Colourful, papered, ribboned surprise.
A mass-manufactured card,
with one Labrador puppy.
Why do you hide behind
the supposed-to, the supposed-to-nots?
Instead unwrap the tinsel.
the ribbon, the carton,
the mass-manufactured card,
the circled sticky tape.
I don’t need that Labrador puppy
When your eyes might be like one’s.
Capture yourself in natural light,
Don’t edit, don’t add those vintage filters;
not the retro ones, nor the ones that make you look
like a ghost of your true self.
Don’t deliver yourself to me in a gift wrap.
Don’t show me a hazy picture of
what you could, would, should be.
Just be to me the gift that you are,
a simple present presented in the present.
You either like it, or don’t.
If you do, it’s a snack better than the best sodium monoglutamate-coated chips (a snake, if you are from Ahmedabad). If you don’t, it’s an evil brown salty, powder-coated pill of something horrendously sour that smells like fart and you wouldn’t want one on your tongue, thank you very much. If you are one of the latter, stay away.
Hand-pulled stalls with piles of churan greet enthusiasts and non alike near Ranino Hajiro in the winding old city of Ahmedabad. At this junction where the road parts into trinket and fabric lanes, vata-kapha body types (I believe pitta people do not much care for sour) treat themselves with a variety of mukhwas.
There are the bite-y ones for those who are hungry– dried, ripe mangoes coated in jeera-sugar-salt mix. The same base enveloped in a mixture with red chilli powder added. Then there’s anardana. Ah, anardana. How much I miss it, the dried pomegranate pods encased in some mysterious punchy magical churan-powder, to be rolled on the tongue till the packet’s over and the skin from the ceiling of the mouth begins to peel. And a more royal relative of it, the gulkand-added version. Gulkand– the king of all things sweet, the best way a rose can present itself. And the king of them all, the chhuhara. The best date.
Then there are the less bite-y ones, the particular brand of blighters that give you a kick in the mouth and later in the belly- the asafoetida ingrained hingwati, or the evil tamarind laddoos that make you wink. Or the Amla suparis and jeera golis. Deadly ammunition all, against boredom, lack of appetite, melancholy and possibly e-coli.
Taste each first, sample them all. If possible, from every stall. There are subtle differences from vendor-to-vendor. Like wine, different kind of pomegranates and different varieties of mangoes yield different tastes with the same churan powder. Watch out for the overly moist, the overly salty, and the worst of all, the overly sweet.
Choose well. Learn the art. Appreciate the taste, the after-taste. It’s a quirk few have, a knack not many possess; the ability to gobble these sour-sweet-salty pellets, these smack-y, hard-hitting bullets.
Flaunt your passion. Boo the weak-tongued, the weak-bellied who frown upon you.
Had I been a meerkat
I’d have been a glad one.
Standing stiff on two slim legs,
tail stretched across the sand,
with buddies in a row-
A row of lookalikes
and dolphin smiles.
I’d stand quite a bit,
Neck taut, front legs tucked close
With black beady eyes
and supremely sensitive ears
Alert for a roar, a growl, a camouflaged pattern
Or a hiss, maybe a rattle,
perhaps a long neck punctuating the regular landscape.
I’d watch the line-
Where blue and green merge
I’d turn my head
I’d chew scuttling scorpions
And resume my watch
While my mates guzzle a millipede or two
And resume theirs
I’d stare at the horizon
For hours and days
(you get the idea)
Till the colours change
Or the grass’s direction,
or the mass of bovines,
I’d look forward
To nothing and everything
All at once
And be one happy meerkat
(along with other happy meerkats)
If I was one.
Wincing in the rain
In coach no. 78-ish
of an unwilling train,
a bothered traveller, me
sits wincing in the rain
It’s an unruly collection:
about 73 cars punctuated with bicycles
I sit honking on my bike
far behind in the stream of obstacles
The raincoat covers me
but not all the digital devices
I worry getting splattered
and losing work in the crisis
an amused, mucky stray
the busy, bothered cops:
all links of the chain,
where I sit wincing in the rain.
A large lady in blue,
on a tiny cerulean scooter
uncertain and under-confident
ahead of an annoyed commuter:
her legs dangle on each side
throughout the snail-slow ride
and I sit wincing in the rain
with worry frying my brain
while she does what doesn’t suit her
on the tiny cerulean scooter
twenty minutes ahead,
I’ve grown horns of impatience
I honk, honk and honk
she displays sudden confidence
and scoots away at long last
for the train’s now moving fast
The road’s now clearing up
the tram’s now a TGV
and I’m loving the drops
while thinking of home and tea
The lights go red
the mind’s worrying no more,
my helmet visor’s up
though it’s beginning to pour
I’m singing out loud
a toothless old chap stares
nearby, another dangly-legged lady
for a battle ride prepares
Such creatures of habit are we:
the tram’s become a TGV,
I’ve grown to love the drops,
the greens have inspired a song,
I’ve braved the jammed lane,
but still wincing in the rain.
For some reason, Dad thought it was a good idea to preserve this scribble of an auto rickshaw, which (he says) I drew when I was about eight. Going through some really old folders during a cleaning mission, he digitized all my childhood drawings, and now I have all of them. Yay!
As a kid, I once asked my parents why grown-up artists drew funny-looking, purple people and scratched paint onto their canvases. Dad, a painter, made an unsuccessful attempt at explaining abstraction. Mom, an art historian, talked about different art movements, schools and styles. I was intrigued, though most of it missed my brain by miles.
Children’s art lacks abstraction. There is often little or no effect of light and shade. Technically, children rarely show a sense of perspective and very little display of relative proportion of elements. Promising children will always pick interesting viewpoints, consciously choose what to show and how. Their line-quality is almost always multi-dimensional, their strokes confident. They have reasons for every choice of colour, line and dot. Their drawings are more than a house-tree-sun-cloud ‘scenery.’
After the age of ten or so, children start to mimic the way adults draw. They try to make things look realistic, have grown-up themes, and they over-think. Then the charm evaporates. It’s true for any art. Filters of knowledge and technique do bring in some amount of inhibition and restraint in any creative effort, don’t they?
A feeling of mild discomfort
like typing on a keyboard that is not your own
distractions of the mind
halt, hinder, handicap.
My left hand searches for Ctrl Z
when the right gets a stroke wrong
as I stand in front of an easel…
I mean an easel.
not the RGB screen.
not a metaphor,
The glasses get misplaced
and I think I’ll just give them a ring
The other day, I misspelt a song
but the microphone
hid it with a screech
(hooray for serendipity)
muddle me all the time
escapism, mum calls it
lack of attention, she says
I’m not in love
so that’s ruled out
everything else’s fine too
pretty much, I think.
as no reason exists
for this state of mind
I’m tempted to call it
some googled mind-disease
When actually, mum is right.
there’s too much to do
to absorb, chew, ruminate on
and not all of it I want to
so attention dwindles
never spanning as much as it should
I refresh that web-page
I refresh that web-page
I refresh that web-page
…and the brain remains stuck on it
even when the day, hour, minute,
even the world
have refreshed themselves
I need blinkers, filters, wipers
or perhaps 3D glasses
to declutter and demuddle.
Demuddle– there’s not even such a word
unless one considers
those urban dictionaries
of the rule-less, rigid world.
Now if I can condense all this to 140
I’ll tweet it.
If not, I’ll blog it.
and add to the very clutter
I try to order.
We won!!! And the best bit, through the happy tears, was that every player said “we did it for Sachin.”
I lack the eloquence to describe the feeling, so: http://daddysan.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/full-circle/
My friend Maddy gave me an interesting challenge some time back, to find examples of comic sans being used ‘well.’ The general reputation of it is of a font which everyone loves to hate, and I had some difficulty getting past the pancake people opinions on the internet to seek out some acceptable examples. In the end, Maddy was happy and I was left pondering. I actually found the font used quite aesthetically in some applications, which pointed at:
a) Every typeface, colour or treatment can be used ‘well’ to create aesthetically appealing stuff.
b) ‘well’ and ‘aesthetically appealing’ can be linked to some basic art grammar, but these terms are so subjective that one can be sure the examples I found will not be universally liked, even without prejudice.
Unlike artists, designers need to keep personal preferences at bay. Difficult, but possible. No my-baby-syndrome should affect our judgements either. Design is for people and not the aesthetically tuned micrority who can identify Gotham from Avenir.
These thoughts often come up in discussions at work, discussions that resemble the legendary Ouroboros.
Incidentally, the colour wheel is a wheel.
Anyway, a useful bit I’ve tried to internalize with regards to colour came from one of the most open-minded and (therefore?) creative persons at work: No colour is good or bad or even appropriate on its own, even in a context. It’s the proportion in which it’s used, the other colours around it (the palette), the application (physical prints, textures, the screen), and what light does to it.
Funnily, this colour-logic applies to everything in life!
advertising, animal instinct, autobiography of a yogi, avatar, CQ, design, EQ, food for thought, Guru Ragavendra, harmonization, Hazel Handerson, healthy economy, IQ, khalil Gibran, love economy, maximization, SQ, The Celestine Prophecy, The Tao of Physics
Guru, a friend, sent me a list of books recently which were high on ‘SQ’ and thought that the same should be ‘sublimated.’ Some of them were Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics (1976), Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (1923), W Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge (1944), James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy (1994) and Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi (1974). Not knowing what ‘SQ’ meant and what he implied by ‘sublimated,’ I asked him. Below are two of Guru’s replies from our exchange of emails, what he has written is truly food for thought:
Sorry for late reply just came back from Hyderabad.
SQ refers to Spiritual Quotient. It is proven that SQ matters most compared to Emotional Quotient (EQ) , Creative Quotient (CQ) and Intelligence Quotient (IQ). IQ occupies the bottomline of this quotient pyramid.
These are the books , that really transforms a person, that’s why I referred to sublimation from form to formless thinking (metaphor: camphor). From information to knowledge to wisdom to truth.
My thoughts w.r.t to these books:
There are certain attributes linked with being Spiritual or involved in Spiritual thinking and it is totally independent of any religion. I am just exploring what are these attributed involved with Spiritual Thinking or being Spiritual. Some of the attributes are Empathy, Reflective meditation, search for System Harmony, attachment and detachment at will, cosmic connection. The list is vast and the search is still on.
There are many question that are arising:
1. Is the human race evolving from primal reactive animal instinct to responding human instinct to a more harmonious reflective system species OR it is just a cycle going back to basic animal instinct.
I feel both reactive animal instinct and harmonious system species are good that respects nature’s law. It is only the intermediate stage which is causing all the chaos.
I think as designers it will be of help in understanding the whole , if we know the what phase of evolving stage we are in.
Most of the ads in Europe target the animal instinct part of humans that which can create the craving and hence leading to purchasing at any cost. India too is following the trend. This might not create a healthy economy.
The products and communication has to be designed for a Healthy Economy….
ok.. just wrote as per the flow of my thoughts and it went somewhere 🙂
I think you have read the book the man who moved Mt Fuji. It is also a good one. Your mail just triggered my thoughts
Will reflect more and organize my thoughts
Cheers! Have a good Day 🙂
There was a great lady Hazel Handerson who died in recent years who spoke about “Love Economy”. It talks about the bottomline of any transaction should be based on love for business to survive in current scenarios. But this is also one element of the Healthy economy that I was referring to.
The system gets changed and new perspective emerges and hence all the activities including design associated with that changes, the moment we see the interconnected harmony existing within the ecosystem. This is what the Avatar movies spells out. But the movie has not captured many other aspects probably due to some constraints.
“The maximization” approach followed by the present day driving industries is leading towards many emerging problems right from rich-poor disparity, merciless crimes, unknown new diseases, sense of insecurity and loneliness, sense of dissatisfaction even after amassing huge wealth, business-oriented but not human values-oriented education, intelligence and merits are measured based on amount of exploitation one can do, shallow weak bonds and networking done only for a selfish interests, plastic and materialistic economy etc which does not bother for future generations and which does not bother to give something back. If just the perspective changes from “maximization” to “Harmonization” then with no span of time all the breath-choking problems will melts into a fresh air, leading to an energetic living. The exploitation becomes empathizing, intelligence measurement becomes spiritual measurement, weak bonding becomes inseparable souls, pain becomes peace and bliss.
And Designers have to lead the revolution in changing this perspective through their DESIGNS. Rather than design for consumerism let us design for love, wellness, harmony and dedication.
thank you Maati for triggering
thumbs up 🙂
My grandfather lives
In the gaudy living-room
Of a millionaire
My grandma in an amulet
Made of her nail
Dangling on the neck of an heir
Two of my cousins
In two distant zoos
Two childhood pals
Put to medicinal use
There was news I heard
A couple of days back
My mother was on an exotic menu
A gourmet, to be exact
Last time I stole a goat
The villagers butchered my brother
It very well could have been
Young Stripey or dear old Taxi
As long as they kill, it’s not a bother
I must now hide,
think I hear a hunter…
A Bad Year
a pair of sneakers,
a pair of flip-flops
an elegant mojri
the ones that Maximus loved the most
ended up with more than just toothy holes
sandals became slippers
while slippers became soles
Come monsoons, when the weather’s best
footwear quality’s often put to test
Three new pairs were bought
two caught fungus rot
it’s not too easy…
when it rains when it should not
for sometimes people with bikes
in floodwater have to walk
the flip-flops don’t agree
with a road that becomes a river
for they come off your feet
to end up in a sewer.
Public places are many
where you must remove your shoes
and keep them on a public shelf
where the public is free to choose
a pair to steal or borrow
much to the owner’s sorrow.
a yoga class in this case
was one such public place
from where I returned one day in November
sans shoes, and this I’ll always remember.
Maximus finished a pair more
one each from two different to score
the surviving intact, mismatched pair
no brave or weird person would dare to wear.
indeed, a bad year
The inhaler probably had nitrous oxide in it. It doesn’t matter what it really had, as long as the effect was the same. After Deepti finished propping me on the precious bean bag to keep my nose and sinuses in a vertical condition, the orange-brown fart-sound making wonder of a bag that was the platinum level seating in our local laptop multiplexes on the fourth floor, I felt slightly better. The bean bag was to make sure I didn’t lie down and clog all the caves and tunnels in my upper respiratory system. The girls were having fun and merriment at my expense and discomfort, a good change (they thought) from jury blues, while I had home-like care at their cost (and discomfort, considering I had the privilege of getting the bean bag).
Anjali’s inhaler made sure what Reshma’s super-hot steam plus Vicks vaporub inhaling from a bucketful-of-boiling-water therapy and Amruta’s hitting on the back didn’t.. I managed to utter a few words for the first time in hours. I also happened to get into one of those laughter spells when one silly thing kickstarts peals of laughter fed by instinctive memories of older, not-so-funny-anymore incidents. The magic inhaler helped too, only that every ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (smallest unit of my laughter-sound that day) soon started resulting in terrible pain in my chest and wicked Doordarshan Alif-Laila djinn ‘HA HA HA HA HA HAs’ from the rest of the supposed-to-be caring-for-the-poor-fevered-child women around me. Through all their concern, I could see that they were, if not sub-conciously, trying to evoke an ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ out of the propped-in-the-bean-bag and cacooned-with-loving-care-in-three-warm-blankets me. The general format of conversation was:
Amruta: Vai, do you remember…
Me: ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (low bitrate)
Others: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with high bass on the voicebox equalizer)
Amruta: But I didn’t even finish…
Me: ‘akheahhhaaaghh’ (lower that 100 kbps)
Lori: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with subwoofer)
Reshma: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ (with surround sound)
Sunanda: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Amruta: Guys do you know what happened today in the pd studio…
Me (through my three layers of blankets and the hot water bag): ‘akheahhhaaaghh’
Amruta: but you weren’t even there!
Deepti: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’ Vai! you sound sooo funny!!
Lori: Don’t make her laugh, she coughs weirdly after that. Is it painful, vai?
Me (puppy expression in eyes): khhglaaaagh
Amruta: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Reshma: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Sunanda: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
-pregnant (with twins) pause-
Reshma: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
Everyone: ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA’
me: ‘akheahhhaaaghh ha ha’
As this went on for a while, a distant childhood memory of grandpa-age uncles laughing for no reason in a circle like a bunch of druids at their annual meet in one of Kolkata’s laughter clubs triggered.. It resulted in more funny sounds from the lump of blankets on the bean bag that was me and yet more sounds from the surrounding public. This conglomeration of cackling witches around the bean bag went on for a few more hours. At some point, I dozed off, a result of better-functioning breathing apparatus. I emerged from my three-blanket cacoon the next day with health restored and a heart full of warmth, and this was not entirely due to the hot water bag 🙂
“This is what we should do tomorrow,” said Girish with enthusiasm, “Leave early morning before all the other groups get up, take the river route and go visit the farms next to the riverbed. We can chat with the farmer’s family, probably milk their buffaloes, try our hand at the milk-churning equipment and Swappy and I can try ploughing the fields too..”
“And we can get fresh, amazing chai early morning!” I butted in.
“And the womenfolk won’t be bothered by anyone.” Sayantan said. Meha and Priyanka nodded in agreement.
‘Anyone’ were the teachers who accompanied us for the trip. Not that they bothered the village women, the women simply ran indoors whenever any of the ‘masterjees’ turned up to inspect if we were really working on our assignments. Insensitive behaviour from both sides in different contexts.
Environmental Perception (EP) is a two-week course in the foundation year of NID in which we visit a small village to study how it functions in micro and macro ‘systems design’ context. I was a bit of a dunce at that time to understand what this meant, but now I know what I should have actually done there other than drinking fresh buffalo milk herbal village tea and have khatta meetha churan from the toothless ancient shop-woman, with a few terrible sketches of goats, camels, cactii and handpumps thrown in here and there. I guess most of us considered it a week-long picnic before it started. A week later, after bathing in ice-cold water in the middle of february, living in a tribal village school where rats ran amok our dusty mattresses and refraining from much of normal behavioural tidbits (teachers called it PDA) we take for granted, I realized it was no picnic (specially after one girl woke the entire girls’ room at three a.m. one night when a rat ran on her blanketed self), but nevertheless a fun-filled (the rat returned a few more times) learning experience.
I have lived in my paternal aunt’s village for entire summers in the middle of water-thirsty Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Obviously, comparisons happened in my head and churned out some prejudices and pre-conceptions about Virampur*, the village we were to study. Some of them did turn out true; the place was water-starved, we rarely saw women’s faces during our stay, there were more goats than people and also thatch-roof huts with mud walls: a quintessential Indian village. Though most of our assignments involved making maps, studying the culture and local ‘design’ (in a very layered sense), they all involved direct interaction with the residents, be it the surly ‘thakur’ who sat at the entrance of his home (I was quite kicked to see that this fellow closely resembled the ones we see in films) the kids who chased chicks (Gallus Domesticus, not Homo sapiens sapiens), or the Ayurvedic doctor who had actually won a President’s award for his expertise.
What I couldn’t help ignore was the concept of a ‘nation,’ as we understand it from our ten years of NCERT textbooks spanning different subjects, did not seem to exist in the minds of most of the residents there. This might be a common fact in a lot of places in the world, but I had not come across it face-to-face before. In some of the rural places I have earlier visited, most people at least remotely referred to ‘India’ in some way or the other. In conversations (government this, government that..), in trying out ‘dishes’ like those South ‘Indians’, in (sadly) cracking jokes about Punjabis, and so on. They did display awareness of belonging to a certain-land-with-certain-customs. They seemed to know that a lot of people like them with different cultures exist around but who all come under on big umbrella of a common country. I think in reality, it doesn’t matter to anyone much beyond a point as long as their basic needs are taken care of, irrespective of whether they have a sense of belonging towards a country, state or culture. I guess generalization is a bad idea, but I still wonder.
Virampur people, particularly women, didn’t seem to be aware of the concept much. For instance, they referred to me as ‘Marathan,’ Sagarika Sundaram as ‘Madrasan’ and Priyanka Patel as ‘Gujratan’, but they thought that Marathis and Madrasis (a lot of north Indians still refer to anyone from the south of India as ‘Madrasis’, be they from any of the four states) are from two different countries. I first thought by ‘different countries’ they probably meant different states. I thought it was simply a use of different terminology, but they kept referring to Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu as ‘tumhara desh’ and Banaskatha district* as ‘hamara desh.’ We asked them about what all they knew about Bhaarat. They asked us whether Bhaarat was north or south of Virampur. They wondered if Bhaarat was Sayantan’s country. We tried the same question with ‘India’ and ‘Hindustan.’ All we got were indifferent shrugs.
All this while, ‘Bengali’ Sayantan sketched their many buffaloes merrily, probably wondering why his group mates were asking stupid questions to the village folk.* a district in Gujarat neighbouring Rajasthan where Virampur is.
I hear the tinkle of metal.. the musical clanging that means the ceremony is about to begin. I hear the rustle of the dry leaves and smell the range of refreshing, heavenly perfumes emanating from them. I see the light that makes the sweet bits of sand shine like diamonds. I feel the warmth on my face, the warmth in which all of these revel. I stir the drink of nostalgia creating a whirlpool of memories. Thrice clock-wise, thrice anti-clockwise. I gingerly wait, watching the whirlpool transform into a bubbling volcano that finally erupts into a myriad of emotions that cloud the senses. I try and collect these.
And then I have my cup of tea 🙂
Hair today, gone tomorrow
It was a typical day in the studio… all fifteen of us (in the beginning, everyone attends all the classes) were trying to get the hang of a new assignment we were asked to finish by the next day. It was a lovely evening. Most of the big studios in NID, including the graphic design, face the beautiful front lawns. With my limited knowledge of both colleges and peacocks, I would like to believe that no institute in the world can boast of these birds roaming freely in their premises. In NID, they are all over the place.. studios, lawns, rooftops, ledges… I once found a peahen in the washroom.
Some of us got watching a handsome peacock with its tail fanned out, trying to impress a passing peahen. Soon nearly everyone was fooling around, and the assignment got pushed to a particular compartment of the brain that functions only after a plate of Maggi, 4-5 cups of tragic night mess chai, random visits to people’s rooms, and a tiny panic attack, all after two a.m.
It was an ill-timed comment made by a friend in the midst of our frolicking about my ‘grown all over the place-need a haircut asap’ hair that started it all. The remark had something to do with the structure a peacock has on its head. I say ill-timed because it was six pm and also the beginning of July, which means that Ahmedabad was getting its first monsoon rains accompanied by a weather that makes rain-crazy people like me go mad with happiness. This weather brings on a mood that makes the victim look at the fellow inhabitants with greatly magnified affection and trust. In that particular mood, I agreed stupidly to a seemingly kind offer by a friend, Devika. She wanted to give me a haircut, there and then (not to mention that it would be free of cost, though that was not what made me go ahead with the offer, I like to blame it on the monsoon). I could have said, ‘No, thank you very much but I’ll get it done this weekend at the place I regularly go to..’ but no, I said instead, ‘Hey! that would be cool!’ and even fetched a pair of scissors from my locker.
I do not wish to recount the hour-long haircut session that followed. The only thing I remember is realizing with every snip, the absence of a mirror in the graphic design studio. Remember the fable of the two cats fighting over a cake they find and a supposedly well-wishing, helpful monkey? In the tale, the monkey divides the cake into two parts for the cats. On finding one piece bigger than the other, he eats a chunk out of the bigger piece to make them equal. Due to a supposed error in judgement, he accidentally makes the erstwhile bigger piece smaller. Repeating the process, he ends up eating the entire cake while the cats get nothing. Well let’s just say that my hair was the cake and Devika the monkey (ah! here’s my little revenge..). What I mean to convey through this bad analogy is that she kept on snipping off a tress here and a lock there to make them of the same length meanwhile reducing the overall length to dangerous limits. If a good friend hadn’t given that look of horror I remember so well to this day, I would not have had much hair left at the end of the exercise! I immediately made Devi stop so that I could make a quick visit to the washroom mirror and review the damage.
Being an optimist, I tried telling myself things like ‘hair grows, it will be long in no time!’ , ‘it doesn’t look so bad after all…’ , ‘people around me will get used to this in a few days’ and most importantly, ‘I will get used to it in a few days.’ I felt slightly better and re-emerged out of the washroom, feeling a trifle bit more confident about the weird hairdo that I now showcased. A few friends I met on my way to the hostel politely chose not to give my hair too much attention. All seemed well till I passed the basketball court, where a senior we often interacted with, commented with concern but without delicacy. I think he did mention a scarecrow somewhere. Now optimism has its limits if you are a girl and have to survive a bad haircut! I rushed to my room and remained there for a long time.
I tend to think of worst case scenarios when I find myself in hopeless situations and pave a way out of them. It’s an algorithm I’ve realized has always worked: knowing what is the worst result of the hopeless situation I am in, knowing if I can deal with it and finally, dealing with it. More often than not, things are not as bad as they seem, it’s only a scarecrow comment that makes it all seem worse. After an hour of thought in the solitude of my room I realized it could have been worse… it’s only hair! It grows! I realized it was more a case of ‘I will look stupid in front of everyone with this hair.’ I was thinking more of what people around me would think. I was attaching too much importance to how I appeared in front of the surrounding public. So there! The mood immediately improved. The heavy rain that had started to fall outside added to the overall uplifting feeling. My newfound hate for Devika changed instantly into the affection I’d felt for her as a friend before this whole thing happened. I am now sure that her next victim would be more fortunate as she must have learned a thing or two as well. Recently, another friend did something new to my hair which was a good job done but I didn’t quite agree with it immediately and I had a tough time before I reminded myself that it could have been worse! Bad hair days and haircuts don’t bother me anymore. Nor does a pimple, or some irregularly chewed fingernails, or a dress that does not ‘go with’ my shoes, socks, eye colour or sun sign.
It’s a wonderful free feeling, to be able to ride my bike once in a while without a helmet just to feel the wind run through my hair; to not bind myself in layers of scarves and coats and gloves all the time and resemble a female extremist, scared of getting darker in the sun; and to not let trivial things like a bad hair day affect my happiness.
Originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Indian College Students, (2010)
What’s the biggest possible number?
The simple answer is infinity but in the 1870s, the mathematician Georg Cantor produced ingenious arguments revealing the existence of lots of different infinities- some of which are much bigger than the others. The “smallest” type is the one simply obtained by counting forever: 1,2,3… and so on. This is aleph-null (named after the first symbol of the Hebrew alphabet) ans is the first of what Cantor called the transfinite numbers. Such numbers have some decidedly odd properties. For example, adding aleph-null to itself produced aleph-null, so does multiplying it by itself. This is just the start; Cantor also showed that there are other, even larger, infinities starting with aleph-one- a number so big that it cannot be reached even by counting for an infinite amount of time. It turns out that there an infinite number of more infinities, each bigger than the previous, until one arrived at the biggest of them all, known as Absolute Infinity, denoted Omega. This number is so vast that it is literally indescribable: indeed, its definition is based on the idea that any attempt to describe it can only be describing something smaller.-from the book Q & A, Cosmic Conundrums and everyday mysteries of science, Robert Matthews, Viva Books