Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Winter of discontent

Mum has been worried about multiple things. The laptop and its battery is giving trouble, the guy who was paid to deliver milk is absconding and the egg which the pigeon was sitting on with its feathers all fluffed up, has appeared on the balcony railing, resulting in a distraught mother pigeon.

It is extremely reassuring sometimes to listen to mundane moanings of near and dear ones. Had my mum not been in optimum health, conversation with her would revolve around medication, its side effects and test results. But strangely when things on that front improve I get to hear about the little but important struggles in her life including the helplessness and grief over the pigeon's lost egg.

I am too far away to be able to solve any of her problems, big or small. But being far away is far more unsettling when listening to the big problems. Listening to the story of the pigeon's lost egg,  is in relative terms quite blissful. May God and the pigeon forgive me for saying that.

Meanwhile it has been a winter of discontent for many, along with the snow and ice.  There have been public protests in Greece, Spain, France and Ireland over cuts in Government spending and its impact on jobs, pensions, currency etc. Students of the UK have been taking to the streets over removal of the cap on University Tuition fees.

Yet, the Indian leaders are plush with cash and have received the distinction of being amongst the most corrupt in the world, threatening to derail the success story of the fast growing economy being visited in recent past by the likes of Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron.

A distressed and disillusioned Ratan Tata said on National Television that while it is not so long ago, since President Obama referred to India as an emerged rather than emerging nation, events in the past few weeks are threatening to denigrate the country into a BANANA REPUBLIC. He explained further by saying- a country where people are prosecuted and jailed without proper trial or worse still are found dead in suspicious circumstances.I don't think it is far from the truth. One used to associate the Hindi heartland with gunda raaj but the goings on in the capital and other big cities makes one wonder whether democracy has any advantages. Nitish Kumar's turnaround for the once backward state of Bihar, speaks of the contrary.

Ratan Tata is a towering figure, (not just physically) who is not just a top industrialist in India, but Tatas is now the biggest  private employer in Britain after the takeover of Corus and Jaguar Land Rover (this was reiterated by Cameron on his India visit).

Ratan Tata spoke out for the first time about how his incorruptible stance had disadvantaged him and about how his fellow industrialists find it impossible to understand why he wont pay up, if it means losing projects like airlines and telecom spectrums. He spoke of swaying public policy determined by vested interests.

Listening to this interview made one feel sad. Honest men and women of integrity are constantly having to explain their seemingly foolish actions or inactions to everybody else, who considers bribing officials as a part of life.

Years ago Jaspal Bhatti made a point in one of his satirical television programs about how fathers of daughters who needed to be married off, should orchestrate income tax raids in their homes, to attract parents of suitable boys, who would then be assured of a hefty dowry.

I have had the controversial privilege of having worked with the Government of Chhattisgarh as an outside expert for Reproductive and Child Health Program and my experience left me with two very contrasting emotions.

On the one hand I worked with some truly inspiring, thinking out of the box, dedicated and effective bureaucrats and NGO heads, but on the other hand had to come to terms with working in a decrepit and dirty building with paan spit marks and plastic bags floating in stagnant puddles of rain water (if you were lucky or it could be broken sewage pipe water). The attitude of the people working in such an environment with years of experience of not being listened to, not being able to change anything was equally narrow minded, frustrated, inert and usually corrupt.

My father worked for a Government enforcement agency, Mines Safety and as a child, I had heard my mum complain about the bags of coal which was delivered free to our neighbours, while my dad grunted and concentrated on the newspaper. We knew we were not supposed to accept anything which was not accounted for. But usually Diwali sweets were considered OK, until one day in Delhi, Papa discovered that the sweet box was lined with wads of money. He then had to pick up his car and drive up the hills near Dehradun to return the box of sweets. Therefore, I was brought up to have very strong views on corruption, but working in Chhattisgarh made me so frustrated by the lack of action that my stance settled to- Make the money you want (usually 10% of each cheque from the World Bank via the Central Govt) but at least let the program go ahead, let the people who want to do something- do it....but even that was too much to ask...

Privatizing everything is not the answer, the person who suffers is the common man while the big wigs fill their pockets both Ambanis and Rajas. The black money leads to inflation of real estate and grass root problems of housing, food, electricity, water, health and education remain...Mera bharat mahaan. na roti na makaan.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Believer or atheist

Do you all remember the Bajaj motor bike ad? It was meant to reinstate the fact that Bajaj was a true Indian product. It had a young man on a motor bike, cruising effortlessly through elaborate powder rangoli designs on residential roads, reaching out to his forehead and heart, while bowing his head in homage as he crossed a temple and many such truly Indian gestures, which are a strange mix of religion and tradition that we have grown up with.

Yet, I was at a loss of words when my 13 year old daughter asked me my opinion on abortions and in the same breath said-"Most of my class are atheists." I started to explain why it was important to have faith. She said in a dismissive tone (implying- I dont need a lecture)-"Dont worry, I believe in God."

But I realize that it is scientific, forward thinking and "in" not to believe in God. After all,  teenagers like my daughter will ask- Have you seen him or her? About 10 years ago, an Indian Christian friend doing theology in England had told us that only 8% people in England would call themselves Christian.  In Eastern cultures, though, there would be an underlying fear psychosis preventing people from questioning the existence of the creator. In the chaos, which is India- with bad roads, worse traffic, corrupt public services, extreme weather, divisive politicians and teeming population- One has to have faith, to survive.

This discussion about atheism, in class was no doubt, brought on by Pope's controversial state visit to Britain. So controversial that government spokespersons had to clarify on BBC, that the Pope is actually a Head of state (the Vatican City) and that this is a reciprocal visit in the diplomatic protocol, as the Pope has in the past, received many Prime ministers of Britain and members of the Royal family. They also clarified that only state functions had been paid for by the taxpayer and all religious functions were sponsored by the Catholic Church.

Amongst all the discussion about abortions, contraception, homosexuality etc. his visit taught me new phrases- "aggressive secularism", "atheist extremism." The Pope appealed to multicultural Britain to respect traditional values and cultural expressions, which "aggresive secularism" is trying to eradicate. A similar term was used by panelists on NDTV discussing the Ayodhya judgement- "secular fundamentalism"

The India I have grown up in is actually secular, not atheist. Most Indians believe in God and live peacefully with believers of a different God, even if it is by finding ways not to step on each others toes. Most Hindu shrines including Kailashnath have Muslims as caretakers and the Pujari in Ayodhya has been feeling sorry for the shrine which has been exposed to wind and rain since the Masjid fell down.

I always remember calling out for relatives of a Muslim woman outside the Labour ward of Safdarjung Hospital. A lady with her hair parting full of sindoor, (the red powder symbolizing marriage for Hindu women) came up to me and said she was the Muslim woman's sister in law. I looked at her suspiciously and pointed to the fact that she seemed to be a Hindu considering the kilo of sindoor in her parting and this woman was a Muslim. She then clarified that actually they were neighbours but their husbands were like brothers and they were family in that respect. I barely had time to argue with that and so was content in getting her signature to say that she had been explained her "sister in law's" medical condition and its risks.

Listening to all the voices yesterday about the Ayodhya verdict made me think. The bl....politicians, who are to blame for the fanning of communal sentiments, have been thanking the Indian public for the calm they have maintained.

The truth is that, 20 years on, from the days of the heady rath-yatras and Imam's fatwas, parties have lost elections and India has had to hang its head in shame over some of the worst riots. Leaders who speak the language of roads, electricity and water, governance and development have been able to keep their mandates, while others have lost them. The Sensex watching, mall and multiplex going new India has realized it is important to be educated and be educated in English to get the life you want...nobody really cares for non issues like places of worship, anymore.

This also reminds me of my college days when students were burning themselves in protest over reservation for backward castes in Government jobs, as recommended by the Mandal Commission. We, medical college students were up in arms as well, yet a few years on, it became a non issue. Liberalization exploded the multinational job market, government hospitals saw brain drain into Corporate hospitals and nobody cared for the few government jobs in question.

India has been a darling of the international media for some time now, since the opening up of the markets. Manmohan Singh, who doesnt enjoy such popularity at home, has been hailed as the man who brought about prosperity for many in India and has received the World statesman award.

Economist has consistently featured articles about India, one of its earlier covers being-the tiger in a cage- signifying the entrepreneurship and demographic dividend of India being bogged down by corruption, lack of infrastructure, health and education....but the Economist's recent cover (after reporting on all the fiascos during the run up to the Games) is a tiger on the run- with the caption-"why India will outpace China".

Well I hope all forecasts are true....even though there are so many buts....Kashmir, Maoists, corruption, lack of infrastructure...

But one must have faith- Faith in the almighty, faith in destiny, and above all

 Faith in the Indian people- who rejected coercive Family planning measures to give us this demographic dividend, rejected the call for Hindi as a national language with the result that we continued to need English and our newfound economy is based on our knowledge of English, have successively rejected Governments which failed to deliver and have put people like Shiela Dixit in power again.

We will need to have faith, and therefore will continue to have faith!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Money, money, money! its a rich man's world!

One of the most iconic scenes and dialogues from the Hindi cinema is from the film Deewar. Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor are brothers, who have parted ways, and are now meeting after a long time, under the bridge, where they had spent time together, when they were children. Amitabh Bachchan says in his characteristic flamboyant style- " I have a house, a car...what have you achieved in life, with your lofty ideals?"

Having been on the recieving end of numerous visa refusals for my mother, I can empathize with the crushed look on Amitabh Bachchan's face when Shashi Kapoor retorts with a lot of pride-"Our mother chooses to live with me."

This dialogue- "Mere paas ma hai" was referred to by A.R Rahman in his Oscar acceptance speech too. It has that universal appeal, which has made it a memorable moment in Hindi cinema's history.

It reiterates, in four words, the futility of worldly possessions and reinstates the value of human bonds and relationships. Movies which do that, usually go on to become great hits and the protagonists end up being worshipped as heroes. Yet the world reels under the ills of consumerism and corruption and continues to witness many warring brothers and wronged elders.

I have moved into this big beautiful house on an isolated lane by the beach, but am already missing the hustle bustle of hospital accomodation. I used to see a lot of familiar faces on the way home from work, including screaming kids and chasing mums, colleagues and visiting parents or grand parents. All that is a far cry from an empty driveway and a house where you have to walk half way around to make sure the kids hear your call for dinner and where neighbours either have tall hedges or are retired or just too faraway.

There is always a trade off! A friend's famous words.

My daughter had said in class, when she was ten, that -"If you can grow your food, have safe water to drink and have access to education, you dont need money." Her teacher wrote what she had said on the board, as a quote, with a date and her name. I wish I had done that somewhere, to be able to refer back to it, when plagued by her demands for clothes, holidays and restaurant meals and also to be able to keep things in perspective when she grows up to face the familiar dilemmas of modern living- Career or family?

The balancing act is a tough one and as the number of people who are well off in India, swells, so does the divorce rate. The more successful the gen next is, the less interested they are in mundane things like marriage and children.

I attended an Indian marriage in England, complete with the Punditji giving a running commentary in English into a mike, while he carried out the rituals in the mandap. The wedding was so keenly attended and enjoyed by the bride's and the groom's friends from the Western world, that it made me think whether the youngsters in India would at all be interested in the principles of acceptance of imperfection and committment for life, that Punditji kept reiterating. The slogan in the cities in India is- "Its my life"

When I was in India, I had the pleasure of hosting a visit from a cousin brother who lives in the village. We met after many years. He was technically the country cousin and I was the town mouse. I wanted to do my best to make him feel welcome in my house but found it hard- believe me.

He has a poultry farm so usually cooks 5 kilos chicken every week for the big joint family, which includes visiting nephews with ravenous appetites. The food they cook is freshly plucked farm vagetables, fresh dairy products (they have a cow at home) and since there is no power supply and thus no refrigerator, everything is cooked and consumed fresh. Few kilos of mangoes and bananas from the orchards makes up for the dessert. The food I served seemed rationed, processed, dull and stale in comparison.

Perhaps as a result of this excellent diet or because of the long walks he has to take, to supervise the farm, he looks forty when he is actually 50. One of the things he enjoyed, was watching television, but complained about the temperature of the water in the overhead tank (water from the well in the village is cool). When I wanted to buy a sari for his wife (my bhabhi), he said in his true village patriarchal manner- "If you buy for her, you will have to buy for my brothers' wives as well!"

It was good to experience his simplicity and goodness but it left me wondering- whether it is worth the while for us town mice to run the rat race for bigger cars and better houses, only to find that we need to go on fancy diets or need to pump iron in the gym for physical fitness, need cosmetic intervention to look young and need courses in meditation, parenting, marriage counseling and need to read self help books to keep us sane and able to cope with the "stress".

For the present though, we are already on the treadmill, trying to slow down....Enjoy each moment!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Creatures in our life

Children were fighting over the front seat in the car, when I wondered aloud as to what was so great about sitting in the front. My 9 year old son, said to his 13 year old sister- "Ya, even in school, Ashwin and I fight over Chandni." My daughter's expression was an incredulous one and her eyes nearly popped out, when he coolly said-"We take turns over her". Soon realizing that this wasn't going well, he confirmed-"Chandni is a horse."

Thank God for that.

I wonder how horse riding in schools came about. Is it something which was taught in schools in the nineteenth century, when riding horses was a skill, one couldn't grow up without. Why do elitist schools still teach this skill? Is it just for fun and sports? Or is it an ecofriendly sport? In that case they should probably have a fleet of bicycles for children to learn on.

After all cycling is an international sport, cycles don't eat, they usually won't cause life threatening injury, and cycling is a skill one can't do without, in today's world.

There is an electric Hero scooty which gets charged in the parking space of our building. It reminds me of all the things which need charging in today's world and how plug points in airports, trains and stations seem to be aware of the need. Hopefully we will soon have solar panels doing the same in parking lots, as well.

Coming back to Chandni, hope she is happy trotting and galloping in the school grounds. Can't say the same about the big bounding Bull dogs and Dovermans I often encounter most disconcertingly in my building, when the lift opens and I am expected to share lift space with a panting, huge canine. I have often wondered how these big animals survive in a 9th floor flat, but it seems I am not alone.

Pets will soon need to be registered here in India and owners will have to prove that they have the minimum required space to keep the pet of their choice. Hurrah and three cheers to that, the canines and I would say. But, implementation of a lot of ambitious plans by the Government, often draws a question mark. It may create another industry for providing fraudulent registrations and licences.

 Pet dogs seem to be very popular in India and pet food too is available in superstores,  but pet owners struggle, if they have to clean up after their pet in the building campus (else where, they needn't bother). In England, pet owners do it as a routine with plastic bags around their hands but here in India people use a no touch technique with makeshift shovels and trashcans, screwed up noses and embarrassed looks.

I wonder whether the pet ruling will include the cattle which roams freely in the green spaces on roadsides, often using the roundabouts, pedestrian crossings and the like to go to the greener grass on the other side.

Cows and bulls do have a free reign in this country. Unlike them, the horses are a tame and obedient lot. There are a lot of horse carts in the town, selling Dusehri mangoes nowadays. Horses are yoked in and have eye guards to make sure they look ahead. They lack the protective pouch on its underside to collect the dung. This contraption is there in the horse carts doing pleasure rounds on England's beaches to ensure the roads remain free of horse dung. There is not much point in introducing that for horse carts here, because the free willed cows and bulls would make the roads dirty anyway.

Yet, like I have always suspected, Indians topped the Greendex National Geographic survey held in 17 countries, for being the most eco friendly consumers. We eat local produce, avoid packaging, use public transport and conserve fresh water. Americans (no surprise) came last.

I have never liked encountering insects while cutting vegetables and have often become the laughing stock of my non medical relatives for screaming the place down while throwing infested capsicums in the air. But, how perceptions change. This time when I encountered insects in the vegetables, I greeted them with glee. Their wriggling was reassuring. It meant that the vegetables were not doused in pesticide and if the worms were alive and kicking- They were probably safe for my children too!

Wishing you an ecofriendly coexistence with all creatures great and small!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

India- a land of many problems and many more solutions

Honestly, one doesnt just marvel at the weaving, chaotic traffic in India, one actually starts to believe in a superior force, God maybe or maybe just positive energy...which must have a hand in running this part of the world.

Life has a breathless pace, as money is snatched out of your hands to let you out of the barriers at toll bridges and parking spaces. Nobody waits, nobody follows any rules (not in Greater Noida) and if you do, you become dangerous and a liability for the variety of traffic on the road.

I have been mouthing a "thank you" to the poor security guys of my building, who get up and open the gates every time I leave or enter the building campus. A tiny gesture like that of making eye contact and smiling, brings forth odd reponses. The perplexed frown which met my gaze initially, has slowly grown into a smile or a raise of hand in greeting, which is nice.

But taking a break in India is indeed- great! I would recommend it to everybody. Take a break- take a chill pill- its good for your body and for your soul.

One faces many problems, but one also finds unique solutions and obviously, when you look around, your problems seem miniscule compared to the man on the street's problems or even the government's or the system's....

Everbody is aware of the lack of urban space and infrastructure and one would think parking would be such a problem in city centres. But in reality there is always, at all times of the day and night, somebody to guide you to the available space, even park your car in a tight squeeze, if you are not a skilled driver and help you get out, by stopping the traffic for you, amidst lights, bleating horns, cycles and pedestrians- All for a paltry sum of 10-20 rupees.

Similarly, I was worried about facilities for children for swimming, tennis etc. I need not have worried, sports complexes are coming up and are being fully utilized. So you can get daily swimming, tennis, basket ball lessons ....That brings forth different problems with Indian parents and commercial institutions. The tennis coach was complaining the other day- Kids who cant feed themselves are being sent to us to learn tennis! Truly, you can see pretty 3-4 year olds with skirts, shoes and wonderfully light tennis rackets, all Sania Mirzas in the making.

Watching recorded television programs and movies on demand, on digital TV, shopping in Air conditioned malls with empty multiplexes and crowded food courts, watching the skyline with the Delhi Metro, going on long drives with Miaow FM radio on expressways and flyways, paying bills in drop boxes, getting everything and everybody from servicing of chimneys to changing flat tyres by making a call, listening to Bollywood caller tunes....Delhi or may be NCR is a very different experience, as compared to a few years ago!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Live-in or married

I watched Barkha Dutt's talk show on NDTV after the Supreme Court of India said there was nothing wrong with premarital sex or live in relationships. I honestly never realized it was a crime, if the partners were over a certain age and had consented to the act.

Having heard all the excitement on what I call the channel of "lipstick journalism", I looked up the news and realized the Courts have long since maintained this, but NDTV is our crusader for all the Western values including gay rights, pub culture, live in relationships....spends hours of precious prime time TV to these issues, while the country reels under corrupt governance and slow progress in areas of crucial importance such as infrastructure, health and education at grassroot level.

Khushboo (the actress who had 20 cases against her for saying it is alright to indulge in premarital sex as long as one uses precautions), her lawyer said- "Living in should not be an aspirational value, as values such as these have broken Western societies and the world is looking up to India simply because of its unique social fabric which is a result of its traditional values..."

Probably commissurate with my grey hair and teenage daughter, I completely agree with this. Yes, people do have rights and should not be harrassed if they are living together, but in spite of the law of the land, I would prefer it never to recieve "social sanction", even though that remains only a dinosaurish wish on my part.

A 20 year old man said on the show-"Marriage has to go." Uh o ok...what can we say? Shaadi. com guy said- "Institutions have to be challenged and then they emerge stronger" All the sugar and clarified butter in your mouth, pal. (Tere muh me ghee shakkar) May your business scale the skies- may our children get married and live happily ever after.

In the UK though, married, single, single with partner, separated, divorced....all are in equal proportions in the society and I meet so many young nurses or midwives who decide to get married, after a few years (and a few children) of living together. It seems like a huge waste of few thousand pounds on a lavish wedding, (dress, cake, hall, food, drinks...etc) and I have often questioned the rationale-"do you feel any different as Mrs so and so?".

Most of the time they are emotional and romantic and see it as a confirmation of the man's love and commitment to the relationship. Some believe one should be married before having kids, others think names of children and money matters are better managed. Yet, I dont get a satisfactory explanation and most of them are happier

I think a change is always nice. However, it is not so easy for married couples to change status-"chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaye...hum dono" No, one can't do away with the familiarity of marriage, where the allegation is that the partners take each other for granted and the dynamics is different.

Listening to Kalpana Lajmi who has been living with Bhupen Hazarika for past 38 years, it seems she didnt marry lest she be asked to cook dinner and dress in a sari, everyday. But the dynamics in marriages today are different anyway. Who can be expected to dress and cook traditionally? Not the present jean clad, texting generation brought up on McDonalds and Pizzahuts.

Then there are the celebrities who love to marry in style, in castles and fortresses only to realize they want time out. Simon Cowell is the latest eligible half century old bachelor who has offered a prenuptial contract of God knows how many thousands of dollars and home worth what they will be living in at the time, to his fiancee, who it is predicted, will jump at the offer. So you marry with a back up plan about how to split amicably. How strange and unromantic, might as well just live together, but then I am already a dinosaur.

The Supreme Court and National Commision for women believes that if the rights of women are same if they are married or in a long term relationship, the charm of a live in relationship, which curiously is attractive because of the "No strings attached" clause will fade and the institution of marriage will remain strong.

Wonder what the twenty somethings in urban India think about that. Being a gynaecologist exposes you to the dynamics of relationships everywhere you work, be it UK, Bahrain, South Delhi (designer class) or Noida (call centres).

Live in and party out or get married and stay put? Choice is yours....

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

IPL fever

Madingley Hall in Cambridge, where I attended the course "Teaching the teachers to teach", is an example of medieval opulence. Built in the 16th century, it was rented to the Prince of Wales in the 19th century when the young man attended University in Cambridge.

It was a historic setting, with the carved doors, designed ceilings, painted glass windows and wall size paintings, for our non medical, non powerpoint presentations, which ranged from juggling, judo, wonderwoman, rifle shooting and chicken curry to how to declutter your house and what to look for while buying a pram. These were meant to break the ice between participants, who varied from the junior most to the senior most in the NHS heirarchy.

Having been witness to the IPL fever on Indian and English news channels, it came as no surprise when one of the Indian consultants stood up to present-"Why is IPL so successful?"

It must have had an impact, because later on, a white British girl while toying with ideas of what she could learn from her male Indian anaesthetist colleague in a 5 minute teaching session, decided on "rules of cricket." I must admit that ketamine did figure in her list of things to learn from Indians, but cricket got the thumbs up.

IPL is to India and the Indian media, what football used to be, to the British. I say used to be, because now the contrasting news on BBC is usually about how much in debt the football clubs are and how many are going bust. It is being revealed now that players have been paid more than what has been collected in revenues and the big bucks which made the football players, heroes and role models for youngsters, are losing a few zeroes.

The excitement on the ground in India, though,with the bright coloured teams (yellow superkings, purple knights, blue royals), glamourous owners (a coming together of the two most watched- cricket and Bollywood) and sexy cheerleaders, is just catching. In Lalit Modi's own words- "There is no recession in IPL."

Corporates ensure the flow of big money. The corporates are taking over everything- hospitals, movies, sports, education and the media (Rann, the movie was a fantastic take on that). But then big money seems to get bigger and bigger for the chosen few, in the nexus of politicians and industrialists. For instance, Tony Blair earned 12 million pounds after he stopped being Prime Minister, 6 times more than what he had earned before. Banks seem to pay big bonuses (20% of taxpayer's money which was provided as a bailout to failing banks) no matter what. Their policy has been called "Heads I win, Tails you lose". The crores which emerge after being tucked away in politicians cupboards in Jharkhand make democracy a joke and the value of money, a concern.

Money started by being such that you could redeem an equivalent of gold or silver but gradually over the years, countries did away with any equivalence in gold reserves and then it came to the stage where the US dollar became the "gold standard".  China with its mounting dollar reserves, watched in dismay, as the dollar threatened to sink like a concrete slab in the Thames, at the height of the crisis. But try as you might, with the world so connected, it is not easy to disentangle oneself from the mess created by unregulated capitalism.

Mohammad Yunus, the founder of the Microfinancing bank in Bangladesh, who won the Nobel Peace prize (well deserved, unlike others) was asked after the banking crises about whether the Grameen Bank would be affected. He said, very refreshingly that our loans are based on real assets like goats, cows and land, not on virtual instruments, like in the corporate banks.

IPL meanwhile is raking in the moolah- merchandise, matches, theatre screenings, TV rights....... Lets watch Brett Lee bowl, Priety Zinta cheer, Shilpa Shetty pout, Shahrukh Khan stammer and May the best team win!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Life- the best teacher!

Bill Gates was talking to the high school students about everything, which he believed that neither books, schools or parents taught them. The message I liked most was- Life is not fair. No, I agree, life is not. You can spend your teenage thinking why God made your boobs smaller than your bum and then realize as you grow older that it is not just genetic issues, it is a host of small and big things like in-laws, exams and jobs, but then you can always look around and find somebody, who thinks your life is perfect, or so it seems to them. Well actually if you think from their point of view, the imperfections in your own life become faint and the positives push you along. What constitutes a good life is something, which is different for everybody and tends to change for each of us all the time. .

I have been trying to cheer myself up with the resigned views of the Geeta. "What happened was for the best, what is going to happen is the best and what is happening now is great." Well, I wish I had this faith in the almighty, I could breathe in deeply as I saw my daughter get up late (jo hua, acchha hua), take ages combing her hair(jo ho raha hai, wo achha hai) and not worry that she will miss the bus (jo hoga, acchha hoga)

No I think this is a simplistic view of the Geeta. Geeta asks you to do your best, while having faith not to worry about results. So it is important that you set the alarm, try to get out of bed and get ready on time but if you cant find your socks or the alarm clock goes bust, you should have the faith that all the shouting that you get from your parents and a miserable day at home with the Maths book, will be good for you. Life is like that, what seems then, like the end of the world sometimes, is just the beginning.

Another message from Holy Geeta is-"Whatever is yours today, was somebody else's yesterday and will be somebody else's tomorrow." This is a good thing for wives to remember, when faced with unresponsive husbands, who have their eyes glued to Pamela Anderson on Baywatch.

Another thing that Bill Gates said was- Life doesnt allow you time to find yourself. I agree. While in student life, your mind is free to roam, experiment, dream and get influenced by. The oppurtunity to do that as you get older becomes scarce. The rat race to be smarter than your mates in college coupled with the daily struggle to walk the tightrope of being a good mother or wife comes in the way. I wanted to be a school teacher until I learnt that it wasnt what would be considered a top job. I think as you grow older, you become an onion with peels of influences around you, taking you more and more away from the real you. I wish schools, parents and teachers would encourage children to remain original in thought and not become a dangerously homogenous sea of ambitious wannabes tumbling out of the assembly line.
Bill Gates also said "Nobody cares about your self esteem" When you have seen it being crushed around like a sweet wrapper, you realize what this man is saying. The problem is, though that it is not until you go through life can you actually imbibe all these lessons. All of us have heard about the survey which asked people to choose between earning 10, 000 while others earned 8,000 and earning 12000 when others earned 13,000. Most respondents said they would prefer the first, meaning they would prefer to earn less money in actual terms as long as it is more than what others earn. So clearly, all the fat bonuses and salaries are just to feel good, not for what money can buy, after a certain hundred thousands, I would think.

I wish self esteem wasnt about your pay packet, but it often is. It is about position, it is about skills, but mostly it is about what others think of you. Everybody, even the most cynical and eccentric people worry about what certain people would think of them. Self help books tell you to stay away from people who are bad for your self esteem but sometimes you dont have a choice.

I remember now, what my father or mother may have said, when I was in school or college, little sayings or proverbs, sometimes, to elicit what they had learnt the hard way. "Oppurtunity does not knock twice", "Life has no short cuts", "If you aim for the sky you will reach the palm tree" "Take your critics seriously, they brighten up your surroundings" Those were words then, they only give us wisdom now. Life is indeed the best teacher.