Friday, May 20, 2016

Minding other people's business.....

We are all so excellent at NOT minding our own business.

It is one thing to be interested in someone/something and keep those opinions to yourself, regardless of how thrilling/good/bad/complimentary/abusive the opinions might be.

 It is quite another thing to compulsorily listen to someone you don't know, or simply know by sight, passing an opinion on you, unasked.

As a child , one learned to ignore and keep one's own counsel, and clarify things with parents, and this translated into an adult, who could deal with  any nonsense comment and opinion, , by simply pushing it aside and devaluing it out of the mind, and classifying the commenter as, hitherto,  persona non grata .

And so in high school, (I still remember the bullying senior girls, who passed disparaging comments on me (for no reason at all , since i hardly knew them)  , and ensured they reached me via a classmate of mine ).  It troubled me then , but I overcame it.

And I still remember admiring the grand but completely inappropriate ,  outfit worn by a newly acquired relative-by-marriage, just for walking down a prominent downtown Mumbai street with her husband, and then hearing a comment from her, (complete with a sideways meaningful glance)  about how she  doesn't like shabby dressers . :-)

And much later, another similar female personality, who greeted me at a family event  where I went rushing from work, juggling a kid and Mumbai windblown /sweaty traffic etc, to be asked , "Why do you look so haggard ?"  and I resisted an impulse to say I was practicing being a witch.

A lifetime of dealing with  completely unacceptable questions and unasked-for advice about choices, complexions, kids, purchases etc, convinced me that level of education had nothing to do with the ability to poke your nose into some one's business, and give unasked for advice, which was outrageous and sometimes , even wrong.  In fact I was convinced that the higher the level of education, the more stupid the suggestions. (I still stand by that ).  I also noticed that it wasn't just women, but men also who  thought they were doing a favour by giving opinions.

A few decades down the line,  folks have given up interfering , or so I thought.

What has stood me in good stead, is the ability  to not take any offence  at  what anyone says (regardless of how personal it is) ,  brush away these folks from my mind, and ignore them,  while quickly checking out their suggestions (for random useful points) , before forwarding them to Recycle Bin .

But destiny has now thrown up a completely different set of folks who are desperate to advise me. 

I think twice before visiting the much prevalent Handloom and Handicraft exhibitions , which in addition to the normal things,  always have a few stalls with acupuncture footwear, massage rollers, oils and stuff, as well as stalls with all kinds to chatpata amla, ginger, and other spicy  stuff which is salted, candied, and sold in packets.

The reason has been my lumbar belt, which I have acquired in the interests of saving what remains of my bedraggled lumbar vertebra, thanks to a lifetime of a habit of lugging inordinate loads myself, be they luggage, shopping or anything else, combined with the vagaries of "old age". 

You turn the corner between the Haryana Handlooms bedsheets and Kolhapur Silver jewellery, and there is a guy sitting behind the jeera and tamarind golis, suddenly  asking me about the belt, and then advising me on weight, what I should eat, not eat, hot water, cold water,  food timings, special herbs to be eaten just so.

Another time, I was admiring some crochet work and heard someone words from below a counter just behind me . I  was thunderstruck to hear a guy mention the thyroid.  Just like that. The guy was having his lunch below the counter, and noticed me standing.  He must have noticed my swollen ankles.   He said I had a thyroid problem (I do) , then weight, and started  giving advice of many things including footwear.

But the most prize winning performance has been a couple of days ago . 

We often prefer to take a ricksha to near by places because it solves the problem of parking your vehicle, having it towed by authorities, and then one spending hours getting it back from some place else.

The minute we got into the ricksha, something clicked "ON" in the driver's head.  He started analyzing my back problem, identified the actual dorsal vertebra, explained the causes of low back pain. Then he went on to explained the concepts of the vertebral column abnormally straightening instead of keeping its S shape. Vitmain D made its entry in the lecture, with him ruing the fact that no one got up early these days to take benefit of the early morning Sun which was full of Vit D . He mentioned ancient early morning, post bath  worship of the Sun. He then came to the sitting postures, and described what we did wrong.  In between sudden braking, swerving to various sides to avoid , say,  other nonscientific ricksha wallas, he explained rules of diet, when we should eat, what we should eat, and how drinking warm/hot water works wonders.

At a traffic light, I asked him if he came from a family of "vaidyas", which might explain his interest. He answered in the negative. He started college, but had to leave  after a few years due to financial compulsions, and started driving a ricksha. But he had great interest in the human body and health, and so had continued to read up things in biology, and human anatomy , simply as a useful hobby.

Maybe I am getting affected by this business of poking one's nose into someone else's business.

 I dearly wanted to interview the fellow, and do an article on him, where he grew up, his family background, his education, and what brought him to Mumbai.  How he developed this huge store of knowledge that he brought up good naturedly, each time he found a likely target, like me.

I wonder about all these folks who spend their entire lives doing something totally unconnected like selling bedsheets, or chatpata stuff and pickles in exhibitions, while actually pursuing some kind of native interest in anatomy and health.

I wonder what would have been the case if they had good schools and colleges where they hailed from, where merit was rewarded , and schools and colleges  allowed to benefit from funds allocated to them, instead of finding their way into pockets of unscrupulous politicians.

But what brings a smile to the mind, ( in the face of my experience of a fancy orthopedic person, in a fancier orthopedic place,  unwilling to check the swollen ankle to classify what kind the swelling was),  is the guy having  a dabba meal behind the exhibition counter, amidst sarees and dupattas, noticing my ankles from below the counter , and  giving his diagnosis.

Great minding of other people's business , hmm ?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ball games...

"Life is a ball !"  


And this was not said with stars in her eyes, and visions of stepping around in a gossamer skirt with a diameter equal to her  height.  

It was said with a wisdom and experience , collated over the years, in the face of the complicated society we have become. 

She lay, with sparse hair, bones protruding, with a lot of fire in her eyes. The big C at a young age, her singular chemo  fight , and now the conclusion.  A gifted, intelligent , hard working young girl, now twentyfive years down the line,  ruing it all , having lost her faith in the male of the species.  Thanks to her experience.  Bitter about her treatment, having to encounter the public face and the private face of the man who she lived with.  A slow rubbishing over the years,  initially ignored by her , and now extrapolated into a future which did not include her.  The last few years she was being encouraged to leave and go.   Where ?  Away .  Anywhere. She was not needed.

She looks up. 
"Yes. Life is a ball.

Mostly football.  Its about being kicked around, chased around, and applauded by shameless guys in the stands. When someone is kicking you , there are others trying to take over, participating in the kick festival.   You are flung across metres, and you hope to have a safety net at the end of it all, but they even have someone there , to get you back into the kicking mela again.

In some places, they even run away with you, chased by other folks, and then everyone falls over each other with scant regard for the ball. Some guy pretending the salvage the situation comes with a whistle,  but it is more about  calming down the violent ones, than concern about the ball.

Then there is  the hockey types.  They think they can just play with your emotions.  twiddling you around a stick with a turn at one end, running all over the place, with simply no  way to know whats happening; others with sticks trying to interfere and take off with the ball, and then all of a sudden , there is a whack . The surprise of your life, as you fall into a net. You think you stand a chance, but no. Someone screams "penalty", and you think finally someone is being punished for some wrong . How wrong can you be !  It's all about you being whacked once again ...

But the worst is the cricket ones.  The most mercenary minded ones.  There are those who slather mud on you, spit on you, and some even surreptitiously get hair oil on you , and then pretend to polish you .  One after another, you are flung with great speed at some guy waiting with a piece of wood. And then begins  the worst time of your life as you are whacked, beaten, flung, whipped, reverse-slapped; sometimes flush along the ground, and sometimes high up in the sky. You are momentarily mislead into experiencing freedom, till you come down to earth and find someone waiting to take over, clutching you as if his life depended on it.

There are guys who pretend to clean up the dirt, and actually unravel the seam of your life when no one is looking. Sometimes they get caught, but nothing happens.

In all these efforts, there is always one guy who pretends to be really posh, and wears gloves when dealing with you.  It has nothing to do with being decent. The ultimate aim is to throw you hard and dislodge two foolish pieces resting on 3 pointy sticks behind the hitter.

All this violence in the life of the ball, and like some governments, they make rules, and pretend to give you a break , as they choose another one to abuse from a box . 

What kind of a society, celebrates the whacking violence on a ball, by having scantily clad,  leaping girls , jump up and down waving at the  audience in the stands ?  What kind of  mercenary society  congratulates  those who promote the maximum violent attack on the ball ?   What kind of society , changes rules and forms of the game,  encourages  situations where no ball is left untouched, but whipped , whacked, beaten, sliced, with greater and greater frequency ? "

She pushes herself help against the pillow, refusing any help.  She looks for and finds her glass of water.  An empty plate below her bed is the only sign of intake of food.  The effort tires her, and she settles down again, a sad  smile playing on her lips. 

" He asked me to leave again.  This time, said he will pay me 30,000 a month "  .

 There is fire in her eyes again.

"I just asked him if the IPL was affecting him. I mean they buy and sell people there.  Perhaps this was a form of buying my departure in installments ? ...." 

She is tired . Her eyes close.  A sharp and courageous mind, fighting to the end. 

Tomorrow will be another day.  Another game.