The Indian Father

As I browsed through my news feed, I saw just a single male friend make a mention of Father’s day. By and large, it was only my women friends who were vocal in their appreciation of their fathers. It is no surprise that when Aamir Khan said “Jab Tak Is Desh ke baap nahin sudrenge, yeh desh nahi sudrega” (This country will improve only when fathers improve), it was so well received by a lot of us. 

 

The Indian father (especially in the context of sons) is a scared fellow working a thankless job. He has good intentions, or at least feigns good intentions, all the while beating down the child (emotionally and/or physically), instilling fear in him and making him feel like a worthless fellow. In a strange twisted way, it is the father’s way of encouraging his son to become the best he can be. But its not so simple. The son, to him, is a reflection of his legacy and values, no doubt. But he also invariably becomes the dart board for his frustrations. His vision for his son’s future, is his greatest ambition. But the son also remains his biggest competition (although he will never admit to it). The policies towards the son is fear driven and operates on the assumption that the son is a moron and will never know what is good for him. The father’s love and pride for his son is concealed, but his critique is always vociferous. The result is a relationship that is as complex as it is conflicted.

 

Make no mistake, a lot of Indian fathers are excellent role models. But not all of them are role models in the conventional sense nor do they become role models through conventional means. As a son, one’s frustration towards one’s father, is made more chaotic by the love, respect and affection the father has earned in their work place and outside the home. The mothers do a dandy job of reminding the son that all his frustrations are unreasonable, as the father works tirelessly to put food on the table and keep shelter on their heads. So the son is driven to not just become as good as the father, but he strives to become better than him.  Financial independence represents the ticket to criticize the father and break free of the conflicted position. That is how we have consistently produced such phenomenal achievers.

 

Unfortunately for the father and the son, they do not understand that seemingly paradoxical feelings can exist for the father. Instead children assume that they can either respect their father or disrespect him, despite being sub consciously aware that such categorization is over simplistic. They will not know that they can respect the good which the father brings to the table and remain profoundly disgruntled with the endless discouragement and pressure their fathers put them through.

 

Speaking as a son, we would thus be lying if we say that we love our fathers. We don’t love them, at least in the conventional cheesy sense. We are respectful, we are grateful and we will be there for our fathers as they age. But we will become conscious of the good they did only after their time on this earth is over and not before. Any expression of love will be expressed and recieved with awkwardness and therefore avoided. We can never ever feel emotionally intimate with our fathers, nor can they feel that with us.

 

For his part, the father’s role and contribution will never recieve the thanks it deserves. His insensitive actions and words, no matter how well founded and bona fide, will never be afforded the empathy or forgiveness it deserves. In short, a significant portion of father son relationships represent the greatest tragedy of the human condition, where both father and son are victims. This tragedy is further perpetuated by our failure to accept the reality around father son relationships.

 

I am not drawing any sweeping generalizations. I am sure there are perfectly simple father son relationships out there. On the contrary, there could be just as many complex father daughter relationships as well. I know for a fact that mother daughter relationships can be just as confusing. I confess that I speak for a portion, not the whole.

But the one general conclusion I will not hesitate to draw is this- Can we, going forward make better choices if we become fathers ourselves? No wait, that is expecting too much. So I will rephrase.

 

Can we, at least promise to make mistakes, which are different from the mistakes our fathers made with us?

 

I am one of those rare people in India who can say that he grew up under one of the most decent, honourable and selfless fathers a person can get. Our relationship has many flaws and we have no doubt driven each other mad at many levels. My aloofness and lack of academic drive complimented his stellar achievements and expectations from me. But all things said and done, I never needed to look outside to know what kind of a lawyer or a human being I should be when I grow up.
I do not expect to improve if I ever become a father myself, but I will hope to evolve so that my kid will find fault with me for reasons, different than the reasons based on which I found fault with my folks🙂
Happy Bloody Father’s Day indeed🙂

Does being older and being experienced mean the same?

As a member of the youth population, I frequently hear things like “You don’t know what you are talking about. Listen to me, I am older and have more experience”. Even people who I have looked up to as role models are susceptible to this sense of ego and prestige. I don’t blame them, nor does my respect, love and affection for them become any less, because I know the dangers of success and the obvious feeling of entitlement that comes in the wake of an effort. It is only human to feel that way. The fact that I am turning a year older, compounds the problem for me, because I am well on my way to the other side of the problem.

Heck, just the other day, a former intern of mine suggested a possible line of argument in a writ petition. I felt it may not be that useful, but both of us had considerable difference of opinion. As I tried to sell my point, I came dangerously close to saying the exact same thing that I hate listening to, viz., “I am older and more experienced. So you better listen to me”. Thankfully reason found the better of me and I did not inflict that arbitrariness on the poor girl.

It made me reflect upon the term “experience”.

If I have to analyse the term in terms of a simple equation, Experience= Amount of time spent doing something X the wisdom gained from the time and effort so invested.

While the amount of time element is objective and can be clearly defined and understood by all of us, the wisdom part is a little tricky. You see, two people can spend 10 years doing the same thing. But one student could end up gaining more wisdom from those 10 years as opposed to his peer. I, sorry we, have to make room for the possibility that those who have spent less time than us in our jobs, have probably gained more wisdom than us, thus getting ahead in the “experience” race.  To acknowledge this, is not a sign of our incompetence, because as times change, the tools available to get ahead are better available and used by the younger generations better than us. We can, in fact, learn from them and keep ourselves relevant in the process.

Take, for example lecturing as a profession. Many years back the school of thought around teaching recommended that Indian teachers should speak while the students would listen. The kind of teaching mechanism that was built around questions and debates and interactive learning was completely absent. As the internet had not yet set foot in India, the teacher was also the only source of information forcing students to be listeners. Also, constructive participation without access to information was never possible. Therefore a speaker-listener dynamic defined the average classroom.

But now, I believe in being less of a teacher and more of a moderator. I like to hear the students speak and assess their level of awareness and knowledge and see how I can stimulate their growth by making deliberately provocative statements to initiate meaningful debates and discussions. I believe this method works because I was a student only too recently and constantly felt that I was being undermined by the kind of teaching I received. However, a friend of mine, (one who I look up to even now), found fault with me for wasting time using such a method and with 35 years of teaching experience in his profile, his argument against my teaching method was both obvious and invulnerable to dissent.

See, that is the challenge. I can no longer validate the ego and the false sense of prestige on the ground that I am as human as my role models who are its victims. Why? Well, it is because I have a responsibility to my employees, to my juniors and to the children in my life. I will have to resign myself to the non negotiable obligation to either convince them by reason or accept the contrary stand they will subscribe to. Either I do what is right or end up being a hypocrite and I dread being the latter. But heaven forbid if I ever say that being more experienced, I am right and the other person is wrong!

The fact that I am older only means that statistically, I am likely to die sooner than them. That should inspire hope also. But, if someone feels that I have something of substance to offer, it is not to do with the time I have invested, but more because of what the world has taught me in this small a time. What matters is simply how receptive we are and not how much time we have spent. This is a lesson I will have to live by and I expect everyone around me to hold me accountable when I fail.

I would like to simply end with the words of my paternal grandpa after he had lost an argument with one of his grandkids, “I had to concede. He reasoned it out so well. I became small in front of him”. My eyes tear up remembering these words, not because I miss him, but because of his enlightened practice of humility.

Unmentionable Topics For TED

I guess its old age, but I had myself forgotten about this topic😛 But if we have to talk about unmentionable topics, these days, virtually everything is unmentionable.

Its a coincidence that this subject of “unmentionable topics” comes at a time when the world is debating the scope and extent of the freedom of speech and expression, particularly in light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Personally, I think the issue is not just about freedom of speech and expression, but mankind’s misplaced sense of self importance. We have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. Even as we were coming to grip with our anger at the sheer intolerance behind the attacks, a friend of mine quickly posted an article which condemned the attacks but also reminded us that Charlie Hebdo was racist.

I asked myself why they were racist? Is it because they poked fun at hindus, muslims and buddhists? When did satire become racism. For all you know, the artists behind Charlie Hebdo would have gotten along well with Muslims and did not carry any personal prejudice against them. But god forbid, if a man without any racist intentions or motives still says something that could be interpreted as racist. Because frankly thats the kind of insensitive jerks we have become. We care no more for the intentions behind people’s words and we think of ourselves as so important that, we think the meaning we attach to the ideas are the actual meaning they carry. As a listener how in God’s sweet name can I know for sure whats running in the author’s mind? And should I not give the author the benefit of the doubt or are we intent on assuming the worst in people?

 

Be it the likes of Russel Peters or Dave Chapelle or even Chris Rock, humour based on race has always been about laughing the traits unique to our context and culture and never about inspiring a sense of hatred around us. Even with the Bollywood movie “PK”, people were quick to take offense. Why not instead just perceive the movie as simply a story and a form of entertainment?

One of my greatest sources of comfort in the past couple of years has been my ability to laugh at my myself while reflecting on the stupidities I did. Be it my stint with dating apps like Tinder and the less than admirable moments on it or the fact that I am one of those losers from the male world who strongly subscribes to the existence of ‘Friendzone’, my life has been hilarious in its own way. I am able to respect myself better when I can laugh at the things that have happened to me, rather than living in denial. Its too much of a burden to live a life of perfection. Thats almost like asking a man to refrain from passing wind even in private!

Lets get off our high horses, shall we? Hindus, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Chinese, Buddhists, Kannadigas, Tamilians, Pakistanis, etc. etc. etc.- none of us are that important and none of us are that awesome. So next time someone takes a dig at you, learn to laugh or else I guarantee you, you will be making an ass out of yourself.

This post is part of my writing endeavor as a member of the loose blogger’s consortium. The other bloggers are as under. Give them a visit, they are bunch of hell raisers you wouldn’t want to miss ;) RummusergaelikaaMaxiThe Old Fossil and Shackman

 

 

 

 

Vada beats peri peri fries

One of the most enjoyable aspects of adult life has been the mobility. With a driving license and a wonderful little Suzuki A-star at my disposal, one of the most enjoyable luxuries in recent years has been the lonely drives across cities. My love for the city of Mysore is well known to my readers. But, the highway within itself, is a marvelous experience.

 

India has a large concentration of entrepreneurs. To us city slickers, entrepreneurs are the guys with fancy corporate offices. But capitalism succeeds not on account of the large multi national corporations, but on account of the small neighbourhood establishments that source products locally and have an unbeatable understanding of their market needs. One such example is the umpteen number of roadside eateries that one finds in India and in the highways that connect its various parts. Mysore highway is no different.

 

As I began driving from Bangalore to Mysore yesterday evening at around 7, the usual question I was asking myself was, “Where do I eat?”. Not too long ago, the answer to that question was simple, Maddur Tiffanies. With its delicious dosas and famous Maddur vadas, this establishment had monopolised the highway food business for ages. Then, slowly, Kamat Lokruchi entered into the picture and with its Karavali Meals, it became a popular lunch destination for travellers like myself. But even as my childhood journeys were spent frequenting these joints, I had ended up being deprived of the true food experience.

 

True food experience on the Bangalore Mysore highway begins at the Bidadi Thatte idli. Unlike conventional idlis which are smaller in circumference and slightly puffed, the thatte (plate) idli is flat and has a large circumference and Bidadi is famous for its thatte idli. My favourite establishment happens to be this place right next to the Bidadi police station and behind the bus stand. Its a red colour matchbox like place called Renuka thatte idli. I don’t know how they manage, but the thatte idlis are among the softest and most delicious idlies I have eaten. The red chilli based chutney that is provided as an accompaniment can make one drool and the butter that comes with the idlis, just makes the gastronomical experience that much more complete. The vadas are crisp, but don’t feel oily at all and the coffee is to die for. Over all, with about 60 ruppees, one can enjoy an out of the world south indian breakfast experience.

 

For the non vegetarians, the jai bhuvaneshwari military hotel near Srirangapatna is the go to place. Famous for its Ragi mudde and mutton curry, the place is a favourite for all those who wish to get a feel for the local Karnataka food. In fact, a visit to this place reminds us of just how much we have abandoned the staple food that was once our predominant diet. The day we replaced millets like Ragi with rice, our health problems began surfacing. If you ask me what the perfect diet is, the answer is simple, eat what the locals traditionally eat.

 

I suspect that despite my knowledge of these establishments, I am yet to fully explore the food scene on the Highway. However, it is saddening to see the likes of KFC’s and McDonalds overwhelm the highway scene. Other establishments like Pizza corner and Empire hotels are now increasingly finding greater presence and visibility. We can’t stop them, nor should we try, because they are good for the economy. All I can do is appeal to folks like me: Don’t go by how big or how fancy a restaurant is. The true soul of highway cuisine lies in the small little unassuming place which is barely seen. There lies a love affair with food that is unparalleled and truly exemplary. This is the Indian restauranteur who understands our palate better than anyone else. Give him a chance and I promise you, you will not be disappointed. Because to me, the hot vadas with onion chutney beats McDonald’s peri peri fries any day of the week and twice on Sunday🙂

Role model

Ramana sir rightfully reprimanded me for being a terrible role model for the LBC group. What can I say, except that I am sorry🙂

If I advertised something, law practice is a test of character. As I grew up, some of my first role models were fictional- Batman, Jake Brigance (“A Time to Kill”),Alan Shore (“The Practice” and “Boston Legal”) and Atticus Finch. Then, I read non fiction, about U.S. State Department Attorneys like John Doar who did not flinch in their dedication to civil rights, even in the face of angry mobs outside of Ole Miss University or Somali Mam, who walked away with a child prostitute in Cambodia without a care for the guards carrying Ak-47s outside the brothel. I always wanted to be Batman or John Doar or Somali Mam. But, we don’t realise, when we read these stories, the kind of effort required to build those nerves of steel, which became the foundation for a life of courage.

I don’t know courage, but I have felt fear. In fact, I suspect courage cannot exist without fear, even paranoia. Fear follows you like a shadow. Every time you stop at traffic signal with the window open, your mind goes back to the threats and you begin to wonder who the gentleman on the bike next to your car is. Every call from an unknown number makes your heart skip a beat. You wake up a few times every night, at the smallest of noises. You, in fact, develop an over cautious sixth sense that screens every individual for anomalies worth red flagging. I suspect this fear is a construct of my mind and not based on anything substantial, but doesn’t make it any easier.In fact, it only makes me realise how shallow my understanding of my role models are.

More often than not, fear is like a wave, coming and going in different intensities. In the face of sudden adversity, you keep fear aside and let adrenalin do the talking.But once the adversity passes, the adrenalin wanes and then the fear of consequences begin to emerge. Questions like, “was it really worth saying what I did?” and “maybe I shouldn’t have been so cocky”, begin to repeatedly play over and over. The body shivers uncontrollably and the temperature drops in one’s mind. It is a surreal experience. With each stint with fear, you learn to handle it better, but the body’s propensity to feel a scare never truly disappears. Survival Instinct I suppose. Fear is dangerous, it leads to anger and hatred. It is one of the most annoying impediments to growth and development.

Anyways, you can’t truly appreciate your role models until you have felt that fear, just to get a sneak preview of the internal conflict that the likes of John Doar must have braved to become who he finally became for the civil rights movement in America. And that’s where we go wrong. To be inspired by a role model is not to worship. Rather, it is to understand that values are not mere ideals and concepts, but workable practices on the ground and that, role models, no matter how extraordinary, were made of the same make as the rest of us. The objective is not to ape these individuals, but merely to remind ourselves about what we can do and what is probable. Lastly, it is to take their body of work, as a framework for newer ideas that can impact more people and will become more relevant for our times.

Being inspired is not just a state of high, but an invitation to be dedicated and hard working towards something. Without this understanding of role models, one simply becomes a hero worshiper and frankly, hero worshipers are annoying and counter productive.

This post is part of my writing endeavor as a member of the loose blogger’s consortium. The other bloggers are as under. Give them a visit, they are bunch of hell raisers you wouldn’t want to miss ;) RummusergaelikaaMaxiThe Old Fossil and Shackman

Teaching Values

My disillusionment with religion began with Bhagavat Gita classes when I was in middle school. Removing my slippers and sitting down on the floor every Thursday and listening to someone say stuff I didnot understand, was not only physically uncomfortable, but involved profound boredom. I in fact respect the Bhagavat Gita far more now than when I didduring the time it was shoved down my throat and that’s what scares me. Its beauty would have been lost on me, if I went by the way it was taught to me. Theframework for ethics and values has become so much more complex now than it was when I was a kid and I realise now how wonderfully Bhagavat Gita addresses such issues. Every day, I am confronted with situations that open up question of what is the right thing to do. The variables that come my way and become part of the deliberations, are new every time and working a way out is never easy. Learning values for moral science classes was easy, but living them is entirely different.

 

Secondly, my role models were supermen and women. Take my father. It never seemed for a second in all that I have known him, that he was battling the angel and the devil before doing the right thing. For him, living honourably and doing right by others was the most natural way of living. On the other hand, my life choices are largely a product of deliberations where the fiddler with the wingsand the halo engaged in a heated debate with the bloke with the tail, the horns and the tridents and one of them emerged. The mere existence of this debate in my head was sufficient to make me feel like a terrible person especially when compared to the aforesaid men and women of steel. My broken relationships and the ones I have sustained are symptomatic of a life lived imperfectly and I have embraced that now.

 

The funny thing however is that television and internet, considered to be the large scale industrial complex producing the criminals of today and tomorrow, is also what shaped me into who I am. On screen and in the books and on the net, I found stories, information and people who were not men and women of steel, but people who grappled with the predicaments I did and finally emerged victorious in their own ways. And today, that’s the lesson I try to implement. Values are better taught by real people as opposed to Gods, because the content is more relatable to the audience. And this was the second predicament. After all the way I evolved my values involved everything that people called silly, corrupt and devoid of merits. But now I think that was all worth something.

 

All of the above is an attempt to explain the strengths and limitations of the way I defined my values. But how will I teach values now that I have people who look at me in that role. If I have to reduce the process down to a nutshell, teaching values is about four things, leading by example, free will, honest sharing and reasoning. I will always refuse to tell someone what is right or wrong. But I will try and live my life in the image of what I believe and advocate. I will encourage the kids I work with to make their own choices and think freely, supplying only questions that will stimulate them to think deeper. I will share candidly, my own imperfect life and its background. And finally I will try and reason out my suggestions and leave it open to them, without the fear of judgement or consequence, to make their own choice. To me, teaching this process to my students is more important than imparting the values themselves.

This post is part of my writing endeavor as a member of the loose blogger’s consortium. The other bloggers are as under. Give them a visit, they are bunch of hell raisers you wouldn’t want to miss ;) RummusergaelikaaMaxi, and Shackman

The Self Esteem Consequence

As I browsed through my friend, Ramana sir’s post on “Self Esteem”, the line that caught my attention was how him being chosen as a spouse by an equally if not a more admirable woman gave a shot in the arm to his self esteem. Besides exemplifying the ideal kind of respect that should exist between a man and a woman, in a romance, it also reflected his love for his better half. That to me, is proof of heart, in a world which often makes us wonder if there is a pandemic of heartlessness.

 

Having said that, I should probably venture into my own life for the moment. I have had the pleasure of knowing some of the finest women. While the youngest one is 6 months old, the oldest one must by around my age, viz., sixties😛 Jokes apart, these women consist of women of all ages. But for the purpose of this discussion, I venture into the ones I know in their young adult phase. Since the time I turned 18, I have enjoyed the company of several female compatriots around my age. With a select few, there was considerable amount of attraction and chemistry, some of which were reciprocated and some of which weren’t. But never the less, they are all deeply admirable women who I have grown very fond and respect immensely.

 

And everytime I realise that a woman of such phenomenal calibre, has grown fond of me, as a friend or even more, they do more than just being kind to me. They vindicate the values and ethos that I have tried to be honest to and hold dear. Perhaps the reason why I cannot work towards forming a communion with such a woman, remains, among other things, my confusions and uncertainties as regards my priorities. That being said, every one of these women have honoured me and made me blush, with who they are and with the kind of rapport we have come to share.

 

A woman with strong self esteem, confidence and an independent spirit is to be celebrated. A relationship, no matter, of what kind, friendship or more, with such women is a reward in its own right. While an arrogant selfishness and fear of commitment (no matter how undemanding) prevents me from initiating any kind of journey (dating, committed relationship or marriage) towards the communion advocated by David Deida, I have experienced a semblance of the “shot in the arm” that Ramana sir has discussed in the aforesaid post. So while I wait to grow sick of my own company and selfishness and for its consequences to take a toll on me, let me just say that the world has hope so long as its oppression continues to face the defiance of those, who are the targets of its onslaught :) Good day!

This post is part of my writing endeavor as a member of the loose blogger’s consortium. The other bloggers are as under. Give them a visit, they are bunch of hell raisers you wouldn’t want to miss ;) RummusergaelikaaMaxi, and Shackman