Money Money Money

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I was chatting with a friend of mine about money. About how much is enough and how our entire lives are about earning to get rich or to get richer, whether the hours we work are justified and what kind of savings we have.

Anyone telling you that they work 20 hours a day at a corporate ONLY because they love the job and not for the money need a drum of hot coffee poured on them to wake them up from their delusions.

The only way to tell if you really love your job – is to be working merrily at a place where you don’t get paid or get paid peanuts.

I don’t get most people’s idea of wealth anyway.

To me – There is only one type of true wealth – and you can tell by one question.

If I absolutely want anything now – could I potentially buy it?

Literally anything. A helicopter. A Private island. A trip to the moon.

Anything less than that is not wealth.

It’s just money.

500 and 2000 rupee notes. That is all it is. 

Your so called wealth could be demonetized in a day if Modi gets a second wind.

So 10 lacs or a 100 lacs doesn’t matter.

That’s just mildly well off.

Anything short of a billion is ho hum.

And even a billion – if it means that you have to go in to work every day  – is still just money. 

So simply by this theory of mine – we are released of all obligations to try to attain wealthy status. Because we can never do that unless you turn out to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. At least not wealth in the conventional sense of the term.

So there may be another kind of wealth that we can aspire to.

The abstract kind.

It is made up of dew moistened grass and smiles.

Of chaotic colors and first rains

Of ripe mangoes and mildewed memories

Of tone-deaf singers and kulfi hawkers

Of unattainable mountains and insane mountaineers

Of dried flowers in diaries and giggles

Of unforgettable words and haunting movies

Of horizontal tangos and midnight snacks

Love.

Longing.

Dances and Foolishness.

Yes.

That’s the kind of wealth rat race I can get on board with.

Abhimanyu

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I am a legend in the house with regard to cleaning.

In that – I don’t.

If a pile of paper is lying in the corner. It will lie there sometimes for weeks. Even months. Little people come to live on them. Every time I look at the papers – I will tell myself – no point putting them back now – I need to read them and sort them. But I won’t really get round to that unless the papers themselves waddled up to me on their cute little paper legs and tapped me on the head saying – READ from here. Also if I moved them it will disturb the little people and I cannot be that mean.

But some days when the mood strikes me – I become a cleaning maniac. Think Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider avatar with a mop and a dust cloth. My mother’s words in the tone of the sternest nun at school –  ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ rings loud in my ears. I clean cupboards – and bookshelves. I clean table tops and drawers. I even would scrub a face if it entered into my zone of cleanliness.  I dust and adjust and arrange and reaarange.

However this Avatar of mine is dreaded more by my partner than the other.

The reason ?

Hubby dearest says I am ‘Abhimanyu‘. As most people already know – he was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra in the Mahabharata, the nephew of Lord Krishna. ( I learned all of this through the Holiest of Holy – Google) Abhimanyu was trained in all types of warfare by Lord Krishna and Arjuna themselves. Abhimanyu learnt the art of breaking into the chakravyuha (formidable battle formation ) when he was in subhadra’s womb. It was when Arjuna was narrating the art of breaking into chakravyuh to Subhadra whilst she was pregnant. But Abhimanyu did not learn how to destroy the formation once he was inside, because before he could hear the end of the story Krishna had stopped the conversation and taken away Arjuna.

So apparently my partner says – I learnt the art of cleaning ( Breaking into the Chakravyuha)in the womb itself like Abhimanyu because my mom is a clean freak. But like Abhimanyu I never heard the story to completion hence I do not know how to complete the task 😛 . Hmmfff ..Cheeky brat.

So basically my mom is to blame for this handicap of mine – since she didn’t listen/tell the whole story. Sounds like her too. Too impatient for long drawn conversations.

So the protocol is –

I start with my cupboard – overflowing – and decide that I need to discard the unused stuff –  pull all the clothes I can see on to the floor and start sorting…see a dress I haven’t worn in ages – say wow – I had forgotten all about this…try it on – parade in front of the mirror…like how it looks…then want to try shoes that go with them – find that the shoe rack is messy – so start sorting that – find some old worn ones – go to throw them – check my reflection on the way there.. realize the mirror needs cleaning … go to find an old newspaper to clean the mirror with…notice a piece of paper among the newspapers – realize its an important document – decide to file it – find that there is lot of filing pending – start that – find some shopping coupons – almost about to expire – decide i need to use them – and leave everything and go shopping for more crap to fill the overflowing cupboard that I had decided to sort out today !!!!!

So whenever the hubby realizes I am on a cleaning spree – he quietly tiptoes into the other room and watches TV at low volume with his fingers crossed, steeling himself mentally that inevitably in about 1-3 hours he will be summoned. And when he enters the room – he will see a war zone not unlike the Mahabharata. Bedsheets lying dead – paper bags injured – clothes breathing their last breath – sprawled all across the room. Something or the other will come flying his way much like those gravity defying arrows.  He will try his best to maintain gravitas and say his one and only dialogue which he will ALWAYS say even though he knows it makes me so mad and serves no purpose whatsoever.

Why do you have to start everything at once? Why not do one section at a time?

Hmmmfff. Because I am me. You know me. I can’t do one thing at a time.

Yes I do know. 

Silently picks up clothes and stuffs them into cupboards muttering Abhimanyu under his breath while a pair of pants come flying at his head.

Skiing Lessons

20170408_1727061So this isn’t the first time I have tried skiing.

The first time was in Gulmarg,Kashmir where after a couple of hours on the ice I was taken aside by my instructor and told very softly in Hindi.

Maydam. Agar aapko kisine puccha ki kisne apko skiing sikhayi krupaya karke mera naam na lena. ( Madam if anyone asks you who taught you to ski please don’t mention my name)

Clearly he thought I was beyond salvation.

Hmmff.

Determined to prove him wrong I am now in Bansko, Bulgaria outfitted quite professionally in freakishly tight ski boots and heavier-than-me skis.

The coach insists I carry the skis on my shoulders while walking ensuring that my right shoulder now is permanently a quarter of an inch lower than my left. As I trek up the slope – I am imagining a whole new chapter of my ski history. I am imagining getting my balance just right, and flying down the slope in perfect harmony with nature as the coach watches his star pupil, fascinated. The air blowing through my hair and my body graceful as a swan.

Sigh.

The image lasted 30 seconds.

I fell while standing.

While.

Standing.

I hadn’t even started down the slope.

Just. Just.getting.into.my.skis.

I think it was right about then the coach wrote me off. But anyway.

The other coach with another group was patiently teaching them to start with one ski and showing them the ropes gently and step wise. For some reason our coach felt we don’t need that. We were born to ski.

So he just gets us into our skis and says – Slowly. Lean forward. Keep skis parallel.

The first real fall I had should have been recorded. As I took off from the start position I leaned in determinedly and the moment I started to pick up speed as usual I panicked and leaned back. Then in slow motion style – better than Neo could ever do it in the Matrix – I bent backwards and stayed there defying gravity. The ski boots hurt like hell but they also help you do the matrix move beautifully.

After that I spent the better part of the hour on my back and then proceeded to watch, humiliated, one by one – every other member of the group sliding down the gentle slope in style. A few even mastering gentle turns.

Finally the coach realized he must focus his attention on the ugly duckling – the swans were doing fine – so he comes back to me with a vengeance.

The next 30 min was mainly about him yelling pizza pizza. And the moment I would fall he would catch up and yell- Spread your legs wider – wider – Pizza…

Exasperated I thought to myself – Hello Mister… quite forward you are… I am Bharatiya Naari haan.. this is not how we do things there…we have just met!!! First you will have to follow me all over town on your two wheeler, then ask me to do Fraandship with you, give me corny archies cards, buy me overpriced flowers, and finally come meet my parents. Then Maaaybe!

And moreover I ain’t spreading nothing for of all things – Pizza!! The least you could begin courting me with is Champagne and strawberries!!!

My expression didn’t really get the message across because he still spent the rest of the lesson yelling the same thing. Finally he led me to the edge of the slope. I thought he was going to take me back to the basics. Tell me a few tips. But he just got me out of the skis and pointed me in the direction of the restaurant bench. And said – Lesson over and then left. I lay down my skis – picked up my shattered pride and limped over to the bench to sip ice cold beer while I watched the rest of the group get on just fine.

As I watched 5 year olds ski past me – it finally dawned on me that I had lost the most important blessing of childhood.

Fearlessness. Abandon.

I couldn’t ski because I couldn’t let go.

I couldn’t think past falling.

I wasn’t comfortable with losing control.

I was frightened of leaning forward .

It was easier to lean backward.

But maybe its reversible.

Maybe being fearless isn’t so tough.

Maybe we need to stop worrying about every stupid little consequence of every indulgent action and just start focusing in the moment.

Open up your mind and Close your eyes.

Stop worrying about –

Falling

Hurting

Crying

Losing

Just Spread your legs wider and eat pizza.

Cross Section of The Indian Driver(up-the-wall)

I like to think I have travelled a bit – so I do know what I am talking about when I say the average Indian driving on the Road is unique. I do not think any one country has the same diversity of species as can be found on our roads.

Forget roads.

One road.

Any one road in India will have at least one representative of all the following species.

Mr Thinker

That one man who will stop his two wheeler at the busiest intersection and of all things – think. I always wonder. What is that profound thought occurring to him at precisely this moment? What could it be that cannot wait ?

Socrates with a theory.

Einstein with a breakthrough.

A new financial policy ?

A way to eradicate illiteracy ?

The end of terrorism ?

Right there. Right then.

You have to stop in the middle of the road and think. Stop at the busiest turn. Look left – look right and see the oncoming traffic. But remain zoned out.

Into this place of incredible enlightenment.

Mr Philanthropist 

His heart is enormous and generosity unparalleled. From the windows of his car will come bottles, plastic and other fun non biodegradable stuff. He will pitch out wrappers.. subway sandwich leftovers.. water..a plastic bag… an unwanted relative or two…and when he has nothing more to give he will give of himself. Literally. Body fluids will be dispensed left right and centre.

At the RED signal – he will open the door of his Fancy RED car and spit out RED fluid – smile at his neighbors and go on unaffected without waiting for thank yous and accolades. Such a warm giving unselfish heart.

Mr Left-is-Right

He is the one with the right indicator on when he wants to turn left. The one who will take the left most lane when he wants to turn right. The one who will look  bewildered at you standing in the right lane – because according to his poor little mixed up mind – it is the wrong lane.

How can you stand towards the right when you want to go right ? How incredibly foolish and so sadly predictable!!!

Mr Politician

He is the one who will make the most noise for absolutely no reason at all. None. He will honk behind you at a red signal. Like Dumbledore you are expected to wave a wand and make the signal green so that you can move out of the way of his highness. He will Honk EVEN when there is absolutely no one on the road. Empty stretches of pristine road. And STILL he feels the need to announce his arrival. Empty vessels making the most noise and all that.

And he will go that extra mile to outfit his scooty with the horn of a truck – just so that he can make an entrance !!! So you hear a jarring siren and literally jump to the left imagining an 18 wheeler behind you .. and there he will be on a mangy little two wheeler grinning from ear to ear shuffling along like an 85 year old.

Mr Boss

He is the guy who will park at the doorstep of the shop he wants to buy something at. It doesn’t matter if that means double parking or triple. It means that for 20 min traffic will be reduced to a snail’s pace because a two lane road has been reduced to 1/2 a lane by the parking skills of a donkey. If it were possible to park inside the shop – he would. Most of the time though he will park badly in front of the shop and call out – chotuuuu… and make the proprietor come out to deliver his stuff. God forbid he needs to walk two steps to his destination. He may drop dead.

All land is his.

All parking spots are his.

All bumpers of cars he will dent because of his superior sense of orientation – are owned by him.

Even his car number will be 1 or 8088 – with the 8’s designed to look like Bs.

Mr Stuntman

He is Ajay Devgan from his Phool aur Kaante days. Weaving in and out of traffic. Jumping signals. Sucking his breath in and squeezing between a truck and a pedestrian. And the most dare devil act of all… taking on a school bus head on. Everyone knows school bus drivers are the most vicious of them all. The phone numbers written behind the bus in order to complain probably keep ringing off the hook.

Mr Diarrhea

He is in a perpetual hurry. On empty roads – in traffic jams. Red green orange blue violet signals – they all look the same to him . Yellow. The color of diarrhea. The kind he is constantly afflicted with. The reason he needs to race against time all day. An upset stomach. I usually make way for such people as a rule. Poor chap.

The difference between him and the stuntman is that the stuntman mainly is a daredevil. Not really in a hurry. This chap has an agenda. He isn’t doing it for the thrills. He genuinely is in a hurry. He is a stuntman with diarrhea.

He is the guy we should send to represent us in the olympics.. he will bring home the gold for us every single time. All we need to invest in for him are – adult diapers.

And Finally

Mr It-must-be-a-woman

This is most special species of them all. The ones who combine all of the above species and still blame all traffic mishaps on women drivers.

He has his left indicator on and turning right – bangs into a woman on a two wheeler and yells – ladeez..chalana nahi aata. ( Ladies .. dont know how to drive)

Is half drunk and bumps into the car ahead – ladeeeez park karna nahi aata…(Ladies dont know how to park)

Is speaking on the mobile and a woman dares to honk behind trying to move ahead – speeds up extra and says… what else ? Ladeeeez

And on a parting note –

If you are stuck anywhere -anywhere –  behind a parked vehicle – in traffic – in a narrow lane where the oncoming traffic is blocking your way – behind a broken down truck – at a signal – behind pedestrians jaywalking -at a blocked road because some genius has decided to erect a shaadi ka pendal mid road – in the middle of a procession on the road –   if you honk asking people to move – they will give you the quintessential Indian traffic gesture. No no – not the middle finger – that is western and oh so boring.

The Indian one is – right hand out and beckon…. like – come forward come forward – don’t worry – the road will widen on its own – space will be created on its own – things will move out of your way – your car will shrink – Angels will come down from heaven and escort you – soft instrumental music will play in the back ground – all you have to do is just be brave – come forward – come forward.

Tamia – Trees, Treks and Tranquility

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A weary jaded soul

stumbled onto heaven 

cocooned by maternal cliffs

and stone faced men 

sworn to secrecy

by an intuitive foliage

That is my take on a little gem known as Tamia, carefully concealed by the fame of the nearby larger hill station Pachmarhi.

We took the trip on a whim. Woke up one sunday morning feeling brighter than usual –  grabbed a bottle of water and started driving in no particular direction. All we wanted was to get away from the sultry Nagpur in August. An hour into our aimless drive we realized we seem to be on the route to Tamia in the Chindwara district and decided – what the heck? Let us go check it out.

After a 180 kilometer drive, which the vehicle seemed to negotiate like a hot knife through butter thanks to the extremely well maintained roads, we arrived at a sleepy little town where everyone seemed keen to give directions to lost travelers. People seemed to assume that either you wanted to head to the nearby Patalkot or Tamia’s illustrious cousin Pachmarhi. When faced with the shocking truth – that we actually wanted to be right where we were – they seemed nonplussed. Much later though I came to the conclusion that these people were shrewder than I first thought. Perhaps they were intentionally guiding away tourists so that the untouched beauty of Tamia remained just that – untouched.

We parked and walked up to the PWD guest house which offers the most spectacular view of the Tamia valley with the Satpura mountain range in the background. A light fog seemed intent on shrouding the beauty but the vanity of the valley refused to allow it to succeed. The temperature dropped around us making me hug my stole closer and I still don’t know if the slowing of my breath was courtesy the cold or the view. Miles and miles of green – a sight that never ceases to amaze the people who live in concrete jungles. If you concentrate hard and manage to eliminate the PWD guest house behind you – you can almost start to believe civilization hasn’t touched this place.

When we finally were able to tear our eyes away we took a stroll down to what the locals call – Chota Mahadev. A little cave temple situated a reasonable amount of perspiration away. Though there are steps down the mountain for the most part – there are areas which have to be negotiated the old fashioned way – hands and feet grasping for a grip. A tribe of monkeys gave us a proper demonstration of how it is to be done – sadly we humans had to do it our unskilled way. But as you descend 1.5 km into the belly of the mountain – the steep cliff faces on one side with the inviting valley on the other gives you the uncanny feeling like you are the only person in the whole world. At the bottom a small cave, enshrining a shivling, rewards your efforts with cold water courtesy a small waterfall.

Famished by our exertions we made our way to the homely MP Tourism guest house which offers a limited variety of well prepared vegetarian food though a tongue tickling chicken curry can be whipped up on request. Though this particular day we returned back after lunch – on our subsequent visit to Tamia we stayed at the  guest house which can  booked online quite conveniently. The rooms are adequate. No frills but clean. Since there are only 4 rooms ( with another 4 being constructed) – if you go with a big group you can have the whole place to yourself.

On a subsequent trip to Tamia we drove down to Patalkot located 1500 feet deep in the valley (Patal – means Deep)which is about 30 min away and rumored to still be inhabited by cannibalistic tribes. Sadly or maybe gladly we saw none. The inaccessibility that fostered the existence of these tribes no longer exists. Truth be told – the poor chaps may be extinct – more likely the result of our city dwellers cannibalistic tendencies. The Patalkot area affords beautiful views and simple hikes as well as a bit of climbing for those who would like to test their fitness levels.

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If Tamia is a not your final destination then at least it can be a worthy stopover en route to Pachmarhi. And who knows you may just decide not to go any further after all.