Monday, March 22, 2010

C'est la vie

They say that there are not three dimensions, but four. Time being the fourth one. Sometimes when you look back on your life gone by you can travel through time same way you can travel through space. Stay with it and you can relive your lifetime in that split second. All heartbreaks and cheers, laughter and tears. Impossible victories that were clinched and your destiny that slipped, life served sunny side up and loss served whipped. Your life is nothing more but a collection of those laughters and lines, euphoria and whines.

Sometimes the illusion comes, when you ask why this, why me, shouldn’t I have done things differently? When you look back you see the diversions in your destiny, like a pruned bonsai tree or forked lighting. But what you do not realize is that it’s an illusion, there are no choices, there is nothing but a straight line. If you had done something else, taken a different road then it wouldn’t have been you, it would have been someone else, asking a different set of questions.

When I am packing up things in my room I realize that it is not just stuff I am packing but a life. It is baggage both in the literal sense and figurative, and I need to decide what to carry with me and what to leave behind. Everything I own is a part of me, a part of who I wished to be. Cutting out anything is like leaving your life behind, but like all journeys, in life too, you can’t take everything with you. So the world that I am a part of, the world that I helped shape will end tomorrow and tomorrow a different world will rise, and what to keep and what not will be decided by the world and the man that I would be tomorrow. So without condoning or condemning I go through it. Because as they say ‘C'est la vie’ or such is life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Great Indian Sale - 1

No I’m talking about the annual sale of Big Bazaar and there ‘Sabsa Sasta Din’ and all. This is the sale which is always ongoing and the salesmen & women peddle their goods year around and sometime for years.

The goods are advertised everywhere, in newspapers, family gatherings, kitty parties, marriages especially and the now the new age tool – Internet. And everybody is busy to get the best deal. But the unique thing about this sale is that everyone who is selling something is also buying something, which someone is selling. Confused? Then read this –

“PQM invited for H’some IIT IIM boy wrkng in top US MNC 18 LPA N Mnglk seeking V B’ful fair slim homely decent girl from KKB family. Reply with BHP. M: 9988776655”

Maybe now you have an idea what I am talking. And don’t try to search the meanings of above abbreviations and acronyms in a dictionary, you won’t find them.

This my dear is the great Indian sale. Being Indians to the core we squeeze all the relevant information into as few words as possible to save on the newspaper matrimonial publishing cost. The relevant information in the case of Wanted Groom is his age, professional qualifications, current salary and employer. And maybe if these are not impressive enough then maybe something about his dad. All well earning and well qualified boys are handsome, fair, decent and from reputed family by default.

And in case of girls the relevant information is age, height, shape, complexion, working or non working and the most baffling concern of Indians - convent educated or not. Complexion in case of matrimonial ads for girls always lies in one of the three categories- wheatish, fair and very fair. Nobody is dark in India, at least a girl who is looking to get married. Where do the not so slim, or decent, or fair or non convent educated girls go to marry is no concern to anyone.

And before I forget, even if the boy is a PhD from MIT, working in NASA and they might be looking for “Modern, Convent Educated girl” but the horoscope has to be matched, and manglik and non manglik are matters of life and death, literally.

This takes care of the newspaper and Internet matrimonial ads. But the social marketing is most interesting, whether the sales pitch can go from subtle to hard sell in a minute. And the marketing could be teaser to price off limited time promotions.

From Moms of the girls inviting others to the kitty party to serve them ‘Gajar ka Halwa’ and “home made chocolates” which are made by ‘Sweety’ (when in actuality they are prepared by their maid and a factory in Switzerland respectively)

To Moms of boys dropping subtle hints like “Ye chocolates kha ke dekhiye, apna Rajeev London se leke aaya hai… Aajkal to wo UK aata jaata hee rehta hai na jab se Senior Vice President bana hai… Salary bhi badha ke 15 kar dee hai… Koi shauk nahi hai use bas Tennis khelne ka aur Chocolates khane ka”.

And the dads taking their sons/daughters fully decked to their far off cousin’s son’s marriage which they would have never bothered to attend if their sons/daughter’s weren’t of marriageable age.

India after probably having the largest number of engineers in the world is all set to become the country to have the largest no of MBAs, and why not? I think everybody is a Philip Kotler over here, not only do they know all marketing strategies and tactics like the back of their hand but can also see through them. In these sales everybody have their USPs, the boys are either well educated (a big deal in South India), or well earning (a big deal in whole of the world I guess), or from a well off business family, read rich (a big deal in Jains, Aggarwals etc) or from a reputed, socially well heeled families (a big deal in Rajputs). And the girls are either Very beautiful, Very fair, Slim and Smart, or Homely and Decent, or Topper in Post Graduation from Mathura University and if everything else fails then working in good company and at a good position.

Every matrimonial ads sounds like a RFP with points required in the quotation mentioned. While some points are negotiable but some points cannot be and non compliance in those can lead to rejection or worse ridicule and foul mouthing of the product and the organization (read the boy/girl and their family). So points like being non manglik, lesser height and age than the boy, educational background and previous relationship and marital status and income are sacrosanct points and undergo rigorous checks before a quotation is considered. But then every buyer is also a seller and they understand there is lot of latitude allowed in the words like beautiful, fair, handsome, top MNC, highly qualified etc. And some features like beauty and looks, weight and receding hairlines can be traded for fat pay cheques, big bank balances, living abroad, a huge dowry or the chance to join your father in law’s business. Some people are even one step ahead of the game and want their daughter in law to be to be a virgin and make it clear either subtly or explicitly, hell people even say that in newspaper ads. Having a known previous affair, broken engagement or divorce can seriously affect your brand equity.

And the best way to build brand equity is to be IIT + IIM graduate, work in an MNC, stay abroad and own a fancy roadster for guys. And for girls is to be very fair, ‘tv serial bahu’ looks, topper in your college but in useless courses like Home Science, interior design or fashion designing (you don’t wanna give your husband-to-be a complex), know how to cook, either don’t work or work in a job in which you are back by the time the kids are and lastly appear homely & domesticated and devoid of any ambition & personality.

All of the Indians know this and fine tune their product and marketing communications till the very end to achieve high brand equity and thus the highest price or the best product with their purchasing power. Everyone is shouting to attract the most buyers and sell their wares to the highest bidder. And what happens to the people who are peddled all over the market by their very own parents? I don’t know firsthand but when you have conversations like this when you go to someone’s house or any other meeting point to see someone I assume it can’t be good. –

Boy – Hi
(The girl looked so much fairer in the photograph, I bet it was photoshopped)

Girl – Hi
(This guy had more hair in the photograph; I bet it was 5 years old)

Boy – Ummm… I think your parents told you about me…
(What do I say to her as to not to sound a fool but then not totally tongue tied too?)

Girl – Yes, they did
(Yes you bloody fool, otherwise why would I be sitting here with you?)

Boy – Ok
(Quick think of something to say)

Girl – So you work in Citibank?

Boy – Yes, before that I was working in HDFC but then I didn’t like that job very much and my boss…
(Shit, why am I telling HER all this)

Girl – Oh okay…
(Why is he telling ME all this)

Boy – So you like Painting, uh?
(Ha, now the ball is in her court!)

Girl – Yes and also classical music.
(Wow, are you a psychic, how could you guess that? Let me think, because it’s written in my bio data you moron, why are you asking me what you already know?)

{Five minutes of uncomfortable silence when the boy tries to fight off the thought that how would she look without that Sari and the girl notices a microscopic stain in her Sari and curses everyone from the dry cleaner to their maid to the Gods in her head}

Girl – Would you like anything?
(Please god, was he looking at the stain? Please don’t tell me he saw it. Quick, try to distract him.)

Boy – No thanks. Would you?
(Damn, did she get to know what was I thinking, why is she giving me that look?)

Girl – No, I’m ok.

{Five more minutes of uncomfortable silence. Then the boy’s father calls him}

Boy – Yes dad? Coming. Uhh.. Ok bye. It was nice to meet you.
(Phew, saved by the bell. I think this girl is a retard. I think I should marry her only. At least she will keep her mouth shut)

Girl – Ya, bye. Same here.
(Phew, saved by the bell. I think this guy is a retard. I think I should marry him only. At least he will keep his mouth shut)

There are even MR agencies employed in this business. Ages before it was done by the Pandits and Naais (barbers) now it is done by nosy aunties and Matrimonial sites like which promise to get you the ‘best deal’. And surprise surprise, most Indian marriages work. Unlike in US where they marry for love and more often than not the marriages ends up in divorce, here in India we marry for everything but, but still our marriages are rock solid. I think the most apt statement that explains them is one made by Sahni Saab (Vinod Nagpal) in the movie ‘Khosla ka Ghosla’

“Ye puura desh hee pehancho compromise pe chal raha hai!”

P.S. - Part 2 coming soon....

Friday, March 5, 2010

To be or not to be

Of all the things I have pondered over death was never one of them, now I wonder why it wasn’t. Death is the most certain part of your life.

Life is adulterous harlot who only has a brief affair with you, death is your true love, finally you sleep in her inviting arms.

Do you think your life would have been better if you knew when were you going to die? Or you prefer the ignorance of not knowing? What if I knew I was dying in a week? That would have been better for me, I would have ran to every loved one and told them how much I loved them, did all the things I wished to do and so on. But what if I knew I was going to die in 5 years? I would have quit my MBA. Never would have taken a job, never marry, never do anything of permanence. The proverbial life on rent. Would I like that, certainly not. In this case I think ignorance is bliss.

The brevity of life is I think the whole essence of it, how much people love their lives and much mankind values life as a whole is amazing. I think that people knowing that this life wouldn’t be with them for long is the fact that they value it so much. Well, at least most people do. Some people go ahead and take their own. It is difficult for me understand why suicides are so frowned over in this world. It is supposed to be a coward’s way, who quit and took the easy way out. But isn’t our life all about taking the easy way out? And people are anyways inherently selfish. So why condemn suicide? Isn’t enduring a punishing life a much worse fate than death itself? Death is a release, it is not a punishment. When you are gone the things you did, things that you wanted to do, and things that others wished you would are not going to matter anyways.

I think the question was brilliantly pondered over by Shakespeare in ‘Hamlet’

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to,
'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”

There is no afterlife. No heaven or hell, nothing to be accounted for after you are gone. What we have is right here and now.

But still, we the people, dread death and disapprove of suicide.

Some people argue about their fear of death that they are leaving behind their loved ones who would be devastated by their death. Yes they will be, but you will no longer be around to feel their pain. None of it will matter anymore, none of anything will matter. I am sure they are children being murdered and people suffering through imaginable pain the very time you are reading this. But you do not know about it, and that makes it easy for you. So will be the pain of the people around you when you are dead. You won’t feel it, ever.

Moreover, suicide is illegal and punishable by law. People scream about liberty and freedom to live their lives as they see fit. What about the liberty to end it? I think making suicide punishable is the most ridiculous thing ever. It's like fining someone who did the mistake of being penniless. For me it only means one thing, that the society eggs you that if you attempt suicide, you better finish the job, otherwise we will punish you.

And what is the reason of our life anyways? Nothing but to aid the perpetuity of life itself. To make life easier for the people who are already here and to prepare for those who are expected to come. Life according to me has no higher purpose. I don’t condemn anyone who indulges in it. Maybe I am hedonist, but then so is everyone else. At least I am an honest one.

To end I will quote this quote which has always intrigued me.

“Balian of Ibelin: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain.”