Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Sudoku

After putting off familiarizing myself with Sudoku for months I finally tried my hand at solving a few puzzles last weekend and just reconfirmed my initial suspicions regarding the puzzle that has taken over the civilized world lately. It's way too trivial to be worth my while. I tried a couple of the so called "hard" ones and went through the numbers like a flash. It just seemed too obvious and easy for me. If that is the best this puzzle can offer I dread to think what the easy ones must be like.

I've watched hundreds and thousands of men and women on the train pouring over the daily Sudoku in the newspaper having fun solving it. And Sudoku was everywhere. They had it in the newspaper, they had books dedicated entirely to these puzzles, you could download it on your laptop, you could print it out from the internet....people commute with sheafs of Sudoku in their bags, they go over it while they are waiting for their train, they go over it while they are in the train, even when they are standing. And I am convinced they do Sudoku even when they are in bed! And I've always wondered what is it about Sudoku that is so addictive, so gratifying, so unputdownable (my apologies to The Telegraph).

And now I know. It is the relative ease of the puzzle, the challenge that can be overcome that brings these poor souls to Sudoku. I mean how many people do you know who can solve crossword puzzles with ease? Not that many. Because you need to have some kind of knowledge base to be able to succeed in that. But not with Sudoku. It is the perfect ego-satisfying game. One where you think you are being challenged and one where you can meet the challenge and emerge victorious. And that makes people feel good. And it doesn't take that long to solve the puzzle either. It is a perfect time-pass for the short commute on the train. It keeps one busy, it gives one a challenge and it rewards with gratification.

And that is something that I do not find stimulating. If everyone on God's green earth can Sudoku then it is an insult to my intelligence to spend time doing something that trivial. Give me something else......give me the Mensa challenge. I know I sound like some egoistical bastard. But I have a problem boosting my ego solving a problem that can be done by anyone and everyone. That to me ceases to be a challenge. The only ego boost that I get is when I see myself doing something that most people fail to do, something different, something difficult, something that sets me apart. There was something that Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Shesher Kobita that echoes what I am trying to say here. I do not want to be someone in a crowd, I want to be the one, separate and different than the rest. That is my Sudoku.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Cousin PR

I just spoke to my aunt B this morning and she asked me to find a nice girl for my cousin PR because it seems he really wants to settle down in life and get married. What really amazes me is the fact that PR has so far been unsuccessful in finding a girl to marry him. He's reasonably good looking with the cutest dimples that I always envied when we were kids. He works out a lot and has a great physique. So he's not the tallest guy I've met, but what do you expect when most men in my family have an average height of 5' 6"! So he did not end up doing a lot of higher studies unlike most of my other cousins, but he graduated alright and is making a decent living for himself. He has a flat, a car, a job and I'm assuming some money (don't I sound really materialistic?) ......he has a nice personality from the little I remember of him from our growing up years. And yet, he still does not have a girlfriend? Am I missing something here? Come on, every Tom, Dick and Harry in Calcutta has a girlfriend even before they land up in college. Okay, so PR did not do his school or college in Calcutta, or India for that matter. But he has spent the last six or seven years in Calcutta finding himself a job, working hard at it, doing pretty well and interacting with a whole lot of people. And yet he did not find a girlfriend!

From what I remember of PR he was a really sweet guy. Girls adored his American drawl and his cute accented bangla. He was funny and he was very affectionate. He used to flirt around with Bubs, a very close friend of mine who unfortunately for PR had a boyfriend and and things never went any further. I kind of lost touch with PR over the years and have seen him only twice in the last ten years or so. And I honestly believe PR is the kind of person a lot of girls would like to be with, yet he would have a hard time getting someone to marry him. And it's probably because of my aunt B. Aunt B is the biggest influence in PR's life and he adores her. And as much as aunt B is a wonderful, passionate, determined, aggressive, intelligent and loving woman, her colorful and mystical lifestyle has made and broken PR's life in ways that cannot be fathomed.

Aunt B separated from her husband and got a divorce when PR was only 4 years old. As a mother she got custody and PR stayed on with her. She met someone a year later and remarried only to find out that this guy was a jerk, a sick man who was an alcoholic and physically abused both mother and son. Aunt B left her second husband and tried making a living for herself and PR for the next few years. When PR was in his early teens Aunt B returned to her home in India to re-build her life the way she saw fit. She married again. PR could not adjust to the life in India and went to live with his Dad in the States. He finished school and college and decided to move in with his mother who by that time was divorced and living by herself. PR struggled to adjust to the life in India and sheer determination and a fierce love for his mother saw him through everything. He found a job and worked hard to make a living for himself and his mother. He stood by his Mom inspite of every little pressure that our middle class Indian society thrusts upon a woman who's been divorced a number of times and yet strives to make her place in the world. He stood by her while she battled cancer and survived. He loved and protected her with all the passion he was capable of. And now at a time when he would like to settle down and live his own life society thinks twice before letting him find a bride. Probably because he carries the stigma of his mother's personal life. Probably because he is the fruit of a loveless marriage, a broken family, disruptive childhood, abuse and mental torture. Nobody will ever know what PR's childhood was like......how he felt, what he went through, and why he became the person he is today. I give him a lot of credit for turning out to be such a decent person, someone with so much love in his heart, someone who made something out of his broken up life. I would not have been surprised if given the circumstances that PR was growing up in, had he turned to drugs or anti-social activities. Yet he emerged a survivor. And I admire him for that.

And I would like to find PR a nice girl. Someone who would understand him and where he is coming from. Someone who would understand his love for his mother. Someone who would understand and accept aunt B for what she is. Someone who would love him and give him the love he so deserves.

I have no idea where to find her.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Random thoughts on a can't-wait-to-go-home friday afternoon

Have you noticed how some people have this really peculiar and irritating way of saying "uh-huh" after everything you say? Sing-songy and nerve-rackingly bothersome. I hate it.

And where are all the blogs that I read disappearing to? Is this some kind of conspiracy to leave me out? I'm tired of seeing:

The requested URL was not found on this server. Please visit the Blogger homepage or the Blogger Knowledge Base for further assistance.

What the....!


Friday, January 13, 2006

Being human

I gave up my seat to a blind man on the train this morning. You may be wondering what the big deal is about and I sincerely hope that you are wondering, because that would say that we are thinking along similar lines here.

You see I've been noticing a really strange trend in people these days. Most people on the street seem to have lost all sense of compassion and humanity, assuming there was some to start with in the first place. For example this morning on the train which was fairly crowded considering the morning rush hour, I see a blind person board the car that I was in. Now every car has these priority seats for seniors and persons with disabilities. The blind guy heads for the priority seat which of course was occupied by regular morning commuters. Meanwhile I am sitting a few seats away expecting one of the guys to jump up and offer this man his seat. And strangely neither one of them got up. One of them turned his face away and pretended to be unaware that this guy standing in front of him is disabled while the other one closed his eyes and continued listening to music on his iPod. And all the other people in around this person either look away or keep staring and do nothing. Now all of this happened in a few seconds but to me it seemed to stretch out for an eternity without anyone moving a muscle to help this poor guy. Now I jump up and go to this person and tell him that there's a seat for him at the back and guide him to where I had been sitting a few minutes back. This guy thanks me and I get a few stares from people around me and that was it.....life chugs on.

The whole incident was probably trivial and no one is going to remember it, yet it left such an impression on me. I've been taking the train during rush hour every morning and evening and have given up my seat countless times to seniors, pregnant ladies and once to a girl with a plaster on her feet and walking on a crutch. Yet, never did I see anyone else jumping up and offering his/ her seat. I don't even see the hesitation or a look of concern or something that says that this person is contemplating offering his seat to someone who may need it more. And I ask myself what is wrong with these people? Are they blind or without a heart or simply so selfish that all they care about is the warm seat that they are occupying and cannot think beyond their own needs? And then there are these people who are crowding near the door so that they can get off the train at their stop to rush up the escalator before the others. And they stand near the door many stations ahead of theirs, simply to make sure that they are the first ones to get off. They do not care if others have trouble getting in or out, they do not care that if they crowd the doorway other people have trouble getting into the center of the car which of course is relatively less crowded. They will push and trample over your feet and still be unapologetic in their urgency to get out before anyone else does. And agreed everyone is in a rush to get home and everyone has other things to do but that does not give one the reason to be selfish and so unconcerned about their fellow-passengers. It just amazes me that I see more and more of these people than the ones who show a little concern for others. And it makes me sick.

Are we really so caught up in our own world, so stressed out with life's challenges and so very preoccupied with our own needs that we fail to appreciate the niceties of human nature? That I see this attitude on a daily basis really breaks my heart, makes me lose faith in humanity.

And please when you read this don't say things like "you did a good thing this morning". Please don't. There was nothing "good" about it and I do not deserve applause for doing something that was the only right thing to do. I am not exceptional when I say I have compassion, I feel and I care. I am only human. And hopefully what a normal human should be like. And I only pray to God that may there never be a time and place when I am so blinded with my own needs that I forget to be what I am. Human. So next time you are on a train or a bus look around you and see if there is anyone else who may need the seat that you are in and please don't look away and pretend that you do not notice. Do something right. Live a little better.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

To clean or not to

I believe that I'm turning into a clean-freak. It is something that I've been noticing in myself lately. Everything around me has to be spotless, organized and clean. Last week with my house brimming with family I was constantly cleaning up after people......I ran the laundry every single day.....I cleaned and vacuumed and tidied up given half a chance. And trust me with little kids running around and throwing food everywhere it was not easy. You see lately we've have been keeping the house spotless and to see rice strewn across the dining room rug or spilled curry on the table cloth or coffee stains on the kitchen counter or toys laid out strategically at the bottom of the stairs is well....disturbing. My counter tops have to be gleaming, spotless......my floors clean and sparkling.....my rugs smelling fresh and clean.....everything needs to be in the right place or else we call it "clutter". You get my point, right? I know what you are thinking and trust me, I am thinking the exact same thing. This reaction is not normal. Some folks may call it OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but honestly it's not that bad. Yet.

And I blame it all on B because he is the one who started it and considering the kind of influence he has on me this freaky cleanliness is creeping onto me quite steadily. You see, I was so unlike this. When I was living with my parents my room was the only eye-sore in the entire house. My parents are both neat and clean people. They believe in keeping the house spotless too. Both of them. Usually the women in the house are the ones who are tidying up and keeping things clean. But in our house even my Dad would do his share. He would clean up after he used the bathroom, wipe off all the water from the faucet after his morning shower to prevent water marks and stains. I used to complain that our house did not feel like a home because it was too clean, too nice, more like a model home. It did not have a lived-in look or feel to it. In contrast my room had books all over the place, clothes hanging across the back of my chair, stuff everywhere. That was me. And that is what made me comfortable.

And now, this is me. The very same person who enjoyed disorder and chaos to give a place the lived-in feel. Now she freaks out when things are not in order. I can't believe this is happening to me. OCD? Nooooooo. I don't wash my hands compulsively. I don't check the lock on the door a million times each night. I'm still normal, right?

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