Reboot time?

People who have followed me around (they need to get their brains tested) know that I am a blog gypsy. I periodically obliterate my blog content (at least on the bright web – I understand that data is the only permanent thing in this otherwise transient world) and start afresh elsewhere. I know that the time has come when the blog becomes a rant fest, and the humour content falls. And I get sick of the handle.

Limp cabbage has outstayed its welcome.

It’s a gut wrenching process – any writer knows that killing one’s darlings is the most difficult part of the writing trade. But it is essential to, excuse me borrowing from he-who-must-not-be-named, drain the swamp*.

As ever, I will leave a breadcrumb trail here once I come up with a new name for my next blog.

See you on the other side.

*I am on a cliché roll, ain’t I?

God plays dice

A couple of awkward confessions before the main post.

  1. I seem to surface here only when I have to rant. Sorry about that. 
  2. On a month in which my Blog reader is full of gratitude posts, I am being the opposite of grateful. 

I met a couple of friends after decades, a couple of weeks ago.  These two are not the earliest best friends that I often write about, but two other girls I hung out with all the time in my first grad school years – we were famously referred to as the Three Devis (Goddess) by our classmates.  Aftergrad school, we were in touch now and then, but I dropped off their radar (they were in touch with each other better) because…life.  Ironically, one of them lives in the same city as me.  Anyway, all that’s by-the-by.

So, we met at friend A’s parents’ house.  I have always been fond of her parents, and they, of me.  I met them after twenty five years, and we just picked up from where we left.  However, mama (her dad) had been through trying health crises in the past years, that he was a shadow of his old self.  Nevertheless, his spirit was as cheery and positive as it had been all those years ago. It was good meeting them, and my friend invited me to her father’s 80th birthday celebrations, which are a big thing in my culture.

Two days ago, he had a heart attack and underwent a stent placement procedure.  He’s still in ICU, but stable and recovering well, thank God.  The celebrations are postponed, obviously.

Mama has always been a disciplined person, with no bad habits, a disciplined life with simple home-cooked vegetarian meals on all occasions, a no-stress job, a compatible wife, no-problem children, and a cheery disposition.  He never “exercised” deliberately, but was always a physically active person, walking to all places, or taking public transportation everywhere he went. This is to say that he had a healthy lifestyle.   And yet, he has had cancer scares, blood clot in the brain, and stroke in the past, and now heart attack. 

My daughter’s Kalari (an Indian martial arts form) teacher, also an immensely disciplined man, with extremely healthy eating habits, and active exercise, had a heart attack a year ago.  

My father-in-law, a happy-go-lucky man when he lived, with an organized lifestyle, simple needs, and cheery disposition, got Parkinson’s, and later cancer, and succumbed to it.

On the other hand,

I know utterly undisciplined people.  Who wake up to a packet of potato chips and ice cream.  Whose only exercise is working their mandibles either to eat, or to yak all the time. Who have worn their easy chairs to a thread with their behinds. Who are quick to judge others and live their lives finding faults and complaining. Or worrying all the time. These people seem to have no health issues whatsoever (not that I want them to, may everyone stay healthy and happy), and live to ripe old ages.   

I tell myself that my examples are anecdotal evidence, and do not point to any universal truth, else I’d die of resentment.  But sometimes something happens that makes me wonder if the universal truth is that there is no pattern to anything.

I am a safe driver.  Agreed, I am terrible with parking, and any scratch on the car has happened when I have tried to park.  When driving, I am always careful.  I yield to fast drivers, I never tail gate, I use indicators whenever needed (I must be the only Indian driver who uses the indicator to overtake another vehicle or change lanes), never jump signals, always allow pedestrians to cross, stay clear of two wheelers, etc.  Yet today, as I was driving back home from a chore, I took a U-turn at an intersection after due indication, and at the green signal, when a bike, trying to go straight from the right most lane dented my car’s rear. 

I have driven with someone who is the rashest driver I’ve known – never uses indicator, goes at breakneck speed in city roads, tailgates aggressively, never yields, gets into road rages….I could go on.  Every time I am in their car, my fists are clenched, my toes are curled, and I pray to every deity that we reach in one piece.  Yet, this person has never even had a little scratch to their car.   And they are proud of their driving skills.

As of now, nothing makes sense to me.

Melanie will be missed

Melanie, formerly EmBeeCee, and then at Sparks from a combustible mind, is no more.

I have been following Melanie from our Vox days many years ago. I was introduced to a completely different world through her posts. She was talented and funny, and most of all, brutally honest in her posts – what you read was what she was.

My condolences to her blog followers, she will be missed terribly.

Monsoon’s here

When I was young, donkey’s years back, dates-of-onset were announced only for the South West Monsoon- the monsoon that waters most of my country. The North East Monsoon that sustains us down south was never even considered existent (as with anything South – my pet peeve – what the world knows as “India” is North India and is nothing representative of the south – case in point, we celebrate “Deepavali” (row of lights) not “Diwali”, which as a word, has no meaning).

That the NE monsoon was not considered important was taken for granted because it was unpredictable. And also, we, South Indians considered being left out the norm

It’s different now. People from the south have stopped being the wallpaper of India and now go to conquer et al. e,g. Sathya Nadella (Telangana, erstwhile AP), Shantanu Narayan ( Telangana, erstwhile AP), Sundar Pichai (Tamil Nadu), Indira Nooyi (Tamil Nadu)…yada yada yada.

The point being, we now have weather scientists who are putting the NE monsoon on the table. I am sure the rest of the country doesn’t care, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we now have people talking of weather events in the peninsular. NE monsoon continues to be capricious, but there is a at least a 50% hit with the predictions.

The first spell of the northeast monsoon lashed the city today, as forecast, and looks like it is all set to continue till Friday, November 4.

So that’s that.

Age

I attended the wedding of my second cousin’s son today. Met a bunch of distant cousins* who I’ve not seen in 30 years. I couldn’t even recognise them. Some of them are even grandparents now.

It freaked me out that when I spoke to them, even the ones my age, I felt like I was taking to my aunts and uncles rather than cousins.

Then I realised he horror of it all. I must’ve seemed like that to them too.

  • Cousin means distantly related folks of my generation . Like mom’s cousin’s children etc.

Work rant and pride

One of my clients gave me feedback that I need to write simple, short sentences and closely follow the format of competitor articles, with no scope for any creativity or fun.

The writer in my head rebels. My strength is my writing style and my ability to blend seemingly unrelated matter into an unexpectedly coherent narrative (modesty is not my forte). Must I water it down for money?

My bank balance says “yes”.

I hate this conflict.

On the up-side, I wrote an editorial article for a client, who is usually terribly hard (even impossible) to please, and he wrote back saying “the article reads well”. I thought I was going to pass out. Modesty be damned again, the article reads more than well – it reads great (I’ll post the link once it’s published, you are required to ooh and aah about it), but I’ll take “well” from the horse’s mouth and run for life.

Happy Deepavali

Or Diwali, if you are from the North of the country.

Never been a fan of Diwali because it is noisy, tiresome, and generally hyped much (and my Deepavali new clothes have never fit me right ever), but this year, surprisingly enjoyed it because:

  1. Wasn’t that noisy. (yet. I am sure I jinxed it and this evening people would burst crackers like there’s no tomorrow).
  2. I made only three goodies and the traditional marundhu (herbal medicinal goo) and so I wasn’t as tired as I usually am after taking it upon myself to make every single goody that’s made for the festival. No badusha, no Mysore pak, no thenkuzal, no mixture, no gulab jamun. Just manankombu and my debut attempt at jangri in the first round. Both came out perfect tasting, despite looking like drunk octopuses. I tried seven-cup burfi, but it came out as seven-cup fudge, but it hardened somewhat with time, resulting in a soft burfi kind of sweet, so no complaints there. Forgot to include it in the group photo.

3. I stayed off all the hype because I didn’t have the time. All of last week I was overcommitted with projects and I didn’t have time to talk to anyone or socialise to any extent, which also could be the reason that I didn’t get peer-pressurised into making gazillion goodies.

4. I didn’t get myself new clothes for Deepavali. I had a new saree someone had gifted me, and was planning to wear that, but didn’t anyway, at least so far. I am in my most faded, worn kurtha, and am comfortable. I should have been doing this all along instead of wearing scratchy, starched uncomfortable new clothes and running about in them under high levels of irritation. It has taken me 50 years to get here. Sad.

I didn’t wake up at an ungodly hour as I usually do on Deepavali, I had a satisfying oil bath, did the ritualistic nalangu (smearing of turmeric and vermilion on feet) for the daughter, and a simple meal with my family and my father, whom, I had invited over for lunch. Then had a siesta (ridden with hormone-addled nightmares, sigh), and am here typing this out. The following days are going to be hectic with work like last week, but for now, I am not even thinking about work. Tomorrow is tomorrow.

Nalangu

So, how was your Deepavali, if you celebrate?

Cricket crazy

I am not a cricket person. I am not any kind of spectator sport person. I am not a sports person, period.

The husband, like any true blue Indian with the special cricket gene in his DNA tells me the following:

  • the T-20 world cup is going on.
  • currently it is the selection rounds
  • Friday starts the semifinal or quarter finals or some such thing (I zoned out when the husband was talking, which happens often when he is talking about cricket)
  • Friday is a match between the two giants – Australia and New Zealand. It is going to be held in Australia.
  • Today, two days before Friday, there are tickets available for the match.
  • Sunday is the match between the two other giants – India and Pakistan. The match will be held IN AUSTRALIA.
  • The match tickets were sold out two weeks ago.

It’s funny that a match between two countries that adopted cricket from their colonisers are sold out in an English-descendent country.

When I was younger, India-Pakistan matches would take on the aura of a real war – it didn’t help that the two countries have always been political enemies, looking for a reason to go to war. I have heard that the border security forces in both countries would be on alert on days of India-Pakistan cricket matches !

Thankfully, in recent times, there is more sporting competition than nationalistic rivalry in the field. At least I hope so.

I am so glad I am not a cricket person.

To share or not to share

I was putting together a powerpoint presentation for a client on a hard-science topic. The client is paranoid that someone would steal their presentation and insists that I use animations so that even if members of the audience take mobile phone photos of the presentation in progress, they’d not get the full picture of a single slide.

I did it because that’s what the client wants.

But that raised a question in my mind.

Should there be firewalls to knowledge?

While I do believe that ethics is required in terms of copyright and ownership of ideas, I am not sure I’d be too paranoid about someone copying my thoughts and claiming them as their own.

This could be because my ideas and thoughts are not important enough (in the big picture) to change the trajectory of my life or someone else’s, for that matter.

But as far as I can see, most intellectual work is like that. Unless it is the formula to get nuclear fission or fusion going to create a weapon, in which case, please, hide it like the dickens. However, if a piece of knowledge or information is geared at the general improvement of some aspect of human life, hey, why hide it? Is ownership of that idea really that important?

For example, if I stumble upon a cure for cancer, should I worry that someone would steal my idea and claim it as their own? As long as the knowledge reaches the right avenues, does it matter who proposed it?

Yeah, I’d worry if the stealer themselves hide it behind a firewall of money or patent and not allow it to realise its potential.

I have recently started putting out notes for high school students in chemistry on my linkedin profile. I have had people tell me I should sell them for money and not make them available for free. I am not saying anything new, just explaining concepts differently so that the student may understand them better. I’d rather not hide it behind a paywall. Yes, I spend time and money on it, but not every effort need have material returns, no?

THAT SAID, from my own experience, I can play the devil’s advocate and see why intellectual ownership could be important and why the client is paranoid.

I’ve written research proposals for more than a decade now. Every year, a few of my proposals, although sound in every way, are rejected. In some cases, a year later, I find a random research paper published in a journal with my rejected idea. Of course, the idea may have occurred to someone else as well, at around the same time frame, but, I’ve often noticed that these papers are written by scientists who could have been on the proposal review panel of the funding organization. Could it be that an unscrupulous reviewer of my proposal rejected my proposal so that he/she may use my idea to further their own work?

Ethical conundrums give me a nosebleed.