Super sized egos vs winsome service

In an era where waning ethics are juxtaposed with super-sized egos, winsome service with a smile rocked my day. And it happened in the most ordinary of settings, with people whose lives would surely be harder than ours.

What does it take to make one happy? Success, riches, luxe goodies, fast cars, bubbly. While I wouldn’t say no to any and all of these, in an era where waning ethics are juxtaposed with super-sized egos, winsome service with a smile rocked my day. And it happened in the most ordinary of settings, with people who would have more to crib than most of us, whose lives would surely be harder than ours.

After months of trying to get someone to dye a shirt for me (sentimentally attached to imageit as it is a gift purchased by my architect nephew from his first pay cheque which had unfortunately acquired the colour of the wrapping it came in), I lucked out. Rows of clotheslines had fabrics of various hues drying out; hearing my hesitant voice, Shabaz turned around in amazement, “How did you find this place”?

He smiled, appreciating my tenacity in tracking him down to the top of non-descript huddle of nameless buildings. “Give me a call and come by when you visit Commercial Street next, I’ll do my best,” he said.

Next stop was Shalimar stores on Ibrahim Sahib Street. My quest is for fabric to reduce the glare from the skylights at home. I was hesitant to ask for the bundle that was at the bottom of the stack. But young Inayath declared with aplomb, “I will turn the shop upside down, don’t worry about it. Making my customers happy is important to me”.

Last stop, corner of Kamaraj Road. Corn-on-the-cob, freshly roasted on a charcoal fire by Mary, perched under an umbrella. “Show me my photo”, she said, “I didn’t smile because I have only one tooth – I am nearly 80, and my teeth have fallen off”. Some young louts piss her off, asking her for water after eating the corn. She comments to me, “When I go out, I carry my water”; the cobs are Rs. 20 apiece, a steal if you compute her costs for the cart, raw corn, charcoal, lime, salt and chilli powder, the mamool and her personalized service.

These three are radiant with a cheerful attitude to their work and goodwill to fellow humans; not only did they make my day, they made me introspect upon my attitude.

Of choices & love

 There’s a scene in Shyam Benegal’s 1977 film Bhumika, where the protagonist Usha/ Urvashi (played by the stellar Smita Patil) leaves her troubled life as a film star in Bombay and goes off with a wealthy landowner (Amrish Puri) to a village. As they are driving up to his palatial house, he tells her for the first time that he has a young son. Usha is taken aback; he says that his paralysed wife is there too, and gives her the option of going back to Bombay if she doesn’t want to be part of the set-up.

In their brief earlier interaction, he’s come across as an unyielding person. For example, he did not play a record again when she wanted to listen to it, choosing to play his friend’s choice. But given a choice of stepping back, she answers his query with a look that eloquently shows her attachment to him, and moves into his house.

Smita Patil
Smita Patil

 She probably needed the reassurance that he provided with his wealth and the physicality of his male presence.

The baggage of a messy upbringing, emotional problems with her husband (Amol Palekar), an affair with a director (Naseeruddin Shah), an unrealized relationship with her co-star (Anant Nag) and sundry complications of being a female actor could all be cast away in the simple and domestic solace of the rural household.

 She learns though that this sanctuary has rules for women that she can’t defy and takes the help of the despised husband to go back to Bombay. She returns to live alone in her hotel room.

 A question that formed in my mind after watching Bhumika last night was: Should Usha not have gone on, when her lover gave her the choice of turning back?  I was silently willing her to say “yes” and to turn back. I could predict that she was in for disappointment, if not heartbreak. She had ignored signs of his chauvinism; and I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and tell her to heed the early warning signals. 

But perhaps she did what was the right thing for her at that time.

She tried a different kind of life, and when it did not work out, she walked away. Sadder, but knowing what she does not want. “Mujhe apne akelepan se khud hi nipatna hoga”. She realizes that she has to deal with her loneliness on her own, and not try to seek solace in others.

This awareness is hard won, and leads to self-realisation.

Khamoshi (silence)

Kuch baatein aisi hotein hai

Jisko samajhna mushkil nahin hai

Kuch log aise hotein hain

Jinko samjhaana mushkil hain

Kuch woh kehte hain

Kuch hum

Baaton baaton mein

Baaton ka manee badalta hain

Woh nasamaj ya hum

Rishtay hi badaltay hain

Baaton sei

Ab khamoshi bol raha hai

Sun rahe hain sab

ENGLISH transliteration of Silence: 

 My words are not hard to understand; though

 some people do not comprehend

We exchange words, and

meanings alter as we speak

 Our feelings change course, 

we hear the silence that speaks now

Betrayed

photo by Ramya Reddy
photo by Ramya Reddy

I feel cheated. It’s not a good feeling. I could rant and rail till the cows come home. It’s going to be useless. The whole point of venting is that the one who injures you should feel the depth of your anguish.

But what do you do when it’s not another person who betrays you? When you know that nothing you can say or do is ever going to get you an apology?

All my simmering angst rose to the surface again today when I logged into facebook. My former colleague Aditi had posted this: “The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of divine accident.” ― Hugh Walpole

The reverberations of my silent howl made me dizzy.

We had a tumultuous relationship for close to 22 years. Both highly strung, rebellious and Type A personalities. We bickered and had rip-roaring fights. Nasty, petty, vicious, wounding.

And we laughed and smiled, shared lines from books that we were reading, had to see the first day first show of a film, travelled, made music and danced madly.

There were times when we wanted to split from the marriage. We both told each other that our son was the only reason we stayed together. The year he went away to boarding school, we wept and clung together as if we were orphans in a storm.

Without quite realizing, we seemed to have ridden over the choppy seas of careers and relationships. There was calmness and acceptance. A warm glow lit our lives. Dare I say, we were well on our way to be a content middle-aged couple.

Then he died. Never woke up one morning.

I don’t want pity – I detest this look in anyone’s eye. I am not a Sad Sack, I enjoy the little pleasures of life. I thank God everyday for this. My overwhelming sadness all this while has been at the injustice to my husband. Why did he not get to live longer?

But on days like this, I can’t help but brood over the injustice to me. Just when we had found harmony, why did Destiny snatch him away?

We had tapped into the “inner progressiveness of love”. How does one even begin to look for something like this again?

I get no answers. Like my liver or kidneys, the heart has become just an organ. I am dry-eyed and in a little while, will get back to work.

The dilemma in relationships

http://www.123rf.com/
http://www.123rf.com/

In theory, I find myself completely in agreement with a friend (well, I have to use that tag for lack of anything better –perhaps close acquaintance is more apt) who holds that men and women should not be possessive about each other.

He also says that sex should be a matter of drawing room conversation.

A woman friend dismisses his theory as arrant nonsense. “What’s this new-fangled word – ‘possession’? We all want to ‘belong’ to someone.” She holds that his gambit is to have sex without commitment.

I don’t know if she is right.

With some people, a one-off fling would be just right. With some others, occasional seconds and thirds would also work out fine. For some inexplicable reasons though, with some people it has a way of turning into something else.

You keep at it and keep telling yourself that it is just a slaking of a physical need, yet emotions have a way of making themselves felt.

Despite the availability of other partners, you would want only that special someone. That would be alright too.

The problem comes when you want the special someone to think that you are special too. And then, you would want to make yourselves exclusive to each other.

This is the attachment that leads to possessiveness.

The challenge is to divorce attachment from affection. Can one continue to be affectionate to another who does not reciprocate it?

Can one have affection without wanting to ‘possess’ or ‘belong’?

I have only known of parents loving their children even if the children do not seem to reciprocate it; to some extent I have seen it between siblings and to a far lesser extent between friends. But I am not sure if I have seen this between two adults who are in a physical relationship.

The friend who I mention at the start, seems capable of it. To some, he comes across as a straight-forward and self-contained person. To others, he appears to be selfish and callous. It appears to me that he seems to have found what works for him and that he is genuinely happy; he is like a nomad, wandering free, with no baggage and ready to stay a while if he finds good hosts but always moving on.I am almost envious of him.

So has he found the ideal of detachment? And are those who pursue the myth of romance and commitment doing so because they are less enlightened ? Though commitment sounds life a prison sentence. Perhaps a better word would be the sense of being special to someone.

The problem with wanting to be special is it brings the issue of ego; and ego battles kill relationships.

Detachment seems to be the ideal to aim for. Therein lies the catch – as I said in the beginning, some theories sound right. It’s the practice that’s the bitch.

What do you think? Do share.