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Religion is the opium of the masses…

December 19, 2009

He was rich, he was powerful, he was influential and he was addicted.

He was the president of the trust which owned one of the most influential temples in his location. The temple was so popular that it drew crowds even from the neighbouring states. Naturally, when there is such a high foot fall, there is bound to be good commerce in and around the temple. And he controlled that commerce.

He was not born rich or influential. He was the son of one of the priests of the temple. As was the custom, be too became the priest in the same temple. He had a certain charm and style of saying the prayers. There was a lot of life in his ways. This was noticed by the temple authorities and he was asked to chant the prayers during important and special occasions as the collections were generally higher when he conducted the sessions. People were mesmerised by his skills and were happy to donate considerable amounts.

His administrative skills were also not un-noticed. He made sure that the queue moved faster and special prayers were started on time and ended on time too. People liked the punctuality he introduced. He interacted well with both the temple staff and the devotees. He understood their concerns and often took steps to rectify them, as far as was possible in his capacity. These small gestures made him the favourite of the devotees as well as the temple staff. After a point of time, he was even considered lucky and was requested to preside over many of the functions and important occasions of people. Especially people who were rich and influential. That enabled him to develop a lot of important connections. All this took so much of his time that he did not have any time to get settled in a family and have kids!

Eventually he was made the treasurer of the temple. This brought him in the direct contact of all the trust members and enabled him to have a clear view of all the money that was exchanged between various parties. He knew exactly how much money came in and where it all went. During his period, the collections to the temple increased tremendously and hence no one, including the members of the trust bothered to look into minor details of where a certain share of it was going to. He knew the loopholes of the system and the money flowed freely in to those loopholes. Rather, he was able to direct the money into them quite perfectly.

Once he started to make more money, he wanted even more. And then, a lot more. He was able to make any amount of money he wanted to, and he was still in the good books of the trust members as the donations and collections kept increasing as well. After a point of time, he had so much black money that he had to open an account with a Swiss Bank. After all, the income tax department could raid the houses of important people any time! And he did not want to part with his money in the form of taxes, to the Government. First, it was made illegally and second, why should he give the Government any money? What did the Government do to him anyway? He was a very hard negotiator, even for small amounts and never spent huge amounts of money on anything.

In due time, he became the President of the trust. He started to make so much money that he had no idea of even how many zero’s were there in the value he held in his Swiss Bank! He had so much money.

Now, in his death bed, he was only worried about one thing – What would happen to all the money once he passed away?

He realised just too late that he had been addicted so much to making more and more money that he never thought about spending it! All his happiness came from making more and more and more of money alone. Money, in his case, became a commodity rather than being the medium of exchange, that it normally is!

Religion is the opium of the masses.
Sure. Like how,
Money is the opium of the rich.

Destination Infinity

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Neighbours

December 6, 2009

Neighbours always share an interesting relationship. They don’t belong to the same family (like relations) and they are not selected by each other (like friends). But still, they know so much about each other and participate in the important events of the other families. Sometimes, they keep in touch with each other even after being separated for a long time. Of course, they also gossip about each other! This story is about two such neighbours, who were faced with similar situations but chose different paths. And when their paths crossed once, they were shocked to find out the power. The power of influence.

Ram and Shyam knew each other since they were kids. Their families were neighbours for atleast a couple of generations before they were born. Ram was the only son in their house and Shyam had an elder brother and a younger sister. All of them played togeather, went to school togeather and grew up togeather.

There was one more common factor between the two families – The temple. Their houses were very close to the biggest temple in their district. The temple was not only a cultural powerhouse, but it was also the place where a lot of economic activities took place. Over a period of time, the land value around the temple increased tremendously. Naturally, their houses were also sought by a lot of merchants who wanted to set up shop close to the temple.

Ram was the only son in the family and he was not interested in the temple service that their family was involved into. He wanted to start a business of his own. He worked for some years in a neighbouring shop and eventually set up his own shop inside the town. The initial years were very hard. There were times when his financial situation was so bad, that he wanted to almost quit the business. But somehow he was able to get some loans and invest further in his business. The only reason why he was able to get loans was the house which he owned – since it was so close to the temple, it was valued highly, and people were not very reluctant to give him money. He was also of the opinion that if the business fared badly, he would sell the house and buy a smaller one in the town and settle the loans. But everytime he took such risks, he was able to get some returns from the business and settle back the loans. People thought it was due to his hardwork, but he thought it was pure luck! Anyways, slowly the business picked up and he no longer had to take loans as the business was doing pretty well after a few years. He was quite satisfied with the revenue earned through his business, and now thought he should sell the house and buy a similar house inside the town and use the remaining money to expand his business.

Shyam, on the other hand was not the only son in his house and had to share it with his siblings. There was not much of problems when they grew up, other than the small fights they had within themselves. It started when all the three of them were married. Joint families always give people the impression that they are getting less then what they deserve and the other families are treated better. Their family was no exception especially when kids were born and responsibilities increased. They did not have much expenses other than the clothes and food which was shared among all the families. But the temple, where they worked paid them a modest amount, which was shared till then. The siblings had other ideas and wanted to move inside the town so that they can earn more money in other ventures. Each had their own idea of what to do, and naturally they wanted some money to invest in whatever they wanted to do. They thought it was the right time to sell their house and share whatever they get equally and start living independently. Based on the amount of money that was offered by the merchants, each of them was confident that they can buy a house in the town and still invest in some ventures. Basically, they were not able to resist the offer of the merchants – they wanted the money.

It was at this time that both of them got lawer notices from the temple. The houses, it seems were leased to them for 100 years by the temple, and the period was expiring in a couple of months. Since, they were not interested in continuing the temple service, the temple wanted the property back.

They got the shock of their lives. It was evident in their voice when they spoke to each other the next day.

“Did your father ever tell you about the lease agreement?”
“Not even once. Not even when he died, I always thought that we owned the house”
“My God. I took so many risky loans thinking that we had a property for back-up. Just imagine what would have happened if the business had failed at some stage. In fact, I asked my father if we can sell the house if there was a huge loss, and he nodded his head!”
“At least, you have your own business to depend on. We don’t have anything. We were totally dependant on the property, and now getting to know that the property is not ours, we are clueless as to what to do next. We never learnt any trade or business. God!”

They had to move on, and they did. Ram was able to afford a rented house and worked harder in his business with the goal of buying an own house. Since Shyam and his siblings had no regular business to hold on, they decided to stay togeather and share whatever was brought by each of them. One family made more money one month, and another made more money the next month. But they always shared whatever they got. It was required, as no one had means to regular income at that point. They had to support each other to help themselves and somehow were able to adjust, share and live togeather.

The same people who were not able to live togeather just a few months back due to the wealth (rather, non-existent wealth) were able to live togeather now!

They learnt the hard way that assets like Gold and Land can either make people work more and take more risks (or) can make people totally dependant on them. The investments made in gold and land can vanish instantly at any time, but the investments made to acquire them cannot vanish suddenly. Without such effots, gold and land are only metal and mud.

Destination Infinity

PS: Don’t depend on inherieted property. Its more important to inheriet skills.

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A revolution to save tradition

November 29, 2009

This post is not about saving traditional outfits (In my college, guys were not allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts… I was never able to understand why!). This is about saving a much more important tradition which is always neglected by the right left and centre parties – Food.

“There are some people who eat for living. But there are many more (like me) who live for eating (good food)” – The quotation is mine, no prizes for guessing that! 🙂

If you ask your grand mother, she would say “My mother used to cook so much more variety and they were much tastier”. If you ask your mother, she would also say the same thing. So, the rich cooking tradition that we have developed and the variety of dishes that we skillfully mastered have been reducing with every generation. With the nuclear families of today and mother and father both working – we are at the brink of a great disaster. Realistically, 2012 might be the end of all cooking in homes! Since the women are so busy these days, it is the men who ought to be spearheading this revolution to save the most important tradition – cooking.

After my initial path breaking finding and confession before a year, one thing was sure to me – this was not going to be easy! One thing you don’t want to try when you are so new to cooking is to read a cooking blog and trying to cook based on the theoretical input you gain from there. No, you can’t even take the first step that way. Generally, we have sufficiently insufficient vocabulary of the cooking items. So, reading a cooking blog might be like reading an Arundhati Roy’s book – you just can’t understand any word other than is,what,was,where,why and a few more adjectives and verbs. If you are lucky, some nouns 🙂 So, if you go to a shop for buying some cooking items (after making notes from the cooking blog), the following conversation would ensue:

Enna?
Do you have mustard seeds?
Ennathu?
Well, coriander leaves irrukka?
Aaannn?
Astodaphedia?

Everybody around you laughs, but no one translates it to the local language! Considering you have a lot of such foreign words in a bit paper, you concede defeat in your mind but say something like “shopkeepers don’t even know English in this place” and run out!

Then you blame destiny, and spend some more time hoping that some other door would open – after all, a revolution doesn’t die because of language barriers. If you are lucky (like me), the house owner’s son might know to cook a bit. He at least tells you what mustard seeds are, which oil to buy and if you are even more luckier, he brings all of it from his house and actually shows you how to sprout the mustard seeds in oil – That is the most important hurdle to cross. Once you have done that, atleast you become mentally prepared for everything to follow! Then he shows how to cook rice in a pressure cooker, and you use all kinds of podi’s and pickles and curd packets to eat with it, for a couple of months. Then you become bored.

At this point of time, you need to use the expert technique used by the British – Divide and Conquer.

“Grandma, you know what mother said about your cooking”
“What did she say?”
“She said that there was no better cook then her”
“But that’s not about my cooking”
“How can she say directly? What does she mean by that, think no…”
“I have been cooking since she was a small kid, and she says my cooking is no better than hers?”
“Yeaaah…”
~Grandmother fuming~
“I asked her to teach how to cook tomato rice”
“And she didn’t?”
“No Grandma………”
“Come – I will teach you”
“Ha, Ok… ” 🙂

If you go to any family function, and want to make the women in the family get tensed, just write a blog post like this and say that you have written a post on cooking and are following a few cooking blogs (at least know one url) – and then see their reaction 😛

Ok, now the call for action – Let us (men) take up the challenge of learning to cook a huge variety of dishes and hence save the rich tradition of cooking, that is being neglected by the younger generation nowadays. Let us take on the women in their home front – the kitchen and prove that we can be good cooks too. After all, most of the five star hotel chefs are men! I have already taken my small step – Tomato rice made by me 😀

Yummy Tomato rice

Destination Infinity

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Coimbatore through the eyes of a Blogger

November 15, 2009

Sunset over rice field
A Textile shop in CBE
Gandhipuram, Cbe
HT Cables going along the road in Cbe
Shopping complex or advertisement complex?
Boxed exterior of a building in Cbe
Tall antenna during sunset
A campus passage across the road in Cbe
The buildings are wider, not taller
An electrical distribution centre through the fence
Wide open spaces and greenery in abundance
A lake/river inside the city
Railway tracks from an overbridge
Another boxed building flanked by huge trees
A notice board in a village near Cbe
Annanagar Tower

Ok, the last photo was taken in Chennai when I met the popular blogger Kanagu 🙂

The notice board which is in Tamil reads “In our village, no one is allowed to urinate on the streets and people are not allowed to litter on the streets either. If they do so, there would be a fine of 100 rupees along with imprisonment of three days”. I think every village and city needs to follow this example. I was also reminded of a nice post written on this topic by Sandhya.

Yeah people, I have finally managed to move to Coimbatore. Not yet got by broadband connection, so will be slightly inactive online for the next week or so. But after that, Destination Infinity will rule the online world 🙂

Destination Infinity

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The thrill in being normal

October 29, 2009

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“Stop controlling my life”
“We are not controlling your life, we are helping you out…”
“Who are this ‘we’?”
“I am sorry but that is classified information, I cannot give it to you”
“God… How did I pass my University Examination?”
“You wanted to pass, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, but I attempted less than even twenty percent of the questions… how can I still pass?”
“It’s enough if you want to pass, the rest will be taken care by us”
“So, now if I want a job, you’ll get it for me?”
“Yeah sure, why not?”
“And what if I don’t perform well in that job, I would lose the job won’t I?”
“We have people everywhere and at all levels… you don’t have to worry about losing your job at all”
“Why should this happen to me? Can’t you see all the others are normal, they get the marks they deserve, they get the jobs they deserve, they get to live their lives they deserve…”
“You don’t have to. You are special… you can get what you want… you just need to let us know your wants”
“You have any idea how it feels to be controlled by you people for 20 long years? Right from the day I remember, I have been getting almost everything I wanted – toys, food, education and almost everything. You people interfere with almost every aspect of my life in the pretext of making me happy but you don’t understand what situation you have landed me at this point of time… You just don’t have an idea how helpless I feel”
“We have ensured that you get what you want till now, and will continue to do so, you don’t have to worry”
“Great then, I want to be normal”
“What?”
“I want to be normal, like all the other people in this world. I want to fail and see how much failure hurts so that I would enjoy success, when it comes. I want to earn my living and taste the food that I earned for myself. I want to struggle for a living so that I can sleep at nights. I don’t want a bunch of people controlling every aspect of my life – I want to be free. I want to be normal.  I want to live my own life – that’s what I want. Can you give it to me?”
“We can, but all the privileges that you have been getting from us all this time would be stopped immediately. Is that ok?”
“That is perfectly ok. Just let me live my own life, I would be much happier on my own”

Flashback: 20 Years earlier

This is a special classified project that the Psychology department of the University has undertaken where we would adopt a kid and give almost everything that he needs through our network and resources. The objective of this project is to find out if a person can live happily if all his wants and needs are met at every stage of his/her life.

Destination Infinity

PS: This is one story that I wrote (In Tamil) during my college days, I became famous in my class for having ended a story in a flashback. They thought it was unique 🙂 Those days I used to write something in pieces of paper and pass it to other benches for their comments and feedback, and the paper would return to me with all the comments! I guess I had a mini blog and a mini audience back then itself 🙂

PPS: Don’t spoil kids by giving them everything. That was the message.

You could visit the ‘Short Stories(Fiction)’ section of this blog to read similar stories.

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Classical Fusion Music – The way forward?

October 23, 2009

The above song ‘Taaye yeshoda’ from the movie ‘Morning Raaga’ is one of the best Classical/Carnatic fusion songs that I have heard till now. The first fusion song I heard was ‘Krishna Nee Begane’ by Colonial Cousins. That was a brilliant fusion of western and classical. I have always wondered why there have not been many fusion songs after that. Carnatic/classical music has never appealed to me earlier, and I thought it was boring, when I was young. But of late, I seem to love music with a classical touch in them – which makes me wonder if age/circumstances influence our musical tastes…

Carnatic music, which is the classical Indian music popular in South India has been kept quite exclusive and as my friend says, even a rasika needs to know the nuances of raagam/thalam etc to appreciate its real beauty. May be that is one reason, they don’t carry mass popularity. But there are some real gems that even a common man (like me, for example) can enjoy and I was lucky to listen to a couple of them during a recent December music festival in Chennai. Western music and film based pop music seems to have a much wider appeal.

So, if more fusion songs like the above are made, probably a lot of people could enjoy and carry forward the versatile musical tradition that we have developed and nurtured over centuries. And if you know any fusion songs like this which are good (in any language), please do suggest them in the comments.

Destination Infinity

You could visit the ‘Music/Photo posts’ section of this blog to read similar articles.

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Plus and Minus

October 16, 2009

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Blessed are those who have one daughter and one son. When She gave birth to her daughter, she was elated. She was a mother now! After some time they decided to have another child and this time, it was a boy. She was, no need to say, elated again.

 

But being a mother of two kids was never easy. When they were kids, they were fighting for small things like “She’s got two chocolates and I have got only one”. She would try to convince the son that his sister was elder and bigger than him, and hence she could have more. When that doesn’t work, she goes to her daughter and tries to convince her that her brother is a small kid still, and she being elder needs to be more responsible and give things to her brother. Strangely, that mostly worked. She thought it was the mentality of elder brothers/sisters – they naturally feel responsible towards their siblings and are more ready to give up things to them. They are at least not as adamant as the younger ones!

Such small things never bothered her, in fact they were passed on as sibling rivalry and in any case this was much better than families that had two sons or two daughters – she thought the kiddy fightings in those families would give a headache to any mother!

Generally parents love their children – be it a boy or girl. For her, both the kids were same – there was rarely any gender discrimination – at least, when they were young. The first signs of such discrimination came when her daughter was about to get admitted in a college. Her daughter was always good at studies – she was always in the top ten ranks in her class. She thought that her daughter should take up computer science engineering, as that course was in demand. But their finances was not very good and they were able to save only enough money to educate one kid in an engineering college. This was the first time when she was asked to think ‘practically’ by friends and family members. Her daughter was anyway going to go away to ‘sasural’ – why would she want to spend so much on her education? And in contrast, her son was going to stay with her and if they were not able to spend for both, they ought to definitely spend for the son! She thought that was gender discrimination. But she had to decide upon something! So she spoke to her daughter –

“So, what do you want to do next?”
“Well, all my friends are taking up computer engineering….”
“Yeah, but the fees and the donations… they are so high for engineering, and me and your father were really thinking if we could afford it….”
“Wow. That’s great mom. I was about to say that I was not interested in such engineering courses. If it is ok with you, I would like to do B.A and M.A in French. I love the language and I really want to learn French”
“But, do you think that course has any prospects?”
“Well, its tough but I can always get a job as a translator. Actually I am not sure about the job prospects of it, but if there is some course that I would love to persue, it is definitely French. And don’t worry about the fees – the university charges very less for such courses”

She was both sad and happy – she always knew that her daughter’s decisions were right and responsible. But back in her mind, she was feeling guilty about the discrimination part. Maybe if they had enough money, her daughter could have taken engineering.

The second instance of such discrimination came during the marriage of her daughter. All her relatives and friends advised her that if she wants to find a ‘good’ bridegroom for her daughter, she better be ready to give a big dowry. This time, her son had finished engineering and got an admit to one of the colleges in the United States for his post graduation. They had to spend a fortune for sending him abroad, and had to even sell their house and move to a rented apartment. It was at that time that her daughter got a good match. This time again she went and spoke to her daughter.

“See, there is a good prospect in hands for your marriage – we just have some family jewels and we are not sure how much they will ask”
Her daughter was clear in her response – “Well, if the guy’s family is going to ask anything more than that, I am not going to marry”

She thought it was her luck that the bridegroom’s family did not insist for any dowry. They did not have much to give anyway. She was once again not happy with the discrimination that happened with her daughter. But some times, life doesn’t give any options and she had to choose whatever was the best for her family – at least that’s what her relatives told her.

It was after some years when her husband retired that she was able to feel the financial burden of all their sacrifices. He sure got some pension, and they had some savings, but the cost of living in a big city with having to pay a big monthly rent for the house was taking a toll on them, financially. Her son called very rarely, and told her that he till he gets a ‘green card’ he cannot help much. And she was unsure if he would take his parents to the United States after his marriage. After all, the youth of today want ‘freedom’ and their own ‘space’. It was at that time that she got a call from her daughter, who was employed as a translator in a big company.

“See, me and your father are planning to move to a smaller town. The rentals are getting higher every year. We are able to manage the other expenses but not the rent”
“Actually, I called to ask if you and father can move in to the new house that we have bought recently. Since we are already living in our own house, we may not need the other house. We bought the house only for getting the tax exemption and since both of us are earning enough we don’t want to give it on rental either. In fact, he asked me to check if you two would want to live there”

That was like a blessing from nowhere.

She was recently thinking about the age old societal practices, blind assumptions and equally blind myths when she was asked by a distant relative –

“So, how many children do you have?”
“We have one daughter and one son.”
“One minus and One plus?”
“No. One plus and One minus.”

The reply was instantaneous. She was wondering how life teaches the most important lessons the hard way. And how people pay with something more important than money for learning such lessons – Time.

Destination Infinity

You could visit the ‘Short Stories(Fiction)’ section of this blog to read similar stories.