Thursday, November 13, 2014

A date quite 'accidental'

I am not a god fearing person. I do not remember the last time I prayed, but I think it was, when I lost my friends in a climbing accident.
I prayed to him to “undo” the situation and “restore” so that the climb never happened and that we were defeated by the mountain and just returned.  A few days later when, I was sympathetic to myself and the bereaved, telling them facts. I repeated the incident to everyone (and myself), trying to make a concrete fact in my mind that my friend was not going to come back. I was emotionless when this narration went on and I tried to be as specific as possible. Still I am a human and there were discrepancies that needed more info than I had.
 At instances, I prayed that all that I witnessed or told to everyone was completely wrong  and my friend walked back alive and met me with the same jovial face.
This prayer went on for many days and finally I faced the reality. There is no God to help me. The only thought that stuck in my mind was that 19 Oct is a sad day for me. It so happened that the news of my demise too started on the same date and reached peak the day later.

 It is coincidental that a few months earlier than this tragedy, I had taken taken a “quiz” on some web page that claimed to find my age at my death and reasons for my death.
It said Freeze, fall, Electricity. I ignored this warning and went on my “last” expedition.
The page still exists and it tells me , as of today that I have overlived 3 years 11 months.
If I were to truly believe in this page, I have overlived by 6 year. The reasons for my demise 6 years ago had two of the “clauses” which are very close to predictiion. Freeze and Fall. My friends did have a fall at a high altitude. If I was with them  on the summit attempt ,probably I would have taken the fall too.
On 19 Oct 2014, I discarded all above as pure crap. We set on a family drive Pune Nagpur which is around 720 km. Early start at 4AM. The night of 18th was pathetic as I did not get a sound sleep. Still I started my Honda Amaze on the dot. I have driven Pune Nagpur at least 3 times. I follow a routine where I do not stop. I eat inside the car. I do not overeat as it causes sleep. I stop once for a chai.
We reached Akola. I had a tea break. Then I took the Amaravati bypass. If you have never driven on this highway, I recommend you to try it once. It is an endless road with no traffic. Few times you get a Deja-vu and feel that you are moving in circles. Empty.. Dry after Malegaon.  It is not an interesting drive but it is more like a ultra marathon where counting miles will get you nowhere.
I remember telling my better half while driving up a gentle ghat to “talegaon” that these are the best possible roads in India. It is a two lane road with a 1.5 ft divider on right.
I did not hear from my kids or my wife and its just a 70 km drive to Nagpur and I have done 600+.
The drone of few vehicles and the hum of my engine…. A blink of eye and As I open the eyelids I am rushing thru Foliage, Flowers on my windscreen. I immediately realize my mistake and steer hard to the left.  Steam from the bonnet Tyres on right punctured my Honda limps to the left bank. I stop the car and get everyone out as I fear a fire is about to start.
My heart beats wildly as I realize the narrow escape. The steam has stopped. There is a mark on the road that show me my path. I apologize to my better half. But deep inside..I have lost confidence in long driving that will take a hell of a time to cure. I prayed thanking god for the intuition.
In 15 years of car driving, I have never met a single accident. With this one, my ego as a super driver has shattered. I feel old …My lovely car just 8 mths old. How could I do this to my family? Responsibility of a driver is shaken. That one Wink on a curving road. I cannot even imagine that I slept during my drive.
The Bumper has taken a bang on the right but the superb design has actually lifted the car and the wheel rim got over the 1.5 ft kerb pulling the rear wheel in same alignment. The rims took all the impact. Both tyres burst. The condenser must have leaked. And the radiator hoses.
When tragedy hits, humans switch automatically to what must be done immediately. There is a press reporter to my rescue. He gets tea for family. He also asks if tow truck is available at Karanja Toll which is 12 km ahead. I dial the Honda Roadside assist. They are very cooperative and arrange for a flat bed truck. My wife and kids are picked up by a friend who is in the vicinity and he drives them to Nagpur.
I always keep my head torch and Swiss knife with me on a travel. I have carried these on my last expedition too. It’s still 2 hours to kill. I know to roll the car over the flat bed I may need to change the rear wheel. The spare wheel has never been opened since it was assembled in the factory. I do not have a set of pliers to turn the Wing nut.  I focus all my mind and energy to give it a tight squeeze. But nothing moves. Then I align a rod to the wing and hit with a rock.. There is slight rotation. I hit again ..and again.. Yes the nut is now loose. The flat wheel is replaced with the new one and I wait for the truck.
Its dark and insects keep hitting my face. The sweat gets colder. I switch off the flashlight. This highway is not like Mumbai-Pune. A vehicle rarely passes me every 5 minutes.
It is as dark as it was six years ago. I did not eat anything then. I am as hungry now.  That accident happened around 3 PM or maybe an hour later.
This one was around 4:30PM. The climbing accident had 4 people. 2 died/ 2 injured. We were 4. All strapped to the seats. All survived thanks to the vehicle and reflex action.
When you are alone, your mind makes crazy connections. The truck is here now and I have company. My Car is towed aboard. I choose to sit inside the car and not the truck cabin.
It’s still 70 kms to Nagpur and an entire week to spend. Till the car gets mended to as good as new, I should work on a way to get back to Pune. Art should again be a good “diversion”.

The reason why I managed to churn so many paintings during Diwali!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Too long a talk for bare minimal

One of the things I have dreaded since my childhood, was the fear of being poor and not able to make ends meet. As a 6th grade kid, I walked through the streets of Hindu Colony, Dadar observing the people live under the Tilak bridge Families, Kids..Their assets inside Steel trunks. They were occupied in their activities..Cooking food or dividing acquired stale food. Kids playing along the roadside footpath rolling and beating cycle rims. The poverty did not shock me. What concerned me was their indifferent attitude and acceptance to a daily life of nothingness. It made me wonder that if these were given work, would they work at all for a pay? Would there be people who were beggars willing to work, but the current fate is only due to no jobs.

I concluded that the reason for my fear was not Poverty. It was the fear of getting stuck in such a situation in which I have no ambition to do work or I am  ostracized by society as not good enough and fated to earn on the roadside. Would the mind collapse, in a nutshell. Fear of Insanity or feeble mind.

The vacation in Mumbai was the beginning. It exposed me to circumstances that I had never seen before in my life. As I entered the building to go to the Yoga Class, I saw this small room again.
The man had used the vacant portion under the stairs to make a small room for himself. He could barely sleep inside (with folded legs). He seemed to be a watchman of the building.

I remembered a late night when my parents were late from a party and I had no key to our house. I had slept under the main stairs of the apartment in a cold night. When I was solitary, I had no airs about myself. It was simple. I rested, when I needed. A bed / A blanket was a comfort.
A personal experience under the stairs made me aware of the world and mindset of this man who was ok to live there for his entire life.

I thought, “I need to earn enough to be barely comfortable. My thought included the following assets.
1 room for family of 4 to live (We had lived in just 2 rooms at Delhi , so 1 was bare minimum)
Fuel for food
Dal – Chawal/Roti little oil/ Mustard/Basic spices/ Garlic/
1Vegetable once a day
Chatai/ Chadar
Again..These are my views as a 6th grade student to survive. The biases were set by my surroundings.

The situation has not changed even today. We have larger slums. People still live in Empty Pipes.
I was fortunate to have moved up the ladder and can afford a 3BHK. A luxury beyond what I dreamed as bare minimal at 6th grade. My fear is still at the back of my mind but my wish list that causes this fear has increased, to what I would have felt “Luxurious” in my 6th grade. There are peers who would go on a Foreign country tour in Summer vacation. I would probably do this at the right time.
The right time or such an “exotic” location worth the expense is yet to come.
I lived in different circumstances have adapted / “Acclimatized” to society around me.
‘I ‘ am not “accommodative” to basic needs of life. I do not have a handle on my expenses. So I fear and I strive to earn more.The fear always rules. 

Every salary band has set of incompetent people when there are more industrious people to do the job at fraction of the cost.

My colleagues in a 3rd world country Fear that they have sufficient gap with lower economic class that they may face the same as their USA buddies in few years.

This is still a lesser fear as their skillset gets redundant with time, and there is demand of “Real” work in a trade that demands more physical labor and craftsmanship to serve a “Foreign” investment.

The above is probably what sets me on thinking as a minimalist. It is said that people start minimalist thinking because things are not too rosy in future. I thinks its the right idea for every prospering person as well.

It was important for me to connect with circumstances to understand, the thought process of people living in “filth”. To unlearn, that “filth”, as it appears to me, is because I never got my hands dirty or that;  I was blessed with good upbringing and decent tools to live. I may want to live in a pipe and experience what my mind goes through that day.

No matter what you earn, you will always feel the need for more and more. Crib for more.
Earn what is bare minimum required for the job. Stay lean and work hard. (Lean also means less resources).  This “sustains” longer.

You must “know” what it feels to live as a pauper.  (Hope for best/ Prepare for the worst.)  Unless you are less resourced, you will not be in a situation to think beyond limits.
Eg. Israel has less land/ less water, but they are good at yielding maximum crops.

For Jobs that Demand physical labor, try to do it yourself.
Can I do it? No. It’s painful. I wrecked the gadget more. Engage a craftsman. (Now did you realize the value? Do you feel this person should be paid better. Hand him a gracious tip.)

If you can do it yourself, that’s the best policy. 

You mastered another art! Saved money and you are independent. The best part. Due to your involvement you will have some respect for the trade.

I will end by few sayings from The Buddha few are relevant to above thought:

Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.

You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.