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Irony is

a 648 page presentation on “lean transformation”.

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Emergency travel

When you hear someone say that they’re traveling in order to be with a friend or relative who is ill, it’s difficult to imagine anything other than fear and a sense of urgency. You imagine them muttering prayers, negotiating imaginary deals with their personal gods, willing their car or train or plane to go faster, fearing the worst, even when trying very hard to not think of the worst.

I found that fear and urgency didn’t even figure in the top five most dominant feelings, at least not for me. What I experienced was an almost preternatural calmness. After making up my mind that this wasn’t one of those worrying-from-far-away-is-good-enough situations, I booked my tickets. Printed out two copies of the confirmation email. Let my office know that I needed to take some time off. Took the subway home. Packed with half a mind on the weather as I imagined might be like when I got back. Wrote out the rent check, but decided to post it from my destination, as it was only the 18th. I made only one call – to my friend to arrange being picked up at the airport. I received many calls – updates from the hospital. Encouraging now, or not so encouraging ten minutes later.

As talk veered towards “decisions” which would perhaps have to be made, I made up my mind to be a decision-maker, instead of the person being taken care of. While it is an attractive proposition to be taken care of, the idea is entirely too risky – what happens if you don’t find some one to make decisions for you? Far less uncertainty if you’re the one calling the shots. Of course, you may not be in a position to make decisions. But I didn’t want to go into that just yet.

I returned to reality, as I realized that we’d already reached the airport. We must have beaten the rush hour traffic. As I entered the waiting area, I realized that I hadn’t brought anything to read. The realization brought a small relief – that was surely a sign that I had indeed panicked. That I wasn’t made of ice, as I was starting to fear.

I didn’t want to buy anything I might like or anything I’d been planning to. In case something bad happened, I’d always remember the book as being the one I bought on the “bad” trip. So I picked up something by Stephen King. He’s morbid to begin with. I could add more dark associations, but they’d be redundant. And I didn’t like his work very much, so I knew I could afford to hate him, or worse, feel quietly discomforted by him for the rest of my life.

I wondered how many other people in the airport were there because they had a family emergency as well. How many of them had been made to silently fume in frustration as the rest of us got a cab first or blocked the subway doors. There I was, once again imagining that people always panicked in such situations. I hadn’t, well, not really. So perhaps, there was no one correct response to these things.

One more phone call. I was told to calm down and not worry. Someone would pick me up at the airport. I made the responses I thought were expected from me. I expressed relief that the person who was ill was being attended to. I thanked the caller for being there, when I could not. After hanging up, I wondered if things would go as smoothly if I were the one who was ailing. In the very worst case, mostly likely not. I lived alone, with no one to even call 911 if I were to collapse. I had to admit that living by yourself was risky. But you couldn’t get married just because you needed someone to dial 911 for you. I considered and rapidly rejected the idea of a pet. A dog might raise an alarm by barking the apartment building down. But like the marriage idea, who could live with a dog just in case you die or come close to dying? Besides, the only pet I’d ever seriously considered was a fish, and a fish would be no help at all.

I felt guilty thinking about fish. I should have been muttering prayers, or glancing impatiently at my watch. I made a half-hearted attempt at praying. I felt the futility of it – if there was a God, he wouldn’t have let things come to such a pass, so how could He suddenly fix everything now? And immediately felt guilty about that. Doubt the existence of God when it’s your emergency, I told myself. Don’t do this now, not on someone else’s time. So I prayed again, a little more earnestly this time.

Emergency travel is an oxymoron. Unless you’re physically running, traveling can’t exactly be done in a hurry, can it? A car or train or plane only goes so fast. And no matter how fast you’re moving, the act of traveling is in itself almost stationary. You can do little else other than sit and wait. The only thing that is shorter with ‘emergency travel’ as opposed to regular travel is the time you have to plan the trip.

Perhaps I’d be as mistaken about hospitals as I’d been about traveling. Perhaps by focusing on the minutiae of the act of being in a hospital, I’d be able to keep fear at bay. Perhaps not. I’d find out soon enough.

Snarky new blog

Karthik & Manoj have a snarky new blog. This one’s dedicated to Indian movies. Some guys are gluttons for punishment, but as long as they amuse the rest of us with updates about their movie adventures, I don’t feel too badly for them.

PS: All this cross-promotion makes me feel as if I am Unilever. But that’s what synergy’s all about.

Breaking the curse of the cross-post

At one point in South of the Border, West of the Sun, the hero’s father-in-law tells him that the hero’s wife happens to be his (the father’s) favorite child. The older man admits that no parent is supposed to play favorites, but that one cannot help it. I’ve always wondered about that[1]. Now I know. Sitemeter reports confirm the sad truth – this has officially become the less favorite child.

Cross-posting at two blogs is pointless. At some point, readers smarten up and go to just one. In my case the chosen one appears to be the other one. How do I give each of these identical twins his / her own personality? And at the same time ensure that we remain a family? If I followed the example of countless Indian, indeed Asian movies[3], the differentiation strategy would be simple. Starting from the simplest to the more sophisticated , I could:

1. Make an X mark against all posts in one blog but not the other. Well, the blogs already look different. Don’t see what another X is going to add or take away.
2. Out myself on one, but not the other. And compete with myself? Besides which, I suspect that Earl Stanley Garnder sold more books as Earl Stanley Gardner than he did as AA Fair.
3. Tamizh-ize my posts at Stochastica. Become some sort of a web-enabled Junoon? Hmm… Not a bad idea.
4. Decide on an arbitrary boundary, and stick to it. Countries do it, why shouldn’t I? Let’s pick something random – I know – the names! Posts on books, movies and life go here. Assorted random stuff to Stochastica. Hmm…Also interesting – but pretty much all the random stuff I care enough to write about is to do with books, movies or life. There isn’t going to be much differentiation this way.

So, turning into Junoon looks like the best option. Yikes! I think I’ll think some more. I just heard the Pidivaadam tune in my head, and want to fight it out some more before admitting defeat. Meanwhile, I’ll randomly post different things at both blogs.

[1] Thanks to my being an only child [2], the question used to be one of idle curiosity and nothing more.
[2] If you’re thinking, “Oh, this explains so much”, come off it, will you?
[3] I’ve watched Seeta aur Geeta starring everyone from Sridevi to Jackie Chan and yes, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

It was supposed to be for a month, but…

My “month” at Stochastica is up. I expected to get ceremoiniously booted out, but so long as there are high stakes gamblers like Karthik around, I needn’t have feared. I’ve been offered a permanent spot on Stochastica, and I’ve obvisouly jumped at the chance. Readers (I’m in a “the glass is half-full mood today, and I picked the plural term) of Dreaming of Zihuatanejo: I will continue to post here. Until I figure out a differentiation strategy, I’ll keep cross-posting as I have been.

Defense against demons

I felt utterly happy today, weak-kneed with relief,
Mellow with satisfaction, even hopeful about the future.
It wasn’t the sort of happiness that makes one
Shout out aloud from rooftops for all to hear,
Or grin like a fool for you to see.

I meant to savor the emotion in private,
As I do that Thurber cartoon you never quite get.
I called you anyway,
Because I felt utterly happy and wanted to hear your voice.
And because I thought my secret made me invincible.

Somewhere between talk of remorseful Shinagawa monkeys
And remorseless vice presidents, I forgot I had a secret.
Reality and my old demons steeped in,
Like color from a tea bag, turning my mood dark.
Even a tea cup typhoon has its share of heartbreak.

I lie on my bed, thinking about today.
Somewhere between thoughts of you,
Of Shinagawa monkeys and my demons,
I remember my secret, and my happniess returns,
As does my invincibility.

I fall asleep wondering what makes me invincible?
My secret, those monkeys or you?
—————-

Making an honest start

I have for long wanted to take a break. Not the usual “break”, where the boss pretends to let me get away from work but gives me enough teasers about what’s in store for me on my return that I spend most of the nights away dreaming up new horrors, and my days doing most of the things I myself expect myself to do on vacations – read, watch movies, talk with friends, or think about doing one of these. Or go to the sort of places I am likely to go to – museums, movies, parks, walks, etc. All of these are very enjoyable, but also quite predictable. It doesn’t make too much difference even if I change the city or country, because this new city or country would still be something I’ve always wanted to visit…

Sometimes, I don’t want to take a DoZ holiday. I want to take a holiday from DoZ. And then go back to being DoZ, because my neuroses are dear to me, and I would miss them frightfully if I permanently exchanged them for someone else’s. (I assume everyone has them).

When Karthik asked me to be a guest on his blog, I thought, what a neat idea. (That sounds composed, but said composure after a considerable time: the head swelled, and the heart went a pitter-patter from the flattery, then from the nervousness). Writing a blog under a pseudonym is an escape of a sort from my true self. Writing for someone else’s blog under said assumed name is [escape]2, as it were. (Sorry to disappoint any who thought DoZ was my real name…I lied, but DoZ does reflect the essence of my true self. I doubt that I’ll get re-invited on the Oprah show for making this disclosure, but hey, you have to be invited first before you can be re-invited.)

From the SEC to Oprah Winfrey, everyone wants to be told the truth these days. So in my first post, I would like to give fair warning of some of the things I may not be entirely truthful about when writing for this blog, or my own.

– The degree of frustration I feel when watching a bad movie. No person involved in the making of a movie has, till date, entered my home and tried to hack me to pieces with a blunt knife. (I added the “till date” clause because one shouldn’t make rash statements. Movies and those involved in their making surprise me all the time)

– The degree of joy I feel when reading a book. I am known to get easily carried away by books, and start writing glowing reviews before I finish a book. I have noted that my sentiments are prone to change by the time I get to the end of the book. Sometimes, I do not update this change in sentiment on the post.

– The degree of pain I feel when considering work related matters. Here’s it’s a case of understating the true state of affairs. Am trying to cheer myself up when writing and I don’t want to encourage any more suicidal tendencies than the ones I already live with.

– Extent of reading I’ve done: After finishing no more than one half of a book by a novelist, I am known to consider myself an expert on said author. I will try to warn you if this is the case, but this is a blanket cop-out, in case I forget to.

– Memories, good and bad: If my memory about where my house keys are at this very moment is any indication of the general state of my memory, I wouldn’t rely too much upon the exact proportion of fact vs. fiction about some incident that happened when I was 8 (Note: I may claim I was 8. In truth, I may have been 26, or 17 or it may have happened only yesterday)

– Any other subject where I feel that fiction sounds better / more entertaining than the truth. This is just a blanket just-in-case.

When I go back and read what I’ve just written, I realize that I’ve successfully made myself sound like a pathological liar. But honestly, I’m not so bad. Really. Or may be I am. I just made sure that you’ll never trust me enough to know the actual truth, if there is such a thing. Now that is what I call an honest start to a few weeks of pretense.

Going major league – for a while

As much as it pains me to use a sporting terminology, I console myself with the fact that using the term does not mean I know any more about baseball (if the term is to do with baseball in the first place, and it may not…in which case I feel greatly reassured.)

Enough beating around the bush. I will be blogging for Stochastica for the next few weeks, or until Karthik’s regular readers bribe him into coming back sooner from Sepia Mutiny, which ever happens earlier. In the interests of efficiency, I will merely copy/paste my posts. Efficiency, ha! I just want to pretend that I have hordes of readers who shun all blogs other than this, and would go into a nasty withdrawal phase if I ignored them for a while. As for the regular readers of Stochastica – hang in there, for this too shall pass.

Happy new year

The Complete New Yoker & Seth’s Two Lives – mine. Happy New Year to me. And yeah – the rest of you, too.

3 1/2 minutes of escape

A crisis at work had me all in a tizzy today. My favorite stress guru offers these wise words:

You work and work for years and years, you’re always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin’ dough
Someday, you say, you’ll have your fun, when you’re a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you’ll have in your old rockin’ chair

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

You’re gonna take that ocean trip, no matter, come what may
You’ve got your reservations made, but you just can’t get away
Next year for sure, you’ll see the world, you’ll really get around
But how far can you travel when you’re six feet underground?

Your heart of hearts, your dream of dreams, your ravishing brunette
She’s left you and she’s now become somebody else’s pet
Lay down that gun, don’t try, my friend, to reach the great beyond
You’ll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blonde

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

You never go to nightclubs and you just don’t care to dance;
You don’t have time for silly things like moonlight and romance.
You only think of dollar bills tied neatly in a stack;
But when you kiss a dollar bill, it doesn’t kiss you back.

Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

– Guy Lombardo

Now if only I were wise enough to heed his advice…