Friday, September 30, 2011

Friendship for sale

A friend of mine recently wrote in his update on Facebook "451 to 300 .... cleaning friendlist". I felt quite amused to see such a message. It looked very mechanical to me, totally devoid of any emotions. Have these social media platforms diluted the essence of friendship? Firstly, I have never understood how people so casually add everyone in their FB friend list, even those they might have seen once in a party and then later claim that they need privacy. I never understood why would you write something on such a platform which you might need to hide from a particular set people? In that case how can you really call them friends? I agree to the fact that many people would claim that it is a social media platform where not everyone is actually a "friend". It is more like a tool to interact with many people whom you might have met or know. 

But I had always felt very uncomfortable to use the word "friend" so casually and cheaply. A friend for me is a person you trust blindly, who is there for you (and you for him) through thick and thin of life and a lot more. So, personally I never understood this hierarchy in friendship. In this sense, I would say the Germans have a more efficient way of addressing people. There is a word in their vocabulary called "Bekannter" which they use often for acquaintances, for people they know but are not really friends. So, a Bekannter is not actually a friend. From humanity or social point of view it might not be morally fitting but works pretty good in the practical world.

Then just recently there was this Airtel advertisement doing rounds on the internet with the title "har ek friend zaroori hota hai". It was an amusing ad but it left a bit of bad taste in the end. Maybe I am thinking too much or either I did not got the ad correctly. The way it portrayed friendship was not top of the line in my opinion. I felt that it showed that friends are just like amenities in life or more so like utilities just for "use", for different kind of uses. Does that mean anyone who can offer you a service of any kind is your friend ? Some people might argue that what the ad was meant in good spirit and not what I have made out of it but I think otherwise.

It could be that I am old school and that the meaning of friendship has changed over the years. But I guess I am still stuck in the world of film Dosti (1964) where the meaning of friendship between Ramu and Mohan are in stark contrast with what I see these days amongst the new generation. There was emotion, sacrifice, others before self feelings and not just using people as commodities and then calling them friends. In less than 50 years, I guess we have mutated our behavior so much that there is no chance or scope of going back.

It could be that I might face some backlash for such thoughts but if not on my blog then where :) 

Monday, September 19, 2011

An evening in Paris

Neither is this post about the Shammi Kapoor film nor does it have anything to do with the Woody Allen film. This post is about my first trip to Paris about 6 years back. Ever since, Paris had cast a kind of spell on me that I never leave an opportunity to visit it. A visit almost every year since then is a proof of that spell. I don't know why but I never get tired going to that city. It somehow has a magnetic effect on me. The most memorable trip for me was my first and this post is about the last evening of that trip we spent there.

Three months after arriving in Germany for the first time back in 2004, my friends planned a trip to Switzerland. Being new in a foreign land whose currency rate was 1:58 with the Indian rupee, my conscience did not allowed me to go on such a trip. I was a fresh graduate with little experience about real life so did not knew how priceless can be such trips. It is only later in life I understood that one should never miss a chance to travel as a student because once a person starts working, even though he might have money, he might not have the time or the company to travel. So, my advice to students always is to explore the world as much as possible as long as you don't have to take loan to travel.

So, after missing the Swiss trip I realized that this time will not come again so when another group of friends made a plan to visit Paris, I was all game for it. The plan was to stay at a friend's place in Paris who was doing his PhD at that time. As students, we anyways did not mind sleeping on the floor at a friend's place. So, five of us booked tickets and took our sleeping bags along to visit Paris. Our host was a generous guy and took good care of us. He took time out of his busy schedule to guide us through Paris. He was quite busy with work so he could not accompany us everywhere.

Now, our host was a guy with a big heart but absolutely zero cooking skills. So, he was quite pleased to have Indian food with us whenever we used to make in his kitchen. On the last evening of our 5 day stay, it was raining cats and dogs. I guess Indra Devta had planned this night to be a memorable one for us. Since it was raining, we planned to stay at home. Out of nowhere, our host in a very humble and pitiful tone said, "It has been more than a year since I visited India. I really miss the food. How great it would be if in this weather we had samosas". Another friend of mine looked at me and I knew what he wanted to say. We said lets have samosas for dinner tonight. Our host's eyes glittered like a diamond but he asked from where would they come from? We said, we will make them here. It was a crazy plan but everyone got excited and started putting in their part in making samosas. Boiling and peeling potatoes, making the dough, arranging for oil etc. Eventually, the plan was coming out good. One of the guys then came with another wish. He said, we are in Paris but we still did not had wine together. We must taste it. Although it was more like an excuse to get drunk but immediately two of us ran to down the street to fetch a couple of wine bottles. So the menu was made, samosas with wine. I know it does not sound really classy but as students it was more about the fun, the excitement, the life than anything else. Now the last hurdle was to arrange so many glasses for wine. Our host did not had enough glasses or cups for all of us leave alone wine glasses. So, some of us came up with another innovative way. There were some empty jam bottles. The guys cleaned it and had their wine in it. It was insane. I know but sometimes it is only such weird and crazy evenings which are left to remember the rest of our lives. I wonder if those guys would do the same today given that they are now working at high ranking jobs.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

My affair with blogosphere

I remember getting the first taste of Blogosphere in 2005. Before that I was not such a big enthusiast of the Internet in India because it was pretty slow and expensive back then. I never had enough patience to wait for pages to load on the browser. But after coming to Germany, I became more net savvy. I had to. There was not way out. It was because of many reasons. It was the only cheap way of keeping in contact with friends and family back in India. Everything in this new world was online. Even to book slots on the washing machine at the university hostel was via the local intranet. So, there was virtually no escape from it.

One night while browsing through the internet in my hostel room, I came across my first blog by chance. I found it pretty interesting since the author had literally written snippets from his life, online. Initially I felt that it was quite bold to do such a thing since there might be many of his friends reading them. Through the blogroll and the comments, I explored even more interesting blogs. And ever since, there has been no looking back. I had a few favorites and used to visit them everyday. In those days we did not had fancy tools like google reader to keep track of all the blogs and so I used visit them exclusively. Not only did some of the blogs kept me updated about the latest trends back in India, many of them even fulfilled my appetite of humor. There are some seriously funny people out there in the blogging world.

I used to religiously follow some blogs and the authors also regularly updated them. I even saw some friendships being built by some bloggers and used to enjoy their interactions with each other again through blogs. Sometimes, I even used to envy them. I had mostly been a silent spectator of the blogosphere, hardly ever contributing. I used to refrain from commenting and even when I did once in a while, it used to be mostly anonymous. I think since most of those authors were students at that time or fresh our of college, it gave them more time to blog. After a span of about 6 years, there are only a few of those who still blog regularly but many of them have moved on. Some have families now so they are not able to spare time, some became famous and published books and moved on to twitter, some maybe due to lack of readers lost interest.

Sometimes, I am surprised on myself how close I feel to some bloggers even though I have never met them, nor do they know me. A few months back, my favorite blogger did not post for almost a month which was not normal as per the author's standards. It genuinely worried me in the beginning but later I thought, maybe the person had some better things to do. And it motivated me to finally start writing my own blog. I always thought of starting it but never really put in any efforts. But now that I have started writing, I think it is not easy. It can be very easy to start a blog but it can take a lot of patience and efforts to continue with it. But even though there are many who stopped blogging, there are many who started blogging, like me. And I think that is the best part of this blogosphere, that it is ever so dynamic. After starting this blog, I have started following more people and found some really nice ones. But sometimes I feel guilty and scared that maybe this might dilute my admiration and love for the old ones I still follow. I hope not !!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The line between success and greed

I was watching this lecture yesterday from a Harvard Professor. It's the first part from a series of his lectures. He talks about morality and how quickly it changes definition depending upon the situation. I have often thoughts about some things along the same school of thought. One of them is the thin line between success and greed. How do you define success and how can you keep it free from greed. When do you say what you have is enough and you are happy with what you have?

I have some friends who recklessly keep changing jobs every two years or so just to get some extra money. They do not care about what work they will be doing. They don’t care about what they write in their resume to achieve a new one. The target is always more money. Such people often regard the more satisfying people non ambitious and to some extent even fools. Gone are those days when our parents used to spend their complete life under the same employer. I myself sometimes find it fascinating how my father had been working at the same place for all his life. The irony is that even he sometimes point out to me that it has been 4 years since you are working at the same place, why don’t you look for another job? I do not blame him because it is not him talking but the culture that has evolved around him. But coming back to the topic of making more money, I have never been able to understand how some people lust of money. They are never satisfied. They have a nice house, a nice car, a good family but even then they will keep grinding themselves for more and more. They never pause and ever spare time for themselves. They just keep running towards a finish line which even they have no clue, where to find. Sometimes, I have pity for such people and even sympathize with them that maybe it is not their fault. It is the society they are dwelling in which make them act that way. But then I ask myself. Is it not the same people who actually make that society? Such a vicious circle!

The society had always judged success with the money. There is nothing new in this I guess. There are enough instances from history supporting it. But I feel recently it has taken a much ugly turn. Quite easily we make our role models like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs from the technology business, Ronaldo, Giggs, Tiger Woods from Sports, Murdoch from Media based solely on the fact that they are rich and famous and have worked "hard" to reach where they are today. We never try to find how they reach there. What all did they had to do, to reach there. Did they acted morally to reach those heights? Did they harm someone on their way? Specially given the recent disclosure of the working of the Murdoch empire or even the affairs of the above mentioned sport stars leaking to their fans. Sometimes I feel that taking such questions out of the idol making equation has led us today to the society where everything is judged with money. We are totally lost in judging what is right and wrong. And I find this scenario scary sometimes. Where will all this end? Where does the buck stop?     

All this makes me remember a story I wanted to share. The story of the last moments of the mighty Alexander the Great or Sikandar as we call him in India. After winning the world, Sikandar feel sick on his ship. The efforts of his doctors were all in vein. He begged the doctors to give him some more time to live so that he can keep his promise he made to his mother. The promise of seeing her after he as won the world. But the doctors could not even promise him 4 more breaths. Thus on his death bed, Sikandar who had won this world felt helpless and in remorse asked his companions to fulfill his last three wishes, after his death:

1. His doctors should carry his coffin for burial - so that the world knows that every breath of life is important and we should not take them for granted for no doctor in the world can grant you any in time of need.
2. The path to his grave and his grave should be studded with gold and all the precious stones of the world - so that the world knows that all this wealth will not go with anyone after death and it makes no sense running for it all through one's life.
3. His hands should hang out from his grave with palms facing up - so that the world knows that the conqueror of the world, the ruler of the world who came empty handed also left this world empty handed taking nothing with him.

If the world did not even learn from this, then I don't think there is anything else which can convince it. I remember another such tale from Sikandar's life but maybe I will write about it some other time.