Social-exile for finding oneself

This has been coming to my mind quite frequently now and has been quite unlike one of those random musings that reside in our mind momentarily and wither away in annals of memory. 10 years of work,travel and staying away from home and family has brought with it a sense of boredom and a sweet desire to break free: from mental drudgery, regular working hours, the periodic winding of key every Monday morning to live through the week and battle various onslaughts.

I lack the wherewithal to be able to quit my job on the drop of a hat. I have family to look after. But the desire to break free is becoming more pronounced by the day. It was when Shobha and I were strolling through David’s Park in Hobart last Saturday that it occurred to me that I do not have to quit my job to experience a break. I can go on a leave without pay for a few months for a sojourn in one of the hill stations of India.

Shimla is on my mind.I intend to take off from work for a few months and live in a homestay or a rented apartment on a moderate budget.

I will not plan on what I would like to do when I live there. I will wake up each day to the sounds of local life and live the day uncontested. I will go for walks, meet local people and observe daily lives in the neighbourhood.I intend to live a simple life.No, this isn’t my trying to become a hermit.I want to be anyone but a hermit.I am not renouncing the materialistic life. For the love of the science and passion to teach,I may take up teaching Mathematics and Physics in a nearby school for gratis, if such an opportunity arises. I just need a break. A break where I don’t have to look after my utility bills, tend to household repairs,have social obligations to fulfill.I will definitely use Internet and I will have with me my laptop and a mobile to stay connected with family and friends. I will want to check Facebook and read the news every day. I will want to have opinions and also write about them. I want to experience the freedom of owning my time and, with an undivided attention, writing about what I feel – be it an event, a current affair, a thought, remorse or complaint. I would like to defragment my day because it normally is split into slots: of meetings, coffee break,lunch break,personal time and other forced divisions. I want the full 24 hours of the day to be my personal time. I will watch what people do – around me, and on the social media. I will hear what people have to say. I will choose if I have to ignore or react.

In the midst of these observations, I may happen to find myself. I may see myself as one among the herd who will be my subjects of watch or I may see myself within me and be happy that I have been different from the rest. Living such a life will tell me if I like the temporary but quieter lifestyle I have chosen or if I become myself in the corporate work life that I have adjourned. Living through the self-imposed social-exile will let me find myself and appraise myself for the good and bad in me.

Christmas Encounter

I smell freedom. It’s in the air – Holidays, Christmas, and my birthday on Boxing day.

I vividly recollect my crying in anxiety and nervousness during my exams earlier this year. I had felt victimized by the length of time that separated me from the happier days of December and by the gauntlet of Semester exams I had to complete back then.

“I will be at Emmanuel’s, Mummy”, I shout as I leave the home. But then I realize, I am home alone for a couple of hours.

It’s chilly. -5 degree Celsius, reads the weather app on my mobile phone. I walk down the steps outside my block and, as I often like to do, I jump off the last but second step and to land on lawn path cutting across our driveway. It often left me satisfied to land my feet exactly on the two spots that bore my shoe-prints from my repeated jumps.

But today as I jump, I am thrown back after hitting myself against something that appeared to be a wall. The nose hurts. I try to feel my nose as it feels moist but there was no blood on my fingers. I could breathe, still, but the air smelled stale.

What was that? There is nothing ahead. It is as clear as daylight. I rise and move my jaw in circles to make myself feel better from the shock.

I stand on the last step and bend forward slightly and move my hands forward to feel the barrier, if there was any.

Yes, there is something. Feels like glass, but little squishy.

I press my hand into the barrier and it forms a depression and my hands enter in. I feel being pulled in. I try to withdraw myself by bending backwards but no sooner do I try to get myself out than I see a distorted image of a large hand from within the glass barrier clench me and my home.

I transcend down through a vortex into a time warp and I see familiar objects floating around – my home, the neighbourhood, parents, teacher, school, my bicycle….

And then, a familiar sight presents itself – Santa – but he is looking away from me. I see his big bulky back in Santa suit. I rejoice this special moment of being drawn into something so surreal. I inch closer towards him and cry out in excitement “Santa!” He turns back.

Terror stares at my face!

He has vampire fangs! Santa? I grasp for breath and feel my heart pounding hard against my chest. I feel every hair rising – Goosebumps of extreme fear.

Terrified, I yell out: “Wh..Who are you? Sa-Sa-Santa? Your face? And fangs?”

“I am not Santa. I am Krampus”, he replies in a loud, sinisterly voice.

“Cr-Cram-pus?Who?”

“I go around with Nick this time of the year.” the devilish figure replies.

“Who is Nick?” I ask, still terrified.

I watch the face has grown bigger in the moments we spoke, and the surroundings darker and with every passing moment. I now only see the face and its scary features with unavoidable clarity.

“Nick? Ah, Nicholas! You know him as Santa Claus. I call him Nick. He gifts and I punish – punish the badly behaved children like you, Johny. This is time to read out your wrongdoings and improprieties to you.” And he continues with a litany of misdeeds, all of them reportedly mine –

“Sticking chewing gum underneath school desks, copying in exams, missing school, forging father’s signature on absence notes and faking false doctor’s certificates, doing all your assignments and homework by halves, refusing to work harder to improve your grades…. the list is, well, rather, long and I have to punish you for these and time is not on my side this year. You see, I have a long list of homes to visit this year. There isn’t much goodness around and so Nick’s got lesser to do and I have more.” Saying this, he takes out a rusty chain and remarks, “This shall do for now to punish you with.”

“But hang on, Cr-Cram-pus. How do you claim these are my misdeeds? What assurance do you have? I plead innocent. I have been at my best behaviour this year and have been really working hard in everything at school. My parents have been quite happy with my performance and behaviour. So what makes you think it’s me?”, I surprise myself by gathering enough courage to interrogate.

I think to myself,”I may have rung my death knell by making that inquiry.” On the contrary, it turns out differently.

“Isn’t this 52 Naivakananumi, Herlstone Park, 2454?”, he asks with a confused countenance and with  a GPS like device in his hand!

“Oh! No, Saint Crampus!”, I exclaim in anticipation of hope to send him away and by exhibiting my good behaviour by addressing the dastardly creature as ‘Saint’.

I added,“This is 52 Vaikananumi, Herston Park, 2545. You’re at the wrong address. Miles away but so sound so similar. Not entirely your fault, Sainth Crampus!”

“Damn! I had told Nick, I mean Santa, that I can’t operate these modern day inventions!”, he complains showing me his GPS device. “Fat fingers you see! I apologise for bothering you. I will key in the right address into this box and continue on my way. I have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Will you put me back where I came from?” I ask, again in anticipation of being released.

“Of course!” he says and disappears.

I find myself on the last step outside my home, back into my real world. I hurriedly run back into my home. I pause, turn back and laugh out by staring at my address plate that is erect on our driveway at such an angle that I can read “52 Naivakananumi, Herlstone Park!” It’s the laugh of deception. I smell freedom again. It’s in the air!

 

 

 

 

 

Ministry of Absolute Truth

“Ministry of Information and Broadcast”, reads the signboard at the entrance to the building.

I notice there is no sentry and so I walk in with curiosity.

This is my fourth day as tourist Udnishtan, the nation that has known to be democracy’s envy, and it is very rare to find a government establishment without an array of security.

Unlike other government buildings which are usually multi-storied, this one has only one level and unguarded too!

I enter the main foyer. There is a reception desk but unmanned. I look behind, up and down to warn myself of any approaching danger. Not one person around to question what my business is. This is strange, very strange I think to myself.

I look around and find a door that has “RAVESHPA” written on it in blue – meaning Entrance. Audacious that I was after having come this far without challenge, I resolve to open the door and go beyond.

Two more doors inside. On one I see – “ATYSA” written in green. It means “Truth” and on the other, “ARSAVA ATYSA” – meaning “Absolute Truth”, in Orange.

This is becoming like a quest for the unknown I had watched in movies and read in teenage detective novels. Without inhibitions, I open the Orange door of Absolute Truth.

There is a TARDIS like chamber inside, and that is all there is. I enter in. It is pitch dark. I move my hands forward and try to feel the space if there is danger. I stumble upon a chair that seems to have been kept facing me, and I happen to fall in such a way as to land myself on it to take a seat. No sooner do I sit on it than an oculus rift descends down to my eye level. There appear to be some rapidly changing visual scenes. I wear it and I see these visuals:

21/12/15 -09 am. The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around misappropriation of government’s coffers and promising strict action against those found to be guilty.

21/12/15 – 09:05 am. A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court for a ground breaking judgement that resonated with vox populi.

21/12/15 – 09.10am. The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of his state after a recent cyclone that affected the costal belts of the state.

21/12/15 – 09.20am. The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency by killing 5 terrorists hiding in an underground tunnel near the border; the video shows 5 slain and badly disfigured bodies laid in a row on the ground where the encounter happened.

I find it uninteresting to catch up any further on current affairs of the country I am touring. I detach the oculus rift.

I begin to summarize my experience as nothing more than a self-guided tour of current affairs of Udnishtan. I dismiss any further inclination to stay in there and emerge out of the room and start walking towards the entrance that led me into the chamber of absolute truth.

I turn around to close the door behind me and I read “ATYSA” – the green door. What is that for? How different can that be? Interest draws me towards it and I enter the chamber of Truth.

It’s the same inside – a TARDIS like chamber, pitch dark inside, a chair facing me, upon which I sit and an oculus rift drops to my head level which I wear and start seeing similar visual recordings as in the chamber of “Absolute truth” – almost a déjà vu?

The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around ……….Except that video was dated early in January this year! The video ran its timestamp as 15/01/15 – 04:45am. The scam was only reported a month ago! Everything is scripted?staged?

A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court…….. Immediately after this, an internal courtroom video shows the Judge’s acceptance of bribery and a promise to the defendant’s party that the sentence will be no more than 3 years of incarceration. Lies and Betrayal at the supreme court of justice?

The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of…..The camera zooms out and the minister steps out from a studio that imitated a flood affected section of the village the minister was shown to visit. False sympathy propaganda?

The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency………..The video further shows the army chief distastefully expressing the inadequacies of his regiment,” The next time I want to show the media real terrorists not these unclaimed bodies from local hospitals. The public will believe we killed terrorists, but for once find ‘em real terroists and slain ‘em.”

The video blanks out. But it starts again, and this time it shows me. I am watching myself.

It shows me walking into the building, my looking up and down at the reception in a confused state of mind, my entering the chamber of absolute truth and watching the visuals, my exiting the chamber of absolute truth and then entering the chamber of truth. I see myself sit down.

I see someone standing right behind me with an axe in his hand.It was dark all the while and it still is. But there is someone with me in the chamber of truth.

I am scared for my life. I detach the oculus rift and dash out as quickly as I can. But I can’t open the door leading to the main foyer. Suddenly, the chamber of absolute truth behind me lights up and flashes images of an unidentified dead body found near the Ministry of Information and Broadcast.

The reporter states, “The victim appears to have been a tourist as his passport states, but no clues on what led to this death. Police suspects it could have been a stroke or a heart attack.”

The man with the axe emerges out from the Ministry of Truth and stares at me.

Ivory Gregory

Ivory Gregory! That’s what people called me. All but a few of the molars were false fits. At 55, which was when I got my twenty eight tooth replaced with ivory denture replica, I could have well been a small time poacher’s target. I took great pride in the pristine whiteness that flashed from my ivory dentures every time I smiled, although I smiled rarely.

I am 65 now and happy that I am alive now and not least bothered about my ivory dentures.

10 years ago…

The train jerked heavily and I became conscious of my existence. I struggled to open my eyes as I used to in mid-weeks during my working days in thirties. In the narrow slit of light my eyes received, I saw an old rusty train yard. Perhaps the jerk could have been from shunting. I found it difficult to move my limbs. I felt numb but was finally able to stir and sit upright. I finally opened my eyes and saw a man right in front of me. He pointed a gun at me, standing two feet away.

The pain in my mouth was excruciating. What was I doing there? How did I get there? The latest memory I had had was at Dr. Kevin’s dental engine and the smell of Fisherman’s Friend mint from his breath as he perched down upon me injecting me with the usual anaesthesia, except that that time the injection looked longer, bigger.

Why was I in the train? I moved my hand to relax my brow and felt my hand was heavy. A briefcase was handcuffed to my left hand. Why?

I struggled to speak from nervousness. The air was filled with the smell of rusty iron and sounds of iron works from the yard.

“Stay put and bring your hand to me. Don’t move!” The man with the gun spoke.

Wilted as I was, I chose to obey in the hope of help. He had a key and opened the handcuff. He took the briefcase and shook it as he held it close to his ears trying to feel the sound of contents inside. It sounded like it had only a few pebbles or stones. He opened it slightly and walked away.

“This better be a dream.” I spoke to myself, but it wasn’t. I helped myself, looked around to find no body. I alighted from the coach I was in. A few welders watched me in surprise. Was it my dishevelled condition or my swollen cheeks? I made it back home safely to get some rest, still puzzled over the strange incident. I went into my bathroom to gargle with Dentolisterine lotion to ease the pain from my dental operation. I opened my mouth. I saw something unusual. Awestruck, I did not want to close it again.

Today…..

Dr. Kevin is missing since that day. So are my ivory teeth. All replaced with resin. The ivories went to the man with the gun with the suitcase. Well, I indeed got targeted by an ivory poacher – Dr. Kevin, himself!

[submitted as a fictional short story]

Thanksgiving Burgers

For my first Thanksgiving as host, I bought the biggest turkey they had in the store and the hours that followed it made me feel nothing lesser than a surgeon – except that this surgeon knew no scalpel or incisions!

I am a vegetarian. And this is why how I came about taking it upon me to roast “Turkey”.

The day before Thanksgiving:
“…And this way we shall best learn best about each other’s culture and exhibit our culinary aptitude of which we have so boastful about”, concluded Yfrah, after a lengthy discussion about how we self-proclaimed that we were “chefs-without-a-title” and that we know much about food of the country we came from and were so eager to feed each other the dish we knew best to cook.

There were four of us – all from different countries, but none from America, working together for the past 6 months on a computer project at Montebello, LA. All four of us loved cooking.

We sat a cafe in downtown LA the evening before Thanksgiving and thought we will spend the Thanksgiving weekend with a pot-luck. When we listed all that each one would bring, there was nothing American about the feast. And that was when Yfrah convinced us to drop the idea of pot-luck and rather do something American for Thanksgiving.

“Why not take turns and have one of us cook for all, every weekend – a dish that he has never done before?” No one liked the sound of the sentence spoken by Yfrah.

“And what do we do for Thanksgiving? Turkey?”, asked Ronil sarcastically.

“Why not? Sudhir, you sounded most eager to cook something for us? Why don’t you roast a Turkey this weekend?”

“But I am vegetarian, I have never used a mutton mincing knife, leave alone cooking meat….”

“Turkey is a bird. It’s not meat. So you don’t worry go for it!”, Nikolo interrupted.

I stood no chance of exercising my choice or will. I agreed under duress.

As I took the train back home, I was reminded of a hilarious episode from Mr. Bean – of his disastrous attempt at cooking Turkey, which saw him emerge out of the oven with his head shoved right into the “body cavity” of the bird as the guests walked in.

I learned the recipe from the web and kept all ingredients ready that night.

Thanksgiving day:
The recipe made me embark on a process that I earlier had known to be “taxidermy”.

Unlike Indian cooking, which is complex and detailed in terms of preparation and cooking and involved a lot of chopping, slicing and accuracy in proportions, the roast Turkey appeared to a child’s play – Stuff, Tie the legs, Roast, Slice and Serve – except that this child had never handled flesh on the kitchen top.

As I put my hand into the cavity to stuff some white onions, garlic and herbs, I felt like an obstetrician delivering a baby except that I was trying to push in than pull out.

At last, I concluded that I had “stuffed it up” enough, and then brushed it with some lemon and butter and sprinkled a pinch of some “Garam” masala – (I had to introduce an Indian-ness lest it may be thought that it was too good and American to have been cooked by an Indian). And into the oven it went. I played with the control knobs and let it cook.

2 hours later:
“4 burgers and large cokes please”, I ordered at Burger King, next block from my home, while Ronil, Yfrah and Nikolo sat with their stomach muscles still aching from the laugher spree they just recovered from.

The burgers arrived and a Fire brigade went past us on the road. The Fire brigade was the uninvited fifth guest for a Turkey to which I had just given a conventional Hindu burial in my oven – by burning it to charred remains. The smoke had set the condominium fire alarm and alerted the Fire station.

I never admitted that I was terrible at using the oven. I have been the conventional bloke who’d cook on cooking-range that had no controls or knobs that told of time, temperature and any pre-sets.
The turkey vanished and took the onions, garlic and lemons with it. I didn’t see it again after it went into the TARDIS.

“Biryani on you Nikolo, next week. Want to see how an Italian does the Biryani!”, challenged I, as we started biting into our burgers.

“I can assure you that whatever I do, the rice grains won’t vanish like the Turkey did. Alas, I am not a magician as you’re Chef Sudhir!” and we laughed heartily.

“I was famished”, said Ronil. “Thats why we’re eating Hamburgers”, added Yfrah, ”eat before it disappears.”

 

Southern Cross

It is only after spending nearly 5 years spent in the South Pacific that I got to spot a Southern cross. Until this evening, I knew what the constellation of stars on the Australian national flag and of Papua New Guinea signified but had never witnessed it for myself.

This could be due to the fact I never looked up in the sky in solitude on quiet, clear night skies.

I decided to go for a stroll this evening along Knolly Street and turn around at the intersection with Disraeli road to walk all the way back up alongside Victoria Sports complex. I liked to watch the Indian homes built along these roads as I walked. Not so much for their architectural elegance or aesthetics but rather I admired the air of exclusivity those homes had.

Shobha was at home resting her back so today’s was a solitary walk in lieu of a racket game.

On my way back, I happened to gaze up the sky and spotted a distinct formation – characterised by three bright starts. I only fancied that that could be a Southern Cross. For it to be a Southern cross there had to be 2 more – slightly dimmer – stars. And there were.

I knew that in the Southern Cross pattern, you could join two pairs of stars and have two perpendicular lines. I drew them with my eyes and I could spot. There was the Southern Cross! First spotting in 5 years.

It was a clear April sky and I could see the Southern cross.

As I walked further up towards my home, I gazed once again to see if I could see it again and that it was not a figment of my imagination. I had trouble locating it the second time for the sky was clear and there were plenty of stars glittering. But I managed to find it again.

The climb to my house block took me closer and closer to the constellation! And I fancied if I could also spot it from my balcony. I wish I had the company of more experienced start gazer.

Mo was missed thoroughly. I still remember his expert star gazing abilities back in December when we partied at Five Princess.

As I entered home, I removed my flip-flops and stepped out on the balcony in the hope that the constellation will be visible. I bent out from my balcony trying to gaze up and beyond the roof. I gave up when almost my entire upper body was out.

I couldn’t spot it from home.  I wish I had carried my DSLR and Tripod and taken a shot of whatever was visible through the lens.

 

Long weekends – Nursing weekends

downloadIt is not very often that one gets to relish long weekends. In India, there hardly are long weekends that start unwinding from Friday and continue right to the ensuing Monday.

But in the other countries I have stayed and worked in, which were mostly Christian countries, Easter weekend is a sure-shot ‘taken-for-granted’ long weekend. And then there is the lovely Christmas break at the end of year that gives you a taste for voluntarily retired life for nearly a fortnight.

But since 2011, I have started fearing long weekends and breaks. Not because of the hiatus that makes the ascent back to work more difficult than it normally is; rather because of a psychological fear that grips me when such breaks arrive: fear of the unknown that will keep me bound within the walls of the house.

I still remember. It was 2011. I was in Brisbane.

I had plans to relax, travel and do some local excursion over Christmas. Nothing defined on paper or booked really, but still the liberty of having time to my own use awarded a sense of freedom and excitement.

18 December 2011: We went to Movie World in Gold Coast. My wife had a fall while ice-skating.

That night: Inability to walk.Swollen knee. No sleep.

Following day: MRI scan done.

Diagnosis: Patella dislocation or Mild fracture. Advise use of crutches. Minimal movement for 3 weeks. Physiotherapy advised as due course for recovery.

I married my kitchen that Christmas. I spend most time with my stove top and sink – cooking, making coffee washing dishes and tending my wife. The Ice-pack became her favourite toy.

It came from my heart to care for her. But the heart was heavy as it carried the unfulfilled desires: relaxation, travelling and local excursion.

After a month the wife recovered after wearing the crutches as well as one wears an ornament. She wore it through shopping malls, restaurants and even flights.

3 years later. 2014. April. Similar feeling dawns upon me. Easter break ahead. Relaxation, Travelling, local excursion. This time it is Viti Levu, Fiji Islands.

Every resort is booked on the main island – courtesy the vacationing Strayans! Nothing booked for us yet but a day trip (at least) was the offing. Until the evening of April 19.

That evening, the squash court saw us both getting in as two archrivals, determined to squash each other to defeat. The game was aggressive. But I was leading 4 to 3. We were on the eight set.

Shobha hit a power-packed straight drive. The ball was about to land on to my side of the court but I instead chose to return a volley.

Bang! The ball left my Dunlop racket and dashed the front wall.

The re-bound off the front wall was powerful. It still carried an impressive momentum.

Shobha took a step back to let the ball loose steam after a bounce to make it easier for herself.

Her body bent back with a jerk. She punched it back solidly with a skid boast. And I heard her saying “Wait. Something happened… to my back”.

Next day: She rests on the sofa now, watching TV, with a newly bought Australian Wheat bag placed to her bag. I have heated it thrice since morning. The scent of Relispray and pain balm fills the room. It is a sprained lower back this time. I wish her a speedy recovery.

I see a Easter bunny chocolate sitting on my dining table, where I sit typing this away. I see a grin on its face. Is it trying to say something to me? Heh?

 

A Mind of its own.

watched

FICTION START

Its 5 pm and work has been frustrating. My diary shows none of my To-Dos have been struck-off! My computer appears starved of resources and my mind of creative juices. I decide to call it a day and play squash. I feel sly. No one actually notices that I did not get done much today. Not one. Not my neighbour at work, not my boss (on leave) and not people whom I had meetings with today. And yet, I am at liberty to leave without answering anyone. Appraisals are due next week. I can work hard and be in good books then.
I usually don’t shut down my computer but today I decide to. To Start I go, and Shutdown! Let the machine do the rest. “Time for you to sleep”, said I and see the green button on my messenger window saying to me “Green lights! Floor it, speed away, break free!”
I am confident of not being watched. But someone is! My boss is. He is inside my computer. The computer is him! Just as I hit shutdown, the computer hangs up. The messenger window appears.
“How was your day?” writes the boss, or was it the computer as the boss?
I know I have hit the shut down button. I am hoping he sees me offline soon. But he writes again,
“Has the report been fixed?”
I stare at my diary, still open. The first task written in cursive black was ‘Fix report.’ The ink had dried out but the task was open.
“How can you not now shut down by now? I commanded you to” I tell my computer.
I realise. The computer is my boss. He wants to interrogate me. Now!
“Shutdown” I beg.
“Could you send me minutes of meeting today?” Computer asks. My black, still open, diary shouts back “Yes, that’s on the list too, didn’t you do it?” I close my dairy to save me from this phantasmagorical drill.
Something happens. I realise again. My boss is not alone inside the computer. My resident alter-ego tries to fight the boss. It is saying:
“I know you have tried to shut down, but someone here is proving to be stronger than my resources. I can’t help but wait for him to withdraw naturally. I can’t force this guy down.” My alter-ego disappears.
“Hello! Are you there? Where did you go? What do I do? Plug the cord out? But he knows I have seen his messages”, went my monologue.
No reply. I close the chat window and decide to pull out the power cord. I bend down to do so but boss appears again.
“You there? Please update me before you leave”
I give up and decide to reply. But this last chat window multiplies cancerously at an alarming rate.
I hear a sadistic laugh. It is from another cubicle. But I know. It is my Computer. It’s saying to me “You’re watched, all the time”. I cannot see the green light anymore.

FICTION END

I wrote this short story above in response to a  Creative Writing exercise conducted by Writer’s Digest. I received a decent feedback on this story. This is the first time I did not write for myself. I wrote against a task, and assignment! The reason I took this assignment was that I always wrote for myself!

It was only a few days ago that I realized that I have been writing only for myself. The intent has always been more to express than to be read which is why my hand-written diaries have more of me than this wordpress site. Therefore, I fancied writing for a task and see how I went with it.

Fijilusional!

No, there is no such word in the OED. But I just fancied using it to briefly narrate my experience of living and working in Fiji.

I have stayed for most part of my life in India. My notions, beliefs, actions and interpretations are, therefore, largely governed by my Indian roots and things in and of India that have shaped my thinking during my formative years.

When I came to Fiji from Australia, I was presented with a double culture-shock. Why do I call it a “double” culture-shock? It shocked me in two very different ways.

First, my stay in Australia before I traveled to Fiji kept me in developed socio-economic neighbourhoods where scenes of poverty or shanties were seldom seen.Perhaps not even once. The flight journey from Queensland to Suva was 4 hours. But on either sides of this 4 hour flight lay two different worlds – with vastly different climatic, cultural and socio-economic conditions. On my way from Nausori Airport to my apartment in Suva, I witnessed a completely different world.Not of poverty but of a socio-economic condition that was below that of Australia. Until then, I’d have usually only seen such scenes after a long haul flight to India. But after this Pacific hop from Queensland to Suva , I was not jet-lagged,had energy left in me with my eyes wide-open while inside in the taxi and yet laid out in front of my eyes was a completely different landscape.

Second, the Indo-Fijian people in Fiji. These are people who were brought by the British from India to Fiji as indentured labourers to work on Sugarcane farms. They look like any average Indian with a medium-to-dark complexion thanks to the abundance of sun here. They speak Hindi: a very different dialect of Hindi. To me it sounds like a cross between Hindi with a “UP-Bhaiyya” accent and Bengali. The UP-Bhaiyya factor could possibly be due to the fact that the first generation of Indians who sailed to Fiji were from Northern India. I introduce the Bengali factor because the sound of Fijian Hindi is very sweet, much like Bengali that is music to the ears! But to my utter-surprise and delusion, I couldn’t confront with the fact that Indo-Fijians hardly know much about India.

It is this second culture-shock that has left me delusional about Fiji, well Indians in Fiji to be specific – Fijilusional!

Fiji Stamp
I’d not be surprised at all when I get thrown these questions below from a foreigner – Occident, Orient, Strayan, Hispanic or Asians other than the ones from India.

– “Are all of you Indians rich?”
– ” Oh, so you are saying you have more than one state in India?”
– “Where is Bombay? Is it the capital of India”

But what if this foreigner looks Indian and asks you the questions as above in Hindi? A Fijilusional moment for me.
I wear a dumb-look for a moment before I accept that fact that they are not Indians, although they look like one of us.

Another thing that bowls me over is this. You have definitely dealt with vegetable sellers in markets in India. As a default preference, you will deal with them in a local language but never English! But at Suva Municipal markets, I have English speaking , UP-Bhaiyya-looking bhajiwalas speaking in impeccable English drawing my attention towards their produces!
Another Fijilusional moment.

I am sure it is the same with other countries – such as the West Indies islands – where people of Indian Origin had migrated long time ago.

Fiji is a beautiful place. The indigenous Fijians are extremely hospitable and fun-loving people. I think God had some happy people with the kindest of proprieties and he put them all on a group of 300 islands which later united to form Fiji islands!

Email Warriors – building up the binary debris

I have been thinking for quite a while about this one thing and the more I think the more I seem to hate certain “wordsmith species of humans” around us: Why do some people in corporates get a high by sending emails when a simple phone call, messenger tool or a face-to-face conversation could have yielded much better and more immediate resolutions?

emails

I interpret this to be due to one or all of these:

  • lack of courage to face a real-time conversation,
  • inability of think on ones’ feet and be spontaneous – which becomes required of us when in meetings or dialogues,
  • mere laziness to move the legs, walk up to the person or pick the phone up.
  • just a shot at making ones’ presence felt in an argument, or topic so as to escape the criticism of being apathetic or ignorant

Most of us know may know of at least one person at work who will be on the same floor as we’re, or maybe even in a neighbouring workstation, but yet will take delight in emailing to get the most urgent of things done. In some cases, an army of people will be copied.

I understand the legitimacy to resort to emails in reaching people who are geographically distant and separated by time-zones or unreachable when required due to valid reasons. But when emails are abused as medium for “discussions”, or “brain-storming” when none of the above legitimate reasons prevail, then the medium is spent inappropriately.

If over-use of emails was not enough, there are also people who use emails as messengers! With close to or more than a dozen people marked in To followed by a telegraphic assertion or request without addressing anyone in particular is reminiscent of the olden days of Telegram. This is only acceptable for “on-the-move” emails sent from hand-held devices where brevity may be excused at all times and under the assumption that the responsibility to action the request does not drop on the floor waiting to be picked up by someone. If such emails are to be sent while on-the-move, then the responsibilities must be known else it will be an anecdotal replay of the Everybody-Somebody-Nobody-Anybody-could-have-done paradox.

But such telegraphic emails sent while you’re on your desk having liberty of a full sized QWERTY keyboard to your comfort? Strictly No! In many cases, there are multiples of such one-lined emails sent in a rapid fire. Much like the messages we see on a messenger, where the “Enter” key is used generously and tax-free!

There is an abundance of material on the web educating on when to use and when not to use emails, and also on how to use. I am least inclined to have my version as I seem to agree to most of them.

There is no cookie cutter solution to tell when emails are to be or not to be used.But a few simple rules I follow and has not disappointed me to this day:

  • Understand your task and the expectation from you – if you can’t reach your audience in person, over a messenger tool or over phone – only then choose the email. Choose the most efficient means based on priority of the task on hand.
  • If all that matters to you is marketing-your-poor-self by appearing on Inbox ( or Trash?) of others when a phone call or meeting-in-person could have helped better, then please choose to play this lesser-game of wordsmiths. One merit is that the most jobless of recipients may read you.
  • If you want to boast – boast loud and clear but do it over the phone again or in person. Let it into the ear  lest your carefully drafted words in the email that you edited and re-edited ten times land up in someone’s Trash and add to binary debris. An email is too belittling a tool to announce your good to someone whom you desire to take notice of it.

I follow this because I feel content over a problem having been solved or taken closer to solution and not over being an also-ran in the race to writing most emails over a given topic.