Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Life Story of Plans

A few months back the channel on the television set, in the sucker’s shack (our employee cafeteria’s glorious nickname), was struck on the Disney channel – there was a prince and princess happily ever after story playing on – and the whole shack heard a aarrgh!! That was from Harsh – ex classmate and present colleague. Master planner. Implementation guru. Believes that nothing in life just happens, it is just a series of plans getting implemented. So as a result believes we control our lives, completely.

He strolled out of the shack muttering, ‘who the hell believes in fairytales? Life is about plans and implementations. Not THIS.’ We all are such suckers for planning, aren’t we? Control freaks? ‘Yeah true. Who the hell believes in fairytales?’ I thought too. We plan our careers, our neighbour’s career, friend’s child’s life, stranger’s life, our child’s life, financial timelines, love, children, retirement – you name it and we have plans for it. And we believe - All planned out, all in control. Just like SCop.  

SCop aka Harsh and Anjali – yes exactly the one who strolled out of the shack and his better half. I still love calling them by the name they were known in college – SCop - (S)iamese(Co)u(p)le, christened so to commemorate their togetherness because like all those college sweethearts we know, they were irritate-ably inseparable. I still love that name, mainly because they still get irritated, when called so publically, and now shyly embarrassed too. Current status: My colleagues and building mates and I must mention like a lot of maniacs free floating around us – planning enthusiasts and implementers especially Harsh.

They have been married for a couple of years now and as per plan have been trying to start a family of late. But in a time where teenage pregnancies are on a rise & a lot of married couples have to go in for IVF treatments (pun intended) these guys too were a case of what our boss in his famed management lingo would call: ‘Non-satisfactory results despite winning performance’. And obviously Harsh was losing more sleep and hair over this than any target on his half yearly sales plan in his cosy cabin. Amidst all this the icing on the cake moment happened - our boss being the CCTV that he is, caught signals of the slight underperformance in Harsh and pulled him up for a one-on-one.

Though a bit unexpected ‘CCTV’ came up with a brainwave! He agreed (infact suggested, shocker again) that Harsh and Anjali go on a vacation (ofcourse, near-by so that the targets are not adversely affected owing to less man-day’s) and CCTV was sure of the results, I mean result! CCTV’s analysis of the situation was that they suffered from –The mother-in-law syndrome! Both Harsh and Anjali’s mother stayed with them to help them settle into matrimony, they were after 2 years & 5 months of marriage still settling in, according to the mothers. CCTV never, like a lot of bosses, considered work or targets as a stressor!

SCop wanted to buy a family car too, may a Santro, but that was the backup plan - the baby and the car cannot come in together. The financial plan did not permit both! Well fair enough, I guess. A plan is a plan; it requires implementation with dedication. Well after a week SCop returned from the vacation but a few weeks post the vacation things considerably remained the same. Some scenic photographs, a fun video and some money spent (expenses outside the fin plan) were the only results from the vacation. Harsh was tearing his remaining hair away on this and Anjali was equally stressed but they had tried everything in their control and being the plan implementers that they were, they moved on and decided to implement their backup plan: the car.

The next week was spent by SCop in finalizing the car model, visiting showrooms, getting the best deals, loan finalization and the sorts. They seemed happy and relieved with these developments in their life and seemed to be regaining their original self’s, atleast it looked so. The car’s delivery was due on the second Saturday of the month and there was a small get-together planned to celebrate SCop’s first self-owned car at their place for a few friends. Both of them were really excited and we all were really happy, guess plan implementations have their own pleasures, atleast for them.

The gathering was due from 7.00 p.m. and most of us were there by 7.30 p.m. SCop’s latest and proud possession – the rascal red Santro was in the driveway – decked in red satin ribbon, flowers et al. All of us were gathered in and the party mood was setting in but there was something amiss. I had known SCop for nearly 10 years now, right from our graduation days, there was definitely something wrong somewhere and it was making me edgy. SCop were being the perfect hosts – laughing to the guests jokes, smiling all through, gracious but there was a eerie silence in the glances they gave each other. There was nothing wrong on the surface but the silence in the glances was getting to me – was it the mothers, some loan problem, a medical report or something more graver to the relationship? A child is the basis of marriage in our land still. It can plunge a dragger through the most in-love and stable relationships. And there wasn’t anything epic about their relationship, so may be maybe not. Whatever it was I didn’t know if I will ever get to know it but it had ruined my evening!

After some good bantering and music we all were ready for dinner. And just before we sat down SCop had an announcement to make. My heart plunged. What. Was it that serious that they want to declare the problem? May be they were announcing things publically to close friends so that there is no gossip about it, just facts. Cringe faced I looked on. All the serials, movies, books and magazine stories were buzzing and getting mixed in my head. I was prepared to NOT look shocked.

Their lips were moving. And then Anjali was smiling. No I think she was shy and smiling. Harsh was also smiling. I could not hear a thing. Those stories and voices in the head were blocking me out. There are loud murmurings around me. Everyone is smiling. SCop are shaking hands. No, no. The people present are shaking their hands with them. They are being CONGRADULATED! What for. Car? But that was said when we all came in, right? Clear headed I listen to the murmurings around.…ba…!!! baby! They are having a baby! Gosh. So gross of me. What was I thinking all the while? I congratulate them, hug them up and think – so much for their planning! They never wanted a baby and a car coming home together. Their financial plan did not permit it, it seems. Guess the baby had different plans. They tried and tried but a baby could not be conceived, they turned to the backup plan – the car. They book the car a week and the baby is conceived the next. I asked SCop, ‘Plans no good? Right?’ and they said, ‘what to do yaar – Destiny’. But of course the ‘mute blame taker of all times in human history’ – destiny. Harsh continued, ‘but yaar seriously no point in planning shalnning so much. I am off it now. We will see life as and when it comes. Howzzt that. Seriously it is like staying indoors always because mosquito bites causes malaria. We can stay outside also na with the mosquito coil on, sometimes atleast.’

Their smiles were on mine now. I was, must admit, impressed. One incident and SCop let go of their famed principles in life. Just hope the good season continues! I re-learnt a lesson by my godmother with SCop that day. She always said:

Planning is an extension to our dreaming habit. We dream about all the good things we want in our life and plan for them to be realities but a fact here is an earthquake, a loved one’s death, a bomb blast, our employer’s loss or a road mishap are never part of our dreams or plans! So in a sense we only dream fairytales, nightmares are never part of our dreams and as an extension never a part of our plans too. It is a positivity inculcated by nature, so follow the same and plan to live but never live to just plan!

Did I say who the hell believes in fairytales, I guess we all do! Our plans say so….

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Social Media’s Yin & Yang

What would you do, when you see a gorgeous lush waterfall on a weekend get-away? Click it course! And then? Post it on FB/ Twitter – obviously! Exactly. That is what we do now-a-days, right! Atleast that is what I do or did, before the contemplation hit hard enough to write this piece.

A hectic week lead to an equally enchanted weekend in the beautiful rain-kissed Moonar in Kerala, some time back. Clicked a lot of pictures and then did the obvious – posted some of them spot-on to Twitter and the whole album on FB (within 15 minutes of returning to the hotel.) And ofcourse kept updating statues throughout the trip about my observations and explorations; I can swear that I may have missed out a few things because I was typing away, head bent.

Later on after the self inflicted ecstasy owing to all the likes, comments, retweets and replies, just a random question pops up, you know like those twinkling screensaver pop-ups, “what would I have done if I had taken this trip may be 7 years back? How would I have attained this state of mindless happiness?” And the answer would be a - scrapbook. The ‘statues’ would be the handwritten memoirs, the ‘retweets’ and ‘comments’ would be verbally by the elite friends and relatives who can have access to the scrapbook. 

Ok reality time. Nothing is ‘exclusive’ now! Everyone has access to everything. The RTI act applies in all our lives and that too voluntarily, nobody even needs to file a request – we are dying to tell anyone who can hear, oopps can see, actually. Social media has helped evolve a very different side in our personalities. Though it could not change that part of us which gets irritated if our neighbourhood aunty even enquires where we are working or where we were over the weekend but it has definitely made us want to share our lives with the world at large. Though we still scowl if someone asks us for directions when we are hurrying to the movie theatre, with just 5 minutes left for the show to start, but atleast we do not mind if people ask us questions, directions even lifts on ours ‘walls’ and ‘timelines’.

So is social media making better human beings of us? In a sense maybe because one of the biggest YIN of being on social media apart from being abreast with GK in real-time (when we were kids we said in social discussions, ‘yes I read it in the TOI, my youngest cousin now says yes I read it on Twitter’) is that we have less frustrated people around because through ‘statues’ we are actually venting – happiness, sadness, anger, frustration – you name it. Human beings by virtue of their psychological evolution want to just say their things (events, feelings, reactions) to someone. Infact we really do not want to say most of the things to anyone in particular, we will be content by saying it to just about anyone. We just want to say it, just want to get it out of the system and that is where social media comes in. So in a sense apart from being connected to people - known and unknown, from being traceable by anyone who wants to find you, from opening up every living worth-mentionable moment to anyone who wants to know, social media is also creating people who would be in better relationships because they are less angry, less frustrated and more vented.

So all izz well? Not really! An elderly lady of around 80, about a fortnight back, when I was at a funeral asked me where did I stay. When I told her she said, ‘ok, that is why. I saw you in the bus. We travelled together, remember?’ I looked at her with searching eyes because I could not even recollect seeing her and finally muttered, half embarrassed – half unsure, ‘ok, I did not notice.’ A woman old enough to be my grandmother remembers me but I did not because I was busy checking tweets and updating my status about how horrible the road and the bus ride is! All I remember of my co-passenger is a green sari because that was the only thing visible with my head down! That is the YANG side. Whatever we are doing - travelling in a bus or train, waiting in a lounge, even walking on the footpath – our heads are down! No not in shame, really. We all are busy checking our handsets for statues, tweets, likes, comments, retweets, replies, favourites etc etc. 

So putting it in perspective, social media makes better human beings of us but human beings who live more in the virtual world. Like in my case I was busy knowing how are the rains and traffic in Mumbai getting along, and as you by now know I did not even glance at my co-passenger. If she had flicked anything off me I would not even have had a description to give to the police! Life’s glorious moments for us NOW are not the ones that touch our hearts but the ones that will look cool or interesting or amazing or LOL or ROTF types. Shakespeare said ages back, ‘ Life’s a stage.’ So very true in view of the social media revolution and the evolution it is causing is our behavioural patterns. Maybe the master writer saw this coming even back then.

The Japanese believe that Yin and Yang together is life and that is precisely what will make the yin-yang of social media click meaningfully for us. Balance. The word is balance. We need to utilise the good things – information, connectivity, accessibility, reach, etc. but need to stay away from being obsessed about the medium itself. Social media is a very vital part of our lives now but that is what it is – a part. It is only a part not the heart of our existence - the people around us are, the tears around us are, the smiles around us are! So balance it is. Balance is life.

But you know what I will still be posting those trip pictures! Balanced of course.