What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Old School Nostalgia

Google is great. Google maps are even greater. Back in the day, you had to use paper maps. You had to carefully unfold the maps, plot your course. You never bothered unfolding the maps unless you really needed something. Things are different these days. Forget a click for a button, maps are just a tap on your phone away. The whole world is at your fingertips, right there on your touch screen. London, Paris, Rome, Beijing, Sydney, Cape Town or Rio De Janeiro - all these places are right there. You can view maps, you can view satellite images. If you are lucky, you can even pretend to walk down those streets on street view.

But that is not all that maps are useful for. Did you know there is a great sense of nostalgia in poring over maps? For the longest time, I did not know that. It is a joy I discovered a few days ago. Whenever I miss years gone by, think of my childhood, the mischief of school, the age of growing up, I go on Google maps and visit the places I miss the most. I walk down the streets reliving my own memories. It does not matter if there is no street view, the memories are etched within me, all I have to do is trace my fingers through the streets and they come alive.

Here is a small little trip down memory lane. 

1. This is where I was born. No I was not born in a garden. But somewhere around five gardens there was a small nursing home. That is where me and later my sister were born.

2. This is the neighborhood of my earliest memories. I lived there as a little kid. I still remember the names of the buildings. I remember the other buildings as well - Pallavi, Hemlata, Upendra, Amin Kunj, but I don't recollect the order. Our hide and seek games spanned all the five marked buildings. I spent many summers visiting grandma here.

3. This is my first school. Indian Education Society's King George school in Dadar.

4. This is where I spent most of my life. The neighborhood where I grew up in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. I've played hours of cricket, badminton, dabba i-spy, lagori, hopscotch, bluff and other games here.

5. This is my school - Fr. Agnels. As much as I hated school and cussed it, I owe a lot of who I am to my school. My favorite memories growing up have to be from school. Now it is a whole campus with swimming pool, girls hostel, business school etc. I've circled sector 9A and 10A schools which I went to. The Engineering campus was built when I was in Middle school. The Pool and Business school have been built after I left India. 

6. I played field hockey in middle and high school. I take great pride that I have played games on one of the finest hockey grounds in India - Bombay Hockey Association's Mahindra hockey stadium. The swoosh sound as the hockey ball flies over the Astroturf and the distinctive click as the stick connects a hit is music to my years. Ah! I would love to play hockey again. After BHA games we would sit and eat vada pav at Marine drive and stare into infinity.

7. Ah mini  seashore. The long way to walk home from school as you loitered the parks instead of going straight home. The place where college students of Vashi would make out and a whole lot more. The place where we as teenagers engaged in some exciting and guilty voyeurism. The place where father Almeida would find us loitering and yell us to go straight home. During vacation time we actually woke up at 6:00 AM and went for walks there. I'm such a lazy bum and sleepy head now. I can hardly believe that I would pop right out of bed and go out excited to be walking there with friends.

8. Oh Goa, Goa, Goa! Summer vacations had to include a quick trip to Goa. This was my vacation home. My home away from home when I visited Goa. My cousins lived here and I spent a lot of time there. I remember long walks to the municipal gardens or visiting relatives in the big house. Watching lazy sunsets lounging on Colva beach was beautiful. It was in Goa that I learned the right way to make Goan sausages in a bar. It was in Goa where I gulped my first shot of whiskey as cough syrup for my cold. Only in Goa can a twelve year old walk in bars and buy hard liquor. I drink, because my heritage is Goan.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Slinky, Stairs and Sixty minutes

I'm an overgrown child. My IQ is that of a five year old. Anyone who has any doubts about my childlike notions has to do naught but observe some of my arcane infantile weekend rituals. This is how a good portion of my Sunday progressed. I feed the cats at noon. Setting the bowl down, my ADD eyes hover around the room. Ooh shiny! I see something shiny under the desk. I wonder what that is. I must find the shiny. At this point I have forgotten what is on the agenda for the day, and my mind is on shiny.

I eventually discover that shiny is an old metal slinky. I slide the slinky palm to palm, run my fingers over its cool metallic surface. Ooh this is so much fun. Now I want to run my slinky down the stairs. After all that is what a slinky does. I bolt up the stairs in glee and begin my games. Unfortunately, the slinky is not cooperating. It just does not go beyond two stairs. I decide that the fault is in the plush red carpet. I figure the wooden stairs upstairs will render me more luck. So I climb another level higher and restart my games. Clack! Clack! Zing! Clack! the slinky completes a noisy maneuver. My grandmother is worried what the sound is. I'm just playing, I answer. Nikki the cat has joined me now at the bottom of the stairs. Her curious cat eyes are wide as saucers. She looks at me, eyes getting wider and wider per second.

Thusly I continue my games. The slinky refuses to cooperate. I try all sorts of angles and positions. I even go all the way up, dangle it down from a height and try to toss it down. Nothing seems to work. But I continue my games with childlike fascination and tireless vigor. After all what does a five year old have to do other than make a slinky go down the stairs. If I could just get the slinky to do as I will, my life would be complete. I'm just five remember. The only thing with more excitement, curiosity and delight in my games are Nikki's saucer eyes, they are as big as her face now looking at me with devotional delight. Alas! One of my attempts almost clacks its way to the bottom. Nikki's widely fascinated eyes shrink back and she runs away. I wonder if she thought it was  a silver demon snake. My games continue for almost an hour and then I am bored. An ADD five year old can be amused only so long.

It is fun to be five. It makes it seem completely logical and natural when I almost start crying in phobia because there are wasps building a hive on the porch. I'm chided for being a child. But grown ups just don't understand fear correctly. The wasps are building an army and they will be invading our house through the ventilation system. Secretly, when no one is looking I shudder and cry about the insects outside and console myself. We sprayed Raid last night and that should stop their invading army. I want Raid under my bed, but for now hairspray will suffice.

It actually is completely delightful being five. I just saw some slinky videos. This weekend, I'll actually run my slinky down the stairs. Then I will run my slinky on the treadmill. Once my slinky tasks are accomplished, I'm going to practice holding my breath till I get my way. I've got the innocent face mastered, now I need the contingency plan.

Oh how I wish I could be five forever!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Age of the Bully

Karen Klein is buzzing in all the online news and discussion channels. Everyone is talking about the latest victim of bullying. What makes this situation so unique and shocking is that Karen is not your typical bullying victim. She is not the shy dork in school. She is not the awkward and just out student. She is not the new immigrant who speaks a smattering of heavily accented English. No, she is a venerable 68 year old widow with silver hair. She should be reminding us all of our grandmas or our silly forgetful but adorable aunt or an affable next door neighbor. How anyone can even imagine bullying someone so old and feeble is beyond me. Watching the video of a bunch of high school assholes being absolutely vile and disparaging to her is gut wrenching. Here is an elderly woman crying and the boys are making rude jokes about her being fat, her son's suicide and lewd comments like coming in her mouth.

It makes you wonder what sort of age we are living in. What is this world really coming to? We seem to be suffering from a bullying epidemic. The series of heartbreaking suicides amidst bullied youth a few years ago seemed to be the worst our society could have fallen to. They were gay kids, nerdy kids and even immigrant kids who were shunned and rejected by the ever increasing cruelty amidst our youth. Now even grandma is not spared. As articles of shocking bullying of teachers and other school employees now comes out as a result, we realize that no one is spared. Fat people, skinny people, old people, young people, white people, black people, gay people, straight people, Asian people, Hispanic people, pretty people, ugly people, rich people, poor people. They said death is a great leveler as it could strike anyone, anywhere, irrespective of who they were. Then it was cancer, the feared disease that made no discriminations on whom and when it struck. But move over death and cancer, there is a new bully in town. Even dead people or dying people also will not be spared. Death and cancer - meet your match - the big obnoxious bully.

I don't think this is a teenage problem though. It is a problem of this digital era. We live in an especially mean and vile world, and people are getting meaner and viler by the day. Turn on the television and look at the presidential races - there is nothing but mudslinging at each other. Go to a conservative forum or website and it is strewn with vile jokes poking fun at Barack Obama as well as disparaging comments on Michelle Obama. Go to a liberal forum or website and you see the same kind of vile behavior poking fun at all the conservative or Republican candidates. We don't care about issues, principles or points of discussion anymore. It is all about who can insult whom more in the worst possible way. Politics to a certain extent is something serious and worth having a heated debate about. So are probably things like economy, immigration, foreign policy etc. But take a closer look at the internet and it is filled with verbal warfare and bullying behavior for the sake of something as serious as economic policy to something as trivial as if Bella should have chosen Jacob over Edward.

I'm not a parent. I'm probably am not an authority figure or credible source on this, but 50% of the problems I will blame on bad parenting. I've been a kid myself. There were times I was rude, misbehaving, belligerent and perhaps even bullying at times. But there were lines neither me nor any kid would cross. My parents rarely raised their hand on me. One glare from my mother and I'd freeze and refrain from whatever I was doing. I lived in morbid fear that if I misbehaved, I would be royally chewed out. I did not merely fear my parents, but my teachers, coaches and principles as well. Ah! There were times I got that smack across the face. To some people today it might be shocking cruelty. But I deserved every bit of it. I might have been bitter and resentful then, today I am immensely grateful that my parents cared so deeply about what sort of person I would become and how I behaved. Of course my parents regret it, they have remorse over causing pain. But to think of their upbringing as abusive or cruel is a revolting thought to me. I wouldn't be a better person, if not for my parents, my teachers etc who took the harsh disciplinary approach. There is a huge line between well intentioned discipline and abuse. We coddle and protect children so much these days that discipline is tossed in the garbage.

Honestly, sometimes a smack is what a child needs. Some kids respond to rewards. Some kids respond to reason. Some kids respond to compassion. Some kids need fear or physical discipline to respond. While I've never raised kids of my own, I've looked after several cousins. As much as I would like to deny it, kids do respond very well to me. While the all are precocious, naughty, hyperimaginative and hyperactive - they all respond differently - you have to adapt to what they need to behave. Some kids don't just deserve a smack, but they need and crave for tough love, a strong assertive power figure that cares and protects but is not afraid to administer harsh but fair discipline. Parents seem to be afraid of discipline these days. But if you are fair, consistent and just - children thrive and love it, even if it hurts them now and then.

The remaining 50% I blame on the internet. There is something about the anonymity and instant gratification systems online that just seems to bring out the worst in people, and even worse in kids. It is often said about modern warfare that if soldiers had to look their victims in the eye, watch the life ebb out of their faces and feel the actual blood on their hands there would not be so many callous wars for the sake of it. War is a terrible business. The same goes for verbal warfare. We don't know them, they don't know us, they can't see us, we can't see them. It simply becomes too easy to forget humanity and stoop low into savagery.

The internet is our Lord of the Flies. It was a vast uninhabited island and we are the lost boys who suddenly washed ashore one day. It was a land with no rules, no civilization, no discipline. We had to start society from scratch. But then there was the matter of the beast. The deadly dangerous beast that threatens us. The deadly and dangerous beast that must be destroyed. But the beast doesn't exist anywhere other than the fears and evils of our own minds. Without civilization it doesn't take long for the beast to take control and bring out our savagery. In real life we know how words hurt, we see the tears in peoples eyes, we know the consequences of mistakes and would never dare to say or do somethings. But without all that, it is just our own savage island. We killed Simon (goodness) and Piggy (reason). And now Ralph (humanity) just survives in hope, perhaps false hope that someway somehow he will be rescued from the savages of Jack (the trolls, the flamers, the bullies, the low lives who know nothing but hurting and abusing).

Unfortunately, this savagery that has descended the internet spills into our real world creating the bullies who tormented Karen Klein. After all if the so call well educated, respectable person could forget humanity and start insulting a person they barely know over the most mundane and petty argument online it should come as no surprise the younger, not yet fully educated or worldly wise teenagers find it a struggle to behave. Where are the positive influences in their lives? Where are the good role models? Where are the people who say, you can still be a better person?

At least for teenagers and children there is hope, in the form of facebook dads and tiger moms. Maybe not as harsh and not as stern, but strict disciplinarians who care enough about the type of people their kids grow up to be. All they need is someone to cut them off the video games, cell phones, internet and live like a real child playing outdoors and making real friends. All they need is someone who will skin their hides or perhaps just mete out a tough punishment when they misbehave. Personally, I recommend 50 laps around the football field, God knows they need to be outside and get ride of all that lazy inertia from sitting in front of a screen all day. God knows it could help them with the ten fast food meals they had last week.

As for the adult bullies........even God does not know..............Ralph continues to hope.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Audacity of Hope

The audacity of hope is the intrepid boldness of it. It is hope that arrogantly disregards all logic, all rationale, and believes that it can break all barriers to accomplish the hopeless. Such was my audaciousness on Tuesday, June 5th. Such was my foolish notion that Scott Walker would be recalled as Governor of Wisconsin and all would be good and right in the world again. It was gall full of brazen belief, filled with the temerity of rebellious youth.

And it would be that very temerity that would shatter my heart to a million broken pieces. I was so filled with the blaze of hope that what is good and right will prevail that I didn't even prepare myself for the outcome. My first reaction when the news media called the election in favor of Scott Walker was scoffing disbelief at their ludicrous coverage. After all who calls an election with only 11% reporting. As the night progressed and the chances seemed bleaker by the minute, the disbelief faded into bitterness, resentment, anger and disdain.

How could the people choose this? How could the state actually favor Scott Walker? How can we actually choose corporate greed over the people? How could we let wealth and elitism quash the people who are the backbone of this nation? I could not help but be overcome with rage. I cussed at the ignorant masses and the self centered elitists. So distraught I was that my ever cheerful eternal optimist soul decided that its best to convert to pessimism. The real truth is mankind is doomed to fail. Might as well just look out for oneself with extreme cynicism rather than for everyone with foolish hope.

Over the weak though the negative thoughts have faded and hope has been filling in again. In the end it is easy to play the blame game, but how often do we accept our own flaws. No human willingly chooses wrong over right. People always try to choose what is best for them. If they end up choosing unwisely, then it is because they did not know any better or they see something we don't. That is why I have no contempt or anger towards all the people who stood with and voted for Scott Walker. They simply did what they believed to be right. To a certain extent I completely empathize with many of their viewpoints.

For one I am not a fan of Unions, especially not Unions the way they have become these days. If corporations are selfish entities trying to squeeze everything out of employees, unions are also selfish entities trying to squeeze everything out for themselves. Unions result in many negatives like entitlement, incompetence, wage inflation, unfair hierarchies, excessive benefits and a bullying atmosphere of sorts. I'm not a fan of taxes either, especially excessive taxes that serve others more than me. I don't like the fact that my hard earned money goes to support people who don't deserve it. I don't want strangers living off my hard work fraudulently, undeserving and at the expense of my family and its happiness. When faced withe economic crisis and difficulties like debt, foreclosure, unemployment one cannot help but feel spiteful towards entitled people who reap the benefits. In difficult times one cannot help but admire and gravitate towards someone who promises wealth, stability, growth and a whole lot more in business terms.

The failure of my people, the liberals, the haters of Scott Walker who wanted to reclaim democracy for Wisconsin is that we didn't empathize or understand our friends and neighbors. We were so wrought and caught up in our passionate discourse that we never gave pause to the other side. We never stopped to listen with an open heart and mind what they wanted to say. This was not just about our side or their side, it was about the State of Wisconsin, our collective future. How could we win if we completely ignored or disregarded the other side.

In spirit I am a passionate bleeding heart liberal. My heart years to see Scott Walker defeated. But in all practical sense I am a moderate liberal. I don't want to think for just myself, but I care about conservative viewpoints as well. I believe that there is a middle ground where we both can agree on.

There are two sides to everything. Unions over the years have had many negative sides as well. However, the right to collectively bargain is something fundamental to being American. Our nation itself is a federal 'union' of autonomous states that represent our collective interests in the world. The ability for people to come together has given us many things like fair wages, weekends, 40 hour workweeks and protection from our hard work being abused. Why not reinstate collective bargaining and let us figure out other legislative means to prevent entitlement, enforce fairness and create meritocracies. Tax breaks don't create any more jobs than taxation does. We have our own perceptions on taxation. Why don't we meet and collectively decide a tax system that taxes us fairly justly and serves like an investment that reaps dividends. Rather than expose the flaws in each others sides, why don't we come together and find the good points and chalk out a plan to improve economy and the job situation.

It is the audacity of hope and the temerity of rebellious youth simmering in my soul again. Perhaps it is my intrepid boldness but it is my brazen belief that someday we will cast aside these divides of liberal vs conservative created by incompetent selfish politicians and come together for the collective good of all Americans.

Good Bye Potter

Once again in my life, I bit more than I can chew and gave up. I deleted my Harry Potter Blog. I had neglected it for several months it was about time. I created the Blog a long time ago, all excited and revved up in my Potter obsession. An obsession that peaked to manic fury when Deathly Hallows II released. It was the end of an era for me. It is as if Harry, Hermione and Ron, grew up before my very eyes. I saw them grow from nervous little children entering Hogwarts to brave young men and women facing destiny. I lived through their hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears. I experienced their crushes, first loves and emotional roller coaster of adolescence.

In my blog I wanted to pour out my obsession. My ticking mind from over the years. My observations of little nuances. In the end it was too much. I work full time, I'm studying for MBA. I want to watch a 100 movies this year, I want to read tons and tons of books. I like to take long walks and I want to waste my time online doing nothing and relax. So the blog was neglected. Over time the obsession faded as well. Such is life! One moment something blazes in your senses with all glory, the next moment it is tucked away safely in your heart as a cherished memory and move on. It was time for Harry to go into that safe corner of my heart and there he is, still a bright flame of wonderful memories, but tucked away so I move on with my other mindless things.