Good Taste.

“Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative. It is the last-ditch stand of the artist.” – Marshall McLuhan.

I may be making myself vulnerable to attack from all corners of the world with this post. This is a subject that is capable of being interpreted in many ways, but post this I must lest I miss sharing a very significant mile post in my life.

As my regular readers know, I went to a sort of school to learn how to dress properly, how to use a fork and knife, how to choose the colour of the socks to wear, how to tie a tie/bow tie etc. These were thought to be necessary for a young Indian in a profession where he was meeting people with good (read WOG [Westernized Oriental Gentleman]) taste, besides hobnobbing with visiting Sahebs from the UK. Much later in my life, it certainly helped me pass the final hurdle in getting selected for a Management Trainee position with a Scottish company, when, as the final test, I was taken to lunch by a Scot after the morning interviews were over. Till to day, I do not know whether it was the interview or the lunch that enabled me cross the last hurdle, but cross I did.

Subsequently, I had many occasions to pass on such invaluable lessons to many youngsters impressed with my “good taste’! In some cases, they came to me voluntarily and in some, I had to tactfully guide them so that they did not goof up in critical situations.

Some few weeks ago, one of my mentees had come to me to learn some tips about dressing as he was going overseas for the first time and wanted to make a good impression. I was teaching him with a lot of humour and patience, when one of my other friends, like me, retired but from the armed forces, came to visit me and threw his few bits in too. (My readers may not know this, but the Indian armed forces, till today follow the British protocol in all that they do.) Some of the idiosyncrasies of these worthies deserves a separate post by itself. But luckily for me, my friend is not the Colonel Blimp type.

After my mentee left, my friend suggested that I read “To Buy Or Not To Buy” by Keith Thomas, which I duly did. For those that are interested in such trivia, it is an absorbing read and I recommend it. But if you, like me, likes to savor whatever life dishes out to you in the form of people coming into your life, you can safely give it a bye.

If you would like to relish some really interesting information, please do spend some time on the links that I have given here. They are priceless.

The read however made me reflect on how far I have traveled in my journey of this life. Today, I can truly say that I have given up the superficial and meaningless values and behaviour for more warm and genuine ones, in which “good taste”, does not find a place. Not that I do not appreciate it, but it no longer is an obsession, which it was in those days when such things were more important for corporate success than genuine humanness.

I shall now go and wear my Kevlar vest and get ready for all that will come my way.

Chance/Grace.

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“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet
Riches to men of understanding, or yet favor to men of skill; but
Time and chance happeneth to them all.”
-Ecclesiastes.

William James said that religious belief is “the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.”

Why am I suddenly writing about this subject? Let me give you some background.

Since my post on ‘Ambition’ was published, a dear atheist friend of mine, who has known me only the past few years, has been arguing with me about atheism and theism; Natural Selection and Spirituality, and as atheists are wont to, has been trying to convince me to convert to atheism. As I had posted in my later post, we Indians are very argumentative and this topic is as good as any to get two good friends to argue about.

Indian Shastras (Sanskrit Scriptures) say, that in order to be successful, six qualities are required – udyama, proper effort; saahasa, perseverance; dhairya, courage; buddhi, knowledge; shakti, skill and resources; and paraakramaa, the capacity to overcome obstacles.  The absence of any of these qualities can stymie our efforts and produce unexpected outcomes. And, it is a very big ‘And’, there is no guarantee that even if you have all the six qualities and take action, the outcome will be as per your expectation.

That brings us to the stage of taking action to succeed.  When we take any kind of action, we expect an outcome to that action.  That outcome can be exactly what we expected; less than what we expected; more than what we expected; or completely different to what we had expected, perhaps even opposite of what we expected. We can never know before taking that action as to how the outcome will turn out to be.

It has therefore been taught to those who are willing to learn, that when you consider the two paragraphs immediately above this one, there is something working behind the scenes that influences the outcome. You do not have to be a religious person, or a spiritualist to accept this reality.  This can be proved by simple observation of all that we do.

When I pointed out the contents of the two paragraphs to him, his reasoned reply was that ‘chance’ has nothing to do with the outcome, but the outcome being different from what was expected is due to one or more of the six qualities listed in the first paragraph, not being present in adequate measure.  My response to that is; why does it happen that what is lacking is lacking? His response is that it is because of inadequate preparation or overconfidence.  This answer too can be taken to the next level and the next level ad infinitum.

Since writing the post, I ‘chanced’ on Looney’s post which is poignant. Please do read before you comment on this post.

Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, when a reader confronted him on why he defined the word ‘pastern’ as “the knee of an horse” (instead of the part between the fetlock and the hoof) his reply was, “Ignorance Madam, pure ignorance.”

Who is ignorant?  What is your answer to this conundrum?

Bicycling.

We have Bikehikebabe, who we know from her name and some of her comments to be a biker. Now, I discover that Maynard is another, who goes off on long bike hikes.

Grannymar’s new post led to an unexpected exchange of comments. I quote my last comment here:

“Maynard, have a heart. You get a woman like that and you will need to dance with a crutch. Can’t prop her up on the cross bar of your bicycle can you?”

Maynard is sure to imagine something like this:
F1Z_bikemodified

What I had in mind is something like this with Maynard pedaling.
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Since however, his bike is unlikely to have a rear carrier as bicycles in India have, I suggested that the crossbar be used. This is done quite often in India when the carrier has got some luggage or a child or something like that.

For those of you who have not seen Maynard, this is his latest photograph. I requested him for one and this is what he has provided me with.
Maynard's Ride

There is a sequel to this post and that is, on seeing this post, Grannymar has sent me a link to her post written in June of last year. For those who are impatient, here is her photograph!
This is for me

The Extended Family Of India.

Barath’s comment – “Funny thing is Annie now states that she can never come to terms with my relatives as all nieces and nephews get referred to as my kids and she gets really worried about the number of children I have in India!!!” in my post, “Ramana Sir”, has inspired this post.

Family ties in India traditionally have been very strong. I distinctly remember from our childhood, our home being forever filled with visiting uncles, aunts, cousins, grand parents, family friends and some of them staying on for long periods of time going to college, taking medical treatments etc. In return, we used to go off to small towns and villages where our relatives were located for vacations. In all such situations, we never felt as though anyone was intruding into the privacy of the host. Our home was in a city and was used by our relatives from villages and small towns as a place to stay. It was taken for granted that such hospitality will be extended.

Things have changed now. Most of my generation cousins and relatives stay in cities and are spread all over the world though, the strongest concentration is in Chennai in South India. Each of my father’s siblings set up his/her own unitary family as did my parents. Within each such unitary family, the ties are extremely strong with the exception of two drop outs from among perhaps a hundred or so members.

In my immediate family, presently consisting of my father, we four siblings and our children and grand children, the ties are very strong and we still follow the old fashioned tradition of treating our children as being from a common pool. This is what has puzzled Annie, a Southern Belle from Louisiana. For all of us siblings, all our children are “my kids”.

With increasing dispersal of families, this tradition is on the wane. Sad but, I suppose, inevitable. With modern telephony, the internet and FaceBook, perhaps some bonds are getting stronger, but nowhere near what I believe was the case when we were growing up.

In the Northern parts of India, this tradition takes some odd hues. Let me share you a story to illustrate.

In 1980, I was posted as the Regional Manager for the Northern Region. As was the tradition, I had to go to many farewell and welcome parties with my predecessor Jagdish, who had held fort there for ten years. There was one particular party which has become company lore and is still talked about. It loses quite a bit of flavour due to translation from Punjabi but, is worth sharing nevertheless.

Jagdish and his wife Asha are Punjabis, as was the host for the evening. When, Jagdish, Asha, Urmeela and I landed up at the host’s traditional home with a very large courtyard, we found two parallel rows of our host’s family waiting to receive us with garlands. This is traditional and every thing went off well. Jagdish turned to our host and requested him to introduce all the waiting sons, daughters, daughters in law etc to me, no doubt due to not knowing all the names. Our host, in typical Punjabi, declined to and requested Jagdish to do the honours. Jagdish, being well versed in these politese, said -“They are your children, you should introduce them.” Much to my amusement, our host said – “How are they my children? They are your children. You introduce them.” I am not one to let opportunities to pass by. In an aside to Jagdish I said – “Part of the perquisites of being RM North? No wonder you stuck on for ten years!”

Unfortunately, our local Manager, standing just behind me over heard this and the story went all over the world.

Love.

The Friday topic for the consortium of Ashok, Conrad and Grannymar besides yours truly, is Love, chosen by me.

This is also to extend a very hearty welcome to Magpie11 to the consortium whose post today is eagerly looked forward to by all the above four members.

As you proceed with reading this post you will come to know why I chose the topic. Happy reading.
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Laurence Whistler, in a wonderful biography, ‘The Initials in the Heart’, wrote, when his wife died, that a friend, to comfort him in his misery, had told him that at some point he would “come through” it all. But Whistler didn’t find that idea remotely consoling. “What was unendurable,” he wrote, “was precisely the idea of ‘coming through’… If she faded altogether, I thought, that would be the real goodbye; whereas grieving, was only loving in another key.”

I believe that we cannot use any other word for ‘loving’ here! But in real life, we use ‘love’ in ways that convey different degrees of the intensity of that emotion.

Let me illustrate!

I love to blog/sms/surf the net/make phone calls.
I love my mobile phone. (The latest, not the one that was exchanged for the current one, though in its time, the previous one was loved too.)
I love my morning cup of tea.
I love Masala Dosa. (A very popular South Indian fast food)
I love Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt.
I love to go to sleep.
I love all stray dogs.
I love my evening outings with my friends to the neighbourhood park.
I love my Lexus.
I love to drive.
I love football.
I love my country (right or wrong!)

AND it also means Zero in tennis, badminton and some other games!

Get the drift?

Just carefully listen to ordinary chit chats, even if it is unobtrusive overhearing in a coffee shop, and you will realize that the word ‘love’ as a noun or a verb is used with reckless abandon. I suppose that reckless abandon and the word are inseparable.

The other common use nowadays is to end all telephone calls/conversations with “Love you” or “I love you too”. I suppose that it is acceptable between spouses, parents and children, siblings etc. I also suppose that these relationships really need that kind of reinforcement in these days of insecurity.

I personally find it extremely difficult to use the word love casually. I find that I am not alone in this peculiar reluctance. Not that I am incapable of that emotion, but to articulate is difficult.

There are other words that can do the job of describing the emotion with more accuracy. Fond of, like, appreciate, crave, attached, long for etc. Somehow I do not find these being in regular use nowadays. Is it a matter of simplifying the language to use one word to express different levels of intensity of an emotion, or is it just a general devaluation of the emotion itself? I find it difficult to answer that question and seek answers from my readers.

The Aquarian Gospel defines it as: “Love is the power of God that binds two souls and makes them one; there is no power on earth that can dissolve that bond.” Does this mean that the increasing incidences of divorces, breaking of family relationships etc would indicate absence of love to start with? Has materialism invaded emotional life as well? Has the time then come for us to accept that by and large, our relationships now, are based on convenience and not on Love?

Finally, a wonderful quote from an Icon.
“I am certainly not an authority on love because there are no authorities on love, just those who’ve had luck with it, and those who haven’t.” – Bill Cosby.

The London and Sibling Rajgopauls.

This post is at the request of some of the readers to show photographs of the two lawyer Rajgopauls of London and I have decided to inclued their father as well.

The first one is, of Simon and Craig flanking Annie, their step mother. Simon is on the left.

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The next one is of Craig, Simon and my brother Barath on Simon’s graduation day.

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This third one is of Annie and Barath on their wedding day in London. Barath is in a traditional Indian attire.

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The last one was taken from on top of a dining table by a guest at my father’s home five years ago, when all three brothers and our sister had gone on a day’s visit to our father. Barath was visiting India and we used the opportunity for the visit. I am on the extreme left, Arvind the number two brother is next, our father, Barath, and the baby of the family, Padmini on the extreme Right. BHB, the ‘funny’ clothes that I am wearing is our traditional South Indian dress of kurta and dhoti. Since I normally live in the Western part of India, instead of the dhoti, I normally wear a white trouser like garment, called, don’t laugh, pyjama. The word was assimilated into English from India by the Colonial Brits. You can see the cane I normally carry with me behind me in the corner!
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