My Identity.

I try not to take myself too seriously and am usually quite successful.

Recently, two instances highlighted two different types of people with who one has to interact. I am sure that most of my readers will agree that these two types are about all that you come across though there could be the odd different type here and there too!

Since both had to do with my identity, let me share what happened with you.

When Phil was here, my father gathered from him that he was on his way to Ahmednagar, a town that is about 125 Kms away from where we live. The name Ahmednagar triggered some old forgotten names for my father and he quizzed whether Phil knew them. On being told that he did not, my father gave me the task of locating the names and whether they were still there. With much difficulty, I found that the generation that my father knew had passed on but their son was a practicing physician there. Again with some difficulty, I was able to get the phone number and spoke to the son and so did my father.

This physician got immediately quite interested in meeting us as my father knew so much about his parents and said that he would call on us on his next visit to Pune. He spoke to me and took clear directions so that he could easily reach our home and promised that in the next few days he would call me and come over. End of story.

My father knew another family in Pune where we live, and had last met them in 1992. Subsequently, his friend a fairly well known lawyer had passed away and I had conveyed the obituary information to my father many years ago. My father being the kind of man that he is, insisted on trying to locate the family and I started to run into blocks everywhere. With much difficulty I located their telephone number. They had shifted residences a couple of times in the meanwhile, and Pune had undergone a great deal of demolishing and rebuilding and this was the reason for the difficulty.

In the event, telephone contact was established and here again the son, undertook to bring his mother and his own family to meet my father and me and took directions to reach our home. Unlike the earlier instance however, he wanted to know more about me and the first question that he asked me was “What do you do?” I answered ” Pithah, Pathni and Puthra Seva”, which translated from Sanskrit to English would mean Service to father, wife and son. This is the truth but most Indians think that it is funny! I answer thus primarily to lighten the situation, and to emphasise that it is not important what I do, but it is important who I am. I often reply that I am a retired hippy, or a domesticated son in law, a retired salesman or some such equally hilarious reply just to indicate and emphasize that I do not wish to be categorized.

The son would not let it go and insisted on finding out how old I was, why I am in retirement, what I did before I retired etc. I had to answer as vaguely as possible, as I think that these questions were asked to slot me in some cubby-hole to pre-judge me, and I dislike obliging.

Why is it necessary to categorize people that you wish to get to know? Here was a situation where an old man was trying to reach out to his old friends and I was just an enabler. Why was it necessary for that son of my father’s friend to categorize me? So that he could categorize my father too?

I think that the answer to that question is that, society today has become so status conscious that one would not like to associate with anyone who can be perceived as being from a lower status. I consider such a value system snobbish and subhuman.

What do you think? Do you have such experiences? How do you react?

Hospitality.

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” — Jim Rohn

What has this quotation got to do with hospitality? Let me share two stories.

My friend Wani and I were sitting together and shooting the breeze at the park one evening last week. He is semi invalid and has to be assisted to walk and do most things that one has to do be active. He suddenly made a comment to me that freshly cut mutton was Rs.200 per Kg. I pleaded ignorance as I am a vegetarian and had not bought mutton for a very long time even for my son who is a non vegetarian. In any case, I asked him why he suddenly raised this topic and he told me about the problem that he was facing.

Like me, Wani’s wife Vimu is a vegetarian but cooks meat etc for the rest of the family. She however dislikes visiting the butcher to buy. Since Wani is incapacitated, she has to depend on her son to procure the meat and he is normally busy with his own affairs. She is also getting on in years and suffers from arthritis of the knees.

Wani’s immediate neighbor and his family were on a motoring vacation and were expected the next day, late in the evening. Before they had left on vacation, Wani had promised them to keep food ready for them when they arrived so that they would not have to cook after the long drive. So far, so good. Wani therefore wanted to get some mutton to prepare some interesting fare as the neighbors were all non vegetarians. I could not resist the temptation to tease him and simply said that you could very well give them some simple vegetarian food as they are likely to be tired and would want something light before going off to bed. Wani went ballistic and suggested that it would not be keeping with our tradition of hospitality to feed them vegetarian food knowing that they were non vegetarians.

I had a moment of clarity and realized that what must have happened was that when Wani invited them for the dinner, he must have, in his usual expansive style informed them that he would keep some delicious mutton dish. When I confronted him with his insight, he confessed that this was indeed the case and now he could not very well give them some simple fare! I still suggested that if it was a problem procuring the mutton and his wife did not have the inspiration to cook it even if it was procured, to simplify matters and prepare some simple food. Knowing his neighbors too, I suggested that they would not really mind. Wani went into a sulk and went back to his theme that it would not be good hospitality to do so.

In the event, mutton was procured, albeit at considerable difficulty to Vimu, cooked and everyone had a wonderful time but, I wondered whether this was indeed the right kind of hospitality.

The other story is about our family friend Phil from Georgia who frequently comments on my posts. He was visiting India and was planning to spend a day and a night with us. Since the arrival of my father, the guest bed room has been converted to a regular bed room, and we had explained to Phil about this. Phil was quite happy to share our son’s bed room. Phil also was quite happy to have what was on the dining table and did not make any demands on us to prepare something special for him. We had a great time with him being with us and wished that he had had more time to spend with us than he did.

Here are two instances of different approaches to hospitality. I believe that the guest has a responsibility to adapt and accommodate the host’s limitations and the host must be clear in what he can offer and what he cannot and must be willing to convey this to the guest.

Can we not plan our lives in a realistic and practical manner?

What do you think? Was Wani’s style right or ours?

Page Rank 3

I have just noticed that Page Rank for this blog has been moved up to 3 from 2. I must have done something right!

Naturally, I am very happy with this development. It would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of all my readers. Thank you.

I am now inspired to go about blogging the same way that I have been hitherto to try and hit 4 which I am told is a respectable score.

Kashmir is not populated by fools.

CNN reports that Pro-India parties win majority in Kashmir.

The Pakistani press has understandably not mentioned anything about this development. They have been under the impression that sooner or later, Kashmir will secede from India and join Pakistan.

I hope that Pakistan understands that even if Kashmir secedes, which I doubt will happen in my life time, they are unlikely to join up with Pakistan which is a failed rogue state. Kashmiris have seen what the marauding terrorists and jihadists have done to Kashmiris.

Kashmiris, like all people everywhere want to live in peace, and prosper. Pakistanis should ask themselves whether this will be possible if they were to be with Pakistan.

Even an independent Kashmir is likely to have more connections with India than Pakistan, for very obvious reasons which seem to elude Pakistan.

Happy New Year.

I desperately wanted to get this blog up and running without any hitch and everything intact before the end of 2008. This has been made possible by two young people who went out of their way to help and I wish to record my gratitude to them. One is our son Ranjan and the other is Amit Kumar Singh who is a techie. A visit to the latter’s blog is strongly recommended to those inclined towards computer technology. Ranjan has his own website design company which go ballistic from mid January when he will be relieved from his current employment.

Having got that very pleasurable task out of the way, let me come to the purpose of this post. It is to thank all my readers for the very encouraging support given to me on my attempts at blogging. Without such support and encouragement, I doubt that I would have stayed the course.

This post is also to wish all my readers a very happy new year. 2008 has been very interesting if occasionally bewildering and here is hoping that 2009 will be interesting and happy.

To leave all of you with something to think about, I leave with you another young blogger’s post where he asks some very interesting questions. Tarun Chandel is a young IT professional who was among the very first to encourage me to blog and I owe a debt of gratitude to him.