Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Wishlist for Neighbourhood
This new year, I began my reading with Robin Sharma’s ‘Who Will Cry When You Die?’
I am not at all a fan of motivational literature, but I read a book once in a while for the ‘medicinal properties’ it has to offer - bitter, weird, bland though it may be.
In this book, I found an interesting exercise that he suggests.
List down all the people you wish would be your neighbours, people you would love to have coffee with and some laugh too – and then, note down all the traits in these people that make them appealing to you. That way you identify traits that you should cultivate in yourself.
While Robin Sharma has listed down people like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Benjamin Franklin, I would be uncomfortable having these people for my neighbours!
Also, would they have time to spend with me, have coffee with me and laugh with me?
While the author’s list is based on what he wishes to learn in life or the qualities he wishes to acquire, learning is not everything in life. I may like a person simply for his/her friendship, companionship, love and not necessarily for the ‘learning’ he has to ‘offer’ to me.
Learning is also a kind of acquisition and one should not always focus on acquiring.
My list is a list of common people that I have adored or admired in my life or have found interesting or even curious. Plus there a few great names too! And I am grateful that I have been fortunate enough to have met all these people in my life.
Amit Babaji – Mysterious. Good looking, fair complexioned, with trimmed short beard, he is always neat.
He must be in his early forties. His home is under a pine tree on a mountain top in the Himalayas. He spends a few months in a year there and for the rest, he is travelling – all over the world, East Asia, China, Switzerland, England, Lakshadweep, Copper Canyon in Mexico, England and all the exotic places on earth. He stays in VVIP accommodations wherever he goes. He does not work for a living. He says he is not educated. Where he gets his resources from, he will not reveal. God takes care of everything, friends take care of needs wherever I go, he says. Who he is, who his parents are, what his religion is, what his social background is, how he came to be living under this tree, he will not reveal. He has told me though, that he is from Karnataka. And, that even before he found his tree, he knew it existed. Goodness oozes from his gentle and kind eyes.
Gautam – ‘you will like my son, he likes the English language, he likes words’ said she. A strange way of introducing one’s son, I thought.
He is only person I have met who speaks - not spoken English, but - written English. There is not an extra pause and not a crutch-word in his sentences. His speech is economical and grammatically correct. He is the only one who has given me a six on ten for my grammar and my English in general. I have met him only twice, but every time, have been inspired to strive towards one of the missions of my life – to be able to speak written English.
C J – Extempore is what separates the wheat from chaff. Whenever I have heard him speak extempore, I have wished I could speak like him. Spontaneous, ready, relevant and rich with anecdotes and quotations, he has been given the title ‘silver tongued orator’.
A corporate trainer, minus the cliché. I had the opportunity to be audience to a presentation he was taking us through – a very powerful, inspiring presentation, I thought. Though I have never attended his sessions, I am sure he works hard and does his homework unlike most of the trainers these days who have nothing of their own to say but repeat like parrots what you have already seen in email forwards, SMS forwards, material on the internet or shoddily written self help books.
Jay – The most handsome man I have seen in life. And I am 95% confident I won’t see a more handsome man than him. He has a voice that can put Amitabh Bachhan to shame. He is talented – voice over, stand-up comedy, ads for Radio, emceeing, singing… He is a perfect gentleman with impeccable social manners. He is sensitive, polite, shy and very respectful of women. Women throw themselves at him, and no one could blame him if he gave in or became weak, but no, he hasn’t once taken advantage of any of them.
Noopur – she needs someone. She is all alone. Vexed and desperate. Does not want to live. Partly, family has been unfair to her, but mostly, she has brought it upon herself. When in trouble, it is my shoulders she chooses cries on. I really want to be there for her. Show her a whole new world. Show her that life is beautiful. That it is possible to be happy because of and in spite of our circumstances. I want to hold her hand. Until she is healed. Until she becomes strong and independent.
Daisy – A girl who invokes my protective instincts. Soft, shy, demure. But at times, she surprises me with her assertiveness.
Hails from a small town. After coming to this big city she has seen its ways, even learnt from it but, (and I am glad to say this) has not lost her innocence.
Between me and her, it has always been a heart to heart bonding and it has never levitated to the intellect. Usually when we meet, we run out of conversation after a while of talking, but silences between us are comfortable. I used to oil her long and thick tresses. She cut them short soon. The big city caught up with her in a way, much to my dislike. As long as it does not take away her innocence…
Mr. Murthy – Proprietor of Select Bookshop. A legend. Not just a seller of books, but a collector of books. If you are a regular customer, his gives you a personalized service – he understands your taste, knows your kind of books, keeps them for you when he receives books in lots, informs you that your kind of books have arrived. Knowing your taste, he also recommends books to you. Whenever I visit his shop, he has anecdotes to tell. About his meeting with Sir CV Raman, about his book exhibition in Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, about the Governer’s visit to his shop, about this incident in the life of an author, about the history of this place, and so on…
Kaveri – Music. Old Hindi film songs. He must know all of them. Both of us don’t know when we will meet. He is very busy. But all of a sudden he surprises me by calling up and saying ‘Hi, I am near your place. Can I drop in?’ It does not matter that it’s 11:30 in the night. Any time is good time for meeting an old friend. When we get together, we sing. One song after another. We converse. I think I like the fact that our talk is always jovial. We are the kind of people who want to be happy because of and in spite of our circumstances. Most importantly, we are comfortable with each other.
Narasimha Chikkappa – He is called the Salim Ali of Coorg, because of his interest in bird watching or ornithology. He is a shining example of how one can create opportunities for a full living even in a small town that most people haven’t even heard of. He is a doctor by profession. An avid reader, he subscribes to the monthly National Geographic magazine and is abreast of the latest in the fields of science and technology. Living in Coorg, in the midst of forests and estates, he has been exploring wild life, especially birds. He has authored a book on the ethno-botany of the Kodavas. He is frequently on the local Radio station sharing his learning with his audience. A clean smog free environment means a clear sky full of stars and galaxies and once again he has made use of this to study the night sky and learn many interesting things about the heavenly bodies. He can identify many stars, constellations and a few galaxies too. Every time I stayed with him during holidays, I returned enriched. He has had a computer at home and has been learning and writing his own programs – this, even before most of them in Bangalore had even seen a computer. His system is loaded with software that further his interests – a software to study the night-sky and such. He sends hand painted wild life cards to over 2500 addresses all over the world every year. I think what most people would like about him is his jovial nature – I have never seen him serious, everything he says makes you laugh…
Nitish – A friend. Who understands. Who cares. He has a calming effect on me. Someone who knows the softer side of me inside a tough shell. A fellow Mysorean and that is so comforting for all the connotations that come with it – innocent, sincere, simple, trusting and without guile.
We haven’t spent too much time together and sometimes, after some conversation, ‘what else?’, ‘you tell me’ begins and then, we start talking about books. And we go on…
Parag - We started our career on the same day. A super intelligent guy. Though from mechanical engineering background, he picked up JAVA like it were a glass of water. I don’t know how many out-of-term promotions he has got so far. He became the youngest technical architect in the company. While on the one side, he is brilliant in technology, on the other, he is rooted in culture. He is interested in our heritage, has read the scriptures, read the Geetha and can have engaging conversations and discussions on the difficult subjects of theology, philosophy, religion and so on. He has done a free website for the religious order in Udupi. He has learnt to play the Mridangam. He can whistle. Once on our annual day, he gave a whistling concert. He has written some 20 short stories but never seriously tried to publish them.
I like his boyish innocence. He can be playful and naughty, even play pranks, but I cannot imagine him flirting with a woman. I think that, more than any other quality sets him apart from the rest. That he is not casual about women…
Ramabhadrachar – He is no more. My father’s maternal uncle. A great Sanskrit scholar. Well versed with the shastras, scriptures, epics, treatises... Highly learned. Disciplined. A great teacher. A lifetime of learning and teaching. Has been a guru to Swami Bharati Teertha (who has Goshalas all over the state, that strive to preserve the Indian species of cattle that face the threat of extinction).
Has children, but no successor to his knowledge. I am privileged to be related to him. If he were my neighbour I could have received a few gems from his treasure of knowledge.
Fortunately he had devoted students to whom I hope he has bequeathed some of his treasure but no matter how much he bequeathed, now with him gone, much of it must be lost.
Sampath and Seetha – My uncle and aunt. I have never spent much time with them. But whenever I have, it has been so refreshing and comforting. They don’t judge me, advise me, or broach personal matters. Care is the only thing they offer that is parental. Everything else they offer is friendly, not parental.
Unlike most elders who think they know better than us children, that they don’t need to listen to us, my aunt converses with me like an equal, shares her ideas, thoughts and troubles with me and listens with sincere interest when I share with her my thoughts and perspectives on the matter. Unlike most women who don’t analyse the situations in which they find themselves, do not think deeply, but merely go about their routine complaining or worrying or simply reacting, she thinks. And she is willing to try new approaches to life and its demands.
My uncle on the other has conversations with me; something again which most elders don’t do. He taught English to university students. His Sanskrit studies began in his childhood and what begins from one Subhashita goes on to 20 more and then to plays and anecdotes and then other trivia…
Rohith, Nikhil – people who say ‘come home’. The first thing these people do when they offer their friendship to you is, invite you home. It’s the most natural thing to do for them, a necessary thing and for them, it’s a must that you ‘come home’. It’s certainly not just a ‘nice thing’. Rohith is from Bhadravati and Nikhil from South Bangalore – places where innocence pervades still. This innocence of yesterday is fast disappearing as we find ourselves in a metropolitan culture of meeting people in coffee shops and finishing it there. In a time, where people are very conscious of their personal space and their precious time and scarcely allow people into their lives or homes, to have such innocent people as neighbours would be a blessing.
Susheel – He puts up with me.
We like each other but at times he pisses me off. But the good thing is I don’t have to exercise any caution in responding to him. I can vent all my anger, disappointment, vexation without worrying about hurting or losing him. He knows ‘this girl’ is ‘like that’ but she has a heart of gold. We will always be there for each other. It’s not one of those delicate bonds that may one day snap after a fight. We will eventually start talking.
Coming to think of it, it’s not a relationship where we have talked about important and profound matters. There has been no serious reflection. Mostly trivia. And continuous everyday happenings. But over a period of time, these have accumulated into an understanding of each other’s nature and habits and impulses. This is exactly one of those things that make people indispensable to each other. Knowing all the small things about each other. For these small things are what manifest in our lives perennially more than the big ideals and opinions. Isn’t it?
Arjun – A special guy. I think I admire him. He is smart. Nice. Sensible. Does not read books but reads a lot on the net, is updated on current affairs and is an engaging conversationalist.
Whether it is food or clothing or travel, he has taste.
He went to Bishop Cottons and you can tell when you meet him that he has gone to good schools and colleges.
He is particular about the way things should be. Like myself. He will not hesitate to tell the waiter in a restaurant the portion is too small for the price nor hesitate to return an order because it has excess salt. Like myself.
He is not a pseudo-secularist. Like myself.
He is close to his family. Though modern stylish and smart, he has reverence for our culture, our tradition, our value system. Like myself ; )
It’s rare to find a stylish guy who will be or do all the above.
But he is scarce. I really really wish he were my neighbor.
Subhash Avadhany – the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this guy is spontaneity. Met him in debate/elocution contests while in college. I could never believe him (I don’t, even now) when he said he never prepared for a debate but spoke impromptu, almost – that is, he never wrote his speech.
His speeches used to be so perfect – fast, fluent and forceful. He was never good at academics but the smartest guy I ever met – conversant with current affairs, confident, and can converse on any subject on earth’s crust. He did not get along with most of the people around him but never cared, never feared anything or anyone. He is good looking, charming and I am sure there is a throng of ladies dying to spend a few minutes with him.
The people below are interesting people, leading interesting lives. They have interesting things to say. They are engaging conversationalists. They offer glimpses into new worlds. The initial connection was from mind to mind but it is gravitating deeper to the level of heart.
Amisha – works for Deccan chronicler. She is searching for a story wherever she goes. Her assignments include meeting happening people like authors, attending glamorous and glittery events, parties so she can write about them.
J C – Very well read. A decent guy. Remarking about a woman he once knew, he said ‘she is the purest woman I have ever known’ and I was touched to know that there were people still that considered purity a virtue. And a desirable, laudable one. In today’s time where ‘wham-bam-thank you mam’ defines the conduct or the ‘ideology’ of half the people, who cares about purity?
B S – advertising, logo designing, branding… works in the creative field. Writes poems that do not rhyme. Some of his poems are a model of non-conformism – with respect to their style, substance, subject and length.
Our ideologies are opposites. But it doesn’t matter. He knows his days are numbered but refuses to be disheartened. He has decided to get back at life by living it with more zest. The fact that I am much younger than him leaves no room for ego. I can be my imperfect self and get away with it. That’s one benefit of having friends much older than you. I need such friends a lot.
Pratik Mukherjee – Media analyst? Is that what he told me? He is also into theatre of a different kind. The one that brings up uncomfortable questions. He is anti-state, anti-religion, anti-God, anti-Godmen, anti-establishment. A rich source of alternative views. On almost everything in life.
Harsha – filmmaker, trained in the US on film making, travels far and wide in India, shooting films, meeting people, covering interesting stories. So much I can learn…
Rabindranath Tagore – Visionary. Original. Courageous. Deep and Profound. In a lot of his works, I see my alter ego.
E F Schumacher – Author of Small Is Beautiful. One of his line that summarizes his ideology is ‘the total amount of leisure available to any society is inversely proportional to the total amount of labour saving machinery it employs’.
An economist who is himself ‘Out of the Box’. His writings verified most of my preconceptions which would otherwise have remained diffident in the face of the modern economist’s concepts of growth, development, marketing and advertising. He must be my alter ego too.
A long list. It would have been more practical to lit a few names and a few qualities against each, but when I started writing…
I am glad I have done justice to each one.
For all this effort, I hope I imbibe a few qualities from all these fine people God has sent to my life.