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Archive for November, 2009

Woes befall us, if our iPod headphone gives the tiniest crackle, or gas prices go up a few cents.  We cannot do without an afternoon of internet disruption.  How can we get less affected by recession and other external environmental crests and troughs? A small jolt hurts us so bad.  It seems the more we depend on money and materialistic stuff, the more we get tethered to them firmly.  Our happiness solely depends on …well…stuff…

National Geographic carries a story about the Hadza tribe in Tanzania. They have no personal possessions, don’t grow crops, have no sense of time or calendars. They live by the day, hunt, eat and live happily and healthily. No change from 10,000 years ago.  Has the recession affected them?  While we hum and haw about layoffs and pay cuts, the Hadza are busy hunting for the night’s meal, nothing’s changed.

Gandhi did 2 things to live happily and create a revolution– he gave up materialistic possessions and started walking.  He became a vegetarian in his teens.  He got his power of conviction and inner strength from these sacrifices.  He lived life simple.  Remember, Gandhi took up walking and with his Dandi march started the Quit India movement that led to the end of the British rule in India.  He died a private man without wealth, without property, without official title or office.  Millions came to his funeral procession.

A recent editorial in Forbes or Fortune magazine said that the economy is not in anyone’s control anyway, take up walking and “walk” out of the economic recession.  The editorial recommended that Tim Geithner start walking since he cannot do much anyway to walk the economy out of recession.  Not much is in his control.  Not a bad idea.  After all Einstein discovered gravity probably while walking and resting under an apple tree….  Walking would probably give our economic gurus some new ideas to stir up the economy!

Walking stimulates the brain, generates ideas, reduces costs and helps keep the environment green and reduces the terrible dependency on oil.  I found a nice site http://www.walkscore.com that gives you a measure of Walkability of any city. I typed in Shrewsbury, MA, where I live. It is not so great at 51/100.  That means I need to drive to buy any groceries or have a cup of coffee.  There is not even a pedestrian crossing to cross the state highway at the traffic lights. Boston is classified as a Walkers Paradise with a score of 98/100.  Bangalore – 80/100 very walkable.  Interesting!

And then after deeply ruminating over walking and living simply like the Hadza folks, I realize if marketing and advertising is what actually has led us away from a simple life to the awful dependence on stuff.  I remember the Lexus ad tagline “A strong desire is a justifiable need”.  So we buy more and more stuff today, tomorrow and more stuff on Black Friday.   But that’s what runs the economy and keeps the world going around, doesn’t it?

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Fascination with trains and railroads has been an enduring obsession for me.   When I was five, all I ever wanted was to be a locomotive engine driver.   What a wonderful life he led and what fun trains were!  Chugging through vast hinterlands in rain, dust and snow, trains would conjure up yearning imagery of lost worlds and nature’s vagaries for me.    The old Hindi ballad, Kishore Kumar’s “Gaadi bula rahi hai, seeti baja rahi hai” is spot on.  Translation with some poetic license 🙂

Move on with the journey of life, said the engine’s roar
The commanding yet beseeching horn blared
Get in, you mere mortals and say nothing more!
The train beckoned me and I was snared!

Whether they run on steam or coal or gas or electric motors, trains have basically retained the same glamour.  The Palace on Wheels carries amazed international tourists from Delhi to Jaipur in royal ambience.  A steam engine symbolically pulls you out from Delhi station.

Jethro Tull’s “Journeyman” is so poignant when you remember some long night journeys in trains:

Orange beams divide the darkness
Rumbling fit to turn the waking worm.
Sliding through Victorian tunnels
Where green moss oozes from the pores….
Howling into hollow blackness
Dusky diesel shudders in full cry.

“Chaiyya Chaiyya” from AR Rehman is one helluva train song, with the cute small train winding through hills.  It is also the title track for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Inside Man”.

BTW, I still want to be an engine driver, wonder if I should look up Monster.com tonight……. .

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