I received impeccable service in Kolkata

He works for a pathology clinic. If you ring him up, he will come to your home to collect blood samples for the blood test that your doctor has prescribed.

I used to think Kolkata is not a place of work ethics. It felt like the only time when one can see an overflowing of dedicated work is during the Durga Puja, or in the beautiful artistic show-off world of the Kolkata Marwaris.

Recently I am came across an example of dedicated dependable yet understated service that is so inspiring.

He works for a pathology clinic. If you ring him up, he will come to your home to collect blood samples for the blood test that your doctor has prescribed. His name is Tapan. The charges for this at-home blood-collection service depends on which part of the city you are in. Where we stay, in Hastings at the banks of the river, it costs Rs. 250/- or so (in addition to the blood test charges itself). For Salt Lake, the rate is something like Rs. 500/- if I remember what Tapan Da told me right.

Tapan Da’s dependability is exemplary. My family has experienced it again and again. Say you ring him up on a Tuesday evening, his Wednesday schedule is full and he says he will come on Thursday morning at 9. Since he said so, he will be there on Thursday morning. You do not need to call him again.

This might seem like but-obvious for someone who lives in cultures where such dependable service is the norm. For a Kolkata service provider, this admirable. If I have come across one such person, I am sure there are other such examples in Kolkata too. Thanks to him, Kolkata is not a place of shoddy service in my eyes anymore. It is simply that some provide good service, some do not. It is possible to provide service at the level you want wherever you are.

If you call Tapan Da on a Saturday evening, requesting him to come on Sunday morning, often that works too. Four other people are also employed by this clinic for similar at-home service, but it seems Tapan is very popular. Once he starts going to a house, people prefer him to come, rather than any of the others. The routine act of drawing blood from a person’s vein is also a skill to mastered, else it is possible to rupture the vein and cause a blue arm that lasts for up to a month. At our place, he is the but-obvious go-to point for all blood test requirements. Seeing him come so often, my 7 year old niece was also able to overcome her fears and give her blood for testing. Yes, her brother had to sit beside her for moral support. 🙂

His ability to show up as promised is despite the fact that his day is often full with many visits scheduled across the city, which he fulfills zipping around on his motor bike. Unlike many at-home service providers who seem grimy, he presents himself in professional clean garb that feels respectable. Of course the sweat and grime of the city is not selective towards him. Nevertheless.

His service is a thing to be experienced. There is nothing flashy about it but I was impressed enough to write to you about it. For it quietly grows on you.

Happy Art Play Day

Recounting the experience of my first ever art stall …

Sing Together: painting
Sing Together

It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

It was a wonderful day. Truly a blessing for me. An experience of directly reaching out and connecting with so many people via art, via the art stall I put up at the Diwali Dhamaka (a fun fest) in Manipal this weekend. At the stall, I was selling some of my paintings and also had all the paraphernelia ready for people to come and make a painting themselves.

Time and again I am pulled back to the memories and snapshots of those facial expressions of so many people and it fills me with so much gratitude and a sense of fulfillment. I feel amazed: “connecting with people in such a way is possible?!” Well yes, it is possible. It happened girl.

There was this small girl, 6/8 yrs or so, beautiful face, enticing smile. She kept hovering around my stall. Someone asked me finally, “Is she your daughter?” I said, “No, she is my admirer.”, and her permanent sweet smile got even brighter broader. She had been waiting for me to finish painting the pizza box side that I would give her for free to use as a bookmark.


A young man – a pharmacy college student here at the university. He was so enamored. He stood there and pondered long at the wares I had available. When he finally sat down to paint one himself, he pondered over that for long, along with his lady friend. I quipped a bit with this guy with a tip, “don’t apply your head so much” and later shared another painting tip with him too late, “backgrounds first, water first, coconut tree later.” That he was having a go at it with childlike enthusiasm despite being very clueless about it was so fantastic. Most adults do not do that. I realized later, I should have been gentle with him as I was with the children, rather than mocking joking.

I learned first-hand from a boy the impact of holding the paintbrush from far even when painting on a tiny canvas – and his mother had whispered to me that he does not know painting!

A lady admired the art on display and spoke of how she loves painting, has tons of art material at home but can only do copies. That is a struggle I have seen many adults have. Their technique is great, they can make beautiful paintings, but only copies. I told her to go home today and let her hand move any which way it wanted. She seemed inspired by my suggestions and said so too. I hope she tries.

There were many many wonderful expressions and human connections, saved in my heart. Each one precious and beautiful. I want to share each one with you, but will come now to those boy’s eyes. It is that boy’s eyes. That is the main reason why I am writing this post.

A small boy, again, maybe 6 8 10 years old. In school uniform, wearing glasses. Probably the first child I have seen here wearing glasses here in Udupi-Manipal, for that feature stands out in my memory, apart from his eyes. There was something troubled about it, his eyes. He came again and again and admired the stall, asked me how I paint like this (to which I wish I had an answer that would have soothed him and brought a happy smile to his face).

Phoenix: painting

He came again and said “I have come to watch you paint.” I offered several times to him, “would you like to paint?”, he shook his head. After my nth asking, he said, “some other time.”. There was something very adult about the way he said “some other time”. It was sad.

He came again with his elder sister, a smartphone and a request expressed by his sister and not himself, even though he had been talking to me so far.

“He wants to take photos of the paintings.”

I said sure, and he took some photos of some, individually.

Whatever it was that was touching him so intensely, I hope and pray it finds self-expression.

That sounds like a sombre boy and encounter, but the whole day was a very happy art play day. Several dreams and wishes fulfilled: to sell my paintings, to share a “Art Play Place” with people, to earn some money after a hiatus of some 2.5 years.

Facebook status: feeling blessed. 🙂

Moon Shower: painting
Moon Shower

Art Stall Manipal 2014 Vani Murarka

Art: My First Observe Teacher (SAM Series)

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

Summary of previous post of the SAM Series: To do Science, Observe. That is the duty of the scientist. Problem statements and solutions follow from that.

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

We had to choose an additional subject in grades 9 and 10, in addition to all our regular subjects. The additional subject options were: Economics, Psychology, Art.
I chose Art.

Then on, for grades 11 and 12, we had to choose a stream: Science, Commerce or Humanities. While subjects were clearly specified for each of these streams, two options were offered for the Science stream:
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Biology
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art
I chose the latter: Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art.

The result: heaven for 4 years – grades 9-12.

There she goes again. Heaven? What does that have to do with Science?

Sorry sorry (garam kachauri). We are here to talk of Observe- the duty of the scientist, and my first observe teacher.

So, surprise of suprises! My art teacher taught me to observe.

Again and again, via his words, via the exercises he asked us to do, he gave us this message and hands-on training: to observe. It was there everywhere in our art classes. In those hours, we lived and breathed observe as an explicit action to be performed.

“When your parent buys fruits and vegetables and brings it home – pick it up, see it. Pick up the apple, turn it around, see it.”, he used to say.

Most of our drawing exercises consisted of “still life” or “nature study”. This meant drawing models sitting on the table in front of us. The model sitting on the table would be a vase, pot, bottle (still life) or simple arrangements of flowers, leaves, fruits, vegetables (nature study).

From blog: One hundred drawings

This was a science lab of a different kind. The lab apparatus: our eyes, pencil, paper and a thing to be observed.

So, on the one hand, in my Physics class I learned about light, optics and that mankind has identified two regions of shadows and named them “umbra” and “penumbra”. On the other hand, in my Art class, I directly experienced the impact of shadows. I experienced the combined effect of light and the curvature of objects. I learned to look out for and be aware of the predominant direction of light on my model. I experienced how light and shadows highlight form, depth and also the texture of surfaces.

Science classes talked of properties of materials. Their brittleness or malleability. How light interacts with materials via different refractive indices. Internal atomic structures. In my Art class, while drawing clay pots or glass bottles, I experienced these materials and their stark characteristics in a direct intimate way. Making a shaded sketch of objects of different materials can be a very fascinating experience. I did not learn of their atoms. However, when a person has to do a realistic large size drawing of a model, full pencil shading and all, she does end up penetrating that model and its behavior in a very real way. Add just one drop of water to the model, and she gets to learn and experience the impact of surface tension of liquids.

Flowers Pencil Sketch

In Biology class there was talk of compound leaves and other kinds of leaves (I’ve forgotten) and the count of petals on flowers. We tore the hibiscus apart and saw its tummy where new baby hibiscus eggs are laid. In Art class, we experienced those leaves and petals directly, touching it intimately all over with our eyes. To tune into leaves, petals, barks – their shape, texture, shades – has become a part of my being and years after those years it continues with me even now.

I could, if I am so inclined, write a P.G. Wodehouse series with a casting of all the quirky leaves and petals that are there out there.
I am not inclined. Typing on a keyboard while I keep my body inclined is tough. Right-angle works better. Inclined keyboards are fine though.

Art classes taught me to observe and gave me hours and hours of hands-on practice doing it. This learning via observing is so direct, experiential and intense, one does not forget it. One may forget technical scientific terms and concepts – refractive index, surface tension etc. that mankind has labeled nature and its dance with, but this experiential learning beyond words does not go away. The knowledge or experience garnered by observing is important, yes. The practice inculcated of observing itself is even more important.

It is only in the last few years that I am beginning to understand the many ways in which art impacts my life. All of them contributing in the scientific pursuit. I may visit some in future posts. Right now, only this –

Art was my first explicit observe teacher and an excellent one at that!

Thank you Mr. Mishra!

Drawing by Sir
Drawing by my art teacher for me, at the time of graduating from high-school.

Dear Reader, please give me feedback, share your thoughts – on the point made, the writing style, or whatever else catches your fancy (other than Nirvana inducing drugs). There are question marks blinking top-speed in my head: is it ok? is it good? is there another perspective? etc. etc. etc.

Observe. The Only Job of The Scientist.

I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. So how do I join Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

So Science is beautiful. It has the beauty of open-mindedness. It is beautiful in other ways too …

Ok ok. Cut out the preamble. I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. How do I join the Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

You are so sweet. Asking such nice questions!

What was the question again: How do I “do Science”?

Here is the answer: Observe.
girl observing
That is what you have to do, to do Science. Observe.
Just simply, observe.

That’s it? Really? What about Physics and Math? And Biology? I like Biology. And Chemistry? Don’t I have to do Chemistry?

Hmm… they are nice sorts. Physics, Math and all that. You are hereby granted permission to make friends with those guys. They indeed are nice sorts. Very good company to keep.

But to do Science, you must observe. No getting around that one. Its a big plain in-the-face secret about Science. People don’t say it in school or at college. We are friends. Sharing secrets is our way of cozying up. So here we are, in our pyjamas, away from admonishing voices asking us to go to sleep, we whisper in each others’ ears: To do Science, you must observe.

What about problem solving? Analysis? Strategic thinking? Deductions? Don’t I have to do any of those? And think? Don’t I have to “think”? That guy Descartes, he said “I think therefore I am”. That means if I do not think, I am not? If I don’t think, I won’t exist? That’s scary! I must analyze. I must think! Else, I won’t even exist! Forget about doing Science. I wanna exist. I must think!

Easy does it. Let’s not get pulled away by our own pant straps.

There was this other guy too. He was called Krishna. He said, “कर्म कर, फल की चिन्ता मत कर”.
Ya, that sounds greek. Not to worry. English translations are available.
Translation: Do your duty. Don’t worry about the results.
Book reference: Bhagavata Geeta.

Duty of the scientist: observe.
Results: problem statements, solutions, strategies, deductions …
One duty, so many results. How cool is that! But do not worry about the results. Don’t gun for the results directly. Observe.

If we gun for the results directly (as often people do), if we explicitly try to analyze, try to solve, chances are we will get all entangled in with our own two left feet, dancing a never-ending dance drama. That is not exactly the Science dance idea. Gunning for analysis, gunning for solving, chances are we will miss the target altogether! It will seem like we are doing something, but the actual solution will be sitting elsewhere, happily tapping its fingers on the table. Why? Because the thought in our mind was, “I must solve/analyze”, rather than, “I must observe”.

When we observe, the problem states itself (half the problem solved!), the solution emerges (yay!), the analysis self-happens (and you will get to strut and feel, I am a smart dude!), the deductions deduce. Plop! You shall find them all in your palms. Like mangoes. And then you can place the mango in front of the world: Here. This is the result I got. Tan-ta-dang!

(Btw, go ahead – eat some of the mango yourself. Mangoes are tasty.)

This is the way I see it. Krishna did not say this, so we’ll keep that dear innocent guy out of this. With me, you are welcome to disagree. (Btw, with Krishna too, you are welcome to disagree.)

We spoke about replicating results, right? What if there are no results? What do you replicate? You are the only scientist here. Everyone else has lost it. The world is looking up to you. She shall produce “results”! How do you get results? Bang. From scratch.

This is what I have to say. To do Science: observe.

That’s it. Its really simple. Anyone can do it. You, I, anyone. We can all be cool dudes.

Image credits:
Mama Smiles. Reliving Childhood.
Kids Gardening
Getty Images

Open-mindedness. The Beauty of Science. (SAM Series)

Very good question: What’s so great about Science?

Now frankly, “great” I don’t know – but there is this basic tenet of Science, and what emerges from that, is something beautiful.

तेरा हाथ पकड़ चलना है, ओ मेरे रखवारे
पथ आलोकित करते चलना, सत्‌ करुणा उर वारे

Here we are. Gathered around. Welcome to us. Welcome my friend, to the first post in the SAM series.

What did we say we shall talk about? Yes, Science.

What’s so great about Science? Why talk about it? Why not talk about what I am wearing right now? That is a nice idea isn’t it?

Maybe. But we said we will talk about Science, so we will.
(don’t whisper: “She’s already getting heavy handed”. I can hear you.)

And yes, very good question: What’s so great about Science?

Frankly, “great” I don’t know – but there is this basic tenet of Science, and what emerges from it, is something rather beautiful.

The need for replication of results

“The need for replication of results.” That is a basic tenet of Science.

Someone more authoritative might say: “the demand for reproducibility”.
That sounds a bit intimidating.
I propose we take a softer, gentler approach. Softer, gentler approach is good marketing strategy.

The need for replication of results means: If I can see what you say there is, if I can get the same results, I shall accept what you say. Otherwise, no, very sorry, with all due respect, I cannot accept what you say.

Now really, there isn’t such a big deal to this. Its plain common sense. This is the basis on which we all operate. Don’t we? Yes.

Actually, half-yes. This is the way we operate, but we want the other person to operate differently. We want him to simply accept what we say. At least kids better accept what we say! 🙂

Let’s expand this need for replication of results a bit further, to see how we can follow it. If we wish to.

1. I shall not believe you, unless I myself experience what you say. However, I shall give you a due ear. I shall try to replicate your results. If I am fully sure that I met all the conditions you laid down for the results, and I still do not experience what you say, I shall reject your claim.

2. If I do experience what you say, I shall accept that what I knew earlier was not fully correct. Instead of feeling bad about “being wrong”, I shall only feel gratitude that now I can see more.

Now can you smell something beautiful and fragrant? It is the beauty of open-mindedness. It is how we go forward together. Hand in hand.

Both these above tenets are worthy of being lived by, by every individual.

The Beauty of Open-mindedness.
The Beauty of Open-mindedness.


There are many fall-outs that fall out from these two tenets. Here are some.

  • It is good to ask a question.
  • Its ok to disagree.
  • Discussion is a good idea.
  • Believing blindly without checking out yourself, not such a good idea.
  • Scoffing at an idea, person, thing prematurely – not a good idea.
  • There is no need to “defend” your theory or stand.
  • The need for clarity of articulation.
  • The need to listen.
  • The awareness that I may be wrong.
  • Being wrong does not make a person stupid.

Science is a way of dancing. You know, like Bharatanatyam, Zumba and stuff. If you like Science, if you are afflicted by a teenage crush on it, then it is good to repeatedly check that you are on this track of these tenets. That you are dancing the Science dance.

Are we dancing the Science dance? Are we following these tenets? Or are we choosing to believe science blindly?

Image courtesy: Holiday Philippines Blog

new series: Science And Me (SAM)

Friends, I’ve decided to start a series on this blog called “Science And Me” (SAM in short).


Friends, I’ve decided to start a series on this blog called “Science And Me” (SAM in short).



Thing is, there are tons and tons of thoughts going round and round in my head. Oops!
Regarding Science. Oops oops!
Since years. High-school to be precise.

When tons and tons of thoughts go round in the head, the head gets heavy. When the head gets too heavy, then the chest gets heavy … 🙂

So, my attempt will be to take one single thought-sliver out of my head and place it on the table. Post by post. Like so –

Howz that for a diagram?

I think something constructive will come out of doing that.
1. It will clear my head and make it lighter (whew!)
2. Maybe there will be something more. For me. And for you too.

And who knows? We might find that there aren’t even tons and tons (of thoughts). Just a handful. I might find that it is their going round and round that made them feel “weighty” (and wise) 😉

So now this is not a post in that new series. There is nothing scientific about this one. (Except for the diagram).

Watch out next week for the first post.

Love you.

Chemistry girl image courtesy: Phillip Martin Clip Art

a painter’s thoughts

His style always intrigued me. One day I ended up sending an email of appreciation. An email conversation ensued. Roger Akesson, a Swedish painter, sharing his thoughts on how he approaches his art.

Sometimes when I have spent hours on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter looking for after-dinner entertainment and still do not feel satisfied, I turn to Daily Paintworks. There, I find the quiet soulful entertainment of looking at a handful of assorted paintings in a tastefully designed simple website.

As I visit Daily Paintworks often, I have started recognizing certain painters and their signature styles. One such painter is Roger Akesson. Here are some of his paintings that I like:

Flower Abstraction 71
Bird’s nest abstraction 38
Forest Exploration 12

This is the link to his website/blog.

I find his style intriguing. “What is the ‘logic’ behind his technique?”, I wondered. How does he figure out what brush strokes to put where? Click on the images and see their full-size versions – to enjoy them more and to get an idea of what I mean.

One day I ended up sending an email of appreciation to him. An email conversation ensued which I rather enjoyed. I felt like sharing it with you. So here we are, with Roger’s permission.

Me: I have always been a silent admirer of your unique style – with this Forest Exploration you have surpassed yourself many fold! Sending a basket full of appreciation your way …

Thank you for the basket and I am glad you like my artwork.
I aim to pursue my own style and it is so nice to get feedback like this.

“Forest exploration 12” isn’t perfect, none of my paintings are, and that is no goal in itself, but I like it a lot myself too. I try to push my limits, learn and grow as an artist. Thanks again.

Me: I have always wondered – just how do you know that you can put a stroke here or there and still not mess with the basic subject. Even with your simpler ones like of a flower. Of course it is a language that you have developed. 🙂

All my artwork is a process that I do mess up at times, the key is to know when to stop and to balance different sizes of brush strokes, different kind of brush strokes.
I go with the flow and instinct, trying to see what the painting need, what I want with it etc.
I do want my paintings to give impact, just “being” is not good enough.

I think my way of painting is a way to enhance the object, make it pop, stand out, but as you say, it is a language I have developed. =)
I go more or less abstract and more or less impact (full effect or work with depth), the fun part is the process, it is a journey.

I hope I did make some sense! =)

Yes you did make sense. 🙂

“to balance different sizes of brush strokes”
aah nice!

“I think my way of painting is a way to enhance the object, make it pop, stand out”
yes, it does have that effect.

What you said: “the fun part is the process, it is a journey” is so true. The journey of every painting, everything that an artist goes through, is a thing which remains with the artist alone. People just get the end result. None of the richness of that journey. Though of course the painting starts a whole new journey with its audience because the way each person receives it, is that person’s very own.

Yes, it is a fun journey (sometimes frustrating though), and I hope that I can surprise on some level. Artists that are too predictable and I am sure they know how the painting will look like all the way, is not my cup of tea. What is the point?

I stay true to my style of painting, but try to mix things up, not getting caught up in ways to do things. Keep it fresh!

Thanks. It is very helpful and encouraging to know that you approach your painting in this manner – keeping the destination loose, not tightly defined.

But please tell me – did you first teach yourself how to paint in the more traditional nice correct manner before journeying with painting in this manner? I hear many a times about the arts (be it painting, music, poetry whatever) – learn the system and rigor first – learn to do it “right” first – learn the rules, then you can break them. Did you take that route?

I don’t think that one have to learn classical painting today, but there is things that you have to show/learn, composition, values, colors, shapes, proportions etc.
I did have some basic training/education when I was in my twenties (2 year art school), but I think I wasn’t mature enough to take advantage of that time. After that I didn’t pursue art, had some short artistic periods with long time between (up to several years). I produced paintings, didn’t create or pushed my limits. I knew what a painting would look like before I started.

Three years ago I took a decision to give art a real chance, and I have pushed and learned a lot during this time. I don’t think I have ever wanted to paint realism. I think one shall be true to ones character and use it in ones art. To stand out one has to be unique, to be able to add something to the conversation.

I don’t know all the rules, but I think I can tell if something works or not, but it is also a matter of taste, right?

Thank you so so much for sharing your journey and thoughts with me so beautifully. I really enjoyed reading it and felt very grateful for the conversation and connection and all that you have shared with me in the process.

Thank you once again Roger, for sharing your perspective so beautifully.

the story of a hug

In Boston a few years back, I was spending Thanksgiving Break with the a beautiful friend of mine. …

In Boston a few years back, I was spending Thanksgiving Break with the a beautiful friend of mine. Isn’t it amazing how all my friends are so beautiful? It really is (amazing). A beautiful good fortune of mine. Talking of good fortunes, here’s another one: my friend took me along to an eclectic Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

Yes, the evening was eclectic. The food spread and the people spread. Much like world music where the beats of Africa mingle with Jazz mingle with strands of Indian Classical mingle with the song of the Chinese Moon mingle with the sounds from Scandinavia … You get the picture.

Having filled my plate, I was sitting at the corner of a large table, having dinner with lots of lovely people. There was a man sitting at the other edge of the same corner. I did not know anyone there. Ditto was his case. So we shared a conversation as we ate.

He was not fluent with his English and I do not remember which country he was from. Ukraine maybe? I don’t know. Soon in the conversation it emerged that he is out of work and in a financially uncertain state. The worry, tension, loneliness he was going through was clearly apparent. It was not there in his facial expression, nor explicitly there in his voice, but it was there. Being a foreigner in USA myself, it was easy to feel. The combination of being a foreigner in USA and work being a question mark, results in tension hanging over the head like holly all the time. Or is it mistletoe?

While he shared his data, (where from, doing what), and I shared mine, what was apparent from his face was actually only gratitude. He was glad someone was talking to him and talking so nicely. He said so too. I have often received this gratitude when talking normally and humanly to people who are feeling unsure about their English. I have experienced it in conversations in India too.

In his effort to express that gratitude, the way he was looking at me, smiling at me – frankly it became somewhat discomforting. I looked away and tried to interest myself in the conversations at the rest of the table. But I knew fully well that he was not trying to flirt with me. It is just that when we are culturally somewhat misplaced, we end up behaving and expressing ourselves at times in a manner that seems awkward to the other person. I did return to him too, time to time.

Soon people had eaten up their food and everyone was standing around in the hall, at the gate to part, wishing each other goodbye, thanking each other for the evening. That man came out and gave a big hug to one of the hosts of the evening (much to the alarm of the man receiving the hug!).

I piled into the car with my friend, the host who had been hugged and a few others. Comments were laughingly exchanged about how craaazy, wierrrd that person was, who had hugged. What was he trying to do?!

I did not say anything.

I wish I had –
That man was very very scared. And he was lonely. Maybe he was filled with the dread of having to go back to spending time with his worries alone, as he was about to step out of the gathering. And he was grateful. Very grateful, for the oasis of togetherness that the evening had given him, in the desert of his loneliness. That is what he was conveying via his hug.

And I wanted to say –
It is perfectly ok, and natural, and human, (and wise) for a man to hug. There is absolutely nothing wierd about a man who hugs goodbye.

And it is perfectly ok, and natural, and human for a man to feel really really scared.

I am grateful that despite being alarmed the host received the hug gracefully.

a sweet encounter

The normal thing would be for him to come and go unnoticed, unacknowledged. This time I happened to be around, so I greeted him. …

The man who reads the electricity consumption meter came. The normal thing would be for him to come and go unnoticed, unacknowledged. This time I happened to be around, so I greeted him.

He was carrying a credit-card swiping kind of device in which he keyed in the meter reading. He then pressed a button and a print out of the consumption bill for previous month tongued out. I got quite impressed (and excited) to see such nifty technology deployed out here. Sometimes I am like that – getting excited at seemingly normal stuff.

No issue of mailing the bill to customer addresses. These devices get loaded with the bill data when the processing is done at the office and the new reading recorded in the device is downloaded to the servers when these people go back to the office.

So, (since I was excited), I asked the man if I could take a picture of his with the device giving out the bill. He said yes, but seemed hesitant. I took 2 pics of his. He looked even more hesitant and asked where I will put it. Will I put it in the newspaper? I said, “Oh no! I will put it on the internet. If you are uncomfortable about it, I will not”.

He shared with me his reason for being hesitant. I understood and said, “Oh ok. Then I won’t put it”.

“You can take a snap of mine when I come next month and put that one”, he said. We agreed on that and he left.

The Electricity Meter Reading Man

5 minutes later, he was back. “Madam, madam!”. I went out. He: “I will come tomorrow itself. I have some work here, you can take my snap tomorrow.” Amused at his eagerness, I smiled and said, “Ok, sure”.

Next day, there he was. All ready for the photo shoot. I took 2 photos. He wanted to know if he can see it on another computer after it is published. I said yes. He asked for the address. I said it will be generated only after I publish it. So we parted upon the agreement that he will get to see it next time he comes.

My momentary appreciation of the technology deployed had predictably worn off in a few minutes itself. However, it was just so sweet and endearing – his eagerness to fulfill my request and to see his photo published. He was eager yes, but there was a decorum about him. No expression of excitement.

So, I just have to share his photo with you – and I happily await sharing it with him next month.

Sweet simple human encounters. Simple connections to be grateful for.

Thank you for the ability to read

There have been many many times when I have explicitly (though silently) felt very thankful that I know how to read and write.

There have been many many times when I have explicitly (though silently) felt very thankful to my parents that I know how to read and write. Well let me say it now, before I move ahead –

Mummy, Papa, thank you very very much for providing me a (very) good basic school education. Mummy, thank you for those repeated visits to so many schools, trying to get me admitted mid-term, despite having to listen to the frustrated (almost insulting) responses of many principals. Thank you for the fact that despite the need to have me admitted to a school, you did not compromise on the basic quality, environment and values that the school exhibited via its teachers’ behaviors and other organizational practices. So when I was admitted, you took me out with no hesitation and no delay, when these basic standards were found to be lacking, despite the fact that it just further lengthened my at-home no-school status. Papa, thank you for providing the financial means for the sustained education. And of course, thank you to both of you for all the other regular logistic and every other kind of task that is required to keep the machinery running for the child to go to school everyday. I repeat, I have many many times felt very thankful and grateful that I know how to read and write, and each time, I have felt very thankful to you Mummy and Papa, for that.

And now, thank you to graduate school. For further teaching me how to read. Today I experienced the sublime pleasure of that “more advanced” level of reading. Right through the time while I was reading what I was reading, I was feeling thankful to graduate school. For even while I was enjoying what I was reading, a parallel thought and knowing was that this is being made possible due to having indirectly learned “how to read” in graduate school. A bit during masters and more during the two years of discontinued PhD.

Thank you. With my arms mentally raised to some unknown un-named undetermined force: Thank you for giving me the ability to read.