Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

Suburban Gardening…and God

December 10, 2014

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.
ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.
GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.
ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
GOD: And where do they get this mulch?
ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?”
ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It’s a really stupid movie about…..
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Conversation on the colour of eyes, 080714

July 9, 2014

A: My beautiful brown eyed sweetheart…
K: Nnnyyy, I want blue eyes…
A: But why, you have lovely eyes
K: But everyone pretends they are chocolate and tries to eat them
A: But if you have blue eyes, then people will pretend they are blueberries, and try to eat them too.
K: No, Madison says that blue eyes are water, and no one likes to have water that much, so I want blue eyes.

Here are those eyes, on 150210:

beedool 150210 photo IMG_7914.jpg

Oral Communication…aka Gossip! Chennai, 260214

March 4, 2014

gossip 260214

Under the preceptors’ eyes….I found this scene intriguing on several levels. The Shankaracharyas look on at life today. The younger of the two men has the outward appearance of the traditional Tamil Brahmin…the “kudumi”, the sacred ash and sandalwood smeared on the forehead, the “anga vastram” on the chest…the older has his hair cut the modern way, and is wearing a shirt. But the age-old oral tradition goes on…the “karna parampara” of “you speak, I listen, and information is communicated”. It’s less charitably referred to as gossip! Chennai, 260214.

Navaratri Golu Conversation

October 13, 2013

“Hi, A!”
“Oh…HI, B! Sorry, I just didn’t see you in the crowd. This is my fourth golu visit this evening, you know, things are so hectic…so how ARE you? My, you’re looking just gorgeous!”
“Oh, thank you! Is your saree a new one?”
“It’s just a simple one I picked up on my last visit to Sun-Dry Silks, they have such a unique collection!…Oh, hi, C! You haven’t aged a bit!”
“Hi, B..and A is here, too! Have you brought your adorable children? Oh yes, there they are…such beautiful princesses. How they’ve grown! It’s been a while since we’ve met.”
“I *know*! It’s just one mad whirl, you know? How are your daughters doing?”
“I have two sons, A. They are doing fine, thank you!”
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten…one of them is doing medicine, isn’t he? Such intelligence, after all, they are your kids!”
“Oh, I don’t know….well, we MUST get together soon…muaaah! I’m in a rush, I have to pick up my younger son from practice, so bye…!”
“C always seems in a bit of a rush, doesn’t she? I don’t know how she juggles so many things, B..I’d never be able to do it, A, I’m sure!”
“Oh, you and I are just simple people, not career women…we take more pride in our homes and keep everything nice and organized. C doesn’t need to bother with all that.”
“I do agree. A..did you get the number of the Hispanic couple who come do the house cleaning?”
“I’ll get it for you the next time, I don’t seem to have it on my mobile. Oh, my, I just LOVE your jewellery…C wears more traditional designs, you know…”
“She’s not into jewellery at all. Some of us are just different…she’s quite casual about her cooking, too.”
“How I wish I could be like her! My husband and children want everything just so, and I really slave over the dishes…our children are at a growing age, they do need the best nutrition possible…”
“I did notice that C’s younger son is a little short…”
“Oh, well, nothing that can be done about it. Tell me, how do you manage to remain so slim?”
“Ha, ha, there’s really nothing to it…I asked C also if she’d like to join my gym, but she’s so busy that she doesn’t have the time for it.”
“Is that the new gym, Fat2Fit? I just LOVE the way they make the exercises fun. Next week will be my fourth day!”
“I also tried to suggest a good nutrition consultant to C.”
“Oh, just tell me the name and number, I would love to have some good advice for my hubby! I think it’s his metabolism, I just can’t get him to lose weight. He has no time, with his business taking up all his energy. Poor C, life must be tough for her….”
“I can imagine, and she must have been so disappointed when her younger son didn’t get into Wonderful Academy…they say it’s the best school in town.”
“I can vouch for that, the children are enjoying it so much! It’s nice when your children are gifted! My little one won third prize in the kindergarten art contest!”
“That’s incredible! Wow, I’m sure she gets her talent from you. C’s children are so natural…they don’t get all formal-mannered, it’s nice to see a change.”
“Oh yes, we can never hope to emulate her easy-going attitude to life! Even with a husband not doing too well, she never complains. Well, it’s been great running into you…we must meet up for a coffee or something one of these days.”
“Of course! Let me take down your mobile number. Ciao, catch up with you soon!”

Yes, I know, miaow, miaow, miaow…but I am attempting a reconstruction of an glowingly friendly conversation between A and B, when C was also present for part of the time. I was part of the furniture (I had not Been Introduced), so I sat and was very much entertained.

Poor C, I am sure she cannot understand, as she rushes off, why she’s bleeding from so many claw marks. Between running into each other and running down C, A and B seem to get enough exercise even without the gym.

The strange things that happen to me…

July 2, 2013

I decided to see the first show of “Shrek”..the musical, based on the movie…at the Muny.


Here’s a song from the musical, that I took from Youtube:

Having gone late (I missed the Muny trolley from De Baliviere as well) , I was sitting in the back row, as usual, but the children in front of me kept standing up. I didn’t want to tell them to sit down, they were enjoying themselves so much. So I got up and was standing behind the back row. An usher politely told me I had to sit down, and found another place for me. After sitting down, I realized the big Muny fan was blocking my view. So at the break, I went to the toilet (long pee queue) and then came back and sat in my original seat.

Then a man came up to me and said, “Did you see my child’s cup?” I said no. After another 20 minutes, he came back again and said, “If you give me back my cup, I won’t say anything about the purse.” He said some lady had lost her purse. I didn’t want to be badgered by him, So I got up and went to the ushers and told them what had happened.

I pointed to the man. When they called him over, I voluntarily opened my bag and showed the contents to them. Both the man and the ushers were profusely apologetic. I broke down and cried. This perplexed the House Manager, whose name is Kwofe Coleman. He expected me to be angry, but not to cry!. He took me down to the plaza,, and another usher, and he, comforted me. I tried to switch on the phone to call Anjana, and it wouldn’t switch on. This made me cry a little more! I didn’t ask Kwofe to call her. I gave him my Citizen Matters visiting card and told him I am from India. He gave me his number and asked me to call the next day. I went back and watched the last half an hour or so, but the evening was totally spoilt, and certainly I missed a lot of it (it was very good.) I walked back to Forest Park Station and A picked me up.

I called Kwofe up the next day, and he said he’d give me tickets on the house, any day that I liked. So, on Thursday the 27th, my friend Ruth Hartsell and I went to the show. I’d packed an Indian dinner for her, and an American dinner (macaroni and cheese, that I’d made for KTB’s dinner) for myself. We enjoyed the show very much indeed. I went up to Kwofe again, and said I’d email him and thank him, and the Muny, for their Muny-ficience! I decided to write this blogpost, describing the whole incident.

But…don’t think that’s the end of the strange happenings. On Monday evening, I was walking along Union Blvd, photographing some of the old buildings, and turned left into Delmar, on my way home. Suddenly, a flatbed van stopped near me, and someone said, “Madam!”

I am not used to running if addressed by strangers, so I stopped…and guess who it was…the man who had accused me! He shook me by the hand, and said he’d been feeling very bad about what had happened. Seeing his really troubled face, I felt that what had passed was no longer a problem, and told him to forget it. We exchanged notes about ourselves for a while. His name is Joseph (alas, I’ve forgotten his last name, and forgot to take a photo of him, I was so rattled by the coincidence!). He’s a retired firefighter…he was invalided out when he was rescuing a 400-lb man from a fire and got injured. He now runs an auto mechanice shop business out of home, and has four children. I told him a bit more about myself, and asked him to email me the letter he said he’d written to me. (He hasn’t yet sent it, though.)

Ironically, he asked me to be careful in walking down Delmar Blvd and asked me if he could give me a lift home. I am not comfortable taking lifts from unknown people (I held no rancour about what had happened, but he was still a stranger) so I said I needed the excercise. We parted on very amicable terms.

Life is so strange! What were the odds of my meeting that man again? It was sheer chance that I decided to walk down Union and turned at Delmar…and that he happened to be passing at the same time, and also, recognized me. All’s well that ends well…looking forward to our family trip to Washington, D C, tomorrow…I hope the fireworks are great on the 4th of July!

Wildlife rescue…not black-and-white…

January 10, 2012

Quite unusual for me to be off the blog for three days, as I subject myself (and the rest of you!) to the discipline of an entry a day. But it was a full weekend…Saturday morning, to Hessarghatta, getting back only by 3pm and then having visitors…Sunday morning, to Valley School, back at 1pm, and then off to JLR Bannerghatta (where neither mobile phones nor 3G seems to work) to volunteer for a nature trail with 49 students of Vidya Niketan, on an overnight camp. Got back yesterday evening, and was rather tired…and today all the home chores demanded attention, so had to turn down an invitation to go on an overnight visit to Chik Yelchetti for Junglescapes work.

My photographs from Hessarghatta are on my FB album


My photos from Valley School are


And my photos from the JLR camp are


But meanwhile…I’ve been having regular conversations with a very impressive schoolgirl, Anvitha. She often raises very valid questions about wildlife conservation…and our last conservation/rescue conversation went like this:


” I just wanted to ask you this question which is haunting my mind from many days. When I was coming back from Konark temple, we were passing by a sanctuary. Our auto would have run over a turtle trying to cross the road but fortunately it did not happen. After lifting and seeing it, I was ready to leave it back but the auto driver told that he is gonna keep it along wid other animals he has. I tried to convince him n leave the turtle in so many lakes we came across and even in the sea which was opposite to our guest house but he did not agree. I sometimes feel that the turtle can have a better life by being in the fish tank but at the same time I also feel that it has the right to live in wilderness. Which is correct ? and also do people eat rufous tree pie coz i saw and talked to a family who had caught it.”

My response:

“Regarding the turtle (which was probably an Indian Pond Terrapin)…it is definitely better off in the wild, than in some chlorinated water tank…but then, you really had no control over what the auto driver was going to do. Frankly….I have my doubts…it probably wound up as food for him and his family…and you have to consider that as part of the natural food chain. Anyway, fresh water turtles might die in the salt water of the sea and vice versa, so probably putting it into the sea without knowing exactly which turtle it was might not be a great idea.

Alas, most birds and animals provide a good source of meat and protein for people. We can only try and prevent its happening…very often we have no say in the matter. Once I rescued an injured Pond Heron which a family was eyeing. The bird died in the rescue shelter the next day…I wished I had at least let the family eat a proper meal. So…one has to accept that rescue is not always possible, or even the best thing in the circumstances. Life teaches us some hard lessons sometimes….difficult for a soft heart like yours to accept.”

And her reply:

“thanx for the advice. Actually I told the family to leave the poor bird n they left it once but just when we were returning a small gal from the same family again easily caught the bird and so I thought the bird was used to the family or something like that.”

I do wish there were many more Anvithas around! A child so sensitive to the beings around her…may her tribe increase!

Architects, Genius, and Morals….

December 27, 2011

On KM’s classmates mailing list, we are having a very interesting conversation. It started with Vasu, who teaches in Ohio, posting a link to Louis Kahn’s work, designing the IIM-A campus:


click here for the link to Louis Kahn’s notebook and sketches

A fascinating set of sketches and more.

Today, Fareed Zakaria interviewed architect Frank Gehry on his CNN show. Gehry created the building that currently houses my office. Gehry’s initial sketches also resemble idle doodles.

Gehry said his buildings don’t look weird to him. He said other “normal” buildings look weird to him. That statement resonated with me. He talked about the need to provoke an emotion and gave the example of the Nataraja figure as something that has “movement” built into it. It made me look at the familiar Nataraja sculpture in a new way, even though I have been seeing it all my life.

We are toying these days with the metaphor of “management as design.” That view sees management as largely an improvisational art, like creating a building or a motion picture or a piece of exquisite art often out of materials that happen to be at hand. It is seen as a punctuated process, with lots of zigs and zags and not as the linear and overly rational kind of analytical process that most of us were exposed to.

The examples of “design thinking” in the above blog are giving me all sorts of ideas that I hope to incorporate into the redesign of my classes for next semester.

The design schools seem to be doing more innovating everywhere on management ideas than the so-called management schools.


To this, Raj replied:


Thanks for this. Did you know that this great and famous architect died a pauper and in debt? That he was a lousy family man? That he had two marriages running in parallel one of them being secret? I wonder whether the existence of one great skill can be a licence to do a lot of not so acceptable things.

It is a debatable point that if we did not have inventive or creative or other breeds of geniuses around, the world would have progressed much less or not at all. Equally it could be argued that the accolades and hero worship that geniuses get, make them take many things for granted, a bit of God play. I am at a loss when it comes to accepting such people with their sharp edges or ignoring them or despising some of them.

Here I am not talking about genuine handicaps that some geniuses do have. Like I attended a highly technical lecture by John Nash, a few years ago. One could see the ghost of man trapped in some kind of an invisible web, reading from a word document projected on a screen and even reading ‘comma’, ‘full stop’, etc. A genius struggling against all odds to do what a child of 10 could do so easily. That was a humbling moment. Not one, where one would despise a human for his shortcomings. But a great painter or whatever, running wild after any one of the opposite gender who is willing or unwilling, is something else. Some may argue that it is a problem coded in his/her DNA…and that the subject is helpless.

Can someone throw some light on how one can distinguish between condonable and the unacceptable behaviour of geniuses?


And my response was:

Raj, my mother had a theory that satisfies my sense of logic…she used to say that the same kink which made a person talented to the point of genius, also meant that the person would often not abide by “ordinary” values of life. “Magic often also means madness,” she would say, and after reading about the lives of many creative geniuses (genii?) I’d tend to agree.

Well, society (the middle class…the upper and lower class never seem to bother!) always has trouble accepting anything which is not the norm….here I am not talking about theft, murder or absolute no-nos, but those things where what is acceptable seems to shift from time to time..exposure of skin, living together, extra-marital relationships, same-sex relationships, drinking, and so on. Our sense of security seems to be threatened by those who do not conform. No, I have no easy solutions for this…I guess such geniuses will still go their own way, and be tolerated by some, and gossiped about (and detested, or secretly envied) by the others!


What are YOUR thoughts, all of you?

The forever path

November 11, 2011

I’d like to share this photo of some of us at Sultanpur, Delhi…I like the feel of the photograph!

blbs sltnpr 011111

Nature’s path is unending…
Delightful suprises in store…
We follow the road, wending
Our way, forever more!

Oho info

November 11, 2011

Still on the subject of social conversation….

Some people feel that they MUST make conversation, and this takes the form of asking for information which could not be of ANY possible relevance to them. I know an elderly gentleman who seems so insatiably curious about the minutest details of the lives of the people he is speaking to. As soon as the initial “hello”s are over, he will start off: “So, are you married?” “Yes”. “How many children?” “Two.” (probably here the other person, if they are like me, is fighting down an insane desire to say Fourteen.)”And where are they living?” “In the US.” “WHERE in the US?” “One in Dallas and one in Kalamazoo.” “Do they live in houses or apartments?” “Apartments”. “How many floors?”….and so it goes.

And for every answer, the gentleman looks highly interested, and before adding the next question, responds with one sound that takes the place of a word: “Oho!” (Meaning, “appadiyaa” in Tamizh or “houthaa” in Kannada, or “is that so?” or “oh, really?” in English.)

I am NOT joking, this gentleman asked my daughter how many balconies she had in her flat and how many potted plants she had on the balcony. She lives in St Louis and I do not envisage him, over 80 years old now, ever visiting to verify the answer. But…he is making conversation, and is interested. EVERYTHING is grist to his curiosity/conversation mill. “How does your husband go to work?” ” He takes the car.” “Oho….does he have a driver?” “Yes.” “Oho. Is the driver married?” (I kid you not.)

So now, when any of us gets information that is of no use to us whatsoever, we designate it “OHO info”! I was just retailing to KM the domestic help-related travails of my neighbour, and after listening to me, KM smiled, and with a twinkle, said, “oHO!” and we both cracked up!

When conversations disappoint

July 8, 2011

I’d “e-met” someone through email, when I added him as someone belonging to a e-group that I moderate. I found that he had a sense of humour, was very atypical of his general demographic (I can’t be more specific), seemed to write well, and be interested in many unusual things. So, when I came to the US, I was looking forward to talking to him.

When I called, he was in the middle of a long drive, and he called me back today. And…the conversation…just didn’t go as I hoped. He talked and talked and talked….about why he was buying/moving into another house, about mortgage rates in the US, how they had to be careful or real estate people would overcharge him and his wife….as if that is not something that exists everywhere in the world.

He never talked about the things I had told him on email interested me about him; and though he did say he was out of touch with India, I found his attitude towards India very negative indeed. But I was determined to overlook that, and continued listening to him.

Somehow…it was boring and pompous and I was steadily losing interest. Where were the topics I was sure we’d talk about, and laugh or debate about? Why were we sticking to these extremely stuffy areas of conversation? I tried cracking a couple of light-hearted jokes, but they fell quite flat; did he not hear them at all, I wonder. There was no sign of any sense of humour at all as he droned on.

I waited for either some questions about myself, or some break in the conversation so that I might introduce other topics…both never came. Instead, he went on to talk about how things had changed for the better in India, with so many malls coming up. Now, this is something I feel very strongly against, and was curious enough to ask him if he felt this was really a good thing. His response? “Oh, when we visit, it feels so familiar now…my daughter can have a burger if she feels like it. the malls are so nice….” This, I thought, was the conversation-stopper of it all.

We (yes, I am sure it was mutual) increasingly found each other very non-interesting (he asked me why I was not travelling with KM, and when I said I wanted to spend more time with KTB, it was obvious I had sort of put him off. He has no clue about my usual propensity to jaunter around on my own, and didn’t bother to ask any more, though I told him I had planned to visit Vashon Island, and spend time with a bell-designer and an interesting journalist.)

I’d thought that the earlier remark was a converastion-stopper, but then he delivered the complete coup-de-gras: “I had a list of things to do when I got back from the long drive, and one of them was calling you up, so I called you.” The fact that he had to explain the reason for calling me says it all. Duty-bound! Should I have made any more conversational attempts after that? I certainly didn’t.

Just when I was feeling that I must end this conversation, and wondering how I could do so politely, he told me that his real estate agent was calling on the other line. I do not think two people were ever so relieved to have an estate agent ringing up! We parted with mutual expressions of polite leave-takings, with the message very clear…neither was going to call the other up again. It actually took me a few minutes to get out of the stifled feeling that I had developed over the time of the phone call.

It is very, very rare for me to exchange emails with someone, and have an experience that is so different from my interaction on email.In fact, it’s very rare for ANY first conversation that I have to go so badly. So why did this happen? Did both of us not communicate properly? Should I, after all, give him the benefit of the doubt for a bad beginning, and make another phone call and see if things are better?…I don’t really know…let me muse on this for a while.