution in patriarchal societies.

 But every time this ad appears, I get the same reaction.  I just wonder how everyone else reacts and whether anyone is bothered by the fellows opportunistic fake behaviour.

Or am  I, not much of a tea drinker ,  making an unusually big strong brew from a handful bunch of tea leaves ?  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Minds and Superminds...

Geriatrics was not even a word , in my childhood.

People seamlessly glided from middle age into a senior stage , and thence into a super senior stage .  As the younger folks too simultaneously slid into various roles over the years.  There were elders to turn to for advice, family doctors who knew your three generations who patiently explained things, and it did make accepting the inevitable a bit easier.

I have seen my grandmother in her last days. She was in pain, but coherent in mind, and communicative. Perhaps having a lot of people around keeps you from noticing little things.

My father lived well into his late eighties, and survived my mother by six years. Hers was a completely unexpected instant passing away, and we took a long time coming to terms with it.

As an extremely fit person, who confounded his doctors by his recovery from a very bad herniated disc solely by exercise, as a lifelong practitioner of yoga, meditation, naturopathy and ayurveda,  and a published  writer in Marathi , on subjects like popular science, the US, and health issues, it was perhaps traumatic and confusing for him to realize that age was catching up, that too at 87. 

First it was a fall, then a aortic aneurysm diagnosis , and BP medication. He more or less rubbished all of it, continued his physical activities. His doctor alerted us to the aneurysm size, and the need for someone to be with him at all times.  I was his only child resident in the country, his sole caretaker, and  since he refused , in fine stubborn parental tradition, to come stay with me in Mumbai, I did the frequent commuting from Mumbai  , trying to juggle a job, children's board exams, and all kinds of stuff.

For someone who was always learning and writing , almost on a daily basis , I was surprised to see him one day, surrounded by his books, papers and references, and staring at the opposite walls, not writing anything.  When I asked him,  he kind of waved me away saying nothing, but this was a beginning of something.

He never wrote after that.  He would forget many things. He would get angry with himself and shout at whoever was around. In a house where there were more cupboards with books and papers than anything else,  he started to sift through things, shredding  things he thought shouldn't be there.  For many months after that, while his writing completely stopped, he would sit with a pair of large scissors, cutting up what he thought was junk ; this often included, old articles, letters, photographs,  newspaper cuttings , bills, sometimes entire magazines , and old notes belonging to the rest of the family.

Sometime that year, my son who was leaving to go abroad for his doctorate went to visit his grandfather and spend some time with him. My father was very pleased, there was a slight lull in the cutting, and when my son left , my father gave him a file meant for me. He said it was my childhood stuff, poems and stuff i published as a child, all carefully preserved by my parents. 

The file remained in my cupboards as I rushed back to be with my father , who shortly after that, became bedridden .  His mind further upset and traumatized by that, he became delusional and would say he had just returned from a 5 mile walk, he would forget he had had lunch, and fire me for not getting his lunch; he kind of slipped in and out of real time, and slowly stopped recognizing anyone, except me and the house faithful who had always been with us.

It was interesting to see that while his mind was in a tumult  most of the time, sometimes with uncontrolled unconnected talk, there was a small part of his mind, or , supermind, as I used to call it, that was aware of what was happening to him.  There were some people he couldn't recognize; there were other family members he did not recognize, but his supermind made him aware of that, and he would smile and fake a generic welcome to them , making them thing he recognized them.  The same supermind , must have alerted him to the existence of my file in the midst of all that cutting up of paper.

The slow descent into blankness and energy deficit continued, and a few months later , on a rainy November night , shortly after his daughter  had fed him some  light soup, he kind of lay back, rested , and quietly , passed away , with only his daughter sitting by his side.  But not before , he struggled to emerge out of the mental chaos , to hold his hand out to her, and touch her face and head in a final blessing.  Somewhere , the supermind , showed up when he needed it.

10 years later, this January, we shifted residence after 43 years.  While packing a massive amount of books ,  suddenly this file shows up.  I think I know what is inside.  I untie the string outside and  check.

And out falls a manuscript, in Marathi, written in blue ink,  in my fathers handwriting;  slightly shaky , reflecting the onslaught of age. 

Turns out that this is a Marathi translation of a book called "Know Thyself" by  Swami Shivay Subramaniaswaami  , published in 2000 by the Himalayan Academy Press , associated with the Kauai Hindu Monastery in Hawaii.   I was aware that my parents had visited this place with my brother in the late 90's on a US visit.  I vaguely remember seeing the original book around the house.  

Somehow, in all the excitement of cutting up paper , (which it turns out is sometimes a typical onset symptom of dementia )  his supermind, as I call it, realized the value of this work, and included this manuscript of around 50 pages along with my childhood publications.

What made him take these decisions ?  How did he decide to preserve my papers and his , and send them away with my son, to me ? Was his supermind aware of these in the midst of  a normal mind trying its best not to slide into dementia ?  They say it is all about disturbed and insufficient blood supply to the brain , in old age.  So how come the supermind, as I call it was always safe ?  What is the supermind ? And does it exist ?

In another 10-15 years i will find out for myself.  I am not sure i will even reach the age that he did .  I have facilities like the Net, electronic storage, Drive and so on.  A shaking hand doesn't shake the keyboard, and the screen is always nice and unaffected.

In the meanwhile, I started transcribing onto Google Drive in Marathi,  the entire manuscript that I have received .  I just finished it a few days ago, and am doing a final edit .

I do not know if a Marathi translation exists. The original book(let)  was published in 33 countries, and so far queries  on email have had null response from Hawaii . It describes lessons you can follow on a daily basis over 14 days, and is in the form of a conversation between  a devotee and a Guruji .   It would be nice if one could have a Marathi version. 

So far , no response from anywhere .  I've just found out a US Mainland office address  of the publishers,  and got some friends there, involved in contacting them to find out the information I need. 

It doesn't matter. 

I think it is something that my father would have wanted me to do . 

And I think he maybe simply vastly amused  wherever he is , to see that his daughter , who is not very ritualistically religious , or heavily spiritual,  just enjoyed doing this transcription work , and actually enjoyed reading  the stuff along the way. 

His supermind still at work ?