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  • Friday, 9 May 2008

    Be German, Buy German

    Wolfgang decided, finally, to buy a VCR.

    (For you modern dudes: VCR is (was?) Video Cassette Recorder, an amazing device from a bygone era that played video)

    He was firm on this one. He would buy a German VCR. Someone with such a typical German name had to be a proud German. Added to this was the recent blitzkreig campaign with the slogan: "Be German, Buy German". So, German it shall be. With world-renown companies such as Blaupunkt and Grundig, one should easily get a good buy.

    He went to the biggest electronic gadget store in town. The salesman was eager to show him the various models. Sony, JVC, Panasonic . .

    No! says Wolfgang. I want a German brand. Show me something by Blaupunkt.

    Finally he got something that he liked, including the price. Blaupunkt it was. Bill was made, cash handed over and the proud owner carried his VCR home. Being familiar with electrical gadgets, by working for a famous German company, he set out to install the VCR without much problems.

    Soon he had only one wire to plug in. He turned the table lamp towards the back of the device and lo and behold!

    Made in Japan
    For Blaupunkt

    * * * * *
    This is a story from the eighties. If it were to be from the recent past it would have perhaps been Made in China.

    Tuesday, 12 February 2008

    Paint the City . .

    Story of A

    He sat with his head in his hands. He had hardly slept the previous. night As he looked around his office he felt that it was suffocating. The air conditioner did not help much. His palms still sweated.

    He had built his small business with great perseverance. He had studied the chemistry of paints, to make a success of his business. He sometimes sardonically thought that if he had studied with the same intensity when in college, he would have been a topper. But the business needed him to know all that he could. He had managed the finances cleverly too.

    Just when he thought that all that was behind him and he was on safe grounds at last, this had hit him. A client had placed an order for some special paints. They were for unusual colours. When he had manufactured them and readied them for despatch, the client had cancelled the order. Of course, the order was not on paper. Like many other things in the construction industry, this was also on trust. Especially this particular client had always been reliable.

    Now he was stuck with a load of paint that nobody else seemed to want. He had tried selling them at half the price. There were no takers. He was at his wits end.

    Story of B

    How things had changed in the last decade! He had finished the Bachelor of Architecture course at the top of his class. He had an independent streak in him and from day one had planned to design houses for people. Within fifteen years he had become a well known architect. He had a large office and an impressive list of clients. Just to keep his creative juices flowing, he had taken all kinds of assignments. He was enjoying his work.

    But now he was facing an irksome phenomenon. He would take on an assignment and make the preliminary designs and the client wanted to show it to a Vaastu expert. He would then come back with restrictions on where what could be. His whole concept for the house would be destroyed.

    Oh, he hated these pseudo experts.

    Story of A

    He finally decided that he should seek some advice from someone. He had once been told that the gates to his factory were in the wrong place. The Vaastu was not correct. He racked his brains about who had told him that. Then he remembered who it was. He contacted him and he in turn directed him to The Guru, the Vaastu expert.

    He went to him to consult him.

    Story of B

    He decided that he himself should acquire some knowledge of this thing called Vaastu and Feng Shui or whatever. He was told that The Guru was the best, whatever that meant, anyway.

    Story of A and B

    A and B met at The Guru’s house. They had to make a few visits before they could meet The Guru himself. This provided them an opportunity to know each other. After all, they were from the same “industry”. Their conversation gave rise to a plan.

    Story of B

    Now, whenever a client came to him, he would ask him if he wanted his house designed according to Vaastu - “Vaastu compliant”, according to the jargon of the industry. Whatever the answer of the client, he designed the house as he wanted, developing the concept of the house with great care as he had always done.

    If the client came back with objections, he would make minor alterations, if at all, and tell them that there was a Feng Shui solution to the problem. The client, already softened by the detailed description of the concept of the house would be eager to consider this solution. If he still had doubts, he would be sent to The Guru and he would confirm that it was indeed a solution.

    Story of A

    In a few years, the whole stock of the unusually coloured paints was cleared. At a price that was double that of the normal, ordinary paints. He even had further orders and all the work he had put in to make the paints in the first place was not a waste after all.

    Story of C and D

    C: There seems to be a new phenomenon at work. Have you seen that many new houses have some wall or the other painted with some weird colour?

    D: Yaa, I know. I am told that it is a well known principle of Feng Shui that if you paint one of the walls with an eye catching colour, it can nullify the effects of bad Vaastu.

    Both the cynics continued their walk after shaking their heads uncomprehendingly.

    If only they knew that the real story was weirder than anything even their cynical minds could conjure up ......

    Wednesday, 16 January 2008

    Anaatha aka Orphan

    Prahladachar woke up at first light. He was the first one to be up in his small village, everyday. He was up even before the earliest farm hand in the village. Unlike the farmers and farm hands, he had chores to finish before he left home for the day. He had to be early.

    He got up, went to the back yard. Drew two large kodas of water from the well. He finished his morning ablutions muttering the mantras in an undertone as he had done thousands of times in his life. Then he drew two more kodas of water and had his bath. All these actions were done according to either the scriptures or tradition or what his father had taught him. He would not perhaps know where one ended and the other began. It was one continuum. Practice had made it a routine without a variation if not perfect.

    On the rare occasion that he did think about his daily routine, he was satisfied. He might not be as learned as some other priests, but no one could question his sincerity. No one, in fact, did.

    He was a well known figure in the neighbouring villages too. Most of them had occasion to see him doing the daily pooja at the Hanuman temple. He had acted as the intermediary between ‘his’ god and the people of the village. He had done this for years and he was a content man.

    As he finished his daily chores and started walking towards the temple, hardly did he realise that this was a momentous day, at least in his life. It looked like any other day, felt like any other day, if he thought about it at all.

    The temple was a good three miles from his home. He had to walk a path through brush jungle, cultivated fields, a cart track and finally what went by the name of a pucca road.

    He turned the last corner that brought him ‘face to face’ with his temple, so familiar, so comforting . .

    He stood there transfixed. Shocked. Disbelieving. The small door of the small temple stood ajar. The chain was hanging loose from one of the doors. Had he forgotten to lock the temple up the previous day? No. He remembered having done it, like any other day of his life.

    As he got over the shock and dismay, he hurried towards the temple. He could see that the strong Aligarh lock was lying right at the threshold, shattered. Some miscreants had burgled the mighty god’s very temple. He peered into the temple to see, what had been stolen. Well, everything was! Including the small white piece of cloth. What was left was worthless – a jar of kunkum, a tin of camphor, matches, agarbattis…

    Then anger, nay, rage replaced the dismay and confusion. The thought that here was the almighty god, on whom he had relied all these years for protection, was unable to defend and save even his own langoti (loin cloth)! He decided, at that very instant, even without being aware of it, that was the last day he was doing pooja at that temple. And so it was. He stomped away from the place for good.

    The villagers saw him withdraw into himself. A lost look on his face, he went about his days as a man betrayed. He continued to follow the daily rituals, at home, as before, but never entered his once favourite temple again. He even avoided that road.

    He lived on the small piece of dry land and what it grudgingly yielded, and earnings from teaching Samskrita and Kannada to some interested students, for the rest of his life.

    Note: This is a story from real life, from about a century ago. The name of the priest and details are imaginary.

    The Sensation

    Narayana was a queer one. He did not have much formal education but was well educated by voracious reading. He had done odd jobs – issuing tickets in a touring drama company, for instance. He loved mathematics. He was a skeptic. He was a Gandhian. He was a Marxist. He was curious about everything scientific.

    That was a really small thumbnail portrait of a very interesting man.

    He had finally settled down as a farmer, got married and had raised a family, three sons and three daughters. One of the daughters had died while still young, years ago.

    He was on one of his infrequent visits to the big city – Bangalore. He did not like the hustle and bustle of the city. Things that made the trip tolerable were the opportunity to meet some intellectuals and buy or borrow interesting books.

    On this trip, he found a book he had heard a lot about and was very eager to read - Eddington’s “Nature of the Physical World”. He bought it right away and returned eagerly to his cousin’s house, where he was staying during this visit. He could not wait to start reading it.

    As he came in, the family was getting ready for lunch and he had lunch too. He avoided the long post lunch conversation and moved to a tiny room. He spread a mat on the floor, moved around a trunk and a pillow and settled down to reading the book. It was fascinating. He was at it for a few hours and was feeling a little tired when he heard a familiar voice outside. Another cousin, Rajanna, had come to see him. Not too reluctantly, he gave up the book and started chatting with him – the price of rice, the weather, prospects for a good harvest the next season, the trials and triumphs of each others’ family members, suitable boy for another cousin’s daughter . . . .

    Rajanna had recently found a new astrologer, Pandit, who was making waves. Pandit had a growing reputation and had a huge following, already. The talk turned to this new phenomenon even though Rajanna knew Narayana’s skcepticism. He was sometimes irritated by it and sometimes he liked to irritate Narayana by talking about astrology. Today he was in the latter mood. He extolled the virtues of the new sensation and how he could read the past, present and the future. He watched Narayana grow distant, with great anticipation. He was sure of the coming arguments.

    To his great astonishment, Narayana said that he wanted to show a particular horoscope to this Pandit and ask his opinion about it. Rajanna looked for a catch in the whole thing. Narayana looked his usual self, but a little eager perhaps. It so happened that Rajanna was meeting Pandit that very evening as he had become quite friendly with him.

    Narayana went in, opened his ‘trunk’, opened a cloth cover and fished out a sheet of paper, folded it and put it in his pocket. Off they went walking to a well-appointed house in Gandhi Bazaar. They were ushered in and they chatted a while with Pandit. After sometime, Narayana gingerly took out the horoscope and gave it to Pandit.

    Pandit took a quick look at it, then a serious one and continued to chat with the two cousins. Finally he took out his books, sheets of paper for calculations, a few cowrie shells … all the paraphernalia of the profession.

    Finally he gave his considered opinion. Narayana was assured that the boy had a very bright future. He would do this and that and the other. But, in his middle teens, he would have some health problems and that he had to be a little careful, and a few other things. All the while, Rajanna was looking eagerly at the Pandit and Narayana. His face was impassive. But Rajanna did discern a slight sign of what he thought was a sense of happiness in Narayana’s face. With a look of relief and gratitude, Narayana took the horoscope back, folded it again and pocketed it.

    They two cousins brought the visit to an end and left the place after paying the customary fees.

    On the way back, Rajanna hesitantly asked Narayana, whose horoscope it was.

    Narayana replied, “It was Kamala’s horoscope. My dead daughter’s horoscope.”

    Note: This is a story from real life, from about fifty years ago. The name of the astrologer and the daughter are imaginary. The details of the rendering are my own.