This happened in November end.
Padma and I were at Tirunelveli Station (an important town in Tamil Nadu, India). We were returning after brief rendezvous with several deities across few temples. It was a working day and hence the temples were not crowded. Purchase of Tirunelveli Halwa (a delicacy known only to discerning sweet lovers) took some time and we had only twenty five minutes to spare for the train to leave. The local railway canteen seemed acceptable to have a meal and we trudged to the other end of the platform to buy food parcel and get into our compartment.
I scanned the list pasted on the compartment twice and did not find our names. I had checked the ticket thrice and was sure the date, the compartment and seat number were right. Then I had a sinking feeling- did I check the month? I verified and found that I had purchased the ticket for the right date and the wrong month (29th December instead of 29th November).
The train was empty. So I rushed to the ticket counter (again at the other end of platform where the canteen was) and purchased two unreserved tickets (running tickets colloquially) and flashed an Rs.2000 note. The tickets were around Rs.200 and I got Rs.1800 back. Luck seemed to be in my favour.
Padma was waiting anxiously wondering how many times does she have to endure similar mishaps during journey ( twice in the past few years I overlooked the departure time of the flight and had to rush to catch the flight). We had four minutes to spare before the train left. I walked and did not run (lacked strength to do so) adding to her anxiety. We got in, spoke to the Ticket Checker, got our seats allotted – all before the engine blew the whistle to leave.
I will remember 2016- among other things- for this incident as Padma and I became entitled and availed the senior citizen benefit for the first time and how we availed it. Air tickets also provide this benefit in a sporadic manner (marginal discount for astronomically priced tickets and none for others).
Our mind, like our vision, can at times be myopic. We tend to forget or erase some of the files in our mental hard disk. I wondered what was uppermost in my mind a year back.
The first was the expected arrival of a new member of our family.
Among the rest, the uppermost was the exit from employment and its consequences. Was I prepared for the life post retirement? I do not think so. It is one thing to know that the shower would jet out cold water on a winter morning and another thing to experience its chillness. Body may accept, but the mind rebels.
Some interesting events stick in my mind. We had gone to an exhibition selling various knick knacks. There was a stall for handwriting analysis (Graphology). A young lady was sitting there charging Rs. 350 for this expertise. I wrote down a few sentences of her choice- it contained all the alphabets it seems. Surprisingly, her analysis was reasonably correct. I had done this earlier some years back and found the analysis at that time also to be good.
Facebook, though seemingly meant for young or younger generation, actually seems to be favoured more by older generation. I am a recent convert and go through it regularly. I get to meet many individuals whom we would otherwise never know. The added feature of photographs makes it livelier. I regularly display some of my photographs – mostly of nature- in it and get some compliments. The telephone camera (21 megapixels) has largely contributed to the quality of photos.
A friend who was gifted a DSLR (an advanced kind of camera) by his daughter; learnt photography formally and now takes impressive photos of birds in flight and animals staring intently at the camera. I am now persuaded that my latent skills will bloom if I learn formally and I will join Raghu Rai’s (a famous photographer) league within the next two re-births.
In pursuit of this goal, I bought an entry level DSLR, helped generously by Amazon in seemingly giving a generous festival discount. It has two separate lens and complex instructions to take simple photographs. Taking a routine photo is made intimidating and I now understood when my friend said he kept his DSLR in locker for some months till his daughter compelled him to learn to use it.
I went to the manufacturer’s free lessons conducted by a fashion photographer and now have a better understanding of my level of ignorance. I packed the camera more carefully now and have stored it safely. I will go to the photographer from whom my friend has learnt this skill and then use the camera.
What will I do with the photos taken thereafter? Of course, I will selectively put it in Facebook. If they display a higher level of skill, then I will see how to give them wider exposure.
I started to learn swimming in August. I am now able to swim without any support. It only means that I am somehow able to go one side of the pool to another. I see others of varying ages- from 7 to 75 – gliding in water with powerful strokes. The hands dip and rise gracefully propelling the individual forward effortlessly. I look at them with admiration and try to emulate them – with no great results. Swimming requires coordinated efforts from the entire body. When I focus on legs, the hands become indolent and vice versa. When I determinedly put it all together, somehow I swallow water which irritates the throat. I then revert back to what I am able to do. I decide – one thing at a time.
There is no annual KPA (Key Performance Areas- relevant for annual appraisal) now. I can decide what my goal should be, how much time I should devote or take and how I would achieve it. But still old habits die hard. So I try to improve my performance to the extent the mind pushes the rather tired body, to swim more effectively.
The teaching assignment at NMIMS is a new experience. I need to express in an interesting manner the information and knowledge gained over a long period, to a group of young students. I have found that there is a gap of varying sizes between my brain and tongue. How do I make a subject, which the students have never studied and may perhaps never use later, look “awesome”? It is like learning to drive in dense traffic. The results obviously would be similar. My efforts to enhance interest would continue.
Event wise, two stand out. The first is de-monetisation. It caused and continues to cause some level of inconvenience. Some ATMs are closed from November 9th onwards.I do not understand why a watchman should sit outside a dead ATM. The bank can pull down the shutter as ATM is not going to open in foreseeable future.
Seeing photos of piles of black money in new and old currency angers many of us. But seeing the plight of genuinely helpless individuals placed in less comfortable circumstances in far off places causes consternation. As an individual, it is hard to understand what this action could mean to the country’s economy- as I had only two question papers on economics in B.Com and the lessons learnt were forgotten promptly.
I hope something good comes out of all this pain- beyond getting vegetables and fruits at good prices now.
The next is the fight (called childish in some reports) between Shri Ratan Tata and Shri Cyrus Mistry. As a former employee of Tata Steel and having worked in circumstances where I have seen both individuals in action, this fight is painful at an almost personal level. There is also a professional interest in how the legal and practical aspect would turn out.
In many ways, it is a reflection of why India is lagging behind. It is not lack of opportunities, it is not using them effectively or frittering away each opportunity; which makes us lag behind much smaller countries like South Korea or Japan. One word to describe it would be- sad.
What do I want to do in 2017?
I have mentioned some of them. First is to complete successfully my teaching assignment. How to measure success? The feedback from the students should be the prime criteria. The second would be my own hopefully honest self- assessment.
The second would be to learn photography and put it to good use. I love photography. It is an act of creation. Another human being is compelled to look at a slice of the world through your (lens’) eyes. Photograph emphasises certain aspect of an object- live or inanimate- and in today’s digital world, immortalises them.
The next is to learn graphology- handwriting analysis. It is more out of curiosity rather than of any practical application. After all, no one writes regularly by hand today. But still, it gives a peep into another individual’s brain and heart. There are formal classes held over weekends.
I want to learn to read my mother tongue Tamil. Yes- I do not know to read Tamil, despite loving the language in an obvious manner. I only know to speak it and read it enough to know the destination in buses and train, cinema posters and so on but the rich literature this oldest or very old language is beyond my reach now. I want to remedy this. I will seek Padma’s assistance for this effort.
I should see at least two new places in 2017. There are so many beautiful and interesting locations within India itself which many of us have not visited. Planning for these visits would be as interesting as the visit itself.
The most memorable aspect of 2016 is that I have gained a new friend. She smiles at me when she sees me in the morning. The smile starts from her eyes and travels to the lips. When I return from swimming, she stops what she is doing and wants to play with me. She sits on my arms as though I am the throne she wants to sit on and see the world. She drives me to take her to places within our house and outside that she wants to see. She smiles at the Gods in photos as though she knows them well.
She is my grand- daughter Aadya born in 2016. Just as creation of a human being is a wonder presented to us by God, the growth of a baby is equally wonderful. Each first step they take in life is fascinating. Being at home gives more time and opportunity to watch this growth which is almost imperceptible.
I love number 7. So I expect 2017 to bring good tidings to all of us.
Best wishes and happy new year to all .