“Wallah” is a term used in India as a suffix to describe a person who performs a specified task or business. I won’t call it slang, but certainly a term that has become part of linguistics. It is used to describe a specialist in a particular task, with the specialization obtained through years of experience and apprenticeship. For example, a chai-wallah is one who is in the profession of making tea, an ice-cream-wallah is one who sells ice-cream, a dhobi-wallah is one who does your laundry, a rickshaw-wallah is one who drives a rickshaw. The person doing this specific task was probably born into a family who has done this task for generations; he too will most likely work in this profession his entire life and will do so with great pride and joy.
My last blog was about TMC (Too Many Choices). I talked about how certain things in life are most enjoyed in their simplest form such as a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice or a hot cup of fresh-brewed coffee. Too many choices are not necessarily optimal. In some instances, too many choices clutter the mind, thereby inhibiting a pleasurable experience. Too many choices are absolutely no substitute for taste.
In our present society we are brain-washed into believing that multiple choices and options are a prerequisite to maximum pleasure. This is a fallacy and I have evidentiary data to support it. I have example after example to prove that an activity can be enjoyed without having multiple options. In fact, most of these activities are so simple that they are most enjoyed in their unadulterated state i.e. without murking them up with multiple choices.
Today’s blog is a follow-up of my last blog. It is an elucidation of unadulterated rapture without multiple choices.
He is the tea-man. He makes and sells simple piping hot tea. Just tea, no other options. Sometimes he may add ginger or cardamom to the boiling hot water for that extra fragrance and flavor, but that all depends on his mood! There is no corporate manual that he has to abide by and no test audience to please. There are no cup sizes in foreign languages, no flavored shots offered, no options of caffeinated or decaffeinated beverage and no complex menus to decipher. There is no paraphernalia that goes with the paper cups such as the sleeve and the lid, as he is not familiar with the term “tort lobbyists” or “burn lawsuits.” What he offers is a fragrant, flavorful, sweet, milky concoction in one size, that has been brewed to perfection and poured with such expertise that can only be attained after years of experience and training. There is only one size and one flavor, but it is so pleasurable that it fits the taste of all. The concoction delights the senses and soothes the soul. A single option perfected to the “T.”
He is the juice man. His skill is to make the freshest, pulpiest, sweetest, purest orange juice that one can ever taste. There are no options of a gazillion kinds of fruit, no mixtures and combinations, no sizes, no add-ons, no ratios and no fractions. Finally a “no-math-involved” glass of orange juice, just the way nature intended it to be.
He is the milk man. He delivers fresh milk with a thick ring of cream on the top that transports one to the Swiss Alps. There are no options of low fat, skimmed, non-fat, 1%, 2%, lactose free, vitamin D added, etc. etc. There are no strippings and no additions. It is milk in its pure form just the way it should be, squeezed from the udders of the cow rather than churned and manufactured in an assembly line container, stripped off its innate element. Nature has already added the necessary vitamins and minerals. We don’t need to add the extra synthetic junk! If calories is your issue, put down the toxic burger and drink another glass of simple milk. Isn’t it a stipulated that Milk Does a Body Good!!
He is the fruit man. Caveat: If you are looking for laminated labels advertising “certified,” “organic,” “preservative free,” “fertilizer free,” fruit, priced at the amount of some worker’s daily wages in a developing nation, then this fruit is not for you.
There will be no fancy labels and no re-cycled packaging (which in most instances is a marketing ploy rather than genuine environmental concerns.) There are no lofty claims advertising fruit “fresh from the farm,” which ironically is located 2,000 miles across the nation!
What you will get is a small sampling of fruit that your olfactory senses will detect from miles away. What you will get is fruit that has not been sitting in the cooler for weeks. What you will get is fruit that provides a burst of flavors and oozes with juice when you bite into it. What you will get is a sensory delight. So what if the sampling includes only apples and bananas, I will happily forego the variety for fruit that at least tastes like fruit and not cardboard with an overly polished skin.
What should I say about Tiffin-wallahs. They have become a phenomenon especially in cosmopolitan cities like Bombay and Delhi. In fact, New York City is aping the food delivery service to cater to our accelerated lifestyles. Tiffin is a stainless steel lunch box consisting of a few food compartments. In India, the Tiffin-wallahs deliver the tiffin lunches to hundreds and thousands of office workers on bicycles with such precision and timeliness that they could be the brand-ambassadors for Raymond Weil’s new ad campaign for precision.
There are no menus or multiple choices for the tiffin. There are two options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Yes, imagine that, just two choices. What do you get in lieu of hundreds of choices that you could find in a restaurant? You get scrumptious, perfectly flavored, healthy, preservative-free, fresh, home-cooked lunch for the busy worker. No garnishes, no choices of cooking style, no less of this and more of that. Just plain good old-fashioned lunch.
And finally diverging from the “wallahs.” In my last blog I discussed the bombardment of social media and its somewhat redundant and repetitive effect. Above is an example of social media in its simplest form. There is no streaming, no YouTubing, no Live-casting, no plasma flat-screens, no 70-feet screens. Here, is a family enjoying simple television viewing in their flooded living room during the heavy monsoons of India. It is not just TV viewing, but family bonding time as well. I will take this form of social media any day over the faux socialization on say a Facebook!
Options are good, but certain activities are unparalleled in singularity.
Since childhood we are taught to make choices. All of us at one point of time or the other have heard the familiar rendition from our parents, “Make the right choice,” “Whatever choices you make now will impact your life forever,” “Once you make the choice there is no going back,” etc. etc. We are taught to carefully weigh our options and pick one.
The premise of making a choice is that you have at least two alternatives available, thereby giving you the opportunity to choose one from the other. Either you choose “this or that,” go with “one or the other,” settle on “A or B.”
Making a choice has a positive connotation in our society as it comes with a plurality. It consists of choosing one option from multiple options, thereby honing our discriminatory skills, sharpening our minds and developing our judgment.
Somehow in modern society singularity is not seen in a positive light. A single option is never good enough. “One” simply does not have the pizzazz as “multiple.” So, I stipulate having the freedom to choose from multiple choices is good in many circumstances.
But, along with the benefits of choices come the burdens as well. At times there are “too many choices,” leading to the fatigue of mental capabilities and a bankruptcy of the brain. A “brain-drain” if you will.
Yesterday I went to my local, organic, over-priced, yuppie, bulk-cereal selling grocery store. I wanted a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and since they have a juice bar thought it would be the perfect place to have it. It is only logical that an elaborate juice bar will have a simple thing such as orange juice. My salivary glands went in overdrive thinking of the whirring of the machine squeezing the warm, pulpy, sweet, tangerine juice from a succulent ripe orange. No fuss, no complications. Sweet, simple bliss.
Au contraire! The “juice specialist” reached into the refrigerator and brought out a plastic container filled with juice! As she started to pour, I stopped her in mid-pour and demanded where the “freshly squeezed” juice was. I was advised with disdain that this is all they had. There was nothing “fresh” about the cold, “sitting-for-hours-in-the-refrigerator” juice. Needless to say I was crestfallen.
But, hey we live in a world of choices, so I exercised my right to choice and ordered a mixed carrot, pineapple and apple juice. I thought it would be an easy one as the store offers an extensive convoluted mixed drink menu. The clerk looked at me with a dropped jaw and asked what “base” I wanted so that she could make the necessary division of fruit. It was my turn to drop my jaw, as I had never imagined that a glass of juice could get so very complex. It seemed that a simple drink had turned into a flow-chart of multiple choices with off-shoots in various directions. Would I now be asked to divide my drink into fractions and percentages? I shuddered with fright as my math skills border on being cipher and the calculator on my Blackberry gets stuck on the division key.
The array of choices had turned into a nightmare and needless to say my taste for the sweet juice had soured by now.
I don’t know if you guys have noticed it or not, but in today’s times we are constantly faced with an overabundance of choices even for simple things. Items where one would not expect or want to make a choice, such as ordering a glass of juice that should not require algorithmic equations.
It makes me wonder, do these choices really help us or are they unnecessarily using up our brain data that should be reserved for higher, more complex and loftier purposes.
Another example is coffee. I have written about coffee before as I love the heavenly elixir. I go to a coffee shop looking forward to a cup of hot, milky, divine brew. What am I faced with? Choices, choices and more choices. Complex volume sizes in faux-foreign languages; measurements of coffee shots in metric sizes that I am unfamiliar with; milk calculated in percentages; coffee whiteners made of items that I usually associate with eating rather than drinking, such as coconut; use of a “shot” glass that reminds me of a Russian vodka bar rather than a warm, soothing, literary coffee shop.
Historically, coffee shops were used as meeting places for scholars, artists and the literary. Ideas were born, debates were held, classics written and labyrinthine theories pondered upon over umpteen cups of coffee, yes plain and simple coffee. The likes of Hemingway, Picasso and Henry Miller used to hang out in cafes such as Le Select in Paris. I wonder if Hemingway could have written The Old Man and the Sea if he was spending time ordering a complex coffee drink and flustering between choices such as non-fat, 2%, low-fat, one shot or multiple shots, venti, grande or whatever the hell the third size is latte!!! Or if Picasso would have time or the energy to doodle Dance of Youth on a napkin after ordering a drink from a “not-so-easy-to-decipher” multiple-choice menu!
How about social media? We all love it and use the gazillion choices in social media. I understand it is all about visibility. But after some time doesn’t it get redundant, repetitive and non-innovative. The same content is posted on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tumblr etc.
Are we creating new content in the various mediums of social media or is it simply transmission of the same content to various channels. Would the works of Leonardo di Vinci be masterpieces if he took photos and blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked and Tumblred them. Wouldn’t the glory of his masterpieces be diluted by the number of choices available?
Choices are great as they give us freedom. They give us options. However, certain things in life should be kept simple. They are enjoyed most when in their simplest form such as a simple cup of coffee. Too many choices create Horror vacui, cluttering the mental faculties and debilitating the brain, thereby leaving little room for the brain to perform at its maximum capacity.
I am out of my hibernation. The reason: The cruel, barbarous, brutal mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes alligator bag! For a worshipper of FAME (fashion, art, music and entertainment), the act is as abhorrent as the destruction of the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Okay, maybe not of that magnitude, but still a destruction of a beautiful piece of art!
Nevertheless, the annihilation did wring my heart and make my knuckles white. Oh the horror! For those of you who have not heard of it, the act was performed by Clint Eastwood’s daughter on the reality show, Mrs. Eastwood and Company (the specific use of the last name obvious for rating purposes). In the show, Eastwood’s daughter cuts and burns an alligator Hermes bag with a ferocious beastly expression on her face, in the name of performance art. Really, destruction of art in the name of art, justified? (An idea to be explored at a later time).
The heinous act performed on the reality television show stirred the following thoughts in my brain: First, what is it that attracts a person like me (with discriminatory tastes and a reasonable level of intelligence, to watch reality television); second, what are the limits/parameters that reality stars have to cross week after week to get viewers like me return.
Between the Kardashians, Shahs of Sunset, Jersey Shore and now Mrs. Eastwick and Company, there is an overdose of reality television. They have become part of a pop-cultural phenomenon. The shows have high ratings, so even if we are closet watchers, the fact remains that a good number of us are watching. In an intellectual tete-a-tete, most of us decry the social evils that such shows are breeding, yet we watch them.
One reason is voyeurism. It is titillating to spy on the intimate behavior of others. A spy-like feeling is evoked while watching such shows-their highs and lows, their make-ups and over-dramatized break-ups, entering their homes and boudoirs, seeing what they eat or not, how they look like with gobs of mascara running down their cheeks while crying, hearing the profanities they use, Bentleys they drive, mansions they live in etc.
Vicarious living is another reason. An average person’s life between work, chores, home responsibilities, running errands is bound to take a tone of monotony, no matter how hard one tries to spice it up. It becomes rote living. There is no way around it. Reality TV provides that dose of glamour, excitement, enchantment and razzle-dazzle that an average person lacks in day to day life. It is the same as buying a Tattler magazine to get a peek inside the lives of the “oh-so-exciting” crowd.
Yet another reason for such viewing is because it makes us feel good about ourselves and our relationships. Most of the reality shows have a high level of disfunctionality (rightly so, otherwise why would I watch it!!) Despite all the wealth, fame and glamour, there is angst, anger, treachery, heartbreak and a degree of mental retardation (not from a medical standpoint of course!) This makes us feel good about ourselves and for some of us even provides hope. After all, if a dysfunctional, limited intelligence person can reach the pinnacles of success, why not me.
Such shows, also provide a certain amount of social interaction in our very isolated, heavily dependent on the World Wide Web, modern lives. The stars invite us into their drawing rooms and bed-rooms and there is an element of reel human interaction, even if for a fleeting moment.
Whatever the reason, reality TV is here to stay. There is certain stickiness to it.
Now, the question is how far do the reality stars have to go to create the stickiness. What do they have to do or more appropriately “out do” in order to get me back on that couch week after week? What boundaries do they have to cross? In fact, are there any boundaries?
Mere providing of glamour, hot surgeried-up botoxed bodies, designer clothing, long fluttering stick-on lashes is not enough anymore. The ante has been upped, the stakes are higher. Gone are the chaste days of MTV’s Real World. The audience needs bombshells, hysteria, shock and awe and the studios are ready to dole our dollops of it. Extravagant weddings are broken up in less than 3 months, a gay Jewish Persian man is united with his conservative Islamic father, paternity issues are raised and resolved. Over the top tactics such as the mutilation of a $100,000 Hermes bag get the necessary notoriety necessary for a hit reality show.
In the case of the Eastwood show, other than Mr. Eastwood who even knows or cares about the other members of his family. If they portray themselves as a normal (synonym for functional) family, why would we want to watch them. There will be no ratings and in turn no renewal for the next season. So, the demolition of the Hermes bag provided the necessary shock and awe element for a hit reality show. Proof is in the pudding, I am writing about it, even though I am least interested in Mrs. Eastwood or her Company. The studio execs used the obliteration of the Hermes bag as a perfectly strategized move to Bite me with this Reality!