A selfie that tells the story of an Indo

I am not much of selfie person. In fact, I am not even much of a photo person. My wife tells me the photo was the sole reason for my poor conversion ratio of 100:8. You might be wondering conversion for what? After all interviews shortlists don’t go out based on photos. And definitely I am not the model or actor types. So, conversion where? Of course, the great Indian Bride Hunt, which I have chronicled in the early days of this blog. Of the 100 girls, who saw my pics, only 8 thought it worthwhile to grant an interview. Of them, six telephonic and two in person. So, we might be looking at even poorer ratio of 100:2. But she was not the first person to mention I was doing badly when it came to photos, selfie or otherwise.

“Karthik, San – smile.”

“No. That’s not a smile. Show some teeth.”

“Come on Karthik, San. I can’t send home this picture. My mom will ask me who is this terrorist you are posing next to.”

“Ah! That’s better. Guess you can’t do better than this.”

That was my friend, Manuel San, the person you see with me in this selfie. A forthright German chap who just spoke his mind. I met him during my MBA student exchange in Japan. Friendship with him was a dream come true for me. I always had this fascination for foreign countries and getting to know foreigners and their culture. But by nature, I am an introvert and I never went out and spoke with people and made friends. Consequently, I ended up confined to my Indian community and not making a single foreign friend during my 10 months stint in Germany as a software engineer and 2 months stint again in Germany during MBA internship. Then came this exchange program – I was the only Indian exchange student in this B-School in Japan where most of the other exchange students were Europeans. Thus, I ended up with the Europeans as my group. And that was how I met Manuel, a complete extrovert, my opposite in many ways. He somehow took to me and would challenge me to breach barriers.

A year after the internship, I took up a job in Hyderabad. And during that time, he flew down to India to visit me. I took four days off from work and we had a bully time going all around Hyderabad. My company had given me chauffeured car and the driver knew all about the places in and around Hyderabad. The job was not a demanding one and there was hardly anything to do at work. So, I was completely carefree and had a wonderful time those four days. One of the places we visited during those days was the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. That is where this selfie is taken.

I still remember some of the funny questions he asked me about India during that visit.

As soon as he arrived and saw I had a driver for my car, his first question was, “Is he your driver because he belongs to a lower caste than you?” At that time, I had laughed at the very notion. Ever since I have been associating with left liberals, reading and thinking. Probably while it was not so direct, he was not so far from the truth. I liked to pretend, I and he were equals and he was just performing a service for me in exchange for money like it would be in the case of a lawyer or doctor. But no! That is not the case. He would not sit with me and eat if we were at a restaurant. And even to me the idea seemed odd though out of politeness, I always did offer him.

Another question on seeing all the stray dogs near my house, “You people have so many stray dogs and I heard you have lot of poor people who starve to death in your country. Why don’t the people eat the dogs?” At the outset it seemed an outrageous question. Like Mary Antoinette’s, “If they don’t have bread, why don’t they eat cake.” But then it did make me think. On one side, the insensitivity of us privileged class to the lot of the poor. And pragmatically, what was taboo about the whole idea? Actually, I had heard rumors some shady hotels do serve dog meat as beef.

Then at the restaurant, when I ordered food, he would keep adding, ‘please’ whenever we ordered something, reminding me to be polite to the waiters. Some of these things that we take so much for granted, come to our notice only when pointed out by a foreigner.

Those were just a few sample memories. There was so much more. Our discussion on snakes and monkeys being worshiped as Gods in India on encountering a snake hill and monkeys at Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, our visit to the Odyssey book store, a Kerala massage place, to the malls and doing shooting games, sampling various cuisines at various kinds of places were some of the highlights. I think I saw more of Hyderabad in those four days than the rest of my 8 month stay in the city.

The trip was such a fascinating experiencing seeing myself and my country, through the eyes of a foreigner. I have had the complete cultural experience with him – seeing a country foreign to both of us together (Japan), seeing my country through his eyes and having him show me his country. (Germany and Switzerland). This selfie holds all those memories within it.

Now coming to the selfie itself, it took 3-4 shots before we got it right. We had to capture the scenery in the background, both of us and most important I had to have my teeth on display. The more a picture captures, more the memories embedded within it. That way mobi star presents an advancement in technology for capturing pictures through front camera. When the selfie shown here was taken I had an old Nokia phone that did not even have a front camera. It was my friend who had a phone with a front camera. We have come a long way even from there. From no front camera to one camera, now mobi star presents us a dual selfie camera that captures a 120° wide-angle shot. A complete selfie camera that gives a hassle free and holistic selfie experience.

You can check out more about this phone on their website here. And it can be purchased on Flipkart here 

Matsya - Review

One of the most fascinating stories from Indian mythology is that of the Ten Avatars. In some ways, it covers entire human history as per Indian myth end to end. Both the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are included as Rama and Krishna are two of the Avatars. Then we have the story of Prahalada covering two Avatars – Varaha and Narasimha. And then there is the famous story of Mahabali and Vamana. So that’s five Avatars. Parasurama the famous warrior is a sixth one. So that leaves three with tenth ‘Kalki’ yet to take place. There is a dispute on the ninth Avatar – some claim Parashurama is the one while other claim Budha is the one. Both claims have their weaknesses. Parashurama seems to occupy a subsidiary role to and is a contemporary of another Avatar Krishna. So somehow, he does not seem to have the aura of the others. Budha on the other hand seems to be a force fit of historic figure and founder of another religion into the Hindu pantheon. Anyways we are digressing – let us come back to the remaining two – the first and the second – Matsya and Kurma. When I thought about it, I realized I did not know these stories too well. So, when I came to know Sundari Venkaraman, a writer friend and popular romance author, will be writing these two stories, I was excited to pick them up.

Matsya is the first book in her Avatar series for children. It starts with an Asura stealing the Vedas from the creator Brahma. Then Vishnu takes the Avatar of a small fist to rescue the Vedas. He makes his appearance to a king Manu. The fish begins to grow in size and soon it becomes larger than a whale and seeks out the demon. Meanwhile there is also a story arc similar to Noah’s story from the old testaments.  The drowning of the whole world and rescue of key individual and representative members of each species. It is interesting how so many different myths have this particular story. Only difference here is the giant fish drags along the arc to the safety of the shore.

I felt it was comprehensive with sufficient detail covering the entire myth. The language is simple and ideal for children. The story is told in a clear manner with no confusions or complexity. The flow is well maintained and nowhere does a reader lose interest. So overall, it is quite an engaging read that also helped me know about the Matysa Avatar. I am now looking forward to the Kurma Avatar.  Definitely a recommended read for all children and even children who do not know this myth.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces