WRITING A BOON OR A BANE?”


 

A recent NYT report talked about a scientific survey conducted among University graduates that came to the conclusion that writing about oneself and self editing it leads to a change in behavior. It makes one happier, improves one’s communication skills and may even result in longevity.

Hmmm…… Interesting.. not because I lack in self confidence or I am low in self esteem. It caught my eye because I also write about myself and edit it myself. I do not know whether it has made me a happier and healthier person. But I can see that it has certainly resulted in change of behavior in my readers.

The writing bug hit me quite late in my life_ in my sixties to be precise. It is said that the first work of an author is mostly autobiographical. This is no surprise as that is the ambience he is most familiar with_ his family, his friends and his circle of relatives and acquaintances. He will be at utmost ease while writing about him which might involve all those people. While some are happy to see themselves in print (in fact some even solicit it) some are furious to see their family members living or dead involved in it.  Some may feel that the poetic license has been abused while some appreciate the modern outlook.  When I discussed a real life-like situation using unabashedly stark language in my debut novella my readers were ’shocked’  and embarrassed to share the book with their family members and friends.

Well, coming to the behavior of my close family (Yes, I love to write about me and my family), by the time I started writing my children had all flown the coop. So, my husband who read all my writings thought nothing of indulging me and so would finance all my self- publishing ventures. But my economy minded daughter who thought nothing much of my writing ( “I always speed-read your blogs”) would insist that my ventures were a great drain on their parental inheritance and that I was exploiting their poor father. I do agree that spending on publishing my books is a one way affair as nobody buys them. Moreover, I don’t blame my daughter for her low opinion of my skills. While editing my first book, she was being driven up the wall so many times that she found it hard to come down for quite some time.

As for my first son, the fact that his mom is an author is something he is proud of among his peers though as a matter of policy he does not read a single line of what I write!

My second son who is abroad takes interest in my writing, reads all my blogs and has helped me in publishing e versions of my books. Probably distance lends charm even to his mom’s writings.

As for my siblings I have lost all my brothers who I am sure would have been proud of my late emergence. My sisters (two out of three) have always actively encouraged me.

A relative of mine even exploited the fact that my writings appear in newspapers to his advantage. He threatened a shopkeeper,”Don’t try any hanky–panky with me. I know a lady who writes in papers. I shall see you dragged all over the media” not withstanding the fact that I write only ‘middles’ and not ‘news reports”!

Thank God for the social media and Internet. I have been able to build up a network of likeminded friends, nieces, nephews, nieces-in law, nephews-in law  who follow my writings faithfully. I feel doubly blessed when they recommend my writing to their friends and relatives (after they have read).

Thus my hobby has kept me happy, cheerful, confident and sane and I may live long too. I cannot guarantee the same about my readers.

(Do I see any clumps of hair in your fists?)

 

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Aspirations


ASPIRATIONS

“A pauper’s aspiration for a Rolls Royce is not  demand” used to be my husband’s favorite quote from his Economics text. Forget about the commercial link between aspiration and demand, what is Aspiration? It is an inner desire to possess or achieve something seemingly unachievable.

This aspiration remains secret in one’s younger years but gets transformed to an obsession in later years which prods one to action towards achieving it. But in most cases, due to an awareness of the more realistic scenario, the aspiration remains nothing but that in a more adult and practical –thinking age.

It is amusing and sometimes touching to see how efforts are made in innocent childhood towards a semblance of achievement of this aspiration.  It is not unusual to see youngsters imitating their parents in the work they do. Thus you get to see mini maids, mini doctors, mini engineers, mini carpenters etc. My son when young had accompanied his officer father to his office. On coming home he declared,” I want to become an Air Force Officer like dad when I grow up because all I have to do is sign papers.”

A nephew of mine when little loved to have his friends  waving their hands on both sides of the road in farewell while he rode away on a fictitious jeep for a fictitious ‘posting’ from the BRO (Border Roads Organisation) unit !

Closer home, the corporation worker who sweeps our road usually brings with her 7 of her children with ages ranging from 3 to 12 years. While the 12 year old helps his mother constructively, the 3 year old insists on himself opening our gate and putting back the bin emptied earlier by his siblings and going out  in all dignity after closing the gate himself. I am sure for the present his biggest aspiration is to become a Corporation sweeper.

My maid servant sometimes brings her granddaughter to work.  The latter insists on washing my vessels though forbidden by her grandmother who obviously has higher aspirations to see her darling as a shop assistant or typist and certainly not as a housemaid.

It is also true that children themselves observe the various opportunities and the new fields available to them which if they work hard can certainly better their socio-economic status . Thus it is not unusual to see a watchman’s daughter becoming a doctor, an auto driver’s son becoming an engineer, cook’s children excelling as hoteliers and so on which is certainly a heartening thing to watch in our ‘Shining Bharath’.

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The Linguistic Bias


THE LINGUISTIC BIAS
Recently there was an item in the newspapers that some of the ex-American employees of a well known Indian IT firm wanted to sue the company for linguistic bias. They complained that they had been sidelined as they did not know Hindi. They alleged that their colleagues (and probably their bosses too) would carry on in Hindi, a language they did not know, putting them at a total disadvantage.
This news item really tickled me to no end. This IT bellwether company is basically a South Indian company though with employees from all over the country and World. I can understand English being the common language of communication amongst them. But Hindi? If it has dominated their conversations, probably it is because Hindi speaking people assume that everyone knows or should know Hindi and should be able to take part in their chat sessions.
In fact, declaration of Hindi as the national language has never been totally accepted south of Vindhyas. Left to Hindi movies and songs, this part of India would perhaps have taken to Hindi spontaneously, but Imposition has always been resisted.
Well, if Hindi speaking people assume that everyone knows or at least understands their language, the people in the rest of the country assume that no one knows their language and that is where the fun lies. They assume total ignorance on the part of the other party and tend to carry on comments about strangers in the firm conviction that they are safe. For example, in one of the border road units I believe two ladies were making caustic remarks in Tamil about a Sikh gentleman who was standing close to them while watching a badminton match. What would have been the reaction of those ladies if they had known that the said gentleman had done all his schooling and college in Tamilnadu and could understand every word of what they were saying!
Once we travelled from North to South India in a 2-tier sleeper coach by train. Our co-passengers were a Tamil couple. Even as the train started, they tried to release the sleeper plank and spread their beds on it though it was broad daylight. My husband opposed it vehemently as it was creating acute discomfort to us in the opposite berth. He even pointed to the rules that the sleeper planks should be used only between 9pm and 5 am.
Looking at his smart military moustache, his tight T shirt through which his muscles were rippling and his use of English language (obviously a language in which they were perhaps not well conversant) the couple reluctantly conceded with very little grace. As they settled down into their sitting positions, they commented between themselves in Tamil, “Looks like a Malayali, See how aggressive he is, behaving as if the train is his father’s property “etc. We just smiled and kept up the pretence.
When the train stopped at Madras central station, we let forth a torrent of Tamil just before we parted company from our co-passengers, leaving them open mouthed and aghast.
By Vimala Ramu

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Bringing up grandmother


BRINGING UP GRAND MOTHER

Two months after the departure of the ‘man of the house’ to Heavenly regions, it was time for me to get to the nitty-gritty of things. It was the  time to pay the car insurance. Though with a bit of far-sight the car had been purchased two years back in my name, I had never bothered about any paper work except signing where asked to. Fortunately since I had visited the Insurance office with my husband when the car was first insured, I knew the company which had done it.

Grandly I rang up the Insurance people, gave my name, car number and asked for the amount due from me. She asked me to read out the policy number. I pulled out a policy from the file and read out the number with great difficulty as it had been printed over already printed matter. She gave me the amount of the premium due and asked me to courier it as they had no system to send a person to collect it and I told her that that would be no problem.

Next I sat down to write the check. I wrote the payee’s name, amount in letters and figures, wrote the policy number and my mobile number behind the check and put it in an envelope along with a covering letter with all the details of the car and the policy number, addressed it and pasted it and rang up my regular courier guy to come and take it the same evening. I rang up my daughter and told her proudly that I handled the car Insurance thing myself all on my own.

Fortunately just before the courier collected the envelope, it flashed to me that I had made a mistake in the date. I prised open the envelope, changed the month from ‘5’ to ‘6’- a simple job since all it needed was to round off the bulging tummy of 5.

Next morning the first call came from a gentleman in the Insurance office. “Madam, you have given us the wrong policy number with your check”. I said, “How is it possible? I read out directly from the policy” “But madam, that was a wrong policy. Can you read the number again?”  Just a few minutes earlier I had received my new specs which I was yet to get used to. Juggling between the new specs and the old one which was slipping, sometimes the frame, sometimes the lens, I read it out. I believe what I thought was ‘1’ was a ‘stroke’ which isolated the number 13. Moreover /13 / meant the policy had been made in the year 2013, the year the car was purchased. What he wanted was the number in the policy made in 2014. I was flummoxed. I was under the impression that a policy is a policy and like in Pan, Aadhar and Passport, the number of the policy was same year after year. The gentleman was frustrated. He asked me desperately, “Whom did you talk to yesterday?” I said, ” A lady”. He checked up something with his lady colleague and told me,” Don’t bother. I shall get the details from the lady”. I shut down the phone and dug into the file for the 2014 policy. I found the number of the policy clear and off the printed matter. I rang them up again and offered to read out the /14/ number. The lady said,”It’s ok mam. We have the details with us.”

Thus ended my first foray into the corporate world. I drank up 2 full glasses of water and sat under the fan in full blast to regain my homeo statis.

 But that was not yet to be. After an hour or so, another call came. When I said I rectified the date in the check, I never thought anyone would detect or mind the correction.  No, but they did detect it. Anticipating a problem at the bank about the overwriting, the lady demanded a new check to be sent promising to mail me the old one. She also told me that slight error in the date-day or month would not have been of serious consequence as checks had validity of 3 months.

I went through the whole process again, this time carefully and without overwriting- the check, covering letter, address,   pasting, etc. I asked the courier to come again to pick it up, paid him again and relaxed.

So, I had finally learnt how to write a check at the ripe age of 78 years so that I could  right royally decimate the nest egg painstakingly built up by my dear departed.

I had some consolation when I heard that a doctor from Australia put a big ‘X’ all across the check when she was asked to cross the check by a shop keeper in India!

The third phase of trouble started when I asked them to courier back to me the dishonored check. If they had just kept quite I would have asked the bank not to issue payment against the said check. No, the lady in charge told me that it had been couriered back to me. I waited and waited one full fortnight for the dishonored check. But it never came though the lady on the phone kept insisting that they had couriered it to me.

One fine day, on my way back from the Command hospital I decided to take the bull by the horn. I went to the Insurance office and ignoring the rickety lift, climbed two flights of steps. Panting, I located the manager’s office and accosted her about the missing check and the never ending refrain,” It has been couriered madam, it will reach you in a day or two” on the phone. I asked her if they could not solve the problem without a 78 year old sick lady climbing the steps and coming in person to enquire. The manager, a stylish and charming lady tried to appease me, made me sit down and drink a glass of water. She sent for the lady who had been in touch with me. To my great surprise, the latter had my dishonored check in her hand! She mumbled, ‘’It was found only yesterday, madam, hidden among the checks meant for the bank. I had planned to courier it today.” I exploded, ”What made you lead me up the garden path saying that it had already been couriered to me?” She mumbled again,’’I thought the person to whom I had handed it over had couriered it to you”.

After extracting a written apology from the manager, I walked home triumphantly with the date- overwritten- and- the wrong –policy- number- written -overleaf check in my purse.

 

 

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