Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It Might Have Been by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We will be what we could be. Do not say,
"It might have been, had not this, or that, or this."
No fate can keep us from the chosen way;
He only might who is.

We will do what we could do. Do not dream
Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.
I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;
He does, who could achieve.

We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not
Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.
What eagle ever missed the peak he sought?
He always climbs who might.

I do not like the phrase "It might have been!"
It lacks force, and life's best truths perverts:
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
Whatever our deserts.


© Encyclopedia Britannica
Second Take: “No fate can keep us from the chosen way.” In my opinion, this one line perfectly sums up American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s 1917 poem It Might Have Been. Many of us spend our lives dreaming about the things we want to do and the goals we want to achieve. And when we can’t — or choose not to — pursue our dreams, we spend the rest of our lives in regret and feeling sorry for ourselves. We blame our luck or the lack of it; we bemoan our fate for what isn't and what should have been. The truth is we have no one to blame but ourselves. When people with serious difficulties in life can swim against raging currents and climb hostile mountains and taste sweet victory, why can’t the rest of us climb a few rungs of the ladder to reach our destinations? The only way to change It might have been to I made it! is by substituting the proverbial “Impossible” with “I-am-possible”. Then we shall win, and have our deserts too.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dogfathers

© Prashant C. Trikannad
“You want that bone you buried in Rottweiler territory on the other side of the road, you’re going to have to go through us first. Step over that line, mister, and you’re dead meat. Got it?”

I captured these pack of mean-looking, flesh-eating watchdogs, one summer afternoon, as I was taking a post-lunch stroll. And then I ran as fast as I could.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The weight of the water

It was a pleasant Sunday evening. I was sitting at the kitchen table, having tea and conversation with my wife. I was relaxed and feeling good about nothing in particular. That is, until I got up to rinse my cup at the sink and found there was no water in the tap.

I panicked. “There’s no water!” Mentally, I said to myself, we’ve had it.

My wife said, “Maybe, the watchman shut off the main. I’m sure it’ll be back soon.”

Then I ruined the rest of the evening. For the next half hour or so, I checked the tap several times to see if water had started flowing again. It hadn’t. I rushed down and confronted the watchman.

“There’s no water in the kitchen tap for more than half an hour. Did you shut off the main valve?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why?”

He pointed to a door on the first floor. “They asked me to, for about five minutes, said the plumber was fixing something in their house. I have already reopened the valve.”

“Oh, good,” I said, and went home. “It’s back,” I told the family, relieved that all was going to be well.

Only it wasn’t. Everyone in the building, except us, seemed to be getting water, even the people who had carried out the plumbing work. I smelled a conspiracy. We had been singled out.

I left the tap on in the hope that water would reappear magically. Minutes ticked by, a whole hour passed, and still no sign of water, not even a drop. I grew more restless. “We’re the only ones who are not getting water. This happens every time those idiots shut off and reopen the valve. Maybe there’s silt in the pipes or an air bubble. What are we going to do?” I muttered aloud, already worrying about Monday morning and the race to get out of the house. It wasn't as if I bathed in the sink.

My wife calmly picked up the phone and called the plumber, who came at once and annoyed me even more with his opening line. “If everyone’s getting water, then so should you. But, don’t worry, I’ll fix it.”

The hell we should, I thought.

Then he did exactly what he had done on previous visits. He proceeded to open the faucet and clean it. No sooner he unscrewed the regulator and the cap at the mouth of the swivel tap, there was a sudden discharge of water into the sink and a sudden spring in my step. Few things in life make me happier than the sight of the Niagara flowing through our taps.

The plumber washed off the dirt that had collected in the regulator and the cap, and screwed them back on. “See, all you had to do was open the cap and clean it just like I did.” I nodded dumbly.

After he left, my wife gently rubbed it in: “That’s the first thing my dad would have done.

I wasn’t too happy to hear that either. But it was only because I had failed to figure out the problem myself. I probably would’ve if I hadn’t overreacted and instead thought it out calmly over a second cup of tea. If the problem was in front of me, so was the solution. I didn’t see it because I was blinded by my adrenaline-charged, nerve-wracking, stress-induced response to what was actually a no-issue.

We often act impulsively out of fear and nervousness because we believe it eases the situation, and also because we’re in denial about the reality of life, that sometimes things can go wrong. But they can also be set right with patience and fortitude, and a little thought for others. There’s no call for turning every event into a life-challenging moment and pretend as if it’s the end of the world.

The next time someone cuts off the water, I’m going to think twice before reacting and not allow the weight of the water to pull me down.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The old banana seller

Come heat or rain, the old man sits sullenly in a plastic chair by the roadside and sells bananas from morning till night. He is unshaven, grim-faced, and wears a soiled kurta and dhoti. A vegetable vendor and flower seller keep him company on either side. 

I see the old man every day and wonder what motivates him to sit like that for ten hours and more. He has a tired and frowning look on his face. Maybe, it's not motivation; maybe it's compulsion born out of a necessity, to feed his family. Then again, maybe, his family wants him out of the house because he has become a burden, or, he has worked hard all his life and wants to remain active till the end.

One night, I saw the banana seller hand over money to a man on a bike. I realised he was paying commission on the bananas he sold. He owned neither the place he occupied nor the bananas he managed to sell. His net earnings must be meagre, just enough to see him through the next day's meal.

When he has no customers, the old man watches people walk past or nods off, his chin resting on his chest. What must his life be like? For a perspective, I have no right to crib about mine.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Alphabet Quotes: T is for Teacher

"I am a teacher. It's how I define myself. A good teacher isn't someone who gives the answers out to their kids but is understanding of needs and challenges and gives tools to help other people succeed. That's the way I see myself, so whatever it is that I will do eventually after politics, it'll have to do a lot with teaching."
— Justin Trudeau

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."
— Carl Jung

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.' "
— Maria Montessori
 

"There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fills you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies."
— Robert Frost
 

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
— Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Just Saying

Writing is a struggle. It's like pushing your way through a peak-hour fast train on the Bombay suburban network and sweating it out in a bone-crushing two-hour ride home. If you can make that journey every day, you can write every day.

Death, be not proud by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Second Take: As far as spiritual or metaphysical poems go, the 14-line sonnet Death, be not proud (1633) by John Donne is my favourite. The English poet is saying pretty much what every religion preaches — in death, only the body dies and not the soul. The soul — or the Atman, the Eternal Self, in Hindu philosophy — is the essence of existence and is as free as a soaring eagle under a clear blue sky.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Just Saying

You are your religion only if you practice its sacred teaching in letter and spirit. Otherwise you're just a tag.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Alphabet Quotes: S is for Silence

"If silence is good for the wise, how much better is it for the foolish!"
— Ivan Panin, Thoughts

"Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men's imperfections, and conceal your own."
— George Bernard Shaw

"There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub."
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"That man's silence is wonderful to listen to."
— Thomas Hardy
 

"Be silent, or say something better than silence."
— Pythagoras

Monday, March 13, 2017

When an ex-journo writes for PR

On my first day at India's largest independent public relations consultancy, I got an unusual piece of advice from a colleague: “Now that you're working for a PR firm, make sure you leave your soul at home.”

I knew what he meant. I wasn't a journalist anymore. I could no longer wear my heart on my sleeve and write stories as I pleased and annoy people. I was a PR man now.

No, technically, that's not correct. I’m not a public relations specialist, just as a teller is not a banker or a compounder doesn't make a doctor. I don't do client-servicing. I write content for people who are into client-servicing. Actually, I ghostwrite.

The transition hasn’t been easy. For several months, I thought and wrote like a journo. I had to change my writer’s perspective on the other side of the print media-public relations divide. And the divide is not a thin line; it’s as thick as a fence.

After nearly thirty years in the penitentiary of newspapers and magazines, you get used to writing in a certain way, you think you have writing privileges, like you own your writing and to hell with everything else.

You own nothing. It’s the PR clients who own everything you write, even the byline that was once your crowning glory. You write in the garb of an invisibility cloak, unseen and unknown to the outside world.

One of the demands of the job is to make the client come out looking good through editorial and influencer based content marketing. This can include a variety of content—pitch notes and press releases, newsletters and authored articles, case studies and white papers, blog and social media posts, internal and corporate communication, events and graphics, audio and video, and so on.

Whichever type you choose, you can’t let negative publicity creep into client content. If you do, it can be construed as a breach of trust, an act of betrayal. That line of writing defeats the purpose of client-servicing, which is protecting and enhancing corporate reputations through brand and image building media campaigns.

So what has been my experience in PR writing so far?

Well, it has been both challenging and satisfying. I realised at the outset that no two clients want the same thing. While the basics of writing are the same, there are many variations in how content is thought out and structured. It teaches you to think and write creatively and imaginatively. For instance, you can adopt a storytelling style for authored articles in the same way as Sunday papers do or you can start a mundane press release with a bang and grab the editor’s attention. PR writing also offers a broad perspective on contemporary issues. The growth of digital payment systems in the wake of demonetisation, last November, is a case in point.

It seems rather odd that I now write for an audience that I once worked closely with—editors and journalists. Without appealing to their news sense first, there’s not a lot you can do to ensure media mileage for a client.

These are early days and I’m still learning. And, I suspect, I’ll be learning for much longer. But this much I can say with a degree of accuracy: If you want to retain your PR client and raise your PR retainer, become the client. That holds as true of content marketing as it does of client-servicing.