Dated Language.

I sent a message to a friend who had been of great help to me thanking him. The message read –

“Thank you. You are a brick.”

For my American friends and younger Indian friends, the Oxford English Dictionary defines Brick as:
“British informal, dated, A generous, helpful, and reliable person.”. I have used this word often in the past without any problem.

Agreed it is dated but, so am I and my friend is of the same vintage too.

What leads me to writing this blog post however, is not to defend my datedness but the response that I got from my friend.

“I can appreciate your thanking me but, why do you also insult me at the same time?”

I was puzzled and rang him up to ask him what the problem was and was told that his message read as “Thank you. You are a prick.”

I explained to him what the message was and pacified him but, went to WhatsApp to check if I had indeed made a typo. I had not and so, I took a screen shot of the message and sent it to my friend.

He on reinvestigation found a one in a million chance of an opaque stain on the screen of his smart phone, exactly at the point where the lower loop of the brick appeared. He just cleaned up the screen and the message was not an insult anymore.

I wonder if I should simply stop using the word again in my communications.

Surprises!

Yesterday was a day of surprises. Yes, plural, not just one. Let me list them for you.

1. I received a phone call in the morning from a young friend who after the initial surprise was over asked me for directions to reach my home as he was coming after many years and the neighbourhood had changed a lot. I told him that I would rather not see him considering the Covid situation and he said that it would be okay as he just had to deliver some parcels to me. I guided him to my verandah from where I was unable to receive the parcels as they were simply too big. So, he had to come into the house after going through the security rigmarole of our society where visitors have to go through a sanitisation process.

2. The parcels turned out to be one gift, a very thoughtful one, from a mutual friend in Mumbai who my visitor had met last week. Along with the gift the visitor had also brought two Gujarathi dishes that were my favourite with a long lost story behind one of them. My Mumbai friend had heard my story about how I used to enjoy the dish during my stay in Ahmedabad over half a century ago. Since both my Mumbai friend and the visitor are Gujarathis, the latter was requested to prepare the dish as a surprise and deliver to me with a cryptic message reminding me about my Ahmedabad days.

The dish is called Handvo and I thoroughly enjoyed it for lunch.

3. Another friend, this time from Chennai telephoned me to inform me that he is sending me a gift parcel and he was calling to caution me to accept the parcel when the courier comes to deliver it. Quite what the gift is a mystery but, knowing my friend as I do, it is likely to be something that I will cherish and use regularly.

4. A TV serial that I had stopped watching after the imposition of the lockdown as only old episodes were being shown due to the producers not being able to produce episodes due to the lockdown, started showing new episodes from last evening and this 45 minutes every evening will now revert to my old pre-lockdown discipline. This is the only TV programme that I used to watch and I had missed it.

All in all a very pleasant day.

The Art Of Listening.

A friend, more or less a recluse preferring his own company or just a few close friends of long standing got enmeshed in an avoidable situation. His colleagues from the organisation where he used to work had formed a WhatsApp group and he was not even aware of it. Someone in that group suddenly woke up to the fact that he was still alive and posted a request for contact details from anyone who was in touch with him. One unsuspecting colleague gave the phone number and the problems for my friend started.

First the man who asked for the details called him and insisted on sharing details of his past connections and present where and what-abouts and spoke for more than half an hour. This call was followed by a few others in quick succession, all insisting on holding forth on nostalgia as well as updating to the present.

My friend was getting desperate as he simply wanted to be left alone. He finally had to tell the last caller to request people on the WhatsApp group not to disturb him and finally the calls stopped yesterday.

He called me this morning  to share this misfortune with me. I suggested that his old colleagues were simply bored with the present status under lockdowns and were looking for listeners to converse with. He agreed but, asked me why choose him when he was not in touch with any of them for decades. I suggested that perhaps it was because he is a good listener and the callers had run out of people to call to have chats. He was calmed and we disconnected.

After the call was over, I realised that this conversation took all of 35 minutes of my time.

I patted myself on my back for being a good listener too.

The Virtues And Toxicities Of Popularity

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

~ Shakespeare in As You Like It.
No. my intention is not to ring my own bell.
Nor to pat myself on my own back. I have a message about the topic where I am the centre of the action and so, these two pictures.

Fellow Five on One blogger and web-friend Shackman posted this on his facebook page and as he had requested I copy pasted on my page.

“I think most of you know me pretty well, it doesn’t matter when our paths may have crossed. Maybe some of you like me and some don’t, but if you’re on my Facebook, it’s because I like you. I would love to see if we can still chat more than just likes and actually write something to each other. Again, I decided to participate in an experience called “Meeting between bread.” The idea is to see who reads the post without a photo. We are so quick to dive into technology that we forgot the most important thing: good friendship. If no one is reading this message, it will be a short social experiment. But if you finish this to the end, I would love you to comment in ONE WORD about us. For example: a place, an object, a person, a moment in which you remember me. Then copy this text and post it on your page (don’t share) and I’ll go to your page to leave a word that reminds me of you. Please don’t comment if you don’t have time to copy the text. This will destroy the experiment. Let’s see who spent their time to read and respond according to the common story outside of Facebook! Thank you for participating!”

I was overwhelmed with the responses that I received, bar a few, all from my colleagues from my working life. These wonderful people have been in touch with me all these years despite my having retired twenty years ago, thanks to the internet and the social media. It brought to my notice that I have  well-wishers in my life who still have regard for me; and I am reminded of that post and the comments on it as I write this post.

I don’t think that I was or am popular. Popular is for entertainers and sportspersons. Popularity is ephemeral. What I received was pure affection and regard from mates who had worked alongside me thanks to something that was drilled into me during my younger days by mentors who taught me a simple formula to be good in my career. CCDO. Connectedness, Constancy in the connectedness, Dignity in the relationships thus established and Opportunity for growth for both in the relationship.  This is something that I passed on to the people who crossed my path as well.  That it has worked has now been amply proved and I am grateful to those mentors who showed me the way. I repeat, I was not and am not popular. These long lasting relationships are testimony to that fact.

Since this has been my personal experience, I would say that the virtues of popularity are that they are superficial, short-lived and ego boosters. The toxicities of popularity are narcissism and self destruction. I am glad that I was and am not popular. I don’t know what to call what I am and leave it to my readers to decide on a nomenclature.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Conrad. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

Singing.

A friend sent this clip to me with much enthusiasm hoping that this advice will keep me amongst his gang for some more time,

I responded to him with “The problem is that I can’t sing anymore. I croak like a frog.”

In his inevitable style he came back with “24/7 News Channel Reports Breaking News. There are many formats of singing like Qawwwalis, Classical, Jazz, Pop etc. Mr. RR has now introduced Croak Singing which is getting to be very popular in Western India.”

Success.

As it so often happens, two messages on my WhatsApp today leads me to this blog post.

The first message that I received in a group page was this image from a very savvy old colleague who has overcome some big problems and is now perceived to be a success.  Please click on the image to get a larger resolution.

The next one was from another young friend, in his early fifties now employed in Europe in the Financial Sector, with a perceived successful career behind him with more to come in the future. After we exchanged some other information, he came up with the following:

“Been working since 6.30 am. Annual results expected by mid February, with possible layoffs to follow. Hope I get made redundant with a good severance package! Will be happy.

If it happens, would like to use the time to retrain myself to do something more enjoyable and less stressful. Unfortunately, I got a very good rating at my appraisal a few weeks ago, so unlikely.

“Will also tell you someday about how selfish and self obsessed most people in the financial services industry are. Pays well but kills the soul.

I hope that you noticed that he thinks that it is unfortunate that he got a good performance appraisal rating!  Had he been a Millennial, I would have directed him to my blog post written some months ago so that he could identify with the millennials! Since he is not, I shall wait till post results of his employers to come up with another discussion with him.

He was in Pune in December and January and I could sense that he was not very happy with what he was doing but, I did not comment on it except to joke about it calling it his mid life crisis. At that point, I had gone back in my own life and recalled that I had just finished on five year contract with an employer and had retired two years later than I had aspired to. I did not look to be retrained but was enjoying my retired life after many years of travelling and not spending enough time with the family, spending time with my late wife and friends and generally goofing off. A series of events led me back into corporate life again on three separate occasions.

I hope that some such unplanned for “events” will take place in my friend’s life as well and when he is back in India by the end of this year, I will have more interesting topics to talk with him about.

Incidentally, I have consulted some friends to figure out a graphic to describe an iceberg of failures. Once that is ready, I shall post another blog about it.