Short Selling

“I don’t know much.  I’m just a housewife. I’m a mother. I haven’t done anything but cook, clean and take care of you and yours.

I have zero talent.”

And went conversation.

The never ending conversation remained the same. Endless, meaningless talks with no one to argue against her.

Her children had settled down. Her husband had taken up a part-time job as a consultant to beat the monotony of watching endless news debates, empty walls and silence.

She went on long walks in the evening. She opened her mouth to talk to her husband of oh-so-many years but she had lost track and touch with what made them special.

Her kids had moved on to busy lives of their own. A call, a message, a whatsapp forward – their endeth the conversation.

Young couples in the apartment they stayed in looked at the couple with envy and a sigh. Ah, companionship. If we get to that stage of life with a beatific smile. We have arrived they thought.

She was that sprightly 50+ lady, vivacious, gracious and zestful.

If only they knew.

The loneliness.

The lack of self worth.

She opened a tattered cardboard box and pulled out earrings she had made from shards of glass. They glimmered in the sunlight throwing multi-colored diamonds on the wall.

She pulled out the little trinket she had made for her daughter and smiled. Her daughter had worn it for a week before discarding it for another trinket she had created.

The doorbell rang.

“Hello Aunty, we are having a yard sale. Do you have anything you would want to give us? ” smiled the 18-year old girl and her friend from next door.

She turned around and saw the box with all the earrings, trinkets, bracelets and other accouterments she had made over the years. She invited them inside and sat down looking at the box. Abruptly she gathered the scattered items and stuffed them into the box, silently handing it over to the girl. The earring fell out which the girl picked up in wonder.

“Oh my God Aunty. Did you make this? Could you tell us how? Do you have more of them?”

She smiled and nodded her head.

“No beta, these are very old. I made it for my daughters but it doesn’t hold any value now.”

The girl stared at her friend, thanked her and left.

She sighed.

Another part of her had been cut away.

She began to tidy up and begin preparations for the evening dinner. Not that they ate much now. A simple repast of roti and sabzi with some salad was all that was needed. Yet, she found comfort in the ritual of kneading the dough and rolling out the rotis to put them on the tava and watch each roti fluff. How her daughters would gaze in wonder as they saw the roti fluff over the stove. “How do you do it Maa? You must teach us too.”

The doorbell rang. She was surprised. Her husband never came back this early.

She washed her hands and scampered towards the door wiping her hands on the kitchen towel.

She switched on the  lights and peered out of the window. It was the girl next door with someone.

She opened the door and looked inquiringly, “Yes beta?”

“Aunty, this is my friend. He has a boutique and an online store that specialises in handicrafts. I showed him all the trinkets you gave us for the yard sale. He wanted to speak with you.”

“Hello Aunty. I’m delighted to meet you. When I saw the trinkets I knew I had to meet the lady who made it. You wouldn’t believe me but there is a huge demand for products like this, especially among the younger generation.”

She looked on in disbelief before saying, “But beta…..”

“I understand Aunty. You must be busy with all the housework. We can look at small orders at first, and then when you are comfortable you can start sending us more volumes. I would also like you to meet two NGOs we support to teach this craft to the women who come there. If all this sounds too much, we can take it a step at a time. But please, please say yes.”

“I have no talent you know,” she began but the girl and her friend took her hand in their own, and smiled.

Stronger and Higher

So this is what my book shelf looks like right now:

IMG_0931

I’m devouring books with demoniacal intensity and surprisingly, there is so much more for me to understand and assimilate. I’m not a know-it-all after all.

Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto and Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, for instance, reminded me of my rookie days when I was a cub reporter assigned to any assignment or beat cast away by the primadonas and dons. I had this checklist pasted on my cubicle with a list of rules that went something like:

  1. Don’t ask people for their sun signs at a press conference
  2. Always check names, dates and numbers
  3. Do not get personal
  4. Trust your instinct on what makes a good story

Needless to say I became a good reporter but a working drone #7777, and if any of you have read the Linked In post you know what I mean, else just read it and the comments as well.

Blink especially kicks in at a more subliminal level. Strewn with great examples Gladwell makes a case for intuition or ‘thin slicing’. Remember the times when you met a stranger at a party and knew within a few minutes of conversation that you have a connection or found yourself in a situation and knew something was off, perhaps sensed danger lurking.

And much before all the DIY books on what’s makes a great leader the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan had already cracked the code, and quite literally too.

I’m not one for historical fiction or history either (my college grades testify this) but Conn Igulden has me hooked with his Conqueror series.

Genghis united his tribes with a sense of purpose and then diffused the decision making authority to his trusted generals with at times catastrophic results, to his enemies that is. Again, this strategy is reflected in Blink where Gladwell gives a terrific example of a US Military War game that had the leader of the winning side set goals and the end result but give subordinates with a free hand to define and implement strategems that took them to the end goal.

After the Devotion of Suspect X comes the Salvation of a Saint and though the climax is not as gripping as the first book Keigo Higashino does a bang-up job of showing how poetic crime fiction prose can be. Lucid, it has all the symphony of a Zen garden orchestra.

And the book that got me started with this binge reading is Amitav Ghosh‘s The Hungry Tide. My fascination with the Sunderbans is greater now and I just hope to make that trip early next year.

Moral: You can Stay Stronger and Climb Higher, just read a book a day!!

Credits: Bambubhai Batliwala and a 60% discount on Flipkart 😉