Golconda forts, hyderabad.
Image by Shelly Paul

Trolley Tales – Madras and DC

Corruption – Corrosion of functionality

Have you ever stood by the luggage carousel at the airport, watching baggage flow down the conveyor belt in large intermittent bunches?

Well, if you stood at the international airport in Chennai, you’d see a few hundred people at crowded around a carousel with their eyes fixed longingly at the vertical flaps at the beginning of the conveyor belt waiting for the bags to appear. After an interminable wait, one or at the most two large suitcases would traipse down on the pleated rubber sheets.

After it gets picked up, the empty conveyor belt would do two more rounds before the entire sequence repeats itself at an excruciatingly slow pace. The passengers – several of whom would have flown half way around the world, would have finished their disembarkation process in less than thirty minutes but would have to wait for nearly two hours before they can pick up their bags and leave the airport.

On our trip to India last year, the frustrations of the slow filling baggage carousel at the Madras airport were compounded by trolley complications.

QUEEN
Image by Shelly Paul

Superiority – better by way of comparison

To those who claim superiority by not consuming non-vegetarian food, I say, there are no true vegans. Even if you wore a patch of leather, you are not a vegetarian, because leather does not grow on trees, neither does honey, nor silk.

That being said, vegetarians slaughter farmed plants for food, while non-vegetarians slaughter farmed animals and plants for food. Good thing too, because imagine if there was no food diversity and everyone ate just fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, there wouldn’t be enough food for the teeming billions, even if we eradicated the entire ecosystem from the face of this planet and turned it all into farms.

Kathy D, Dia de los Muertos
Kathy D/Paper and ink imaginings

Prejudice – blind hatred of a stranger, based on superficial differences

Character Soliloquy1

‘I don’t know you from Adam, and even though you have not harmed me in any way, I hate you, I hate you so much.

‘When things go wrong in my life for reasons I cannot fathom, I blame you for that. And there are other times, when a little soul searching and self-introspection can explain the reasons for the bad choices I make, but instead of taking the opportunity to become a better person, I hate you viscerally.

‘And if you think that I will credit you for the things that go right in my life, you are stupider than I thought you were. All that credit belongs solely to me, only me. And if you think that I act like a petulant child, why not? When this hatred of “different” people is sanctioned by my own family and endorsed by the society either explicitly or implicitly.

let's talk/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul


Discount – deduction from the whole

Personal Essay

In conversations with friends and family over a period of time, I have come to understand that there is a tendency to distort or stretch the truth. Such alterations make for interesting anecdotes and lively conversation. But, when it comes to regular interaction with people in daily life, staying close to reality keeps life’s flow relatively smooth.

Over the years after listening to numerous personal stories, I realized separating the husk from the grain can be really hard. I also realized that I don’t have to know the absolute truth about everything to have healthy relationships. All I need is a credible approximation of the broad reality. To ascertain this, all I need to do is to discount certain parts of the issues presented, according to the individual’s nature and character.

This is my current formula to get to the heart of the matter:
At first I take all things said in a conversation at face value. No assumptions, no presumptions unless the context is obvious or common in social parlance. In time, a pattern would emerge and some lack of consistency would begin to show, in the continuity of the narratives. Depending on the degree of this inconsistency, I assign discounts to the information presented to me.

brokenglass/Shelly Paul
Image by Shelly Paul


Hypocrisy – the gap between word and deed, between the image of virtue and its reality

An ode to hypocrisy

O hypocrisy! The juice that binds our dysfunctional society together. You make it possible for us to look civilized and not require us to be civil.

You let us sophisticate the barbarianism of war with technology and perpetuate injustice through the semantics of law.

You let us dilute moral principles that keeps the human society functional and let us call it moral relativism.

You let us hide condescension within acts of charity and hide double standards in eloquent verbiage.

You give us rituals to escape from the truth about ourselves. Thus, we can repeat our sins without compunction, because there is easy absolution.

Said shallow to deep,
      ‘How can you be generous when you have so little?’
Said deep to shallow,
      ‘I have enough. I am quite content.’

      ‘How can you be carefree when life is terrifying in its uncertainties?’
      ‘I go with the ebb and flow. I learn from experience.’

‘How can you be a smiling fool, when crushed by adversity?’
Replied deep to shallow,
      ‘You can live to be a thousand
       Yet never experience anything the way I feel.

      ‘When I breathe, I feel the air
      You don’t even realize that you breathe

      ‘You can never feel the wind’s caress or the sun’s warmth

I am the Queen of Tragedies,
Henceforth I declare:

I have been wronged at every turn in my life
Yet, I never rendered any harm to a single soul.
I am incapable of sins and wrongs
Anyone who thinks otherwise is a sinner.

I shall judge the world around me,
Punish anyone who disagrees with me,
Absolve them —
When,
From their hearts they will acknowledge my Purity.