Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Weird captions

Having to do a bit of cooking in the past few days, I've noticed some queer things printed on the edible products.  Today I came across two such weird descriptions... couldn't really make sense of what actually did they mean!

The following was on the beef burger pack... "Made with 95% British beef."  The rest 5% of what?  Indian beef??

Then there was this caption on the double cream container I served for desert... 'lasts longer once opened'?  Does it mean that it will stay fresh longer, if opened?  Or that it tastes so bad that it would never be used again?

Helping strangers

I reached the airport this afternoon on time but the flight was delayed and hence spent time walking around.  At one moment two ladies emerged from the international arrivals wing and were frantically looking around.  One of them had her phone in hand and constantly looking at it.  They tried to ask a couple of commuters but none seemed to be interested in stopping at all.  By then I realised they wanted to go to the car park.  I volunteered to help.  On the lady's phone were the details of the car park.  I showed them the direction to take to reach there.  But then realised myself that in their state of anxiety they'd lose their way, so I volunteered to guide them to the spot.  They were grateful.  Once at the spot we looked for the car.  Finding none, they told me that it was a uber taxi.  Glancing at the app I noticed that the vehicle was still on its way.  I assured them that it would arrive exactly where they were and left.  I could notice that they were quite at ease by then.  Perhaps they would have sorted out the whole thing by themselves, if only they were a bit more relaxed from the beginning.  But such confusion and anxiety is common during journeys and that too if it is the maiden trip to a new place.

I did not know much of the airport or the logistics, but felt great to be of some assistance to those two ladies in their moment of anxiety.  Perhaps the feeling was special because it is after a long gap that I've had some interaction with people other my confreres or those whom I regularly meet on Sundays.

Children and displays

I was at the airport this evening to pick up Fr Sean. And his inbound flight was delayed by almost 2 hrs. So? Another opportunity to walk and watch people, especially children.

Among the other amusing antics was the difficulty of parents keeping their children's eyes and hands from the displayed racks of chocolates and other colourful things at the shops. The smaller they are the greater the danger. The risk is all the more greater if there are more than two kids to handle - besides the luggage. The best chances are to keep the kids as far as possible from any of these displays. If they somehow do reach close beware of the hand shooting out!  Then the mad scramble to get the object out of the child's hand before it opens up the wrapper or decides to get rid of it and in the process break it!

Love your neighbour

The leader of a church music group practiced his trombone almost daily late into the night and sometimes in the early hours of the morning.  Someone complained this to his parish priest and asked, if such a man could be called a good christian at all.  "It's possible for the musician," replied the priest, "but not so easy for the neighbours!"

The Master destroyer

Jesus is described as the worst funeral director: He sabotaged every funeral he attended, including his own!

Children

My niece, all of three years, is all mischief.  She claims to be 'big'.  So she stands beside something and makes sure the other person or the object is below her shoulder level... all to confirm her claim that she is 'big'.  Not to be outdone by her elder brother, who is four years elder to her, she is adamant that she too is seven years old.

During my last conversation with my people at home, Mum was reporting that one morning she was tired of being "harassed" by the little one and she said to my brother (her father) as he was getting in the car to go to office, "Shall we give away Anet to someone because she is becoming too naughty?"  All of this within her earshot.  Pat came the reply, "Give me to Mai (that's how she addresses my mother!)"

Was reminded of someone reporting something similar about their grandson who was being stubborn about eating something.  So the grandma asked the boy, "You do know which kind of children go to heaven, don't you?"  The reply was quick, "Yeah, all the dead ones!"

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Differently abled

In some sense I like the phrase 'differently-abled'... of course, not as a label for those physically or mentally challenged but as to what it conveys.  I certainly am not for the phrase being used as a sort of gradation of people with 'normal' being the standard of measurement.

The phrase 'differently-abled' conveys the fact that just because a child or a person has a different set of thought pattern or does not think or act in the way that most people do, is not less than others.  It is just that the child is different.  In a sense, each one of us is different!  In fact, it can be viewed as meaning that the 'normal' people have not yet found out ways and means of comprehending this 'different' thought or guiding principle.  For all one knows, those labelled 'differently-abled' may be far more gifted that most people, only not recognised and acknowledged.  What if the existing standard measuring unit of 'normalcy' is itself flawed?  What if the goalposts set up by the society and the times are themselves off mark?

Intelligence is not something that can be graded merely on the basis of doing things 'right' or getting reality right - least of all, scoring high marks.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Murder, most brutal

Everytime I dig out a grown up plant in the garden, I feel a bit bad.  Not because the plant is a rare variety or that it is a 'good' plant for the garden but because it has taken more than a year to grow to the stature it is.  And my act of 15 minutes is going to undo all of that year's slow painstaking effort of the plant to keep growing.

The same logic is applicable to people as well.  Whenever someone is killed, however or for whatever reason, that single act of an instant negates years of growth.  Not only of that person but of all those involved in the life of that person, right since infancy.  Surviving all those years of childhood's vulnerabilities mostly riding on the gracious and generous sacrifice of parents, the risks and dangers of youth, dodging those viruses and fatal bacteria, carving out a life, building up relationships and a worldview... all of it, everything is destroyed by one senseless act of someone.  And most often why does one murder?  Merely because something the person said or wrote is not to my liking, or because the other person's belief structure is different from that of mine... If only one would weigh all what goes into making a life against that one particular differing aspect, just for one silent minute, may be several lives would be spared.  

Life goes on...

For the past two weeks news channels and newspapers, regional or international, have had no dearth of 'sensational' events to report.
US vs North Korea
Ethnic violence in Mynamar
Harvey and Irma in the Carribbean
Brexit negotiations
Floods in Assam, and other parts of South Asia
Baba Ram Rahim

Amidst all of these seemingly life-defining moments, one thing that carries on for an ordinary person is his or her daily life.  Whether flooded or safe, whether running away from home or to work, one continues to live hoping for a better tomorrow.  In spite of all the death, gloom and destruction that is reported and experienced, life goes on.  Even for me, sitting in the safe and luxurious confines of my room, life goes on! 

The power of words

Prior to Trump's election as the president of the US, it was the tension between the US and Russia.  Now it is the US vs North Korea.  And I still don't know why is it that there is the tension?  Did the US invade any part of North Korea?  Or did the North Koreans attack any part of the US?  The tension seems to spring and get escalated merely on the exchange of words... far more than the experimentation or military drills and tests.

No doubt words of provocation work so efficiently.  Wonder if words of peace and harmony too work with such finesse and effect.  Our sensitivities are so heightened that any small slip of tongue or gesture is enough to thrust us into war.  But the same sensitivities remain callous when it comes to discussing matters concerning the well being of the suffering, poor, marginalised and struggling folks within our circle of daily experience.  Even with enough and evident reasons and arguments for eradicating social evils and suffering, we still don't see the point.  We need Harvey and Irma and Jose to get our attention to more important and deeper issues than frivolous things like war and military exercises.  

Viewing the world

If anyone were to list the most defining moments of modern history, the events of 9/11 would certainly feature in it.  Since that particular man-made catastrophe the world has never been the same.  One could still debate the whole logistic and rationale behind it all, but one can never say that the present time is better or worse for it.

However, over the years, there is one aspect which has changed since the first 9/11 commemoration.  It is the need to consider wider ramifications of every deed.  Though the habit of seeing the world through the others' viewpoint, prior to taking decisions or making judgements about the other, is yet to mature, this reflection too has gained some momentum.  In the face of evil and suffering, it is hard to guide emotions and feelings.  Decisions born out of such strong emotions are not always the best.  Yet they are real emotions and feelings.  One can never really doctor one's own true feelings.  Hence the need to grow in a habit of constantly putting oneself in others' shoes prior to making decisions affecting all. This constant practice does not change the past but will go a long way in making the future a little more pleasant and worth gladly remembering.  

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Sanitized thrills

One of the popular relaxation sites in UK, especially for children, is the Go Ape.  This is something like a maze among the trees and wooden bridges in the air.  Those making their way through this adventure will be tied secure with a string and a harness, just in case!  I've seen the one in Battersea park.  I found this whole concept very amusing.  Back in India we have trees and children, especially boys, cannot resist them.  In the rural setting, there'll hardly be a tree that a growing boy would not have climbed!  Of course, there'd be no harness or rope.  If only a child would try to climb a tree here in UK, I'm sure he'd get a good spanking (most probably, no!) and a long lecture in 'health and safety' measures.  It is like people prefer the bottled fruit juice to a fresh fruit. They trust more the 'safety' of the processed juice, than the natural original fruit!  You take something so natural and fresh, then take away all its naturality and then reproduce it in such a 'natural' setting.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Living records

I laughed my head off when I glanced through an article in the newspaper today proudly speaking of a 'record' number of people in a VW cooper: 50.  Really?  A record?  That too it being stationary all the while.

I'm sure none of those in the van or those reporting have ever heard, leave alone been to some parts of India.  There still are some parts of India where a jeep contains as many as 50 people in it and is driven for long stretches.  I'm sure there are still plying some roads in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Till a few years ago, I've not only seen but travelled in person, in one such jeeps.  There used to be these jeeps plying between Hyderabad and Kazipet, a distance of 100 kms.  In the driver's seat there'd be one or two seated. And where would the driver be?  Sitting on the edge of his seat, with two-third of his body out of the vehicle.  His hands would be firm on the steering and his feet on the clutch and accelerator (brakes would seldom be used!).  Not only did these vehicles 'contain' 3 to 4 dozen people within, they'd be fast!  Fast meaning really fast.  Some of those which ended up in an accident, there was barely anything left, of the vehicle and of those within! Such would be the speed at which they'd fly.  More than a thrill it was a fight for survival.  The more passengers they pick up, the more income they earn. Moreover, more trips per day meant more income.

Being conscious of time

Paulo Coelho's short stories 'The Four Forces'
As soon as he died, Juan found himself in a very beautiful place, surrounded by all the comfort and beauty that he had dreamed of.  A figure dressed in white came up to him and said, "You are entitled to anything you want."
Enchanted, Juan did everything he had dreamed of during life.  After many years of pleasure, he sought out the figure in white. He said that he had experienced everything and that now he needed a little work to make him feel useful.  "That's the only thing I cannot get for you," said the figure in white."  "But I'll spend eternity dying of boredom! I'd much rather be in hell!"  "And where do you think you are?" 
I could say that this was my feeling a couple of months ago.  However, for the past month, life has been quite hectic... or rather I've chosen to be active! 

Britain: A Christian country?

There was a time when Europe was considered 'Christian'.  The Brits certainly claimed themselves to be a Christian country.  However, the reality of today is very different.  The rest of the world may still look upon England as a Christian country, but the fact of the matter is totally different.  A recent survey revealed that 53% of the English population said that they did not follow any religion.  The state Church of England has only 20% of the remaining population.  More and more, people prefer not to drag in Church or anything related to religion into the public domain.  In one sense it is good. Because it does not add another cause of division in a society already in turmoil.  Very many are keen to build a secular and non-biased society.  Hence adherence or preference to one particular religion or another is seen as unhealthy and detrimental for the common growth of all.  So much so, some call Britain, a post-Christian nation.

However, none can also deny that Christianity has to a large extent shaped England for centuries and Christian tradition has indeed played a major role in its growth.  The question then is how best does one live the present without denying the past and without compromising the future.  It is a tricky balance but not impossible.  As long as the good keep standing up for what is right and just, the handful who seek to sow discord will be kept at bay.  
A graph of 2014
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