Sitting in a coffee shop’s bar and hitting the keys on my machine incessantly in pursue of higher accuracy of the mathematical model I was running, I ordered a decaf and looked to my right. A woman sitting besides me glanced at me and pointed at my T shirt which said “Kaikki on hyvin” and asked what is it? I tried to produce a fake smile and responded it means “everything is well” and plugged in my earphone and started working again while listening to “All we need” by Odesza. A few moments later I felt a tug on my sleeve and I was facing another question from my curious neighbor. I paused Spotify and raised my eyebrows with a nod in a questioning form, she wanted to know what language is it. I said “Suomi, I mean Finnish”. She asked a few more questions and said “Everything is well” in a manner marked with a familiar indignation followed by a passive expression. I saw that she was leafing through a book that prompted me to use the expression “What’s it going to be then, eh”, to which she chuckled. I smiled back and resumed my work.
A few days ago when I was sitting in Scheltema in Amsterdam, I found a book named The Secret Lives of Color on the shelf. It was an interesting find. I quickly read the quoted stories on few of my favorite colors and was delighted to see the aspect of history associated with them. While I was about to return the book, I thought of another color – Saffron that forms a part of the tricolor flag of India.
Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and at one time saffron color was one of the most expensive ones. In 1444 a man was burnt alive in Nuremberg for he used to adulterate saffron with marigold and used to stretch profit margins. The spice is so fragrant that Cleopatra used to bathe in milk and saffron.
In Indian context, the color represents strength and courage in the nation and in terms of Hinduism it represents the holiest color among all colors. It is the color of burning flame that can purify, it represents the sacrifice. The priests, the monks, the learned ones wear the color indicating renunciation of worldly wealth. S Radhakrishnan said the color in the flag should symbolize renunciation and disinterestedness. Indifference to the material gain should be the fundamental rule followed by leaders but we have seen umpteen times how the country has been plagued by corruption scandals.
The power of the languages lie in their ability to convey the words and feelings to someone sitting thousands of miles away. Some words can be poetic such as cafuné in Portuguese and some can be really terse such as Mamihlapinatapai in the ancient Yaghan language spoken in Tierra Del Fuego. I admire German for its ability to create compound words and convey the meaning which reader might not have imagined would exist. I encountered two such words while reading someone else’s blogs and researched on them. They are Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz – Lifelong treasure of destiny as I found the translation of web and also confirmed with my German friends. It is a feeling that makes you complete and you feel it in every iota of your being. The other one was Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand which is another compound word and would roughly translate to – almost object of passion. Something that you are passionate about but still not that passionate that it will be your Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz.
When you find yourself in unknown parts of the world, trying to finish some work assignment or a presentation while nibbling on your croissant and listening to some white noise to gain concentration,
always try to find some time for yourself, to gather your thoughts, to introspect and retrospect, to write your thoughts down to crystallize the concoctions of your brain over a cup of coffee and to listen to some music to enjoy those stolen moments,
because it is important to find your own story at the end. The story of our life to break us free from ourselves and from the tangible and intangible object, so even if our body can’t walk through walls and obstructions but our imagination and soul can.
It took me a while to find Moilère and have a dialogue with him on a rainy day in Paris in Père Lachaise. I was reading the map incorrectly and was hovering around entirely different section of the cemetery when I realized where I was and where I have to go. Finally I found myself in the triangle formed by Av. transversal No.1, Ch. LaPlace, and Ch. Moilère et La Fontaine. Number 44 is where Moilère rests but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it. The phone battery was getting immensely low and I didn’t dare to check how the resting place of the greatest masters of comedy looks so I can check each and every grave in the triangle. After running from pillar to post within the confines of my area I was about to give up and leave and then somehow it was there. Right in front of me! All this time!
Rightly he had said, The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.
The first step in problem solving is to acknowledge that there is one. When one acknowledges one’s ignorance, when the seed of doubt and uncertainty is allowed to flourish and nourish, then we are on the path towards progress. If one believes his knowledge is thorough and complete then there isn’t a room for improvement but the nature has taught us persistently that there is enough since time immemorial.
The eternal question has troubled the human mind. Thousands of philosophers, scientists, poets, religious bodies have tried to fathom the meaning of life. The general consensus is that great human potential would be untapped once we know what our actions are directed at and what goal we are aiming at.
If I were candid I would admit I don’t know a great deal but when I take the knowledge from the ancient civilizations, the knowledge that exists in our minds and our great libraries and books I would forthrightly say – we still haven’t found the answer to the eternal question despite the fact we have taken every piece of knowledge that ever existed or is existing. When we admit that we still haven’t answered the question than we have left the door open for the possibilities. That there can be an answer out there in open lurking behind something.
Admitting the ignorance isn’t a new idea, it is the idea from the age of reason. It is the idea of democracy. It is the idea that one plus one greater than two (not mathematically). It lays the foundation for a system that can be an incubator for the new ideas. The old practices, thoughts can and should be weeded out if they are no longer relevant. It gives rise to a more flexible system based on inclusion and exclusion of ideas on the basis of their relevance. It creates a system that lets us leave the door to an unknown ajar while solving a problem, howsoever trivial or esoteric it might be.
I feel happy when I find such movies coming out of the Indian production houses. When you watch a movie you are investing your time in an experience that you would like to cherish. There can be many reasons why a writer, director, and other members gather to create a motion picture. It can be a message they want to pass across, want to portray a character and its development, financial reasons and many more. The movie Newton succeeds on many levels such as acting and storytelling. It is about a young Government officer who has been sent to a naxal infested area for conducting elections. He is single minded and would do anything to see that his job is done. The moral fiber and integrity of his character are exemplary of how one should act. The film reflects on various aspects of elections in the largest democracy in the world in a dark comic fashion. The dialogues of Raghubir Yadav are punchlines and the constant bickering between Aatma Singh and Newton is one can relate to the experiences one might had in the Govt. offices.
Before Issac Newton proved the three laws of motion everyone had their own laws – church had its own, other astronomers had their own, and rest of the people believed on what they chose to believe. Issac Newton showed the world (earth is an inertial frame of reference) that the same law is applicable to everyone and we are bound by the same laws and the same message is passed by the film.
Few days ago a friend of mine was telling me about a playlist of songs on death; it can be unnerving to some and gratifying to a few. People slow down at the end, just like when you are reaching the end of a book, you would try to absorb as much as possible and adjust your pace. May be this calibration manifests because we aren’t ready to break the bonds with the characters of the book, yet or self correction due to guilt consciousness.
One of J.D. Salinger’s characters shoots himself at the end of the story – an unpredictable end. Reader is caught off guard. Ending a book on death is anachronistic and the contemporary modern art affirms that it is here to help us forget the proverbial end.
Gene Hackman was the actor of this classic but the conversation I had the other day didn’t feature him. So, without further adieu I would tell you about the conversation I had few days ago. I was on a business trip to southern part of USA, where people are quite different from the east coast. They take food, religion, matrimony, spending time with each other quite seriously. Oh, I couldn’t have lived in Manhattan is a frequent expression and the reason that’s cited is – it is too fast paced for me. Fair point.
I work in multiple geography system, so I have my calls in the morning and there is a lot of email exchange in early part of the day. That day was any ordinary day until the house keeping lady knocked on my door. I was speaking over the call, so couldn’t have shouted – come back later and I hadn’t put no room service today tag on the door handle. So I got up to let the person know that come back later, there was an old woman at the door and I signaled the same to her and turned back. By the time I went back to my laptop, I could hear someone walking behind me and as it turned out the old woman didn’t get my signal and walked right in to clean. I was still talking to the team on the other side of the line and that lady started to make a lot of noise around the room. I had to apologize to the team for the background noise. The talking resumed and I kept on hearing the feeble background noises with things falling and being rearranged. Once my part got finished, other people on the call resumed their discussion on other topics and I stole a moment to see how the old lady is doing. I craned my neck to look at her surreptitiously and found her putting the stuff that had fallen down back on the shelves and slabs. I went ahead and tried to help her, and she Thanked me with a smile. I resumed my call and contributed sporadically wherever it was needed. On finishing work, she came to me and asked me whether I needed anything else. I immediately put my hand over speaker and mouthed No and mouthed Thank you to her. I think she was really bad at catching signals, no wonder she isn’t in traffic police and it would be a mystery if she still had her driving license with her. She started talking to me and I told her that I am on a call, I can’t talk to her, Thank You, Ciao, Goodbye, Dasvidanya. But she wasn’t ready to listen and resumed talking. I put my phone on mute and before I could say anything to her, she interrupted “For how long are you here?” I said ” I will go back tomorrow, umm..I actually am on a call. You have a good day and Thanks for coming in”. She turned a deaf ear to it and said ” Has your significant other gone for breakfast?”. I said “WHO? What significant other?” She sensed and said out twice ” Oh, so you are here alone!!” Once to herself and second time to maker herself believe that what she heard was true. The inner Manhattanite woke up and I replied curtly ” Thank you, I am busy”. She started towards the door and just before going out she said ” I feel so sorry for you son! You came to this romantic city alone. I came to this city on my honeymoon from my village”. At this point I thought ” Yeah, why not!! Arkansas is the most ‘romantic’ place on earth. How can Paris, Prague, Hawaii etc would ever measure up to it. ” I told her that not everyone has to marry or be with someone necessarily, it is not some law. Our lives aren’t scripted by story writer of The Lobster movie. She was completely oblivious to what I was saying and reached out in her pockets and fished out a card and gave it to me while saying ” You should go here, it is the best tavern, with country music, friendly people, you can meet girls there”. I said ” I am on work here not for meeting arbit girls”. She asked what is arbit. I said it is short for arbitrary. She repeated arbit and arbitrary a couple of times and then said ” No, they aren’t arbitrary at all. They are very nice girls. Best of the lot. One woman can handle 10 cows by herself, very disciplined” The old lady kept on extolling the girls of her ‘city’ and I kept on sifting through my emails in my mailbox. After her rant was over and she moved herself out of my room graciously ( not united airlines style), I resumed call over phone and the person on the other end asked me ” So, will you be going to that tavern tonight?”. I was startled and found that even though I did put my phone on mute, it never was on mute and everyone on the other side of the phone line heard the entire thing. It became interesting conversation for them to listen to.
Smileys, furious face, tongue sticking out, crying faces have become integral part of daily life. The phones and various chat applications keep on updating their emoticons palette; Emoticons have the ability to replace the words to the degree that complete sentences can be formed using them. There are puzzles based on emojis in which you have to decipher the name of a movie, some food, emotion, a proverb or something else from them when used in a particular sequence. So much so that. I remember that I wasn’t agile enough to use them straightaway. When I started talking to a girl online some 10 years ago, I never employed smileys in my texts and little did I know that my humor, sarcasm, and other statements not supplemented by emoticons would be misconstrued. From then on I reached a point where there is one emoji in 15% of my social texting. Not there anything is wrong with it but I did notice it and decided to cut down the usage for a day and see whether pre emoji era conversation would be misconstrued. I asked a friend of mine to try emoticon sans conversation, though she is a frequent user of emojis and was reluctant initially saying she can’t stand it, she did agree to participate for a day. The argument that I used was the books don’t have smileys and it has been working out very well for them without them. She retorted that books have longer sentences for touching the emotional chords. Long story short, she agreed. Another precursor of communication was that we couldn’t have asked questions such as are you mad, disappointed etc.
We started our day, went through it and wrapped it up exchanging 308 messages between us including the Oks, Yeses, Nos, and notorious mono question marks. I did supplement lol and haha to indicate humor but there were times during which the conversation veered off in a tangential direction despite the fact that we knew each other quite well. I was wee bit adventurous by bringing more controversial topics on the table to see whether emojis are needed or not. At times explanations were needed and at times we might have obviated the details. The deliberate obliteration of the colon, semicolon, right and left round braces revealed a macroscopic picture about linguistics. I once attempted to study hieroglyphics and understood that pictures can tell the same story as the words can; Mandarin, Cantonese, Kanji, Hirangana, Katakana are the visual scripts in which symbols stand for words or phrases. I am not leading anti emoticon protest but I wanted to see whether I can convey emotions and pass my word across without being misconstrued and I would say the experiment didn’t fail. I don’t want to make a case that as a human race we have evolved and should use the words rather than the smiley or winking faces to convey the messages. Sometimes a thumbs up or a smiley face can work fine but one should take a step back and check whether he/she is capable to put the word across without use of emojis and if one is inept then it could be a red flag for the declining literacy and decimating self confidence that if veered off, the communication can’t be brought back on track.
A little history : Scott E. Fahlman, computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon is credited with inventing the smiley face. https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~sef/sefSmiley.htm